Signing Off cover

Signing Off


UB40’s future status as pop reggae crossover stars (including, somewhat unbelievably, being the first ‘reggae’ act to top the US charts) might put proper bass heads off, but the band’s 1980 debut is as astonishing an example of the collision of British and Jamaican culture as classics by contemporaries such as The Specials and The Clash, and its warm low-end clatter has arguably aged even better. Recorded on a shoestring in producer Bob Lamb’s Birmingham bedsit (due to space restrictions percussion had to be recorded in the garden, meaning keen-eared listeners can make out occasional birdsong), it blended heavy dub with the smooth soulful vocals of frontman Ali Campbell and the deeply political lyrics of his brother Robin. Though fans who sent double A-Side King/Food For Thought to Number Four in the UK charts that year might not have all realised it, Signing Off’s spacious scratch and heady bass lines housed scathing indictments of capitalism, poverty, colonialism and on the 13 trouser-flapping minutes of Madame Medusa, the new inhabitant of 10 Downing Street, Margaret Thatcher.

Chris Catchpole