A Cultural Study Of Two-Tone In The Socio-Political And Economic Context Of The 1970s

Conduit, Susan Anne (2017) A Cultural Study Of Two-Tone In The Socio-Political And Economic Context Of The 1970s. Masters thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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My thesis concerns Two-tone music which emerged in the late 1970s and achieved the peak of its popularity around 1980. The three bands I focused on are The Specials, The Selecter and The Beat, all from the West Midlands and all with a black and white line-up, which was unusual at the time. I explored the conditions that Coventry and Birmingham provided for these bands to come to existence and achieve success in the national arena.

My research included looking at the political and economic situation leading up to and during this period, the growth in the West Indian population in both cities during the 1960s and the development and decline of the car industry, which was a major employer in Birmingham and Coventry, and the wider issue of deindustrialisation that took place during the 1970s. Furthermore, I examined the local/national music scene. In particular I explored the origins of the first wave of ska music coming from Jamaica, the development of punk music in the second half of the 1970s and some of the shared characteristics these two music genres had with Two-tone in terms of ideology and modes of production.

In my research I drew on economic, political and social history of post-war Britain, with a specific focus on the West Midlands in the 1970s, to account for conditions which were conducive to the emergence of this phenomenon. I applied textual analysis to examine the relationship between the social, political and economic context and the message transmitted by various texts, produced by the bands, such as lyrics, music and performance. Among the sources which I used were interviews with band members which I conducted myself and meetings with others closely connected to the musicians.

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