FP100 Fife bands 7. The Beta Band

The Beta Band
The Beta Band

Spearheaded by St Andrews musicians Steve Mason and Gordon Anderson, The Beta Band was formed in 1996 and quickly achieved cult status.

The pair were later joined by Robin Jones, John Maclean and bassist Steve Duffield, who quit soon after recording their debut EP ‘Champion Versions’.

It was released in July 1997 to critical acclaim not only for the music but also for the record’s innovative cut-and-paste sleeve design, the work of John Maclean, son of internationally-acclaimed Tayport artist Will Maclean.

The trumpet solos recorded for ‘Dry The Rain’ on ‘Champion Versions’ were played by Jonathan Levien, who’d met Maclean in the bar at the Royal College of Art.

Not long after they were signed to Regal/Parlophone, Anderson became ill and decided to quit the band, later producing recordings under the name Lone Pigeon.

The remaining members added Englishman Richard Greentree on bass and cemented their lineup.

Two further EPs followed in 1998 - ‘The Patty Patty Sound’ and ‘Los Amigos del Beta Bandidos’. The EPs all earned widespread critical praise, and all three appeared on the appropriately titled ‘The Three EPs’ collection in September 1998.

The compilation was rated by Pitchfork in the Top 10 albums of the year.

And the song ‘Dr Baker’ featured on the soundtrack of the first series Trigger Happy TV.

The band soon began work on their ambitious first full-length recording, pulling inspiration from sources as diverse as Jamaican reggae, Disney’s movie The Black Hole and Bonnie Tyler’s ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart.’

The eclectic album, simply titled ‘The Beta Band’, was released in June 1999 to mixed reviews, and the band themselves were less than satisfied, blaming their record company’s unreasonable deadlines and tight budgets.

However they came back with a bang the following year with the double A side ‘To You Alone’ and ‘Sequinsizer’, chosen by NME as their single of the week and later as one of the 50 greatest singles of 2000.

‘To You Alone’ was also included on the soundtrack of the 2000 remake of the television series Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased).

Even higher profile soundtrack exposure was to follow, with the band’s music featuring prominently in a scene in the film ‘High Fidelity’, released both in the US and UK.

The album ‘Hot Shots II’, appeared in the summer of 2001, and was warmly received by critics and fans alike.

The band embarked on a long tour to promote the album, at one point supporting Radiohead. In August 2002, they made number three on Q magazine’s list of ‘50 Bands to See Before You Die’.

They began demo sessions for their third album in September 2002, but were not pleased with the results and it wasn’t released until 2004, following a change of producer.

To the surprise of most fans, the band announced their breakup in August, 2004, and their final show was at Edinburgh’s Liquid Rooms that December. In 2005, the band released a two-disc DVD set, The Best of The Beta Band.

Following the split, Steve Mason embarked on his solo project, King Biscuit Time, while Robin Jones, John Maclean and Gordon Anderson went on to form The Aliens.

John Maclean is now a BAFTA-winning film director.