The Beat

The  Beat group shot

Members

Name: Role:
Andy Cox Guitar
Dave Wakeling Guitar / Lead Vocals
David "Shuffle" Steele Bass
Everett Morton Drums
Ranking Roger Vocals
Saxa Saxophone

Overview

The Beat rose as a part of the 2 Tone movement that swept over the UK in 1979, but continued to thrive beyond it thanks to the wide appeal of its music which effortlessly crossed over into the pop mainstream. Audiences worldwide were quick to embrace the band's punky reggae tunes as the band unleashed a string of catchy singles that have since become classics.

Formation

Andy Cox and Dave Wakeling first met in 1978 at the college that they were attending. The two of them dropped out and together went to work at Isle of Wight building solar panels along with other odd jobs on the side. In their spare time they played guitar and listened to reggae records. For a brief moment they joined a metal band named Guyano, but dropped out before the first gig Halasa.

Responding to an advert placed by Dave and Andy for a bassist, David suspected that he would be meeting up with someone he knew on the other side of the Island. This turned out not to be the case. Since no one else responded to the advertisement, he landed the gig by default at the age of seventeen Raw and the Unrevealed.

At first David was quite weary about playing with Dave and Andy. He was a snide, young punk - not too keen about the two's eclectic record collection. He is described as being a bit odd, but he thought the same about the others' quirkiness. David obtained his nickname "Shuffle" from Everertt Morton's mother who, after watching the band practice, coined the name because of "the way he lurched and jumped about during rehearsal" Halasa.

Then they returned to their home of Birmingham to find Everett Morton to take on the drums, completing the original core of the band. Easily the most experienced member of the Beat, Everett Morton became the fourth member to join up with the band based on the recommendation of a friend who worked with David Steele at a mental hospital. Everett had been playing drums in reggae in soul bands for approximately fifteen years at that point twistandcrawl.com.

According to Twist and Crawl by Halasa:

Everett had come to England from St. Kitts in the mid-sixties, working in a kettlespinning factory and playing music in the evenings and weekends. He first learned the drums when his cousin asked him to join his band. After a stint at drum school at Yardley's in Birmingham, and practising (sic.) almost constantly on the settee and table in the house, Everett developed his own style and began playing around Handsworth.

At first it was rough going for the four band members. Everett drummed with a reggae beat, but the other three did not have experience in that area. While they listened to reggae frequently, they had up until that point been playing in a punk style. This was the beginning of the band's meshing of styles.

Roger Charlery reportedly got his nickname from "some sweet, white girl at school whom he loved dearly, but who had refused his advances, calling him 'Ranking' instead" Halasa. Ranking Roger first came into contact with the Beat when, as one of their very first gigs, the band opened his. Roger was the drummer of a punk band called the Dum Dum Boys. He was very much a punk, but had also gained a reputation for his toasting. The Beat's performance went over very well with the crowd and impressed Roger.

Roger made a point of attending whatever Beat gigs that he could upon the insistence of Dave. It was not long before he began to join the band on stage to add some of his toasting to the mix Halasa. Roger eventually just became absorbed into the group. At the age of sixteen, he was by far the youngest. His toasting added a unique element to the Beat's sound that audiences couldn't get enough of.

Everett is responsible for first introducing the Beat to Saxa, a veteran Jamaican saxophonist who he had performed with in the past. The band was in search of a player to provide some extra depth on their recording of "Tears of a Clown" and he was quite happy to oblige. After experiencing a live show with the band, Saxa declared that he wanted to be a part of the band as he felt that it was something special.

Both in Jamaica and in England, Saxa (a.k.a. Lionel Martin) backed many prominent talents including Prince Buster, Elvis, and the Beatles. At the time that he joined the Beat, Saxa was in his fifties and he had immigrated to England about twenty-five years earlier. His was the voice of experience in the band and the other members respected him greatly Halasa.

2 Tone

Jerry Dammers of the Specials approached the Beat after having witnessed one of their gigs and invited the band out to meet the rest of the 2 Tone crew. This meeting resulted in both an opening spot for the Selecter in London as well as an offer to record a single. In the midst of 2 Tone's explosion onto the UK charts by The Specials, The Selecter, and Madness, The Beat's premiere single debuted to a public anxious for more of the label's unique ska sounds. Like the others, The Beat was immediately thrust into stardom after only its first release.

Go Feet

Inspired by the Specials' unusual deal with Chrysalis which allowed them run their own label, the Beat held out for a similar arrangement. While Arista allowed them to establish the Go Feet identity, the band soon discovered that it offered limited shielding from major label politics or from the realities of the industry. Go Feet may not have panned out to be the vehicle that 2 Tone was, but it served The Beat very well with a unique identity that is just as memorable.

From the label's first single (and the band's second) in 1980 through to the last in 1983, The Beat delivered a steady stream of hits. Of these, both "Mirror In The Bathroom" and "Save It For Later" have become the most significant pop classics out of The Beat's catalog. All three of their albums charted quite high in the UK and, as evidenced by their continuing pervasiveness, are reaching new fans.

For more information on The Beat's run on Go Feet, read through the descriptions associated with the releases in the discography.

Fall

Touring along with the other pressures of being in a high-profile band had taken their toll by 1983. Saxa had already been rendered largely inactive due to his declining health. Ultimately, Dave Wakeling and Ranking Roger parted ways with the rest of the band in order to pursue another project together by the name of General Public. Andy Cox and David Steele became members of Fine Young Cannibals. Everett and Saxa tried to keep the spirit alive by forming the International Beat.

Present Day

Dave Wakeling has taken up residence in the United States where he actively tours with his band the English Beat. They play primarily Beat tunes, but also some General Public and some solo material from Dave.

Roger, Everett, and occasionally Saxa are still in the UK and now play under the name The Beat.

Andy Cox continues to contribute to a variety of music projects, but also devotes a great deal of time to his artwork.

David Steele's current band is Fried, which features him along with Jonte Short, a vocalist from New Orleans. They are signed to Sony/BMG.

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