Hands Off... She's Mine

The Beat + Grasp - The Venue, Isle of Wight
August 2005
by Cora Wade

If my memory serves me well, I was all of 9 years old when I first heard Ska music, bought to me in baggy trousers by my big brother. Already, even at that age, I was beginning to understand the sheer mania that music created. It could have been that I was the luckiest kid on earth to have spent the 70s and early 80s in the West End of London, slap-bang next door to a recording studio. My Mum managed a pub and that pub had the patronage of bands like The Clash and Ian Dury and the Blockheads. Being so young at the time, it wasn't important how famous these guys were because they treated me like they might their own kids. If only I had fully understood. I allowed myself a moment of idle reflection: Ska music had knocked on the door of the popular music household and I sat and giggled at the antics of Suggs and the rest of Madness on Top of the Pops. I held the world record (or so it felt at the time) for can-canning to Buster Bloodvessel and Bad Manners for an entire afternoon in the pub garden. But above all I remember watching my cousin for hours as he styled his hair, to the sound of the Stray Cat Strut, into a foot long psychobilly quiff each morning before school. Ah those were the days. Rockabilly vs Rudeboy – I was torn! So when I heard that The Beat, one of my all-time favourite Ska bands, were gigging in Ryde I had to make sure I was there. The gig marked the International Scooter Rally weekend, held every year on the island. The days of ‘caring less’ had left me and I gushed at the thought of finally hearing the music of my youth – Live! Entering into an already packed Venue, support band ‘Grasp’ literally Jam-med their way through a set of classic Northern Soul tunes, getting us hot and steamy for the main show to hit the stage. On bounced The Beat's Ranking Roger and the rest of the band who, in their time, have had several incarnations and various line-ups such as ‘International Beat’ and ‘Special Beat’. They belted out a corking version of their 26-year-old single ‘Tears of a Clown’. Jumping and waving our hands with prepubescent style glee, we were introduced to Ranking Roger’s son Murphy, aka Ranking Junior. A most welcome addition and the crowd watched, completely stunned while both father and son bounded in time to fantastic tunes like ‘Rock the Casbah’, ‘The Doors of your Heart’, ‘Hands off she’s mine’ and climaxing with the ambient intro to ‘Mirror in the Bathroom’. The crowd's shouts of ‘you-can-watch-yourself-while-you-are-eating’ shuttled me back to my childhood and memories of my brother in a pork pie hat, wonderful! What struck me most about this gig was the friendliness of it all. The Beat have no airs and graces, they aren’t angry or emotional like a lot of today’s bands. They’ve ridden the crest of the fame wave well and, with the addition of Ranking Junior, are coming up with new stuff all the time. So, I pose the question: Are we really on the verge of a third round of Ska? I bloomin’ hope so!