Featuring newly filmed interviews with Ali Campbell, Robin Campbell, Astro, Brian Travers, Mickey Virtue and Jimmy Brown, UB40 recount their phenomenal rise to fame.
Browse content similar to Promises & Lies: The Story of UB40. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!
I started UB40 to promote reggae...
and they're punching off that name at the moment.
This programme contains some strong language.
We've come to a point where we've got to defend ourselves
from the shit coming out of his mouth.
Because I was asking questions, they started to demonise me.
But I couldn't get any information.
To this day, I still don't know what happened to the money.
It wouldn't surprise me at all if he believes the things he says now.
The lies he's told in the last eight years are just disgusting.
He's a pathological liar.
You know, saying we've ruined the band's legacy,
and ruined reggae music.
Really, we're starting again.
We're trying to reclaim the name before the legacy's destroyed.
This is the worst case I've seen, in 45 years in the business.
He's split the band. He's split a family.
It's a sad story. A very sad story.
BAND PLAY INSTRUMENTAL
BAND END SONG
Welcome to the Jug O'Punch Folk Song Club in Birmingham.
This is the Ian Campbell Folk Group and our first song is The Cockfight.
# Come all ye colliers far and near
# I'll tell of a cockfight when and where
# Out on the moor I heard 'em say
# A queen of black and a bonnie grey... #
My family ran the biggest folk club in the country,
for many years, throughout the '60s.
It was at Digbeth Civic Hall.
And it was, like, hundreds, every week, huge.
You know, nothing like your average folk club now.
It was massive and lots of people played there. You know?
Many different... Paul Simon... You know, all sorts of people.
Erm, and half of them ended up sleeping on the settee
at our house, you know?
So, we were surrounded by music all of our lives.
Me and Ali were on stage in me dad's club.
Ali and I were on stage when he was five,
so I must have been six, you know,
and playing penny whistle when I was a kid
and, you know, we always talked about being Britain's answer
to the Jackson Five! But, you know, things change.
Me, Robin, Duncan, we used to sing together, yeah.
We did three-part harmonies.
I can remember me mam coming in thinking it was the radio,
when the three of us were singing, you know? And we got quite tight.
'Obviously, the influence of our father is great
'because we grew up surrounded by music and musicians.
'All of our lives, if you showed any interest at all,
'he would thrust an instrument in your hands, you know,
'and say, "I'll get you lessons if you want," you know?'
But, like most kids, you're diametrically opposed
to what your parents are into, you know,
so we were looking for something else.
The area we grew up in was an immigrant area,
so, I was hearing Jamaican pop music
from the age of eight or something, you know, that's what I heard.
# People get ready to do, do rock-steady... #
We grew up in South Birmingham, in Balsall Heath.
The music of the streets was reggae,
and the music in the youth clubs we went to was reggae.
So, we thought everybody loved reggae.
But it was only in our small area of Balsall Heath.
You know, when we went to secondary school,
we realised everybody else
was listening to something entirely different -
called Gary Glitter and Marc Bolan and David Bowie, you know!
That all went over my head, you know.
I didn't get into any of that music.
Half of our firm, our gang, were West Indian kids.
Jamaican kids, primarily.
And they had music coming from Jamaica,
their mums and dads or elder brothers and sisters.
And that's where we got our music, and it was reggae.
If you were to take eight people out of Balsall Heath,
where we come from, eight kids would have looked like us.
You didn't choose your friends according to their colour.
They were just your friends.
Most of us went to school together, in Balsall Heath,
right in the centre of Birmingham.
We spoke about starting a band right from 13, 14 years old.
But you've got to remember, we left school in 1975,
in Birmingham, and, you know, there was no jobs.
There truly was no jobs for anybody.
And we figured we'd have more chance starting a band
than we would getting a real job. No kidding.
There was talk about being musicians,
without it ever coming to anything.
And I think that, really, the thing that changed it all,
that made us serious, was first of all,
seeing Bob Marley live in '76, I think it was,
when he came to Birmingham.
And we went to see him and that made me decide
that that was what I wanted to do.
I really wanted to be in a reggae band.
And I think the same for Ali.
But we still didn't actually do it.
# Ain't no rules, ain't no vow we can do it anyhow
# I and I will see you through... #
And it wasn't until Ali got compensation for damage to his eye,
you know, pub fight, that he had the money.
Because he'd never been employed,
so he'd never had the money to buy an instrument.
So when he got compensation, he bought himself a guitar.
I think he also bought our very first set of drums.
But that was kind of a catalyst.
The first rehearsal that we had, we hired a room
and we all turned up there,
in fact we got eight of us and all our gear in a minivan.
And tried to rehearse, but we didn't know how to rehearse.
Robin knew the chords to House Of The Rising Sun. That was it.
I was the only one that could play chords,
and I'm trying to teach people chords and stuff
and they're not listening, they're...
It was just total anarchy.
And I just said, "K, it's never going to happen, is it?"
And I left.
So Jimmy, the drummer, Earl, the bass player and myself
went and rehearsed for six months until we could play.
And we did that by playing records and copying them.
And other people started drifting in as it started to sound like music.
I lived in this bedsit flat in Moseley
and Earl, the bass player, lived next door in a bedsit.
And underneath was a big cellar
that you could get to from the outside of the building.
You know those big tenement houses, big Victorian houses?
And we claimed this cellar.
Nobody used it, it was full of leaves.
So we made it ours.
