Forgotten Band: General Public

General Public was an English new wave band formed in the early 1980s, known for their fusion of pop, rock, and ska, and their politically charged lyrics. The band was founded by two prominent figures from the British ska revival movement, Dave Wakeling and Ranking Roger, both former members of The Beat (known as The English Beat in North America).

Formation and Early Years

General Public was formed in 1983 after The Beat disbanded. Wakeling and Roger sought to create a new sound that retained the energy and social consciousness of ska while exploring the emerging new wave and pop scenes. They were joined by an eclectic mix of musicians, including Mickey Billingham (formerly of Dexys Midnight Runners) on keyboards, Stoker (formerly of Dexys Midnight Runners and The Bureau) on drums, and Horace Panter (formerly of The Specials) on bass. Guitarist Mick Jones from The Clash was also briefly involved.

“All the Rage” and Breakthrough Success

General Public’s debut album, “All the Rage,” was released in 1984. The album was a commercial success, reaching No. 26 on the UK Albums Chart and No. 39 on the US Billboard 200. The lead single, “Tenderness,” became a major hit, peaking at No. 27 on the Billboard Hot 100. “Tenderness” was notable for its catchy melody, infectious rhythm, and thoughtful lyrics, which addressed themes of love and human connection amidst the chaos of modern life.

The success of “Tenderness” helped to establish General Public as a significant presence in the new wave and alternative music scenes. The album also included other notable tracks such as “Never You Done That” and “Hot You’re Cool,” which showcased the band’s ability to blend upbeat pop with socially conscious lyrics.

Evolution and “Hand to Mouth”

Following the success of their debut album, General Public faced changes in their lineup. Horace Panter and Mick Jones departed, and the band saw the addition of Kevin White on bass and ex-Fine Young Cannibals guitarist Andy Cox. In 1986, General Public released their second album, “Hand to Mouth.” Although it didn’t achieve the same commercial success as their debut, the album was critically acclaimed for its mature sound and introspective lyrics.

“Hand to Mouth” featured the single “Too Much or Nothing,” which received moderate airplay and showcased the band’s continued commitment to addressing social issues through their music. The album’s production incorporated more sophisticated arrangements and a broader range of musical influences, including reggae, soul, and rock.

Disbandment and Solo Ventures

Despite their critical success, internal tensions and changes in the music industry led to the band’s disbandment in 1987. Wakeling and Roger pursued solo careers, with Wakeling relocating to the United States and continuing to tour and release music under his name. Ranking Roger returned to the UK and formed a new version of The Beat, releasing albums and touring extensively.

Reunion and Later Years

In the mid-1990s, the rise of nostalgia for 1980s music led to a resurgence of interest in General Public. In 1994, Wakeling and Roger reunited to contribute a cover of The Staple Singers’ “I’ll Take You There” for the soundtrack of the film “Threesome.” The song was a hit, reaching No. 22 on the Billboard Hot 100 and introducing General Public’s music to a new generation of listeners.

Encouraged by this success, General Public released a new album, “Rub It Better,” in 1995. The album featured a blend of new material and re-recorded versions of their earlier hits. While it did not achieve significant commercial success, it was well-received by fans and showcased the band’s enduring ability to create engaging and socially relevant music.

Legacy and Influence

General Public’s music has left a lasting impact on the new wave and ska genres. Their ability to blend catchy pop melodies with socially conscious lyrics set them apart from many of their contemporaries. Songs like “Tenderness” and “I’ll Take You There” continue to be celebrated for their timeless appeal and meaningful messages.

The band’s members have also continued to influence the music industry through their solo work and other projects. Dave Wakeling, in particular, has remained an active figure in the ska and new wave scenes, performing both General Public and The Beat’s music to enthusiastic audiences worldwide. Ranking Roger, until his untimely death in 2019, also continued to be a vital presence in the UK music scene, fronting his version of The Beat and releasing new music.


General Public’s journey through the music industry is a testament to their creativity, resilience, and commitment to addressing social issues through their art. From their formation in the wake of The Beat’s disbandment to their enduring legacy, General Public has left an indelible mark on the new wave and ska movements. Their music continues to inspire and resonate with listeners, proving that great music can transcend time and speak to the human experience across generations.



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Author: guyute