Local BBC Sites

Page last updated at 11:18 GMT, Tuesday, 14 December 2010
UB40: Signing Off 30th anniversary

UB40 celebrate the 30th anniversary of their debut album Signing Off

Formed in 1978 Birmingham band UB40 has had 50 singles in the UK chart and sold 120 million records worldwide.

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of their first album Signing Off, the band has embarked on a nationwide tour.

In a special radio documentary members of the band reminisce on how they started in the basement of a derelict house in Moseley.

UB40 became one of the world's biggest reggae acts - Signing Off still stands as their most influential release.

Hare and Hounds Kingsheath
UB40 played their first gig at the Hare and Hounds pub in Kings Heath

The band members grew up in the Sparkbrook and Moseley inner city areas of Birmingham. The Campbell brothers and other band members were connected by school and neighbourhood friendships.

A year before the release Signing Off, the Birmingham group spent everyday rehearsing in the cellar of a derelict house in Moseley and gigged in local pubs and clubs across the city.

Birmingham's music heritage

Birmingham has a strong and rich musical heritage, with UB40 achieving worldwide success.

Jez Collins from the Birmingham Music archive says: "They've sold over 120 million albums which puts them in the top 30 selling artists of all time, that's incredible - but they have remained grounded.

"Until recently their headquarters and recording studios were in Digbeth. They have remained in the city throughout their entire career and they're very proud of their strong Birmingham roots."

Conscious music

UB40 are loved by reggae fans around the world

Dr Paul Long from Birmingham School of Media says their early music reflected the times and what was happening throughout the 1970s and early 80s.

"There were signs of a downturn and a lot of fractions [within the city]; for example the pub bombings and IRA conflict hung heavily over Birmingham. There were fears for migrant families and a lot of police pressures in the black communities.

"This gave birth to a lot of conscious music that grew up in the UK and came out of places like London, Manchester and Birmingham and appealed to kids trying to deal with the urban context and all the conflicts they felt, the violence and lack of prospects."

Reggae roots

Liam Schully has worked at Discory record shop in Birmingham for nearly forty years and has seen many great bands come and go:

Signing Off went to No. 2 in the UK and stayed there for 72 weeks

"I think Signing Off was their best album. For a band from Birmingham to take that mix of reggae sound into the charts at that time was pretty awesome.

"Their were a few reggae roots in Birmingham at that time with big bands like Steel Pulse, but UB40's was such a different reggae album for that time, with a good cultural mix of diverse backgrounds in the band.

"Yes, it was a big album for Birmingham without a doubt."

Signing Off documentary

In a radio documentary, hosted by Ranking Roger from The Beat and produced by Birmingham City University, members of the band, Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders, producer Bob Lamb, and others, all talk about the early days of UB40.

The documentary also explores life in Birmingham in the early 80s and reveals the band's strong political beliefs, as well as showcasing hits and remixes from the album - and detailing the story behind its recording - 30 years ago.

Listen to the full UB40 documentary

Signing Off tour

To celebrate UB40's landmark debut album and to promote its re-release, UB40 has undertaken a nationwide tour - visit the official UB40 website for information.

As a warm up thier 30th Anniversary Signing Off tour throughout November 2010, the reggae legends played a special concert at The Hare & Hounds in Kings Heath on Friday, 22nd October 2010 - the venue they played their first ever paid gig. This was followed by the Symphony Hall on Tuesday, 26 October.

Additional photos by Ellie Gibbons

UB40 singer Campbell quits group
24 Jan 08 |  West Midlands



Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific