Too Much Too Young: The 2 Tone Records Story

‘The story of 2 Tone is disputatious, colourful & rife with contradictions’ UNCUT 8/10

‘Well-researched, well-written and well-illustrated it captures the spirit, sound and significance of 2 Tone… a must-read for anyone interested in 2 Tone, ska or British music history’ LOUDER THAN WAR

Very much enjoyed this history of a turbulent time – and a music to match, published today. The ideal match of author and subject JON SAVAGE

A brilliantly vivid account of one of British pop culture’s most inspiring movements – surely the definitive telling of the 2 Tone story. JOHN HARRIS

An incredible and detailed account of a massive watershed moment in British culture. Rachel’s book captures the daily struggles and contradictions within both the groups and the audience during harsh political times and ultimately delivers a message of positivity and the power of the music to affect social and political change. GURINDER CHADHA, OBE

A great book about a time when record labels meant something and a brief period of hope when it seemed as if music might actually be able to change the world. This is a book about a few exceptionally talented people who came together and created something extraordinary. CHARLIE HIGSON

We lived in Britain, a country that had hugely benefited from immigration, but curiously had an innate antipathy to the ideas of multiculturalism and diversity. Daniel Rachel has managed to capture the essence of that contradiction in those Margaret Thatcher governed years, with this comprehensive, cautionary but nonetheless celebratory saga of the 2 Tone label. PAULINE BLACK, OBE

Daniel Rachel has managed to talk to all the significant players and the story he tells is one that shines a light on the challenges of mixing pop with politics. This feels like the definitive story of 2 Tone. Masterful. BILLY BRAGG

In Daniel Rachel, the great untold story of the post-punk era finally gets the storyteller it deserves. Too Much Too Young is every bit as thrilling, and just as achingly evocative as the music it was written to celebrate… a scintillating read. PETE PAPHIDES

Daniel Rachel has bagged the whirlwind of 2 Tone with joy, honesty and compassion to create the definitive account of one of Britain’s finest youth movements. SUGGS

On 19 October 2023 White Rabbit published the definitive guide to the legendary 2 Tone Records written by the bestselling British author Daniel Rachel. Titled Too Much Too Young The 2 Tone Records Story : Rude Boys, Racism and the Soundtrack of a Generation, the book maps out the journey of one of the UK’s most influential record labels that became a movement that shook up the nation with its rebellious spirit, fighting against the injustices in society and took the fight against the right wing extremism in the country.

In 1979, 2 Tone exploded into the national consciousness as records by The Specials, The Selecter, Madness, The Beat, and The Bodysnatchers burst onto the charts and a youth movement was born. 2 Tone was black and white: a multi-racial force of British and Caribbean island musicians singing about social issues, racism, class and gender struggles.

The music of 2 Tone was exuberant: white youth learning to dance to the infectious rhythm of ska and reggae; and crossed with a punk attitude to create an original hybrid. The idea of 2 Tone was born in Coventry, masterminded by a middle-class art student raised in the church. Jerry Dammers had a vision of an English Motown. Borrowing £700, the label’s first record featured ‘Gangsters’ by The Specials’ backed by an instrumental track by the, as yet, unformed, Selecter. Within two months the single was at number six in the national charts. Dammers signed Madness, The Beat and The Bodysnatchers as a glut of successive hits propelled 2 Tone onto Top of the Pops and into the hearts and minds of a generation. However, soon infighting amongst the bands and the pressures of running a label caused 2 Tone to bow to an inevitable weight of expectation and recrimination.

Still under the auspices of Jerry Dammers, 2 Tone entered in a new phase. Perhaps not as commercially successful as its 1979-1981 incarnation the label nevertheless continued to thrive for a further four years releasing a string of fresh signings and a stunning end-piece finale in ‘(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 culture.

Author, Daniel Rachel, said: As a child, 2 Tone defined the way I saw the world. I was seduced by the off-beat rhythms, the cool looking clothes and most importantly the social and political lyrics. 2 Tone taught me about black and white unity, it gave a voice to the pointlessness of street violence, and it provided an understanding and awareness of the horror of rape and apartheid. That you could dance, look good and be educated by a record was incredible. This music and these bands have printed an indelible mark on my life. To write the story of 2 Tone is one of profound personal pride. But more so, to honour one of the greatest periods in modern popular culture. 2 Tone at its heart was a movement of great songwriters, musicians and songs – We danced and sang, and the music played in a de boomtown!

Publisher, Lee Brackstone said: The music and the aesthetic of 2 Tone set the dial for the prevailing mood of the counterculture in the 1980s, and we’re still feeling the aftershocks of the extraordinary achievements of the label four decades later. Through exhaustive interviews with the major artists and those associated with the label and deep research, award-winning writer Daniel Rachel brings the story of 2 Tone to life: the joy of a uniquely creative moment which arguably did more than any other to challenge racism and class prejudice in Britain, and in the process enlightened a whole generation of fans and created a catalogue of unparalleled quality. Essential reading.