The Loneliest Jukebox

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Monday, November 29, 2004

Not enough, too late?

Is it really 25 years since Two Tone? Last night's Channel 4 documentary Two Tone Britain said so, making me feel my age. Strangely absent from the proceedings was Jerry Dammers, son of the Rev. Horace Dammers, to give his take on the events which made his name.

A lot of the documentary was spot on, from highlighting the role of Ghost Town as the soundtrack to the riots of 1981 to using my erstwhile associate James 'Jimmy Bzag' Brown as a talking head. The account of Two Tone's decline was a bit sketchy; in reality Dammers was trying to maintain a beleagured Specials once the Fun Boy Three departed and Sir Horace Gentleman joined a lifestyle cult. Neville Staples put paid to the idea that crowd violence and police witch-hunts finished the band off: they were sick of the sight of each other.

Time was then taken up by the programme makers with a crop of bands who spend their time trying to sound like the Specials and rebelling against their seaside home towns (although recent trips to Shoreham and Skegness make me a bit sympathetic to them). Come on lads, it's the 21st century. (For sonic progress hear the link-up between the Coventry sound and the first Streets album.)

The participants in the show cast their youthful experiences (and mine) as life-defining ones, and maybe they were. More likely, as seen with the punk retrospectives five years ago, Two Tone coincided with its supporters coming of age. Music and fashion combined on a popular scale to make anti-racism seem cool, so it seemed to us like our movement. One interviewee called it a 'whirlpool of disparate youth'. Maybe it was, but the nostalgia that goes with breaking from childhood can often cloud one's judgement in later life.

P.S. Anyone needing that record to have heard of Nelson Mandela in the 1980s, as was claimed, might as well have been clinically dead.


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