Helpless Dancer

The Endless Note

UB40

Actually “I be 50” but that’s not the point, though it is hard to believe it is 30 years since I bought the UB40 debut album “Signing Off” which was released by Graduate Records on 29th August 1980 with a free three track 12″ single as an addition to the ten tracks on the album.

Most people will unfortunately remember the band for their series of reggae based cover versions recorded for Virgin Records which transformed them from being a “protest band” to a somewhat sanatised band for happy loving couples to play at dinner parties as a token gesture to being reggae loving hipsters.

“Signing Off” however deserves to be re-discovered as it is another great debut album.

Signing Off was a mix of reggae and dub material which was lyrically politically charged and socially conscious, while musically it was reverb-heavy, doom-laden yet mellifluous, best exemplified in the hits “King” and “Food For Thought” as well as the searing “Burden of Shame”.

The opening track on the album “Tyler” was written about a young black American Gary Tyler, who was convicted of murdering a 13-year-old white boy, at the age of 17. UB40 intended “Tyler” to be their first single in the States.

“King” was a song written about the late Martin Luther King, Jr., questioning the lost direction of the deceased leader’s followers and the state of mourning of a nation after his death.

Perhaps the biggest success of the album was the song “Food For Thought”, which was an attempt to publicize and condemn the Ethiopian famine in Africa, comparing it with the Western over-indulgent celebration of Christmas, a full five years before Band Aid brought the subject to widespread attention. Subsequently it was also a prominent feature of UB40’s 2005 Live 8 appearance in Hyde Park, London – 25 years after the song had been first released. Both “King” and “Food For Thought” were released together as a Double A-side, as their debut single in February 1980. It topped the Indie chart for three months, reached #4 in the UK charts, and went on to sell half a million copies.

The original vinyl album consisted of a ten-track LP plus a 3-track 12-inch record which included the tracks “Madam Medusa”, “Strange Fruit” and “Reefer Madness”.

“Madam Medusa” stands up alongside the likes of The Beat’s “Stand Down Margaret” and The Specials “Ghost Town” as social commentaries on the Thatcher years.

“Madam Medusa” – UB40

From the land of shadows
Comes a dreadful sight
Lady with the marble smile
Spirit of the night
See the scourge of innocence
Swinging in her hand
Hear the silent suffering
That echoes through the land

From the tombs of ignorance
Of hate and greed and lies
Through the smoke of sacrifice
Watch her figure rise
The sick the poor the old
Basking in her radiance
Men of blood and gold

In her bloody footsteps
Speculators prance
Men of dreams are praying
For that second chance
Round her vacant features
Gilded serpents dance
Her tree of evil knowledge
Sprouts a special branch

Madam Medusa
Madam Medusa
Madam Medusa

Knock her right down
And then she bounce right back
Knock her right down
And then she bounce right back
She gone off her head
We`ve got to shoot her dead
She gone off her head
We`ve got to shoot her dead
Run for your life before she eat you alive
Run for your life before she eat you alive
Move out of the way cos`s you`re blocking out the day
Move out of the way cos`s you`re blocking out the day

To buy the music of UB40 click HERE

Just today I was reading the current NME in which Paul Weller as quoted as saying “this generation needs to stand up and fight”………….step forward the new Billy Bragg

Advertisements

November 29, 2010 - Posted by | Blast from The Past, Old Music, Reggae, Video | , , , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: