it beats a sharp stick in the eye

From Beat to Boston

November 29, 2020 — Gideon Mayhak


In this installment, we go across the pond and back again. These are all bands that have been with me in spirit for a long time, but they entered my CD collection at very different times.

The Bs, part 2

The Beat

The Beat (also known as The English Beat here in the US) are a recent addition to my collection, but they've been on my radar since I was a kid staying home sick from school and watching Ferris Bueller's Day Off as a sort of instruction manual that I never quite followed. Their track "March of the Swivelheads" (an instrumental version of "Rotating Head") features prominently during Ferris' race home. Years later, "Mirror in the Bathroom" captured my attention when I watched Gross Pointe Blank for the first time.

I have The Complete Beat, which is a great 5-disc compilation of The Beat's original three albums with B-sides and a couple discs of extended and live versions. I knew I'd want it all, so this was a good place to start. I also realize there have been other incarnations of The Beat over the years, and I might explore those albums eventually. It's also tempting to branch out into the bands that formed from members of the original lineup, such as Fine Young Cannibals, but I haven't yet.

These guys are brilliant, full stop. (Yes, I wrote that while listening to "Ranking Full Stop".) Some of the most clever, snarky lyrics you'll find on my shelves; not to mention plenty of hard truths tucked in there. A wide range of styles, all played to perfection. As you look at this band's output and then the output of the groups that came from it post-breakup, it's obvious they had a lasting impact on music as I know it.

Along with songs featured in the soundtracks of some of my favorite movies, I know I heard some of these songs on the radio growing up. I think most of those radio hits came from "Special Beat Service", and it's probably my favorite disc here overall. It has such a sparkly clean production quality and sounds amazing on a good set of speakers.

If you haven't spent any serious time listening to The Beat, check 'em out. I'm sure you'll feel like you've hit the musical jackpot.


My meager Blur collection consists of three albums: Leisure, Parklife, and Blur. While I'm pretty sure I purchased Leisure and Blur from Goodwill at different times, Parklife was an intentional new purchase over 12 years ago largely because of the opener, "Girls & Boys". Years earlier still, an online friend shared that track with me and it quickly became a favorite.

But of course, with Blur it really began with hearing "Song 2" on the radio before all that. I may have heard some other track first, but "Song 2" is that banger that I'm sure made a lot of young guys in the States take notice. I know sources say it was originally meant as a joke, but c'mon. Woo-hoo!

A couple of these songs found their way onto a mix CD I made for Sarah when we were first dating. She was moving to Virginia and I was staying in Wisconsin, and she was going to be spending her birthday all alone out here. I made a playlist where the first word of each song title came together to produce a secret message telling her I was flying out for her birthday, and both "Birthday" from Leisure and "To the End" from Parklife made the cut.

Blur is a great example of a band that I want to know more about but just don't. It's not like it would be hard to dive in further, buying up the rest of their albums and reading up on them. I just haven't gotten around to it. I like what I've heard from them, and that's been enough.

I think that's a trend that will show up more than once during this series. It has a lot to do with the gap between when I thought a band was really cool and when I finally got around to buying some of their CDs. They didn't stop being cool, but I feel a little silly being "into" a band that was "in" when I was still a kid. I need to grow up some more and enjoy.

And in case anyone cares, the next Blur album I'm likely to purchase is Think Tank. If I recall correctly: the same friend who shared "Girls & Boys" also shared "Crazy Beat", and perhaps because of the connection to Norman Cook (of Fatboy Slim fame) I love that track.


I only have one Boston CD: Boston. And really, isn't that all you need? I don't mean to disparage anything else they put out; I am just so thoroughly satisfied with their self-titled debut that I haven't felt compelled to buy any of their other records. It's just so good.

You can find the story much better told elsewhere, but the short version is that Tom Scholz performed and produced everything but the vocals in his home studio at a time when a home studio was quite the novelty. A brilliant engineer, Scholz made one of the greatest albums of all time almost entirely by himself. And I mean it: this is a perfect album.

If I could possibly conceive of a flaw with this record, it's that I wouldn't mind some tracks being twice as long as they are. I could listen to an hour-long rendition of "Foreplay" easily. That song is dangerous: every time it starts I want to close my eyes and take it all in, but you can't do that when you're driving down the highway.

Okay, maybe it's not only because the album is objectively a masterpiece (fight me). This is a record I literally grew up with: every single track got radio play on the stations my dad would listen to in the car, my mom loved "Smokin'" and would tell me about how she loved skating to it at the roller rink. Yes, nostalgia and my parents' shared love for Boston certainly play a part; but I still contend it's a perfect record in its own right.

It's more than a feeling.

Tune in next time...

The next installment will focus on a couple folks whose primary output bore their names. Krautrock and jazz? Yes, please!

"I said, I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,
and you forgave the iniquity of my sin."

Psalm 32:5b, World Messianic Bible

Tags: cd-listening, meet-the-mayhaks, music