The Beat was formed in Birmingham in 1978, with members Dave Wakeling (vocals, guitar), Ranking Roger (vocals, toasting), Andy Cox (guitar), Everett Morton (drums), veteran Jamaican saxophonist Saxa, and David Steele on bass. The band was part of the West Midlands ska revival scene that also produced The Specials and The Selecter, whilst London saw the formation of Madness and The Bodysnatchers.
The Beat s first single was an arresting version of Smokey Robinson s Tears Of A Clown , given a completely new feel, and was backed with their own composition Ranking Full Stop . Released in a one-off deal on Jerry Dammers Chrysalis-backed 2-Tone label, the single stormed into the Top 10 in December 1979, and saw the band appear twice on Top Of The Pops. Backed by Arista, the band formed their own label Go-Feet Records. The first release in February 1980 was another Top 10 hit, Hands Off... She s Mine , and was the first of twelve chart singles for the band on Go-Feet.
Edsel Records is proud to announce its reissue programme of all three of the band s albums, each in Deluxe 2 CD + DVD digipaks, featuring the original albums along with all the non-album A- and B-sides, the many 12 mixes and live tracks, as well as the best of their BBC radio sessions from John Peel, Mike Read and David Jensen s shows. The DVDs feature the singles promo videos, Top Of The Pops performances and bonus appearances from ITV shows and documentaries.
First album I Just Can t Stop It (1980, # 3) features the hits Tears Of A Clown , Hands Off... She s Mine , Mirror In The Bathroom , Best Friend and Stand Down Margaret as well as 19 bonus tracks, including nine previously unreleased BBC radio sessions. The DVD features three promo videos, five TOTP appearances and a live performance recorded for ITV s Alright Now .
The booklet features an individual note especially written by Rhoda Dakar of The Bodysnatchers, along with the lyrics and photos, memorabilia and ephemera from the band s own collection.
The Beat’s greatest strength was also their biggest weakness. Dave Wakeling was a superb bandleader and songwriter, bringing Elvis Costello-like intelligence to the Birmingham sextet’s bouncy mix of punk, reggae, calypso and pop. But, in a British pop era dominated by charismatic eccentrics, Wakeling was a sullen and unprepossessing frontman.
As the DVD of TV appearances that form part of this comprehensive reissue proves, once you saw The Beat in 1980, all you remembered is how much you loved, feared or fancied Terry Hall, Kevin Rowland and Suggs.
Which is perhaps why only this debut album has found a place in British music’s fickle memory banks. I Just Can’t Stop It, with its delicious claret, white and black pop-art cover and relentless danceability, feels entirely comprised of hit singles (and six of the 12 tracks were, including double A-sides). Its fusion of black and white musical influences and anti-racist defiance makes it as perfect an example of the 2 Tone era as anything by The Specials or Madness.
Because of Bob Sargeant’s tough and simple production and its historic place as the first digitally recorded album, it hasn’t dated. And this despite the presence of anti-Thatcher anthem Stand Down Margaret, which now sounds like one of pop’s most futile gestures.
What quickly undid The Beat, apart from Wakeling’s lack of X factor, was the increasing disconnect between the catchy, carnivalesque music and morbid, self-lacerating lyrical themes. When 1981’s Wha’ppen? and 1982’s Special Beat Service – also deservedly reissued here with a slew of bonus material – failed commercially, The Beat split, with Wakeling and Roger going on to minor US success as General Public, and bassist Cox and guitarist Steele hitting the mother lode alongside Roland Gift as Fine Young Cannibals.
As with the majority of post-punk bands, The Beat’s natural sense of musical adventure and bleak worldview wouldn’t mesh comfortably with 80s pop’s rediscovery of glam aesthetics and upward mobility. But I Just Can’t Stop It remains one of British pop’s most lovable and ebullient albums, and the kind of politicised party album they just don’t make anymore.
Find more music at the BBC This link will take you off Amazon in a new window