WH Smith goes ska in 1980

IMG_62321979 and 1980 were the glory years of the so-called “second wave” of ska music – first wave in Jamaica twenty plus years before and now the 2Tone wave came crashing out of Coventry. The Specials seized the charts by the scruff of the neck with a string of hits. And even WH Smith felt the vibe as the his ad from 1980 shows.

But…by the end of 1981, political pop gave way to bubblegum pop. However, fans of bands like The Specials, The Selecter and The Beat have remained fiercely loyal to the present. And it would be remiss of me not to mention that I co-authored the biography of Neville Staple, front man in The Specials, titled Original Rude Boy.


Dance Craze – the ska movie of 1981

It’s a great nostalgia piece but truthfully not one of the greatest movies ever made – Dance Craze was the last hurrah for 2tone and the second wave of ska, which had enjoyed a two year run in the charts and kept Britain’s youth skanking between 1979 and 1981.

In 1981, Dance Craze went on tour. Here are two adverts I found in my collection of music papers from the time and a YouTube link to the movie. Enjoy!

Neville Staple – the Original Rude Boy

As you may know – I wrote Neville Staple of The Specials’ biography which was published in paperback this year – Original Rude Boy.   Came as a bit of a surprise to discover that Neville was a bit of a lad back in the day and I mean burglaries, fights with knives and other bad behaviour, or what he calls “Neville things”.

But he was  real Rude Boy and there’s no doubting it.  I still see him and former Specials roadies Trevor Evans and Rex Griffiths about.  They haven’t changed a bit.  Neville is truly enigmatic with The Specials performing Ghost Town on Top Of The Pops.

Original Rude Boy - by Neville Staple and me


Futurist pen pal in 1981

I found a Pen Pals column from 1981 with teenagers asking other teens to write to them.  Aaaaah…well, this was life before the internet and when people were capable of filling two sheets of paper with their thoughts.  Even looking at the music press, it’s amazing how we had the patience to read four pages about Haircut 100.

But the Pen Pal ads tell us so much about who we were back then.  Let me give you a random sample:

“Male futurist requires good looking girl interested in Spandau, Duran, Depeche Mode and Human League.  Other interests include extra-terrestrial beings (UFOs).”

“Four girls want to hear from four boys. Likes: Madness, Specials and all ska. We dislike heavy metal and punk.”

“18 year old mod needs cheering up by nice girl.”

“Hey there all you male headbangers! We are three female headbangers who love all heavy metal groups, especially Rainbow, Motorhead, Sabbath and Quo.”

“Ethel (16) in to Duran Duran, Trebor Mints, Seamus Meaney, Salsa, Depeche Mode, Dali, The Royal Family, vanity and lots more.”