UB40 – Until my dying day

Release Date: Nov 95
Chart Position: 15

James BC
Until My Dying Day is where UB40’s digital neggae sound finally reaches its peak. They’ve now computerised every aspect of the track to the point where the band could probably walk off stage (possibly after a disagreement about royalties from the Geffrey Morgan album) and the song would carry on playing exactly the same. Normally you can at least rely on the brass to bring a bit of acoustic warmth, but here Brian Travers has got his hands on 808 state’s old electro-clarinet and replaced his lusty parping with an atmospheric tootling effect. Meanwhile the standard reggae keyboard stabs give way to a fiddly synth figure and Jimmy Brown has given up completely and delegated the drumming to that syndrum pad from Phoenix Nights that “shits on a cowbell”.
Up to this point, the more digital UB40 have got, the cheesier they’ve got. But on this track the complete abolition of any human input actually takes them back to something a little more like their 1980 sound: spooky, menacing, questioning, unresolved. You can’t really call it reggae, which is shocking to say about a UB40 track, but the fact is if skank was water this would be the Atacama Desert. Even so, there is a fair bit to like:
that endless synth figure draws you in and gets under your skin, the moody strings for once don’t sound out of place, and Ali’s voice really suits the mood: often mealy-mouthed on the love stuff, he sounds sinuous and compelling slinking around in the synthy gloom, singing about how he’s not going to tell us the thing he’s telling us he’s not going to tell us.
Overall, then, this does a lot wrong, but gets a fair bit right almost by accident. If every neggae song had sounded like this then I doubt Vince and the boys would have bothered with the blog, but I can go with it as a one-off. Bonus points as well for using the same four chords as Get Lucky – sing one over the other on your tea break and enjoy.
Score: 6 out of 10.

Norm
Another bout of UB40. That’s two weeks in a row of inspiring, islandic beats and tunes…. I think not. In fact, I’m not even sure how this makes it on to the Hot 90. I’ve come to the realization that you either love UB40 (Ali Campbell) or you hate them. I fall into the latter category. I’m tired, I’m bored of having to review this group over and over again. When will it end? It seems that we get a UB40 hiatus every now and then, I recover mentally and boom, there they are, same $h*t different day. This is gonna be hard to review as I only had a chance to listen to it a couple of times before the link broke. Maybe it’s for the best. My first impressions are not good, I did try to locate another version, found some dodgy remix that made it slightly more acceptable to listen to than the one provided. Here are my initial thoughts.
1) This is bad
2) This is too slow
3) The Ali C show has run its course
4) They still employ the same videographer
5) This is bad
6) I wish I was listening to Shaggy
1/10 – no explanation needed – see above notes

ub40 dying day
Jonny
I think that this is worst song we have do so far. I had to play youtube link a number of times on different devices as I was convinced it didn’t work and even looked for different versions online as I thought there was some kind of error, but it really is that shit. What the hell were they doing? Ali’s sounds like he’s doing an impression of Vic and Bob doing an impression of Ali Campbell with a cold. The delivery is so bad, I was expecting better from the UB’s….
I really can’t think of a single positive…..its no longer than 3.42mins long? As far as I am aware no one has died? But that is about it. I’m starting to think that the ride is over, neg is dying.
Although its bad I do think that UB40 have offered up a very poignant moment in neg history, with it symbolising the death of something once loved by so many. Like Airwolf, The A Team, Michael Jackson and Heartbreak High, you just wish it could have ended on a high, but they kept on and on at it. Neil Young once wrote ‘it’s better to burn out than to fade away’, and I feel this is never more true than this effort from the UB.
A sad day, the beginning of the end for neg 1/10.

