From here on out, June 5 will be known as Dave Wakeling Day. This is because I actually met and spent time with Dave Wakeling of The English Beat (and General Public), a man I’ve been a fan of for 25 years. I’ve loved his lyrics, his music and his voice.
One song, “Ackee 123,” held so much meaning for me that I put it on my license plate. (Click here to read why and see song lyrics.)
Here’s how it happened…
The English Beat is touring and they put out a call on Facebook for Street Team members — people to hang posters and generally publicize the shows “in exchange for perks.” So, I thought “what the hell…” and emailed them. I got my poster via email, printed a bunch, and got busy hanging them all over creation and taking pictures to prove it. I thought that even if I just get a free ticket out of it, it would be worth it.
It turns out the perks included an invite to the soundcheck as well a spot on the guest list for the show. OK, this is cool.
So, I got word that the soundcheck was going to be at 4 or so on Friday. I booked our sitter and hightailed it there with my “What is Beat” album (I bought it when I was 16 because I liked the cover) in tow. I thought maybe I’d get to meet Dave and maybe he’d be nice enough to sign my album.
So, while waiting for things to get started, I meet Jai, the stage manager and guitarist. He offers me snacks and a drink. Then, I’m talking a bit with Candy, their merchandiser and head of the Street Teams and she tells me that the band saw my license plate from the tour bus.
Me: I realized as I pulled into the parking lot that it might be a little embarrassing…
Candy: No, they think it’s cool!
She goes to the tour bus to find out when they are going to come in, and returns to tell me that they are going to play “Ackee 123” at the show that night for me. I died! My friend Liz and I tried to get them to sing it when we saw them last year, but to no avail. (Click here for that story.) Apparently, they almost never play it.
The band comes in for the soundcheck. Dave gives me a big smile and wave, and about a minute later breaks into “Ackee 123”! I was beyond stunned… I’m standing there alone in Cat’s Cradle, this little club in Carrboro, NC, getting my own personal serenade of a song that holds so much meaning for me. And it’s being delivered by the man who wrote it! I didn’t take a picture or movie, I just stood there, danced a little and soaked it in.
They played two more songs: a new one and the Staple Singers’ “I’ll Take You There,” another of my favorites.
Then Dave comes over to say hello, and we talk for at least 45 minutes! He not only signed my album, but offered to sign a sticker for Liz after I told him about her and how she couldn’t make the show that night. Then he gave me a T-shirt and one for Cris. We talked about this and that… how we ended up in NC, how cool it is to have people singing your own lyrics bat at you. I told him how “Ackee 123” came to be on my license plate. He seemed to genuinely appreciate the story, and told me that he wrote it at a time when he needed to “pull myself up off my sorry ass.” He took a picture with me and gave me a big hug. He was, in a word, lovely. He even thanked me a couple of times for helping out. It was so cool to meet someone I admire only to find that he is as nice as I’d hoped.
As I was about to pull out out of the parking lot, bass player, Wayne Lothian, stopped me and said “On the license plate? Really? What’s up with that?” I told him the story… he actually seemed moved. He said, “Let me tell you how much pull you had today: I’ve been playing with Dave for 20 years and we have NEVER played Ackee 123 in a soundcheck. That was special.”
So, Cris and I go to the show in our matching T-shirts, which gave our sitter, Mollie a giggle. About a half-hour in, the Toaster, Antonee First Class (the new Rankin’ Roger, if you’re a fan…) looks at Dave and says “Ackee…” I catch my breath and turn my camera to the movie setting. Then Dave says something to the effect that this is for Michele, who has our song on her license plate, then breaks into “Ackee 123.” This one I recorded! Then after he said “That was a special shout out for our Street Team director here in Chapel Hill!”
Cris said on the way home, “You realize that this all happened because we are in North Carolina, right?”
I told him I absolutely did. And then said “that song will never be the same for me.”
And it’s true. I’ve listened a couple of times and watched the video. It’s not the same. And I couldn’t be happier about that.