The Kings Play “This Beat Goes On/Switching To Glide”

Listen to this track by Canadian pub rockers and exuberant and unabashed one-hit wonders, the Kings, originating from two towns close to my heart; Vancouver B.C (where I work now) and Oakville Ontario (where I grew up).  It’s their giant 1980 radio hit “This Beat Goes On/Switching to Glide”, a sort of two-fer rock n’ roll suite that kept them on the Billboard charts for six months, and led to an appearance on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand TV show.  The song is taken from their debut record The Kings Are Here.

The song, and the record off of which it comes, was produced by Pink Floyd and Peter Gabriel collaborator Bob Ezrin.  When they entered a Toronto recording studio, he heard them and decided to produce them from scratch in Los Angeles.

But, rather unlike the Floyd and Gabriel, The Kings were a meat and potatoes rock ‘n’ roll band, and a hard-touring one at that.  And it’s this emphasis on live playing that really comes through on this track (or really two twinned tracks), a series of snapshots of late night rock ‘n’ roll shows and appreciative audiences.  This is not to say that Ezrin was out of his element.  Remember, Ezrin produced another meat and potatoes band; Alice Cooper, more specifically their 1973 breakthrough album Million Dollar Babies.  And for the Kings, working with Ezrin was a dream come true to a young and hungry touring band.

But as far as “This Beat Goes On/Switching to Glide” is concerned, where it stands out for me is the transition between one section of the song and the next, creating a rock song that is instantly accessible with miles of pop appeal, along with being ambitious on the arrangement front that is bolstered by solid musicianship.  In short, the Kings were pub rock.  And when new wave came along, and was embraced by top forty radio at the end of the 1970s, the Kings were ripe for radio play, first in Canada and eventually in the States, too.

And in listening to it, who can deny its irrepressible charm?  But, the idea to meld the two sections was a studio creation, even if its written and played by a band who’s main strength was in stage presentation more so than in their expertise as record-makers.  From The Kings official website:

That is what happened with This Beat Goes On. It was a simpler chord structure that was not as hooky with lyrics that were not as direct. [lead singer and bassist] David Diamond understood what Ezrin was getting at regarding the chords and went and changed the parts so that although more complicated musically, it sounded better and was way more catchy. That is when [guitarist and band songwriter Mr.] Zero re-wrote the lyrics to the B-verse which is where all this improvement was taking place so instead of the original “Lots of dusty mentals can be blown at any time…” we now have “I have lots of friends that I can ding at any time…” It’s pretty obvious which is better and there was more than just that example … In The Kings minds This Beat and Switchin’ were always supposed to be together as a segue. They were not too happy when Elektra Records decided to release Switchin’ on its own. It did get some play but finally after pressure from the band the segue was released and it was only then that radio really picked up on it.

Bob Ezrin stayed with them for a second album, even if it never replicated the success of “This Beat Goes On/Switching To Glide”.  The Kings took their drive for live rock ‘n’ roll into the Twenty-First Century, currently touring and celebrating their history.

For more information, make sure and visit the Kings’ official site.

Enjoy!

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19 comments

  1. I must say something about this song. I hate it. I hate it enough to leave a comment saying how much I hate it. Always have hated it. Everybody has their opinion. This is mine. This has been a long time “must change the station” song whenever it comes on the radio.

    1. C’mon, there can’t be anything THAT bad about this song! Its got a great beat and cool lyrics. I didn’t think it got nearly enough airplay back in the day to even remotely be so disliked.

  2. Hey! I LOVE this song!! I haven’t heard it in ages; thanks for the nostalgia blast. I had no idea about the Bob Ezrin connection.

    p.s. Re “Sweet Home Alabama” — cranks “Southern Man” up to 11. ;-)

  3. Hey Rob, it is kinda cold and rainy here in Oakville right now. Saw this and wanted to say thanks for your kind comments. While we are best known for ‘the hit’, I think that our real fans know there is much more to us than just the segue. We have somewhere around 70 songs on Itunes, lots of good’uns. The reaction of ‘whatigotsofar’ above is thankfully rare. Our dvd ‘Anatomy of a One-Hit Wonder’ tells our story and how ‘Beat/Switchin” was created in probably more detail than necessary, but I think people like the nuts and bolts stuff. If you want one gratis, let me know.

