2 Tone records was created in Coventry, UK in 1978 by Jerry Dammers who apart from being the songwriter and music director for bands ‘The Specials’ and ‘The Special A.K.A’ was also the Chief Executive of the label and responsible for signing artists such as Madness, The Selecter, The Beat and The Bodysnatchers.
Dammers grew up in The Midlands area of The UK during the late 1960s/early 70s and became influenced with the sounds of Jamaican Ska Music that was now being heard in the UK mainly as a direct result of the Government policy at that time which saw big cultural changes in the area as a whole due to the influx of immigration in cities such as Birmingham and Coventry. Virtually all the 2 Tone artists were from the area; the one exception being ‘Madness’ who are from North London.
The label started things off with the classic ‘Gangsters’ shortly followed by Madness’ ‘The Prince’ (a tribute to Prince Buster and the Jamaican Ska scene in general) and The Selecters’ ‘On My Radio’ Other classics which followed included ‘Too Much Too Young’ and The most famous 2 Tone release of them all; ‘Ghost Town’. Despite popular belief the single Ghost Town was not criticism of Racial tension on a national scale; mainly a broadside at the thuggery that existed within Coventry. Infact many of the Specials songs were about life in Coventry. 'Concrete Jungle', 'Dawning Of A New Era', 'Stereotypes' etc.
The early label signings such as Madness and The Beat released just one record on 2 Tone before signing for Stiff Records and Go Feet respectively, however The Specials released a successful self-titled LP in 1979 and became the figureheads for 2 Tone Records and the UK Ska scene. The follow up ‘More Specials' was, at the time, considered disappointing but in truth had a hard task following up the first album and was possibly released too late - after the success of 2 Tone was beginning to recede.
Cultural changes within the music industry and British society not least helped by in house squabbling from artists signed to 2 Tone led to the collapse of the label in 1982. A revised version of The Special A.K.A enjoyed a brief comeback in 1984 with the single ‘Free Nelson Mandela’ plus one or two other recordings.
although it has been revived several times since then for "best of" releases and a singles box-set, The label is now defunct.