Dave Wakeling leads a newly configured General Public.

Taking it public

an English Beat

When Dave Wakeling was a teenager, he said there were three aims of his that he wanted to achieve.

A pop singer, to work for Greenpeace, and be a Buddhist monk.

General Public

Featuring Dave Wakeling, with local opening band Pimpbot

Where: Pipeline Cafe, 805 Pohukaina St.

When: 8 p.m. Wednesday

Tickets: $15 advance and $20 at the door

Info: onstagehawaii.com

Well, two out of three isn't bad. He became a pop singer with the English Beat, became a special projects director for the activist environmental group for five years, starting in 1991 -- and as for Buddhism, after his teenage dreams included girls and motorbikes, he said he figured he'd get that out of his "karmic system" first.

Comfortably ensconced in his adopted home of Los Angeles with wife and children, the 48-year-old originally from the working class area of Birmingham, England, returns after a four-year absence from Hawaii with a one-off show with his new version of General Public next week.

The band originally rose out of the disbandment of the Beat in 1983. With former bandmates Andy Cox and David Steele forming Fine Young Cannibals with singer Roland Gift, Wakeling, along with toaster Ranking Roger, made General Public. A year later, GP had a couple of hits, "Never You Done That" and "Tenderness."

While the English Beat had been popular with U.S. college-age audiences, Wakeling, speaking by phone from his L.A. home, said: "'Tenderness' was our first big bona fide hit in the States. Because the song's video was being played on MTV, it got a wider group of people interested in the band."

Mainly due to a falling out between him and Roger, General Public had their first split-up in '88. After an attempt at solo success with the '89 solo album "No Warning" and his stint with Greenpeace, Wakeling would reform GP in '94, where they would have a hit cover of the Staple Singers' "I'll Take You There."

Wakeling and Roger would even go the "VH-1 Bands Reunited" route when they were talked into getting the original English Beat together again, if only for one time. "It went really well," Wakeling remembers. "At least on camera, Roger and I got on, although his friendliness to me was a bit of a setup. We ended up doing a few songs on stage in London."

AT THE BEGINNING of Wakeling's life in music, there was listening to BBC Radio One and being exposed to American soul music, his first love.

It would be that combination with what he and bandmate Cox called "punky reggae" in 1978 that would result in their covering, for the Beat's first single a year later, a ska-upped version of the Smokey Robinson and the Miracles' hit "Tears of a Clown."

Along with such pivotal bands as the Specials, the Beat (as they were known back then before American exposure had them run into possible copyright infringement with an L.A. band of the same name) helped create the lively 2-Tone scene, where racially mixed bands tore up the English and U.S. college charts with their infectious blend of punk and ska.

There were also some great recorded documents of that time, including the English Beat's now-classic 1980 album "I Just Can't Stop It," fueled by such great uptempo kickers as "Mirror In the Bathroom," "Ranking Full Stop," "Hands Off She's Mine" and "Best Friend/Stand Down Margaret."

"We were lucky to come out of that period as we did," Wakeling said. "The whole atmosphere was just so ... post-punk. The Sex Pistols and Clash did a good job pulling things down, and then between '79 and '83 -- before new wave and 'skinny tie music' -- it was such a glorious period. There was the Specials, the Jam, Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders, and songs about unemployment and the like.

"The new romantics was our death knell. Once there was Adam Ant in your mom's clothes, our days were numbered."

BUT THE English Beat would have a couple more U.S. college hits with 1982's "Save It for Later" and "I Confess," continuing to mine that syncopated beat that has kept their songs such perennial favorites.

Even when General Public was first formed, Wakeling said "we would play all the English Beat hits anyway. ... It's always been my opinion that we were lucky to have any hits, and the audience made them hits."

GP has been an on-and-off project for Wakeling over the years. "There's nobody in the current band from the original recording lineup. There was some talk with Roger on reforming the band with him, and he seemed excited at the time, but it seems Roger's changed his mind."

(Ranking Roger and his 19-year-old son are currently trying to carry on under the Beat name back in England.)

Wakeling said that since his last appearance here with his Soulmates band, he's been working with Rick Torres (who he says has family here) of the L.A.-based dance band Supreme Beings of Leisure. He also has three album projects in the works.

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