I feel like a bit of a putz referring to this band as The “English” Beat. Here in the U.S. there was a band led by Paul Collins of The Nerves also called The Beat, so to avoid any confusion and legal issues the ska version from the U.K. added “English” to its name. Don’t get me wrong, I like The Paul Collins Beat but when someone refers to The Beat I always think of the band that produced such great songs such as “I Confess” and “Mirror in the Bathroom”.
The Beat were formed in Birmingham, England, in 1978, part of the 2 Tone wave that was responsible for so much great music during the British ska revival of the late seventies and early eighties. Featuring the dual vocal talents of Dave Wakeling on lead vocals and guitar and Ranking Roger on vocals and toastmaster, the band released three albums during its all-too-brief run from 1978-1983 and a string of great singles. Sadly ska did not catch on here in the U.S. at that time, an even sadder fact when you think of that rancid spin-off of ska punk that for whatever reason caught on in the late nineties. I digress …
I never had a chance to see the original Beat play live. When they broke up Dave Wakeling and Ranking Roger formed the wildly popular General Public while guitarist Andy Cox and bassist David Steele joined Roland Gift to form the even more successful Fine Young Cannibals. Today Dave Wakeling fronts one version of The English Beat here in the U.S. and has a new album entitled For Crying Out Loud coming out in 2015. Ranking Roger fronts another version in the U.K. with his son Ranking Junior.
The English Beat was such a great band, playing an infectious style of pop music that possessed all those characteristics of classic ska and a healthy dose of soul. They were one of those bands that when I used to hit the after hours at nightclubs like the Devilhouse and Asylum I would actually dance when their music was played. Not only was the music fun and energetic but the lyrics incredibly thought-provoking. Check out the lyrics to “Whine and Grind/Stand Down Margaret” for just one example.
My favorite video from The Beat was “Save it for Later” from the band’s third and final album Special Beat Service. Check it out.
Album Inspiration: Beat This! The Best of the Beat (yes, I cheated this time)