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From the dole queue to the top of the pop charts.

REGGAE group UB40 was founded in Birmingham in 1978.

Determined to make a success of themselves, the jobless friends looked for gigs before mastering their instruments.

Their name was taken from the Unemployment Benefit form 40 which jobseekers filled out during the 1970s.

The 70 million records they have sold puts them ahead of modern bands like Coldplay and Oasis, who have notched up 50 million sales - and places them equal with music legend Bob Dylan.

UB40's cover of Neil Diamond's Red Red Wine was their most successful hit, topping the charts in 1983.

They had further success with a version of Sonny and Cher's classic I Got You Babe in 1985, on which Ali Campbell duetted with Pretenders singer Chrissie Hynde - and I Can't Help Falling In Love With You in 1993.

Other top ten hits included One In Ten in 1981, Don't Break My Heart in 1985 and 1990's Kingston Town. They also had two number one albums in the UK with Labour of Love in 1983 and 1993's Promises and Lies.

But their last appearance in the charts was in 2005 with Kiss And Say Goodbye.

Last year the group embarked on a tour to celebrate more than 30 years in the music industry.

They toured the venues they played in their early days, including the Hare and Hounds, performing their debut album, Signing Off in its entirety. To mark the tour music label EMI re-released a deluxe version of the record.

The album release caused friction as former frontman Ali Campbell claimed their first work had been completely out of tune.

Speaking last year, he said: "'It's ridiculous that they're re-releasing our first album.

"Maybe they should retitle it Signing On! I can't even listen to Signing Off because it's all out of tune. I've tried to listen to it. It was a zeitgeisty album in its day, but its day was 30 years ago.

"It's very primitive; the sax is all sharp because we had the wrong type of sax at the time; it was in the wrong key for everybody else.

"I'm also shouting, not singing. I shout through the whole album.

"I know it sold eight million copies but I think it's very primitive and it's like going backwards."

UB40 are still touring, playing international festivals as far afield as Denmark and Croatia, and have gigs planned in Holland early next year.

Meanwhile, Ali is pursuing his post-UB40 career with his group Dep Band.

His third solo album Flying High made it to number 13 in the album charts in 2009.


GLORY DAYS: Brum band UB40 at the height of their success in 1985.
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Oct 16, 2011
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