UB40

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)


Formation

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, Pretenders frontwoman Chrissie Hynde spotted UB40 and invited them to open for her band.


1980

In early 1980, UB40 signed to Graduate Records, an indie label based in Dudley in the West Midlands. On February 8, they released their first single: “King” backed with “Food for Thought,” both group-credited songs.

A: “King” ()
B: “Food for Thought” ()

On June 6, UB40 released their second single: the group original “My Way of Thinking” backed with the Randy Newman cover “I Think It’s Going to Rain Today.”

A: “My Way of Thinking” ()
B: “I Think It’s Going to Rain Today” ()


Signing Off

UB40 released their debut album, Signing Off, on August 29, 1980, on Graduate Records.

1. “Tyler” (5:51)
2. “King” (4:35)
3. “12 Bar” (4:24)
4. “Burden of Shame” (6:29)

5. “Adella” (3:28)
6. “I Think It’s Going to Rain Today” (Randy Newman) (3:41)
7. “25%” (3:31)
8. “Food for Thought” (4:10)
9. “Little by Little” (3:44)
10. “Signing Off” (4:24)

12″ EP
A. “Madam Medusa” (12:52)

B1. “Strange Fruit” (Lewis Allan) (4:05)
B2. “Reefer Madness” (5:08)

recorded in three separate sessions at Bob Lamb’s “Home of the Hits”, Moseley, Birmingham: four days in December 1979 just before Christmas which produced the songs “King” and “Food for Thought” for the debut single, and two longer sessions in March–April 1980 and June–July 1980 when the bulk of the album was recorded.
The three tracks for the 12″ record that came with the album were recorded during 18–20 July 1980 at The Music Centre with Ray “Pablo” Falconer, bassist Earl Falconer’s brother, handling production duties.

Astro – talk-over vocal
Jim Brown – drums
Ali Campbell – lead vocals, rhythm guitar
Robin Campbell – lead guitar, vocals
Earl Falconer – bass
Norman Lamont Hassan (misspelt as “Norman Lamount Hassan” on the credits of the original 1980 release) – percussion, congas
Brian Travers – tenor saxophone, melodica
Michael Virtue – keyboards, strings, organ

Production
UB40 – producers, all tracks
Bob Lamb – producer and engineer on LP/tracks 1 to 10 on cassette & CD versions
Ray “Pablo” Falconer – producer on “Madam Medusa”, “Strange Fruit” and “Reefer Madness”
Rafe McKenna – engineer on “Madam Medusa”, “Strange Fruit” and “Reefer Madness”
Neil Black – assistant engineer on “Madam Medusa”, “Strange Fruit” and “Reefer Madness”

UK Independent Albums (Record Business)[34] 1
UK Albums (OCC)[33] 2
New Zealand Albums (RMNZ)[32] 4
Australian Albums (Kent Music Report)[31] 26


“The Earth Dies Screaming”

On October 24, 1980, UB40 released their third single: “The Earth Dies Screaming” backed with “Dream a Lie.”

A. “The Earth Dies Screaming” ()
B. “Dream a Lie” ()


1981


Present Arms

UB40 released their second album, Present Arms, on May 29, 1981, on DEP International.

1. “Present Arms” (4:08)
2. “Sardonicus” (4:29)
3. “Don’t Let It Pass You By” (7:45)
4. “Wildcat” (3:04)

5. “One in Ten” (4:32)
6. “Don’t Slow Down” (4:28)
7. “Silent Witness” (4:15)
8. “Lamb’s Bread” (4:48)

Disc Two (EP)
With the original 1981 release was a 12″ single (7″ single in some countries) containing two instrumental tracks. These were added to the CD album.

A. “Don’t Walk on the Grass” (5:20
B. “Dr X” (5:07)

The Music Centre, Wembley

Astro – trumpet, vocals, toasting
Jimmy Brown – drums, vocals
Ali Campbell – vocals, guitar
Robin Campbell – vocals, guitar
Earl Falconer – bass guitar
Norman Hassan – electronic drums, percussion, trombone
Brian Travers – saxophone
Michael Virtue – keyboards

with:
Neil Black – violin on “Dr. X”

Production
Ray “Pablo” Falconer – producer
Pete Wandless – engineer
Neil Black – assistant engineer

15 May 1981
A: Don’t Slow Down
B: Don’t Let It Pass You By

31 Jul 1981
A: One In Ten
B: Present Arms In Dub

spent 38 weeks on the UK album charts, reaching number 2 

Present Arms in Dub (1981)

1. “Present Arms In Dub” (3:04)
2. “Smoke It” (3:23)
3. “B-line” (4:36)
4. “Kings Row” (4:57)
5. “Return Of Dr X” (5:23)
6. “Walk Out” (3:13)
7. “One In Ten” (4:15)
8. “Neon Haze” (4:21)


1982

5 Feb 1982
A: I Won’t Close My Eyes

B: Folitician

7 May 1982
A: Love Is All Is All Right

B: One A Penny

13 Aug 1982
A: So Here I Am
B: Silent Witness (Live)


UB44

UB40 released their third album, UB44, on September 27, 1982, on DEP International.

