Their first two albums got to number three in the charts and they garnered no less than five Top Ten singles hits, including Mirror In The Bathroom and a brace of stunning cover versions – Smoky Robinson’s Tears Of A Clown (the bands’ debut hit in 1979, and Andy Williams’ Can’t Get Used To Losing You in 1983.
Their brand of punk and 2 Tone music was made accessible by leader Dave Wakeling’s ear for a great hook.
When the band split, the members formed two bands: General Public, featuring Wakeling, Ranking Roger and members of The Clash, Dexy’s and The Specials, whilst David Steele and Andy Cox formed Fine Young Cannibals.
In the 90s, Wakeling was persuaded to perform again by Elvis Costello, but then there were two versions of the band: The Beat featuring Ranking Roger, and The English Beat starring Dave, who has played mainly in North America where he now lives.
But now he’s back as The Beat – starring Dave Wakeling, with a new album and an extensive tour of the UK coming up.
“I’m excited about everything.” Wakeling tells me from his California home.
“And we’re coming back with a new record. [New album Here We Go Love! was released on May 11]. The first single from the album How Can You Stand There? has been playlisted in Radio 2, but it’s been a long time coming.”
The album has taken over two years to record and the seeds were sewn when Wakeling started to incorporate some new songs into the band’s live set.
“The merchandise desk was being deluged with fans wanting to buy a CD of the new tracks.”
The band has always had a ‘political’ slant but without ramming politics down our throats, and this new album is no different.
“The album is coming out at the right time,” explains the 62-year-old.
“Some of the songs are about what’s happening in the world and I’m playing the role of Nostradamus.
“When The Beat first came out we were all expecting a war, and now the world seems to be gearing up for either a ‘cold’ war or maybe even a ‘hot’ one.”
Hailing from the West Midlands, Wakeling’s influences were varied.
“Motown was a big influence,” Wakeling says, “coming from Birmingham we were the Motown of England, as we made cars just like Detroit.
“Then there were bands like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, but strangely not a lot of punk came from the city.
“Then we had a flurry from the late-70s onwards with UB40, Dexy’s, The Beat and Duran Duran – it was quite a renaissance.”
And we can expect to hear some of the album in the live set.
“That’s right,” says Wakeling, “but you’ve got to be careful.
“We can play eight or nine of the 13 songs in a way that I wouldn’t be embarrassed, but we’ll probably play about three or four. It’s a fine line and it depends on the show as to whether we’ll play more.
“The crowd gets excited about the songs they know, so we’ll be playing all the hits and we usually play a lot of the first album.”
He adds: “I’m very excited to be coming over. Not only can I see my family and friends a bit more, but we’ll be touring on a double-decker bus which is a childhood ambition of mine.”
The Beat starring Dave Wakeling will be performing at Warehouse 23, Wakefield on May 27. http://englishbeat.net/