The band was formed in the English city of Birmingham in 1978, which was a period of high unemployment and social-political upheaval in the UK. The Beat's songs deal with themes of love, unity and socio-politics over a tight dance beat with influences that include pop, soul, reggae, and punk.
The Beat were part of the revival of 1950s and 1960s Jamaican ska rhythms and melodies in the UK. This revival, which is often called the "Second Wave" of ska, blended elements of Jamaican ska with punk rock influences such as uncompromising lyrics, more aggressive guitar playing, and faster tempos. The "Second Wave" of ska is also referred to as the "Two Tone" era of ska, a reference to the 2-Tone record label and to the pro-racial integration beliefs held by ska bands of this era. Other contemporaries of The Beat included The Specials, Bad Manners, The Selecter, and Madness.
The Beat released three albums: I Just Can't Stop It (1980), Wha'ppen (1981) and Special Beat Service (1982), and a string of well-crafted singles including "Mirror in the Bathroom", the politically-charged "Stand Down Margaret" (which refers to controversial British PM Margaret Thatcher), "Save It For Later" and "I Confess".
Ranking Roger, one of the band's vocalists, added a Jamaican flavour to the band's sound with his toasting, a reggae musical style of adding uplifting vocals and shouts over a rhythm track (a practice which paved the way for hiphop).
It is Saxa (Lionel Martin b.1930, aka Papa Saxa) who lent the band it's Jamacian ska authenticity. Actually from Jamaica, Saxa had played saxophone with Prince Buster, Laurel Aitken and Desmond Dekker in the first wave of ska. Thus, he is often referred to by musical peers as "legendary." Having joined the band to record Tears of a Clown, bringing his characteristic rich, melodic style and his elder and experienced persona, Saxa was a major contributor to the outstanding success of The Beat's first hit single and subsequent touring...