Run time: 88 mins
“It’s an off-beat, toe-tapping sound, a rhythm for their feet that takes high-spirited youngsters off the street.”
So says the announcer’s voice at the start of this documentary about the rise of 2-tone ska. Images which doubtless seemed exciting at the time flash up on the screen: queues of young people assembling by night, neon signs announcing ‘dancing’, faces with wide smiles pressed up close to the lens. Restored in 4K this was first released in 1981, but in watching it you’d think that the concept of dancing had just been invented.
There’s live performances by The Specials, Madness, The Selecter, The Beat, The Bodysnatchers and Bad Manners, and the film flits between these six acts for a song or two at a time.
This is Generation X, somehow bypassing punk and stepping straight out of the Sixties into a world of inclusionist values and bold new beats. There’s pain hidden underneath the partying, an awareness of the bleakness in many people’s lives, but on a Saturday night, if that’s all there is, these kids are going to keep on dancing.