Four members of the decade-spanning reggae band UB40 are "officially penniless" and have declared bankruptcy following the decline of the band's record firm and management company, the Telegraph reports. Brian Travers, Terence "Astro" Oswald, Jimmy Brown, and Norman Hassan are now in danger of having their property seized after a British court demanded they pay off their debts and thousands in legal fees. The band has been on the precipice of financial disaster since 2008, when lead singer Ali Campbell ditched the group because he felt bankruptcy was inevitable. "This is the very reason why I left the band," Campbell said in July. "This was my biggest fear when I was with them, that bankruptcy was going to happen, and no one can say I didn't warn them."
Ironically, the band's moniker is an abbreviation of "Unemployment Benefit, Form 40," which is something its members might soon find themselves filling out in order to dig themselves out of their debt. UB40 continues to perform live, but now Ali's brother Duncan is the group's lead singer, and their peak of popularity has long since passed. (The only time we ever hear them these days is when Sliver is shown on HBOZ.) The Telegraph writes that the band has "sold more than 70 million records and notched up 50 chart hits," but the vast majority of those sales came 15 years ago; they haven't notched a Top 200 single in the U.S. since 1993. Campbell has said that the group spent years living the lavish lives of rock stars, staying in five-star hotels and buying expensive goods. Considering where they are now, they might as well have been lighting cigars with hundred dollar bills.
While the band wisely created their own record label DEP International in 1980, part of UB40's financial woes might stem from the fact that their two chart-topping singles in the U.S., "Red, Red Wine" and "(I Can't Help) Falling in Love With You." were just covers of songs by Neil Diamond and Elvis Presley, respectively. Of course, the band still made millions from the performance royalties for those versions, but not nearly as much as they would have had they written their hits and owned the publishing rights. Take a look at UB40's singles discography: They have scores of charting songs, but the band originally composed very few of them. (1981's "One in Ten" is their lone Top 10 exception.) Essentially, they're an overachieving covers band.
A reunion with Ali Campbell would result in some renewed interest in UB40, but their former singer is adamantly opposed to rejoining the group and getting sucked into their money problems. "I became too disgusted with certain band members and the group's management to remain. I will never again play with the remaining members of UB40 while I live and breathe," Ali told the Sun in 2009. "It's heart-breaking. They've made a mockery of the music we made."
Give UB40 a fraction of a fraction of a penny by watching these videos:
"Red Red Wine"
"Here I Am (Come and Take Me)"
"The Way You Do the Things You Do"
- Ali Campbell