Dave Wakeling The Beat Goes OnWritten by Matteo Sedazzari
In the early 70’s in the UK, there was a great deal of debate across the land whether there was life on Mars. However in certain parts of the country where job prospects looked barren for young and old alike, the matter of paying the rent took precedence over such trifling discussions.
In these deprived regions of the UK, where decent opportunities were rare, any young person with artist flair would either go to college, or work in a menial job and fantasise their day away, similar to Billy Liar. Daydreaming of being a rock star or a contender. Birmingham born Dave Wakeling was one of the dreamers.
In 1976, the UK witnessed the punk explosion. The mainstream media cited it as an evil force, corrupting the young. Whilst the youth of Britain stood back in shock and amazement as the punk movement swept across the land.
Kids turned out in their droves to hear the latest punk band play at their nearest venue. At some of the gigs, in between the bands, reggae records would be played to the speeding crowd. The crossover of Jamaican beats and power chord anthems caught many a young person’s imagination. As it did with Dave Wakeling.
A natural cycle, of yesterdays audience becoming tomorrows bands, was to follow the punk movement. The West Midlands being a predominant area for those new bands.
In order to create a new and unique sound, the new bands fused their memories of those hot sweaty nights back in 1976 with records they played alone in their bedroom, such as Bob Marley, Tim Buckley, and Van Morrison.
As the music started to take shape the angry young front man, like Dave Wakeling would write songs that captured the mood of the time. Whilst the rhythm section worked hard on creating a backbeat sound similar to the musicians from Jamaica.
Wishing to be smarter in terms of dress sense then their punk predecessors, the new bands kidnapped mod and skinhead attire. The British ska movement was born. With Birmingham based The Beat as one of its pioneers.
With their unique blend of pop, punk, soul, reggae, and conscious songs, The Beat went on to become a highly successful band in the late 70’s and early 80’s, spawning hits like `Mirror In the Bathroom`, `Best Friend` and many more. Moreover they released 3 chart topping albums I Just Can’t Stop It, Whappen, and Special Beat Service.
The Beats success grew globally, as they toured the world with artists such as The Police, The Clash, REM and David Bowie. In the US, The Beat had to change their name to The English Beat, to avoid copyright infringement with an existing US group. Then in 1983 the Beat called it a day. From the spilt, two successful bands emerged. The Fine Young Cannibals and Dave Wakeling’s and Ranking Rogers outfit, General Public.
General Public offered more a polished soulful sound than The Beat. General Public then spilt in 1996 and reformed in 1998. In addition The Beat, minus two key members, reformed in 2003 for a one off gig. In between bands, Dave Wakeling has pursued a successful solo career.With each musical transition, Dave Wakeling has always been the focus of attention and interest. Whether for his dashing good looks, soulful voice or cognisant views. Dave Wakeling is definitely an interesting man, and dare we say it, a pop legend. Certainly worthy of an interview with ZANI.
With his former partner in crime Ranking Roger touring the UK with The New English Beat, Dave Wakeling (now a US resident, living in Los Angeles) has returned to Blighty with his group, The English Beat. He is the sole original surviving member of The Beat in the group.
ZANI caught up with Dave Wakeling after supporting INXS, (yes we know a strange combination) at the Hammersmith Apollo. We wanted to discuss his journey from the rain drenched streets of Birmingham to the Californian sunshine, and much more.
ZANI – How did the current tour with INXS go?
Dave Wakeling – It was only a handful of dates. It was meant to start off as a tour, but I think INXS are going through some sort of disillusionment. So everything has fallen apart for them. The Beat just tagged along. But it has been good, because the main things that I wanted to achieve, I did.
ZANI – Which were?
Dave Wakeling – To play Birmingham and London in a good venue. And to show off my new band
ZANI – Thats right. You played the Birmingham Symphony Hall. I understand this has been a lifelong ambition for you. Did the gig live up to expectations or was it a letdown?
Dave Wakeling – It was better than my expectations. Birmingham Symphony Hall is a beautiful place, and it sounded great. For years everyone has being telling me, that you could hear a pin drop in the hall, which is a shame, as we don’t do much pin dropping in the set.
But before the gig I borrowed a pin off my sister, and halfway through the set I got the crowd quiet. And I said, Listen to this, beautiful as I dropped the pin. Let’s do that again, if you want to dance that’s fine. But for this next song will everyone get there pins out please, everyone was cracking up.