    1. As Zero says, the ‘real’ Kings fans know there is much, much more Kings music. This Beat/Switchin was just the beginning of a catalog of great songs on great albums. The last two Kings albums – Unstoppable and Because Of You – are chalk full of great songs. I was just listening to Because Of You again this week. In my opinion, each album easily has at least 6 radio hits and it’s a shame that the public at large hasn’t gotten to hear much from the Kings because their music is ‘real’ rock’n’roll. The Kings are edgy and hooky rockers and whatigotsofar’s comments are indeed thankfully rare.

  4. Far as I’m concerned The Kings are one of, if not THE most under-appreciated rock band, ever. The pity is that they offer so many other worthy songs – where the beat never quits and lyrics hit you in the back of the head like a two by four or give you the same sensation as the first time your girlfriend blew softly in your ear. My favorite “other” songs; “Cosmic Groove”,”Do You Rock and Roll?”, “Run Shoes Running” and “Holocaust”. These guys know ROCK.

  5. And for those who may be interested in seeing The Kings perform live in your market, drop Zero an e-mail or post a message on the band’s message board/guestbook – http://www.thekingsarehere.com

    Let us know where you are so we can try to put some shows together in the States!

    Thanks,
    Don

  6. The Kings had and still have incredible energy and a live performance that rivals some of the best. I’ve followed them through southern Ontario for years, from clubs to big stages. So many great songs that never got the proper recognition, especially Shoulda Been Me and Don’t Let Me Know. Just wish they played more these days.

  7. Wow! So many great comments, including one from Mr. Zero, the author of this particular tune (and thank you sir for writing this song!). Thanks so much, everyone. My blogger’s cup runneth over.

    I feel I should clarify one point about the whole ‘one hit wonder’ aspect of things, which rightly people have made reference to. That term is used pejoratively in some circles, and on some blogs. But, not this blog, good people. Not this blog. The fact is some of the most enduring songs in my own history were one-shot deals. And where there is plenty of music from certain acts which escaped my attention, being turned on is still being turned on whether it’s by one song, or a whole boxset. That’s as real as you’re going to get.

    Second, your comments have made me think about other reasons why I love this song. First, I love David Diamond’s vocal – just the quality of it is so damn effervescent on this thing. I love Zero’s guitar, too; that bar band blues-rock style mixed seamlessly with that serrated texture of new wave guitar playing. It’s magic! I love the Steve Nieve-like organ part, which actually gives it a kind of 60s Nuggets sort of feel. I love the triplets and the synchronized cymbal crashes in the “Switchin’” section. Most of all, and overall, I love that this tune is packed, packed I tells ye, with personality! You can just hear that these guys are having a whale of a time playing this thing. And because they love it, we love it too.

    “This Beat Goes On/Switching To Glide” lives in my mind forever with an association with sunshine-soaked car rides on the weekend. And forever it brightens my Tuesday point of view!

    Thanks again for comments, guys! Fantastic!

  8. Nice call out, Rob. I remember the song well and a buddy of mine bought this album. Definitely a winner all ’round.

    As you know, I put this on the BCB (Black Cat Bone) Guide to Power Pop, along with Badfinger, Flamin’ Groovies, Raspberries and the rest because it’s that good.

  9. Thanks for the great blog, Rob. It’s great to know that The Kings are equally loved and remembered by so many others. Good people and great music!

  10. it’s ironic that a couple of us were chatting about this song the other day. i have always enjoyed the band’s music, and this is one song that i never get tired of hearing (unlike most others that get played endlessly on commercial radio). i was lucky to see the kings play live when the song was first being charted (in northern saskatchewan no less) and then again many years later in a toronto club. they still had the energy and enthusiasm….that’s rock’n’roll. it’s an iconic anthem of my (and many other’s) youth. thanks.

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