Think about these stats. 30+ years of success including number 1 albums, multiple top ten gold and platinum selling albums, Grammy nominations and sales of over $70+ million.
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Kylie Daniel caught up with founding member of UB40, drummer James (Jimmy) Brown. He calls those statistics, luck.
It’s really strange when you hear stats like that, half the time you think it’s happening to someone else other than yourself. You know we’ve had a phenomenal career when you look at that, to be able to go as far as you can go in the world and have people coming out by the thousands to celebrate your music and know every word to every song, it’s an incredible feeling. What can I say? We must’ve been holding our mouths at the right angle, right time and the planets must’ve been in conjunction for it to all come together.
Let’s get serious for a minute here Jimmy. UB40 are one of the very few bands that have made it and had longevity in an otherwise cutthroat industry, what makes UB40 so special?
Not only have we made it but we keep remaking it over and over again which has been phenomenal. If we actually knew what it was well then we’d bottle it and make a fortune selling it. But it’s really about public taste and you can’t predict that, so it’s really luck in the end. It’s more about being in the right place at the right time. Maybe it’s a bit of willing to work and capitalise on that luck but it’s pure random chance really.
UB40 are bringing that success back to Australia in November this year. What can the fans expect this time around?
We’re going right back to the early days, even before we had the massive global hits, like Labour of Love and Red Red Wine. We had an album called Signing Off released in 1980 and a few albums after that, there’s quite a few songs from that period of time and we’re playing quite a few from the last album Getting Over The Storm, there’s gonna be a fair amount of unfamiliar stuff, people that only know us from Red Red Wine won’t know a lot of tunes we play. We’re not a cabaret band, we wanna be doing new and more obscure material, if we can. Even though we’ve got a string of hits, we don’t want to be just relying on that. Ya know we’re going into the studio next month to start working on a new album so we’re still working on making the perfect record.
UB40 have amassed over 30 years of extensive touring, surely there’s some cool stories. What stands out for you?
Off the top of my head, there have many great things that have happened like, playing in America when you’ve got the Number 1 album and single at the time, selling out Madison Square Garden, also being one of the first bands to go to South Africa after the dropping of the cultural boycott, that was an amazing time, felt like we were rubbing shoulders with a bit of history. So there’s many highs but there’s lows as well, constantly being on the road and away from family, but we’ve lived a charmed life so I can’t say there’s been any real terrible things or low points.
Lets talk about the lineup changes over the years.
Of the eight members of the band, six of us go back a long way together, right back to when we were 12 years old. The only person missing from that original six is Ali the singer. The other two that went with him weren’t really original members in that way and we think Ali may have offered them deals behind our backs and they took it. In the end though the family’s still intact. The fact that there’s one missing is unfortunate but we happen to have another brother come in (Duncan Campbell) and replace him, who I think is a better singer and performer, funnily enough with a very similar voice so you’ll find that the UB40 sound is still very much there. So in the end, the one person who seemed to have lost interest is gone and everybody else is enthusiastic to continue and yet here we are eight years later and we’ve just done the biggest tour we’ve done in ten years.
That’s why UB40 are still going strong after 30+ years of success. Does James have any final words for Aussie fans?
Hey Australia, we’re looking forward to seeing you at the gigs, be prepared to dance, don’t wear stilettos, ‘cos you’re gonna be up on your feet and dancing. We can’t wait to see all our Aussie friends in November.
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UB40 play at the Coolangatta Hotel 15 November