The Fading of a New Era...

By February of 1980, seven 2Tone singles had been released, each selling at least a quarter of a million copies. The Specials had made it to Number 1 on the British Top 10 with their live Ep "Too Much Too Young." The British ska scene had taken off, and many of the bands found themselves overwhelmed by the popularity.

Dammers and Davies both decided that 2Tone had become much too popular for them to handle, and The Selecter left the label. Dammers and The Specials stayed on, hoping and believing that their popularity would soon fade.

Despite this, their popularity increased and the Specials continued to produce hit songs. They reached the Top 5 with "Rat Race" and "Stereotype." However, the biggest hit for the band would be "Ghost Town," which sold over a million copies. A few months later, Hall, Staples, and Golding would leave the band.

Soon after, guitarist Roddy Radiation left to play for the rock 'n' roll band called The Tearjerkers. At this point, The Specials were forced to revert back to Special A.K.A., as they were basically no longer the same band. The Bodysnatchers had recently disbanded, and Rhoda joined Special A.K.A. to do the release of "The Boiler."

After a disappearance for two years, Special A.K.A. released the album "In The Studio," which missed the charts completely and forced the band into debt. Every eight months or so they released a single. "War Crimes (The Crime Remains the Same) dealt with Israeli army massacres of Palestinians in Beirut refugee camps. It was no small surprise that this single missed the charts completely, oddly enough being the first release by the Specials to not reach the charts. Dammers was undetered by this, saying he was, "more proud of 'War Crimes' than almost anything else I've done."

It is important to note, however, that Dammers made that comment before the Special A.K.A. had released the song "Nelson Mandela" which, despite its strong anti-apartheid message, still managed to sell over 150,000 copies in the UK. Artistically it was likewise a success, being recorded in completion in 4 days, a stark contrast to the rest of "In The Studio" which had been dragging for well into 2 years and drawing a large debt.

The rest of the releases from 2 Tone at this point were watered down, and the label began to suffocate. The last release to come out of the label came from J.B.'s Allstars, a group led by ex-Special A.K.A. drummer John Bradbury. The last 2Tone single not by the Specials to reach the charts had been "Easy Life" by the Bodysnatchers, in 1980. With the slow disappearance of 2Tone, ska's second wave drifted into nothingness. In the short period of seven years, 2Tone had released 29 singles and 8 full-length records.

As a Chrysalis imprint rather than an autonomous record company, 2Tone was always something of a project in conceptual art, and this may be the very reason why its name and style continues to inspire music to this day. It hadn't lasted very long, but people the world over had been listening. Across the Atlantic, in the United States, the downbeat was picked up and passed around.

"There's more to music than commerciality"
~ Jerry Dammers