Print Reviews
Rude Girls: Women in 2 Tone and One Step Beyond

Rude Girls: Women in 2 Tone and One Step Beyond

Heather Augustyn

Sally Brown Publishing

Rude boys may be able to find rude girls on the dance floor, but they might struggle to do the same on the stage. Though female pioneers paved the way for the Gwen Stefanis and Aimee Interrupters of the world, gender parity has always been elusive in the veritable sausage fest that is the ska scene. In her sixth book, Rude Girls: Women in 2 Tone and One Step Beyond, author and ska historian Heather Augustyn asks a simple question: In a movement so dedicated to principles of racial equality, why did gender equality flop in the ska scene, especially during the two-tone era?

Sally Brown Publishing
Sally Brown Publishing

Following a foreword by Dunia Best (lead vocalist for Agent 99, Dubistry, and Brave New Girls), Augustyn opens with the thrilling history of Brigitte Bond (aka Brigitte Saint John), the illusive and exotic figure behind the “Beat Girl” cartoon logo, illustrated by Hunt Emerson and popularized by The English Beat. As “the perfect symbol of ska in the 2 Tone era,” Bond’s story — a world-famous, jet-setting openly trans exotic dancer performing right under the nose of the less-than-hospitable fascist government of General Francisco Franco — would make one hell of a movie.

The ensuing chapters follow Augustyn’s simple yet highly informative formula. Each chapter chronicles one band, focusing on the upbringing, musical education, experiences, and struggles of each female band member — everybody from the “Queen of Ska,” Pauline Black, to the lesser-known women of the Bodysnatchers, the Belle Stars, the Potato 5, and multiple other bands.

Based on extensive interviews and a copious amount of source material (including photography), the history amassed in this book is beyond impressive. Augustyn dedicated extensive time to interviewing musicians and capturing the intimate thoughts and experiences of those close to the two-tone ska scene. As a result, Rude Girls is, without question, quintessential reference material to any and all future ska-larly research.

The “one step beyond” theme — a witty reference to the Prince Buster song made famous by Madness — alludes to Augustyn’s editorial decision to cast a wider net and include not just ska but also the ska-adjacent (e.g., Bananarama, Dexys Midnight Runners, Bow Wow Wow). This brave move unfolds a complex web of relationships between ska and its divergent influences, unwittingly replacing Kevin Bacon with Terry Hall in a ska-themed game of six degrees of separation.

Most times, this theme makes sense, such as the chapter on Nicky Holland, Caroline Lavelle, June Miles-Kingston, Bethan Peters, Ingrid Schroeder, Annie Whitehead, Keren Woodward, Sara Dallin, and Siobhan Fahey — the women of Fun Boy Three, the post-Specials project of Hall, Neville Staple, and Lynval Golding.

Other times, this theme gets stretched way too thin. Did Holly and the Italians — clearly not a ska band — earn a spot in the annals of feminist ska history for being booed off stage by two-tone purists while on tour with the Bodysnatchers and the Selecter? This might have been better suited as a quirky footnote, rather than a full-length chapter.

So why did gender take a back seat in the ska movement? As Charlie Wilson would say: “Well, it’s tradition, mostly.” Though a unique musical pairing that challenged the status quo of racism, ska struggled or, in some extreme cases, refused to break that glass ceiling. “Ska music wasn’t necessarily known for bringing its ladies to the fore,” said Pauline Black.

But that certainly didn’t stop the pioneers memorialized in Rude Girls. “If the boys won’t let you join in their game, then sometimes it’s best to invent a new one of your own,” said Black.

Rude Girls is ideal reading for not only ska enthusiasts but also those eager to unlock the imbalanced gender dynamics that plague male-dominated industries.

Rude Girls is available March 8, 2023 at skabook.

Rude Girls


Recently on Ink 19...

Dark Water

Dark Water

Screen Reviews

J-Horror classic Dark Water (2002) makes the skin crawl with an unease that lasts long after the film is over. Phil Bailey reviews the new Arrow Video release.

The Shootist

The Shootist

Screen Reviews

John Wayne’s final movie sees the cowboy actor go out on a high note, in The Shootist, one of his best performances.

HEALTH

HEALTH

Event Reviews

HEALTH continue their mission to make everyone love each other, bringing their RAT-BASED WARFARE TOUR to the Mile High City, where Steven Cruse gets to be a very lucky middle-aged industrial fanboy.