OPINION: UB40 30th Anniversary of Signing Off – by Brian Travers

Signing Off Anniversary Tour, courtesy of UB40

We’re currently on a thirtieth anniversary tour of the UK and Europe, thirty years that have flown by in a flash since we started out as eight young inexperienced guys from Moseley and Balsall Heath. As unrealistic as it is now, back in 1980 it seemed more realistic to start a band, get a hit record, become famous and tour the world, rather than getting a regular job of which there were none.

As I look back I realise just how lucky we were, and how that ambition changed our lives forever. We made Top Of The Pops with our first single ‘Food for Thought’; about the church’s hypocrisy and the reality of the starving third world, five years before Live Aid. They say ‘nothing succeeds like success’ and this first hit led to another 52 hit singles, over a hundred million album sales and countless world tours, hitting all the big venues     we’d once dreamt about playing.

2010, here we are back on Brummie terra firma, thirty years later and in much the same place. The Tories are back in government; our country’s fighting wars around the globe, mothers mourning their teenage soldier sons, while fascists march our streets under the banner of the BNP and EDL. All around us small businesses are closing, pound shops take their places and property prices are once again plummeting.

We decided to re-release ‘Signing Off’, our first album, as a way of marking thirty years in music, then take the songs out on a live tour and play the album in sequence. I wondered would the songs be dated, would they sound like songs written by angry teenagers who were voicing their political opinions for the first time, but the truth is they’re as relevant now as they were back then. I write this as we’re half way through the tour and the audiences are as receptive as ever when we play the Signing Off album. Every night we are told by waiting autograph hunters how it was a trip back in time which somehow feels very contemporary. Funny that!