Stole our electricity off a Hells Angel -
proper badged up Hells Angel -
who lived upstairs, who was the greatest guy, knew all about it.
"Don't worry, just stop playing at six o'clock when I get home."
And we practised every day.
And then, after a few months,
I went down with Duncan and listened,
and Brian was playing there as well.
And they actually were making... a sound that was close to music!
And I was impressed enough that they meant it,
I believed that they meant it enough for me to commit.
Although Duncan wasn't!
Duncan just said, "No, it's never going to happen."
And I just said, "Come on, the three of us singing, you know,
"it'll be good.
"Let's do it."
And of course, he didn't, and I did.
People think I turned down joining a band.
But I didn't turn down joining a band,
I turned down joining a project that was some way off.
Nobody had any instruments or knew how to play them,
but they were going to work all that out.
And there's lots of people who always say,
well, I was given the chance to be a part of that
but to be honest, I was busy!
It didn't seem all that appealing at the time.
He said - he had a job as a croupier, going to Barbados -
he went, "Fuck this, I'm going to Barbados!"
And who can blame him?
We were in a damp cellar in Moseley, couldn't even play.
We knew three chords, C, F and G.
They were all in that band because they knew Ali.
Most of them were his schoolmates.
One of them was his brother.
So he was, undoubtedly, the founder.
And Ali actually came to see me -
well, Ali and Robin came to visit me,
and told me they were starting a band,
but I couldn't have joined if I wanted to,
because I was in prison at the time.
We rehearsed for almost a year,
playing any tune that we particularly loved at that time.
You know, a reggae tune that was out and current, we were learning.
And slowly, learning to write songs.
We had a lot of instrumentals with no words and melodies on,
which we always had, traditionally, instrumentals on albums.
Which was just - we couldn't write words
to go with that piece of music.
I think at the time,
we were nearly going to go out as Geoff Cancer and the Nicotinees.
That's because at the time, it was post-punk,
Poly Styrene and X-Ray Spex, you know, they had funny names.
So we were Geoff Cancer...
I was Geoff Cancer! And the band were the Nicotinees for a while.
We didn't really care what it was going to be called.
What we was interested in was actually playing music -
and the name come from the suggestion from a friend of ours.
He said, "Why don't you call yourselves UB40?"
"You know, you're all on the dole, you've all got a UB40 card,
"it makes sense."
It gives us three million card-carrying fans instantly.
We'd start playing gigs - but we'd only play in Birmingham
once every four weeks, five weeks.
So it didn't look like we were desperate.
We didn't want it to look like that was the only gigs we had,
we wanted to make out like we were precious.
And we put posters up in the street, with just our name on, UB40.
And then people would tell us, have you seen that band?
And they hadn't seen us, because we haven't played at these places.
Hype, you know, we were hyping.
# Give me all you have
-# Come over
-All you got to give
# Come over... #
We shirt-tailed the 2-Tone movement.
Wouldn't have got a lot of gigs
if it hadn't been for the 2-Tone movement.
We were never a part of it, but we sort of got a lot of gigs,
we got gigs with The Beat and Madness and Selecter and stuff
and we did those, but we didn't go down too well.
We were spat at and sieg-heiled, basically, by the skinheads
in the audience, because we weren't fast enough.
But it got us gigs and got us exposure and eventually...
we took off.
# Appeal to the governor of Louisiana
# You may get an answer the process is slow
# Federal government don't do much to help him
# It's been nearly five years And they won't let him go
# Tyler is guilty the white judge has said so
# What right do we have to say it's not so... #
Chrissie Hynde, from The Pretenders,
saw us playing in a little gig in Covent Garden
called the Rock Garden.
She came to see us play and she was number one at the time.
And we were going, "Oh, that's that girl off the telly!
"You know, with the number one record."
We didn't know her name, really. Do you know what I'm saying?
And they asked us to go on tour with them.
# I got brass
# In pocket... #
I just had got The Pretenders together,
we had our first album out,
and I think we had our first and last number one which was...
had just come out,
and we were looking for a band to tour with,
and my bass player, Pete Farndon, said there is a great reggae band.
You know, we were all big fans of reggae, of course,
because in the punk scene, that was all anyone listened to.
And he said, "Go down to the Rock Garden in Covent Garden,
"see this band. This little band."
So I went down and there they were.
They weren't signed or anything, but it wasn't a little band,
the whole place was full of them.
And so I sort of went backstage, to very sheepishly, I might add,
ask if they would want to support my band.
I felt that was kind of a pompous thing to do,
but I zeroed in on Brian
because he was clearly the most accessible, friendly one.
Unfortunately, I couldn't understand a word he said!
You know, I had to use the others to interpret what he said.
But, I mean, they were just a great band.
And we toured with them. They came on our first tour.
# Must we go on ignoring... #
It was terrifying, because it was so quick.
We had literally been playing our instruments
about eight or nine months,
and suddenly we're on stage supporting The Pretenders
in front of 3,000, 4,000, 5,000 people.
And we were absolutely terrified.
# I'm a British subject and I'm proud of it
# But I carry the burden of shame... #
When we started, 1979, in them days, if you weren't political,
you weren't worth listening to.
If you weren't on an independent label, you weren't worth...
You were pretend.
You were being hyped by one of the big multinationals.
Everybody was left wing in the band, but varying degrees of left wing.
You had to write a lyric everyone felt comfortable with.
And that was the only rule, really.
