Birmingham’s reggae sensation of the eighties, UB40, were meant to be playing in Spain in February, but were forced to cancel their two appearances after singer Duncan Campbell broke a rib. They have instead been rescheduled for June, once again in Barcelona and Barakaldo (Bilbao).
Duncan Campbell? Don’t you mean Ali Campbell. No, I don’t. You see there have been changes at UB40. Duncan was the man who was actually asked to be the lead singer of UB40 back in 1978. He turned down the offer, although it’s not clear if he really did that because he thought they were crap. Instead, it was his younger brother Ali who jumped at the chance, and within a few years UB40 were one of the biggest bands of the early eighties, with such iconic hits as One in Ten, Food for Thought, Kingston Town and Don’t Break my Heart, plus reggae versions of older hits like Red Red Wine (Neil Diamond), Can’t Help Falling in Love and I Got You Babe (with Cher).
OK, so we know UB40, and despite having eight members in 1978, six of them are still with the band today. But things haven’t been going too well. You may wonder how this could be for a band that between 1980 and 1993 released nine studio albums, seven of which went into the Top 10 in the UK, and that’s not even counting compilations, singles, overseas sales, tours and whatnot.
Since 1993, they’ve been less successful but even so, five of their seven studio albums went into the UK Top 40, and they’ve also had three Top 10 compilations. Not bad going.
But Ali Campbell plus keyboardist Mickey Virtue finally jumped ship in 2008, at major odds with the management. “Basically, he was doing an LP like a solo project, and basically, he kept on infringing on what we were going to do — the way we make decisions and everything” said bassist Earl Falconer. “To cut a long story short, he wasn’t really happy with our management and he thought, basically, we was being ripped off and he became really discontented and he just ended up saying, ‘Well, I’m not prepared to work with the band anymore,’ and he left to embark on a solo career.”
Ali has managed to forge himself a reasonably decent career for himself as a soloist, while the remaining five members invited Duncan Campbell to come back and join the band he refused to join in 1978. This time he said yes.
But what he’s joined is a band in turmoil. All five remaining founder members declared themselves bankrupt in October 2011. Now, I don’t the ins and outs of why this happened, but I am sure most readers will agree that they have managed to get by on a lot less than the kind of income UB40 generated by thirty years of chart hits and international tours. There has been some serious financial mismanagement going on. UB40 were forced to sell the rights to their entire catalogue of songs in March 2012, which they reckoned might just be enough to settle their debts of £750,000.
Like I say, not knowing how all this came to be, it’s difficult to know whether we should feel sorry for them or think what a bunch of prats they were to squander all their riches. Anyway, the music is still as good as ever, even with Ali’s bro singer instead – and hopefully this time he won’t go breaking any ribs.
Did you know: While UB40 were becoming international superstars, Duncan Campbell was running a casino in Barbados and at one time had a fish and chip shop in Perth, Australia.
Thursday June 14, 2012 Barcelona Razzmatazz
Friday June 15, 2012 Bilbao Rockstar, Barakaldo
1. The Train Is Coming
2. So Here I Am
3. One In Ten
4. Homely Girl
5. Bring It On Home To Me
6. Cream Puff
7. Cherry Oh Baby
10. I Think It’s Going to Rain Today
11. Little by Little
12. Higher Ground
13. Boom Shaka Lacka
14. Morning Light
15. Reggae Music
17. Kingston Town
18. Red Red Wine
19. Can’t Help Falling in Love
Encore: 20. Please Don’t Make Me Cry
21. Easy Snappin’
22. The Way You Do the Things You Do