Much has been written about 2 Tone and its ongoing resonance both political and musical. Below we list all of the books/magazines in the archive plus a small selection of some of our favourites…

2 Tone – Before, During & After by Lee Morris

Author Lee Morris makes his mark with a fine book that documents all artists that appeared on the label, rather than just the more famous ‘ska’ bands. He also continues the post 2 Tone story of all bands involved and provides information on each person ever to appear on the label.

Each chapter contains an up-to-date history of each band or artist. Groups such as The Swinging Cats, The Higsons and The Apollinaires have often been regarded as almost an afterthought by those retelling the story of the label. This certainly can’t be said of this book. Each band and member is given the same attention to detail as those who released their vinyl on the famous black and white checks.

2020 has been a great year for 2 Tone with some important reissues on the label and this book along with Stephen Shafer’s Duff Guide to 2 Tone compliment thoses releases and will no doubt become essential purchases of fans of the label.

The Duff Guide to 2 Tone by Stephen Shafer

The Duff Guide to 2 Tone features over 70 reviews of reissues of 2 Tone and related albums from The Specials, The Special AKA, The Selecter, The Beat, Madness, The Bodysnatchers and Bad Manners, as well as write-ups of more recent records, gigs, books, and movies. Ska music writer Stephen Shafer was Moon Ska Records’ marketing director during the 1990s and the American ‘Third Wave’ of ska. With a foreword by Gaz Mayall, The Duff Guide to 2 Tone draws from over 12 years of Shafer’s reviews from his extensive and popular Duff Guide to Ska blog.

Written with a personal touch and with great passion about the bands and releases while giving a lot of emphasis to the lyrics, Stephen’s book is a great guiding hand to navigating your way to some great new music.

In addition to the new music he cites, he drops lots of great titbits of info and anecdotes that even those of us who have been around the 2 Tone block will find new and interesting.

Walls Come Tumbling Down by Daniel Rachel

Taking its title from The Style Council’s 1985 single, this is a book in three distinct sections, all with the common thread of mapping the history of how groups of like-minded musicians and individuals came together to use music as an effective method of protest in support of various Left-leaning causes. The first section looks back on Rock Against Racism and how it was an effective buffer against the rise of Far Right during the late 1970s while the last part of the book deals with Red Wedge and Artists Against Apartheid.

However, it is the section dealing with the impact of 2 Tone Records that will no doubt appeal to visitors to this site. The author has interviewed all the major – and not so major – figures who appeared on the label and got them to reveal details that until the publication of this book, had mostly gone undocumented. The chapter on The Bodysnatchers is without doubt the most comprehensive account of the band to date. The details of rapidly disintegrating relationships between the members of some bands will shock and surprise many fans.

Ska’d For Life by Horace Panter

There is no doubt that if each member of The Specials was asked to write about their time with the band, it would result in seven very different books. Horace Panter became the first Special to recount his time with Coventry’s finest and very engaging and entertaining it is too.

From his days at artschool (where he first encountered Jerry Dammers), to the humble beginnings of The Coventry Automatics (soon to be Specials) to the sell out concerts in Europe, America and Japan to the decline of second incarnation of The Special AKA, it’s all here and told in a way that only Sir Horace can.

The Two Tone Story by George Marshall

Author George Marshall released this book via his own ST (Skinhead Times) Publishing setup. It’s far from a definitive account of the history of the label but it is surprisingly comprehensive in its content. And what it lacks in detail it more than makes up for with the obvious passion the author has for the music. First published in true staples and photocopier fanzine format, it then progressed to a much more professional A4 format and from there was included in A5 size with The Compact 2 Tone Story. The final incarnation of the book was a square 7” x 7” format release.

The Specials You’re Wondering Now by Paul Williams

Originally released by ST Publishing this expanded and updated version has over double the content of the original version. It’s easily the most detailed account of The Specials to date. Not only does it chart the rise and demise of the band it also contains extensive accounts of each band member after they went their separate ways.

It also includes for the first time in print a near-as-can-be complete list of gigs played by The Specials dating back to their days as The Hybrids. It’s all topped off with some previously unseen photographs from the private collection of Roddy Byers.

Black By Design by Pauline Black

Pauline Black was a formidable force during 2 Tone and she was more than capable of fighting her own corner during the times when 2 Tone was very much a male domain. Her memoirs were always going to make for compelling reading and she certainly doesn’t dissappoint. She recalls that relationships within The Selecter started to deteriorate almost as soon as the recording sessions for the first album began.

Being the only female band member on The 2 Tone Tour gave her an unique opportunity to observe her male counterparts at close quarters. Needless to say, some of their behavior left a lot to be desired. The one fault with this book is that there is not a single mention of the split from 2 Tone. It was a notable episode in the history of the label and with the benefit of hindsight it would have been interesting to hear her account of it.