ZANI – So I take it, that it was a nice homecoming gig?
Dave Wakeling – Yeah it was. We got a few of Ranking Rogers crowd there. They all went away stunned saying blimey that’s in a different league
ZANI – Whilst we are on the subject of Birmingham, Aston Villa or Birmingham City?
Dave Wakeling – Villa, I'm from South Birmingham( Blues country) but my Dad and Granddad were Villa fans. Its hard bouncing between the leagues with the blues.
ZANI – I thought this season with Martin O’Neill at the helm, you were going to do some good. But Villa haven’t really hit form yet.
Dave Wakeling – Hopefully next season we will. I just met Villas new owner Randy Learner. I think he’s going to make a big difference, just like he did with Cleveland Browns.
ZANI – Happy days then?
Dave Wakeling – Let’s hope so.
ZANI – I understand that the tour with INXS came about, because The Beat and INXS share the same management. What was the camaraderie like between bands during the tour?
Dave Wakeling – It was very nice. They gave us all hugs after the show in Birmingham saying how great we were.
ZANI – Did The Beat and INXS discuss about doing a closing number together?
Dave Wakeling – No.
ZANI – It didn't go that far in terms of friendship?
Dave Wakeling – Nope, and I am pleased about that. Their new singer isn’t much good. He’s no Michael Hutchins.
ZANI – Did INXS talk much about Michael?
Dave Wakeling – No, I don’t think you are allowed to mention him.
ZANI – Taboo subject then?
Dave Wakeling – Not really sure, but we didn't bring him up. But the new bloke can’t dance or sing like him.
ZANI – I wasn’t a big INXS fan, but Michael Hutchence had a certain charisma. A dying breed of rock stars in tight leather trousers.
Dave Wakeling – A dying breed, which got hung up. Ha!
ZANI – Easy. Let’s go back to your return to England. What hidden gems of old blighty have you rediscovered? I mean clichés like fish and chips, and people moaning about the weather.
Dave Wakeling – All that, and haddock and chips. The art of the overused cliché in England is terrific. But If I hear one more person, tell me that something is as rare as rocking horse shit, I will fucking hit them.
ZANI – To you, has England changed much?
Dave Wakeling – Yes it has, but not in a good way. Thatcher won – Margaret Thatcher has completely won. Everybody is scared to death, and everyone is looking for the next easy penny. Everybody is talking about being at the bottom of the property ladder. Young conservatives rule the world.
What the fuck happened to the hippie revolution or the punk revolution? She won. However there seems to be a disbelief in the power structure in the UK and I don’t think real people are going to stand for this shit for much longer. `God Save The Queen` is bigger than ever, and it’s a bigger joke than ever before.
ZANI – I agree, and I hope you’re right about the revolution. OK, let’s go back to start. Before you joined The Beat, were you a kid waiting for something to happen, or did you know at an early age that being in a band was the career of your choice?
Dave Wakeling – I always dreamt of being in a group. I never thought it would ever happen. It was a dream. I never thought I would get to this stage
ZANI – What fashion trends did you follow during this period?
Dave Wakeling – In the late 60’s to the early 70’s, I was caught between the hippie and the skinhead movement. I had my hair cut so I didn't look like a straight at a hippie event, and I didn't look like a hippie at a skinhead event. It was a good haircut.
ZANI – What music were you listening to at the time?
Dave Wakeling – I liked Van Morrison, Captain Beefheart, Tim Buckley, and skinhead reggae. Their music inspired me to write songs and then punk happened. The timing was perfect. Apart from Bob Marley and the reggae bands that I liked, the rest of the early 70’s were rock bands that I hated.
But I still thought it was dream to be in band. Then groups liked The Buzzcocks, and The Undertones started. I thought, fuck, I can be in a band too
ZANI – Were you an accomplished guitarist before you joined a band?
Dave Wakeling – No, I am still not.
ZANI – Just three chords and the truth?
Dave Wakeling – Its two chords and the truth with me.
ZANI – Your first musical partner in crime was guitarist Andy Cox in 1978. How did that meeting come about?
Dave Wakeling – We were at a further education college together. When we found out that each other played the guitar, we decided to have a jam one lunchtime.
I went to the jam with my guitar back to front, and upside down. I had taught myself how to play but I didnt have a clue how to put the guitar strings the right way up. Andy got his guitar out of his case, and said You are holding that the wrong way round. No I don’t think so, Andy said and that was the start of a long relationship.
