The Beat

COSMO GODFREE takes a history lesson in ska with the recently reformed legends of the genera. Up yours, Thatcher.

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The Junction, Thursday 27th October, £15

[rating: 3.5/5]

A little history lesson about the 2 Tone movement. Sitting comfortably? Essentially a revival of 1960s Jamaican ska music, but fused with elements of contemporary punk and reggae, it was spearheaded by The Specials and The Beat. Oh alright, Madness as well.

Anyway, coming out of Birmingham in 1978, The Beat were understandably concerned with social issues such as unemployment levels and racism. Stand Down Margaret, a diatribe against Mrs Thatcher, was their fiercest single.

While it’s refreshing to see the return of a group so unafraid of engaging in political commentary (and just like then, we now have a Tory PM again), tonight’s set is delivered with a healthy dose of positive vibes. Ranking Full Stop is the best example of this – even when times are tough, you gotta keep on moving your feet to The Beat. Somehow the juxtaposition of the lyrics with what is essentially party music makes the message that bit more powerful.

The Beat – Lookin’ Cool.

Recently, with the reformation of The Specials, there has been a renewed interest in ska music, and like that band, The Beat certainly remain a powerful live force. Lead singer Ranking Rodger just oozes charisma, and was clearly put on this earth for one reason and one reason only – to be the frontman in a band. Clearly it runs in the genes – Rodger?s partner in crime tonight is Murphy ?Ranking? Junior, his very own son, who brings an important contemporary edge to the set, delivering his lines in a more energetic hip-hop-style.

Live, the use of keyboards and saxophone are even more important to the band?s sound than on record. They provide a welcome injection of warmth, and give way to some brilliant solos. There?s a lot going on, and the rhythm section are pretty tight too.


The Beat – Stand Down Margaret, Live: Rockpalast, 1980

The crowd is largely made up of original punks, mods and dreads, come to relive the ska explosion of the early-80s. As such, polite jiving and grooving is the order of the evening. “Are there any rude boys in the house tonight?” comes the question. The muted response is pretty funny actually. Kind of difficult to be a rudie when you?re going on fifty with a mortgage and kids to think about. But the smiles plastered across the faces of the crowd testify to their enjoyment.

In the grand scheme of ska, do The Beat deserve to be mentioned on a par with The Specials? To be honest, the answer has to be no.

Sadly they don?t have the same number of top tier songs with which to create a decent setlist, which may explain why we only get a brief running time tonight. Mirror In the Bathroom, their best single, deservedly gets the best response of the night, and Get a Job is fantastic too, but some of the others fall a bit flat by comparison.

Overall though, the continued existence of The Beat makes perfect sense. Their reasons for still playing music together seem anything but cynical, which is more than can be said for the majority of bands who get back together.