We didn't set out to write political songs,
we didn't set out to change the world politically,
it's just that when you write your own songs,
you're going to write about things that are important to you,
or things that you get emotional about, you know?
So we wrote political lyrics.
We weren't very good at writing love songs, actually.
When we started, we were a bit embarrassed about it.
Well, we were kind of political, politicised.
Disenfranchised, you know?
We had been unemployed for three years since we left school,
at 15, 16 years old.
And we were part of the Thatcher era,
and if we were going to write our own stuff,
we wanted it to be able to say something...
-Relevant or sensible, or whatever.
The UB40 thing was supposed to be a positive thing,
the fact that you really were at the bottom of the ladder
if you were on a UB40 - the only way was up.
That's why we called our first album Signing Off.
MUSIC: Food for Thought by UB40
# Ivory Madonna
# Dying in the dust
# Waiting for the manna
# Coming from the West... #
I mean, I can remember walking through Moseley, I think,
when they'd only been going for a little while,
and hearing the record out of somebody's house
and that was... Brilliant!
Couldn't believe it! That's me brother's, did you hear that?
But of course, within no time at all, they were all over the telly.
# ..Bells are ringing... #
I suppose there must have been sometimes
when I must have had pangs of regret, but not jealousy.
I mean, I was always chuffed to bits.
And proud to be the brother - and it wasn't a bad position to be in.
# Politicians argue...#
I watched their first appearance on Top Of The Pops.
Top Of The Pops was the one thing that everybody watched in prison.
Which, I think, was not because everyone was very keen on music,
I think it was because of Legs & Co,
or Pan's People, or whatever they were called at the time.
So I saw UB40 there when they first appeared.
# ..Coming from the West... #
-We always thought...
-It was going to be successful.
Yeah! We were quite sure of that, you know.
And I think you have to have that when you start out.
You've got to be a little bit arrogant.
And we had no reason for being arrogant, we were awful, really.
What you heard with the first album
was what we had learned to play so far, you know.
And I can't actually listen to that album.
I was proud of what it did for us, but it's all out of tune!
We weren't musicians, so we didn't know how to tune our instruments.
They're great tunes on the album, it's just that we didn't know
technically how to make the music that we wanted.
So the saxophone that Brian was using was the wrong type of sax,
tuned wrong, the bass wasn't tuned properly.
I was tuned to an open E chord.
So we learned as we went along,
how to tune our instruments,
but we were three albums in before we got it right!
-# The Earth dies screaming
-The Earth dies screaming
-# The Earth dies screaming
-The Earth dies screaming
# Your country needs you let's strike up the band... #
We were very much like a gang.
We decided from day one that we would share everything,
all royalties, eight ways.
Eight equal ways.
And that was an influence of my father's.
Because he had told us about the business,
how cut-throat it was and how you should never trust a publisher, etc.
So it just got rid of all those arguments that you hear.
"Musical differences", "creative differences", you know,
that tear other bands apart,
because they feel like they're doing as much work
but the next guy who is writing all the songs
is the guy earning the money.
So we just wiped those arguments out, we just never had those rows.
I think that is one of the reasons why we carried on for so long,
because there weren't any infighting,
people getting more than somebody else.
I think that's why we lasted so long. You know?
I think a lot of our fans bought into that concept, as well -
the fact that we weren't like all the other bands which ended up
arguing about money and stuff.
We didn't make good money for a long time.
We were being offered big advances, you know, of 150 grand,
by certain major record labels, and we refused those
because we wanted to go for the points.
We wanted the artistic control.
Yeah. And luckily, we sold eight million of the first album,
so we were on great points, you know,
and we didn't look back from there.
And then we started our own record label.
We had plans to dominate the music world, of course.
Before we had any money ourselves, we got a little studio together.
We bought this old abattoir,
disgusting old place in the middle of Birmingham,
and cleaned it up ourselves.
It was all big refrigerators, with giant thick walls,
so they were instantly soundproof.
And we started a studio.
We had that place for 25 years.
Spent millions on it, in the end, you know?
The building cost 33 grand,
and I think the last mixing desk we bought cost 275 grand.
# My arms enfold the dole queue Malnutrition dulls my hair
# My eyes are black and lifeless With an underprivileged stare
# I'm the beggar on the corner Will no-one spare a dime?
# I'm the child that never learns to read
# Cos no-one spared the time
# I am the one in ten
-# A number on a list
-I am the one in ten
# Even though I don't exist
-# Nobody knows me
-But I'm always there
# A statistic, a reminder Of a world that doesn't care... #
People wanted to hear what we were saying, obviously.
One In Ten has become almost an iconic song from that time,
that mid-'80s Thatcher period.
And I think we did turn people on to reggae
in ways that they would never have been turned on to it otherwise.
Our mission was to popularise reggae around the world,
because we'd been listening to it and grown up on it.
And loved it.
We were bit evangelistic about it.
But we just wanted to show people
these great pop songs that we knew and loved.
That's the reason for the Labour Of Love series.
-# I've got many rivers to cross
-Many rivers to cross
# But just where to begin
# I'm playing for time... #
We wanted to do Labour Of Love as the first album,
but we were talked out of it by the record company.
Yeah, it'd be commercial suicide,
because you're known as the dole queue band,
and you've got to write your own stuff,
you're not a covers band, and all that.
You'll be perceived as a cabaret act.
That's because record company people don't really know
what they're talking about, usually! To tell the truth.
