An Eight Part History of The Specials - Part Three - 2 Tone Tour Hits the road.

2 Tone Tour Hits the road

Laying down tracks for the debut album began, with Elvis Costello wearing the producer hat - an early fan of the band, he jumped at the chance. At the same time the band made time to dash over to Europe to play a few festivals where they inevitably went down a storm, stealing the show from the likes of the Police and The Cure to name but two.

'A Message To You, Rudy' was released in October 1979, backed by 'Nite Klub' as a double A side, both tracks featured two new honorary Specials - Hornsmen Rico Rodriguez and Dick Cuthell. Rico was already a legend in ska, having played trombone with many of the early ska greats such as Prince Buster, the Skatalites and Laurel Aitken. He had even played on the original version of 'A Message To You, Rudy' by Dandy Livingstone.

Later that month, their debut album, entitled simply 'Specials' was released and shot straight into the UK album charts at number 7. The Specials, and 2 Tone were really on the map, and a 40 date '2 Tone Tour' of the country began in earnest featuring The Specials, Madness and The Selecter.
2 Tone Tour Publicity Photo
2 Tone Tour Publicity Photo
Pauline Black, Suggs and Neville Staple by the 2 Tone Tour bus
Pauline Black, Suggs and Neville Staple
by the 2 Tone Tour bus

The tour was a complete success, selling out all over the country, but was tarnished by some violent outbreaks my a minority of troublemakers in some venues, which was of course singled out by the press.

It was a fact that racists from the NF and the BNP were recruiting at the shows, but the bands openly distanced themselves from these people, and made it clear to all that they weren't welcome. It goes to show how stupid these people were, canvassing music fans who were dancing to multi-racial bands and singing along with songs preaching racial unity, and yet some impressionables took the bait.

Half way through the tour Madness were replaced by Kevin Roland's 'Dexy Midnight Runners', a soul band from Birmingham, who although didn't play ska and weren't signed to 2 Tone, still went down a storm.
After the tour, The Specials last show of the decade was at the UNICEF Concert for Kampuchea, sharing the stage with the likes of The Who, Queen, Paul McCartney, The Clash and Elvis Costello to name a few.

Jerry also found time to sign The Beat from Birmingham to 2 Tone, who he and Lynval had seen opening for the Selecter some months before. Their debut single, Smokey Robinson's 'Tears of a Clown' was another success for the label, although the beat subsequently went out on their own forming their own label 'Go Feet'.

In January 1980, along with being filmed for a 2 Tone documentary by the BBC and an live appearance on the 'Rock Goes To College' show, The Specials released their third single 'Too Much Too Young'. It was a 5 track live EP, featuring 'Too Much Too Young' and 'Guns of Navarone' recorded in London, and 'Skinhead Symphony' which was a medley of 'Long Shot Kick The Bucket', 'Liquidator' and 'Skinhead Moonstomp' recorded at an electric homecoming show at Tiffany's in Coventry (which is now the public Library !).

Too Much Too Young 7" EP Cover
Too Much Too Young 7" EP Cover

The band played a few shows in Europe, and then headed off to take British ska to the USA.
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