(Most of what follows originally appeared as part of a longer post on a website called Bizarre Britain)
You and a few mates with a love of music have been rehearsing together. Having chosen your genre you’ve driven the neighbours crazy practicing in your father’s garage. Now you are ready to bring your efforts to the attention of the public. There’s only one problem: what to call yourselves. All the best names have been taken. It was in situations like this that some of the most successful British bands found inspiration in the oddest of places.
Late in 1978 a group of friends from around Birmingham, England, began learning to play together. There were eight of them, from a variety of ethnic backgrounds, and their chosen genre was reggae. Several of the boys were unemployed and had to fill out a form to claim a social welfare payment known as unemployment benefit. The form was topped by the identifier UB40.
Whilst the rest of the band were honing their style in jam sessions around several Birmingham public houses, two of their number began touring the city sticking up UB40 posters. Their first record release, Food for Thought, reached number four in the UK singles chart.
Their first album was entitled Signing Off in recognition that they were no longer eligible for unemployment benefit. The band went on to become one of the most commercially successful reggae acts of all time with over 70 million album sales. The original line-up stayed together for almost 40 years. The only change since is that Duncan Campbell replaced his brother Ali in 2008.
Ali now has a rival band. Both bands are currently touring Europe. The original UB40‘s next gig is at Coventry Skydome on May20th. Ali’s band plays Glasgow tonight, Newcastle-on-Tyne tomorrow and Manchester on Wednesday.