SHORE FIRE MEDIA
UB40 members found common ground in their love of reggae and made it big internationally in 1983 with "Red, Red Wine."
Lifelong reggae love
UB40 is back in the isles playing the music they grew up with
Reggae superstars UB40 return to Honolulu next week, playing two concerts at the Waikiki Shell as part of their "Who You Fighting For" world tour.
Place: Waikiki Shell
Time: 7 p.m. March 15 and 16
Tickets: $29 to $49
Call: (877) 750-4400
Only two years have passed since the band's last visit, with those shows coming five years after a Blaisdell Arena performance in 1999. With the continuing conflict in the Middle East and terrorism becoming a global threat, UB40's latest album is a mix of the sappy love songs and cover tunes that made them a commercial success, but also contains a number of tracks that address social and political issues.
WITH MORE than 50 million albums sold worldwide, UB40 has come a long way from its humble roots. Formed in Birmingham, England, by brothers Ali and Robin Campbell, James Brown, Earl Falconer, Norman Lamont-Hassan, Brian Travers, Michael Virtue and Terence "Astro" Wilson, the group got its name from a government unemployment form.
Bound by a common love for reggae, they started playing covers by Jamaican artists in 1978. Punk was more popular at the time, but that didn't stop them.
"We all have grown up listening to reggae music ... our parents were also reggae music enthusiasts," Travers told London's Daily Mirror. "We decided to make reggae music as it is the common interest of all eight of us. If we had grown up listening to punk rock, we would have become a punk band."
For the next two years, UB40 built a following in their hometown. When they opened for The Pretenders in 1980, the rest of the United Kingdom began to take notice. Their first single, "Food for Thought," became a hit with virtually no promotional support other than the band's live performances.
Their debut album, "Signing Off," released later that year, rocketed to the top five on the UK charts, followed by 1981's "Present Arms" and 1982's "UB44."
But it was 1983's "Labour of Love" that got listeners in the United States interested. To this day, "Red, Red Wine" remains one of the band's most popular songs. They continued the decade with a new record every year from 1985 on.
THE EARLY '90s were a bit less hectic. "Promises and Lies" didn't come out until 1993.
Once again, it was a cover that caught listeners' attention. "(I Can't Help) Falling in Love with You," featured on the soundtrack for the movie "Sliver," spent seven weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard charts. It was the first UB40 single to reach platinum sales status.
According to Travers, UB40 sees nothing wrong with making another artist's song their own. "We cover the songs that we like most. So those covers became No. 1. We (still) know that our original songs are very good ... although they didn't become No. 1."
In 2004 the band made an appearance on the soundtrack for "50 First Dates" with -- you guessed it -- another cover. This time, The Police's "Every Breath You Take" was the lucky song to get reggae-fied.
ON MORE than 20 albums, UB40 has given fans a clear idea of what to expect, and they get it with "What You Fighting For."
The title track taps into global affairs, with a chorus of:
"You do the shooting/they do the looting
You do the killing/they do the drilling
You do the dying/they do the lying
All the way to the bank
You can hear them crying."
Others, like "Plenty More" and "War Poem," stay on the political tip, but there's also a generous helping of the cheesy goodness fans demand. "I'll Be on My Way," "Kiss and Say Goodbye" and "Things You Say You Love" finish off the album on a gentle note. One original song, "Tell Someone," currently enjoys heavy rotation on Oahu's island music stations.
The band arrives in Hawaii after shows in Tahiti, Tonga and Fiji. Following the Oahu concerts, they'll perform on the Big Island and Maui before moving on to a March 24 show in Las Vegas.
Also in the works is a musical, "Promises and Lies," which uses a dozen of UB40's hit singles and is scheduled to open this month in England. While the band isn't actively involved, it was important for them to lend their music to the right production.
"We wanted to do more than simply string together our hits into a throwaway plot," they told BBC News. "It had to have a story that reflected our view of the world."