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Too Much Too Young: The 2 Tone Records Story

On sale

19th October 2023

Price: £24.99

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Selected: Audiobook Downloadable / ISBN-13: 9781399607520

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In 1979, 2 Tone exploded into the national consciousness as records by The Specials, The Selecter, Madness, The Beat, and The Bodysnatchers burst onto the charts and a youth movement was born.

2 Tone was black and white: a multi-racial force of British and Caribbean island musicians singing about social issues, racism, class and gender struggles. It spoke of injustices in society and took fight against right wing extremism.

The music of 2 Tone was exuberant: white youth learning to dance to the infectious rhythm of ska and reggae; and crossed with a punk attitude to create an original hybrid. The idea of 2 Tone was born in Coventry, masterminded by a middle-class art student raised in the church. Jerry Dammers had a vision of an English Motown. Borrowing £700, the label’s first record featured ‘Gangsters’ by The Specials’ backed by an instrumental track by the, as yet, unformed, Selecter. Within two months the single was at number six in the national charts. Dammers signed Madness, The Beat and The Bodysnatchers as a glut of successive hits propelled 2 Tone onto Top of the Pops and into the hearts and minds of a generation. However, soon infighting amongst the bands and the pressures of running a label caused 2 Tone to bow to an inevitable weight of expectation and recrimination.

Still under the auspices of Jerry Dammers, 2 Tone entered in a new phase. Perhaps not as commercially successful as its 1979-1981 incarnation the label nevertheless continued to thrive for a further four years releasing a string of fresh signings and a stunning end-piece finale in ‘(Free) Nelson Mandela’.

Told in three parts, Too Much Too Young is the definitive story of a label that for a brief, bright burning moment, shaped British culture.


Gurinder Chadha, OBE
'An incredible and detailed account of a massive watershed moment in British culture. Rachel's book captures the daily struggles and contradictions within both the groups and the audience during harsh political times and ultimately delivers a message of positivity and the power of the music to affect social and political change.'
The Wire
A brilliant book and a fitting account of one of British culture's most epochal moments. Nothing is left out of this definitive book
Pauline Black, OBE
'We lived in Britain, a country that had hugely benefited from immigration, but curiously had an innate antipathy to the ideas of multiculturalism and diversity. Daniel Rachel has managed to capture the essence of that contradiction in those Margaret Thatcher governed years, with this comprehensive, cautionary but nonetheless celebratory saga of the 2 Tone label.'
John Harris
'A brilliantly vivid account of one of British pop culture's most inspiring movements - surely the definitive telling of the 2 Tone story.'
Charlie Higson
'A great book about a time when record labels meant something and a brief period of hope when it seemed as if music might actually be able to change the world. This is a book about a few exceptionally talented people who came together and created something extraordinary.'
Pete Paphides
In Daniel Rachel, the great untold story of the post-punk era finally gets the storyteller it deserves. Too Much Too Young is every bit as thrilling, and just as achingly evocative as the music it was written to celebrate... a scintillating read
Essential read for anyone who ever moonstomped in tonic suit, DMs and stingy-brimmed trilby
Billy Bragg
'Daniel Rachel has managed to talk to all the significant players and the story he tells is one that shines a light on the challenges of mixing pop with politics. This feels like the definitive story of 2 Tone. Masterful.'