THE ENGLISH BEAT CELEBRATES 30th ANNIVERSARY
The English Beat, formed in Birmingham, England in 1979, are celebrating their 30th anniversary with an action-packed 2009. Led by founding member, lead vocalist and songwriter Dave Wakeling, the band will be recording and touring extensively. The sparkling live show includes the band's best-known originals, among them "Mirror in the Bathroom, " "Save It for Later, " "Stand Down Margaret" and "I Confess, " and their inspirational covers of "Tears of a Clown" and "Can't Get Used to Losing You, " as well as the hits Wakeling scored with '80s pop icons General Public, such as "Tenderness, " "Never You Done That" and "I'll Take You There."
All this, plus a growing number of new songs that are fast becoming firm favorites with the fans, like "The Love You Give Lasts Forever, " "How Can You Stand There" and "Said We Would Never Die" . . . bring your dancing shoes, and your thinking caps! The new tracks will be recorded and released in 2009, either as a series of EPs or a full album, and will include new studio tracks, live tracks, acoustic versions, and remixes by good friends The Thievery Corporation.
"There are many perks to being in a pop group, " says Wakeling, "the money, the fame, the fast cars, and the sometimes even faster women, they can all be good, but for someone to tell you that your songs have been a part of the soundtrack of their life for a quarter century is the greatest honor a troubadour can ever receive."
A part of the 2 Tone ska music revolution of the late '70s and early '80s, alongside their stable mates The Specials, Madness and The Selecter, the Beat perfected their own unique brand of the Punky Reggae Party memorialized in the Bob Marley song of the same name. For Wakeling, the English Beat's hybrid was a delightful blend of Toots and the Maytals, The Velvet Underground, Buzzcocks, The Four Tops and Van Morrison.
The English Beat never shied away from singing about the current topics on everyone's lips, and with today's social conditions so similar to those of the late '70s — recession, depression, unemployment, uncertainty, war and rumors of war — their lyrics continue to resonate in a very timely manner. Often asked if he thought pop and politics should mix, Dave always responded wryly, "Only if you are living on Planet Earth!"
The English Beat's first gig, in March 1979, occurred at the same time as the Three Mile Island nuclear incident in Harrisburg, Penn. Introduced as "the hottest thing since the Pennsylvania Meltdown, " the band has ever since been known for its support of progressive issues and organizations such as Greenpeace, Rock the Earth, CND, Amnesty International, The Smile Train and Heal the Bay.
Wakeling was the executive producer of the Greenpeace benefit album Alternative NRG in '94, which raised funds and awareness for the issue of global warming (he worked full time for Greenpeace in L.A., from 1990-95). Recorded and mixed entirely by solar power, the album contained great live tracks by R.E.M., U2, Annie Lennox, Jesus and Mary Chain and many others, while the mobile solar generator known as "Cyrus" also acted as a traveling exhibition and lecture room about renewable energy, which, notes Dave, "thank heavens looks like is at last becoming a national priority." With this, and social equality in mind, he also set up the MySpace site Skabama, he explains, "to help our new 2 Tone President make his way into The Black and White House!"
Today's English Beat features Wakeling on lead vocals and guitar; Wayne Lothian, a former member of General Public's '90s incarnation, on bass and vocals; Antonee First Class, toaster; Rhythmm Epkins, drums and vocals; Nat Love, sax and vocals; Ray Jacildo, keyboards and vocals; and Hidden Kulcha, guitar.
Recent reviews and attendances at shows have been nothing short of superb: 130 shows in 2008 — all of them packed with happy, optimistic, sweaty people! Veteran fans are saying that they are some of the best English Beat shows they have ever seen, and newcomers are equally enthralled. People of all creeds and colors, from ages 16-60, dancing in time, connected and co-existing; there is definitely something in the air!
Highlights for the English Beat over the years have been touring with The Clash, David Bowie, The Talking Heads, R.E.M., and The Police, playing both US Festivals in '82, and '83, having songs in John Hughes and John Cusak movies Ferris Bueller's Day Off and Grosse Pointe Blank, and, for Wakeling, having his trademark Teardrop guitar placed in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, right next to the guitar of one of his heroes, Sterling Morrison of the Velvet Underground. Dave visits his guitar every time he's in Cleveland, and stays until people start thinking that he's weird for talking to a guitar in a glass case!
"At such an exciting time musically, and politically, " says Wakeling, "The English Beat are proud as punch to be spreading their message of connectivity, tolerance and good will. We are all one, and The English Beat would like to see you, one and all, at any of our upcoming shows."
The band run a Myspace site, www.myspace.com/officialbeatspace; a Facebook page, englishbeat; a Street Promotion Team, at email@example.com; and a Cyber Promotion Team, at firstname.lastname@example.org, to help spread the good word about what the band is up to. Fans who get involved get free passes to the shows and a chance to meet with the band at sound check.
Says Dave: "So come on, jump on in, the water is lovely, for crying out loud!"
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