Throwback Thursdays: UB40 “If It Happens Again”

May 12, 2011

Words by Martei Korley


Hahahaha, UB40??? You mean the guys who did “Red Red Wine”? Yes, absolutely! UB40 was literally the biggest pop group in Europe in the ’80s. VH1 will tell ya: They had more top ten hits than any other group on the European charts. In Thatcher-era England, UB40, their name coined from the form used in the UK to apply for unemployment benefits, became the first major reggae outfit of mixed heritage. The ethnic makeup of the band is diverse, with musicians of English, Scottish, Irish, Yemeni and Jamaican parentage… Fronted by Englishman Ali Campbell with his brother Robin singing harmonies, the band transitioned from UK dub of the lighter persuasion towards a more forward Jamaican sound. Everybody was very impressed with Sly and Robbie in the early ’80s, and this was exactly the time period in which UK reggae flourished. British bands were actually producing songs which had relevance in Jamaica and similarly impressed home audiences. “If It Happens Again” is a prime example of that synergy. When you couple ambitious horn arrangement and a riddim section with a dancehall penchant, the result is something like this now 27-year-old tune. The surreal video, replete with some crazy animation, kids in rubber masks with the band members’ facesโ€”AND Linn drums!โ€”just sews it all up.