The Beat were formed in Birmingham, England, in 1978, during a period of high unemployment and social upheaval in the United Kingdom. Ranking Roger, one of the band's vocalists, added a Jamaican vocal flavor to the band's sound with his toasting style. Jamaican saxophonist Saxa added an authentic Jamaican ska instrumental sound. Saxa had played saxophone with Prince Buster, Laurel Aitken, and Desmond Dekker in the first wave of ska (as well as with The Beatles in their Liverpool days). He joined The Beat to record their first single, "Tears of a Clown," a cover version of the Motown hit by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles.