The English Beat
Formed in Birmingham in 1978, this much loved multi-racial sextet (Dave Wakeling, guitar/vocals; Rankin' Roger, vocals; Andy Cox, guitar; Dave Steel, bass; Everett Moreton, drums; Saxa, saxophone) took the Specials' blueprint and added high-spirited pop appeal, all spiced up with a ska authenticity provided by legendary bluebeat saxophonist Saxa. Having released a sparkling cover of the Smokey Robinson classic "Tears Of A Clown" as a debut single on 2-Tone, they quickly inked a long-term deal with Arista affording them their own spin-off label, Go Feet. Soon, a string of irresistible chart hits from "Hands OffÃÂ She's Mine" to "Mirror In the Bathroom" had made them Top Of The Pops regulars, all included on faultless debut album I Just Can't Stop It, which showed off both their witty way with a put down ("Best Friend") and a lyrical loathing of Thatcherism ("Stand Down Margaret"). Taking a less commercial and more reggae-influenced approach on 1981's follow up album, Wha'ppen, the band rallied for the following year's Special Beat Service, which as well as boasting MTV hits "Save It for Later" and "I Confess" included Dave Wakeling's soporific swansong "End Of The Party," a clear influence on Blur. Frustrated by the lack of a U.S. breakthrough, Wakeling and co-singer Rankin' Roger left the band the same year to form General Public, while rubber-legged pair Cox and Steel formed the Fine Young Cannibals with Roland Gift. None of which can dim memories of the defiantly droll Dave Wakeling singing "Too Nice To Talk To" on Top Of The Pops dressed as a Soviet soldier as the invasion of Afghanistan raged.