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UB40: Midnight Rider

What's in a name? Wel, if you were Pink Floyd co-founder/chief songwriter and singer Roger Waters a bit of litigation after you quit the band and found the rest were carrying on using the band's name.

The name-game isn't uncommon in rock history: in the Fifties if a studio-based band of session musicians had a hit you might find a couple of groups touring under the same name to capitalise on the chart success, and at one point there were two Fleetwood Macs out there in the wrold.

Let's not even start with that age-old question: "Just who are the Drifters these days?" 

So let's not bother with all this UB40 kerfuffle.

Recently we had a version of the band in New Zealand with former lead singer Ali Campbell, Astro and Mickey Virtue  . . . and now headline the Raggamuffin Festival on February 20 is the other UB40 with Ali's brother Robin, another brother Duncan now out front, and other former members of the originl band.

On the day we might guess few in the crowd would care too much because it is probably the song not the singer which is paramount.

So we thought we'd get Robin Campbell to sidestep the on-going controversy and simply answer of Famous Elsewhere Reggae Questionnaire . . .

The first piece of music which really affected you was . . .

I can’t remember a specific piece of music because we were always surrounded by music. Dad was a professional musician so we had musicians in the house all the time and we would listen to his group, The Ian Campbell Folk Group, rehearsing – there were always fiddles and banjoes and guitars in the house. One of the earliest pieces I do remember was Dad’s song ‘The Sun Is Burning’ – it became the unofficial anthem of the CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) and ended up being recorded by Simon and Garfunkel for the original pressing of their album ‘Wednesday Morning 3am’ but was left off the re-released version album which went on to sell eight million copies – for five minutes Dad was very excited. The song has since been included on a reissue of the album as a bonus track.

Your first role models in music were . . .

Bob Marley was a real catalyst for me wanting to be a professional musician and was a big influence on me musically. I saw him live in 1976 and that really started things off for UB40

If music was denied you, your other career choice would be . . .

Professional snooker player

The three songs (yours, or by others) you would love everyone to hear are . . .

Any three songs from the latest UB40 albums – I really do want people to hear more of the stuff I’ve done with my brother Duncan as lead singer for UB40

Any interesting, valuable or just plain strange musical memorabilia at home?

A '54 Fender Stratocaster – it’s the same age as me and it’s left-handed. I bought is in a second-hand store and didn’t know it was a '54 until later. I had it stripped down and took the neck off and underneath it said ‘1954’ and had the namer block letters ‘R.CAMPBELL’ which is apparently the name of the person who made the body, but it was as if it was meant to be for me. I only paid a couple of hundred dollars for it which was quite a bit at the time, but it’s now been valued at around $25,000. I do play it at home, but I don’t use it on stage – I don’t know who owned it previously, but whoever owned it was looking after it for me.

The best book on reggae music or reggae musicians you have read is . . .

843069Lloyd Bradley’s Reggae: The Story of Jamaican Music. Lloyd Bradley is a British journalist who I recommended for hosting the BBC programme on the history of reggae. He’s an extremely knowledgeable guy and has recently written a new book about the early days of The Wailers which I’m looking forward to reading.

If you could get on stage with anyone it would be . . . (And what you would play?)

Stevie Wonder – he’s a living genuis and probably the most important musician of the 20th century and he’s influenced so many singers today. I’d love to play something we would write together.

The last CD or vinyl album you bought was . . .

The complete set of John Holt records

One song, royalties for life, never have to work again. The song by anyone, yourself included, which wouldn't embarrass you would be . . .

I Heard It Through The Grapevine

The poster, album cover or piece of art could you live with on your bedroom forever would be . . .

I’ve got several pieces of art on the bedroom wall, some of which was used as album covers for UB40 albums. We were all art students, so are very interested in up and coming artists and came up with the idea of using artists to create our album covers.

You are allowed just one reggae box set, and it is . . .

Complete Trojan box set of 12 CDs

David Bowie sang, “Five years, that's all we've got . . .” You would spend them where, doing . . .?

Exactly what I’m doing right now – touring the world and playing with UB40

And finally, in the nature of press conferences in Japan, “Can you tell me please why this is your best album ever?”

Our latest album is always the best at the time – it’s the one we’re most enthusiastic about!

UB40 headlines Raggamuffin IX on Saturday 20 February at The Trusts Arena, Auckland

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