The ska revival of the early 80s brought some great and timeless music, but The Beat’s debut album and associated singles were among the finest slabs of vinyl to emerge from the scene. Part of The Beat’s enduring charm came from great chorus hooks, but for many, the real energy and brilliance came from Ranking Roger.
Following the massive success of a lengthy European tour, ska legends The Selecter and The Beat will be taking their show across to North America.
Both bands have recorded new material in recent years. The Selecter’s ‘Daylight’ was released in 2017 and with their essential ‘Subculture’ LP hitting the shelves just a couple of years previously, Pauline Black and company are as busy as they’ve ever been. The Beat, meanwhile, are the version of the band featuring Ranking Roger and his son Ranking Jnr. Their 2016 LP ‘Bounce’ is a fine return for the band and their current live show is absolutely incendiary. If you’re a fan of second wave ska, seeing them is an absolute must.
If you grew up in the 1970s or 1980s in South East England, you’ll almost certainly have a fond memory of Margate. It probably involves a day trip to the beach, a bag of chips and a visit to the Dreamland Amusement Park. The town fell on hard times in the 90s, but with the opening of the Turner Contemporary art gallery and the arrival of small cafe’s and boutiques in the Old Town, things began to improve. The grand re-opening of Dreamland as a retro theme park was an essential part of the regeneration and has been great for the town. Its recently renovated facade in blue and yellow neon shines out over the sea and the seafront, once again, looks proud of itself. In addition to the theme park, the Dreamland complex includes a retro roller rink, a period restored ballroom and an upstairs area dubbed The Hall By The Sea for hosting live music. It’s almost certainly better than it ever was. Dreamland is brilliant and you shouldn’t let people try and convince you otherwise, especially those who haven’t actually been to Margate since 1996.
The British ska revival of the late 70s was an exciting time. The short-lived 2-Tone label (founded by The Specials’ Jerry Dammers) was home to arguably some of the greatest music to come from the UK. Over the course of three years, with a mix of good-time party music and political messages, The Specials, The Selecter and The Beat became hugely popular, and although they moved away from their ska roots quicker than most, Madness became one of the most popular British pop bands of all time.
The Britpop years between 1993-97 brought wave after wave of great music. From the well documented – Oasis, Blur, Suede and Pulp – to those lesser talked about years later – Gene, Marion, Menswear – each act brought their own slant to classic retro styles, often centering around guitar driven pop-rock.
Among the big players were Sleeper. Sleeper were special. With a musical grounding that mixed the pop hooks of Blondie and the proto punk-pop of The Undertones with lyrical narratives that were often interesting, their first two albums (‘Smart’, 1995 and ‘The It Girl’, 1996) have really stood the test of time.