When UB40 takes to the stage at the Nocturne Festival at Blenheim Palace, the list will include red wine. And one in ten. And Food for Thought.
And leader Ali Campbell never tires of playing the hits that made them one of the most commercially successful reggae acts of all time.
He said: “We will play our usual ensemble, all our hits. We had 40 hits in the Top 20, so we’re a good band to have at a festival, people know us and know our songs. And the festivals are great to play. because it’s not necessarily our audience. You get up and see what’s going on. I like to play for people who wouldn’t come to see us normally. It’s an opportunity to turn them on! ”
He is delighted to be performing again, especially as many events have been postponed.
“I think this has been happening at all levels,” he said. “There have been a lot of cancellations. It’s good to be back. We were at Hampton Court yesterday, this is a lovely place. It’s great that people feel reckless enough to be next to each other again.” another.
“I’ve been to Oxford many times, I like it, a lovely little place. And I’ve played at Blenheim Palace before, on the day I made corporations there.”
UB40 has sold over 70 million records worldwide in a three-decade run. They have been nominated four times for a Grammy for Best Reggae Album.
But 53-year-old Ali is as excited about music as ever.
“I have an unprecedented new album to come out.” How is it? “It’s brilliant.”
The band decided to dedicate their last tour to the memory of the founding member and ‘toaster’ Astro who died last November due to a short illness.
Ali said: “Astro’s death was a terrible shock and more had been included in this whole album. He was doing more background singing. It’s kind of a new sound, but fans will definitely recognize him as we are. Astro “I had a lovely soft falsetto. But it was in a very good place. I just went to Jamaica and we had that time out there. We did four new tracks.”
“You know, when he died suddenly it was a big shock. But I never thought I wouldn’t act again.”
The band formed in 1978 as friends who knew each other from various schools in Birmingham.
They were influenced by the blues parties they went to as teenagers in the multicultural area of Balsall Heath and the original line-up was diverse, with English, Irish, Scottish and Jamaican and Yemeni musicians.
He said, “We were definitely one of the first multiracial bands. We had all the nonsense of being called a white reggae band, which didn’t matter to me because I’m white, but the others were black so they weren’t happy.
“And people didn’t know what dub was. I was a reggae fan and if you like reggae then you love dub. We did our second album, Present Arms, dubbed literally to show people what it was.
“A lot of people would return it to the store saying that the voices had been weird and that the record wasn’t working properly.”
The debut album Signing Off, now a platinum album, was recorded in one bedroom.
And after it was a huge hit in the UK, they settled in the United States with Labor of Love, a 1983 version album.
Ali said, “We did our first four-track album in someone’s room. It sold over a million copies, so that’s pretty special. We originally wanted Labor of Love to be our first album. “It was the music we liked and we grew up with red wine, lots of rivers to cross.”
The album was number one on the UK album chart.
“Yeah, we were right about that!” He said.
Our new album Unprecedented, with our latest tracks, We’ll Never Find Another Love and Sufferer, arrives on June 17th.
Book here: https://t.co/fljZ2c8orU
Great love ❤️💛💚 pic.twitter.com/wUADOZNw2v
– ALI CAMPBELL (@ UB40) May 3, 2022
Children of the late Scottish folk musician Ian Campbell, Ali and his brothers Robin and Duncan, both of whom have been to UB40, have been fans of reggae since they were very young.
He said: “My favorite band is the Wailers. When I was 10 or 11 I had African Herbsman, which is the quintessential reggae record with Lee Perry. But I also loved the Jackson Five, I loved Stevie. Wonder and Al Green.
“There was a record store on Ladypool Road in Birmingham called Don Christie’s where we had reggae records. And I stole them from my brother’s record collection and we played them at youth clubs and shebeens. And I was promoting.
“I came from an Antillean and Asian community. All the neighbors were from West India or Jamaica. Only when I went to high school did I realize that I was the only one who liked reggae. They considered me a a little weird. ”
Ali left the band bitterly in 2008 and in 2014 was involved in a legal dispute with former bandmates over the use of the band’s name.
They took action against the new group that contained Campbell, Mickey Virtue and Astro for the name that was being used by both parties.
“When I left my band in 2008 it became my UB40, with Ali Campbell,” he said. “They continued as UB40. I didn’t want anyone to think I was them. They’re a tribute band.”
Ali, who has eight children, including two with his current wife, Julie, moved to Dorset 15 years ago, but spends a lot of time recording at Dean Street Studios in London’s Soho.
“It’s a great little studio, used by David Bowie and Marc Bolan and it’s really good in the middle of London,” he said.
So what do you think of Boris Johnson, the man who put his name on his band after an assistance card issued to people claiming unemployment benefits and wrote letters about apartheid, Thatcherism, racism, global poverty and social injustice?
“I try not to,” he said. “I think he’s an absolute jester and as I get older I can’t believe people can stand it. They showed their true colors with Brexit and then with Covid, it’s been disaster after disaster.
“UB40 came out of the winter unhappy – it was the name of the unemployment benefit – which was a good idea, as we had an instant fan base. We also handed out free or half-price tickets to the people who had a UB40 card.
“It’s like the wind blows. People are no longer happy today. We have this ridiculous war in Ukraine: what never happened again and we don’t forget it. What Russia is doing is begging. It’s as if we I went back 90 years.
“But,” he added, “don’t change your mind about singing about it.”
- UB40 Featuring Ali Campbell will perform at Nocturne on Friday, June 17 along with Cleveland Watkiss, Ayana Witter-Johnson, ASWAD and Maxi Priest.