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Too Much Too Young, the 2 Tone Records Story: Rude Boys, Racism, and the Soundtrack of a Generation


The definitive and remarkable story of 2 Tone Records, featuring an introduction by Pauline Black

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$32.95 $24.71

What people are saying…

—A Times/Sunday Times Book of the Year
—An Uncut Book of the Year
—Long-Listed for the Penderyn Music Book Prize
—A Louder Than War Book of the Year
—A Blitzed Magazine Book of the Year

“It started in the English Midlands city of Coventry. Madness, the Selecter, the Beat, UB40, the Specials—these were just some of the biggest names in the 1970s and 1980s movement of punk-influenced ska and reggae-based songs, antiracist and antisexist at heart, on the airwaves. British music writer Rachel presents a rich and vibrant history of that era and of the bands and record companies that made it happen, with a special focus on 2 Tone Records founder, Jerry Dammers . . . The records that 2 Tone released, says Rachel, were a hip form of protest music. It’s a big fat book about an important, if sometimes neglected, part of cultural music history . . . when music of the African diaspora was heard and embraced around the world.”
Booklist, STARRED review

“We lived in Britain, a country that had benefited from immigration, but had an innate antipathy to ideas of multiculturalism. Daniel Rachel has managed to capture the essence of that contradiction in those Margaret Thatcher years, with this comprehensive, cautionary, and celebratory saga of 2 Tone.”
—Pauline Black, the Selecter

“Music historian Rachel presents a meticulous profile of the British record label that helped popularize post-punk ska music in the late 1970s and early ’80s . . . Rachel effectively balances his enthusiasm about the label and what it stood for with a clear-eyed assessment of how a movement intended for good can go up in flames.”
Publishers Weekly

“Brilliant . . . nothing is left out of this definitive book.”

“Disputatious, colorful, and rife with contradictions.”

“An exceptional portrait of Britain at a crucial time.”
Irish Times

“Daniel Rachel has managed to talk to all the significant players and the story he tells is one that shines a light on the challenges of mixing pop with politics. This feels like the definitive story of 2 Tone. Masterful.”
—Billy Bragg

“Daniel Rachel has bagged the whirlwind of 2 Tone with joy, honesty, and compassion to create the definitive account of one of Britain’s finest youth movements.”
—Suggs, singer of Madness

“A brilliant, insightful book, and nothing short of definitive.”
Record Collector

“Superb . . . Rachel writes with the undimmed passion and enthusiasm of the teenage tonic-suited rude boy.”
Vive le Rock

“Any fan of pop history and music in general will love Too Much Too Young. It’s the story of the iconic UK label 2 Tone Records, which helped pioneer the musical genre ska and a generation of politically active, racially diverse acts starting in 1979. They changed the face of music and their story is hailed by many . . . as one of the best books of the year. Just be prepared to start streaming a lot of great music while you’re reading this one.”
Parade Magazine, “Best New Books of June 2024”

Too Much Too Young is a vibrant, engaging read that goes into detail on both the inner workings of the label and the social movement that emerged from it. Rachel’s book is utterly impossible to put down, except to possibly dig for records in order to properly soundtrack your reading experience.”
Kansas City Pitch

“Rachel gives a fascinating warts-and-all look at the scene that is researched here like a scholarly text but reads like a novel . . . [A] compelling look at one of the most influential musical movements of the past generation.”
New Noise Magazine

“Pulling no punches and sparing no accolades, Rachel set out to tell the full story of [Jerry] Dammers and his labor of love—and has succeeded admirably in his goal . . . Too Much Too Young is packed with compelling portraits of memorably quirky individuals. Its pages vividly recreate the creative sparks that fly when a diverse bunch of very brilliant, very young, and very angry artists come together to make music in a way that had never been before.”
Pop Matters

“The ideal match of author and subject.”
—Jon Savage, author of England’s Dreaming: The Sex Pistols and Punk Rock

“A brilliantly vivid account of one of British pop culture’s most inspiring movements—surely the definitive telling of the 2 Tone story.”
—John Harris, author of The Last Party: Britpop, Blair and the Demise of English Rock

“An incredible and detailed account of a massive watershed moment in British culture.”
—Gurinder Chadha, filmmaker

“This is a book about a few exceptionally talented people who came together and created something extraordinary.”
—Charlie Higson, actor, comedian, author

“In Daniel Rachel, the great untold story of the post-punk era finally gets the storyteller it deserves. Too Much Too Young is every bit as thrilling, and just as achingly evocative, as the music it was written to celebrate.”
—Pete Paphides, journalist and broadcaster


In 1979, 2 Tone Records exploded into the consciousness of music lovers in Britain, the US, and beyond, as albums by the Specials, the Selecter, Madness, the English Beat, and the Bodysnatchers burst onto the charts and a youth movement was born. 2 Tone was Black and white: a multiracial force of British and Caribbean musicians singing about social issues, racism, class, and gender struggles. It spoke of injustices in society and fought against rightwing extremism. It was exuberant and eclectic: white youths learning to dance to the infectious rhythm of ska and reggae, crossed with a punk attitude, to create an original hybrid.

The idea of 2 Tone was born in Coventry, England, and masterminded by a middle-class art student, Jerry Dammers, who envisioned an English Motown. Dammers signed a slew of successful artists, and a number of successive hits propelled 2 Tone onto Top of the Pops and into the hearts and minds of a generation. However, infighting among the bands and the pressures of running a label caused 2 Tone to bow to the inevitable weight of expectation and recrimination. Over the following years, Dammers built the label back up again, entering a new phase full of fresh signings and a beautiful end-piece finale in the activist hit song “(Free) Nelson Mandela.”

Told in three parts, Too Much Too Young is the definitive story of a label that for a brief, bright burning moment shaped British, American, and world culture.

Book Details

  • Hardcover: 500 pages
  • Published: 6/4/24
  • IBSN: 9781636141893
  • e-IBSN: 9781636141909


Daniel Rachel is a Birmingham-born, best-selling author whose previous works include: Isle of Noises: Conversations with Great British Songwriters; Walls Come Tumbling Down: The Music and Politics of Rock Against Racism, 2 Tone, and Red Wedge; Don’t Look Back in Anger: The Rise and Fall of Cool Britannia; The Lost Album of the Beatles: What If the Beatles Hadn’t Split Up?; One for the Road: The Life & Lyrics of Simon Fowler & Ocean Colour Scene; and Oasis: Knebworth: Two Nights That Will Live Forever. He is also coauthor of Ranking Roger’s autobiography, I Just Can’t Stop It: My Life in the Beat. In 2021, Rachel was a guest curator of the “2 Tone Lives & Legacies” exhibition as part of Coventry Cultural City 2021, and he curated the anniversary edition of the Selecter’s debut album, Too Much Pressure. Rachel’s latest work is Too Much Too Young.

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