Born in Liverpool, England, Tate's first band was the Cheltenham-based punk rock band Index, who released one single, "Jet Lag" c/w "Total Bland" in 1978. He moved on to join former members of The Rezillos in the band Shake, recording two singles with this band. In 1981 he first recorded as a solo artist, releasing the "Thomas" single on the RCA label Why-Fi. He joined The Teardrop Explodes in late 1980, replacing Alan Gill on guitar, and playing on the Wilder album. While with the band, he continued his solo career, releasing "Lifeline" in 1982.