- - Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Born out of the 1980s 2 Tone ska revival, The English Beat featured smart, catchy lyrics bended with a patented mix of rock, ska and reggae. Composed of Dave Wakeling (lead vocals/guitars), Ranking Roger (vocals/toasting), Andy Cox (guitar), David Steele (bass), Everett Morton (drums) and Saxa (saxophone), the group quickly found an audience with their barrage of hits including “I Confess,” “Save It for Later,” “Mirror in the Bathroom,” “Too Nice to Talk To” and the cover of Smokey Robinson and The Miracles’ “Tears of a Clown.”

In 1983 the band splintered and was reborn as two hit-making machines. Mr. Wakeling and Mr. Roger became General Public, while Mr. Cox and Mr. Steele and new singer Roland Gift created the Fine Young Cannibals, who scored a smash hit with “She Drives Me Crazy.” Not to be outdone, General Public hit with “Tenderness.”

These days The English Beat goes on led by Mr. Wakeling in America. A second Beat (led by Mr. Roger) exists in England. In advance of their appearance at the District’s 9:30 Club on Thanksgiving Eve, Mr. Wakeling discussed the past, present and future of The English Beat.

Question: Are you touring more this fall than ever?

Answer: I think it is the backbone of everything nowadays. Isn’t it? Used to be that you would go out on tour for 12 weeks and the production of that would cost the same amount as what you were earning. If you were lucky you would break even. You would then go back in the hopes that you would have sold some records while touring that you would then get paid on. That’s all changed. [laughs]

Q: Is touring easier or harder these days?

A: I’m enjoying it more because I know what I’m doing. In some ways it’s not as much fun because now the priority of the day is the concert. It didn’t used to be. The concert sometimes was just a bit of a noise in the early part of the evening. It didn’t last long, and we were soon back to the party. Now the focus is singing my best.

Q: What is the one thing you always need to have with you on the road?

A: A kettle for tea and Coffee. Coffee in the morning and tea almost all throughout the day. I can’t stand having to [wait] by the microwave for two minutes, which seems like 12 minutes, waiting for the water to go round and round. So I have a kettle.

Q: When is your new CD coming out?

A: We will be finishing up recording in February and hope to have it out by March or April. But you’ve got to be careful with the vagueness of the record labels. I’m told there is a monthslong list for vinyl. They want to bring vinyl out at the same time. I think we will have to prevail and have them bring out the record March or April [at the same time] as the CD and download. Then vinyl will have to follow.

Q: Musically, is it classic English Beat?

A: I was very worried when I started the songs. I asked, “Should I try and make them sound more like English Beat songs or less like English Beat songs?” It became quite the hypothetical.

We decided in the end just to let the music lead the way. Some sound like Beat songs, some sound like General Public.

Q: Why did the original lineup call it quits in 1983?

A: Too much work, not enough sleep. However, what happened probably happened for the right reasons. A couple of people wanted a couple years off, and they did have a couple years off. And it worked out very well for them with Fine Young Cannibals.

Me and Roger had just started families and didn’t want to — or couldn’t afford — a couple years off. So we went ahead and did General Public. I don’t know if there was the will to make a fourth Beat record that would have been as good as the first General Public and Fine Young Cannibals records.

Q: Currently there are two versions of The English Beat. How does that work?

A: So far not so bad. We talked recently again and are very pleasant.

Q: Would it be impossible to unite the two?

A: Roger and I have recently talked about doing some stuff together next year. I think more than anything else, the fans have made it very clear that they would like to see us sing once or twice together again. They also seem to understand that we live on opposite sides of the world, so it’s not always that easy.

At the same time it would be nice to accommodate them. Me and Roger both seem on the same page with that. But we all have representatives and managers who see things through their own lenses.

Q: How about a revue tour with The English Beat, General Public and Fine Young Cannibals?

A: I think it would be great. We’ve been asked a couple of times. But [Fine Young Cannibals singer] Roland [Gift] is always busy. [laughs]

Q: He’s the holdout?

A: I don’t know. I must not rush ahead. I haven’t managed to get Roger to say yes yet. I’ve got him to the brink.

There is talk also of a 2 Tone reunion tour with The Specials, Selector, Beat and maybe Bad Manners and Bodysnatchers. I’ve been championing it for a couple of years. I know that would be a popular tour. If not next summer, maybe the summer after that.

Q: What can fans expect when they come to see you at the D.C. show?

A: I’m glad to be back there. It’s been too long. I always used to love the place. You can expect all the hits of the Beat, all the hits of General Public, a handful of new ones.

The English Beat plays 9:30 Club Washington, 815 V St NW, Washington, D.C. 20001, with doors opening at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25 and available at 930.com.


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