HAD IT. LOST IT (Part 8)

A GUEST POSTING by ADRIAN MAHON

Dear Mr Villain,

Surely close to the top of anyone’s list is UB40?

Starting out with the name; that 80’s icon of alienated youth. They had all the right black/white/industrial background and certainly delivered the goods on the first few singles and albums.

That first album was a blinder: great singles that had a real social message. Listen to ‘King’ and ‘Food for Thought’: great reggae sounds with a real social message to all.

mp3 : UB40 – King
mp3 : UB40 – Food For Thought

The later offerings still had real merit even if the sound had changed for commercial success. Listen to the soft beauty of ‘Don’t Break My Heart’ from ’85.

mp3 : UB40 – Don’t Break My Heart

Then….it all went a bit crap. No one believed that they had an infestation of rodents in the kitchen. The ‘bankruptcy’ just looked like a tax dodge and the fact that there are now two different versions of the band suggests lawyer differences rather than musical ones.

Regards,

Adrian

JC adds…..

I did mention in reply to Adrian that I was never a huge fan to begin with but there were plenty of folk at school and uni whose tastes I admired who had time for early UB40. Maybe it all went began to go wrong from getting to #1 with an appalling cover of Red Red Wine in 1983, but as Adrian has pointed out, there were some good songs still to come later on. Worth mentioning just how successful a band they were – twenty-three singles made the Top 20 between 1980 and 1998, three of which went to #1; it’s telling, however, that all the #1s were cover versions.

8 thoughts on “HAD IT. LOST IT (Part 8)

  1. Signing Off what a brilliant debut, there isn’t a bad track on it and to add a 12″ single in the package with the fantastic Madam Medusa ( nearly 13 mins long) ((the best extra in a album since Go+ a free 12′ with the XTC album Go2))

    As a 17 year old from Edinburgh this was my first taste of British reggae and i loved it along side my punk bands of the time.
    Yes the later releases weren’t anywhere near as good in fact some in my opinion are crap.
    Try out the Dub Albums also. All the 80 and 81 releases are good and look for the 12″ versions
    anyhow I’m away as” I Think Its Going To Rain Today”

  2. Good call Adrian. ‘Signing Off’, magnificent. ‘Present Arms’, very good in places. ‘UB44’, passable. Everything else, garbage. A real shame, though I suspect we could say that about the majority of artists featured in this series.

  3. Just been reviewing their release history on Discogs. I’d forgotten that I’d actually baled before they entered cover version territory. First two albums were great, but the lead single for the third album (which would appear to have been So Here I Am) clearly put me off any further purchases – can’t say I can even recall that one now.
    Not heard Don’t Break My Heart for years – it did nothing whatsoever for me at the time, and if I’m honest doesn’t do a great deal more for me now.

  4. An example of a band that has, like Sting, been so bad for so long it is easy to forget that they were ever any use.

    And yet the early stuff is dynamite still to this day as highlighted by the tracks chosen.

    I too hate Red Red Wine but must admit I have a real soft spot for their cover of Kingston Town. A veritable jewel amongst a huge mound of turds mind.

  5. Can’t argue with this one. Later output not a patch on the beginning LPs. I will say in the band’s defense that, before they split into rival factions, the band still put on a good live show. And don’t blame band problems on “lawyer differences!”

  6. I remain a fan of “Rat In The Kitchen”‘s lead single and biggest hit “Sing Our Own Song”. Don’t think I could even name any non-cover song they did after that, though.

  7. First two albums excellent. Very quick fall after. Played Food for Thought to death at the time. However, I do too have a soft spot for Kingston Town.

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