Food For Thought by UB40

WRITTEN in a cellar, recorded in a bedsit and released by a start-up independent label run from a record shop in Dudley, the debut single by Brummie reggae quartet UB40 was an instant success story that surprised everyone except the band. “We were cocky,” says drummer Jimmy Brown. “If we didn’t think we might have some success we wouldn’t have bothered!”

“Food For Thought” rose to No 4 in the spring of 1980, the first of more than 50 hit singles. Befitting a group unusually adept at balancing light and shade, it proved an ambiguous calling card: a bleak protest song with pop nous that has since become an anthem at their local football club, Birmingham City FC. “The horn line is played at City every time a goal is scored,” says Robin Campbell. “The whole crowd sing it!”

Brian Travers’ woozy saxophone line provides an accessible hook, but “Food For Thought” has depth. The infectious steppers beat, biting synth break and lilting vocal melody soften the blow of a brutally unsparing lyric. Originally called “The Christmas Song” – “It was supposed to be a Christmas single, but it didn’t get released until April!” says Astro – “Food For Thought” predated “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” by almost five years, tackling similar themes with considerably greater

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