Birmingham, England’s the Beat were one of the earliest and most important ska revivalist groups of the late ’70s and early ’80s. The multiracial band carved out a distinct sound through the use of alternating lead vocals by guitarist Dave Wakeling and punk toaster/singer Ranking Roger, supported by a tight band that consisted of guitarist Andy Cox, bassist David Steele, and drummer Everett Moreton. The addition of Saxa, an elder saxophonist who’d previously played with Prince Buster and Desmond Dekker, gave the band credibility and fleshed out their sound. A high standing was secured with their early singles, several of which were Top Ten U.K. pop hits. In North America, where they were known as the English Beat (to avoid confusion with Paul Collins‘ the Beat), their videos were frequently played on early MTV.
The Beat formed in 1978. An opening spot for the Selecterled to the band’s signing to 2-Tone, where they released the hit single “Tears of a Clown,” a wonderful version of the Smokey Robinson classic. In 1980, the band formed its own 2-Tone-inspired label, Go Feet, distributed by Arista. The string of successful singles continued with the number four hit “Mirror in the Bathroom.” Debut LP I Just Can’t Stop Itcombined the early singles with other pop/ska-oriented material. “Stand Down Margaret,” with its anti-Thatcherstance, found the band moving in a more political direction, leading to several benefit gigs. The Beat slowed down the tempo for a more traditional reggae sound showcased on 1981’s Wha’ppen. This direction failed to bring the chart success of its predecessor, but 1982’s more pop-oriented Special Beat Service helped the band increase their U.S. fan base through MTV exposure of “Save It for Later” and “I Confess.”
The bandmembers called it quits in 1983, the year their cover of “Can’t Get Used to Losing You” (a song popularized by Andy Williams) became their fifth and final Top Ten single. Wakeling and Ranking Roger formed General Public, and Cox and Steele continued together with Fine Young Cannibals. Without Cox and Steele, the original members reunited for a one-off performance in 2003. Wakeling and Roger separately led different touring versions of the band into the late 2010s. In 2016, Roger‘s band released the studio album Bounce. The following year, Wakeling‘s band prepared Here We Go Love.