Friday, April 28, 2017

70s Motown: Tears of a Clown

The English Beat: Tears of a Clown


This is the first song I thought of when I saw our new theme, but then I saw that “70s” sitting there. I considered sneaking it in anyway. I could have told you that the original and classic Tears of a Clown wasn’t released in England until 1970. That’s true, but pretty feeble since I am American. But when even your moderator has broken decade, it’s time to acknowledge that our theme has, unofficially at least, become just Motown. So I had a couple of ideas for more 70s material, but this is better. If others put up at least two or more posts before then, I may do a 70s mop-up post on Saturday, but right now, I’m going to get this out of my system.

The English Beat were part of the Two Tone explosion of British ska in the late 70s. This song established a tradition of new ska bands establishing their credentials with a cover of a classic soul or R&B tune. At the time, The English Beat were otherwise doing original material, and other Two Tone bands were doing a mix of originals and covers of 60s ska from Jamaica. But the term ska reflects the fact that the Jamaicans who pioneered the style saw the music as a mix of soul and calypso. That mix done differently would also later give the Soca style its name. Many of the Jamaican pioneers of ska did covers of the R&B hits of the day, with varying results. At any rate, I could probably find a ska version of any Motown hit by this time with a bit of work, but this was one of the first of the new wave of ska, and still one of the best. This song and the original Mirror in the Bathroom immediately put the English Beat at the top of the Two Tone ska world. And no wonder. Tears of a Clown is what a cover should be. If you know their style, this song is instantly recognizable as the English Beat. They truly made the song their own.

There may be some doubters out there, who don’t believe you could find a ska version of any Motown hit. For them, I offer this to close. It may not be the best ska, but I think goes a ways to prove my point:

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