UB40  “I’ve Got Mine”  b/w  “Dubmobile” (DEP International Records DEP6, January 1983)

Though I’m way too obsessed with Americana to be considered an Anglophile, I went through a phase between 1980 and 1984 where I read NME and Melody Maker and The Face, and sopped up UK imports like a sponge in a swimming pool.  Not for naught, mind you;  it was a fertile period for British music.  Punk and post-punk had blown England’s doors completely off their pretentious prog-rock hinges, leaving a wide-open, cavernous, un-policed frontier for everyone to explore.  The Clash and The Police had already proven that rock and reggae could be combined into successful formulas, and the early-’60’s-soaked ska revival, spearheaded by bands like The Specials and Madness (and labels like Stiff and 2-Tone), had yielded some stellar performances and super hits.  By 1980, England had become a place where popular music was now an open playing field, and everyone was invited.

Though now known almost solely for reggae-fying American standards, Birmingham’s UB40 were originally a very raw, politically-motivated band of working-class background, taking influence from Thatcher’s misgivings and turning out pulsing, bass-heavy jam sessions in return.  They always had a propensity for covers;  their first LP features reworkings of Randy Newman and Billie Holiday classics.  But it was the deeply charged politics of such original compositions as “One In Ten” and “Silent Witness” that got me to notice them, and to shell out serious creflos for thick slabs of their (seemingly handmade) import vinyl.  By late ’82, UB40’s sound had developed a richer, jazzier sheen.  And though I didn’t know it at the time, they were poised to make a huge US breakthrough.  But this little single came first.

UB40 \”I\’ve Got Mine\” on YouTube

The video shows the band cavorting on some lovely beach, soaking in the sun, gazing at sexy butts, frolicking in the surf and genuinely having a great time.  A tasty foreshadowing of the success about to come the ’40’s way, obviously.  (I just really hope the Campbell brothers loaded up on sunblock.)  But the band sounds like they’re having a blast in the studio as well.  And when that refrain kicks in, and the snare double-times it up from the only-on-the-four verses wit da skankin’ riddims, then segues in to the sax solo?  Pure joy.

UB40 \”Dubmobile\” on YouTube

Side B’s “Dubmobile” shoud actually be called “Toastmobile,” as it’s not really a dub-heavy track, but UB40 knows that.  A fun recording of a great band having a great time before the big storm hits, this track was mix-tape material at my house for years.  As a bonus, here’s some quality live footage, from around the time this single was released, of the band performing both tracks in succession.  You can really hear Ali Campbell’s “popping” guitar riff here, as well as Earl Falconer’s ultra-pumping, super-juicy bassline.  Volume on 10, Bass-Boost on HIGH.

UB40 \”Dubmobile\” and \”I\’veGot Mine\” live on YouTube

As I’m sure you all know, UB40 is still together, still active and still quite brilliant, to this day.  Learn more here.

NEXT WEEK: The return of the Chicago 3.