Bouncing back: Ranking Roger of The Beat on new LP and Irish gigs with The Selecter
Brummie 2 Tone heroes The Beat released their first new album in over three decades in 2016. David Roy spoke to mainman Ranking Roger about the success of Bounce, touring with The Selecter and why he's now on good terms with former bandmate Dave Wakeling
THE Beat released their final album Special Beat Service in 1983 following a four-year run of remarkable success including Top 10 singles like Tears of A Clown, Mirror In The Bathroom and Can't Get Used To Losing You.
While vocalists Dave Wakeling and Ranking Roger continued to work together throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s with their group General Public, the pair eventually fell out.
This situation later resulted in them forming two separate reincarnations of The Beat, which now exist simultaneously: US-based Wakeling kept the band's American name for The English Beat, while The Beat feat Ranking Roger also features the frontman's son, Ranking Junior.
Happily, The Beat leaders have now managed to put their differences aside: in October last year, Roger actually guested with The English Beat at The O2 Institute in Birmingham to toast on his signature tune, Ranking Full Stop.
It was a huge unexpected treat for fans, which came about because Roger had gone along to give his old bandmate a personal copy of his group's recently released new album, Bounce.
Boasting a sound that's a subtle, sympathetic update of The Beat's original mix of poppy hooks, socially aware lyrics and genre-blending energy, it features the excellent singles Walking on The Wrong Side, Avoid The Obvious, Heaven Hiding and Side To Side.
Indeed, Bounce has received great reviews from critics and fans alike – and with Wakeling also readying a new album by The English Beat, Here We Go With Love, these are exciting times for fans of the veteran Birmingham group.
Ranking Roger and co are back in Ireland this weekend as part of a co-headlining tour with former 2 Tone Records labelmates The Selecter, the tickets for which have been flying since the team-up was first announced.
"We didn't know this was going to happen," admits Roger of the tour's popularity, which saw the first couple of dates sell out.
"I had no idea we'd be playing to packed houses like this. We did one show with The Selecter in Coventry last December, which sold out really quickly.
"People got interested and more promoters wanted the show, which is how this tour ended up happening. We were only meant to do six shows but it keeps getting extended."
Fronted by original members Pauline Black and Arthur 'Gaps' Hendrickson, The Selecter also recently released a new record, 2015's Subculture, to positive notices.
It makes perfect sense for both revitalised groups to unite, but while fans have been receptive to the new material from their musical heroes, Roger points out that he still had no way of knowing for certain how well Bounce would be received as the first new Beat record in over 30 years.
"It's always 'trick or treat', you can't say what's going to be a hit," says the man born Roger Charlery, who also forged a successful solo career in the late 1980s and has been performing with his version of The Beat for the past 15 years.
"We'd been playing Side to Side and a couple of the new ones to people live and we noticed after a while that the new tunes were going down just as well as the old tunes. People at the gigs were jumping to them, so we knew we had a chance.
"That told us that we had the right sound and were doing the right things with the new stuff, so we took the gamble. We knew we had to have something out because you can't just keep gigging for 10 years and hope that it goes on forever.
"People want new material and that's what keeps you you going as well. So we got it together, put out the album and the response has been phenomenal.
"People are saying it sounds just like the original Beat and they're pleased that it don't take nothing away [from the band's legacy]. They're like 'when's the next one coming out?'! So there is a big interest out there and I'm very proud to still be flying the flag for The Beat."
Indeed, that fateful night at the O2 Institute in Birmingham last year with the 'other' Beat has resulted in one of the most crucial reviews of their new LP, as Roger explains.
"I never mention him in interviews, but even Dave Wakeling likes it," he reveals, with obvious pride. "He loves it, he thinks it's brilliant. To me that's a testament in itself."
Oddly enough, The English Beat's new LP Here We Go With Love was originally supposed to come out last year, before being pushed back to February – but so far there's been no sign of it.
Could the release of Bounce have inspired Wakeling to go back to the drawing board?
"Well, I don't know – but I have to be positive, because he might come up with a few gems," enthuses Roger. "If we both come out with cracking Beat albums it's more credit to The Beat as a whole and we'll both ride that wave. I told him, 'I really want your album to be as brilliant as mine'!"
Such positivity is a far cry from the sniping which took place between the two men just a few years ago.
"I've hung out with Dave a couple of times now and there's no arguments between us, we get on," explains Roger, who cites the fractious state of their fellow Brummies UB40 as the perfect example of how things can go horribly wrong between former musical allies.
"We decided that there'd be no more slagging each other off – not that I really slagged him off anyway. There's room for two Beats. Or six Beats, if every member of the band wanted to have their own version.
"The important thing is the music and its message, that's what needs to survive. It's nothing to do with me or Dave so let's get on with it and not stop each other.
"More Beat, more better!"
The Beat and The Selecter, tonight, The Academy, Dublin / Saturday May 6, The Limelight, Belfast, 7pm.