The English Beat: Ska tunes and dancing for all ages at the Cal-Neva Resort July 16
Crystal Bay, Nev. and#8212;-The English Beat frontman Dave Wakeling hails from a blue collar hood in Birmingham, England. And he has a hankering to do something about the bees.
and#8220;As I understand it, 30 percent of our produce is pollinated by bees, no bees equals no human beings,and#8221; Wakeling told the Sierra Sun. Wakeling’s latest idea to fuse compassion, community and ska? The English Bees.
and#8220;I’ll ask Sting, I bet he’d do it.and#8221;
When the first genesis of The English Beat mixed upbeat tempos and walking bass lines of Caribbean ska with hard driving punk and political lyrics in 1978, racial tensions and unemployment were high and social unrest hot in the UK. They were part of the Two Tone Wave in the mod-punk-ska world: rising from the 1950s origins of Jamaican ska, adding global flair with Saxa, a Jamaican saxaphonist, hard hitting vocalist Ranking Roger, a longtime punk rock fan, Andy Cox on guitar, David Steele on bass and Everett Morton
The band pounded out three records, and#8220;I Just Can’t Stop It,and#8221; and#8220;Wha’ppen?and#8221; and and#8220;Special Beat Service,and#8221; touring with the Pretenders, the Clash and the Police, then dominating stages solo.
and#8220;’Save It For Later’ and and#8216;Mirror in the Bathroom’ are tied for first place,and#8221; said Renegade Production’s music promoter Robbie Polomsky of his favorite English Beat songs. and#8220;Tears of a Clown,and#8221; a Smokey Robinson remake, is another favorite in the English Beat’s repertoire.
They’ll be whipping out old favs and a few covers for this weekend’s Cal-Neva show in Crystal Bay, Nev. The band plays about 150 shows a year, never using a set list.
and#8220;None of us know what’s coming,and#8221; said Wakeling. and#8220;We read the crowd, maybe a fast song to break the ice, or a slow one for the crowd to catch its breath.and#8221;
Wakeling finds Tahoe to be a healthy place, where skiing and ska use a similar action: the knees. Get ready your skinny skirts, girls. Wakeling thinks and#8220;ski bunniesand#8221; can handle a furious pace.
Renegade Productions brings the English Beat to the Tahoe-Truckee area for the sixth time Saturday, July 16, (the band’s played Tahoe 11 times) at the Cal-Neva Resort in Crystal Bay.
The English Beat is remastered with Wakeling front and center. The original band broke up in 1983, with Wakeling and Ranking Roger forming General Public in America with Stoker (drums) and Mickey Billingham (keyboards) of Dexy’s Midnight Runners, Horace Panter (bass) of the Specials, and former Clash guitarist Mick Jones to formed General Public. Cox and Steele developed Fine Young Cannibals.
Wakeling now heads up the North American version of the English Beat, keeping danceable tunes with a universal beat and a message of love a priority.
and#8220;It’s worked very well, the combination of upbeat music, even when the lyrics address the darker side of the human condition,and#8221; said Wakeling.
and#8220;It’s a good representation of our lives, no one is always happy or always sad. The combination’s kept them coming.and#8221;
The English Beat has traveled about a decade together and encompasses the role tragedy plays in all our lives. At the halfway point on lifes’ timeline, Wakeling has the confidence to say what he feels and bring up uncomfortable subjects. and#8220;Now, we can giggle at our own misfortunes,and#8221; he said.
The tension in the world is escalating and Wakeling feels it. He reads about global affairs from many sources, sighting the BBC and NPR. and#8220;It’s best to get a bit of a blend, really,and#8221; said Wakeling in his chippy English accent.
and#8220;Read about 10-12 reports, then take out the extremes.and#8221;
He’s worried about the bees, and other bad signs, like oxygen abandoning the oceans.
and#8220;They can use fear and denial (too keep the public blind), but we are killing the planet,and#8221; said Wakeling. and#8220;As we rape and pillage the earth, we’ll become as desperate as drowning folks.and#8221;
From his home base in the hills of L.A., where he enjoys year-round spring-like weather, Wakeling observes American culture. and#8220;It’s an interesting experience, Americans have an independent streak, which prevents moving like a team. Will we go searching for water together or bite each
other’s throats and drink the blood?and#8221;
Seeing we can’t buy our way out of a depression, Wakeling envisions we will learn to be twice as happy with half as much. and#8220;Something like helping people might cheer you up.and#8221;
Wakeling likens his music to a bit of cheering up the troops. He’s not just whistling Dixie, either. The first English Beat donated all the profits from the popular release and#8220;Stand Down Margaretand#8221; to the Committee for Nuclear Disarmament. Wakeling, after the 1983 break up, continued his philanthropic efforts by producing the Greenpeace album and#8220;Alternative NRG,and#8221; with a powerhouse of performers, including REM, UB40 and Annie Lenox, recording in 14 venues with a truck powered by solely by solar energy. It was a statement about possibilities.
Wakeling, whose career is burgeoning, has always welcomed the real-world effect on his songwriting. and#8220;I can say what I like, I’m old.and#8221; To think he has come to fruition? Naive.
As a young boy, he watched black and white and#8220;telleand#8221; and saw people in war killing each other. and#8220;If killing works, it would have worked by now. It irritated me we haven’t stopped,and#8221; he quipped.
On the flip side of the coin, Wakeling says: and#8220;The love you give should have lasted forever.and#8221;
Like the timeless waves of ska, the English Beat are keeping pace and spreading the love. They play all-ages shows, like the one at Cal Neva, sending 16 to 60-year-olds to twist and shout on the dance floor together.
and#8220;It is an example of how we are all one, and to see all different people, all different colors, all ages, dancing the same steps, I like it,and#8221; said Wakeling.
The English Beat embodies a global flair, with white, black and Asian in the mix. Touring now are Dave Wakeling, lead vocals, guitar; Rhythm Epkins, drums, vocals; Wayne Lothian, bass, vocals; Antonee First Class, toaster; Raynier Jacildo, keys, vocals and Matt Morrish, sax, vocals. These guys click, click, click, often communicating with a mere glance while they toss out offbeat staccato drum rim tempos, scritchy scratch guitar and the jumping, reverberating sax solos.
All this energy lands in the Frank Sinatra Showroom, chock full of Frank and Rat Pack history with a huge stage and three levels for optimum viewing.
and#8220;The room is acoustically perfect,and#8221; said Polomski.
The English Beat has the requisite scritchy scratch guitar, offbeat tickety staccato drum rim pulse and the reverberating, glowful sax. It’s going to be a flash back to New Wave at the Cal-Neva.
and#8220;Everyone will be dancing. How could you not?and#8221; Polomski said.