1979 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.
It’s strange to recall the thrill of buying a triple pack of AD-C90 TDK tapes at the special purchase price of £4.50 at WH Smith, thinking of all the great sounds that would soon populate them.
WH Smith would also pile on the excitement by entering you for their £3,000 holiday draw. I don’t think the three grand went to one person, it was a load of travel vouchers that got plastered round to lots of winners.
Of course there was little point in getting the C120 because the tape really was thinner and more likely to snarl. A mate of mine used to send me compilation tapes of music because he fancied himself as a font of all musical knowledge and felt he was somehow educating me. They were like cultural Red Cross parcels.
Of course, they were killed off by CDs….though slowly. Personally, I was glad when the iPod came along and I could put my screwdriver away and stop waiting for that awful moment when your music speeded up and you knew the tape was gunged up in your deck.