‘Rudies Come Back’ was produced by the BBC as part of their long running Arena documentary programme. Recorded in 1979, as the 2 tone label was well on its way to becoming THE sound and look of Britains playgrounds and youth clubs, the film includes interviews with The Selector and The Specials by NME journalist Adrian Thrills who made the journey up from London to the midlands to find out how the 2 tone scene had started. The Specials interview at 2 tone HQ (Jerry Dammers flat basically) is fascinating. The groups hard hitting sound, caustic lyrics and chaotic live shows suggested they would be a pretty garrulous bunch and some of this early footage shows them to be just that – they’re clearly enjoying themselves when dancing round the room to an old record of classic ska (an album originally given to Dammers by drummer John Bradbury) and when Dammers lays bare the complete home grown/independent way in which the 2 tone empire is run as he unceremoniously emptys the contents of an old desk around the room and contracts, booking agreements and cassettes hit the floor (the tapes come from a draw he refers to as “our A&R department” – its simply all the tapes they’ve ever received chucked in a draw).
As soon as Thrills questions and the camera’s glare hit however many of the band seem uncomfortable in expanding and theorising on their sound, look and success. Everything seems to come back round to Dammers who was basically running and organising the band, at the centre of the 2 tone label as its roster grew as well as ensuring The Specials sound continued to develop. For a short period over the next couple of years the band and label were huge, everywhere you looked the world was covered in 2 tones trademark chequered graphics and as has been widely documented Dammers struggled with the mounting pressure he found himself under and it came as no surprise when the whole thing imploded just a few years later.
The rest of the programme features The Specials at there early best with some fantastic, typically ramshackle, live performances. Few bands can match the intensity and energy of The Specials live from this period. Crammed on to these small stages they look and sound fantastic. Whilst the whole of the programme does not appear to be online there are sections available on You Tube here, here and here. It’s well worth tracking down.