And when we said we wanted to do Cherry Oh Baby and all these others,
they said, you can't, you can't,
you're known for writing your own material.
# Oh, Cherry, oh, Cherry, oh, baby don't you know I'm in love with you?
# If you don't believe that's true
# Then, why don't you try me?
# I will never let you down
# I will never make you wear no frown
# When you say that you love me madly
# Well, then, I'll accept you gladly
# Oh, oh, oh, oh... #
Well, we knew it would do well
because they were all sure-fire hits,
as far as we were concerned, you know?
And we just knew that if the mainstream public got to hear
these records, they'd fall in love with them just like we did.
We were always going to be covering our favourite reggae tunes,
and when we realised, moving out of Birmingham,
that, actually, most people hadn't heard these tunes,
then that was a bonus,
because most people know Red Red Wine from our version,
not from anybody else's version.
# Red, red wine
# Stay close to me
# Don't let me be alone
# It's tearing apart
# My blue, blue heart... #
We were broke, completely broke,
and I think we had a month's wages left,
or even a week's wages, it might have been,
when Red Red Wine went to number one,
and we were saved,
and it was a big sigh of relief.
-Thank God for that, you know?
It's not our last wages, then, you know?
So, it was peaks and troughs all the way through our career.
# I was wrong
# Now I find
# Just one thing makes me forget
# Red, red wine... #
Well, it was a boon to many of us. There was eight of us in the band,
and a manager, you know, and the road crew.
The road crew guys were our mates who didn't get an instrument.
If they had have done, it could have been a 12-piece band.
I mean, when the money came in, it had to go a lot of ways.
We weren't really living like, erm...
We weren't like The Who or The Beatles...
until a few years after that.
To run DEP, it was, kind of, 90 grand a month,
you know, and we ran that for 28 years,
so, if you add that up just on its own, that's a lot of dough.
Touring, you know, is very expensive.
You've got all your airfares, your hotels,
your PDs, your wages, you know.
Where there was 40 of you on the road,
which there was in the early days, you know,
it's an expensive business.
MUSIC: I Got You Babe by UB40 & Chrissie Hynde
# They say our love won't pay the rent
# Before it's earned our money's always spent... #
Chrissie Hynde had said, with her looks and my voice,
we should do something together,
and that was while we were on tour with her,
so I went, "Go on, then."
And then she said it was her idea to do I Got You Babe,
which is nonsense, of course.
Well, of course Ali will lie and say it was his idea
to do I Got You Babe, but they wouldn't have known that song.
And, you know, it was... Obviously, it was my idea.
They would have never acted on it, either,
cos they can't get anything done, but I knew it would work
with his voice and, you know, and that song.
We did I Got You Babe and then Breakfast In Bed -
there were two big hits with her.
They were great songs.
# I've got you, babe... #
Well, I recorded two songs with them,
and then we, you know, over the years,
I've got on stage with them and done things.
I couldn't even understand what they were fucking talking about
most of the time. Erm...
But a real fun band,
and I think that's the thing about them is they were such a band.
# Whoa, whoa, whoa, yeah... #
When we released a record,
it'd literally come out everywhere in the world -
and not all bands could do that,
and I think this was down to reggae, not UB40.
I think everywhere you went,
indigenous people adopted reggae as the rebel music.
That was their music.
It represented them and their concerns and their...
their politics, which were very similar, you know.
Anybody who's got under the boot, you know,
can get their politics from rebel music and reggae.
So we'd put a record out and go everywhere in the world.
We'd go on tour and we'd go everywhere.
You know, we'd go to Russia.
All of the South Pacific Islands - Tonga, Tahiti, the Hawaiian Islands.
Many, many times, you know. Africa, everywhere.
We'd be on the road, sometimes, for nine or ten months at a time.
# Yeah, yeah
# There's a rat in my kitchen
# What am I gonna do?
# There's a rat in my kitchen What am I gonna do?
# I'm going to fix that rat
# That's what I'm gonna do
# I'm going to fix that rat... #
There were definitely a lot of people that were hearing the music
for the first time when they heard us,
and were encouraged to maybe go and find out more about the music.
I think we were part of building that recognition of reggae
as a unique style of music.
# There's a rat in my kitchen What am I gonna do?
# I'm gonna fix that rat That's what I'm gonna do
# I'm gonna fix that rat... #
It's a beautiful thing, you know.
There's been so many highlights over the years -
playing Madison Square Garden, sold-out gigs,
number one in America, album and single.
An amazing... You know, you've reached the top.
And then, of course, there was South Africa,
where we were one of the first bands there
after the ending of the boycott,
singing Sing Our Own Song.
# And we will fight for the right to be free
# And we will build our own society
# And we will sing We will sing
# We will sing our own song... #
Playing that song in South Africa,
with Mandela out of prison and president and apartheid over and...
after having observed the cultural boycott for, you know,
the first, whatever it was, 15 years...
to then go and play South Africa and sing that song
to 70,000 people a night for three nights was...
Well, we still hold the live record in South Africa, you know?
There's no other artist who's played to 210,000 people in three days.
So, that was an amazing time,
and it was a hair up on the back of your neck moment, you know?
# Amandla Awethu
# Amandla Awethu... #
We were going round the world.
You know, we were selling millions of CDs,
which enabled us to do great big tours
and fantastic lightshows and things like that.
You know, it was like a dream come true.
