UB40 are a British reggae/pop band formed in 1978 in Birmingham. The band has placed more than 50 singles in the UK Singles Chart, and has also achieved considerable international success. One of the world's best-selling music artists, UB40 have sold over 70 million records.
Their hit singles include their debut "Food for Thought" and two U.S. Billboard Hot 100 number ones with "Red Red Wine" and "Can't Help Falling in Love". Both of these also topped the UK Singles Chart, as did the band's version of "I Got You Babe".
The band members began as friends who knew each other from various schools across Birmingham. The name "UB40" was selected in reference to the document issued to people claiming unemployment benefit from the UK government's Department of Health and Social Security (DHSS) at the time of the band's formation. The designation UB40 stood for Unemployment Benefit, Form 40.
Brian Travers saved up and bought his first saxophone whilst working as an electrical apprentice for NG Bailey, leaving after a few years to become a founding member of UB40 alongside Jimmy Brown, Earl Falconer and Ali Campbell.
Before some of them could play their instruments, Ali Campbell and Brian Travers travelled around Birmingham promoting the band, putting up UB40 posters.
Their sound was created and honed through many long jam sessions at various locations in Birmingham. Their first gig took place on 9 February 1979 at The Hare & Hounds Pub in Kings Heath, Birmingham for a friend's birthday party. This was commemorated in October 2011 by the unveiling of a plaque at the venue, indicating the band receiving the Performing Rights Society's Music Heritage Award.
UB40 caught their first break when Chrissie Hynde saw them at a pub and gave them an opportunity as a support act to her band, The Pretenders. UB40's first single, "King"/"Food for Thought" was released on Graduate Records, a local independent label run by David Virr. It reached No. 4 on the UK Singles Chart.
Their first album was titled Signing Off, as the band were signing off from, or ending, their claim for unemployment benefit. It was recorded in a bedsit in Birmingham and was produced by Bob Lamb. Norman Hassan said of the recording: "if you stripped my track down, you could hear the birds in the background." This is because his tracks were recorded outside in the garden. Signing Off was released on 29 August 1980, and entered the UK Albums Chart on 2 October 1980. It reached as high as No. 2 in the UK and spent 71 weeks in total on the chart. Signing Off is now a Platinum album. As UB40 grew in popularity, they encouraged and supported local musicians and bands from Birmingham such as, Beshara, by taking them on a tour.
After great success in the UK, UB40's popularity in the United States was established when they released Labour of Love, an album of cover songs, in 1983. The album reached No. 1 on the UK Albums Chart and No. 8 on the Billboard 200 in the US. The album featured the song "Red Red Wine", a cover version of a Neil Diamond song (in an arrangement similar to that of Tony Tribe's version); it stayed on the charts for over a hundred weeks. Three years later UB40 performed at the Birmingham Heart Beat Charity Concert 1986.
In 1987 Ray "Pablo" Falconer, producer of UB40 music, died in car crash. Earl Falconer, who was driving, was sentenced to six months' imprisonment in June 1988.
Their most successful worldwide single release is their reggae/pop version of "(I Can't Help) Falling In Love With You", which was the main title to the 1993 Sharon Stone movie Sliver and was a number one hit across Europe and in the US. Fanart Banner