The English Beat Preps Its First Album in More Than 30 Years
There's no mistaking the popping horns, staccato guitar licks and gritty lyrics pushing the infectious dance groove that's the English Beat Now, some 30-plus years after the band's last proper release (there have been at least a half-dozen hits albums), Here We Go Love is being readied.
"I can't believe how good it's coming out. It's fantastic," says Dave Wakeling, the band's founder (when the band was simply the Beat).
The album, originally slated for an October release, was pushed back because of an increased demand worldwide in vinyl production. The album will be pressed in the Czech Republic.
"How weird is that?" he asks, laughing.
Always the optimist, Wakeling sees the early 2016 pushback as an opportunity to work on perfecting the album while road-testing some of the 13 songs as well.
"I've been playing these [new songs at] live gigs and then going back into the studio. It's been helpful," he says. "I've also been playing the rough mixes off the stage before or after the show. People are dancing like crazy to them, and they don't even know it's us. Then they say, 'Wait, I know this!' and they start pointing at me.
"There probably wasn't time to finish the album anyway," he adds. "I'd have to have left it for someone else to do the mix, which I don't want to do. It's probably all for the best."
Those hoping to hear snippets of the new tracks before the band arrives in Scottsdale can visit the English Beat's Facebook page or www.pledgemusic.com/theenglishbeat, where clips are posted from the upcoming album.
Wakeling first discovered ska music — the backbone of the English Beat — as it played before soccer matches "to keep the skinheads distracted." Also a fan of punk and 1960s psychedelic pop, Wakeling sought to merge the disparate sounds into a danceable form.
"Coming from Birmingham [England], I wanted the industrial angst of the Velvet Underground but with the spirit of Toots and The Maytals," he says. "I wanted fairly heavy lyrics, but I wanted the music syncopated for the joy of dancing."
Though years removed from the Beat's 1980 debut, Wakeling's music remains politically relevant. The settings may have changed slightly, but tracks like "Stand Down Margaret" (from that debut), "Get a Job" and "I Am Your Flag" (from Wha'ppen) work equally well today. A new track, "If Killing Worked It Would Have Worked By Now," emphasizes issues predating the shootings in South Carolina.
"[That song] got a lot of action [on social media sites]," he says with mixed emotion. "It struck a nerve because of Charleston."
Despite the acclaimed history and recognition of the English Beat, Wakeling couldn't find a record deal worth the paper it was written on.
"We had lots of record offers, but they were rubbish. They wanted the rights to all my songs and . . . all my firstborns," he says laughing at the absurdity of it all.
Disgusted with the poor offers that would have left him monetarily short to make the album properly, or forced to give up all rights and most future royalties, Wakeling looked to crowd-sourcing to fund Here We Go Love. That move has returned a long-absent English Beat to the studio.
"I've gotten about 135 percent of the pledge. Only in America can you get more than 100 percent," he says with a happy laugh. "The land of opportunity."
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