Of course, a lot of money got wasted because, you know,
we were smoking weed and doing coke, you know, and drinking.
But that happened all the way through our career, you know -
we'd make a lot of money and we'd spend it.
# Wise men say
# Only fools rush in
# But I can't help falling in love
# With you... #
My dad was incredibly proud of us -
he just didn't like to say too much.
In fact, he was given a Lifetime Achievement Award,
and he gave a speech, and most of it was taken up with talking about
what a fabulous job we'd done and how proud of us he was,
so, you know, that was quite a surprise to me.
He was, really, for the first time publicly acknowledging
his sons' success, which was really nice.
# Some things were made to be... #
We were doing really well.
We'd just had our biggest-selling album.
We'd just sold 10 million copies of Promises And Lies in America
and we'd just toured for two years solidly,
so it was the most money we'd made
up till then in our careers, you know...
# Falling in love with you... #
..and it just went missing.
When we came back off tour,
that was when we discovered that we were penniless -
and not only penniless, but we were overdrawn,
mortgaged to the hilt and in deep shtuck.
CHEERING Suddenly the studios closed down
and there wasn't money for wages and stuff,
and we were all really surprised.
"What? How did that happen?"
It turned out that there were tens of millions of pounds
that we'd never even been paid,
that we should have had over the previous 20 years
for record royalties. We never got them.
For, you know, radio play and stuff like that,
we never got paid for any of that, and we were...
Throughout the '80s and '90s,
we were probably the third most-played band
in the world on the radio.
So, there we were - the bank were about to foreclose on the studio
because we'd borrowed money on the strength of it,
without knowing it.
So, then we had to borrow £300,000 to stop the bank taking the studio,
and we then spent the next seven, eight years
constantly in a cycle of borrowing money,
recording, going on the road and paying that money back.
I started asking questions.
They were just normal questions about,
"How much are we paying our staff?"
"How come we were getting so little when we were playing sold-out gigs?"
We were selling out the Wembley Arenas and stuff,
and we were getting peanuts for it, and I started saying,
you know, "What's going on?"
So I brought in Bill Curbishley,
who's a famous manager in the business,
to find out where the black hole was.
Initially I'd thought everything was being handled
really professionally and in a good way.
It was only after a period of time
I started realising that in order to survive,
they were juggling lots of different balls here.
Having been up to Birmingham a couple of times,
and trying to sit them all down,
and trying to get the eight of them to focus on all of those things
was virtually impossible.
They were so stoned, all of them.
All they did was smoke dope all the way through the meeting,
and I'm trying to get them to pay any attention to the questions
that we were asking, because we weren't their business managers,
we were their music managers.
There were certain things that came up.
One was there were debts to certain banks -
loans they'd had which I was unaware of,
and had been prior to me joining them.
There was a loan to an offshore company,
and they were repaying it at something like 33% interest.
I asked who was behind this company,
what was the reason for this loan,
and didn't get very far.
It then came out that the collateral for the loan
was their catalogue rights,
which I thought was absolutely abhorrent.
You know, you get used to living a certain way,
and, you know, for 25 years,
we've been living like very wealthy people -
you know, like millionaires, and...
And that carries on, and if you've got somebody not saying to you,
"Actually, you haven't paid. You owe half a million quid in tax."
-So you have to trust people,
and it seems traditional in the music business.
You don't get ripped off when you're a kid
because you haven't made enough money to get ripped off,
or to not be noticed for a while,
but, when you get a certain way in,
then there's enough money to...
for somebody to go at.
The revenues that they must have made,
particularly in that period in the '90s when it was arenas...
And they were a hard-working band, you know? They toured all the time.
When you're playing multiple arenas in America,
that's when you're making big money,
and selling the sort of numbers of records that they were selling,
so it would have been awash with money at one stage.
But the trail of where the money went,
we could never find, you know,
and that was a real problem.
Of course, we carried on living as we had been living,
so we were living beyond our means,
and so we were getting into further debt.
We carried on trying to finance our business and our lifestyle
and, you know, we were employing, I don't know,
up to 30 people full-time.
What we should have done was just closed everything down
and started again, but we soldiered on, you know,
into ever-decreasing circles.
By the time we took over,
they really only had England and Holland as major markets
where they could still play arenas,
and everyone else, it was theatres, so...
But they still toured as if they were an arena band,
so there'd be six tonnes of freight going everywhere,
which hammered, you know, the monies that were coming in.
And we kept saying, "Boys, why...?"
And they went, "No, no, no, this is how our production people
"tell us we need to tour."
So, I think a lot of it was on wasted cost
and, to be honest, I think they were all very naive,
and just believed what they were told.
The band themselves are to a great extent to blame,
because they would sit at meetings,
and all they cared about really...
or the general feeling I got was all they cared about
was their monthly drawings, their monthly salaries.
But, even when you look at that,
it went nowhere near towards the gross income,
not when you consider they had something like 35 top-30 singles.
They used to sell out concerts.
I mean, I can't really tell you what happened to that income.
There was obviously something that was going on
that I didn't know about.
I was asking a lot of questions and I wasn't getting any answers,
and, even within the band, you know,
I was asking the band members questions,
and they were giving me answers that I knew were false,
and so it was all going a bit weird.
MUSIC: Here I Am (Come And Take Me) by UB40
# I can't believe that it's real... #
Look, ego's a massive part of being a musician.
If you haven't got any ego, you can't do it.
