Andrew Marvell perfectly encapsulated the bane of the human condition when he wrote “But at my back I always hear, times winged chariot drawing near”, reminding all and sundry that life is fleeting, and #that every single moment needs to be seized and squeezed for all that it’s worth. And that’s exactly what Jerry Dammers and The Specials achieved when they pushed ska to the forefront of the national, and global mainstream zeitgeist by founding 2 Tone Records, and making the music that they, and the bands (Madness, The Beat, The Bodysnatchers, The Selector and more) who spearheaded the genre, and movement at the tail end of the nineteen seventies and early eighties, did.
Having cruised past the half century mark, I’m now one of the geriatrics who stand at the back with their arms folded at shows, but even with more than three and half decades in the punk scene I’m not quite old enough to remember the rabid frenzy that 2 Tone whipped up at the height of its popularity. Sure, I can recall seeing the video for Ghost Town on Top of the Pops when I was eight, but by that point, The Specials, and with them 2 Tone, were done and dusted, and over, finished, gone, done and out. They came, they saw, they conquered and even though they only burned briefly, and brightly, they and the ideology that they founded the label that they became synonymous with, changed the face the of music forever.
Daniel Rachel’s exhaustive, engrossing and incredibly enjoyable document of the three year period that saw the rise and fall of 2 Tone, is told through the a series of interviews with the people and bands who there, who made the music that captivated the world and a compelling and engaging narrative that ties, and weaves, the story together. Played out against a historical backdrop of political, economic and social turmoil and upheaval, the immersive and compelling 2 Tone tale is that all too rare thing; a factual, historical memoir that you won’t be able, or want, to put down until you’ve poured over and digested every detail contained in its more more than 500 pages.
Does it rely on the memories of some individuals more than others? Absolutely, but like every movement, and every genre, there are those that drive and shape what it was, and eventually becomes, and there are those that are just along for the ride, and Rachel manages to differentiate between both, and lend them the importance that they deserve, and earned, according to the roles they assumed and played in the creation, explosion and eventual, and inevitable, implosion of 2 Tone Records. If music and counter culture are the dual forces that make your heart beat a little faster and your pulse pound a little harder, then you need to read Too Much Too Young. It’s an incredible testament to an all too brief moment, and the music, bands and people, that changed the world… Tim Cundle