It was 1984 and videos had just begun to kill the radio star.
MTV had approximately 30 videos in which they would play in heavy rotation to the point where you could easily memorize their setlist by the hour.
It was during this time that I first experienced 2-tone Ska band, The English Beat.
The video for their hit single, I Confess, eased itself into the music video channel's rotation showcasing the bands trademark fusion of ska, new wave and soul intertwined with Dave Wakeling's unmistakable vocal tones and lyrics about fallen relationships and heartache.
"Just out of spite, I confess I've ruined three lives
Now don't sleep so tight
Because I didn't care 'til I found out that one of them was mine."
Although the hit was originally released in the UK in 1982 on the bands third and final album, Special Beat Service and The Beat had already gained a massive UK following since their inception in 1979--the video, which in turn sparked a hit single (this happened alot in the 80s), now catapulted the success of the band here in the United States.
With three albums under their belt (I Just Can't Stop It (1980), Wha'ppen? (1981) and Special Beat Service (1982)) and just beginning to take the U.S. by storm touring with the likes of David Bowie, The Police, Talking Heads and The Clash--The English Beat decided to call it quits in 1983.
Soon after the breakup, Dave and fellow bandmate/toaster, Ranking Roger, went on to form the pop band, General Public
("Tenderness"), while the remaining members went on to form The Fine Young Cannibals ("She Drives Me Crazy").
Over the years, Dave and his band have continued touring as "The English Beat" here in the U.S., while Roger and his band have continued on as "The Beat" in the UK.
I hate to sound cliche and say that Dave was a really nice guy during the interview--but he really was!
He's got a sense of humor that won't quit, which brought an overall good vibe to the table and several interesting on the road stories - so I guess I can forgive him for being an Aston Villa F.C. supporter.....kidding! :)
At one point during the interview, Dave played us a clip of a new acoustic song he'd recorded just a few days prior called, "Love You Give".
Just watching this artist, whose music I've admired for years and who has performed and written songs for the past 30 yrs, still have so much passion for creating new music and getting it out to the public, was truly awesome to see.
James and I chilled with the living legend, to find out about new music from the band, The Pogo vs. The Pit, whether we'll ever see Ranking Roger and him share the stage again and more!
S&S proudly presents, Dave Wakeling.
S&S: (Dave had his laptop backstage and wanted to see what SoulsandSounds.com was all about, so we showed him our homepage which featured a preview or "prep" to his Harlow's show, including the video for I Confess ).
When you did these videos back in the 80s, did you give any input or were the concepts up to some director with some artistic view?
Dave: Some of them we did. That I Confess one was just a hodgepodge, it was just to make the band look good. I wanted to be Heathcliff and we wanted to pretend as if we were being some very serious New Romantic band doing this overly romantic video. People thought I was trying to be "80s" or something out of Duran Duran! NOOO, that was not the point. (laughs) But I was trying to be Heathcliff, that's why I've got the cape on....
With some of them, you think you've got a good story, then you'd get the video back and be like "WHAT is that!?" But then my mom would see it and be like "your eyes look smashing in that one! That's my favorite, you look lovely!" (laughs)
S&S: What's going on with English Beat currently? Any new songs or new albums in the works?
Dave: Yes. Actually, I've just recorded two acoustic demos that we've got in the set. I think they will be included in an EP. We're thinking we may do a proper 4-song vinyl EP, then maybe a digital download of it that would include some live tracks.
In fact, writer Dave Eggars is doing an acoustic album of all different songwriters and he asked me to record something. So just this Monday I recorded two live acoustic tunes. Guitar and vocals at the same time. I did about two or three takes of each one and they're a little bit ruff but they sound like organic versions of the songs. I've captured the spirit of these tunes and I'm pleased because now he likes both of the songs to the point where he can't decide which one to put on the LP and might end up with both!
S&S: Would it be released on the internet only?
Dave: If it was down to me, I wouldn't have it on the internet to start with. I'd like to have it as vinyl you could buy at gigs only. So if you came to a concert it would be sort of a solid artifact that you could tie to going that gig. But I think if I did that, the first person who bought it would stick it on the internet anyway (laughs)! Once the cats out of the bag , you're really not in control of it anymore.
S&S: Do you monitor and/or maintain the English Beat websites yourself? And see your fans feedback?
Dave: Oh yes! I'm fascinated by it all. I'm on Facebook and Myspace. I have a friend who helps with the Myspace one...Laura, "The Beat Mistress". It's proven really useful, to be honest.
S&S: Going back in time, back to your influences. When were you first introduced to Ska music?
Dave: My first experience with ska was at football games. It was the skinhead music of the early-70s. All those Tighten Up albums. They would play them before the teams came on to keep the skinheads happy.
S&S: The English Beat came out in the late 70's, the high point of punk in England. How did you guys not get into the punk scene? It was raging at that time.
Dave: We did! We were fans and went to alot of punk shows. The Midlands seemed to explode with the post-punk thing, but if you've noticed there wern't many punk bands out of Birmingham. Then all of a sudden from '78, there was The Beat, Dexy's Midnight Runners and UB40 at the same time. We liked Wire alot and we liked The Clash, The Buzzcocks and The Undertones.
I liked the catchy 3-minute pop-single side of punk, but I didn't like what followed in the decay of it in '78, when it was just "Oi"--when The Pogo turned into The Pit. The Pogo was a very cooperative dance, a bit like The Wahtoosy in that it didn't really get that violent, even with all the speeding going on, it was more hijinks and cooperative.
Daves guest - Beat Street Team member: It was like all of a sudden jocks got invloved.
Dave: Right! Like NFL training got mixed in and all of a sudden the shoulders were going in with a mixture of that Hells Angels dance where they smash shoulders together. All of a sudden people were bleeding doing The Pogo!
S&S: In regards to Ranking Roger, is there any possibility of him joining back with you and The English Beat?
Dave: We tried it. Just a few years ago I went to England and did some shows with him. The single biggest problem is living 6,000 miles apart. It cost about 10 Grand to do a rehearsal and if you're working weekends, which we both tend to do, then one of you have to fly 6,000 miles to do two gigs and fly 6,000 miles back. So that's all the money from those two gigs.
We tried to do something just even a couple years ago, but now we've both got full lineups who pay their rent by being in the group. So if me and Roger work together, at least six guys lose their job that weekend--so that would be a real problem. We just left it as "you never say never". For the moment, I'm only working in America and Canada and there's tons of work to do. Mainly, Roger is working in England but I told him if he ever wanted to come over and do some shows, he'd be welcomed. There's always a place at the table.
Dave's guest - Beat Street Team member: I think I read or heard an interview with you were you talked about seeing his shows over there and Roger's band members had seen your lineup perform over here and were very impressed with it?
Dave: Oh yeah, well it's friendly now. It was competitive to start with--which just pushed both bands to get better. Also, the groups sound different. They sound more like an English punk revival. I think our version sounds a bit more like American soul, snazz? Which I think is appropriate really because when we started the group in England, I didn't want it to sound like it came from Kingston, Jamaica in 1963. I wanted it to sound like it came from Birmingham in 1979.
And now we all live in California, so I don't tell these guys to "make it sound like it came from England" (laughs).
We're playing in a style that I think connects to the audience we're playing in front of.
Interesting Note: Dave, a participant of many charitable causes over the years (including working full-time for Greenpeace during his short break from music), is big fan of public radio talk shows and their effort to give you the real news with continuous follow-ups. He mentioned actually thinking of coordinating several charity concerts to raise money for public radio stations!