The Beat, also known as The English Beat, officially got its start as a rock band in 1978 in Birmingham, England. The fusion of Latin, pop, punk, reggae, ska, and soul is what made this rock group become such a popular act, While in the UK it was simply The Beat, in Canada and the U.S. they were referred to as The English Beat. In Australia, it was the British Beat. Regardless of what name to call them, this is a group that continues to rock today. Granted, the lineup has changed over the years and there have been well-deserved breaks in between, but what made The Beat such fan favorites was the world-class performance levels that deservedly put them on the map as bonafide rock stars.
In 1978, the entire United Kingdom was in the midst of social issues and high unemployment rates. From 1978 until 1983, vocalist “Ranking Roger” Charlery and Lionel “Saxa” Martin the saxophonist served as the Jamaican influence on The Beat’s ska-style sound, teaming up with Dave Wakeling, Andy Cox, David Steele, and Everett Morton. Together, this group brought forth three studio albums, starting with 1980’s I Just Can’t Stop It, then 1981’s Wha’ppen?, and 1982’s Special Beat Service. From these albums, the bulk of The Beat’s best-known singles is found here. In addition to these three successful albums, The Beat embarked on road tours that saw them travel across the globe, including Canada and the United States. The biggest fan following of The Beat was in the UK but was also immensely popular in Australia. The fan following from the North American audience was also solid but was referred to as the English Beat as a means to avoid confusion with the American band that was also named The Beat.
During the earliest run of The Beat’s career, the band was closely associated with Hunt Emerson, a British cartoonist who designed the band’s infamous Beat Girl icon, along with the painted mural that was featured on the band’s second studio album, Wha’ppen?. From 1978 to 1983, The Beat was among the most prolific recording artists and touring performers before breaking up the first time to embark on separate projects.
After The Beat
In 1983, Dave Wakeling and Ranking Roger teamed up to form General Public. Together, the duo released a few hit singles in Canada and the U.S. while Andy Cox and David Steele formed The Fine Young Cannibals, along with Akrytykz’s Roland Gift. As for Everett Morton and Saxa, they formed the International Beat, along with Tony Beet. From time to time, Ranking Roger guested with International Beat and was responsible for the production of their album, The Hitting Line in 1990. By 1992, the International Beat went their separate ways after completing their concert tours in the UK and the US. In the meantime, Ranking Roger also recorded as a solo artist, along with teaming up with The Special to form Special Beat.
The Beat Goes On
Even while apart as a band, The Beat’s music was often played in various motion pictures, including an instrumental version of “Rotating Head” during a chase scene in 1986’s Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. In 2003, most of The Beat’s original lineup met to perform at a sold-out concert at London’s Royal Festival Hall. As of 2006, this group now has two versions of The Beat, namely UK’s The Beat and USA’s The English Beat. Dave Wakeling serves both while Ranking Roger and the rest of the original The Beat lineup remain as the UK version.
Together, The Beat has a total of seven studio albums credited to the group. However, after the third studio album, Special Beat Service, 2018’s Here We Go Love! was credited as The English Beat starring Dave Wakeling while 2016’s Bounce and 2019’s Public Confidential has been credited to The Beat featuring Ranking Roger. There are also three live albums, eight compilation albums, and four box sets. As for the singles, there are fifteen credited to The Beat and/or The English Beat while six are credited as The Beat featuring Ranking Roger, and four as The English Beat starring Dave Wakeling.
Top 10 The Beat Songs
#10 – Best Friend
Released in 1980, “Best Friend” was a number twenty-two hit on the US Singles Chart that had its proceeds donated to the Anti-Nuclear Campaign that was running at the time, as well as the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. The inspiration for this song came to Dave Wakeling in the same manner “Mirror in the Bathroom” did, which is namely about reflection while singing to his own reflection. Upon this acknowledgment, he realizes he is his own best friend, especially when it comes to self-judgment and deciding what should be done to make things better.
#9 – Tears of a Clown
“Tears of a Clown” was the 1979 single released by The Beat as a reggae-style version of the 1967 original performed by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles. On the UK Singles Chart, it peaked as high as number six and it also became certified silver by the UK’s British Phonographic Industry (BPI). This is the same song Stevie Wonder turned into a mega-hit worldwide in 1970. Nine years later, the ska-style The Beat is known for also turned “Tears of a Clown” into a number sixteen hit in Ireland and a number twenty-three hit in Belgium.
In pop culture, one is led to believe clowns are the happiest people on earth when, in truth, they’re just as human as everybody else. Often, the best comedians in the business usually have a background story that is enough to cause even the toughest hearts to break. Sometimes, the best jokes (and lyrical content) come from artists who have mastered the art of putting smiles on everyone else’s faces while working their hardest to hide the fact their own smiles are indeed frowns that have been turned upside down.
#8 – All Out to Get You
In order to best appreciate “All Out to Get You,” one needs to listen to it alongside “Drowning” as these two songs were released together on the A-side of a record that became a number twenty-two hit on the UK Singles Chart in 1981. In “All Out to Get You,” the narrator, sung as an adolescent, finds himself feeling the pressure of society pushing him to the breaking point. In essence, he feels like he is “Drowning,” which was the feeling felt during the first of this two-song work of genius.
