Friday, September 18, 2009


I'm a bit ambivalent towards 2-Tone these days. I used to really like it when I was 11; now, with the possible exception of a few songs by Brummie pop-ska combo The Beat, I find a lot of it quite juvenile and cringeworthy. Take Too Much Too Young by The Specials; a scathing Malthusian snipe at a young girl, whose 'crime' seems to be settling down and having a kid with a man who isn't Terry Hall.

Ain't he cool, no he ain't, El Tel grizzles about his ex's wee babby. He's just another burden on the welfare state! / You done too much, much too young / Now you're married with a son when you should be having fun with me!

Now, I don't want to take sides. Having a former flame tear your heart out of your chest and toss it to a pack of slavering wolves really sucks. But she's obviously kicked Terry to the curb for a reason, and I'm not entirely convinced it was the wrong move. Let's revisit some other Specials material, and work out exactly what sort of 'fun' the silly moo's opted to miss out on:

* "Stupid Marriage": Terry obsessively stalks an ex-girlfriend, spending hours hanging around outside her and her husband's pad. When the peeping tom spots the couple cavorting, starkers, he has a temper tantrum and lobs a brick through their bathroom window. He ends up in court and receives a custodial sentence.

* "Nite Klub": Terry goes to a disco and spends the night lurking in the corner, a sneer plastered across his mug. I won't dance in a club like this he snorts. All the girls are slags, and the beer tastes just like piss! Tel also reasons: I don't work, cos I don't have to / I don't work, there's no work to do, which is a bit of a cheek coming from a man who accuses newborn babies of stretching the welfare state to breaking point.

* "Little Bitch": a clearly disturbed young girl attempts suicide. Terry's response? Sneer, and tell her she's the ugliest creature under the sun.

* "Friday Night, Saturday Morning": Terry heads out clubbing again. The highlight of the evening is when he stops off at a fast food joint in the small hours, cos the pies are very nice.

* "Do Nothing": Terry buys some tassled loafers, then falls into a deep depression. He walks around the streets and complains that nothing ever changes and that his life has no meaning.

Fuck me, what WAS this chick thinking when she ditched him? Hanging round the pie shop and dissing brainless disco bints (or exes who've 'stung ' him) must have been one big laughter riot - especially when the alternative's being chained to the cooker, making currant buns for tea. Hall never really got the hang of late '70s lyrical prole posturing; if Jimmy Pursey had written this tune, the girl would've at least rustled up beans and chips for tea. Then again, Pursey never banged on about his old girlfriends - well, except for the one who sped off in the getaway car with her new bootboy squeeze, in Borstal Breakout. But I think Chairman Jimmy was justified in being a bit narked about that act of treachery.

Anyway, the Special AKA Live! EP also contains passable cover versions of '60s ska classics like Guns of Navarone and Longshot Kick The Bucket, as well as awful renditions of Liquidator and Skinhead Moonstomp. I can't remember the last time I felt the urge to play this.

Here's Rat Race b/w Rude Boys Outta Jail. On the B-side, Terry emerges from HMP Onley after aforementioned window-bricking episode, and celebrates by hitting the town ((though God knows why, given his opinion of night clubs and the slags who infest them)). On Rat Race, he has a dig at students. Yes! All you slithering, trendy lefty scum, with yer fancy PhDs, stripey scarves and NUS discounts. Blabbing on about Nelson Mandela, when you KNOW you'll ALL be fiddling figures at Ernst & Young, living in luxury apartments, drinking champagne and stomping all over the working man by your 35th birthdays!

I've got one Art did nothing for me! Tel whines. Well, case closed - clearly, higher education is a complete waste of time and energy. ((By the way - if any students are currently reading BTi Blog - stop it. Yeah, it's all funny ha-ha, but I ain't gonna bail you out when you're £15,000 in debt and crying, cos you're too over-qualified to burn steak bakes at Gregg's, and mum actually doesn't want you to 'have your old room back'. Concentrate on your studies, then come back here in 3 years' time. This blog's already survived two assassination attempts, it's going nowhere fast ["literally!" - a voice] You're the doctors, scientists, architects and theorists of tomorrow. If I ever get misdiagnosed, cos you were too busy whooping it up over reports of DJ clashes in Kings X boozers to thoroughly absorb your copies of Corpus Hippocraticum, I'll scalpel you to your own operating tables)).

Fortunately, the targets of Terry's insane vitriol didn't hold a grudge when The Special AKA released the SU Bar favourite Free Nelson Mandela a year later.

Ah now, reader...I dunno. Who was the best 2-Tone act out there? Bad Manners were vaguely amusing (if you were 5) - but Doug Trendle ended up shuffling around onstage with thick ex-Combat 18 slobs, and that chorus in Lorraine, where the spurned, 65-stone skinhead gurgles When I find her / I'm gonna kill her, sounds like a wet afternoon at Wifebeaters Anonymous. The Selecter? Three Minute Hero?? Try writing a decent three-minute song, maybe? The Beat? Yeah, I do like them, but Hands Off, She's Mine is pathetic - a couple of tanked-up nobheads squabbling over who saw the girl in the white cowboy boots first. The under-recorded Bodysnatchers? Easy Life was a top tune - just a shame their mash-up of ska / soul revival didn't sell so well, so a 7" and a turn on the live Dance Craze LP was as far as they got, before the singer joined Special AKA and put out one of the most uncommercial singles ever, The Boiler.

Mind you, the doll who recorded the EP below wasn't bad. From what little info I've managed to scrape together, the diva spent an inordinate amount of her time transubstantiating her bloodstream into Tanqueray and getting nicked by the filth in Camden. We could be soul mates! Well, it beats singing about pie shops, any road...

There's scant mention of her in the history of this era, and she hasn't even made the 2-Tone section on Discogs, so I guess this platter's a bit of a rarity. Maybe this is an apt opportunity for her rehabilitation?

Nice post. I am impressed. Keep it up.

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