There’s nothing like a career-spanning box set to get a band thinking about its place in musical history. Dave Wakeling said that was the case for him and fellow English Beat members. The English Beat released its “The Complete Beat” box set in the summer, a collection that includes remastered versions of the group’s three seminal ska revival albums and a host of curated rarities like dance mixes and live cuts.
“In the process of doing it, everybody in the band started to get a remarkable pride of ownership and legacy,” Wakeling said.
But to say that this is the “The Complete Beat” is a bit misleading for a band that, past its initial five-year surge in the late ’70s and early ’80, has found new life decades later on the road.
The band came and went in a flash, but there’s some pride in that for Wakeling. Most of what The English Beat put out in that time was quality stuff, he said. Top-10 hits like “Mirror in the Bathroom,” “Can’t Get Used to Losing You,” and the band’s 2-Tone take on the Motown standard “Tears of a Clown,” don’t disagree. But a fall tour and new material on the horizon are proof enough that, as the oft-quoted saying goes, the beat goes on.
The English Beat will be joined on several dates of their fall tour, including Friday’s show at The State Theatre, by The Paul Collins Beat. The pairing of the acts is “a long time coming,” said Wakeling, considering their long history and its curious origins.
Both post-punk bands were formed in the late ’70s, Collins on this side of the pond and Wakeling on the other, and had decided on the name “The Beat.” Wakeling got a phone call with the news that another band was making music in the U.S. under the name he and his bandmates had been using. A truce was stuck on regional use of the “The Beat,” and Wakeling and the band settled on The English Beat as their new moniker. Many decades and a popular social networking site later, the frontmen reconnected and discussed how their shared history might make for a fun tour.
“For me and Paul, it’s warming and humorous and pleasant,” Wakeling said, sentiments echoed the very title of the tour, “Two Beats, Hearting as One.”
Such performances have been the main vocation of the 21st-century English Beat, and it’s one that Wakeling is fond of.
Years of touring has given him the practice and know-how to make it an enjoyable experience. Three albums has made for two solid hours of music that audiences sing along to, Wakeling said, and they’re songs that don’t seem so touched by years since they were first recorded. The parallels between the tough economic climate that took hold of England when the band was first starting out, and the recession felt in the U.S., now his home, are readily seen by Wakeling, a lyricist known for his razor-sharp political commentary. But he’s looking forward to what good box set reviews can do for the new material he has in store, and what it all can do for The English Beat in the final chapters of its story.
“It’s fantastic to have laurels to sit on,” Wakeling said. “But you don’t want to sit on them too long. Otherwise they’ll get squashed.”
• For more information about The English Beat, visit englishbeat.net.