1. “So Here I Am” (3:54)
2. “I Won’t Close My Eyes” [Remix] (3:46)
3. “Forget the Cost” (4:22)
4. “Love Is All Is Alright” [Remix] (4:57)
5. “The Piper Calls the Tune” (3:50)
6. “The Key” (5:05)
7. “Don’t Do the Crime” (4:12)
8. “Folitician [Remix]” (4:10)
9. “The Prisoner” (5:57)

Studio Windmill Lane Studios, Dublin
Producer UB40

Ali Campbell – vocals, guitar
Astro – trumpet, vocals, toasting
Brian Travers – saxophone
Robin Campbell – guitar, vocals
Michael Virtue – keyboards
Earl Falconer – bass
James “Jim” Brown – drums, vocals, synthesized percussion
Norman Hassan – percussion, trombone

Technical
Rafe McKenna – assistant producer, mixing engineer
Paul Thomas – recording engineer
Optec Design – artwork, hologram


1983

28 Jan 1983
A: I’ve Got Mine
B: Dubmobile


Labour of Love

UB40 released their fourth album, Labour of Love, on September 12, 1983, on DEP International.

Side one
1. “Cherry Oh Baby” Eric Donaldson Eric Donaldson 3:18
2. “Keep on Moving” Lee “Scratch” Perry, Curtis Mayfield The Impressions; modelled after the reggae cover by The Wailers 4:37
3. “Please Don’t Make Me Cry” Winston Tucker Winston Tucker 3:26
4. “Sweet Sensation” Leslie Kong The Melodians 3:42
5. “Johnny Too Bad” Roy Beckford, Winston “Shadow” Bailey, Delroy Wilson, Derrick Crooks The Slickers 4:57

Side two
6. “Red Red Wine” Neil Diamond Neil Diamond; modelled after the reggae cover by Tony Tribe 5:21
7. “Guilty” Isaac Hayes Tiger 3:16
8. “She Caught the Train” Joe Monsano Ray Martell 3:17
9. “Version Girl” Boy Friday Boy Friday 3:27
10. “Many Rivers to Cross” Jimmy Cliff Jimmy Cliff 4:31

Recorded 1982–83
Studio The Manor Mobile (on tour)

UB40
James Brown – drums, syncussion
Ali Campbell – vocals, guitar
Robin Campbell – guitar, vocals, lead vocals on “Sweet Sensation”
Earl Falconer – bass
Norman Hassan – percussion, vocals, lead vocals on “Johnny Too Bad” and “Guilty”
Brian Travers – saxophones
Michael Virtue – keyboards
Astro – toasting, rhyming, percussion

Additional personnel
Mo Birch – vocals on “Many Rivers to Cross”
Josh Fifer – trumpet on “She Caught the Train”
Jaki Graham – vocals on “Many Rivers to Cross”
Jackie Mittoo – additional keyboards on “Johnny Too Bad”, “She Caught the Train” and “Many Rivers to Cross”
Ruby Turner – vocals on “Many Rivers to Cross”

Production
Produced by UB40 and Ray “Pablo” Falconer
Engineering and assistant production by Howard Gray
Assistant engineering by Alan Caves
Tape operation by Keith Nixon
Design by Kenneth Ansell and illustration by David Dragon for Bitter and Twisted

“Red Red Wine”
Released: 8 August 1983

“Please Don’t Make Me Cry”
Released: 3 October 1983

“Many Rivers to Cross”
Released: 28 November 1983

“Cherry Oh Baby”
Released: 5 March 1984

Dutch Albums (Album Top 100)[22] 1
New Zealand Albums (RMNZ)[23] 1
UK Albums (OCC)[24] 1
Canada Top Albums/CDs (RPM)[20] 5
German Albums (Offizielle Top 100)[21] 29
US Billboard 200[25] 39
1988
US Billboard 200[25] 14


Geffery Morgan…

UB40 released their fifth album, Geffery Morgan…, on October 8, 1984, on DEP International. title inspired by a piece of chalk graffiti on a wall: “Geffery Morgan … loves white girls” taken by the documentary photographer Dr. Vanley Burke.

