Truth be told, I am incredibly excited to see UB40 play here in New York City on Monday October 11th. The band is just finishing up their 2-week North American tour and have been playing to full houses as they promote their new 'Labour Of Love IV' album and perform selections from their extensive back catalogue of songs. As the band gear up for their 30th anniversary tour of the U.K. to celebrate and promote the re-release of 'Signing Off', I came across a fantastic radio documentary hosted by Ranking Roger of The Beat and produced by Birmingham City University that tells the inside story of the recording of the album and its social, musical and cultural significance.
'Signing Off' was heralded as a landmark album when it was released in late August 1980. Mixing reggae and dub, the album chronicled the times, and wider social and political issues, as well as the plight of inner cities like Birmingham throughout the UK during the early Thatcher years. The album went on to attain Platinum status after spending 71 weeks in the UK charts, peaking at number two, featuring hit singles 'King', 'Food For Thought' and 'I Think It’s Going to Rain Today'.
The documentary features fantastic interviews with members of the band (Brian Travers, Robin Campbell and Jim Brown) along with Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders (who gave the band their first break opening for her band) and Bob Lamb, who produced 'Signing Off' and signed the band to his indie Graduate Records label. The documentary explores life in Birmingham in the early eighties 80's and reveals the band's strong political beliefs.
Here is a short video of the making of the radio documentary featuring Ranking Roger:
The documentary provides some amazing detail like the band's original influences -- Big Youth, Lee Perry's Black Ark dub albums and Bim Sherman. I was particularly interested to learn that the band's iconic song 'Food For Thought' was originally titled 'The Christmas Song' before a roadie suggested a better title. I also enjoyed hearing how the band went about making their recording of Randy Newman's 'I Think Its Going To Rain' their own.
I can't recommend the documentary enough. Have a listen.