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The Beat

March 2009

IT is the 30th anniversary tour for the ska revivalists but with two problems.
For starters, The Beat actually formed in Birmingham 31 years ago. And the current line-up is still without Dave Wakeling.
"For this tour me and him never spoke about getting together," says Ranking Roger, who shared vocal duties with Wakeling.
But the last time you came to Nottingham two years you indicated that you were building bridges.
"Since then there have been more things that have hit the fan. We just weren't really communicating with each other, only through middlemen.
"We're not on bad terms at the moment but we don't really talk about working with each other."
Wakeling continues to perform as The English Beat in the US, leaving Roger and original drummer Everett Morton to fly the flag back home.
Alongside The Specials and The Selecter, The Beat were forerunners of the second ska movement at the turn of the 80s, which was centred around the 2 Tone label.
Their first single, an infectious cover of Smokey Robinson's Tears of A Clown, went straight into the Top Ten at No.6. They followed that with Mirror In The Bathroom, Can't Get Used To Losing You and Hands Off... She's Mine.
After three albums, Wakeling and Roger split The Beat and formed General Public. Despite success in the US, Roger says he regrets the decision, which was really based on getting a greater share of earnings.
"The spirit had gone," he says.

The band would be overshadowed by the Fine Young Cannibals, formed by two other Beat graduates Andy Cox and Dave Steele.
With The Specials managing a reunion this year (minus Jerry Dammers, that is), what are the chances all the original members of The Beat will get back together?
"I would love to see it happen. It'd be a great way for me and (Wakeling) to become friends again.
"Why I stopped with working with him was all to do with personality differences. He changed and I didn't, that's the way I see it."
So what are his highlights of the past three decades?
"That U2 opened for The Beat in 1982," says Roger.
"So did REM. They were unsigned and we took them on two tours. We made our record company sign them up. They were put on the bill for two gigs and we liked them so much we asked them to do the rest of the tour. It was the same with No Doubt. When we went to America with Neville (Staple) as Special Beat they ended up doing the whole tour, which got them their first proper audience around America.
"I think helping new bands along is a really good thing. And people remember you for that. Years later, when you've forgotten, they're on telly doing an interview and they mention your name.
"Although, saying that, I've never heard REM mention The Beat on telly."
You've not popped round to Michael Stipe's for tea then?
"No. He'd have to send me the jet."
His other highlights included working with David Bowie, The Clash and The Police.
"Those are my heroes," he admits.

With two million people unemployed and the recession expected to continue in to next year, it's as if Britain is as it was when The Beat started out.
"I've noticed it as well," he says.
"We played Belfast yesterday. And the recession hit there earlier than here. It just came home to me – the lyrics make total sense to what is happening now. It's the same as it was 30 years ago.
"The only difference is, the kids are not as forward as they used to be. They don't go out and protest like we used to. And England isn't crumbling. Anywhere that was north of Milton Keynes was a rundown city. Now I can see lovely brand new buildings."
Not that we're seeing the worst of it yet, he says.
"After five or six months you'll really feel it."
He doesn't think the band will suffer.
"We do better in recession times because of the topics we sing about. There are youngsters coming to the gigs to be educated. But it's not us who can lead the youth. We can show them what we did but it's the youth that have got to lead."
There aren't many politically conscious new bands around. What will get them motivated is if we put Thatcher back in power."
How about that as a trade – you can play a sell-out gig at Wembley every week but Thatcher has to be back at Number 10?
"No I wouldn't. Because you can guarantee that Wembley would be sold off within about five weeks."

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