The Band personnel gradually changed over the years, and in around 1983, Rod Stradling (2-row melodeon) and Danny Stradling (percussion) - newly parted from the Old Swan Band - were asked to join, and John Gill changed from fiddle to bass. With this lineup, in 1985, they recorded a cassette called Demos, and a second one, Promos, in 1986, by which time Dion had left, replaced by Jon Moore (lead guitar) and they had added two rhythm guitar players, Tom Greenhalgh (from the Mekons) and Barn Stradling. At the end of 1986 they recorded a further 6 tracks which, together with the 5 Promos ones were published as Ethos. By 1987 the band had added Steve Goulding (drums), and with this lineup recorded the LP Let's Polkasteady: Edward the Second, Cooking Vinyl COOK 007, in 1987.
At a time when the emerging folk rock movement was flourishing as part of the broader folk revival, the band decided that a more natural connection would be with the reggae music of Jamaica, rather than the punk rock they were more familiar with. This came from the rationale that the two music forms were harmonically very similar, were both clearly folk music, the two nations sea-faring heritage, but most importantly to make the politically motivated argument that Britain was and always had been an island of immigrants and that this was reflected in the UK's musical heritage. There was also no doubt at the time of the slow and steady impact the West Indian communities, brought to the UK as part of the Windrush migration, was starting to have on British urban culture, and the early Edward II collective were heavily involved in the emerging anti-fascist Rock Against Racism movement.
The band made their LP debut in 1987 with Let's Polka Steady!, with British dub producer Mad Professor, which contained several reggae inspired instrumentals and is usually considered the highpoint for the original line up. However, it was as a live act that they made their name with a series of gigs at festivals throughout the UK and Europe. Further additions to the fluid line-up during the late 80s included Neil Yates (trumpet), Lorna Bailey (vocals), John Hart (trombone), Gavin Sharp (tenor saxophone), and Alton Zebby (drums), all of whom made their début on the second album Two Step To Heaven (1989).
The collective's centre of gravity moved with John Gill (bass player, producer and assistant engineer on Never Mind the Bollocks) to Manchester, where he soon developed connections with the reggae musicians surrounding Moss Side and specifically the Rastafarian organisation, The Twelve Tribes of Israel. From this fertile ground (and after John Gill’s departure) the long standing line-up, familiar to those that followed the band throughout the nineties, was formed