Even people who profess, "Oh, I'm not egotistical," they are.
You can't do it unless you're proud of yourself,
and you can stand there and look people in the eye
and say, "Yeah, listen to what I'm going to play now.
"Look what I'm going to do."
And it's even more profound in singers,
and I think he started thinking it was his band,
he'd manifested his will, and this is who we are, and we could see
as he stood with his back to us every night of the week.
Do you know what I mean? On stage.
# Here I am, baby
# Come and take me... #
So, anyway, I think Ali became increasingly unhappy,
as the music business is dying,
and this huge amount of money's not coming in,
and I think he tried to continue living in the same style
he'd become accustomed to,
and getting increasingly unhappy,
and we were getting increasingly unhappy with his behaviour.
We'd be going to...
We went to start a tour, and unless we paid a credit card bill
he couldn't pay, he wasn't doing the tour,
and that happened a few times.
We were going, "No, we can't pay your nonsense,
"because there's less and less money coming in.
"You know, we've all got our own responsibilities."
And so, you know, he didn't make us feel the happiest we'd ever felt.
There was a lot of stuff going down,
and I never got any answers to any of the questions that I was asking.
You know, for four years I couldn't get any information.
To this day, I still don't know what happened to the money.
And because I was asking questions, they started to demonise me
as the nutter and, you know,
I didn't know what I was talking about.
So, I was singled out, and I ended up having to leave.
That's not what happened.
It's not really down to how I remember it,
it's down to exactly what happened,
which was he told us he'd been offered money to do a solo tour,
erm, and we...
having already delayed the release of our album by six months
so that he could promote his album while we were on tour,
we then baulked at the idea of him doing a summer tour
in the middle of our tours.
We said, "You know, we've got dates. We're already committed."
And he said, "Well, I've been offered this money.
"I'm doing this tour."
And we said, "You can't, cos we've got shows."
And he said, "I'm leaving, then," and that was as simple as that.
He's a 50-year-old man.
You know, who starts a solo career in your 50s? Who's...?
50-year-old people don't take pop singers that seriously.
Kids do, teenagers take teenagers seriously -
they don't take somebody the same age as their grandfather seriously.
But in him doing that, we had to cancel an American tour,
a South American tour...
and he cancelled it all cos he said he'd booked a solo tour.
And we went, "We've had the advances off this."
So we had to... That money had to go back.
The remaining members of UB40 have maintained all along that
I left to pursue a solo career, which I have said is a lie,
and this is my resignation letter.
"I refuse to tour for more years for silly money
"in order to keep Reflex and its staff employed.
"Nothing at all has changed since we all decided things had to change.
"I don't agree with most of the band's recent decisions.
"I don't even know who makes them any more.
"In short, I've had enough."
And that's what happened. I never left to pursue a solo career.
Why would I? You know, I would have done that, erm,
with the first solo album I made in 1994,
when we were at the peak of our careers, you know?
That's when I would have gone solo if I'd wanted to at all,
but I never intended to go solo ever.
It was my band.
Them saying that, you know,
that I was going to let them down and we'd been paid for gigs...
The gigs we'd been paid for and contracted to do, I did.
He did the Australian tour and one gig in Africa on the way home,
which I think was Uganda,
and then he walked off the stage after the Uganda gig
and we never saw him again.
# Red, red wi-ne
# Goes to my he-ad
# Makes me forget that I
# Still need her so-oh
# Red, red wi-ne...#
No matter how many sell-out shows we did
and how much money we earned,
there was never any money at the end of the tour.
You have to remember,
Ali had been asking for years to look at the books.
Just being told, "Oh, we forgot to bring you...
"We'll bring you in, next week."
And just the same thing, over and over again.
I knew they were committing commercial suicide,
if they were willing to let Ali go.
When he left the band,
he seems to think that they were going to go away.
They were all going to go into retirement somewhere.
But they're not going to, you know?
They were going to get another singer, whatever happened.
They were going to continue, I'm quite sure of that.
When Ali left, I then went to Duncan and offered him the job
as our new vocalist and he had just said to me,
that, yes, he'd love the job
but he wouldn't do it without Ali's blessing,
which infuriated me, actually, because I was saying,
"Ali's just walked out on us. Why have you got to ask Ali?"
And he said, "Because he's my kid brother and I won't do it."
"I want to do it but I won't do it unless he's OK with it."
Duncan phones me up, drunk,
and says, "I've joined the band, Ali."
And I went, "You are kidding!"
And he went, "No, I'm not kidding."
And I said, "Well, I'm very disappointed in you,
"but I can't tell you not to." You know.
"But I'm seriously disappointed in you, Dunc."
I immediately rang Ali and told him that I'd been offered the...
..the chance to do it and if he didn't want me to, I wouldn't do it.
But, he says, "Well, I can't..."
"Well, I can't say I'm pleased about it,
"but, of course, I wouldn't ask you not to."
And I said, "OK, fine."
Unfortunately, he's never spoken to me since that day.
I don't really...
I don't see how that's a betrayal.
All he did was accept Ali's job when it was offered to him.
And he's broken-hearted,
because he and Ali were the closest of all of us
because they are less than a year apart in age.
And Duncan is very, very unhappy to have lost his little brother.
When Ali left, that kind of reinvigorated us, you know,
because it had to.
You know, we were in shock.
You know, and traumatised - and, yeah, we had something to prove
but, also, the fans' reaction to Duncan was so good
that it just gave us a new lease of life, you know.
