English reggae band UB40 were widely popular in the ‘80’s for hit singles such as Red Red Wine. But where did it all begin?
UB40’s first song was a double-A side titled Food For Thought, along with the song King in early 1980. Food For Thought was inspired by the Communists’ massacre of what is now known as Cambodia, and King is based on the aftermath of Martin Luther King’s death.
The band’s members relayed meaning through almost all of their songs; learn more about this below.
Food For Thought
The original song differs slightly to the album version, and lacks the synthesizer sound that is present in Signing Off.
Guitarist Robin Campbell spoke about the creative process behind Food For Thought in an interview with Songwriting magazine.
He described that one person (in this case, Campbell himself) would write the lyrics, show them to the band, and the band would come up with the rest of the song from there.
He said of the song, ““I actually wrote Food For Thought in my flat in Birmingham, just before Christmas one year… so it’s actually a Christmas song! Or rather, it’s inspired by the hypocrisy of Christmas, the fact that there are starving people in Africa and here we are all sat around eating our Christmas dinner and praising the Lord.”
UB40 put King on the double-A side with Food For Thought straight after going on tour with The Pretenders, since they said they did not want to wait any longer to release their music.
The songs were released by the local Birmingham-based record label Graduate Labels, and was the first single to reach the UK Top 10 that was not produced by a major record label.
Signing Off is now a platinum album, and stayed on the UK charts for a long 71 weeks.
The band stayed together for 29 years, and Robin Campbell attributed this to the fact that the band took equal credit for all of their music.
He said, “I think that’s maybe part of the reason we’ve lasted so long as a band… publishing and who shares what seems to be one of the biggest causes of splits.”
The brand was praised for their diversity, with members from a variety of ethnicities, including Jamaican, Welsh and Yemeni.
The trio created a “new” UB40, but were sued by the other band members for the usage of the same name.
There is no doubt that since UB40’s first double A-side, the band has had a great influence on the British Reggae scene, despite parting ways decades later.