In this time of uncertainty, it’s nice to know that Dave Wakeling is still bringing a joyful dance party to the world via his bands The English Beat and Two Tone English.
The English Beat unleashed a barrage of legendary live shows featuring a slew of memorable hits including “Save It for Later,” “I Confess” and “Mirror in the Bathroom.” After the band splintered, Mr. Wakeling went on to achieve the impossible by creating an even more successful and popular band in the form of General Public, best remembered for their massive hit “Tenderness.”
At 60 years old, the (English) beat goes on. Mr. Wakeling and the boys still play dozens of high-energy live shows every year, including an upcoming gig at the 9:30 Club March 1.
Until then, enjoy this exclusive chat with Mr. Wakeling about the future of The English Beat and why you can’t help but dance.
Question: Is the long promised new English Beat album about to be released?
Answer: Boom! Imminent is the word.
Q: Details please.
A: It’s called “Here We Go Love.” And it’s going to be finished in February, and then will be out as soon as the record company can get it out. They want to bring out the CD and the vinyl and the download all at the same time to maximize its effect.
I could care less how they do it. They could bring the download, then bring the CD out two months later and then bring the vinyl when it’s ready. I haven’t quite convinced them of that yet. We might have to wait until the vinyl is ready and release a series of singles.
I’m hoping it will all be ready in April or May. I’m fearing it will be May or June.
Q: That may work since you tour so much in the summer, yes?
A: We have a lovely summer tour planned. It’s a big, multiple-artist bill playing big, quasi-outdoor arenas, which will be a nice platform for the album. We’ve done so many shows like that. Some with the B-52s and UB40. Those are great because we can reach out to more than just our segment, the black-and-white checkerboard sneaker-wearing segment of the ‘80s pie. (Laughs)
Q: When you play those multi-act shows, the set is shorter, so do you get to mix in new songs?
A: We try to. We want to do the new song “How Can You Stand There?” because it is very pertinent to the times. We always do “Save It for Later,” “Tenderness,” “I Confess” “Rankin’ Full Stop” and “Mirror in the Bathroom.”
Q: You perform “Tenderness” as the English Beat, but it’s actually a General Public song. Will that band ever reform?
A: Well [bandmate] Roger [Ranking] and I have been talking. I’ve been trying to get him involved doing the odd Beat show. He joined us onstage in Birmingham, and the crowd loved it.
The fans would love us to do some more. Roger has his own version of The Beat in England. He has said he would prefer to do something with me as General Public and see how that works. We could then move onto The Beat from there.
I think that would be best done on one of these package tours where you could come out and do the four or five hits that General Public had. We’ll do something together soon, I think.
Q: You have the English Beat in America; Roger has his in England. With the new record, are you planning to tour outside the USA?
A: The way it was left is everybody has got the rights to everything. He’s got the rights to do what he wants to do. And so do I. We made an agreement among ourselves that we would include our name on it.
When I go to England, I’m faced with a dilemma. It feels a bit silly being The English Beat in England. We named the band The Beat when we lived in England but had to change it to The English Beat when we went to America.
“Is that the English Beat from England?”
“No. It’s The English Beat from America.” (Laughs)
Q: Is there competition between bands on multi-act shows?
A: Competitive, yes, but as the years roll by, it’s a bit of an unmentioned lucky survivors club.
“Oh, lovely to see you again. You’re still alive too? And me. I think.”
Q: At 60, is performing tougher?
A: No. But it’s a bit like watching a boxer through his career. You start off as a street fighter and become more of a tactical boxer. You have to box clever.
I exercise more than I used to. Nowadays the concert is the most important part of the day, whereas it used to just be a noise that went on for an hour or two but didn’t really get in the way of the party that much.
Q: Can you give us some sample lyrics of the new single “How Can You Stand There?”
A: “How can you stand there is the face of what’s going on? How can you stand there and not have a dance? Especially since [you] don’t have long.”
It’s a very happy tune with deep meaning.
Q: Did you write that recently?
A: No. The songs seem to have snapped into focus as if they’d been written in the last month. But they’ve been written for a while now. But they are now timely. (Laughs)
English Beat plays the 9:30 Club March 1. Tickets are $25 by going to 930.com.