We knew that we could carry on.
We knew that we'd got somewhere to go.
To be honest, I thought it was only something I could fail at.
It's just a matter of how badly I did!
You know, I thought it was a sort of...
I don't know, a cleaning up process, a fizzling out type thing, you know.
Ali certainly didn't think there was much hope for us.
It seemed an obvious choice to see if I could do it
because it'll keep the brother blend with Rob and all the rest of it
and I'm able to do it.
And it's worked.
He was very highly strung about it for a long time
because he had big shoes to fill, you know,
and he went from, you know, playing small folk clubs with his dad,
you know, sometimes,
to suddenly playing to thousands in arenas, you know
and travelling all over the world.
And, yeah, it was terrifying for him
but, as he became instantly accepted,
then he learned to accept the idea himself.
# If you say that you love me madly
# Babe, I'll accept you gladly
# Oh-oh-oh... #
I stayed on with the others.
Whether you like it or not, I found myself constantly,
constantly phoning the office to find out what's happening.
"Are we getting paid this week?"
And then, when I've got certain members going,
"Well, the trustees aren't after my house." "I'm OK, Jack." You know.
And I'm supposed to sit there, you know,
after selling my house to pay off debts, consequently,
I've paid my share of the debt
but I've also paid other members of the band's debts,
who are still sitting pretty in their houses,
haven't been disrupted one iota, just made my blood boil.
There's no way I could actually physically go out on the road,
and be in that person's company
without wanting to smack them in the face.
And so, I thought, best thing to do, leave.
It was terribly painful, really,
because we felt like he'd been a complete Judas.
He came to us and he said, "I'm so skint, I've got no money."
We gave him all the money we had in the bank account.
He said, "I'm leaving if I can't get any money."
"We can't give you the money you want
"because it isn't there, but have this."
It was everything we had in the company accounts
and he left the next morning.
Well, you didn't want to stay around
to continue with the country vibe, as well, did you?
Well, that was totally...
That was the last straw, that really was.
And this Getting Over The Storm album,
I found myself trying to convince my mates
that it could work and they're just looking at me, like,
"Don't know where your head's at, mate.
"But, you know, that ain't reggae."
# Blue eyes crying in the rain...#
Well, the whole decision was ridiculous, to make a country album.
They're the biggest selling reggae band in the world, you know.
And they decided to make a country album.
It's a slap in the face to the fans who, you know,
bought all our records all along.
It's a slap in the face to Astro
and it's certainly a slap in the face to me,
as I'd started UB40 to promote reggae, you know.
And for them to do a country album is still jaw-dropping stuff, for me.
We released an album with, like,
a country influence album and he attacked it furiously,
saying we'd ruined the band's legacy and ruined reggae music.
It's fucking ridiculous.
We're just trying other stuff and it's a very successful record.
All around the world we go and people know the songs
and it paid for itself.
The worst review we've ever had for it is Ali Campbell.
He's made it his mission in life to run us down, now
and he's given us a terrible hard time in the press.
# I've got to run
# To keep from hiding... #
Whereas, as a band, UB40, we've stayed away from it
because it's just...
It's just not very sophisticated.
It's just a bit wanky, innit?
To run people down and talk about people
when they're not there to defend themselves.
I would take anything Brian says with a pinch of salt, you know,
because they've launched this...
A campaign to discredit me, you know.
Well, it's absolutely true because, when Ali left,
I can remember the band saying,
"Right, we'll take the moral high ground. We say nothing."
And I'm in total agreement with that.
Because, as far as I'm concerned, this just involves the band,
it doesn't concern anybody else outside.
Within four hours of Ali leaving,
poor little Brian's little fingers were tapping away,
just assassinating Ali by the second.
And then Jimmy Brown, the drummer,
he jumped in and they haven't stopped since.
They just haven't stopped. It's just been relentless.
And the same thing's happened with me.
When I left, there's that beautiful quote from fans, you know,
"Sorry to see you go." "Thanks for the memories", etc, etc.
Five hours later, Jimmy Brown, straightaway, you know.
"He's been caught with his hands in the till."
Which is what he said about me.
"Don't let him fool you, this is all about money."
"He wanted more than everybody else." You know.
This is the man who hasn't spent a penny on repaying the loans.
You know, so, let them get on with it.
It's a difficult one for me, this,
because Ali was my best friend when we were children.
He was the best man at my wedding. We were best mates.
We lived next door to each other in Jamaica.
We went on holiday together, always, with our families and kids.
So it's very painful. He's not the guy I grew up with and knew,
and we've come to a point where we've got to defend ourselves.
Not for egotistical reasons, not for personal reasons
but I've got to defend my friends, his brothers
and I've got to defend my partners here
from the shit that gets written about them, coming out of his mouth.
-I take it that there's no chance of you getting back together again.
It will. About 10 minutes after hell has frozen over.
No. I don't care what he does. Really. You know, he's...
The vitriol he's heaped on me and, you know,
fellow band members and Duncan.
The lies he's told in the last eight years are just disgusting.
You know, I've lost all feeling, really.
I've become numb to the whole thing, to be honest.
I'd rather not get back together with him.
It got... I love him but,
as I say, but he hasn't spoken to me since that day.
He doesn't keep in touch with the family.
I mean, he doesn't live in Birmingham any more,
as we all still do.
And Dad passed away and Ali didn't come to the funeral,
or couldn't come to the funeral, whatever.
