The week of April 20th marked two significant historical events.
- Posted on Jul 10th 2012 4:00PM by Robert Ham
Though the original lineup of the group split in 1983, the members recently reconvened to put a collective stamp of approval on The Complete Beat, a five-CD set that brings together everything -- official releases, rarities and live tracks -- they committed to tape. Spinner caught up with Wakeling to talk about this new box set, Rupert Murdoch's vile ways and the beginnings of the group.
Is it exciting to have all of the Beat's material available in one set like this?
What's nicest about it all the band members faced the piles of tapes and stuff with a little trepidation, as sometimes things can sometimes sound and feel better in their memory than it did at the time. Everyone was pleasantly surprised that no one had any cringing moments. As the years have rolled by since the original lineup played together, the continued good legacy of the material that we made has made for a warm feeling amongst us, at least on the surface. Then we go back to the same behavior that made us split up in the first place!
Many songs that you wrote -- "Cheated", "Click Click", "Get a Job" -- sound like they could have been written today rather than 30 years ago.
A lot of our fans have told us that, because "Cheated" is written about Rupert Murdoch. This is not a new story with this chap. I'm not sure what his beef about the human race is, but he gets off on this sport of playing people off each other and in the process make a profit. I thought he would be capable of much better because he's a witty chap. He seems agile in his words and mind. I don't know why he's got this sadistic twist to him, it would appear. It just seems like things are getting too tight to play games like that.
What drew you and the band to the sounds of reggae and ska rather than say just jumping into the punk scene with both feet?
The main reason was that we're trying to be a punky reggae band. We wanted to be Toots and the Maytals with the Velvet Underground. We wanted urban angst from punk and the sensuous backbeat from reggae. We went to these house parties and you had a reggae DJ and a punk DJ. If you alternated between the two, the dance floor always stayed packed, and people would say they were the best parties. If you played a lot of punk songs in a row, the crowd would go crazy and then disappear. And if you played a lot of reggae, the crowd would end up against the wall, nodding. Dancing on the inside as we used to call it.
And sort of by design but naturally because of what we were playing we ended up with people of different color in the band. Luckily because we were living in Birmingham, because it was like Detroit. Black and white guys have been working on car lines together for years. They'd accepted -- begrudgingly or slowly sometimes -- that they had a lot more in common than their obvious differences. It wasn't really until we started doing shows outside of Birmingham, especially the first time we played in London, people in the crowd were saying, "Oh, I like that. Black geezers and white geezers on stage together. I'm all right with that." When we first arrived in America, it was like you were part of traveling sociological experiment that happened to have an album out!