Roger Charlery, better known as Ranking Roger, the frontman for the classic UK ska and two-tone group The Beat (known as The English Beat in North America) died this week. He was only 56, diagnosed with a brain tumor and lung cancer last year.
Many of us who came of age in the late ’70s and early ’80s are crushed by this news. The music of The English Beat was an important part of my youth.
The English Beat were instrumental in developing the two-tone genre, a “genre of British music that fuses traditional ska with musical elements of punk rock and new wave music. Its name comes from 2 Tone Records, a label founded by Jerry Dammers of The Specials, and references a desire to transcend and defuse racial tensions in Thatcher-era Britain. Many two-tone groups, such as The Specials, The Selecter, and The Beat featured a mix of black, white, and multiracial people.”
I was today-years-old when I learned in this NPR article that the song “Stand Down Margaret” was about Margaret Thatcher and earned The Beat a ban by the BBC. (Imagine that happening today!)
In 1980, The Beat was banned from the BBC for two years after releasing a song in opposition to former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher called “Stand Down Margaret.” One of the song’s concluding lyrics: “Love and unity, the only way.”
The English Beat broke up in 1983. Immediately after, Ranking Roger formed General Public along with his English Beat partner, Dave Wakeling. They were just in time for the MTV crowd; I remember dancing to “Tenderness” at many a party in my college days!
The English Beat and General Public Music is the Perfect Beat for Indoor Cycling
If you’re not in my age group (ahem…) and don’t know the depth of Roger’s repertoire, you might be surprised how many songs are perfect for indoor cycling!
The English Beat has long made appearances in my cycling classes, ever since I was certified in 1996. For one, many of their songs are shorter (3 minutes or less) and make for great short high-intensity intervals; that short length also makes them perfect for recovery songs. I often like to use songs from the same musical group for recovery in one interval classes—it’s a musical reminder for everyone to ease up from the hard work and recover. In fact, just last week, only one week before Roger died, I used four English Beat songs in my Over/Under Intervals profile (the tracks I used are first four songs in my list below).
Most importantly, though, many of their tracks are in the mid-80s bpm range—a characteristic of the ska and two-tone genres—reflecting a “flat road” cadence if you follow the beat. It’s a bpm that is not quite as readily available in current EDM and pop (although you can find it in hip-hop and emo genres).
If you are teaching tomorrow, April Fool’s Day, a great track to play is “Tears of a Clown.” (Thank you to ICA member Joe Howard for the idea.)
Here are some of my favorite English Beat and General Public tracks, plus a bonus track with Smash Mouth featuring Ranking Roger, and how I use them for indoor cycling.
The English Beat, Mirror in the Bathroom, 3:09, 86 bpm
Perfect for a short interval, with enough energy to push hard, but not so much that you can’t use it as recovery—especially, as I noted above, if you use all English Beat songs for recoveries in one interval class. And I just love the saxophone in this song!
(That’s Ranking Roger in the black hat in the video.)
The English Beat, Twist and Crawl, 2:34, 86 bpm
Use it like “Mirror in the Bathroom.” It’s even shorter, making it a good recovery after a fairly short interval.
The English Beat, Best Friend, 3:05, 84 bpm
One of their most popular songs. A little milder energy than the two preceding songs; perfect recovery or as part of your warm-up.
The English Beat, Tears of a Clown, 2:43, 85 bpm
Recovery, endurance. Or, take that ska energy and put it into the pedals as a racing simulation or high-intensity interval in Z4, increasing cadence on the chorus.
The English Beat, Ranking Full Stop, 2:47, 157 bpm
A faster beat—which, as you know in indoor cycling, often means a slower rpm—translates to a cadence of 79 rpm (half of 157 bpm). Use it for a fast climbing interval or a segment on a longer climb.
The video is a live version, which is at 96 bpm. I’m using this clip instead of the radio version of the song so you can see Roger in his glory on stage.
General Public, Tenderness, 3:38, 90 bpm
Like The English Beat songs, the energy of this track could be used for both harder pushes and milder recoveries, but this time at 90 rpm.
General Public, Hot You’re Cool, 3:47, 144 bpm
This one sounds much more retro, perfect for your 1980s theme ride. Climb to this one, standing up on the chorus if desired.
General Public, I’ll Take You There, 4:04, 98 bpm
Use this excellent version of The Staples Singers song for a higher-cadence stretch of road.
Smash Mouth (feat. Ranking Roger), You Are My Number One, 2:33, 89 bpm
A great track at a higher cadence that is short enough for intervals or recovery.
What’s your favorite English Beat or General Public song? Are you perhaps new to them and are surprised by how sprinkling these into your indoor cycling repertoire can add some ska zing?