Vince
Until My Dying Day was a non-LP single, released as a tie-in for UB40’s Greatest Hits Vol. 2. If you look at the tracklisting, they should have really called it “UB40: The Neggae Years” – as without the resurgence in the popularity that we are covering on this blog, I don’t think the LP (and therefore this lead single) would have been created or released. So Until My Dying Day is basically the most Neggyist of Neg – It’s self-fulfilling Neggae.
A fairly downbeat and melancholy number, it attempts to deal with age old issues of trust and confidentiality in love. Unfortunately, the questioning-slash-bargaining tone of the “tell-me-your-secrets-and-I-won’t-tell-a-soul” lyrics just come across as a little bit paranoid bordering on passive-aggressive.  A lot of UB40 music is imbibed with the positive qualities of Marijuana – the bouncing, good vibes , the cheery lyrics. Well this is the flipside.
Sonically it is great, a very modern sounding production which I bet would still sound great on a decent digital radio today. For me it’s certainly 90sdance-influenced, with the synth washes and electronic baselines highlighting that the YowBees must have been to a rave or three. And is it me, or is the melody a rip from the verse part of this banger?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=frCFXsInI4U
Where UB40 are clever musicians though you can still here the reggae influences throughout. Top stuff.
Videowise, well it’s not going to win any awards. UB40’s videos are always a fairly bland experience; and after a couple of weeks of Suggs mugging for the camera this feels like a Ingmar Bergman short. Moody look bass-playing, stroppy drumwork, a touchy performance from Ali – its what you expect. Wasn’t expecting a burial scene in a modern 90s apartment. Whose death was being commemorated though? Yitzak Rabin was assassinated in November 1995 when this came out – but its not him.
In fact, its not a person they are putting six feet under; its Neggae itself. This is UB40’s last effort on the Neggae Hot 90 – and they’re saying “Without us, this scene is dead”. They’re metaphorically taking the ball home because their Mum’ just shouted that the Findus Crispy Panakes, chips and beans are ready. She’s called time on the Neggae kickabout.
Score: A Show-closing 8 out of 10 for me.

Gouldy
This week we find Ali and the chaps in cagey mood with ‘Until my dying day’. I can only think that the boys had some moody funk before recording this as there’s a paranoid almost cold war like feel to this, it’s the Le Carre novel of Neggae.  The production could be by Vangelis from the ‘Blade Runner’ soundtrack with its minimal electro feel and sinister strings.
Lyrically Ali is promising not to reveal an un-named person’s secret for love nor money until the day he dies. I’m not sure of the sincerity of this promise as he could die at any moment, he can’t predict being fatally crushed by a palm tree or falling into one of Birmingham’s many canals and drowning, I can only assume he used one of those internet life expectancy clocks and actually thought it was true.  He seems to be directly referencing the tabloids at one point saying he won’t sell at any price (although given some of the shit they’ve churned out for cash I’m not sure this is strictly true)
‘Don’t ask me what I saw
You know my secrets not for sale’
Which makes me wonder what this neggae secret is, so I’m running a book* if anyone is interested.
*In the event of a palpable error no bets will be settled or stakes refunded.

Evens – Shabba Ranks bums cats;

5/1 – Chaka Demus and Pliars are the neggae equivalent of Milli Vanilli;

10/1 – CJ Lewis is actually Dion Dublin;

20/1 – Snow was actually Jon Snow in disguise and was an international hoodwink on the scale of Orson Welles doing ‘War of the Worlds’;
The video looks like it was shot in some shitty bar/club in the nineties, or present day if you’re in Woking, and doesn’t have a lot going on in it. It mainly consists of moody shots of the boys dressed in their Foster suits and black shirt and tie combos and sums up the whole thing pretty well as it’s pretty mundane.
This sums up the mood when the bar runs out of Red Stripe, Neggae is supposed to be fun.
4/10 as they’ve done worse.

NEGGAE SCORE: 4.0

Suggs – Camden Town

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6CyaEEYeR7w

Release Date: Oct 95
Chart Position: 14

Vince
Camden Town is effectively Suggs’ loveletter to his old stomping ground, an affectionate ode to the streets where he are the Nutty Boys grew up and cut their teeth. Take note, this is not about London per  se– but specifically NW1. Madness were famously travel-shy, failing to capitalize on their National fame in the early 80s by missing tour after tour. A fondness for the plethora of North London boozers, caffs, the green stuff and lie-ins were the general reasons cited. As manager Dave Robinson cited in the excellent “If it Aint Stiff” BBC4 docco, “Madness didn’t want to leave Camden Town” LET ALONE THE BIG SMOKE.suggs camden town

So its no surprise Suggs felt the borough should be committed to vinyl – but is it any good? Yes, it is actually. It’s no Boombastic, but it doesn’t deserve some of the scorn that I’m sure the other Elders will heap on it. Suggs turned in some stinkers during the fag-end years of Neggae don’t get me wrong, but (just like the place itself) Camden Town is not without its charms.

Seeing instantly recognizable 90s London filmed over a reggae soundtrack gave me a pang of nostalgia for the Opening Credits of Desmonds. Don’t Scratch My Sofa. F*ck me what a tune. Like Free Nelson Mandela but with added record scratches. But instead of young, beautiful, black urbanites we have Suggs doing his drunken-tiptoeing-to-bed-so-I-don’t-wake-the-missus danceendearing when he was 19 but less so with a middle-aged derby. Fair play to the video producers for shelling out on a trip to JA though – I reckon this video alone cost more than all of Bitty MaClean’s put together.

