“One shot, this is it, Did you delay?” Click Click. The Beat.
1980 saw the Iranian Embassy siege in London. My best friend at the time, let´s call her JM, and I, followed it for the five days, smoking weed and listening to music. This included the Special Air Service of the British Army abseiling off of the roof of the embassy and going in through the windows. This was broadcast live, at peak time on a bank holiday Monday, watched by millions of people. We turned the music down and the sound up and watched what would become a defining moment in UK history, and the end of the siege. Journalists from all over the world were gathered outside the building. Exciting stuff back then. The Thatcher years.
1980 also saw The Beat explode onto the music scene, with the album I Just Can’t Stop It, to become one of the most influential bands of the British Two Tone Ska Movement. It was a time of social and political upheaval. Love and Unity was their message, set to a combination of soul and reggae, pop and punk. The Beat came from the industrial, working-class areas of Birmingham, as did JM. She had moved to Bristol early 1979, the year that The Beat’s first single, a remake of Smokey Robinson’s Tears of a Clown entered the charts. JM had been and still was a friend of Roger Charlery, better known as Ranking Roger, toaster and vocalist with The Beat.
When their tour dates were announced JM called Roger and we were on the guest list. The show, first of at least twelve that we attended, was superb.
“Say too much war in the city, yeah, Say too much war in the city, whoa I sing I said a love and unity, the only way, And unity, the only way …. ” Whine and Grine/Stand Down Margaret. The Beat.
Roger and a couple of the other members of the band, plus a few road crew, came back to JM’s place after the gig, where we smoked and listened to reggae they had brought with them, until the small hours of the morning.
We joined them for a fair number of dates on that tour. Sometimes helping on merchandise, sometimes with the catering crew, more often than not rolling spliffs, and always at the side of the stage during the gig. We travelled with them to Belgium and Holland for a few shows too. One of the happiest and most memorable years of my life.
As was the way back in the heady days of the punk scene, reggae music was played before the gigs would start, so heavy on the bass your inner organs would vibrate. That was where I got my early reggae education.
The Beat played the album Heart of the Congos by the Congos before each show. It was produced by the mad genius Lee “Scratch” Perry in his Black Ark recording studios. An absolute masterpiece. It was at the time only possible to get a hold of it on import, if you could get it at all. Many of the Jamaican pressings came with a number of small potholes on the vinyl which although very authentic was quite annoying. My memory is vague as to how The Beat hooked up with the Congos, perhaps I never knew, but they did. And they then released the Congo`s album onto Go-Feet, their own label. so that everyone could have access to it. JM and I were invited up into the studios in London for the laying down of, and mixing of the tracks.
We spent twelve hours in a dark studio, so much smoke you could hardly see through it, listening to the production of the album. The Congoman, the mighty Cedric Myton, was in the studio with us, overseeing the production. This was a pivotal moment in my life, something so amazing and such a privilege that I cannot believe it happened. Each track was shortened for the album, fading out the dub that each track would go into. I was given a cassette of the original tracks including the dubs, but sadly over the years I have lost it. The album is an exquisitely spiritual and beautiful piece of work; Roydel Johnson’s tenor, Watty Burnett’s deep baritone, and Cedric Myton’s luxurious falsetto. I cannot recommend it highly enough. I have kept the album with me for the last nearly forty years.
I continue to play The Beat, their music as fresh and bright and politically on-point now, as it was then. I closed my recent radio show with them, saving the best for last.
“Say goodbye everybody, Goodbye everybody, Goodbye everybody, yeah, I say I’m sorry to say but I’m on my way, I won’t be back for many a day.” Jackpot. The Beat.
Ranking Roger. 1963 – 2019. RIP Rude Boy.
CQ of APJ
14 responses to “Strange (Music) Tales From The Cookie Kitchen .”
“What a joy, what a joy, what a joyful sound.”
