Friday, 14 March 2014

The Beat goes on. And on. And on. Three different ways.

UPDATE: A revised and expanded version of this post 
is included in the Radio To Go ebook, Survivors 

It's complicated. We're now living in a universe where three, count 'em, three Beats are clattering, rattling, skanking, twisting and crawling.
Everett and his cohort of Mighty Mighty local Bosstones. Photo by Horseman
Dave Wakeling, a founder member of the original Beat, lives in California, and leads The English Beat. Fellow Beat founder Ranking Roger leads his brand of The Beat at home, and Everett Morton, the original drummer, has just announced dates for his band, Beat Goes Bang

Time for a chat with Everett, to go with this blog's existing posts on Dave and Roger. you'll find links for those at the bottom of this post. There's clearly a bit of history here. I wasn't planning to dig too deep into the feelings that boil up over a thirty year professional association. But I did... just a bit. 

The immediate question that springs to mind is: leaving Dave's US-based operation aside, is there room for two Beats in the UK, and what sort of musical differentiation will there be?

Everett's take on the Beat

Well, looking at the band line-up that Everett has put together, I'm impressed. I don't know everyone, but any band sporting Ross Lydon up front gets my vote. From previous Beat incarnations (it's a long, long story) there's Mickey Billingham and Neil Deathridge; add to that Heels veteran Faisal Rashid and Lukasz Machometa from Urban Groove Syndicate, and you've got a bunch of hardened veteran musos from the very heart of Birmingham groove.

Beat Goes Bang – by the way, there is a US outfit with the same name – make their official debut on Friday 11th April at the Hare and Hounds. Friendly Fire's Jam Jah Sound are playing in support, which reinforces the whole Moseley/Balsall Heath Muso Massive vibe. For all that this is a first gig, Everett is adamant that he's been running a Beat of sorts for over a decade.

Everett Morton onstage photo courtesy of Yad Jaura
Everett: I started a band in 2003, and Roger (Ranking Roger) was with me. We carried on for 13 years, working as the Beat. I had a accident about a year ago, and when I went back to the band, everybody wanted to be the boss....

Which didn't suit you, obviously
So I decided to put another band together, to see if I'd still got it. And I do.
Can we talk about what you're going to play? I know you're going to play some Beat material, obviously. - but given the musicians you've got with you, who know and love ska... surely you're not going to just do Beat material?
No. Working on the Beat songs is just a foundation. Mick Gillingham is good writer, and he's good to have on board. Ross Lydon is great. Neil Deathridge is a punky guitarist, so we can mix ska and punk together.

You've been playing these thirty years. Music evolves; so do musicians. You must have grown as a musician. So I'm interested to see where you're going to take the music from the foundations, as you put it.
We've started working on some Trojan material from the 60s.... and as it goes along, Micky and Ross have started writing to put more material in. That early music on Trojan, it just happened, naturally. That's what I'm hoping to do with this.

The politics 

Lukasz Machometa onstage photo courtesy of Yad Jaura
I got to ask you about the Beat politics.... Last Sunday, Dave Wakeling was in town with the English Beat. I went to see the show. It was very good, very slick and professional.
It was! I was back stage. I went down because my granddaughter was working on the backline crew, and I went to see how she was doing. As I was walking up the road to the venue, Dave was walking down the road. So that was amazing – we just shook hands, and I showed him back stage, to where he was supposed to be going. It was an amazing show, I loved it.
I'm glad you met up again. But you've only answered half the politics question... everything's fine with Dave. How is it with Roger?
We both had something together, and he wanted to do his own thing. One or two guys had some plans for that band, and that split us up. It's sad. But I'm not looking back. I'm happy. I'm hoping to do some adventurous stuff.

I hope it works. Just being an oldies band trading on a name from 30 years ago, almost a covers band... that's a bit stale.
We don't want to do that. I want to be different. There may be two, three Beats out there... but we're Beat Goes Bang.

You know that there is a Beat Goes Bang in the US? I found that out yesterday when I googled you.
Hey, that means that when we go to America, we'll be UK Beat Goes Bang!

Breakups, recrimination and reconciliation

When bands break up and people go their separate ways, sometimes good things can come of it. At other times the break up leads to bitterness and recrimination, with lawsuits and restraining orders flying around.

Often one single person pushes hard enough, or fights dirty enough over the years, to win the perception that the band they led was entirely theirs. There are squabbles about rights to use the name. There can even be injunctions served on remaining original members, barring them from playing the material they contributed to, in their own live shows. A perfect example is the vitriolic fall-out between the members of Pink Floyd

When I talked with Dave Wakeling, he made the pithy observation that getting back together with the original members of the band would be like inviting the first six people you ever slept with to a party and expecting them to get on. K.K. Downing, now long split from metal veterans Judas Priest, described his 40 year association with the band as close to a marriage... a marriage that imploded venomously.

And who has the right to play what?

The songs people write are of course their legal property, but the process of creation and the whole business of audiences taking songs to their hearts, should count for something, morally at least. Legally, it doesn't, of course. Ironically, it leaves the field open to tribute bands who can make a living playing other people's material, while the original members of the band, sometimes restricted by injunctions, can't. 

Over in Beat-land, Dave Wakeling, responsible for the largest chunk of Beat original material, has taken a studied and positive approach to people using the material he wrote and owns. Working as he does in the US most of the time, he's quite happy for Ranking Roger's The Beat and Everett's Beat Goes Bang to use his songs. Nobody loses out, and it means his material remains in the public eye. And if Everett and his mighty crew of groovemeisters evolve something different and new from their Beat baseline, I'm sure Dave will be delighted. And so will I. 

The classic Beat Girl image above is by the peerless and wonderful Hunt Emerson. Check his website for some fantastic work. And also check this fascinating post from Subaculture on the image's putative origins.   

Beat Goes Bang + Jam Jah sound at the Hare and Hounds, April 11


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