As for the song – well it the Theme tune to Coco pops isn’t it? Have a listen.

That or Um Bungo.
I’ve always been partial to both of these ditties, but I’ve never felt the urge to base a pop song around it. That said, Noel Gallagher launched his career off the back of an Old Coke jingle – so maybe they’re on to something. Maybe in 20 years time I should dine off that Reisen song. Might get a number one out of it. Although by then I imagine pop music will be reduced 6 second Vine holograms consumed by domestic help drones scanning a barcode directly into humans eyes. Actually I’m not going to bother. Can’t be f*cked with it.

Back to the here and now –the production is what truly saves this. Sly and Robbie, the Leiber and Stoller of Neggae, craft a gorgeous low slung groove that covers all of the imperfections listed above. Echoed drum breaks, punchy keys, heavy horns – it’s a delight. I’d quite like to hear a dub version of it actually. with Finley Quaye on vox. And at least Suggs is mullering his own record, and not murdering the Beatles or Simon and Garfunkels.
Score: 6/10 – well done Suggs.

James BC
Here’s Suggs again, and once again I dread to think what the others are writing. Sometimes it seems I’m the only person in the world who looks back fondly on the Suggs’s 90s solo work, and that includes the nutty man himself: in his recent autobiography he dedicates a princely one paragraph to it, almost all of which is taken up with that anecdote everyone already knows about Chris Eubank introducing Cecilia on Top of the Pops. If on the other hand you want to know what happened when Suggs went cycling around Italy with Clive Langer, you’ll be delighted to find an entire chapter on the topic. Basically nothing is the answer, by the way.
But on I press: no amount of apathy from the man himself, or antipathy from everyone else, is going to dampen my enthusiasm. Camden Town is a perfect example of what’s great about the The Lone Ranger album: a relaxed groove backing some twinkly, off-beat lyrics, this time about Suggs’s home part of London, Camden. Suggs does a good job of capturing the buzz of the place, wide-eyed visitors trying to take everything in at once, with a subtle frisson of menace in the “tourists sing” and trombone bit in the middle, plus the drunkenness and petty crime chucked in among the multicultural vibrancy. Sly and Robbie’s production is key once again – Suggs wears it so lightly that you’d hardly guess he’s working with two of the all-time greats, but their quality does take the song up a notch.
I’m not ever so keen on the sax solo, but I’d say it’s outweighed by the valiant attempt to shoot a proper neggae video (beach dancing, larking about, sand, horns etc) on a budget of £1.75. All in all a likeable effort.
Score: 7 out of 10 – might have been more if he’d specified which exit of the underground to meet at.

Norm
Suggs, I find your music boring and about as inspirational as a toasted parsnip and mayonnaise sarnie. If you’re into that you may very well enjoy Suggs and Camden Town. I however, am not.
What did I learn from this song? Apparently Camden is a very diverse place that has a lot going on. Excellent. But having to listen to Suggs and his monotone voice for however long this song goes on is is Johnny-Gill-esque. It is painful and it irks me.
Dont get me wrong.
It has some positives.
Not many but some.
There’s some nice neggae beats, drum and horn background bits and pieces throughout. I liked that. But…
The video is annoying.
Suggs prancing around does my head in. I’ve watched this 4 times in a row trying to come up with something constructive to write but can’t. Sorry.
I wish this week’s challenge was to write a twitter style review and keep it under 140. It would’ve gone something like this:
Score: Suggs, Camden Town #cack #fellasleep #2/10

Jonny

  • Screech in Saved by the Bell
  • Jar Jar Binks in the Star Wars prequel debacle
  • Ross in the latter stages of the Friends saga
  • Suggs in the mid 1990’s UK Neggae scene

What do these all of these characters have in common? They became irrelevant add ins to what were otherwise important social and cultural movements.

Suggs has started to ruin it for everyone with his jokey dim-witted approach. I got Madness (I think?) and although I was not their biggest fan, I did understand the relevance of their music, but Suggs on his own has contributed very little. Nothing of any importance anyway.

‘In Camden Town, I’ll meet you by the underground’ – Is that really what you have just offered up? Twat!

