The English Beat: The 80’s

The English Beat was a ska, reggae, funk, pop band that broke through to be something special.

Formed in 1978, the band was just known as The Beat in England, but The English Beat in other parts of the world.  The lineup included: The Beat, consisting of Dave Wakeling (vocals, guitar), Ranking Roger (vocals), Andy Cox (guitar), David Steele (bass), Everett Morton (drums), and Saxa (saxophone).  There was an American band called The Beat (Paul Collins) so it became The English Beat on this side of the pond.

I Just Can’t Stop It was released in 1980 as reggae and ska were becoming very popular and mainstream in both England and the U.S.

Mirror in the Bathroom” was the big single and would pop up in movies and elsewhere in pop culture.  While reggae has a slower groove, ska was high speed and The English Beat was all over it.  “Twist and Crawl,” “Tears of a Clown” and “Can’t Get Used to Losing You” were also popular tracks from the album.  The group took “Tears of a Clown” and “Can’t Get Used to Losing You” famous songs written by others and gave it their own vibe.  The producer was Bob Sargeant, who would help shape the group’s sound for a wider audience.

Their second album Wha’ppen? came out in 1981.  “I don’t know what people thought, but when it came out people were like, ‘what’s happened to The Beat?” commented Ranking Roger.  The reaction was mixed but fans eventually warmed up to it.  This was a generally slower group of songs, less manic and they took more of a listen.  Again, the affair was produced by Bob Sargeant.

The third and final album, Special Beat Service, is a delight.  The album is full of pop-friendly tunes including, “Save it for Later,” “I Confess,” “End of the Party,” and “Jeanette.”  The album embraces more of a pop sound but retains the groove. Unfortunately, the record chart wasn’t friendly to these songs, but it’s really up to the listener.  Critics might say that the group sold out to be more pop, but The English Beat helped to popularize forms of music that were outside mainstream America, although Bob Marley, Steel Pulse, UB40 and Eddie Grant we’re making headway.

When The English Beat splintered into a variety of musical entities, Ranking Roger and Dave Wakeling formed General Public.  After General Public broke up, Wakeling and Ranking Roger each had their versions of The English Beat.  Morton and Saxa formed The International Beat.  Steele and Cox formed Fine Young Cannibals.   Attempts at reforming the band with the full lineup failed, as Cox and Steele declined and seemed totally uninterested in revisiting the past. Ranking Roger died on March 26, 2019, so the possibility of a full reunion is not going to happen.

I had the pleasure of seeing Dave Wakeling and his band play at a local club.  It was an amazing concert, full of English Beat, General Public and Wakeling solo material.  The place was rocking and the dance floor was full. It reminded me of how good The English Beat was.

In 2012, a boxed set of material from albums, live and alternative tracks was released as The Complete Beat.

Here are a video YouTube videos of the post-English Beat period.

 

 


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