By Anita Stewart, Tampa Correspondent and Chyrisse Tabone, Tampa Photographer-Rock At Night
Venue: The Capitol Theatre, Clearwater, Florida–November 12, 2015
This writer saw the English Beat play for the first time 33 years ago. At the time, the English Beat was touring with Oingo Boingo and the Police and this writer remembered a great outdoor show in the summertime in Omaha, Nebraska; everyone dancing and grooving to the ska and reggae rhythms. Throughout the 80’s, the English Beat’s “Wha’ppen,” “I Just Can’t Stop It,” and “Special Beat Service” cassettes were in the player in the car, in the stereo at home and their music became the soundtrack of that decade. Add that to morphs of Beat members with other bands such as “Fine Young Cannibals” and “General Public,” and the new genre was cemented into modern music’s lexicon.
Dave Wakeling, lead guitarist, songwriter, vocalist and founding member of the English Beat has put together a very interesting and interactive history of ska music on the band’s website that traces the roots of the genre back to Jamaica and ska naturally regenerated itself into the rocksteady and reggae genres. A definition: “Ska combined elements of Caribbean mento and calypso with American jazz and rhythm and blues. It is characterized by a walking bass line accented with rhythms on the upbeat.”
The 70’s and 80’s were the first generations of young, black Caribbeans born in England resulting from an exodus out of the Caribbean by their parents; many moving to the British Isles for better work opportunities in the 50’s and 60’s. Add that to the warmongering British Prime Minister Maggie Thatcher, high unemployment, political unrest and increasing crime rates and this resulted in a creative powder keg that exploded with creation of punk and ska as just two very expressive and aggressive musical platforms. (Check out the song “Stand Down Margaret.”) So basically Ska music evolved from the political unrest, unemployment, poverty, football (soccer) teams, racism and integration after its migration to England. The integrated poor and working class neighborhoods brought white and black people together and clashed the cultures that resulted in unexpected harmonies, especially with the music. The English Beat’s music was called “2-tone ska” and was so named because it was more like a “second wave” of the genre and because of the name of the record label producing this genre exclusively.
The English Beat of the late 70’s and the 80’s combined Dave Wakeling’s amazing use of melodic vocal hooks and songwriting (those vocal hooks becoming this writer’s unshakeable earworms), “Toaster” Ranking Roger’s vocals, percussion and neverending energy, guitar by Andy Cox, David Steele on the bass, Everett Morton on percussion and drums, Lionel Augustus “Saxa” Martin on sax, all working together with the common mission to get everyone up and dancing (learn how to skank here).
The English Beat was short lived and disbanded in 1983 with Dave Wakeling and Ranking Roger going on to form the band “General Public” and they had several hits, the most notable being the song, “Tenderness.” Andy Cox and David Steele formed “Fine Young Cannibals” with lead singer, Roland Gift and had a few great albums that got a lot of airplay on the radio and in the clubs during the mid 80’s. Ranking Roger currently fronts his own version of the band called “The Beat” in England.
Dave has lived in California for years, has two adult children, plays often in local venues and stays politically active. Dave’s unique way of playing the guitar (left-handed and strung upside down even though he is right handed) and his use of the Vox Phantom “teardrop” shaped model makes him a stand out on the stage. He admits that he learned how to play the guitar the wrong way. CLICK HERE for a great interview with Dave on Songfacts.
The show on November 12th in Clearwater, Florida, the American metamorphosis of the English Beat did not disappoint old fans! The Capitol Theater is a great venue for music and even though the place was perhaps 80% filled, everyone there was dancing and singing along. Dave Wakeling says this current lineup is the “hardest working band in ska.” The current lineup includes King Schascha as the “Toaster” on vocals, Matt Morrish on sax and vocals, Kevin Lum on keyboards and vocals (Dave called him the musical director), Jeffrey Connor on keyboards and vocals and Brian “Nucci” Cantrell on drums. They played the classics, a few covers and some of their new offerings. The crowd went crazy and sang along when they played “Save it for Later,” “Mirror in the Bathroom, “Hands Off She’s Mine” and “I Confess.” The old songs are all timeless and danceable hits. Dave Wakeling makes it so obvious that he continues to play for the sheer joy of it! Can’t wait to hear more!
“Here We Go Love,” the English Beat’s current album is being completely crowdfunded.
CLICK HERE to get more info and to pledge!
If this band is coming to your town, don’t miss them. UPCOMING TOUR INFO.
The English Beat in 1982-“Save It For Later”, “Mirror In The Bathroom” and “Too Nice To Talk To”
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