It’s UB40… but exactly as you know them, as Ali Campbell and his two founding bandmates take to the road again under their original moniker.
The reason this might be confusing to fans is because there is currently ANOTHER UB40 out there, fronted by Ali’s own brother Duncan – something that Ali calls “a double betrayal”.
“When I stopped singing with the band, it was because I was advised to by my brother,” Ali tells me. “It wasn’t because I was planning to go solo. My passion was always for the band.
“But I used to tell Duncan of my grievances about the way the band was being managed, and he told me, ‘Down tools – just refuse to sing.’
“So I did that, and then I saw them all back on the road. Fronted by… guess who? You could have blown me down with a feather.
“So I feel doubly betrayed by Duncan, but I don’t speak to any of them. It’s just easier.”
Onto happier topics, and the return of Astro to the group, along with Ali and Mickey, who’d left with Ali at the same time.
Is it like riding a bike being back together? “More like pulling on a pair of old boots,” smiles Ali.
“But it’s a better show, now that I’ve been out on the road by myself.
“I used to sing a lot, but never speak. Now I’ve learnt to express myself more between songs. And the crowds have been fabulous.”
As with all bands, UB40 have to walk the tightrope between new music that they want to play, and giving the fans their old favourites like ‘Red Red Wine’ and ‘Rat in my Kitchen’. For Ali, it’s a no-brainer…
“If people are paying us, it’s a bit self-indulgent not to give them what they want.
“We tried that once, ended up supporting ourselves, bizarrely.”
Two things haven’t changed, though – Ali’s political opinions – “I’m even more cynical now than I used to be, nothing’s changed, the government are still making disastrous decisions that affect us all” – and his commitment to reggae,
“When we started out, it was only white middle class journalists giving us a hard time,” he remembers.
“They gave us this white reggae tag. But the artists in Jamaica that we worked with, they all loved us, and they got paid for their music, which made a change for them.”
Which brings Ali back to the present debacle, even though he’s determined to rise above it…
“I started UB40 to promote and celebrate reggae, and now my brother and his bandmates are using the same name (which can’t be copyrighted, apparently, as it refers to a government label), to sing country and western records. I’m trying to save the legacy.”
“It shouldn’t be about all this, ultimately, mind you. We’re just going to get out there, enjoy ourselves, sing some reggae and let the fans decide.”
UB4O - Ali - Astro - Mickey - UK Tour - Birmingham 19 Dec, London 20 Dec, Manchester 21 Dec. Details here...