UB40 set to play Cambridge Corn Exchange
Next year, reggae pop music giants UB40 – named after the notorious UK unemployment benefit form and known the world over for hits such as Red Red Wine, (I Can’t Help) Falling in Love with You, I Got You Babe and debut single Food for Thought – will celebrate 40 years since they first came together as a band in Birmingham.
Before then, later this year, the constantly touring six-piece will set out on yet another cross-country jaunt, appearing at the Cambridge Corn Exchange on Monday, December 18.
Five of the original members –Robin Campbell (guitar/vocals), Jimmy Brown (drums), Earl Falconer (bass), Norman Hassan (percussion) and Brian Travers (saxophone), along with lead singer Duncan Campbell, who joined in 2008 – will be backed by Cambridge resident Martin Meredith (saxophone, keyboards), Laurence Parry (trumpet, flugelhorn, trombone) and keyboard player Tony Mullings.
By the time their tour bus rolls into the city, the phenomenally successful group – more than 50 singles in the UK charts, more than 100million records sold worldwide and nominated four times for the Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album and in 1984 for the Brit Award for Best British Group – hope to have a new album out, their 19th studio album, the follow-up to 2013’s Getting Over the Storm.
Robin Campbell, recently returned from UB40’s first ever tour of India, told the Cambridge Independent: “It’s an original album, but even our original albums usually have one or maybe two covers on them. Somebody nearly always comes with a song that we all know and love and goes ‘Why don’t we have a go at this?’”
He added: “There’s one I know of at the moment, for definite, but I don’t think there’ll be any more than that – the rest will be original material, as far as I know.”
Even if the new album is not out by the time the UK tour kicks off in Folkestone, Kent, on December 4, audiences can expect to hear songs from it alongside the classics.
“There’ll be a mixture of the songs everyone expects to hear – the ones everyone demands to hear,” said Robin, 62. “The obvious ones – Red Red Wine and (I Can’t Help) Falling in Love with You and Kingston Town, and various other tunes that we’d get lynched if we didn’t play.
“We like to resurrect one or two old ones we haven’t played for a while that might be fan favourites, and we like to play some contemporary stuff as well.”
Next year, the UBs will turn 40. Any plans to mark the occasion?
“Quite possibly. Everybody’s asking, so I guess we’re going to have to,” said Robin.
“I don’t really like thinking about it too much – it just makes me feel ancient!
“I’m not sure what, whether it’s a tour or just a one-off show or something that we may film. We’re thinking about it now.”
Reflecting on four decades of golden memories, Robin added: “It’s been an incredible career and it’s still going.
“Generally it’s landmark gigs that you remember. Going and playing South Africa after observing the cultural boycott and having the live record – we still hold the live record in South Africa for three performances over three nights to 210,000 people.
“Madison Square Garden in New York – sold out with a number one record – that was pretty special, and playing Russia before the wall came down, that’s something I’ll always remember.
“Playing the South Pacific and having 50 per cent of the population of Fiji turn up to see us play... I love playing in New Zealand because we’re honorary Maoris – we were inducted into the Maori nation 30-odd years ago. That was a pretty moving moment too.
“It’s not been a bad life.”
UB40 will be appearing at the Cambridge Corn Exchange on Monday, December 18.
Tickets are £40.25, with a VIP upgrade available for £75. All prices include booking fees.