They're still out there. All those Rude Boys. All those Nutty Boys.
They're still out there. All those Rude Boys. All those Nutty Boys. All those boys just waiting for a heavy, heavy monster sound to spark them into that jerky dancing on the spot, that exaggerated turkey walk, that whole library of Not Hippie movement. They're anything from early thirties (Madness boys) to 50-plus (ska and blue-beat originals, these boys).
There's a whole tribal strand of this stuff running through British big-city boy life (it's not a girl thing, it's not a couple thing), from Mod through Two-Tone to the knockabout line-dancing and saxophones world of Madness (and put all thoughts of the Blues Brothers out of your head right now). It's a well-dressed, precision clothing world. Hair almost squaddie short, blue Crombie coats, sharp-creased mohair strides in notable colours, button-down shirts, big solid brogues and wingtips. Absolutely no soft-sole, swirly-whirly hippie-dippy anything. All they need is a sign, a musical call-sign, to get them going. "Don't touch that, do this" hugely amplified on really old kit.
The compilers of The Rude Boy Revival double CD boxed set know all this. They know all the cues for that secret army and they get them out convincingly in 20 seconds flat. No archive film, no hostage-to-fortune track listing, just one skinny suburban tribesman in his 1970s bedroom, putting on the kit, turning on the sound (those flickering needles), doing the walk striding into the street (Harlesden? Handsworth?) and really looking the part. Crombie coat with a red handkerchief, white T-shirt, dark-red Tonik parallels with a knife-edge crease.
They've thought about the casting and they've got stylists who've really mugged up the detail.
And the casting is a Suggs lookalike. Suggs before he became north London dad and game-show man. Suggs when he seemed – however music hall Madness became – like the natural inheritor of 20 years' worth of white working class, black music loving, hard dancing tradition. (The people side of Rude Boy, it has to be said, covers everything from Two-Tone pieties to the BNP.) The original Rude Boys were Jamaican, but the market for this set will be middle-aged white-bread Brits. And faced with a culture that gave the world The Specials and Buster Bloodvessel, who wouldn't feel humble? And my instinct tells me they've got the timing right too.