Pete Chambers is the Director & Curator of the Coventry Music Museum, creator of Coventry’s famous 2-Tone Trail, Music Historian by choice, and local music Journalist for the Coventry Telegraph by trade. He has written six books on the subject of Coventry Music.
Fred Perry Subculture have been lucky enough to have Pete Chambers make the following exclusive playlist, complete with notes and trivia about each track choice. Enjoy!
1. The Special AKA - Gangsters
With a screech of breaks this song began, and with it heralded the rise of a record label that was to inject a well needed shot of cerebral skanking to the disenfranchised punks who had lost their musical way. The song based on Prince Buster’s Al Capone, it was ahead of the game with it’s very early use of sampling, and was like a breath of fresh air to the record buying public, and suddenly, all eyes began looking Coventry’s way.
2. The Selecter - Three Minute Hero
Never has a song of such bleakness, has sounded so upbeat, but wait, there is light at the end of the tunnel, and enlightenment is probably just a skank away, probably.
3. The Specials - Rat Race
Penned by the great Roddy Radiation, its acerbic lyrics are aimed squarely at the students who prescribe to the Bank of Mum & Dad. Great song, hilarious video.
4. The Selecter - Celebrate The Bullet
If guitar riffs died this one would command a state funeral. Neol Davies bends those strings and for that moment, all is good in the world and just when you think it can’t get any better, in comes Pauline Black’s pitch perfect vocals and hey presto a brilliant song becomes a perfect one.
5. The Special AKA - Nelson Mandela
Probably the greatest protest song of all time? This was the song that first alerted us to a man that would be a global hero and legend, at this point though he was labelled a terrorist and was a prisoner of extreme injustice. Despite that Jerry Dammers says it like it is, upbeat as you like, almost joyous, we get taken on a history lesson and emerge a little wiser, and from that very moment, the motions that would change everything had begun.
6. The Beat - Stand Down Margaret
Speaking of protest songs, The Beat came Ranking Fullstop out of Handsworth, Birmingham, with their own brand of ska crossed reggae. This fine offering was never heeded to by the then Prime minister of the time, but it’s chantability was never in question.
7. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones - Don’t Worry Desmond Dekker
Coming out of Boston, The MM Bosstones helped to define the third wave of ska, there’s no way the tag ‘bandwagon jumpers’ can be applied to this outfit. This particular offering names checks The Selecter, The Clash and of course all Hail the late great Desmond Dekker.
8. Toots And The Maytals - 54-46 (That’s My Number)
From third wave to first wave, with Mr Hibbert in full flow, it’s anthemic, its iconic and it fills dance floors all over, and the chants, yes the chants, “give it to me three Times” ticks all my boxes.
9. Madness - The Prince
No 2-Tone fan can listen to this bit ofSkaduggery, without recalling the first Top of the Pops appearance from the mighty Nutty Boys. Ska had arrived, and what better way to demonstrate it to us teenagers who were all very keen to make some shapes for ourselves.
10. The Specials - Doesn’t Make It Alright
The brutal archaic act of racism summed up in one song, Terry Hall and Co delivers the multicultural message before we even knew what that meant. By the end of the song you knew what side you were on, it was that powerful.
11. Max Romeo - Wet Dream
I remember one rogue bringing this cheeky platter into the classroom on the last day of school, I also recall our Form Teacher going into hyper-blush at it’s less than wholesome lyrics. This year The Original Ride Boy Neville staples covered the song superbly on his Ska Crazy album, still puts a smile on my face. A big hit at the 2-Tone Village.
12. The Swinging Cats - Mantovani
The less celebrated of the Coventry 2-Tone bands, ‘The Cats’, had a more quirky less defined sound than the ‘classic’ 2-Tone roster. Nevertheless in the talented Mr. John Shipley, they possessed something of a visionary. No surprise then when he went on to Join The Special AKA. This is just one of those devine songs that teases you to keep playing it, Oh go on then.