Scene Point Blank: I see you got the call to donate one of your guitars to the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame. One of your signature Teardrop Vox guitars is displayed with some from the greatest guitarists in the world.
Dave Wakeling: I did, I had a fantastic time. It’s really great to have your guitar in the Hall Of Fame, but amongst the older veterans they’re absolutely terrified of ever being nominated for induction into the Hall themselves because the way they look at it, the moment you’re nominated, you’re only two years away from your own death. [Laughs.] So I’m really proud that my guitar is in there, I really love the people who work there I think it’s a fantastic institution. It’s one of the best parts of America so far as I can see. It’s a celebration of such amazing American music that spread across the world and changed everybody’s minds about everything. I really admired the place but I hope they don’t get me nominated because, if I do, I know full well the moment you’re nominated you’re only two years away from your own death bro. [Laughs.] So we pray we’re never nominated and we really appreciate what they’ve done there, you have to be careful of course, but the bloke who started that radio station in Cleveland, as soon as it became a hit, he left and moved to New York. So you have to take it with a grain of salt, the moment it hit he dumped Cleveland and Cleveland is Birmingham—that’s where I’m from. I’m from Cleveland, icht bin ein Clevelander. [Laughs.] He ran and we deal with it. But American rock and roll is a fabulous contribution to the history of the world and I hope we can live up to it or can we live up to Iggy Pop’s challenge: do we really have the balls or are we going to kowtow?
Scene Point Blank: Well this is going to be a very interesting next couple of years.
Dave Wakeling: Yes, it is, you know if I get to do an interview with you again in three years’ time it would be a fucking miracle. [Laughs.]
Scene Point Blank: Especially if you have been nominated.
Dave Wakeling: I love America. I love the challenge of it, I love the way that all sorts of different people manage to get along and create the most amazing empire, and I’m very disappointed that when push comes to shove, it doesn’t seem like there is enough American balls. I’m very disappointed from all the big talk, where’s the American balls?
Scene Point Blank: Really, are we just going to take it and let it happen?
Dave Wakeling: Well if we don’t take control of it, it will just happen. Get ready for them chopsticks on your back. [Laughs.]
Scene Point Blank: What can fans expect to hear when they go to a Beat show these days? Do you still play songs from the General Public days as well?
Dave Wakeling: Yes, of course I play all the hits. I’m amazed that I even had any hits to be honest. Ten years later and I’m kind of like, “Whoa, I’ve got one era full of fucking hits!” I can’t believe it. I never got credit at the time, frankly. We weren’t in the Top Forty promotion game, we didn’t have one hundred-thousand dollars to launch each album. We just made them ourselves and put them out and with magazines like CMJ.
You know the new college conference thing they have lands that The Beat and General Public songs were the most played songs over the ‘80s, a complete decade, and that’s all I ever wanted. I saw tons of people that felt just the same way and I’m so sorry for them right now. They don’t deserve the position they’ve been put in, they’re braver and kinder and more compassionate. I don’t believe the government has represented them properly and I feel sorry for my fans and they’re dancing beautifully free and they’re in their fifties, some of them, but they’re still moving and they’re still gorgeous and they’re still in the moment, and I feel desperate that their country has let them down. We can do better, we just started mate, America is the Promised Land and the promise is still there so long as we have the nerve to follow through. I always play shows and I say, “Hello, I’m from the country that won the silver medal in the war of independence. France won the gold and America won the bronze, get over it.”
Scene Point Blank: General Public was a UK supergroup consisting of members of The Specials, Dexy’s Midnight Runners, and The Clash, along with you and [Ranking] Roger. Mick Jones left sometime during the recording of the first album. What lead to him leaving so soon?
Dave Wakeling: It was fantastic. Mick was always set on Big Audio Dynamite—once he’d left The Clash he wanted his own band. We tried as best we could, you know, to induct him, but he said, “No, I want me own band.” So we helped him to record and he helped us with General Public and played some fantastic guitar, some of the best guitar I’ve ever heard, and then he went on to do his own thing and I helped him with some melodies and lyrics for the first Big Audio Dynamite album in return. We tried the best we could and we did at least get him to play live with us in our local pub in Birmingham. He was standing on a beer crate, he couldn’t move else he would of fallen over and he played majestically. He played with all the history of The Clash and with all of his history before The Clash, and he played with pure passion in front of a small audience at a local pub.
