It's easy to forget how important UB40 were on the UK reggae scene from 1980-82. During this period the band released a clutch of fine singles (including 'King', 'The Earth Dies Screaming' and 'One in Ten'), three strong studio LPs ('Signing Off', 'Present Arms' and 'UB44'), not to mention an album of dub remixes. They were also regularly championed by John Peel, for whom they recorded two sessions. I saw them supporting The Pretenders, who were promoting their own debut LP at the time, in early 1980 - what a great night that was.
In 1983 came 'Red Red Wine' and the massive 'Labour of Love' album after which their career inevitably took a very different, more mainstream course. In 2008, after maintaining the same line-up for 29 years, lead singer Ali Campbell and keyboard player Micky Virtue acrimoniously left the band, followed in 2013 by vocalist Astro, the three of them forming an alternative version of UB40, much to the ire of the remaining original members.
2021 has been a very sad year for the UB40 camp with the passing of saxophonist Brian Travers in August and Astro earlier this month. Such tragedies would cause many people, however estranged, to offer an olive branch, if only temporarily, but while Ali Campbell left a series of clearly devastated posts on his social media accounts following Astro's sudden death, the original band put this dry missive up.
If a PR person put this out they should be relieved of their position with immediate effect. If this statement was actually drafted by the band they should hang their collective heads in shame. It's a petty, point-scoring little tweet, which managed to successfully unite fans of both versions of the band in condemnation. Would it have hurt so much to dignify Astro with the epithet 'founding member' or original member', rather than the cold, clinical 'ex-member'? Very sad and unnecessary.
I still pull out those first few UB40 records from time to time, particularly the fantastic debut 'Signing Off'. From it here's an early savage Thatcher take-down, 'Madam Medusa'. Remember them this way.