The English Beat – Special Beat Service

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 3)

The English Beat broke up in 1983. Dave Wakeling and Ranking Roger formed General Public, with Mick Jones from the Clash, bassist Horace Panter of the Specials, and the drummer from Dexy’s Midnight Runners. Andy Cox and David Steele became the Fine Young Cannibals. Everett Morton and Saxa eventually formed the International Beat, with contributions from Roger. Ranking Roger was briefly in Big Audio Dynamite, also with Mick Jones. Never one to sit still, Roger released solo albums as well; Wakeling had a brief solo career, too. Eventually, Roger would reconvene a new version of the Beat in the U.K., while Wakeling led a similar U.S. group. Saxa died in 2017. Ranking Roger passed in 2019, followed by Everett Morton in 2021.

What I Think of This Album

This album sort of splits the difference between I Just Can’t Stop It and Wha’ppen?, reverting a bit to the ska sound of the debut while retaining the smoothness and sophistication of the sophomore effort. The result is a great album that serves as a more than respectable swan song for the band.

It seems weird that blowjob joke “Save It for Later” is the highpoint of the album, but that actually only underscores the quality of the band’s work. “Save It” is a masterful pop construction built around an (accidental) alternate tuning, with key percussion contributions and a subtle piano part in the background, as well as some excellent brass, a delightful clarinet, and what sounds like strings (but due to the lack of any such credits are maybe just keyboards (though I doubt it)). Dave Wakeling’s vocalizations towards the end remind me of Freddie Mercury’s similar utterings from “Under Pressure.” Pete Townshend has covered the song, as has Pearl Jam.

The other big hits from the album were “Sole Salvation” and “I Confess.” I don’t much care for the latter, particularly Wakeling’s vocals, which are a bit too smooth, getting close to disposable blue-eyed soul. That said, most of the musical backing is pretty good, particularly the polyrhythms. “Sole Salvation” is phenomenal, with a great bass intro followed by a killer sax line, and a much more organic vocal from Wakeling, sounding like maybe what the Jam were going for as they moved towards R&B.

“Sorry” follows the same blueprint as “Confess,” albeit much less successfully and with more of a funk feel. “She’s Going” is nothing special, and the band are too mature for their own good on “End of the Party.” 

The rest is very strong. The unexpected zydeco of “Jeanette” ends up meshing well with the band’s style, resulting in a highly enjoyable deep cut (despite, or perhaps because of, some ridiculous rhymes). “Sugar and Stress” is another quality track, fast-paced and fun, and “Ackee 1 2 3” is a delightful calypso number with some fantastic brass. “Rotating Head” may be filler, but it’s not objectionable at all (and supposedly inspired by hearing “Mirror In the Bathroom” played backwards). An instrumental version of this – “March of the Swivelheads” – was in a key part of the film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

There are two more or less pure ska tracks, and they are predictably bright and exuberant. Wide-ranging “Spar Wid Me” (which actually veers into dub) and the more relaxed and lighthearted “Pato and Roger a Go Talk” are the kind of songs one worried the band had abandoned after Wha’ppen? Guest toaster Pato Banton went on to have a respectable career of his own.

Bob Sargeant produced again. I am confused about the membership of the band at the time of this third album. The liner notes reference the original sextet and add Wesley Magoogan for his sax/clarinet work (I am not sure what this says about Saxa’s contributions) and Dave Blockhead (original name David Wright) on keyboards. But the band portrait in the notes depicts seven people, whereas the cover art shows eight. Blockhead’s story is an interesting one. He did the lighting for the band’s shows and one day when Saxa was too ill to perform, Wright casually mentioned that he had learned all of the sax lines on the piano (an instrument he was classically trained in). He substituted for Saxa that night and then stayed on as part of the live show.

The Best Thing About This Album

“Save It for Later” is a hit for a reason.

Release Date

October, 1982

The Cover Art

Way too dark. I can barely see anything (though admittedly, this image is lighter than my copy so maybe I just have a shit copy). And I wish they had retained the Beat Girl icon instead of the silly plane graphic.

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