Wednesday, February 10, 2010

VH1 'Bands Reunited' Officially Kills Any Chance Of A Reunion by The Beat


Though 2-Tone officially died in the early 80's when The Specials and The Selecter split, the musicians who performed in these bands as well as other bands associated with the label like The Beat, Madness and Bad Manners have kept its legacy alive over the last 30 years. Other bands have risen from the ashes of 2-Tone including Fun Boy Three, General Public, Fine Young Cannibals, The Madness, Crunch, Buster's All-Stars and Special Beat. And while each of these bands retained some of the essence and magic of their founding bands (and in some cases created their own), there is nothing like hearing, seeing and experiencing the original. I think that explains the excitement and joy surrounding the The Specials current 30th reunion tour and the release of 'The Liberty of Norton Folgate' by Madness last year. And it got me thinking about an aborted attempt to reunite The Beat almost six years ago.


Back in 2004 there was a very entertaining program on VH1 called 'Bands Reunited'. I am not ashamed to admit that I was a regular viewer and thoroughly enjoyed each and every episode. Part of the show's allure had to do with nostalgia but also the possibility of reconnection. There was a great quote from the shows executive producer Julio Kollerbohm, who at the time said that he believed viewers were responding to the universal theme of mending fractured relationships. 'These bands are like dysfunctional families that haven't spoken in sometimes 10 to 20 years. They're making peace with that period in their lives,' he says,'Even if [the reunion doesn't happen], it's going to make for good TV.'"

And so, for one short moment in time, the program attempted to do what no one has been able to do before or since -- bring the original members of The Beat back together for a reunion. Like The Specials, The Beat occupy a very special place and time in musical history and in the hearts of their many fans, Like The Specials, the bad feelings and acrimony between the original members lingers to this day with both Dave Wakeling and Ranking Roger leading their own versions of the band separated by the Atlantic Ocean and bassist David Steele and guitarist Andy Cox on to other endeavors. Nevertheless, in 2004 there seemed to be an opportunity for a reunion, or so the producers of 'Band's Reunited' and its chirpy host Aamer Haleem, would have lead us to believe.

For the uninitiated, 'Bands Reunited' consisted of the shows host, producers and crew hunting down the ex-members of the band one-by-one, and convincing them to agree for the one-time concert; the members were "contracted" by signing a record album by their former band. The band members were then interviewed, usually focusing on the reasons of the breakup. The final segment would consist of the formal reunion of the band in the rehearsing studio, and a joint interview about why the group parted ways. If the reunion was successful, the episode ended with the final performance.

Like all reality shows, the outcome was more often than not known in advance. By that I mean the 'would they or won't they' of whether or not a band would reunite was know well in advance by the show producers. In fact, the behind the scenes string pulling and contractual negotiations with band members have been detailed. Kurt Harland of Information Society detailed his own negative experience with the program, and how his experiences differed from the portrayal of events as broadcast on his website. Its a fascinating read.


Alas, VH1 did not deliver a happy ending on The Beat's edition of Bands Reunited. Cox and Steele, despite an impassioned plea from the aging Saxa, refused to reunite with their former band mates. When one of your band mates is pushing 80, opportunities to reunite grow dimmer by the year. And that was that. Or so it would seem. In recent blog interviews and newspaper interview conducted over the last year or so, Dave Wakeling has provided an inside look at the maneuvering that took place behind the scenes as the producers for the shows tried to make something out of nothing.

According to Wakeling, the whole experience was unpleasant. "It was a beast. It was funny as well, knowing what was going on behind the scenes. I don’t want to say much about it. I knew that it wouldn’t work to get the group back together. I was being interviewed and agreed to be a part of it, knowing that it wouldn’t happen. There were two people in the group that refused to even be in the same room together. I phoned VH1 and said I can’t do this, it’s going to take me away from my family and it’ll take too much time. They came back and said we’ll take you and your family and pay all your expenses to fly back to England. At that point, I felt I didn’t have a choice because it was such a great offer. Then the whole thing became comedic because they were staking out Andy Cox. What they didn’t realize, is that he takes that sort of thing very seriously and he started monitoring them! He could look out his window and see their reflection in the windows across the street. He showed me a log he started keeping, tracking when they were in front of his house. Roger got a gig while we were there and they got all the instruments together and set up chairs for everyone. Not everyone showed up, but they asked those of us that were there, to play a song. We agreed and started to set up when suddenly Roger went mad and made them turn the cameras off and take away all the instruments. But I had a great two weeks in London for free and my family enjoyed it. I think the premise of the show was good, but they started to get desperate and I think that The Beat got a whiff of it and that caused it to fail.