Before We Was We by Madness

A book about Madness by Madness. The boys from North London each recall their own personal journey from childhood to becoming a member of one the UK’s most successful singles bands of the eighties. Along the way there is plenty of skulduggery and tales of teenage delinquency all of which leave the reader contemplating what direction their lives would have taken if they hadn’t found success with Madness. The 2 Tone Tour – which surely deserves a book of its own – is recalled with great humour and affection. How there weren’t some serious casualties as a result of the antics on this tour is nothing short of a miracle.

I Just Can’t Stop It: My Life in the Beat
Ranking Roger and Daniel Rachel

The late Ranking Roger teamed up with Daniel Rachel to produce a highly entertaining of the account of his life and time with The Beat. Arguably the best toaster of the 2 Tone generation, he recalls his days as one of the few black punks in and around Birmingham where he would toast freestyle over the tracks by the likes of The Clash. He is refreshingly honest about his time in The Beat, freely stating which records he thought should and shouldn’t have been released. The book ends with his untimely death and we are reminded that he was indeed one of 2 Tone’s most charismatic figures.

Title Country Format Author ISBN Publisher
The Two Tone Story UK Book George Marshall ISBN 0 9518497 3 5 ST Publishing
You're Wondering Now UK Book Paul Williams ISBN 1 898927 25 1 ST Publishing
The Specials Illustrated Songbook UK Book Nick Davies & Ian Haywood Plangent Visions Music Ltd
The 2-Tone Book for Rude Boys UK Book Perry Neville & Jimmy Egerton ISBN 0-86001-901-2 Omnibus Press
Twist & Crawl UK Book Malu Halasa ISBN 0 906008 24 7 Eel Pie Publishing
Before We Was We UK Book Madness ISBN 978-0-75355-393-0 Virgin
Total Madness UK Book George Marshall ISBN 0951849743 ST Publishing
Ska 80 UK Book The Beat from The Street Disco 45
Sent From Coventry: The Chequered Past of Two Tone UK Book Richard Eddington ISBN 0-9539942-5-2 Independent Music Press
Dance Craze UK Book Garry Bushell Sounds
Dance Craze UK Book Movie Realm
Take It Or Leave It UK Book Madness
Shall We Dance Book History Of Rock Volume 10 Issue 11 Orbis Publishing Limited
Uncut UK Book
Record Collector UK Book Oct. 1989 No. 122
Record Collector UK Book Nov. 1989 No. 123
Record Collector UK Book Issue 300 Issue 300
The Specials, Madness and the Ska Explosion UK Book Q Special Edition Q Magazine
Q 100 Best Record Covers Of All Time UK Book Q Magazine
Wheels Out Of Gear - 2 Tone The Specials & A World In Flame UK Book Dave Thompson ISBN: 1900924846 Helter Skelter
The 2-Tone Trail UK Book Pete Chambers ISBN 0-9544125-3-2 Tencton Planet
You're Wondering Now - The Specials from Conception to Reunion UK Book Paul Williams Cherry Red
1980 Japan Tour Book Japan Book The Specials Van Productions Japan
Ska'd For LIfe UK Book Horace Panter ISBN 978-0-283-07029 Sidgwick & Jackson
Bad Manners UK Book George Marshall ISBN 0 9518497 6X ST Publishing
A Brief Case History Of Madness UK Book Mark Williams ISBN 0862761700 Proteus Books
The Two Tone Story UK Book George Marshall Zoot
2-Tone-2 UK Book Pete Chambers ISBN 978-0-9544125-6 Tencton Planet
Original Rude Boy - From Borstal to the Specials - A Life in Crime and Music UK Book Neville Staple 9781845134808 Aurum Press
Record Collector UK Book June 2009 No. 363
The Official 2 Tone Central Museum Guidebook UK Book Pete Chambers 978-0954412586 Tencton Planet
Black By Design UK Book Pauline Black ISBN: 9781846687907 Serpent's Tail
Dance Craze UK Book Garry Bushell ISBN: 978-0-9570986-1-9 54321 Countdown
Walls Come Tumbling Down UK Book Daniel Rachel 978-1447272687 Picador
Pocket Guide To Ska UK Book Mick O'Shea ISBN 9781911346678 Red Planet Zone
I Just Can't Stop It: My Life in the Beat UK Book Ranking Roger and Daniel Rachel ISBN-10: 1785589245 Omnibus Press
Under the Clock UK Book Shelley Hinchliffe-Reece ISBN 9781650473109
The Duff Guide to 2 Tone US Book Stephen Shafer ISBN 9780578744773