The English Beat to play Vail |

The English Beat to play Vail

Charlie Owen
Vail, CO, Colorado
Special to the Daily

VAIL, Colorado ” There are few bands playing today that can fuse the past and present into one moment in time.

Dave Wakeling of The English Beat is proud to be in one of those bands.

The annual Street Beat concert series returns this week with ska legends The English Beat leading off the line-up.

The English Beat got its start in England in 1978. They had a string of hits during the late ’70s and early ’80s with songs like “Tears of a Clown,” and “Hands Off … She’s Mine,” and their fame spread to the States, where they remain a popular act today.

“We’ve been thrilled that not only are we a legacy act, but it would appear that politically the times nowadays are in some way similar to when we were writing the songs,” said Wakeling, singer and guitarist for The English Beat, during a phone interview.

Many of the band’s songs have underlying social or political lyrics covered by upbeat melodies and dance music. Their fusion of soul, reggae, ska and punk has become their signature sound, but often drowns out the message in their songs.

According to Wakeling, many of their biggest influences from the reggae genre (such as Bob Marley) used the positive elements of music to keep people in a peaceful mood while providing social commentary with their lyrics.

“From a distance it sounds so happy and jolly, and then as you dig into the lyrics you find that people are often singing about oppression or tribulation or suffering of one sort or another,” said Wakeling, who was struck by the fair representation of life that this paradox provides. The combination of happy and sad ” war and peace ” is what makes his music relative, even 30 years into his career.

“You could touch upon things in the lyrics that dealt with some of the tragedies of life but you could still do it in a framework remembering that life itself is full of joy,” Wakeling said.

Indeed, there has probably been no other time in the world where that level of optimism is necessary.

He is cheerful about America’s role in the world, saying that the country does more good than bad. Wakeling has lived in America for 20 years now, and feels more at home here than his native England, he said.

Universal peace, racial harmony and environmental concerns are all themes that Wakeling feels are very important, and therefore includes in many of his lyrics.

He recently wrote two new songs called “If Killing Worked It Would Have Worked By Now,” and “How Can You Stand There,” which focuses on the violence in the Middle East and global warming.

“I think there’s an underlying sense of greed behind both of those issues, and most of the other issues, that seems to not be working out very well for human beings as a whole,” Wakeling said.

But he remains positive in the face of world-wide turmoil, stating that his music helps people who feel things are only getting worse.

The English Beat are in the process of recording several new LPs, which will likely be released as early as next spring, Wakeling said. The albums will contain new material, remixes of their old songs and some acoustic songs. The response shown by crowds at their recent shows (they played 130 this year) has been overwhelmingly great, and he feels that the release of new material is the next logical step.

Vail resident Paul McCarthy has been a fan of The English Beat since the ’80s and plans on going to see them tonight.

“It’s a very fun show,” said McCarthy, who saw them play last year at 8150. “I really dig the beat, it’s very upbeat for the most part and very easy to jump around.”

Wakeling often has fans approach him about the impact that his music has on their lives.

Just hearing his fans tell him that his music gives them hope in dark times and reminds them that we are all part of the same world is enough to make Wakeling feel like he’s making a difference.

“You couldn’t really hope for more than that as a musician,” Wakeling said.

High Life Writer Charlie Owen can be reached at 748-2939 or

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