Especially General Public. I bought that one twice as a kid. I literally wore it out (and I would have objected to being called a kid too).
Dave Wakeling lives out in California these days and The English Beat are pretty much constantly touring. They go out for three weeks and play 17 shows and then take three weeks to a month off. Then they do it again. They are working on a new record as well which includes new material and covers. I was curious how The English Beat 2011 would sound next to The English Beat of 1978.
“I think things do evolve, by the influences around you. When we started we wanted to mix punk and reggae. I didn’t want to sound like Jamaica in 1963,” says Wakeling. “I wanted to sound like Birmingham in 1979. I am proud the new stuff sounds like California in 2011.”
He says the live music also adapts to the times and to how individuals change.
“People say it sounds just like the record live but it doesn’t. A song moves with the times and with the spirit of the times like we do. I like people to think it sounds like it sounded on the record.” he says.
“You were just the sum of your influences. How can you claim that?” he says.
He doesn’t necessarily AGREE with artists not deserving these royalties of course. But it is something to think on. As is making excuses for not making music.
At one point he talked about how Robert Johnson played on a horrible guitar. But he still played. When I talked about all the record company people who ripped off Johnson Wakeling commented “But who remembers them now?”
That is dead on. Who does? I am heading down to the crossroads…
“If I turn on the radio I am likely to turn on talk radio. I am more interested in ideas than music. I am only slightly interested in other people’s music.” says Wakeling.
In the past he says he has been influenced by the chemicals in his system. But that has changed.
“Now I am a fairly sober character as opposed to the firebrand I was.” he says.
He says he carried his hangovers like a badge of honor and acknowledges that a hangover can help you write something that reaches other people—especially those with hangovers of their own. But says such songs are more liable to be like a soap opera than an Oscar winning movie.
“Without booze a different set of things comes up. You can still be dismissive and sarcastic.” Says Wakeling.
“One of the biggest influences is time. I am certainly in the second half of my songwriting career, maybe in the last third, hopefully not in the last quarter.” he says.
He says he listens to music on the radio, the Sirius stations from the 60s or the 80s.
“I think albums are an anachronism. They talked us all into thinking what we liked was six good songs and six not so good songs. I like singles more.” says Wakeling.
But there is one record he calls the “holy grail”, Heart of the Congos by The Congos (released in 1977).
“It is the only record I ever play and it always effects me.” he says.
Curiously, I do listen to a lot of music but one record that always effects ME, is Special Beat Service. Sure there are those who like the more Ska flavor of the first two English Beat records but they are wrong.
“You notice that the crowd does this thing, they start moving in time with each other but don’t know it. It is the best part of a concert.” he says.
I thought—“yeah sure…hippie” but then at the show, around the time they played Save It For Later, it happened. Before that middle aged Ska enthusiasts lurched around looking for the beat and then, suddenly, they all seemed to find it as one.
Usually I get pictures of everyone but this time out…they all move too much for my dubious photo skills!