It's tempting to compare The Beat (called English Beat in the U.S.) to The Clash. Both are reggae/ska-influenced British rock bands conceived in the late '70s, with single word names. Both channeled Margaret Thatcher-era political and social unrest into their music. But where Joe Strummer spat angry lyrics, the Beat was out to let you know that love and unity would make it all okay in the end. In its heyday, The Beat, led by singer and guitarist Dave Wakeling, was among the first to infuse ska, reggae, punk and rock into one feel-good product. It's a format that has been repeated with a lot of success; you can hear a whole lot of The Beat's influence in The Police and Operation Ivy and even Vampire Weekend. But The Beat's albums still sound fresh and bright, maybe because they haven't been played to death on the radio. The Beat, which disbanded in 1984, put out three solid albums—for my money, 1980's I Just Can't Stop It is the most skankin' good time of them all, and it has "Can't Get Used to Losing You" on it.
Wakeling went on to play in General Public (with, funny enough, Clash guitarist Mick Jones) and work for Greenpeace, advocating for solar power and putting out the 1994 compilation album Alternative NRG with U2, Annie Lennox and others. These days, Wakeling tours as The English Beat with a revolving backing band of Beat, General Public and other ska all-star members. Wakeling is still an advocate for social and environmental causes. Perhaps he still has a lot to teach us about how to build a lengthy career on spreading the love, too.
The English Beat plays the Top Hat Wed., Feb. 19, at 8 PM. $24/$20 advance. Visit tophatlounge.com.