In at the birth of Two Tone, Selecter singer Pauline Black is under Too Much Pressure – but you get the impression she’s enjoying it.
This year marks 35 years since the Selecter rocketed into the top 10 with On My Radio, their first hit in their own right.
And a celebratory tour to mark their birthday will take them all around the world, playing venues both big and small – meaning they will be right here in West Yorkshire on March 27 when they play at Hebden Bridge Trades Club.
Their initial three-month 26-date tour takes in the UK, and in a real and rare treat for fans they will be performing their classic debut album Too Much Pressure in its entirety as they strive to balance their past and present.
They never intended to just rest on their laurels – indeed they haven’t since reforming in 2010, featuring original vocalists Pauline Black and Arthur “Gaps” Hendrickson – and will also feature newer material in their set as well as the old classics.
They are well rehearsed having been a popular support act to John Lydon’s Public Image Limited throughout the UK last autumn. This writer, who saw the Liverpool show, can attest they were in great form. They played about 75 dates around the world in 2013, including the prestiguous Coachella Festival near Palm Springs in the US.
This tour sees them play many of the concert circuit’s 02 venues and will take them around then world, but Pauline says playing places with a reputation for staging the best music is an important part.
“We’re going to the U.S. again, Australia and Europe and out to Japan. Here, people can’t always get to the 02 places. Hebden Bridge is a great place everybody knows and it was one of the smaller venues on the list – that’s why we’re doing 26 dates,” she said.
“It was wonderful to be asked to do the PiL tour and it surprised a lot of people who didn’t expect us to go out there with them.”
On playing all Too Much Pressure again after over three decades, Pauline says: “It was quite a revelation.
“The songs are always there in the background but when we go and perform now something we did so long ago it’s quite exciting in a strange sort of way.”
While thrilled to be marking a key moment in time for them, the band also have one eye on the future.
“We put out a new album when we reformed in 2010 and we’ve built an audience that is respectful. We didn’t just want to get back together and do what we’d done before and we’re working on a new album for 2015.”
Being a part of Two Tone from the beginning will always be special, says Pauline, and the music was born in hard economic times akin to those the country has undergone in the last few years, rising at the same time and often offering an alternative to, Margaret Thatcher’s brand of Conservatism.
The Selecter were in at the start of Two Tone – or 2 Tone – in 1979, when their eponymously titled instrumental backed the Specials’ Gangsters on the label’s very first 45.
Formed by Specials Jerry Dammers, the label also released debut singles by the Beat and Madness as well as Specials and the Selecter, whose On My Radio is a classic of the genre. Others like Too Much Pressure itself and Missing Words followed, while Celebrate The Bullet saw them move to major label Chrysalis.
Ska and punk were major influences, and Pauline believes that well attended gigs, many of them attended by fans who weren’t born when the band formed, indicate is has a spark that is enduring, rather as they drew inspiration from original stars of the Sixties.
“We seem to be playing to more people these days. I can only assume they find in us what we found in Prince Buster and the Skatalites.
“Two Tone was a launch pad for many bands. We were the ones who stuck with it and put an album out on it. It has a history that’s very personal to me,” she said.
“We want people to come along, to remember, to have a good dance and tickle their brain cells and listen to some of the new things we’ll be doing too.”