The problems, Wakeling shared in a newspaper interview, emerged once it began to look as if a full reunion of the Beat wasn't possible. "At that point, I suppose the producers have a dilemma of how to create some drama to make an interesting TV show, so they started to play games behind us, trying to get that band members to phone this band member, or to get that band member to go around another band member's house," Wakeling said. "After it was all over and done, the people who were reluctant to do it felt they'd been publicly ridiculed by VH1. They said, 'there's always been an off chance of the full band reuniting, but that VH1 show was the nail in the coffin.'" "So VH1 finally killed the Beat," Wakeling laughed. "Thanks a lot."

In the event that you missed the series or the episode featuring The Beat when it originally aired in 2004 or live outside the U.S., I've gathered the entire episode below from four YouTube clips. I also found a great summary of the entire episode here, so you can also follow along at home.








12 comments:

Sonchey said...

Top stuff Marco,enjoyed every minute of it,Thanks mate.

Marco On The Bass said...

Thanks Sonchey! Glad you enjoyed it. Even though the the outcome was a foregone conclusion it was still greta to see all the band members interviewed and interacting.

Kames Jelly said...

I remember being so excited when I saw the commercials for it. The Beat episode and The Alarm episodes were the only ones I watched, but I taped the Beat episode so I could watch it over and over again. Then they didn't end up reuniting, and they recorded that heartbreaking message from Saxa and played it outside of Andy Cox's door. I was really bummed by the ending, but i couldn't agree more than it was still really enjoyable.

I think I'm gonna pull out the tape next time I'm home...

Marco On The Bass said...

I also taped the original episode on my DVR and still have it 6 years later. It is really interesting to watch it again, particularly to see and hear Saxa and Everett's take on the whole nasty mess. What i learned later on was that the two Cannibals were suing one another over song royalties and that was part of the reason they did not want to get involved. With The Specials reunion now in full swing I can't help but lament a wonderful missed opportunity for The Beat. Some things are not meant to be...

East Coast Dub Cartel said...

These guys are an f-in train wreck. Highly entertaining and a bit sad. Hilarious when DW describes his attempt at retrieving his resign letter to try and save the Bowie gig.

Matt C said...

I saw the original airing of this and was most intrigued to learn that Ranking Roger was an Inline Roller-skate Instructor.
Re-watching the show here I noticed the promo poster advertising Ranking Rogers version of the Beat with Dave Wakling singing at the end of this show was the opening act for Desmond Dekkar and the Aces! What a great show that must of been.

ReadJunk said...

awesome post!

Anonymous said...

A bit sad to see. And very sad they split in 83. One of the great bands indeed. Uffe

Joe Scholes said...

The whole tv show was new to me. Thanks for spreading this thing, Marco. I would have loved to get a glimpse at Andy Cox and "Shuffle". So much talent in one band. The first and third albums by The Beat belong to my dearest records. I saw today's version of The Beat play live in Cologne maybe three years back and was a bit shocked by the lack of interest from the public.

Tone and Wave said...

I've been intending to watch this since you first posted it but never had the time.
Today was my day off from work and I had some things to do bright and early this morning and, with my wife standing by the door with the car keys in hand, I watched this whole thing.

Thanks for posting it (I usually don't watch TV) but it was intriguing and a little bit sad. I do wish though I had read the comments first. What you said about the two FYCs suing each other would have made the whole thing a little more digestible.

(and I agree wholly with East Coast Dub Cartel's comment)

Daniel said...

Have you seen the episode with The Squeeze? It's pretty sad as well!

Joe Scholes said...

I watched the episode with Squeeze as well. I just love their music and didn't know anything about the people. Sad stuff, but also great to watch. I wonder whether you have to love the bands to be moved by this format.