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The English Beat Biography

Home > Music > E > English Beat, The > Biography

Birth Place: Birmingham, England
Years Active: 1978-1983, 2003, 2005-present
Genres: 2 Tone, Ska, Reggae, New Wave

The Beat (known in North America as The English Beat and Australia as The British Beat) are a 2 Tone ska revival band founded inBirmingham, England, in 1978. The band's style fuses ska, pop, soul, reggae and punk rock, and their lyrics deal with themes of love, unity and sociopolitical topics. The Beat's original line-up consisted of Dave Wakeling on vocals and guitar, Ranking Roger on vocals, Andy Cox on guitar, David Steele on bass, Everett Morton on drums and Saxa on saxophone.

The Beat 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 flavor to the band's sound with his toasting style. Jamaican saxophonist 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 and the Miracles.

The band's debut album, “I Just Can't Stop It,” was released in 1980 via Go Feet Records in the U.K. It was released the same year in the United States on I.R.S. Records under the name The English Beat (to avoid confusion with the American band The Beat). 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 Beat's second offering, “Wha'ppen?” was released in 1981. This album yielded the hit song, “Too Nice To Talk To,” which appealed to mainstream audiences in the U.K., and saw the band receive airplay on major radio stations.

1982 saw the release of the band's third album, “Special Beat Service.” Like the rest of their material, it was released in the U.S. under the name The English Beat. It reached #39 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart in 1983 on the strength of two singles, “I Confess” and “Save It for Later.”

In 1983, the original line-up of The Beat disbanded with Dave Wakeling and Ranking Roger going on to form General Public, and Andy Cox and David Steele going on to form the Fine Young Cannibals with vocalist Roland Gift. Drummer Everett Morton and Saxa formed The International Beat with vocalist Tony Beet, releasing the album, “The Hitting Line,” on Blue Beat Records in 1990. This new formation parted ways in 1992.