The current tour by the band calling itself The English Beat these days is touted as the group's 30th anniversary. But, really, since frontman Dave Wakeling is the sole original member and the sole constant in the The Beat -- long after Paul Collins added his name to the front of the U.S. band's name, we can drop the "English," can't we? - the tour really marks Wakeling's 30th anniversary onstage.
And that's just fine. As the main voice and main songwriter of The Beat - one of the best (and least "ska") bands of the 1979 Coventry, England-born Two Tone movement, Birmingham's Wakeling is a living legend to fans of British music of the period.
His hard-hitting lyrics on songs like "Stand Down Margaret" expressed the rage of a generation and cut to the bone. All the while, those two guitars -- awash in chorus effects -- dueled and toaster Ranking Roger supplied the counterpoint.
Add veteran hornsman Saxa to the mix and The Beat was an unstoppable force over three records, starting with "I Just Can't Stop It," an undisputed classic of the era. Later, Wakeling formed the equally militant General Public, whose debut single was a killer moment in ‘80s pop.
Seeing the effect his music has had on fans across the years has moved Wakeling, says the singer and guitarist.
"There are many perks to being in a pop group. The money, the fame, the fast cars and the sometimes even faster women. They can all be good but for someone to tell you that your songs have been a part of the soundtrack of their life for a quarter century is the greatest honor a troubadour can ever receive."
In recent years, Wakeling has fronted a variety of bands dubbed The Beat -- one even included original members of The Specials. The band he brings to Milwaukee on Sunday, April 12 for a gig at Turner Hall Ballroom includes bassist Wayne Lothian, drummer Rhythmm Epkins, guitarist Hidden Kulcha, keyboardist Ray Jacildo, saxophonist Nat Love and toaster Antonee First Class.
Thirty years on, Wakeling says he's happy to still be going.
"At such an exciting time musically and politically," he says, "The English Beat are proud as punch to be spreading their message of connectivity, tolerance and good will."
Madison- and Milwaukee-based ska outfit The Socialites open the show.
Some other gigs on tap this week include:
Dub Trio and Sleepyime Gorilla Museum play at Turner Hall on Tuesday, April 14. The latest ROIT disc from the Trio -- fresh off a tour with Flogging Molly and The Aggrolites -- is "Another Sound is Dying."
Jazz guitarist John Scofield comes to Shank Hall on Tuesday, too, bringing a band that includes bassist George Porter Jr. (of The Meters), drummer Ricky Fataar (Beach Boys, The Rutles), percussionist Shannon Powell, pianist Jon Cleary and vocalist John Boutt. Scofield in on the road on the heels of his latest EmArcy disc, "Piety Street."
Avail's Tim Barry lands at The Mad Planet on Wednesday, April 15, as part of the tour supporting his solo record, "Manchester."
Of course, Wilco plays two nights at The Pabst this week -- Tuesday and Wednesday -- but you knew that already.
On the same night you can check out Minty Fresh popsters Ezra Furman & The Harpoons at Shank. The Hard Lessons open the 8 p.m. show. Furman's latest is "Inside the Human Body."
Jam band fans take note ... Jason Hann and Michael Travis, late of the String Cheese Incident, perform with EOTO at the Miramar Theater on Thursday, April 16 at 8 p.m.
Over at Turner Hall at the same time, Red Bank, N.J. rockers The Parlor Mob take the stage as part of the tour in support of the disc "And You Were a Crow." Invade Rome also performs.
Milwaukee's own Pezzettino celebrates the release of her anticipated second CD, "Lion," at Shank on Saturday, April 18 at 8. Also on the bill are Jentri Collelo and Miles Nielsen.
Extra Golden -- called, "quite possibly the best half-Kenyan / half-American rock band ever" -- plays the Cactus Club on Sunday, April 19. I'm willing to be that these guys -- touring behind their third record, " Thank You Very Quickly!," are undoubtedly the best half-Kenyan / half-American rock band ever.
As always, The Rave is awash in gigs this week, including The AP Tour on Sunday, with 3OH!3, Family Force 5, The Maine, Hit The Lights and A Rocket To The Moon; Alesana on Thursday, with Drop Dead Gorgeous, Fear Before, I Set My Friends On Fire and Fall From Grace; Kreator / Exodus with Belphegor, Warbringer and Epicurean, also on Thursday; (HED)P.E., Dirtball, Mower, DGAF and No Conviction on Friday; a Battle of the Bands on Friday; and Cannibal Corpse on Saturday, with The Faceless, Neuraxis and Obscura.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.