Thank you for sharing this tale, the incredible experience, and for introducing me to the Congos’ album. I loved the Beat from the first moments of seeing them on ToTP (And the Specials, and the Selecter, but with special love for the Beat, not least because I had a bit of a crush on Roger…) For light comedy relief, please picture a young crikey, in school uniform, skanking very badly but very enthusiastically in the junior common room…
I’m sorry you have lost am old friend x
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Hi Crikey 🙂 That makes a great picture. I was listening to a cross between Pink Floyd, Spirit, The Damned and The Clash. Shows the slight age difference. I was not skanking. The heart of the Congos is a stellar album, and has aged beautifully. Cedric Myton is still singing. He’s about 73. Amazing. The whole band were all so nice. Saxa, dead now, lived off of weed, and onion sandwiches. Played the sax like a dream. He played with a lot of the earlier ska and reggae artists, Prince Buster, Desmond Dekker ….. Was an amazing year. xxx
Incredible memories of an incredible time. Up close and personal with a piece of British music history. Loved it. Thanks CQ.
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HA! These are the printable memories! You are so right though, in hindsight it really was a piece of British music history. An amazing time, brought to life every single time I hear the albums. Brilliant stuff. Thanks as ever for letting me share it. Mwah. xxx
Thank you for sharing an important time in your life and in British music history. Music played a big role in my life; however, in my early years I could never imagine experiencing music other than what was offered on my small town Canadian radio and eventual purchase of a cassette tape when I was old enough to have some money. Now, I attend as many concerts as possible from favorite artists because I can, living in a large US city. I still have to pinch myself when at a concert venue!
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I went to hundreds of gigs. Left home at 18, 1978, and moved into Bristol. There were at least three gigs a week. I know how lucky I was. Right place at the right time. I used to listen to Radio Caroline under my pillow when I was about twelve. Started my music education pretty early. What part if the States are you in? Nothing like a good concert huh? 🙂 xxx
You were blessed for sure with being in a great place to enjoy talented live music. I adored music from an early age and would “tape” songs played on the radio so I could listen to them over and over, LOL! I left Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada (small town with no hopes of any band performing live) in 1991 and moved to several large US cities and have now lived in Denver, Colorado since 1999. I love to attend concerts and still can’t get over how incredible it is to see artists perform live!
“No hopes of any band performing live …” Good enough reason to leave. My siblings were born in Denver. I have not been there yet, but plan to in the not too distant future. Next year perhaps when I am in Salt Lake …. xxx
Like Kathleen, I didn’t have access to live music until I was an adult, but I now get to go to wonderful live concerts in Montréal, not the least of which is the jazz festival every summer. Lots of good French musicians too at the Francofolies festival just before the jazz festival every year. You’ve had a far more adventurous and exotic life than me!
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The jazz festival is surely amazing. There is a pretty big jazz scene here in Austria but I just do not know where to start. I would like to learn more but neve have the time to go – being self-employed you now? Advantages and disadvantages! Only adventurous and exotic because I survived and can look back on it. Dunno about exotic though ….Hmmmmm. xxx
What a glorious story in every way, and a slice of British music history as someone said. I love that those are some ‘printable memories’. You are fantastic…
I caught The Beat on a double bill with The Specials at The Ulster Hall in about 1980 it must have been. I liked them anyway – and UB40, whom I saw there too (twice!) – but growing up in Belfast during The Troubles, you really came to appreciate any band bold enough to travel there!
Hi Mme Bonkers 🙂 Yep – pretty fab story and history for sure. I never saw the Specials although I remember The Beat playing with them. Must have been amazing to see them in Belfast. Gosh – talking about the Thatcher Years, Ireland …. 😦 xxxx
Even though most of the things you describe are not “my scene” (I grew up and spent my early adulthood years in a very “sanitized” politically-, culturally- and otherwise-wise country), but it’s interesting to catch glimpses into your life that was so much different from mine. Thank you for sharing.
Hi there Undina! I was certainly not in a particularly sanitized scene, nope. Is it not incredible how different all of our lives were, and now we have a deep connection through fragrance; so much more than just perfume. Amazing. Go listen to some Beat anyway, you might love it.
Try “Doors of Your Heart” – it has Cedric Myron doing backing vocals too. A beautiful track. Lots of love. xxxx