Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Ska Week: The English Beat

The above album is associated with a bad memory from my youth. Back in the fall of '87, I was listening to a cassette copy of
'I Just Can't Stop It' in my first car ('82 VW Scirocco) with the future Mrs. Linear Tracking Lives! when we were in a bad multi-car pileup that totaled the auto. Ah, young love. I'll let you decide if I mean the band, the car or the girl. Anyway, I didn't listen to this particular English Beat record for several years after the incident. Then I found it used on vinyl in the early '90s and fell for it all over again.

Like all great ska bands, the English Beat did spend a little time at 2 Tone. Label founder Jerry Dammers' rule was that once a band signed they were only obligated to record a single. So, the greats didn't stick around long, and the English Beat were no exception. They recorded the "double A side" "Tears of a Clown" with "Ranking Full Stop". It shot to No. 6 in the UK, and the group promptly left to start Go Feet Records. The English Beat recorded three studio albums between 1980 and 1982. By the last record, 'Special Beat Service,' the band matured beyond the genre to produce a stellar pop record with just a bit of ska influence. After that, the members separated into two pretty good groups: General Public and Fine Young Cannibals. Between these two bands and Ranking Roger's solo career, I think a post-English Beat blog post is in order. Stay tuned for that.

As for my top 5 today, this is a really tough one. Excluding 'Special Beat Service' is like doing a Squeeze list without anything from 'East Side Story.' Still, I'll stick to the hardcore ska material this time around. For a quick listen to a song from 'Special Beat Service,' check out the music video for "Save It For Later" below. This song is so good it was even a minor hit here in America.

The English Beat Top 5
The English Beat - Tears of a Clown (mp3)
The English Beat - Twist and Crawl (mp3)
The English Beat - Best Friend (mp3)
The English Beat - Hit It (mp3)
The English Beat - Mirror in the Bathroom (mp3)

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