#7 – Drowning
On the UK Singles Chart, “Drowning” was the 1981 single from the album, Wha’ppen? that was registered as a number twenty-two hit. Performed with “All Out to Get You,” which was the dramatic latter half, “Drowning” illustrated the suffocating feel of a teen experiencing the constant downpour of society’s growing list of expectations and criticism. While “Drowning” is spectacular enough on its own, listening to it in order with “All Out to Get You” is definitely worth it.
#6 – I Confess
“I Confess” was a number thirty-four hit on the US Billboard Dance Club Songs chart after it was released in 1982 as a single. On the UK Singles Chart, it peaked at number four. Of all the songs recorded and released by The Beat, “I Confess” came the closest to breaking into the US Billboard Hot 100 but stopped at number four on the US Bubbling Under the Hot 100. From the album, Special Beat Service, this song came as a result of Dave Wakeling’s interest in the romantic scandals that often grace the British tabloids. With so much material to work with, “I Confess” served as a great opportunity to share a lyrical side of a romantic scandal story in what was truly genius fashion.
#5 – Too Nice to Talk To
At first, “Too Nice to Talk To” was a non-album single released in 1980 before it was reissued for the album, Wha’ppen? in 1981. On the UK Singles Chart, it peaked at number seven, as well as a number six hit in Ireland, and a number seventy-three hit in Australia. The Afro-style sizzle this reggae number presented became a club favorite, which was actually inspired by the nightlife. Between wanting to dance with somebody and the pressure of social awkwardness, the too-little-too-late feel became all too real when the song suggested waiting too long for something to happen is not how things should be done.
#4 – Mirror in the Bathroom
In 1980 from the album, I Just Can’t Stop It, “Mirror in the Bathroom” became a number-four hit on the UK Singles chart after it was released as a single. It would be released again as a contemporary remix in 1996 as a promotional single that became a number forty-four hit on the exact same chart. Upon its first release, “Mirror in the Bathroom” also peaked at number twenty-two on the US Billboard Dance Club Songs chart and at number seven on the Irish Singles Chart. By the end of 1980, however, this play on narcissism song was ranked number three among the top ten tracks of 1980 by New Music Express. Since its release, “Mirror in the Bathroom” has become a cult favorite and is regarded as one of the best songs ever performed by The Beat. It has also been featured in a few movies and television programs, including 1987’s Someone to Watch Over Me.
#3 – Hands Off… She’s Mine
“Hands Off… She’s Mine” was a number one hit on the Irish Singles Chart when it was released in 1980. For The Beat, this was the first and only occasion they achieved a number one hit on any of the official music charts. On the UK Singles Chart, it peaked at number nine and was a number twenty-two hit on the US Billboard Dance Club Songs chart. In the Netherlands, it was a first-time hit for The Beat as “Hands Off… She’s Mine” peaked at number forty-one. When this song was released, “Twist and Crawl” accompanied it as a double A-sided single as the band members couldn’t agree which song deserved the honor.
A week after the release of “Hands Off… She’s Mine” was the extended dub mix of the two songs together, which also became a fan favorite, especially in the dance clubs as a Caribbean-style beat that’s still too catchy to simply ignore. Comedic films have been noted to include “Hands Off… She’s Mine,” namely 50 First Dates and Mama’s Boy.
#2 – Can’t Get Used to Losing You
Coming from the 1980 album, I Just Can’t Stop It, “Can’t Get Used to Losing You” was a single that wasn’t officially released until 1983, which was remixed and recorded just before The Beat made the decision to go their separate ways. It was the group’s final and most successful top-ten hit at number three on the UK Singles Chart. It also became a top ten hit among the nations of Belgium, Ireland, and the Netherlands. This Andy Williams original from 1963 was immensely popular when he released it as a pop single before it was converted to a reggae phenom twenty years later.
#1 – Save It for Later
In 1996, “Save It for Later” was a song of choice for the movie, Kingpin. It happened again in 2010 with Hot Tub Time Machine and yet again in 2017 with Spider-Man: Homecoming. “Save It For Later” was such a favorite that it was performed by some of the biggest names in the music industry, namely Pearl Jam, Pete Townshend, and The Who. Before all this, however, the original by The Beat came from their third and final studio recording together, Special Beat Service, before going their separate ways to embark on new projects of their own choosing.
Written by Dave Wakeling before The Beat became a group in 1978, it wasn’t until 1982 that it would finally be recorded into an album when Wakeling continued to pressure his fellow bandmates to perform it. Fortunately for the band, this became one of their signature hits, as well as a pop culture favorite that still stands the test of time to this day. Not only is the suggestive “Save It for Later’ title so catchy but it has also become a favorite catchphrase that has also stood the test of time and why it was such a popular song choice among movie and television productions. One wouldn’t know it when it only peaked as high as number forty-seven on the UK Singles Chart but it was one of four singles released by The Beat that made an appearance on the US Billboard Dance Club Songs chart, peaking at number fifty-eight there.
Feature Photo: Darin Barry, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Top 10 Songs By The English Beat article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022
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