Friday, November 29, 2013
Thanksgiving Reflections On UB40
While visiting home for Thanksgiving this week, my mother handed me a box of old family photos to sort through. As I was flipping through the pictures, I suddenly and unexpectedly came across this autographed A&M Records promo/press photo of UB40 from the early 1980's that I had completely forgotten about. It seemed appropriate, given I considered the picture a prized possession and the band honorary family members during a very formative period of my life. I listened to their first 4 albums (Signing Off, Present Arms, UB44 and Labor Of Love) constantly and absorbed an education in British reggae music and concepts of social justice in songs like Tyler, Burden Of Shame, Present Arms, One In Ten, I Won't Close My Eyes and The Earth Dies Screaming that molded me in very important ways. I distinctly remember scrawling the lyrics to Madam Medusa on a desk in my University library as a small form of political protest during the South African Divestment protests of the mid-80's.
In light of the band's current situation, I wanted to share my personal story of meeting members of UB40 at an A&M Records press event for college DJ's in NYC in 1984 or 1985 where I was given the press photo. Astro, Jim Brown, Robin Campbell and Norman Hassan greeted the 15 or so people in attendance, previewed their new album "Geoffrey Morgan," and then autographed press photos for everyone in the room. Being in close proximity to the band and hearing new tracks like If It Happens Again and As Always You Were Wrong Again was energizing, and I remember feeling more excited than I ever had about any thing in my life up to that point.
After leaving the press event, I saw Astro and Robin Campbell outside the A&M Records offices. They were admiring Rolex watches that were displayed in a high end jewelry store. As I debated approaching them to tell them how much I loved their music, Astro caught a glimpse of me, and recognizing me from the event, waved me over and asked which watch I thought he should buy! I pointed at one without thinking and he laughed saying I had good taste! He then asked me my name and said he would put me on the guest list for the show at The Beacon Theatre later that night. I couldn't believe it. True to his word, my name was on the guest list. Its a day I will never forget.
And so, despite the band's current ups and downs and its latest trials and tribulations, I want to give thanks for UB40. Fantastic music and a small act of kindness many years ago had such an important impact of me as a young man.