ZANI – How did you find the other members of the band?
Dave Wakeling – Andy and me found bass player David Steele in the Isle of Wight, then we came back to Birmingham and found Everett Morgan the drummer.
ZANI – What were you and David Steele doing in Isle of Wight?
Dave Wakeling – We moved to Isle of Wight to build solar panels for Andy Cox’s brother in law, Hale Harvey. Hale had retired from being a heart surgeon, and was exploring alternative lifestyles with his amassed fortune. We used our "getting it together in the country" time to put together the first songs Andy and me had written in Birmingham.
ZANI – That’s a nice story.
Dave Wakeling – After we found Everett, we worked for many months rehearsing the songs. We had been gigging for some time before Ranking Roger jumped on stage to toast and sing backing vocals. So originally the band was a four piece before we added Roger and Saxa, the sax player.
ZANI – Was The Beat, the first choice name for the band, or did you experiment with different names before you settled for The Beat?
Dave Wakeling – No, The Beat was our first choice.
ZANI – Thats what I like, a short but sweet answer. So how did the name The Beat, come about?
Dave Wakeling –I was looking through Rogets Thesaurus and I looked up music, which had harmony and discord. On the discord side, I saw clash, then I saw slam, which I thought said sham.
So I was wondering what was on the harmony side, and the first thing I saw was beat. I was like fucking hell, why isn’t anyone calling themselves the beat. I thought it was because of The Beatles, and every one had shied away from it.
ZANI – Unknown to you and the UK, there was The Beat in the US, sometimes known as The Paul Collins Beat in the UK. Therefore, for legal reasons in the US, you had to change your name. Did you like the idea of having to change your name from The Beat to The English Beat?
Dave Wakeling – It was ok. The English Beat was a better choice than Beat UK, or British Beat, which the record label wanted. We first picked Beat Bros, but the label said it sounded like an r'n'b act. One morning we saw English muffins on New York breakfast menu, and guessed Americans thought the word English was cute.
ZANI – Going back to the original concept of the name. I always thought The Beat was homage to The Beatles. Like saying, Liverpool had the Fab Four, and now Birmingham has the Magnificent Six.
Dave Wakeling – That’s a nice theory but you’re wrong mate.
ZANI – Yes, I know that now, but I’m talking when I first heard the name. Now I see it as a conglomerate of musical genres, reggae, punk, and soul.
Dave Wakeling – That’s right. We wanted a mixing pot of musical beats.
ZANI – Were you the leader in deciding the bands direction?
Dave Wakeling - We all had say in the running of the band, what I mean is that David, Andy and me did. I mouthed off loads of ideas, David added ideas and stopped the crap ideas. Andy waited and would say nothing until it was the last minute. He didnt like to say anything that might be called wrong.
ZANI – Sounds a great combination of like-minded people.
Dave Wakeling – It was.
ZANI – Before we carry on, I would just like to mention that the white Vox Teardrop guitar which you played with The Beat and General Public, has been inducted in Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of fame. Was this a combination of sadness and pride to see your six string go?
Dave Wakeling – I was really crying the morning after the indication. However I am over that now. Nevertheless, I am proud for it to be in the Rock and Roll hall of fame. But I’ve got two copies of the guitar now, to remind of the original Teardrop.
ZANI – Was it Brian Jones usage of the Teardrop, that inspired you to get the same guitar?
Dave Wakeling – Yes it was. Brian Jones was always my favourite Rolling Stone.
ZANI – Whys that?
Dave Wakeling – Cos he had blond hair. No because he was the most creative out of the Stones, and he was a dapper dresser.
ZANI – Whilst you were waiting for The Beat to happen, what was your daytime occupation?
Dave Wakeling – A few things. I was working in construction, mainly building sites. I used to like that sort of work, head down jobs. Clock on, switch off, and keep your thoughts to yourself. Use your arms to make your money. I could write whilst I was swinging a hammer, in the fresh air.
I also worked in clothes store for a little while, selling mod stuff, and Boy George worked next door selling, hmm girlie boys stuff at the Oasis market in Birmingham.
ZANI – In the sleeve notes of `The Best Of The Beat`, the Birmingham of your youth is described as failing Detroit. Would you say that is a fair comparison?
Dave Wakeling – Yeah it is. In the 70’s, Birmingham was very dreary. There was 17 per cent unemployment, all the car factories were closing down. There wasn’t any European common market money coming in. All in all, it was horrible.
But the people were all nicer because of it. There was a lot of good common sense, and homespun. Because the situation was so dismal, people tended to stick together a bit. Having a laugh, the humour at the time was very gallows.
ZANI – Suffering sometimes unites people.
Dave Wakeling –Very true.
ZANI – Tell us about the early gigs of The Beat and your first gig out of town?
Dave Wakeling – The early gigs were good fun. One Tuesday night were playing a residency gig at a pub in Birmingham. Jerry Dammers of The Specials, who were based in Coventry, approached us and said there’s a group called The Selector playing Blackpool this Thursday, would you like to come? So we went along and met up with a few more of The Specials. After the gig, Jerry asked us if we would like to support The Selector at the Hope and Anchor in London next week.
We went down to London to open the show for The Selector .We went down great. All the Specials and most of Madness were there. After the gig, Jerry Dammers said, we’ve got a new record label, Two Tone. Would you like to make a single Well, I think you know what the answer was. So from a Tuesday to a Saturday, we debuted in London, and were about make our first single.
ZANI – That’s not bad for a week’s work.
Dave Wakeling – Let’s put it this way, I’ve had worse weeks. We made the single in October, and by the time, we had finishing recording it, Two Tone mania was splashed all over the dailies and the music press.
Plus we had our label mates Madness and The Specials in the top ten. [Smashie and Nicey voice] And the next single from this tearaway, run away successful label, which is bound to be a big hit, is for these 5 perky young fellas from Birmingham called The Beat. [Smashie and Nicey voice]
ZANI – Did you think that the Two Tone label was the closest the UK has ever had to Motown or Stax?
Dave Wakeling – Yeah I suppose it was, but I was too busy with The Beat to even think about it at the time.
ZANI – Your first single was a classical reworking of Smokey Robertsons, Tears Of A Clown, with Ranking Full Stop on the flip side. Why did you kick-start your career with a cover version?
Dave Wakeling – To be honest we didnt mean to. Jerry Dammers wanted Mirror In The Bathroom, and we said yeah. By the way, he added, Chrysalis would want to own the rights of your first single for 5 years. Chrysalis even said we couldn’t put the single on our album. So we said fuck that. This went on for a couple weeks. So in the end, we said to Chrysalis you can have Tears Of A Clown. You can argue about ownership with Smokey Robinson.
ZANI – You made history by recording Mirror In The Bathroom as the first digital single and Just Can’t Stop It as the first digital album in the UK. How did that feel at the time?
Dave Wakeling – We were guinea pigs for Bronze Records. Uriah Heep had tried using the system they but were having problems. So we got the Roundhouse studio for half price. Digital was fantastic, except for a few pops now and then. Sounded brilliantly deep in the studio, but we lost a lot of bottom end mastering it to analogue disc. Never heard it like it was in the studio until London Records made new digital masters in 2000. Sounded so clean, we ran white or pink noise into the mixes to give it ambience
ZANI – When you performed your first single Tears Of A Clown on Top Of The Pops. Did you think that The Beat had arrived, or did you see the performance as part of the marketing process within the music industry?
Dave Wakeling – We thought The Beat had arrived. We thought it was fate, and funny as shit.
ZANI – Staying with your debut on Top Of The Pops. Where did Andy and Dave's mad dancing come from?
Dave Wakeling – Yeah there was Andys rubber legs and two step shuffle Dave. I had never seen Andy dance before, until that night. I reckon it was more like an intellectual interpretation of what it might be like if you have ever danced.
ZANI – I can sleep better now that you’ve cleared that one up for me.
Dave Wakeling – I’m pleased that I helped you with your insomnia. They carried on with their crazy dancing all the way through with The Fine Young Cannibals. Rubber Legs Cox, and Shuffle Step Steele. It became their trademark.
ZANI – Going back to your first label. The agenda of Two Tone was brilliant, unity amongst the races. The Black and White Revolution. However a lot of the Two Tone gigs were marred by attendance of right wing skinheads, bent on causing trouble. Did you witness a lot of trouble during this period?
Dave Wakeling – Yeah, we did. Thats why The Beat invented the Beat Girl. When we used to see a lot of the skinhead fights. I said it is because the Two Tone Man hasn’t got no one to show off to, other than his skinheads mates.
You know what it is like, when you’ve got a room full of blokes showing off to each other, you end up with a broken nose contest. But if you’ve got a nice looking girl in the room. You’ll be so busy showing off to the girl, you won’t have time to break each other’s noses.
Within 3 months of inventing The Beat Girl, we got loads of girls in Beat Girl costumes at our gigs. With all the skinheads showing off like crazy to the girls, we hardly had any fights after that.
ZANI – Let’s talk about Saxa, the last person to join The Beat. A man you had played saxophone with The Beatles and ska hero Prince Buster, to name a few. As I understand, it was the drummer Everett, who took the rest of The Beat see Saxa play in the Crompton pub, Handsworth. Did you know straight away he had to join the band?
Dave Wakeling – No, not really. We went a few times to see him play. It was when we decided to make Tears Of A Clown, we asked the barmy old geezer to play on the record. The night before we went into the studio, we invited Saxa to play at one of our gigs. After the show, Saxa said to us, this was the band he had been waiting to join all his life.
ZANI – Is it true that Saxa taught The Beat how to play?
Dave Wakeling – Ha no, the old codger. But you could say that Saxa taught The Beat a great deal about music. The spiritual impact on why you become a musician. What’s the purpose of doing a song in the first place? It’s about heart to heart, from your heart to the listeners heart. Thats what Saxa taught us, the connection within music.
ZANI – That’s a nice touch that Saxa bought to The Beat. After you left Two Tone, you formed Go Feet records. With the financial backing of Artisa records. How did you manage to get such an independent deal?
Dave Wakeling – It was independent and it wasn’t independent unfortunately. It was like having the ability to be at a slight distance from a major label. You could put your head in the lions mouth, but they weren’t allowed to bite it off. Instead they slowly closed their mouth and suffocated you over twelve to eighteen months.
ZANI – So still the same as a normal deal?
Dave Wakeling – Effectively yes. You just bought yourself a little bit of freedom.
ZANI – Focusing on the positive side of Go Feet. Who designed the artwork for the record label, and the Beat Girl?
Dave Wakeling – Hunt Emerson, he does Firkin The Cat and more. Top artist.
ZANI – Yes, a famous British cartoonist, still going strong. How did you meet him?
Dave Wakeling – He lived around the corner from me in Handsworth. The other day I was watching something on TV, about the Lunar Society in the 18th century. All these talented people like James Watt, Matthew Boulton, and Josiah Wedgwood. They used to meet in a pub in Birmingham every full moon.
It seemed to me in retrospect that this scene in and around Birmingham in the late 70’s, with UB40, Dexys Midnight Runners, Boy George, Hunt Emerson, and The Beat. We had all these talented people all bumping and banging in each other like the Lunar Society. A lot of good stuff came out of Birmingham during this period. Then Duran Duran came along, and finished if off
ZANI – Global success looked certain for The Beat. Then half way through a tour supporting David Bowie, the band spilt in 1983. Was there tension in The Beat or did you feel that the band had just run its course?
Dave Wakeling – There wasn’t any group tension. The group had given up, well the bass and the drums had given up on each other. To be more honest, the bass had given up on the drums. It was getting worse and worse on stage, it became difficult to sing to. So I thought I’d just book a tour in America for a few weeks. So we could get a few bob in our pockets, and get our heads together. But it didnt work out.
ZANI – You formed General Public with fellow band member Ranking Roger after the spilt. In the band were some heavyweight musicians, Mickey Billingham on keyboards, (Dexys Midnight Runners), Horace Panter on bass (The Specials), and Stoker on drums (Dexys Midnight Runners/The Bureau). But the biggest heavyweight of all was Mick Jones of The Clash, who played majority of the guitar on General Public’s debut album. Then he quit when the album was released, why did that happen?
Dave Wakeling – Because Mick wanted to do Big Audio Dynamite, and who can blame him? He never wanted to join General Public. I think Roger wanted him to join.
The deal was he would play guitar on the first General Public album and I would write some melodies for Big Audio Dynamites album. Which I did.
ZANI – How did the name of General Public come about?
Dave Wakeling – It was 1984, the year of Big Brother. Mrs Thatcher would often misuse the phrase The general public have made it quite clear. When a politician says the general public are saying something, the general public are usually the last people to know.
I thought with General Public, you got it as the downtrodden masses, and you got it as a military dictatorship. The image of a boot continually stamping on someone’s face, could be the bloke putting the boot in or the bloke getting his head stamped on.
ZANI – Was it General Publics aim to crack America?
Dave Wakeling – I really don’t know, and I didnt care to be honest. I just wrote songs. The Beat was ready to crack America, before The Beat cracked up. General Public sold more records in the States than The Beat, and The Fine Young Cannibals went all the way.
ZANI – Yet General Public never reached the same critical acclaim as The Beat, why do think that was?
Dave Wakeling – I think that socially The Beat said something about the times. It was more like blimey, I’ve never heard anything like that before. Whilst General Public and Fine Young Cannibals were a bit more traditional.
ZANI – You write songs from a deep conscious viewpoint combined with a great soulful melody. Would you feel that you have cheated yourself, if you wrote a throw away love song?
Dave Wakeling – There are many different purposes for songs. Some of it’s for fun, some of its for escapism, some of its for connecting. I don’t decry any of them. Sometimes the simplest sounding love song can be the most connective. What I try to do is to write something that is incredibly personal to me. But try and express it in a way that is universal.
ZANI – Who are your song writing heroes?
Dave Wakeling – David Bowie, Elvis Costello, before he got too wordy and The Buzzcocks.
ZANI – You’ve written many great songs, and an anthem that spoke to a generation, Whine & Grind/Stand Down Margaret. But I heard you never got the chance to sing the song about Tony Blair, because he doesn’t know how to stand up and at least Margaret Thatcher was a man. Is that right?
Dave Wakeling – Ha, I said at on stage at Birmingham. What I said was that Tony Blair never learnt to stand up.
ZANI – But what about Stand Down Gordon?
Dave Wakeling – I think I’ll give Gordon a chance, the benefit of the doubt. Following Tony Blair, he needs all the fucking help he can get.
ZANI – Since you first came into the public’s eye, you’ve been involved in bringing peoples attentions to issues within the world, especially Greenpeace. What drives you to do this?
Dave Wakeling – I don’t know, it was nothing out of the ordinary. It was just what people were talking about in bus stops and pubs. I just carried on talking about when I joined a band. Sometimes I even think the most political thing to do in the world, is to write 12 songs and not mention the politics of the day. That seems a more political statement to me, because you’ve got to be really hardnosed to ignore it.
ZANI – True, because you had the extreme, with bands like The Red Skins who wrote nothing but socialist driven songs.
Dave Wakeling – That’s why we ended up with Duran Duran as our claimant. You’d have Top Of The Pops with The Jam, The Beat, The Specials and Elvis Costello, all with a brand new song about unemployment.
A new upcoming band would say fuck that, lets write a song about being on a yacht with models in the Caribbean, dressed in our mothers clothes. So it was a band from Birmingham that went the other way.
ZANI – I have many guilty pleasures, but not Duran Duran.
Dave Wakeling – Nice blokes though Duran Duran.
ZANI – You took a break from being a front man in a band to focus on full time on Greenpeace. Is it true that during this period it was Elvis Costello that made you front a band again?
Dave Wakeling – He did .I took a load of friends from Greenpeace backstage at Irvine Meadows. I was showing off to them, that I knew Elvis Costello. I walked up to Elvis and said I’d like to introduce you, to some of the people I work with. Elvis replied I could knock yours and Jerry Dammers' heads together. I was stunned.
Elvis went on this anti-apartheid and Greenpeace stuff is all well and good. Your place is on the stage, and you know it. I looked at my mates rather sheepish, because Elvis Costello had just told me off in front of them.
ZANI – Sounds embarrassing. Recently we’ve seen many bands reform like The Police, and Crowded House with their original members. Also we’ve had other bands reform without some of the original key members such as The Jam, minus Paul Weller, INXS minus Michael Hutchence, and now The English Beat and The New English Beat. I don’t think Steele and Cox will ever perform as The Beat again, and Saxa is in his 80’s now. But do you think that you and Ranking Roger might get back together?
Dave Wakeling – You’re right about David and Andy, they ain’t interested. Saxa is well too old for this scene now. With Roger, I keep inviting him, at first he would say yes, than he would change his mind. My take on it is that he enjoys the power. Roger doesn’t want to share anything. He’s made all sorts of promises about sharing, and he’s broken every one of them.
We’ve invited Pato Banton, another Brummie to join the band. He sang with us at Birmingham. He’ll be singing with us on our summer tour of the States. Then we are making an album, which may have Pato on it. Well go from there after that.
ZANI – So you’ve closed to the door to Rankin Roger?
Dave Wakeling – It’s happened too many times, it’s not worth it anymore. Plus I’m more excited by Pato’s lyrics than Rogers.
ZANI – Who actually owns The Beats name? You have yours and Ranking Rogers Beat Projects. Before that, there was The Special Beat and Saxa’s & Everett’s International Beat. Why no court cases to date?
Dave Wakeling – I don’t know why. I own the name The English Beat in America. I don’t mind Roger borrowing my songs, but when he tried to steal the name, I had to put my foot down and trademark the name. At the moment, I don’t know what is going to happen with the name The Beat in England.
ZANI – Tell us about the new shows. What can new and old fans expect?
Dave Wakeling – The tour with INXS was a greatest hits show, and jump off stage quick. At other gigs, we play a ton of new songs, a ton of Beat songs, and a ton of General Public songs. We’ve got a wide enough selection of songs, that if someone shouts out a name of a song, well play it.
ZANI – How long have you been living in the USA, and how did that move come about?
Dave Wakeling – Went over there to make a record, I’ve always loved it over there. The sun is shining. Then my Mrs fell in love with a photographer, and wanted to move to London. So I took the opportunity to stay out there. Met a girl, fell in love and we’ve been together for seventeen years. Got two beautiful kids and an ocean view house, so it didnt turn out too bad.
ZANI – Tell us about your favourite charity Smile Train?
Dave Wakeling – Smile Train fixes kid faces with cleft lips and cleft palates, in the third world. They’ve got the price of $250.00 to fix their problem, which gives a kid a whole new opportunity of life. They learn to speak, they have a chance to be good at school, to meet other kids, smile and get out of the house.
So when we normally play the General Publics song, Tenderness in the States, we ask the audience to throw money on stage for Smile Train. Most nights we raise over $500.00, enough for two smiles. We’ve been doing it for 3 months now, and we’ve raised over $12,000. The Beat has bought over 50 smiles.
ZANI – Nice one.
Dave Wakeling – Thank you.
ZANI – If you could form a Ska/Two Tone supergroup, who would be in it?
Dave Wakeling – Lynval Golding of The Specials. We played with him last year, it was great. Ill have Rhoda Dakar and Jennie Bellstar in it. With the Two Tone lot, its more down to what their intentions are. Anyone with a good spirit can come along. If you are going to come along and whine, than don’t bother.
ZANI – Finally Dave, what makes you happy?
Dave Wakeling – Life really. Life is tragic, but life is also beautiful. If I remember both of those, I also realise what a gift I have. To be able sing my songs that I wrote to cheer myself up and connect to other people. Thats the greatest gift I’ve been given.
Dave Wakeling has certainly taken advantage of the gift he has been given. The music he has created has inspired and enlightened many people over the years.
It would be fair to say that there are two forceful sides to David’s personality that conflict, overlap, and intertwine in harmony. Dave Wakeling the entertainer and the Dave Wakeling the philosopher. Both are appealing, and could not exist without each other, Yin and Yang. This is what makes Dave Wakeling as a performer and as a person, interesting and inviting.
It may have been bands like The Undertones and The Buzzcocks during the heyday of punk that sparked a flame within Dave Wakeling to form a group. Nevertheless, if it had not been for punk, then something or someone would have given him the inspiration to chase a dream. Be it a writer, an actor, a painter, or any career that would have given him creative freedom.
However as Elvis Costello once said his place is on the stage. Therefore Dave Wakeling made the right choice, and has remained the captain of his destiny ever since. It was just the youthful Dave Wakeling needed direction to fulfil his true potential.
Witnessing Dave with The English Beat perform at The Hammersmith Apollo, you see a man that is very much in control. The self-belief and determination oozes out with each song. Backstage he is no different. There is no transformation from stage persona to backstage drama queen. Dave Wakeling enjoys the banter, the joviality, the unity, and the hard work that comes with being in a band. With his dry Birmingham gallows humour shining through.
The creative community of the West Midlands, which Dave Wakeling stemmed from, will always have a special place in his heart. As he knows, it’s this commune that has him helped on his journey from the back streets of Birmingham to Los Angeles. An excursion in which he was witnessed many things, like the job prospects in his hometown improving. However, Dave Wakeling (and the world) still doesn’t know for certain, whether there is life on Mars.
©Matteo Sedazzari / ZANI