Amnesty International investigate, but a song can resonate injustices to the masses with far more impact. When UB40 released Tyler, in 1980, the perversions of the American justice system which jailed Gary Tyler six years previously for a murder he didn’t commit were little known in the UK. Convicted based entirely on the statements of four witnesses who later recanted their testimony, one has to wonder the differences having CCTV technology back then might’ve had on injustices such as this.
Apt then, that Birmingham’s premier UB40 tribute act, Johnny2Bad are playing The Exchange nightclub on Friday 11th February for a Devizes & District Licensees fundraiser, to raise funds towards supporting our town CCTV. But we’ve already got a CCTV system, haven’t we?
I caught up with Noel Woolrych, controller of the cameras since it began fourteen years ago, to ask him what improvements need to be made. “How long a list would you like?” he responded, pointing out several areas in need of cameras; blind spots which I’ve no intention of telling you where they are cos, I know what you’re like! “But it’s pretty much impossible to get from the Bell to Waddies without going past several cameras,” Noel adds; probably got a few of me staggering home!
Currently upgrading the cameras in Old Swan Yard and putting up a couple more behind the Town Hall, Noel points out “none of it is original, as it’s been upgraded several times. We respond to requests where there is antisocial behaviour.”
Inclined to quip, at least the CCTV is run by a Labour man, heaven help us otherwise, but Noel quickly deflected the political jab, “politics has nothing to do with it. I’m just concerned for the safety of all.” And in that, I’m convinced nothing Orwellian is in operation here, Noel adamant if you’re doing nothing wrong, he’s not interested in spying on you.
“It’s being well supported by the night-time economy,” continues Noel, explaining it recently caught someone smashing a car windscreen, and provided evidence for the knife incident at the Dolphin. “Oh, and my conviction rate of those who get to court is only 100%!” he vaunts, though with good reason, and for the coverage to continue keeping us safe and improve, further updates are needed.
I’m certain booking Johnny2Bad is as a wise move as it is fitting, everyone loves UB40, and this eight-piece ensemble are a world-renowned tribute, endorsed by Ali Campbell himself on a national TV interview. With a wealth of experience beyond the reggae circuit, members of the band have toured with artists such as Sting, Santana and Peter Gabriel, and also reggae legends Jimmy Cliff, Third World, Shaggy, and Maxi Priest, but ultimately, Ali Campbell and the late Astro themselves; there can surely be no higher accolade.
But if there’s one thing which, for me, puts a tribute act on a pedestal, is when they record original material in the style of those tributed. I’ve played one of two of their singles, “I love you,” on my radio show, and it magnificently mimics the UB40 sound to the degree without knowing you’d think it was an album track of theirs you must’ve missed, and they’ve more tracks promised.
Not one to blag, but I’m honoured to have their collaboration lockdown single on our compilation album for Julia’s House, “we’re all in this thing together,” with Big Ship Alliance, another brilliant reggae outfit which also has a Freddie McGregor tribute, plus Robbie Levi, and Stones.
Still, Johnny2Bad are real crowd-pleasers, and you’d be in for a fantastic night of the classic UB40 covers we love. Although I’d be hoping for some personally favoured UB40s older originals, I won’t throw toys from my pram if they don’t, as I believe post-Red Red Wine, their concentration on covering reggae classics breathed new life into rare Jamaican singles, which otherwise might’ve been lost in time. Such as the sublime Lord Creator’s Kingston Town, and man, if this ol’ trainspotter need Google if UB40 ever covered the Slicker’s Johnny Too Bad, Johnny2Bad have answered that for me!
Tickets for Johnny2Bad at The Exchange on Friday 11th February are £15, and can be found in the various pubs, at Devizes Light & Sound in Sidmouth Street…. but not in Kingston Town, the place I long to be, if I had the whole world, I would give it away, just to see, the girls at play…. but obviously not via taking advantage of Noel’s CCTV system, for that’s just to catch criminals!
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