Scrawled on the back of an Embassy cigarette packet are Jerry Dammers’ first attempts to define the 2 Tone “rude boys” after a question from the press in the late 1970s. They like “bluebeat and ska … reggae and soul” and wear “trilbys, bowler and pork pie hats … pinstripe suits, button-down shirts and checked scarves”.
Dammers, who founded the 2 Tone record label in Coventry in 1979, little knew how the description he jotted down would become the image of a hugely popular musical and cultural movement.
His note is part of the first major exhibition devoted solely to 2 Tone, one of the first events on the Coventry city of culture calendar, which started officially in May after a four-month delay due to Covid.
With never-before-seen artefacts and exclusive interviews with band members, it charts the formation of the record label that spawned the 2 Tone movement, focusing particularly on The Specials, The Selecter and other ska-influenced…