ALONGSIDE their contemporaries of Madness and The Specials, The Beat are one of the most influential bands to emerge from British ska reggae movement during the 1970s.
With numerous incarnations of the band, side projects and solo albums by Beat members over the last 20 years vocalist Ranking Roger is again fronting the outfit that plays the New Roadmender in Northampton tonight – alongside The Specials front man Neville Staple.
"Every day is just getting better and better – the audiences are loving it and this is why I'm still doing it today," explains Roger.
"People are always smiling at the end of our gigs and that is fantastic. I find it very profound that we've got all these people in the audience with pork pie hats and suits and dressed up. We got classed as a ska band and really our genre is hybrid reggae, it's more leaning more towards punk and reggae than ska."
The Beat formed at the end of the 1970s in Birmingham. The band consisted of Dave Wakeling on vocals and guitar, Andy Cox on guitar, David Steele on bass, Everett Morton on drums, Ranking Roger on vocals Saxa on saxophone.
Their music crossed over fluidly between soul, reggae, pop and punk and with their contemporaries they became an overnight sensation and one of the most popular and influential bands of the British ska movement.
The Beat's first single was a remake of the Smokey Robinson tune Tears of a Clown and over the following five years the band toured relentlessly releasing the studio albums I Just Can't Stop It, Wh'appen and Special Beat Service.
When the band split after the releasing their third album Dave Wakeling formed General Public with Roger which also featured The Beat's Saxa on saxophone, Dexy's Midnight Runners Mickey Billingham on keyboards, The Specials bassist Horace Panter on bass and for a brief spell The Clash's guitarist Mick Jones. Andy Cox and David Steele formed Fine Young Cannibals while Rankin went on to also release two solo albums wile Saxa and Morton teamed up to form The International Beat.
However, members of The Beat are now back together. "It all started from Everett Morton and guitarist Neil Deathridge were in a band called The International Beat explains Roger.
"About six years ago they were going around as a band called Twist And Crawl and they had a different line up but Neil and Everett were there and they were doing Beat songs and they invited me to do a couple of the gigs.
"I did a few, it was mad and I started doing it more and more." In February, 2003, The Beat's reunion gig took place at London's Royal Festival Hall. Ranking Roger along with Everett, Saxa, Neil and Andy were reunited with Wakeling and former member Dave Blockhead.
The success of the gig, encouraged Roger to resurrect the band with his son Murphy accompanying him on vocals. "We were asked by Mojo Magazine to play the gig," explains Roger.
"We did that gig and it was brilliant and a few weeks after we were still gigging around as Twist And Crawl and people were coming up saying it doesn't matter what you call yourself you are The Beat."
The band's set was already 90 per cent Beat songs and decided to change their name. Roger said that amid the wealth of music being written and recorded today a lot still shows influences and links to The Beat.
"There's so much music out there in the charts now that has a reggae influence," says Roger. "Throwing in the echoes or going into bass and drums to me that's dub, that comes from reggae. It has had an influence in today's music, but it's very hidden – we did soul, pop, African, punk, everything. "We mixed it all together and people decided to call it ska."
At tonight's gig the band will be supported by Neville Staple, former member of The Specials.
"We've been mates for years – in about 1990 we did Special Beat, which was half The Specials and half The Beat," explains Roger. The band toured across the world and released a live album.
"We've kept close and last year we did this tour and Neville opened up for us – he warmed the crowd up and we just killed them – he's a great entertainer.
"He's got the personality and the audience love – he's the original rude boy."
With The Beat back on tour the band is already looking to the future and the possibility of recording new material. While recording work was halted last year due to line up changes Roger admits a new album is a possibility.
"We've been trying out some new tracks live and it's gone down really well. Rankin Jnr has written some stuff – there's a right old mixture going on."
At tonight's gig Roger will be joined by his son, Rankin Jnr on vocals, drummer Everett Morton, bassist Andy Pearson, keyboard player Mickey Billingham, guitarists Steve Harper and Neil Deathridge.
For more information visit www.myspace.com/thenewenglishbeat.