In the face of a slew of emerging youngster ska and reggae bands, ska band The English Beat has played along with an ever-changing group of musicians since 1978, and will make its way to San Luis Obispo this Friday.
Along with bands like Madness and The Specials, The Beat is one of the most well-known bands from ska’s second wave. After 32 years of skanking and moshing to their tunes, some fans have stayed loyal to the British rockers through thick and thin.
Known simply as “The Beat” in the United Kingdom, The English Beat formed in 1978 and is known as one of the bands that best represent the sound of ska’s second wave.
The band has gone through break-ups and reformations. Members have played in other bands and front man Dave Wakeling has gone on to do solo work. Now, in 2010, The Beat is back together, going strong and playing venues all over the United States and the U.K.
The Beat’s first album, “I Just Can’t Stop It” received heavy radio rotation. Singles like “Can’t Get Used to Losing You,” “Hands Off She’s Mine” and “Mirror In The Bathroom” all had spins on modern rock stations.
In 1983 the band members went their separate ways to form several side projects. During the two decade hiatus some ska bands influenced by The Beat emerged, including the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, The Aquabats, The Toasters, The Planet Smashers and Sublime.
A third wave of ska was then born.
But the bands that followed The Beat’s lead have taken on many elements from punk and have modified traditional ska music into a faster, louder and more aggressive sound than it was before. Many of these bands took cues from The Beat and wrote more tongue-in-cheek lyrics than their punk counterparts.
These alterations are the main difference between bands like The Beat — from ska’s second wave — and their third wave followers, architecture and environmental design senior David Swaim said.
As the co-host of Skaboom, an all-ska radio show on Cal Poly’s radio station, KCPR, Swaim is knowledgeable about ska music through the decades and said he is partial to the music produced in the generation of The Beat.
“I just like the songs from the second wave better,” Swaim said. “They have more meaning.”
One of the third-wave ska bands inspired by The Beat is Reel Big Fish, which performed at San Luis Obispo’s Veteran’s Hall on Nov. 6, along with bands Goldfinger and Suburban Legends.
Last year, The English Beat band member Dave Wakeling and reunited with the American version of The Beat and toured with Reel Big Fish. However, it was The Beat that opened for Reel Big Fish — a band that The Beat had inspired.
Music promoter Jen Biller has been working with Numbskull Shows for years and has been a fan of The Beat since she was a kid. It wasn’t until only a few years ago that Biller made it to her first Beat concert.
“It made being a band geek cool,” Biller said. “I wasn’t the right age group for them so I ended up catching on late. But I’ve been a fan ever since and see them every time they come to town. I still have my purse from the first time I ever saw them.”
Even though she caught on later than most, Biller said The Beat’s music has a timeless quality that all ages can enjoy.
“Everyone knows something by The Beat; it doesn’t matter how old you are,” Spiller said as she held her English Beat purse.
As a longtime fan, Biller said it’s hard for her to see bands like The Beat take a backseat to newer bands that have been inspired by the band.
“It makes me sad when things like that happen,” Biller said. “I remember when Violent Femmes opened for Sugarcult.”
The show’s promoter, Eddy Burgos, sees it a little differently.
Bands like The Beat have influenced countless followers and Burgos said he likes to see those bands paying respect to their predecessors. He uses Rancid, a band that started in the punk-underground and has had many radio hits since, as a prime example.
“It’s cool when younger bands bring their forefathers on the road and expose them to their fans,” Burgos said. “It’s the band recognizing where they came from.”
Burgos saw The Beat play at the first punk rock concert he attended, and has been working in booking music shows for more than 20 years, he said.
“My brother took me to see them open for The Clash,” Burgos said. “I had never seen anything like that.”
Burgos said in true punk rock fashion, someone had raided the concession stand and started a food fight right after The Beat had finished playing.
“I hadn’t seen anything like it,” he said. “That show’s what started it all for me.”
Since then, Burgos has been booking ska and punk rock acts like Goldfinger, Agent Orange, The Aquabats, Reel Big Fish and The Expendables. Each band owes something to The Beat, a predecessor to many of the punk and ska bands that emerged in the ‘90s and 2000s.
The English Beat will play at SLO Brewing Co. on Nov. 19 at 7:30 p.m. Guests must be 21 or older. Tickets can be purchased for $21 at Boo Boo Records or for $23 at the door.