Patterico's Pontifications


Ranking Roger, 1963 – 2019

Filed under: General — JVW @ 10:30 pm

[guest post by JVW]

It might only register with my generation, but I am saddened today by the death of Ranking Roger, late of the 1980s bands The Beat (known in North America as The English Beat) and General Public. If any of you have been watching the multi-part Epix documentary Punk, you probably saw the episode on how Iggy Pop, the New York Dolls, and the Ramones brought American do-it-yourself hard rock to England, where it was fused with styles from the New World colonies — ska, rocksteady, and reggae — to create a New Wave sound that would dominate the early Reagan/Thatcher years and would give us diverse sounds running the gamut from The Cure to U2.

The Beat, formed in hardscrabble Birmingham in 1978 (the same year the Sex Pistols flamed out), featured three Caribbean band members, among them a Birmingham-born teenage son of West Indian immigrants. Roger Charlery was a punk rock drummer who had adopted the dub practice of “toasting,” a spoken style of freestyle vocalizing over music similar to what was happening among MCs in the burgeoning New York rap music scene. Charlery went by the professional name of Ranking Roger, with “ranking” signifying his status as a top practitioner of toasting. The band honed their craft in Birmingham, playing mostly house parties since the very few pubs and clubs who would pay a band for gigs in the economically-depressed Callaghan years preferred to host a more traditional rock-and-roll sound. With another ska-punk fusion band called The Specials gaining notice a mere twenty miles away in Coventry and fellow Birmingham band UB40 promoting a more traditional reggae sound infused with British pop, the midlands became the center for the new musical fusion.

“Tears of a Clown,” a remake of the old Smokey Robinson song, became The Beat’s first record when it was a released as a single in late 1979. (Quick digression: the first single was supposed to be the band’s own composition and ultimately one of their best-known songs, “Mirror in the Bathroom,” but the band got cold feet and decided to play it safe with a Motown chestnut that had been well-received at their live shows.) The single eventually reached #6 on the UK charts, but I have a suspicion that the B-side, “Ranking Full Stop,” was far better received on the dance floor. This song is a pretty fair representation of the toasting style that Ranking Roger and other practitioners of dub were demonstrating to working-class English kids. Here’s the song performed by the band shortly after their first LP, I Just Can’t Stop It, was released:

If you have the time, it’s worth watching all 25 minutes of this set in full. Try to imagine how unique this sound must have been to kids had been weaned on Elton John, the Bee Gees, and Rod Stewart.

The Beat would release two more albums, reach an American audience via their solid sets at the first two US Festivals, then, all too predictably, succumb to the pressures of constantly recording and touring. By 1983 the band had splintered, with Ranking Roger and Dave Wakeling forming General Public, who hit it big with “Tenderness,” a peppy song about unfulfilled love with an instantly recognizable hook that even the young kids these days will groove to:

The Beat got together again in various iterations throughout the past 30 years, sometimes with Ranking Roger and sometimes without him. It probably goes without saying that their shows were considerably better when both Dave Wakeling and Ranking Roger were at the microphone; now that won’t be possible. Hearing his voice brings back fond memories of my youth, and it’s one of those unavoidable signs of getting old to know that it is henceforth silenced. Rest in peace.


Witch Hunt

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:24 pm

For the longest time, all you heard from the media was: he’s guilty. He’s going down.

Sure, it took a while to build to that point. But in the end, it seemed universal: every time you turned the channel, everyone was saying: this guy’s done. It’s a turning point. This looks like the beginning of the end.

It sure looked bad for a while. Payoffs for illegal activity. Lying. Stuff that like doesn’t play well.

But in the end, it was up to the prosecutor. And the prosecutor has said there will be no prosecution. And even though we don’t seem to know all the details yet, that’s the end of it.

Sure, the people who have been wrong about this all along are livid. They will not let it go. They complain that the prosecutor who announced the decision is playing politics. That he’s getting away with it because of who he is. Look at the criminals around him!

But his supporters held fast. Show me the man, they noted, and I’ll show you the crime. And in the end, the witch hunt ended in total and complete vindication


Well, Whaddaya Know: Charges Against Jussie Smollett Dropped

Filed under: General — JVW @ 9:46 am

[guest post by JVW]

They were never going to prosecute someone with so much intersectionality street cred. National Review Online has the details:

Cook County prosecutors on Tuesday dropped all the charges against Empire actor Jussie Smollett, who stood accused of staging a hate crime to advance his career.

Smollett was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct last month when police determined that he filed a false report after staging a racially motivated attack on himself with the help of two friends. He had pled not guilty to the charges before prosecutors decided to drop them.

[. . .]

Prosecutors took Smollett’s history of community service into account when deciding to drop the charges, according to a statement released by the Cook County state’s attorney’s office Tuesday afternoon.

“After reviewing all of the facts and circumstances of the case, including Mr. Smollett’s volunteer service in the community and agreement to forfeit his bond to the City of Chicago, we believe this outcome is a just disposition and appropriate resolution to this case,” the statement said.

It’s Chicago, so naturally corrupt local politicians are part of the story, as is a former Obama Administration official:

The Chicago Fraternal Order of Police last week requested an investigation into State’s Attorney Kimberly Foxx’s handling of the case on the grounds that she improperly asked [Chicago Police Chief Eddie] Johnson to turn the investigation over to the FBI after Tina Tchen, Michelle Obama’s former chief of staff, requested that she do so at the behest of one of Smollett’s relatives.

“Spoke to Superintendent Johnson. I convinced him to reach out to FBI to ask that they take over the investigation,” Foxx wrote in an email sent two days after the alleged attack.

“OMG this would be a huge victory,” Tchen wrote in response to a text message from Foxx containing the same information as was included in the email.

“I make no guarantees,” Foxx responded, “but I’m trying.”

The FBI did not end up taking control of the probe, but I find it interesting that Ms. Tchen believed that the outcome would be more beneficial to Mr. Smollett if the feds were involved. It makes you wonder if Obama officials have more chits to call in with the feds than they do in the Windy City.

In any case, Jussie Smollett will probably resume his career as if nothing had happened, and he will to his dying day insist upon his version of events which will also gradually come to be accepted among the grievance-mongering left. Thank you, Chicago Police Department, for getting to the bottom of the story. Sorry that the political types are going to undercut all of your work.


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