1. “Riddle Me” (3:57)
2. “As Always You Were Wrong Again” (3:37)
3. “If It Happens Again” (3:44)
4. “D.U.B.” (4:52)
5. “The Pillow” (3:26)

6. “Nkomo-A-Go-Go” (3:06)
7. “Seasons” (3:48)
8. “You’re Not an Army” (3:46)
9. “I’m Not Fooled So Easily” (4:14)
10. “Your Eyes Were Open” (5:00)

Studio The Abattoir, Birmingham
Producer UB40, Howard Gray

Ali Campbell – lead vocals and backing vocals, rhythm guitar
Robin Campbell – lead vocals and backing vocals, lead guitar
Astro – trumpet and backing vocals
Brian Travers – saxophone and lyricon
Michael Virtue – synthesizers and electric piano
Earl Falconer – bass
Norman Hassan – trombone, percussions and backing vocals
Jim Brown – electronic drums and drum machine

10 Sep 1984
A: If It Happens Again
B: Nkomo A Go-Go

19 Nov 1984
A: Riddle Me
B: D.U.B. Dub

25 Feb 1985
A: I’m Not Fooled
B: The Pillow (Remixed Version)


Baggariddim

UB40 released their sixth album, Baggariddim, on September 2, 1985, on DEP International.

1. “The King Step Mk.1” (feat. Pato Banton over “If It Happens Again”) – 3:32
2. “The Buzz Feeling” (feat. Gunslinger over “Cherry Oh Baby”) – 3:41
3. “Lyric Officer Mk.2” (feat. Dillinger over “If It Happens Again”) – 3:16
4. “Demonstrate” (feat. Admiral Jerry over “As Always You Were Wrong Again”) – 3:55
5. “Two in a One Mk.1” (feat. Pablo & Gunslinger over “The Pillow”) – 3:18
6. “Hold Your Position Mk.3” (feat. Stones over “If It Happens Again”) – 3:56
7. “Hip Hop Lyrical Robot” (feat. Pato Banton over “Your Eyes Were Open”) – 4:22
8. “Style Mk.4” (feat. Pablo over “If It Happens Again”) – 4:02
9. “Fight Fe Come in Mk.2” (feat. James Bon & General CP over “The Pillow”) – 3:25
10. “V’s Version” (feat. Sister V over “Version Girl”) – 3:25
11. “Don’t Break My Heart” – 3:49 U.K Single.
12. “I Got You Babe” (with Chrissie Hynde) (Sonny & Cher Cover) – 3:09
13. “Mi Spliff” – 4:01

Studio The Abattoir, Birmingham
Producer UB40
Howard Gray – engineer
Nick Phipps – tape op
Dave Dragon – cover illustration

22 Jul 1985
UB40 Guest Vocals By Chrissie Hynde
A: I Got You Babe
UB40
B: Theme From Labour Of Love

14 Oct 1985
A: Don’t Break My Heart
B: Mek Ya Rok


Rat in the Kitchen

UB40 released their seventh album, Rat in the Kitchen, on July 28, 1986, on DEP International.

1. “All I Want to Do” (5:33)
2. “You Could Meet Somebody” (4:52)
3. “Tell It Like It Is” (3:36)
4. “The Elevator” (3:25)
5. “Watchdogs” (4:18)

6. “Rat in Mi Kitchen” (6:58)
7. “Looking Down at My Reflection” (3:27)
8. “Don’t Blame Me” (3:36)
9. “Sing Our Own Song” (7:21)

The guest vocalists who appeared on the album were Mo Birch, Jaki Graham & Ruby Turner
Herb Alpert (co-founder of A&M Records) played trumpet on “Rat in Mi Kitchen”

30 Jun 1986
A: Sing Our Own Song
B: Sing Our Own Song (Version)

15 Sep 1986
A: All I Want To Do
B: All I Want To Do (Version 2.44)

5 Jan 1987
A: Rat In Mi Kitchen
B: Rat In Mi Kitchen (Version)

27 Apr 1987
A: Watchdogs
B: Don’t Blame Me [Live]

Dutch Albums (Album Top 100) 3
New Zealand Albums (RMNZ) 4
UK Albums (OCC) 8 


Discography:

  • 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)

Sources:

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