Two-tone or 2 tone, also known as ska-rock[citation needed] and ska revival,[1] is a genre of British popular music of the late 1970s and early 1980s that fused traditional Jamaican ska, rocksteady, and reggae music with elements of punk rock and new wave music.[1] Its name derives from 2 Tone Records, a record label founded in 1979 by Jerry Dammers of the Specials,[3] and references a desire to transcend and defuse racial tensions in Thatcher-era Britain: many two-tone groups, such as the Specials, the Selecter and the Beat, featured a mix of black, white, and multiracial people.

Originating in Coventry in the West Midlands of England in the late 1970s, it was part of the second wave of ska music. It followed on from the first ska music that developed in Jamaica in the 1950s and 1960s, infused with punk and new wave textures.

Although two-tone's mainstream commercial appeal was largely limited to the UK, it influenced the ska punk movement that developed in the US in the late 1980s and 1990s.[4][5]


The two-tone sound originated among young musicians in Coventry in the West Midlands of England, who grew up listening to 1960s Jamaican music.[6] They combined influences from ska, reggae and rocksteady with elements of punk rock and new wave. Bands considered part of the genre include the Specials, the Selecter, Madness, the Beat, Bad Manners, the Bodysnatchers and Akrylykz.

The Specials' keyboard player Jerry Dammers coined the term "two-tone". Dammers, with the assistance of Horace Panter and graphic designer John "Teflon" Sims, developed the iconic Walt Jabsco logo (a man in a black suit, white shirt, black tie, pork pie hat, white socks and black loafers) to represent the two-tone genre. The logo, based on an early album-cover photo of Peter Tosh, included an added black-and-white check pattern.[7][8][9]

Most of the bands considered to be part of the two-tone genre were signed to 2 Tone Records (operative 1979–1985) at some point. Other record labels associated with the two-tone sound were Stiff Records and Go Feet Records. The music was especially popular among skinheads, rudies and mod revivalists.[citation needed]


On 1 October 2010, the 2-Tone Central museum, cafe and venue opened in the Coventry University Students' Union building, and by August 2011 it had moved to the 2-Tone Village in Stoke, Coventry.[10] It includes exhibition space and the Coventry Music Wall of Fame.[11][12][13][14]


  1. ^ a b c "Ska Revival". AllMusic.
  2. ^ "Mighty Mighty Bosstones' Joe Gittleman thrives on new LP with ska newcomers". 26 May 2023. Retrieved 20 June 2023.
  3. ^ Woodstra, Chris. "The Specials". AllMusic.
  4. ^ Selvin, Joel (23 March 2008). "A brief history of ska". San Francisco Chronicle.
  5. ^ "Third Wave Ska Revival". AllMusic.
  6. ^ "Jerry Dammers interview by Alexis Petrides", Mojo, Jan 2002. Accessed on 18 October 2007
  7. ^ Panter, Horace (2007). Ska'd for Life. Sidgwick & Jackson.
  8. ^ Staple, Neville (2009). Original Rude Boy. Aurum Press. ISBN 9781845134808.
  9. ^ "British ska legends The Specials". Archived from the original on 22 March 2019. Retrieved 28 June 2014.
  10. ^ "[Homepage]". Coventry: 2-Tone Central: The 2-Tone Museum, Cafe and Venue. Archived from the original on 30 June 2014. Retrieved 28 June 2014.
  11. ^ Chambers, Pete (20 October 2011). "Music Legends Honoured on Coventry's Wall of Fame". Coventry Evening Telegraph. Archived from the original on 4 August 2013. Retrieved 23 December 2011.
  12. ^ Carpenter, Steve (22 November 2011). "Three more names on Coventry Music Wall of Fame". Coventry Observer. Archived from the original on 27 September 2013. Retrieved 24 November 2011.
  13. ^ Manger, Warren (6 December 2011). "Wall of Fame honours more stars who put Coventry on the music map". Coventry Evening Telegraph. Retrieved 8 December 2011.
  14. ^ Bagot, Martin (6 December 2011). "Coventry music heroes honoured in Wall of Fame". Coventry Evening Telegraph. Retrieved 8 December 2011.

Further reading

New wave and post-punk