Making a stop in Grass Valley as part of its jam-packed U.S. tour, The English Beat will perform its timeless music for audiences at the Center for the Arts Friday.
In the 1990s, Dave Wakeling left the music industry for a time to devote five years to the organization Greenpeace. It was Elvis Costello who encouraged him to return to the stage.
“This Greenpeace and anti-Apartheid stuff is all well and good, but your place is on the stage, Wakeling, and you know it,” Costello told him.
In February 2003, the band reunited for a UK tour, culminating in a sold-out performance at the prestigious Royal Festival Hall. In 2011 The English Beat performed at a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony in Cleveland, where Wakeling’s trademark teardrop-shaped guitar is on display.
The Beat hailed from late 1970s working class, industrial Birmingham, England. When they rushed onto the music scene in 1979, it was a time of social, political and musical upheaval. The original band consisted of Dave Wakeling on vocals and guitar, Andy Cox on guitar, David Steele on bass and Everett Morton on drums. Later, a black punk named Ranking Roger, known for his Jamaican rapping over punk tracks, and First Wave Ska legend “Saxa” (Lionel Augustus Martin) joined with his saxophone to complete the outfit.
The multi-racial band fluidly crossed over between soul, reggae, pop and punk, forming an infectious dance rhythm. Along with their contemporaries, The Specials, The Selecter and Madness, the band became an overnight sensation and one of the most popular and influential bands of the British Two Tone Ska movement. Ska is a music genre that originated in Jamaica in the late 1950s and was the precursor to rocksteady and reggae. Ska combines elements of Caribbean mento and calypso with American jazz and rhythm and blues.
By Christmas of 1979, just nine months after the band formed, The Beat had a Top 10 hit with its first single, a reworking of the Smokey Robinson classic “Tears of a Clown.” Upon the realization that there was already a band called The Beat in America, the band changed its name to The English Beat. Over the course of the next five years, The English Beat toured relentlessly and released three studio albums: “I Just Can’t Stop It,” “Wh’appen” and “Special Beat Service.”
The band toured the world with big names like David Bowie, The Police, REM, The Clash, The Talking Heads, The Pretenders, and The Specials. The English Beat produced hits like “Mirror in the Bathroom,” “Save it for Later,” “I Confess, Stand Down Margaret” and the cover of “Can’t Get Used To Losing You.”
Producer Bob Sargeant opposed the use of synthesizers, and because of that, The English Beat has maintained a timeless sound, say fans. A string quartet from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London performed, “Save It for Later.”
“They were serious professional classical musicians. Now the proof is in the pudding. The songs don’t sound particularly dated, and they don’t sound as old as the songs that were trying to be terribly modern at the time,” said Wakeling.
Friday’s show begins at 8 p.m. at the Center for the Arts, 315 Main St. in Grass Valley. Tickets are $35 for members, $40 for non-members and can be purchased at the Center for the Arts, BriarPatch Co-op or online at http://thecenterforthearts.org/tickets/.
For more about the group, go to www.englishbeat.net. For more details on the show, visit www.thecenterforthearts.org. For more about the group, go to http://englishbeat.net. For more details on the show, visit http://thecenterforthearts.org.