Roger

Just over four years ago The Beat led by Ranking Roger played Sale Waterside, a venue just ten minutes walk away from home. Roger led a well drilled band through a top set list of songs by The Beat, plus some new ones and a cover of Rock The Casbah. His son Ranking Junior was with him, toasting and rapping, and Roger encored with his shirt off, looking like a man in the rudest of health and with boundless energy.  How sad then to hear the news first thing yesterday morning that Roger had died aged just 56, following multiple health issues- a stroke last summer, two brain tumours and lung cancer.

The Beat were one of the bands of the post-punk and ska days and in Mirror In The Bathroom had a genuine classic single that still moves dancefloors today.  They weren’t a one song band though and also had Hands Off… She’s Mine, Stand Down Margaret, Too Nice To Talk To, their debut single cover of Tears Of A Clown and the wonderful Save It For Later plus three albums. As frontman/co- vocalist Roger was arguably the face of the group, a very young man suddenly thrust into Two Tone tours and Top Of The Pops, always with a grin on his face and an infectious manner. The world is a sadder place and poorer place without him.

Save It For Later (Extended Version)

After The Beat split he joined General Public with various refugees from other groups- some of The Beat, a Dexys outcast, Horace Panter from The Specials, a post- Clash Mick Jones – and although they did little in terms of sales they had some moments. This one is shimmying mid- 80s dance pop.

Tenderness (Special Dance Mix)

In recent years Roger played with Mick Jones in late period line up of Big Audio Dynamite, made solo records and fronted one version of The Beat while co-singer/guitarist Dave Wakeling fronted another. They had an agreement to tour in different parts of the world, Roger’s Beat in the UK and Europe and Dave’s in the US. How sad to end at such a young age. RIP Roger.

 

Johnny We’re Sorry

Another day, another Johnny.

Top Johnny in a Google search is Johnny Depp, as I said last week when I started this. I have no real strong opinion on him. He seems alright. His previous girlfriends include Winona Ryder, Kate Moss and Vanessa Paradis. Vanessa is best known here for her 1988 hit Joe Le Taxi and her gap toothed smile. And pictured above last year seems to have opted out of the aging process, despite smoking.

Fine Young Cannibals’ Johnny left home and headed for the big city which sadly didn’t live up to his expectations. The verses are Johnny’s (‘what is wrong in my life if I must get drunk every night?’). The chorus is his parents (‘we’re worried, won’t you come on home’). Pop songs in 1984 didn’t shy away from real life stuff and despite the uptempo pop-ska the song is defiantly gritty. The bouncy guitar and bass, piano riff and trumpet are very good and there’s a great little shift from the verse to the chorus. The guitar, bass and rubber legged dance moves were provided David Steele and Andy Cox (both formerly of The Beat, who recruited singer Roland Gift from a support band). Roland had one of the most distinctive voices and faces of the mid 80s and moved into films- Sammy And Rosie Get Laid sticks in my memory but I haven’t seen it for donkeys.

Uptown Top Ranking

The Beat were a blast on Saturday night. You’d have to be a proper sourpuss not to find some enjoyment in ska played live and fronted by someone as irrepressible and happy as Ranking Roger (with son Ranking Junior on co-vocals). They played all songs you’d want The Beat to play, a few new ones, a full on dub version of Mirror In The Bathroom to follow the usual one and a cover of Rock The Casbah. As we’d walked up the ramp to the Waterside Roger was outside having a smoke. He met me in the eye and said Hello. Fifteen minutes later he was bouncing around on stage to the delight of the middle aged of Sale. A good night for babysitters.

In 1982 Roger recorded some vocals for a different, unreleased version of Rock The Casbah. Mick Jones intended it to go on his idea of what became Combat Rock but was over-ruled. It’s been available on bootlegs ever since.

Rock The Casbah (Ranking Roger version)

They encored with Save It For Later, a minor classic of the early 80s and proof that it wasn’t all ska, ska, ska.

Rankin’ Night Out

Tonight The Beat are playing at Sale Waterside, a ten minute walk from our front door. It seems silly not to go doesn’t it? There are two versions of The Beat on the road at the moment, one led by Andy Wakeling and the other by Ranking Roger. We are going to see the Ranking Roger version. I’m not sure if the two bands are competing after a fall out or if it’s a ska franchise thing. Either way the babysitter’s booked and we get to do the middle aged skank.

In this clip The (English) Beat play Rankin’ Full Stop at the gigantic US festival in San Bernardino in 1983, also the occasion where Mick Jones last trod the boards with The Clash.

Ranking Full Stop

Howsabout some late 70s ska from The Beat for Friday morning? OK.

Ranking Full Stop

Edit- duh. This was supposed to be tomorrow morning’s post.