The English Beat's David Steele

Today is the 38th birthday of David Steele, bassist for the English Beat

and later for Fine

Young Cannibals. Formed as the Beat in Birmingham, England, in 1978, the

English

Beat, who had to change their name to avoid confusion with an American band

of the

same name, became a main force in the revival of ska.

The English Beat's sound was highlighted by the alternating lead vocals of

guitarist

Dave Wakeling and rapper Ranking Roger, as well as by the sax of Saxa,

formerly with

ska kings Prince Buster and Desmond Dekker. The band's first hit single was

a cover of

Smokey Robinson's "Tears of a Clown." It was released on Two-Tone, which

was owned

by Specials keyboardist Jerry Dammers, an early champion of the English Beat.

In 1980, the English Beat formed their own label, Go Feet, and began

issuing successive

U.K. hit singles, such as "Mirror in the Bathroom." Also that year came the

band's first

album, the acclaimed I Just Can't Stop It (on Sire), featuring the

anti-Margaret

Thatcher song "Stand Down Margaret" and a cover version of Prince Buster's

"Rough

Rider."

The English Beat earned a leftist reputation by playing benefits for

liberal causes and for

organizations for the unemployed. The band's music suffered when they

turned toward

reggae on 1981's Wha'ppen, which was dominated by paranoid lyrics.

Still, the

album yielded the top-40 hits "Drowning" and "Too Nice to Talk To." The

English Beat's

U.S. exposure increased with Special Beat Service (1982), which

spawned the

MTV favorites "Save It for Later" and "I Confess." But just as the album

was gaining

ground, the group decided to disband.

Steele then formed Fine Young Cannibals with English Beat guitarist Andy

Cox and

vocalist Roland Gift. They played a catchy mix of Motown, pop-rock and

dance, made

special by Gift's falsetto voice. The Fine Young Cannibals' eponymous 1985

debut drew

positive critical notices, and the band exploded into pop consciousness

with 1989's

The Raw and the Cooked. Two singles from the album, "She Drives Me

Crazy"

and "Good Thing," hit #1 in the U.S. and the band seemed poised for a great

career. But

after a 1990 remix album, The Raw and the Remix, Fine Young

Cannibals went

curiously silent.

While there has been no official breakup, Gift has turned back to acting,

leaving Fine

Young Cannibals in limbo.

Other birthdays: Sal Valentino (Beau Brummels), 56; Kelly Groucutt

(Electric Light

Orchestra), 53; Dean Daughtry (Atlanta Rhythm Section), 52; Michael Lardie

(Great

White), 40; David Lewis (Atlantic Starr), 40; Patsy Cline, 1932-1963; and

Ron "Pigpen"

McKernan (Grateful Dead), 1945-1973.