The English Beat
The English Beat; aka, the Beat, in England; aka, the British Beat, in Australia; has been making their brand of 2-tone ska for nearly 40 years. Originally, they were part of the second generation ska revivalist bands that sprung up out of the punk rock community in England. However, unlike some of their contemporaries, they relied less on the aggression of punk rock and embraced the poppy groove of their rock steady predecessors. Their first single was a cover of the Smokey Robinson and the Miracles tune, “Tears of a Clown.” A song about stifling anger and pain behind an empty smile; a fitting track for an upbeat band immersed in the dystopian scene of late 70’s British punk rock scene. They followed it up with, “Hands off, She’s Mine” and “Mirror in the Bathroom.” All of which appeared on the Beat’s first album, “I Just Can’t Stop It.”
They continued putting out an album a year until 1983 when the Beat decided to call it quits and try new things. Dave Wakeling and Ranking Roger, the front men of the English Beat went on to form General Public, with ex-members of the Clash, Dexyís Midnight Runners and the Specials. While other members went on to form Fine Young Cannibals with vocalist Roland Gift. General Public had a top 40 hit in America with, “Tenderness.” The decidedly more New Wave direction the band was moving in seemed to perfectly meld with their 2-tone roots and they followed it up with, “I’ll Take You There” another soul classic re-interpreted for modern times. As the decade wore on the members of the English Beat continued collaborating with their stable of super talented musician friends of excellent pedigree, but the shadow of the English Beat was always there.
There have been several attempts to re-unite the original line-up, but at this point the group is splintered into three different factions: The English Beat, featuring Dave Wakeling on vocals; the Beat, featuring Ranking Roger on vocals and, The Beat (UK)/English Beat which features original players from the band’s original era. The English Beat, tours through the states while the other Beats stick to mostly European gigs. It’s a strange and convoluted story with an all star cast of musical characters; however, any story worth hearing is going to have some rough edges. Good thing the English Beat brings some sweet sounds to smooth out the details.
The English Beat, play the Culture Room in Fort Lauderdale on November 13. Doors are at 8pm, $20.