Score: Not wasting any more time with this. Go away Suggs!! 1/10

Gouldy
Suggs makes an unwelcome return to the hot 90 this week with his ode to Camden Town; I’m going to try to be objective about this entry as I think I managed to get rid of my vitriol in his last appearance. Being of an impressionable age during the Britpop era I spent quite a lot of time in Camden as a yout’ myself and can’t help thinking Suggs is somewhat overegging the romanticism of the place, I’ll go into details later.
I like the start to this song, it’s a proper neggae intro with the classic drum roll start and jaunty bassline that sounds like it could have sound tracked a cartoon. Obviously Suggs is still singing so this puts a bit of dampener on it but the horns are nice as well. Not so sure about the synth that’s introduced for the chorus but must admit the guitar break in there is nice and evokes memories of Siouxsie and the Banshees covering ‘Dear Prudence’. There’s a tribute to ‘Ghost Town’ later on with the vocals but I could do without his spoken refrains, it’s all bit like the elder Kevin doing voice overs in the ‘Wonder Years’, in case you were wondering Winnie Cooper turned out to be decent. The song meanders on in this manner and you know what? It’s ok, there are still a few ‘Stoppit and Tidy Up’ style noises but they’ve not been done to death.

Lyrically I have to take issue with this song with the main objection being this

In Camden Town I’ll meet you by the underground’

Don’t do that, you’ll just get hassled up by teenage drug dealers and end up getting skanked by buying a piece of bark for £10 under the misapprehension it’s a bit of solid, happened to a friend of a friend of mine and wasn’t me, no sireee, nothing to do with me, honest guv. After this frankly shocking piece of advice he follows it up by advocating the use of drug paraphernalia

‘There’s tapas, fracas, alcohol, tobaccos
Bongs, bongo bingo, Portuguese maracas’

Which is all very well, but this is simply a gateway to buying a load of Yellow Submarine legal highs at ‘Herman’s Head Shop’ asking the shop assistant how many you should take to get really f*cked and then thinking ‘I’m an experienced psychonaut who’s been on many missions of spiritual and physical ecstasy, I will take double the maximum recommended dose, like I do with Night Nurse’. Apparently this can then lead to nearly passing out on a crowded tube then thinking you’re better so going for a pint to level you out but then realising you’re not that much better as the pint comes straight back up into the pint glass. Don’t be pithy about these things Suggs, it’s a serious matter.
Suggs has also ignored one of my biggest gripes about Camden or more specifically promoters who hold events there and the lack of information they give out. Picture the scene, you’re in the World’s End pub enjoying a few pre club Lowenbraus and testing out the night’s Mick Mills, you have a full on gag whilst dropping the first one so you know you’re in for a good night. The pub starts calling last orders at around 11 so you move on to the Underworld for London’s Premier Britpop night. Paying your money in a state of delirium you start to sense something’s a bit wrong but can’t quite put your finger on it. You advance down the corridor and the music sounds a bit different making you think ‘Blimey, Kula Shaker’s new one sounds a bit heavy’. The doors to the main venue open and you find yourself surrounded by people wearing black make up adorned in ‘Cradle of Filth’ t-shirts, bedecked in a vintage Brazil football t-shirt, combats and a blue corduroy jacket with the Jamiroquai logo as the zip pull it’s fair to say you’re standing out as the twat who didn’t know the night had changed. Unperturbed by this experience you return to Camden a few weeks later to go to the mod night ‘Blow Up’ which is located in the upstairs of the Laurel Tree pub.  You pay your money at the door getting some strange looks form the person collecting it, as you turn the corner of the staircase you’re confronted with a crowd of burly ageing skinheads in bomber jackets as yes, ‘Blow Up’ has changed dates and you’re at a skinhead revival night with the whole scene resembling a sevs prison gym. The night out culminates with you sitting in a lounge in Hounslow at 6am whilst vomiting into a saucepan due to ingesting too much cheap speed whilst an ex con tells you he wishes you could have been in Feltham Young Offenders with him as ‘it was a right laugh and you’d have loved it in there’. Suggs had the chance to stop future generations making these mistakes and I feel his carefree attitude has meant him missing a chance to give back to society.
The video starts off with Suggs doing his ‘hilarious’ berking about shtick round Camden, he then gets the tube to Jamaica. This is again irresponsible as London Underground staff are going to have to deal with American tourists asking them which line they need to get to Jamaica. A good job Bob Crow’s not about to see this as it would drive him to a state of apoplexy. The rest of the video is Suggs basically lording up on a Tropical beach somewhere which to me seems a bit hypocritical when the whole song is singing the praises of Camden. If the lyrics were ‘Camden Town, its ok I suppose but I’d much rather be in the Caribbean’ then this would be forgivable.
Score: I’ll give this 3/10, its no ‘Waterloo Sunset’

NEGGAE SCORE:  3.8