Earl Falconer and UK Reggae Band UB40 Celebrate 45 Years in Music, reveal the one secret

Tran Hanh
June 07, 2024

Established in 1978, the renowned British reggae band UB40 is celebrating their forty-fifth anniversary this year.

The four-time Grammy nominees (Best Album, “Who You Fighting For;” Best Reggae Recording, “UB40;” Best Reggae Recording, “Breakfast in Bed;” and Best Reggae Recording, “UB40 CCCP”) will be performing at the Greek Theatre on July 31 as part of their upcoming “Red Red Wine Tour.”

Earl Falconer, one of UB40’s founding members, has been the band’s bass player since its inception.

Originating in Birmingham, West Midlands, England, Falconer said he and all the UB40 members are very proud to come from “Brum.”

Falconer, who was born in England of Jamaican parents, said he listened to lots of Motown growing up, especially artists like Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder who were involved in the Civil Rights Movement.

He was also greatly influenced by the “Jamaican sound system,” which was a consortium of DJs, engineers, and MCs who played ska, rocksteady, and reggae music. English pop bands like “The Beetles” were favorites of Falconer’s, too.

“Obviously, reggae and Caribbean influences was a big one,” said Falconer.

Early on, Falconer said most of the UB40 bandmembers were unemployed. The name “UB40” comes from an attendance card given to people claiming unemployment benefits from the UK government Department of Employment.

However, Falconer remembered before they were UB40, the band almost had a different name.

“We had the working name for the band – we used to call ourselves “Jeff Cancer and the Nicotinis,” he stated. “Really stupid, you know.”

When a friend suggested “UB40” it was a “lightbulb moment,” Falconer said. “That’s it! That’s the one! Perfect! And that was it. Up until then, we were ‘Jeff Cancer and the Nicotinis.’ Thank God, we found a good name in the end.”

Falconer shared they’ve been recording and touring ever since. “It was a bit of a whirlwind kind of a thing. It was the ‘punk’ [rock] time and the ska thing was big, but we naturally gravitated to playing reggae,” he said.

Falconer stated the bandmembers were big fans of Jamaican reggae artist Bob Marley’s music, but more importantly, the messages in his songs, especially those advocating for race equality.

The fascist far-right wing organization The National Front was active marching on the streets of Britain during the 1960s. Falconer called it a sad time, and he said musical artists used their talents to counter the National Front’s rhetoric.

UB40 would gain prominence when musician Chrissie Hynde was sitting in the audience at one of their concerts and asked the group to go on tour with her.

“Some of us could just barely play – by the end of that tour we were number four on the charts, and then we started our own tour,” said Falconer. “Like I said, we’ve been touring ever since.”

He reflected, “It seems like it’s gone by so fast now, looking back.”

On July 2, UB40 begins its “Red Red Wine Tour” in the United States this summer in New York City.

The Greek Theatre will host the show in Los Angeles on July 31. Other locations on the tour include West Virginia, Delaware, Indiana, Illinois, Wyoming, Utah, Idaho, Oregon, Nevada, and Arizona.

The iconic reggae band will also be releasing its 45th Anniversary album, UB45.

“The tour we’re doing in America is one of the biggest tours we’ve done for a long time,” said Falconer. “It’s about two months solid, and we’re happy to do it now because we know how to do it and not burn out.”

For more information on UB40, their UB45 album, and to purchase tickets to the UB40 45th Anniversary “Red Red Wine Tour” visit www.ub40global.com.

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