Daniel Rachel, "Too Much Too Young, the 2 Tone Records Story: Rude Boys, Racism, and the Soundtrack of a Generation" (Akashic Books, 2024)


Daniel Rachel's new book Too Much Too Young, the 2 Tone Records Story: Rude Boys, Racism, and the Soundtrack of a Generation (Akashic, 2024) presents the definitive history of 2 Tone Records. In 1979, 2 Tone Records exploded into the consciousness of music lovers in Britain, the US, and beyond, as albums by the Specials, the Selecter, Madness, the English Beat, and the Bodysnatchers burst onto the charts and a youth movement was born. 2 Tone was Black and white: a multiracial force of British and Caribbean musicians singing about social issues, racism, class, and gender struggles. It spoke of injustices in society and fought against rightwing extremism. It was exuberant and eclectic: white youths learning to dance to the infectious rhythm of ska and reggae, crossed with a punk attitude, to create an original hybrid.

The idea of 2 Tone was born in Coventry, England, and masterminded by a middle-class art student, Jerry Dammers, who envisioned an English Motown. Dammers signed a slew of successful artists, and a number of successive hits propelled 2 Tone onto Top of the Pops and into the hearts and minds of a generation. However, infighting among the bands and the pressures of running a label caused 2 Tone to bow to the inevitable weight of expectation and recrimination. Over the following years, Dammers built the label back up again, entering a new phase full of fresh signings and a beautiful end-piece finale in the activist hit song “(Free) Nelson Mandela.”

Told in three parts, Too Much Too Young is the definitive story of a label that for a brief, bright burning moment shaped British, American, and world culture.

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Rebekah Buchanan

Rebekah Buchanan is a Professor of English and Director of English Education at Western Illinois University. Her research focuses on feminism, activism, and literacy practices in youth culture, specifically through zines and music.

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