The English Beat
The Beat released three albums: I Just Can't Stop It (1980), Wha'ppen? (1981) and Special Beat Service (1982), and a string of singles, including "Mirror in the Bathroom", " Too Nice To Talk To", "Can't Get Used To Losing You", "Hands off She's Mine" and "All Out To Get You".
The Beat were formed in Birmingham, England in 1978, during a period of high unemployment and social upheaval in the United Kingdom. Ranking Roger, one of the band's vocalists, added a Jamaican vocal flavour to the band's sound with his toasting style. Jamaican saxophonist Saxa (b. Lionel Martin, 1930, aka Papa Saxa) added a Jamaican ska instrumental sound. Saxa had played saxophone with Prince Buster, Laurel Aitken and Desmond Dekker in the first wave of ska (as well as with The Beatles in their Liverpool days). He joined The Beat to record their first single, "Tears of a Clown", a cover version of the Motown hit by Smokey Robinson.
Notable singles from the first album included "Can't Get Used to Losing You", "Mirror In the Bathroom", "Hands Off She's Mine" and "Best Friend". The second Beat album, Wha'ppen? was supported by extensive touring, including a U.S. tour with The Pretenders and Talking Heads. The album yielded more U.K. hits, with "All Out To Get You" and "Too Nice To Talk To," both of which broke the U.K. Top 40. The Beat received strong support from modern rock radio stations such as KROQ in Los Angeles and KYYX in Seattle.
Although The Beat's main fan base was in the United Kingdom, the band was also popular in Australia, partly due to exposure on the radio station Triple J and the TV show Countdown. The Beat had a sizable following in North America, where the band was known as The English Beat for legal reasons (to avoid confusion with the American band The Beat). The Beat toured the world with well-known artists such as David Bowie, The Clash, The Police, The Pretenders, REM, The Specials, and Talking Heads. Members of the band often collaborated on stage with The Specials. In the early 1990s, Roger joined members of The Specials to form the new band Special Beat, which toured and released two live albums. They supported the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and participated in the collaborative recording "Nelson Mandela".
In 2003, The Beat's original line-up, minus Cox and Steele, played a sold-out one-off gig at the Royal Festival Hall. In 2004, the VH1 show Bands Reunited tried unsuccessfully to reunite the original line-up.
The band's lead singer, Dave Wakeling, fronts "The English Beat" in the United States. They opened for 311 for part of their 2007 Summer Unity Tour. In 2006, the current UK version of The Beat, featuring Ranking Roger and Everett Morton, recorded a new album that was mixed by Adrian Sherwood, but it remains unreleased. After Dave Blockhead left the band, he was replaced on keyboards by Mickey Billingham formerly a member of Dexys Midnight Runners and General Public.
In January 2009, the band announced an extensive 30th anniverary tour of North America and plans to release a new album.
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