The Selecter featured a racially diverse line-up. Their lyrics featured themes connected to politics. Reinforcing the songs of Neol Davies were the voice and rude girl style of Pauline Black and the rhythms of Desmond Brown on the Hammond organ. The band's name is based on the term "selector", which is a Jamaican word for disc jockey. The band were one of the most successful ska bands of the 2 Tone era, notching up several top forty singles in the British charts.
The Selecter reformed in 1991 and vocalist Black continued to perform and release music under The Selecter name until 2006. Some confusion emerged over two competing line-ups for the Selecter in 2011, between that featuring Davies and that featuring Black and Arthur 'Gaps' Hendrickson, In June 2011 Black applied for, and won, The Selecter trademark and the right to use the name herself.
The Selecter playing the Milton Keynes International Festival, Milton Keynes 2016
|Genres||Ska, 2 Tone|
|Years active||1979–1981, 1991–2006, 2010–present|
|Labels||2 Tone, Chrysalis|
Pauline Black's Selecter|
Neol Davies' Selecter
Pauline Black's Selecter|
Arthur 'Gaps' Hendrickson
Neol Davies' Selecter
Charley 'H' Bembridge
In 1977, Neol Davies and John Bradbury (who later became a member of The Specials), with the trombone player Barry Jones, recorded a track in a recording session in 1977–78 that resulted in "Kingston Affair". The band then became "The Selecter". Their debut single, also called "The Selecter", was the b-side of the Special AKA's hit single "Gangsters", the first 2 Tone Records single. It was released in March 1979, reaching 6 in the UK Charts. The track was written by Davies and Bradbury. Guitarist Davies added long time friends Desmond Brown, who played Hammond organ, and Charley Anderson on bass guitar. With Compton Amanor on guitar, the vocals of Arthur 'Gaps' Hendrickson and Charley 'H' Bembridge on drums the seven piece line-up for the original band was completed when Pauline Black was spotted by Davies. Davies offered Pauline an audition with The Selecter – she joined along with other members in July 1979.
The new band released the singles "On My Radio", "Three Minute Hero" and "Missing Words", written by Davies. The Selecter's debut album,Too Much Pressure, was recorded at the end of 1979 and beginning of the new year, and was released in February 1980 by 2 Tone Records and Chrysalis Records. Anderson and Brown left The Selecter in 1980 to form The People. Their replacements were James Mackie and Adam Williams. Their second album, Celebrate the Bullet was issued in February 1981, before Black left the band to pursue a solo career. A short time after, unsuccessfully having tried Stan Campbell as the singer, the rest of the members disbanded. The Selecter were featured in the 2 Tone film documentary and on the live compilation album Dance Craze.
After the band split in 1982, Black pursued a career in theatre, TV and Film. From 1991 she led a reformed Selecter for 15 years releasing several new albums. In 2006 she took a sabbatical from The Selecter, to write her memoirs Black By Design for publishing house Serpent's Tail. In 2009, she returned to the live arena, playing shows in the UK, Germany and South America guesting with various ska musicians and performing songs from The Selecter's first two albums. During her sabbatical, Black recorded a new 13-track solo album, Pigment of My Imagination, to be released in spring 2011. She later reformed The Selecter, this time with guest original lead singer Arthur "Gaps" Hendrickson, and in summer 2010 they played two shows at the Sinner's Day Festival at The Ethias Arena in Hasselt, Belgium, and at the Bloomsbury Ballroom in London.
Neol Davies penned most of The Selecter's hit singles. He started up his own home studio after the band disbanded in 1981 to write and record his own new songs, and he played a number of local shows in the Midlands. Davies formed a new version of The Selecter in 1991 with Black leaving the band two years later. He started up a new outfit called Selecter Instrumental, mostly playing movie tunes in a ska style. In the early 1990s, he joined a reunited Specials in the studio, contributing rhythm guitar to sessions that would later be released as the albums Skinhead Girl and Conquering Ruler. In 1999, he released his Box of Blues album, assisted by bass player Horace Panter of The Specials and drummer Anthony Harty, and the trio often performed at a number of blues concerts in the UK. He later recorded another album, Future Swamp, with guests including Ronnie Wood and Reef members Dominic Greensmith and Jason Knight. Both albums were released on Davies' own label, VoMatic Records.
Charley Anderson moved to Sweden during the 1990s where he performed, recorded and released material with The Skalatones. In 2009, Anderson returned to Coventry to play a charity concert at the Central Hall to promote his Ghetto Child project. Joining him on stage were guests from UB40, The Specials, The Selecter along with saxophonist Carlos Garnett.
