Thursday, September 16, 2021

"Red, Red Wine" by UB40

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  3615
Date:  08/13/1988
Debut:  85
Peak:  1 (1 week)
Weeks:  25
Genre:  Reggae

Pop Bits:  This English band had been highly successful at home during the 80s collecting eleven Top 10 hits including two #1s. Yet in the US they remained a fringe act that had trouble trying to break into the mainstream. Their only two songs to enter the US Pop chart were both remakes; "Red, Red Wine" (#34, 1984) and "I Got You Babe" (with Chrissie Hynde, #28, 1985). The band perhaps had hopes that their self-titled 1988 album would get attention due to its first single being another remake with Chrissie Hynde, the 1969 Dusty Springfield track "Breakfast in Bed." Unfortunately, the single failed to reach the US Pop chart (#4 Alt Rock) and that left the album peaking at #53. It seemed that UB40 were just not meant to breakthrough in a bigger way in the US. That changed when a program director at a radio station in Phoenix, Arizona, spotlighted "Red, Red Wine" on a program about missed hits called Would've Been, Should've Been. The track got such a big response that the band's label was contacted and urged to give the song a second chance in the US. They did and it proved to be a great decision. For its second run, instead of reissuing the original edited single from '84, the label pushed out the full album version that included a rap by band member Astro. That change seemed to help the single, which slowly began to gain an audience around the country. Eventually the song would top the Pop chart (#13 AC) and go gold. The hit would reignite sales of the band's 1984 LP Labour of Love and before the song could even top the chart, it would go platinum. Although the recording was four years old, it finally provided UB40 with the breakthrough they were looking for in the US.

ReduxReview:  In the years since I first covered this song, my opinion hasn't really changed. It was (and still isn't) my cup o' tea. I perhaps may find it slightly less annoying these days, yet it will never be something I'll want to hear. I didn't get into their other hit remakes either (see below). Unfortunately, they kind of backed themselves into a corner with the reggae remakes, which lead to pop listeners/radio stations in the US ignoring their originals. In turn, that made their shelf life as hit makers limited. That was too bad as they had a lot more to offer than these tepid remakes.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  UB40's Labour of Love album consisted of all cover tunes including "Red, Red Wine" (originally written and recorded by Neil Diamond, 1968, #62). Perhaps spurred on by the song's delayed hit status in the US, the band then decided to do a second covers LP appropriately titled Labour of Love II. It would spawn two more US Pop Top 10 hits with "The Way You Do the Things You Do" (#7 - originally a hit by The Temptations, 1964, #11) and "Here I Am (Come and Take Me)" (#6 - originally a hit by Al Green, 1973, #10). The album would reach #30 and go platinum. Although their next album, 1993's Promises and Lies would consist mainly of original songs, they did do one cover that was released as a single. "(I Can't Help) Falling in Love with You," originally a #2 hit for Elvis Presley in 1961, would earn UB40 their second US Pop #1. A follow-up single, "Higher Ground," would make it to #45 becoming the band's first and only original song to make the US Pop chart. After that, UB40 quickly faded in popularity in the US. Their next album would barely scrape the chart at #176. It would be their last time on any US chart. Back at home in the UK, they would continue to have hits and sell albums. Their fifth covers album, 2018's A Real Labour of Love would hit #2 in the UK and earn a silver sales award.


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