Friday, March 28, 2008

Fired, without a UB40

There's a beautiful piece in today's Times on the UB40 split. Pete Paphides (when did he drop the 'r'?) talks to Ali Campbell and tries to cut through the distrust and bitterness of the split to get to the truth. And for all Campbell's openness, it's a quote from UB40 drummer James Brown which sounds the most convincing:

“The truth is UB40 were no longer prepared to fund the extravagant lifestyles of two band members. After being given an ultimatum by both Ali and Michael [Virtue] to sack our staff, some of whom have worked with us for nearly 30 years, we chose to ignore their ultimatum and they chose to leave.”

Campbell, impressively, manages to combine name-dropping with bitterness:
On [Campbell's solo album] Running Free’s arrival in the UK Top Ten last October, he said that Paul McCartney was quicker to offer his congratulations than any of UB40. “All I got was a text off Norman [Hassan, the trombonist] that said, ‘Well done Piggy.’” Campbell’s nickname, presumably? “Yes. Well, it used to be.”

Sadly, no further light is allowed to fall on Macca's congratulations - did he call? Was it a chance meeting in a bistro somewhere? Was there a counterstrike, with James Brown rushing to get a telegram to Heather Mills applauding her progress through Dancing With The Stars?

The highlight of the encounter, though, is Campbell pretty much dropping his old chum Chrissie Hynde in it:
Just as telling, though, is the sense of a man keen to reassure himself that he has made the right decision. He points across the corridor to a studio where Chrissie Hynde – who duetted with UB40 on their version of I Got You Babe – recently rehearsed.

“She saw my band and said how brilliant they sounded. Then she says: ‘I’ve almost had it with my band as well. We went into the studio and it just sounded like the Pretenders . . . and who wants to hear that apart from four fat lesbians in Ohio? I wanna do what you’re doing.’ ”

We're sure Hynde will be delighted to be recorded as suggesting the Pretenders fanbase is restricted to the obese Sapphics of Akron. As, indeed, will her fanbase. Having done his bit to shake UB40 to pieces, it looks like Campbell is keen to destroy some other bands.