UB40 (1978-present): a Pop band from Birmingham, UK.


he origins of what would be UB40 began in mid-1978 when guitarist Ali Campbell, together with drummer Jimmy Brown and bassist Earl Falconer, began rehearsing with covers of reggae songs in addition to their own original compositions. They were soon joined by friends, percussionists Yomi Babayemi and Norman Hassan, keyboardist Jimmy Lynn, and then saxophonist Brian Travers. Robin Campbell, although initially reluctant to commit to forming a band with the others, was invited to join once again by his brother. The name 'UB40' originated after a friend suggested it was an appropriate name given the unemployed status of all of the band members (UB40 being the designation 'Unemployment Benefit, Form 40'). This lineup of the band lasted long enough to play their first show at the Hare & Hounds pub at Kings Heath in February 1979 and one other, before the band underwent its first lineup change in the form of Babyemi and Lynn leaving; the latter replaced by Mickey Virtue. A month later the lineup was rounded out with the inclusion of percussionist and vocalist Astro (Real Name: Terence Wilson).

Entering the UK Albums Chart on 2 October 1980, and spending 71 weeks on the chart, their debut album, Signing Off (1980), the title of which signalling the band was signing off from (ending) their claim for unemployment benefits, eventually went Platinum in the UK.

UB40's popularity in the US was established with the release of Labour of Love (1983), an album of cover songs. The album reached 1 on the UK Albums Chart and 8 on the Billboard 200 in the US, most notably featuring the track Red Red Wine, a cover version of a Neil Diamond song that, alone, stayed on the charts for over 100 weeks. Present Arms (1981), UB44 (1982), Labour of Love (1983), Geffery Morgan (1984), Baggariddim (1985) and Rat in the Kitchen (1986) followed.

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In 1986, UB40 performed at the Birmingham Heart Beat Charity Concert. In 1987 Ray "Pablo" Falconer, producer of UB40 music, died in a car crash. His brother, Earl Falconer, the band's bassist, was driving with nearly twice the legal limit of alcohol in his blood. Earl was sentenced to six months imprisonment in June 1988 and banned from driving for three years.

UB40's most successful worldwide single release was their reggae/pop version of (I Can't Help) Falling in Love With You, also the title of the 1993 Sharon Stone movie Sliver; it was a number one hit across Europe and in the US.

After the release of UB40 (1988), Labour of Love II (1989), Promises and Lies (1993), Guns in the Ghetto (1997), Labour of Love III (1998), Cover Up (2001), Homegrown (2003) and Who You Fighting For? (2005), January 2008 saw Campbell leaving due to management and business disputes. Virtue also left shortly after citing the same issues, Duncan Campbell replacing him.

Their next album, TwentyFourSeven, (2008), UB40's last with their classic lineup, by way of a free insert in The Mail newspaper on Sunday 4 May 2008. The newspaper sold nearly three million copies that led to a backlash when the full 17-track version was released 21 June 2008, and most of the big retailers refused to stock it. As a result, it failed to reach the Top 75 in the UK. Labour of Love IV (2010) would be the first with new lead singer Duncan Campbell. It wouldn't be his last for Getting Over the Storm (2013) and For the Many (2019) would follow.

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Nation UK
City Birmingham
Genre Pop
Formations 1
Active Years 1978-
Last Modified 2022-09-25
Diskery ID 2038

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