Charley 'H' Bembridge has been involved with The All Skas, a ska band which performed in the Midlands. He also served as drummer in The Specials through their first reunion, both live and in the studio, from 1991 through to 2000. In 2013 Bembridge was convicted of domestic violence against his former partner and questions were raised with regards to her children although no charges were brought.
Davies, Hendrickson, Anderson and Black were also been involved with unveiling commemorative plaques for the 30th anniversary of 2 Tone on significant buildings associated with the record label in Coventry.
Black and Davies reformed The Selecter in 1991, but Neol Davies left the new line-up after a year. After 1993, another original member, Arthur 'Gaps' Hendrickson, performed with this line-up occasionally. They released several new albums, toured around the world and toured with No Doubt in 1997 in the USA. 1998's politically-focused Cruel Britannia was critically acclaimed. Black continued to record and perform as The Selecter up until 2006, and from 2010 to the present.
On 31 October 2010, Pauline Black and Arthur “Gaps” Hendrickson played under The Selecter name to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the seminal debut album, Too Much Pressure, by performing the whole album live at the “Sinners Day Festival”, Ethias Stadium, Hasselt, Belgium. They also performed at The Bloomsbury Ballroom, London, in November 2010. In her capacity as lead singer of The Selecter, Black featured prominently in BBC4's Reggae Britannia series in February 2011 and the televised 'Reggae Britannia Concert' at The Barbican, London, alongside Ken Boothe, Neville Staple and Brinsley Forde of Aswad.
The Selecter reunited once again when the band travelled over to Belfast, Northern Ireland to play a show in the capital's annual Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival. This was followed by an extensive tour of the UK, Europe, and in October 2014, New Zealand and Australia.
In June 2015, the band released Subculture mixed by Prince Fatty on DMF Records.They toured the UK in Autumn 2015 on an album tour and Pauline Black with Arthur 'Gaps' Hendrickson were special guests on a number of dates with Jools Holland and his Rhythm & Blues Orchestra including at London's Royal Albert Hall in November.
The Selecter were "one of the key bands" of 2 Tone music, the late 1970s and early 1980s genre that mixed ska with the energy of punk rock. The band's debut album, Too Much Pressure, exemplifies the band's 2 Tone sound, mixing ska, reggae and punk rock styles. Adding influences from new wave music, the record's follow-up Celebrate the Bullet was broodier than its predecessor, featuring a less intense, slower sound. After reuniting in the 1990s, the band's third studio album The Happy Album saw a stylistic deviation; while keeping ska as its base, the record explored contemporary rhythms and influences from genres such as hip hop and flourishes of orchestral music, incorporating sampling while occasionally slowing down to a reggae tempo. One critic said the record is "roughly parallel for the memory of 2- Tone what Big Audio Dynamite did for punk."
The band scaled back somewhat with its follow-up album Pucker! in 1995, which displayed a new blend of ska with elements from new wave and power pop, as well as other atypical touches such as, on one song, pedal steel guitar. Cruel Britainnia, the band's fifth studio album from 1998, was heralded as a return to the band's 2 Tone sound, and The Trojan Songbook series of cover albums from the turn of the century were predominately in a reggae style. The band also recorded several acoustic albums, namely Unplugged for the Rude Boy Generation (2002) and Requiem for a Black Soul (2004), which brought "ska into the fashionable acoustic field." When the band reunited in the 2010s, they used ska and reggae rhythms on Made in Britain (2011) and its follow-up String Theory (2013).
The band were among the few racially and sexually mixed 2 Tone bands and Black's lyrics, in a similar vein to several other 2 Tone bands, covered numerous social ills, including sexism and most prominently racism. While Too Much Pressure featured politically conscious lyrics, Celebrate the Bullet was darker and tenser, likewise featuring racial and social issues as themes while also concerning itself with "cold war paranoia and fear for the future." The Happy Album was similarly "burdened by a social conscience," whereas the lyrics on Pucker! were generally more uncharacteristically sunny and lightweight. With Made in Britain in 2011, the band "wanted to have a conversation basically about where The Selecter was at, where we were at in relation to 2 Tone." The record largely addressed the advent of multiculturalism and the legacy of 2 Tone's equality message in the 21st century. For String Theory, the band extended from these themes, observing how people "celebrate their differences more than they celebrate the things that unite us," and named the album in relation to the string theory being a metaphor for connection between humans.