The Selecter

The Selecter was an English two-tone/ska band from Coventry that debuted with a self-titled theme song, released on a split 7″ with 2 Tone label-mates The Specials in 1979, followed by the album Too Much Pressure in 1980. A second album, Celebrate the Bullet, followed on parent-label Chrysalis in 1981.

Members: Neol Davies (guitar, 1977-92), John Bradbury (drums, 1977-79), Barry Jones (trombone, 1977-?), Desmond Brown (keyboards, 1979-80), Charley Anderson (bass, 1979-80), Arthur Hendrickson (vocals, 1979-81, 1993-present), Compton Amanor (guitar, 1979-81), Charley “H” Bembridge (drums, 1979-81), Pauline Black (vocals, 1979-81), James Mackie (keyboards, 1980-81), Adam Williams (bass, 1980-81, 1991-present), Stan Campbell (vocals, 1981)

In late 1977, guitarist Neol Davies and drummer John Bradbury teamed with trombonist Barry Jones. That winter, they recorded the track “Kingston Affair.”

In the spring of 1979, Bradbury joined a rising Coventry act, The Specials, which had cut several tracks (“Nite Klub,” “Too Much Too Young”) in a choppy, syncopated ska style. They slated one track, “Gangsters,” for release as a single, but deemed the others unsuitable as b-sides. Bradbury suggested the track he’d cut more than a year beforehand, “Kingston Affair.”

At the insistence of Specials keyboardist and musical director Jerry Dammers, Davies overdubbed ska riffing onto the 1977 demo, now re-titled “The Selecter” (a Jamaican synonym for disc jockey). On May 4, 1979, it appeared as the b-side to “Gangsters,” the inaugural release on Dammer’s 2 Tone label, distributed by Chrysalis. Billed specifically as The Special A.K.A Gangsters VS. The Selecter, the single hit the Top 10 in France (#3), Belgium and the UK (both #6).

To capitalize on the single’s success, Davies assembled a proper band under The Selecter nameplate with organist Desmond Brown, bassist Charley Anderson, guitarist Compton Amanor, drummer Charley ‘H’ Bembridge, and vocalist Arthur ‘Gaps’ Hendrickson. In July 1979, they added singer Pauline Black, a science graduate from Lanchester Polytechnic who worked for five years as a radiographer for the National Health Service.

In October 1979, the seven-piece Selecter issued its first single: the 2/4 upstroke “On My Radio” backed with the simple singalong “Too Much Pressure.”

The Selecter released their first album, Too Much Pressure, on 2 Tone/Chrysalis in February 1980. Staccato riffs and tight beats characterize all 13 tracks, from the darting chords and pinched keys of “Three Minute Hero” to the snaky strings and cross-sticking click of “Black and Blue.” Davies’ vibrato guitar twang (ex. “Everyday (Time Hard)”) and Brown’s blocky Hammond fills (ex. “Street Feeling”) dominate the arrangements. Black maximizes her vocal range on the minor-key numbers “They Make Me Mad” and “Missing Words.”



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