Scene Point Blank: Dave, Thanks for your time and trouble, I see you are playing a Boston Harbor cruise coming up.
Dave Wakeling: [Laughs.] I am a little concerned about a cruise on Boston Harbor. Whatever revolution you’re interested in, you don’t mix tea with salt water. Hello, it’s been almost 300 years and you still can’t make a proper cup of tea.
It should be fun. I think we’re going to get there. I am an optimist, the spirit is in American crowds one hundred and fifty times a year and they are great people. They’re open, they’re willing, and they’re willing to take a chance. I would like to see that become part of America’s history because, as far as I’m concerned, that’s been America’s finest hour ever.
Scene Point Blank: Well it’s true we certainly have the resources to do that, but we don’t and that’s the part that bothers me as well.
Dave Wakeling: There’s so much capacity and we spend it arguing with ourselves, arguing with our neighbours. I hear people from the right wing argue things tastefully it’s the guy next door
When I watched the Olympics they worked as a team. The Americans work as a team and they do great every time. Come on, let’s go team, let’s go. This is the future of the world, there are dying children if we don’t get this right. We can do better than this. Quit the squabbling and be the world leader, everybody looks to us to do this. They look at us as world leaders and they’re really sure we know—we’ve done this before—we’ve shown how things can work wonderfully. If only you’ve got the nerve and so now as Americans we got to have the nerve or lay down and get ready for the chopsticks
I’ve got to run and pick my wife up from the hospital. She got E-coli a few days ago. Christ, I just got a two thousand dollar bill. Lord, but they’ve got a special offer on. Today, if I get there in the next half-hour, they have a special offer: twenty-five hundred bucks today only, and it doesn’t matter your wife nearly died in reception before she was ever admitted. That’s America for you. I don’t get it: the Supreme Court is going to overturn Obama’s healthcare initiative and get ready for it, get on your knees now, because Americans are slaves again, really. After all this trying? Okay, if that’s what you insist on I’ll be happy to watch it.
Scene Point Blank: Well, hopefully we’ll wake up before that happens.
Dave Wakeling: Hopefully, it’s your job. You’re a journalist. Get the word out there and remind Americans that they are some of the greatest people ever in the history of the world and they need to stick together and love each other and help each other. How can you have the greatest empire in the world where half of the people fucking hate the other half? It’s stupid. I mean, over a short-term dollar deal and the dollars are gone by the next year. You can do in your own family, you can do in your own country and the money’s gone by the next year. Really, no, come on we have to think harder than this. I don’t think that Ben Franklin and all those other chaps want to let us pay it out, we owe it to them. They put their lives on the line, they beat the British Empire. One way or another and we need to be world leaders in spirit as well as world leaders in politics and it needs to happen quickly. That’s the simple fact of it.
Scene Point Blank: Words of wisdom.
Dave Wakeling: I hope so. [Laughs.] I’ll probably be whisked away by Homeland Security—if you’re a green card holder, which I am, I’ve never become a citizen—with a green card they can just arrest me at any moment. They never have to say where I’ve been, if they release me I’m not allowed to say where I’ve been or what they did to me. And, if I mention the fact that they arrested me I’ll be arrested for the rest of my life. Really that’s the Homeland Security law. I have to be very, very careful. It’s a shame, a terrible shame, and I love America more than Obama—and he loves it a lot, I can tell. He puts up with this fucking disgrace. I love it as an idea since the 19th Century and I’m ever so sad that combined me, you, and the rest of them we’re letting the creed down. Me and you, we’re on the same plane. We can get there.
Scene Point Blank: I agree. I think we can we have history behind us and if you don’t learn from history you are doomed to repeat it.
Dave Wakeling: That’s right. Which, of course, is a Churchill quote. My favorite Churchill quote is, “Yes, I am drunk madam but you are ugly and I shall be sober in the morning.” I wish you all the best of luck and I’ll talk to you next time.