You know, we haven't seen him.
What has happened is our family has been ripped asunder.
You know, it's been ripped apart, you know.
My father, before he died,
refused to talk to me because he took Duncan's side and Robin's side.
You know, and to say I didn't make Dad's funeral -
I was in New Zealand at the time. You know what I mean?
That's just a nasty, silly thing to say.
It's very disappointing that Ali's behaved the way he has,
you know, but not altogether surprising
when you've lived with him as long as I have.
My mum refuses to take sides. You know, we're all her boys
and she loves us equally and treats us the same
and refuses to become embroiled.
It's just become so poisonous, the whole situation.
It's particularly sad for our mother,
who has said to me that she's always taken comfort
from the knowledge that her four lads were there for each other.
And she's had to accept that that simply isn't the case now.
They're trying to sue us and we've got to defend ourselves.
Their argument is that we're passing off as UB40.
Our argument is that they're passing off because they've never said
that it's not the original line-up
and they've never said UB40 featuring Duncan Campbell,
or featuring Duncan, Robin, and Brian.
We always make it very clear who comes to see us,
it's UB40 featuring Ali, Astro and Mickey.
They know that if they have to go out
with "UB40 featuring Duncan Campbell"
that they'll never get a booking
and we're playing the O2, selling it out.
The guys that left the band, left the band of their own accord,
you know. Leaving us, the remaining members of the band,
to carry on as UB40.
Until they used the name, Ali's career hadn't happened
and then it dawned on him that...
When he went to Africa and places like that
and he sold himself as UB40, then he suddenly thought,
"Aye, aye, I can...I can do this...everywhere!"
And that was what he did.
I don't see why this couldn't be resolved very easily.
But of course, once emotions get involved
and bad feeling from the past and accusations -
it gets very muddy and nobody has any rationale or common sense.
But this could have been resolved a long time ago.
Both parties are in for a quarter of a million quid already
and as soon as you start the ball rolling like this,
it's very difficult to stop it, you know, because...
If they walk away with their hands down, they have to pay our costs.
And if we do the same, then we have to pay their costs.
So it just has to keep going and the only people that win
are the lawyers, obviously.
We're prepared to go as far as we have to go. We've already...
Again, you know, broken ourselves spending money
for two years on lawyers.
Very expensive lawyers, you know. We're prepared to go
as far as we have to go to...be able to use our name.
I've never seen a whole band suffer to this degree.
They've been cleaved down the middle in terms of family members.
They're all at odds with each other. They've all lost their houses
and they've all been bankrupt. It doesn't get much worse than that.
It's quite stunning, in a way, cos when I first joined them,
I really thought they were a bunch of happy-go-lucky guys
and for them, none of them, to be seen to have the rewards
from their previous hard work -
it just doesn't make sense.
I'd love to think that somewhere there's this
big pot of money that the eight boys who made up this fantastic band,
would be able to get hold of. But I don't think it exists,
I think it's just been frittered away or been skimmed off
over the years.
It's quite fitting, as well, that they had an album called
Promises And Lies. Because it seems to me that's what's been
the motto of their career -
promises and lies.
And, erm...it's a sad story, a very sad story.
MUSIC: Dream A Lie by UB40
# We're still together just the same
# The morning sun I raise my head
# A lonely room an empty bed
# Always seems that way
# Yes, it always seems that way... #
Really, it's starting again.
We're trying to reclaim the name before the legacy is destroyed.
As soon as Astro came back and played with us, the fans have just -
they're loving it, you know,
and really it seems they feel it's a solution
that finally, you know... We've reunited again
and we're back flying the flag for reggae!
So, yeah, it's looking good for us. And I think it was inevitable...
Fans, you know, will vote with their feet.
No, we'll never get back together again -
there's been too much skulduggery, you know.
And musically, I wouldn't want to play with those guys again
because the band I've got now is...is
a lot better. There's no egos involved in...in our UB40,
you know. Er, and the music's better.
Since Ali left eight years ago, we've been recording,
performing as UB40. And I still love my life, you know.
I still pinch myself every day that I've had the life I've had,
so, I'm not about to be twisted and bitter and...
I'm not about to let that kind of thing consume me, you know.
It's not worth it. That time's gone. I had a wonderful time living...
while it was going on. I still enjoy my life.
It's not as comfortable as it should be but, you know,
it's a lot more comfortable than it would have been
if I had never been in UB40.
And we'll keep going until we drop, you know.
# Never was a better time
# To try to set the words to rhyme
# Of when a golden love turns blue
# And dreams of dreams that won't come true
# Every night I call your name We're still together just the same
# The morning sun I raise my head
# A lonely room an empty bed
# Always seems that way
# Always seems that way
# Always seems that way
# Yes, it always seems the way
# Always seems that way
# Always seems that way
# Always seems that way
# Yes, it always seems that way... #
One of the most commercially successful acts of all time, UB40 enjoyed decades of huge success, selling over 70 million records with global hits including Red Red Wine, Can't Help Falling in Love and I Got You Babe.
But stardom and fame came at a price and the band found themselves victims of their own success; bankrupt and penniless.
Featuring newly filmed interviews with Ali Campbell, Robin Campbell, Astro, Brian Travers, Mickey Virtue and Jimmy Brown, the band recount their phenomenal rise to fame and speak with candour on their ongoing dispute that has split a family and a band, as they continue to tour as two separate groups - both using the name UB40.