UB40 are an English reggae-pop band from Birmingham that debuted with the LP+EP release Signing Off on local small-press Graduate Records in 1980. After setting up their own DEP International imprint through a distribution deal with Virgin, the band released their second proper full-length, Present Arms, concurrent with a dub-version of the album in 1981. Between 1982 and 1989, the band released seven further albums on the imprint, breaking internationally with the 1983 all-covers release Labour of Love.

Members: James Brown (drums), Robin Campbell (lead guitar, vocals), Earl Falconer (bass, vocals), Norman Lamont Hassan (percussion, trombone, vocals), Brian Travers (saxophone), Astro (vocals, percussion, trumpet, 1978-2013), Ali Campbell (guitar, lead vocals, 1978-2008), Mickey Virtue (keyboards, 1978-2008), Yomi Babayemi (percussion, 1978-79), Jimmy Lynn (keyboards, 1978-79)

UB40 started in the summer of 1978 when singer/guitarist Ali Campbell teamed with bassist Earl Falconer and drummer Jimmy Brown. They jammed to the current reggae hits and gradually added members, including percussionist Norman Hassan and saxophonist Brian Travers. By December, Ali’s brother Robin Campbell joined the band, having recently taken up the guitar.

Since they were all unemployed at the time, they based their name on the benefits form issued by the UK’s Department of Employment: Unemployment Benefit, Form 40. They played two shows in February 1979 before their classic eight-piece lineup stabilized with keyboardist Mickey Virtue and trumpeter, percussionist, and singer Astro, a sound system DJ on the Brummie reggae circuit.

UB40 held long jam sessions as the members mastered their instruments. They quickly caught attention in the Birmingham area as Ali and Travers aggressively promoted the band with posters across town. In late 1979, they were spotted by Chrissie Hynde, who invited them to open for her band, The Pretenders.

In early 1980, UB40 signed to small-press Graduate Records and released their first single, “King” (b/w “Food for Thought”).


  • Signing Off (LP+EP, 1980)
  • Present Arms (1981)
  • Present Arms in Dub (1981)
  • UB44 (1982)
  • Labour of Love (1983)
  • Geffery Morgan… (1984)
  • Baggariddim (1985)
  • Rat in the Kitchen (1986)
  • UB40 (1988)
  • Labour of Love II (1989)


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