For those not old enough to experience Bob Marley in his prime, UB40 provided a very important introduction into contemporary reggae music. Their earliest material, powered by massive basslines and even bigger social/political messages really got to the heart of early 80s Britain. Their first ten years, in particular, presented the work of a band that seemed almost infallible. They could shift from political anger, into 70s influenced dub, through to a deftly played cover tune without missing a beat. Their show from the Hammersmith Odeon in 1983 – still denied a DVD release – is a near perfect example of the early UB’s in full flight.
Terence ‘Astro’ Wilson was such an important part of what made them so special. His insights into Rastafarian culture and rich, deep toasting skills gave the band an edge that elevated them beyond the “pop reggae” tag with which their detractors have often unfairly labelled them.
Below, we remember Astro with a few of his key performances from the 80s, including one of his earliest classics, ‘Madam Medusa’. The longest track in the UB40 catalogue, Astro doesn’t appear until half way, but when he does, it’s a revelation. With the arrival of his effortless toasting, the groove fattens accordingly and the band are an easy match for any of their peers and influences at that time. ‘Folitician’ taps into more of the political anger that fuelled the then young band’s passions, and the deep cut ‘Mi Spliff’ – hidden away on the end of the divisive ‘Baggariddim’ album – works a much sharper, contemporary sound for the era, but again, Astro’s performance is flawless.
Astro: Irreplaceable, and never to be forgotten.