Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

BEAT, The

UK ska revival/pop group. Birmingham- based multi-racial outfit formed late '78 by Dave Wakeling (b 19 Feb. '56), vocals, guitar; Andy Cox (b 25 Jan. '56), guitar, both from B'ham; David Steele (b 8 Sep. '60, Isle of Wight). Played first dates Feb. '79 with drummer Everett Morton (b 5 April '51, St Kitts, W. Indies) who'd played with Joan Armatrading. Picked up 'black punk' Ranking Roger (b 21 Feb. '61, B'ham), former drummer turned vocalist; saxophonist Saxa (b c'31, Jamaica), onetime Prince Buster sideman. Broke out of clubs on back of 2-Tone ska explosion; toured with Specials, recorded cover of Smokey Robinson's 'Tears Of A Clown' for 2-Tone label: off-beat interpretation, echoey sax, contrasting vocal styles of Wakeling and Roger brought no. 6 UK chart success and custom label Go-Feet. Next two also went top ten; debut LP I Just Can't Stop It '80 made no. 3; American Dance Company called it 'too fast to dance to' but mixture of up-tempo and contemporary lyrics made it a good party record. Their political edge saw 'Stand Down Margaret' aimed at Thatcher, royalties donated to Anti-Nuclear Campaign. They went off the boil somewhat with reggae-tinged 'Wha'appen' '81; by the time of Special Beat Service '82 constant touring in USA (as English Beat) had turned them into another new wave pop group. With Saxa semi-retired on health grounds they added Wesley Magoogan (b 11 Oct.'51) from Hazel O'Connor's Megahype, further augmented with former road manager David 'Blockhead' Wright on keyboards. Lack of chart success led Arista (who'd signed them for UK only) to drop group and label (which had released few other artists). Mid- '83 split coincided with biggest chart hit: cover of Andy Williams hit 'Can't Get Used To Losing You' made no. 3 UK, taken from first (best) LP. Wakeling and Roger formed USA- oriented General Public, while Steele and Cox formed Fine Young Cannibals with vocalist Roland Gift (eponymous LP, UK hit 'Johnny Come Home' '85). With Madness, Beat were the brightest and longest-lived of '79 2-tone explosion; first LP and singles remain high-class pop.