By 1980 the ‘second wave of ska’ had firmly found its place in the UK charts. Madness, Selector, Bad Manners and The Specials were having major success, and it was The Beat with their debut album I Just Can’t Stop It who cemented my love of the dance craze. By the grand age of 14 I was already checking out the roots of my chart favourites, listening to soul, ska and sixties, fascinated and obsessed as I was by the history and the culture as well as the music.
The band’s first three chart singles were all taken from this stunning LP. Tears of a Clown, Hands Off She’s Mine and Mirror in the Bathroom were all classic Top Ten singles with the rest of the album littered with covers and blatant nods towards their ska and rocksteady pioneers. As with The Specials, much of The Beat’s own writing was heavily spiced with political and cultural references born out of Thatcher’s Britain. I loved the energy of Click Click and Two Swords as much as the dubby loose-limbed groove of Jackpot and Whine and Grine, and despite some of the overtly political lyrics and cutting social comment this was still most definitely a ‘pop’ album.
It’s with far more than a large dose of dewy-eyed nostalgia that I can listen back to I Just Can’t Stop It, and still love it. I remember a constant stream of happy, innocent days full of naive and romantic positivity, and the sheer voyage of musical discovery was already an all-consuming passion, but quite simply this is an exceptional album, brilliantly of its time and forty years later as socially relevant now as it was then. The only down side – the putrid cover of Andy Williams’ Can’t Get Used To Losing You – despite Everett Morton’s perfect mellow ska beat – I didn’t like it then and don’t like it now. Anyway, kids… buy (download) this album.