A&E » Arts

And the Beat goes on for ska



Who: Dave Wakeling’s English Beat

Where: The Garibaldi Lift Co.

When: Wednesday, March 5 With bands like No Doubt sweeping the awards pool around the world and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones and Phish playing to sell-out crowds, one could say we’re riding the next ska wave. But who was responsible for the last one? You need look no further than England’s crowned King Of Ska, Dave Wakeling.

Wakeling’s two biggest projects were the Beat, known in North America as the English Beat, and General Public. Together these groups produced some of the biggest hits of the early ’80s, touring with bands such as The Clash. The Police and even opening for David Bowie.

The Beat broke up in 1984, leaving behind three great albums, I Just Can't Stop It, Whappen and Special Beat Service. Wakeling and co-front-man, Ranking Roger, then went on to form General Public. So how does Wakeling feel about this latest ska resurgence?

"The simple truth is the game is the same. The good groups are great and the bad groups are really crap. It comes down to songs that are memorable. It’s not just enough to be the song of the week. I like No Doubt as they were decent enough when the Best of the Beat record came out to give us a lovely quote saying their group would never have had a chance to mix up their rhythms if it hadn’t of been for the Beat. I though that was pretty sweet hey, lend us a fiver."

Wakeling is touring on the strength of that revival, bringing his original flavour to a whole new generation of fans.

"I feel like I’m in a cover band but I'm doing all my own songs. It's an odd feeling," he said.

But this tour is not just a trip down memory lane as Wakeling has still got that golden ska touch with a modern flair that only living in Southern California can bring.

"I split my show up between about a third Beat songs, a third general Public songs and a third new ones. That way, everyone’s happy – me and the fans."

There must be no greater honour for a musician then to have a song be popular 20 years later and Wakeling enjoys the longevity of his career more than anyone.

"The satisfaction of having people tell me how much a particular song or lyric means to them at a time of their life where songs were critical is about the most incredible thing you could ever imagine for someone who likes to pick up the guitar and sing. It’s what keeps me going," he said.

And what about the chance of an English Beat reunion, does that keep him going?

"We just did a sold-out reunion a few weeks ago, organized by Mojo magazine with five of the seven original members at London’s Royal Festival Hall. On the strength of that, there’s serious talk of a tour that would be UB40, Squeeze, English Beat and The Fine Young Cannibals. We’d do it over the summer in North America but I think they’re just waiting on UB40 to give the thumbs up and whether there will be a war and whether there will be a world left to play in."

Wakeling speaks highly of his past projects and the people he’s played with, calling himself lucky, despite not recognizing it at the time.

"By the early ’80s, punk had just finished and torn down all the rules so it was a pretty open playing field. I did Top Of The Pops with the likes of The Jam, Elvis Costello, the Pretenders and the Specials. We were all acts that sang about things they were really passionate about. It didn’t matter if it was political, social or sexual, you could sing about something you really meant and still had a chance of going mainstream. Then the record companies started to learn how to milk the cow and it became new-wave and you had to have videos and silly haircuts and it didn’t really matter what you were singing about. For that little period when the Beat started, it was magical."

Come be a part of it at the GLC. Tickets are $25. The Way Out will open.