Astro — he’s a member of the British reggae and pop band UB40 — immediately began talking about a song with Tulsa in the title.
The song, “Twenty Four Hours From Tulsa,” was a hit for Gene Pitney in 1963. It went to No. 5 on the UK singles chart and No. 17 in the U.S.
“It’s a great song,” Astro said. “Most of us remember it from our childhood.”
Art imitates life? At the time of this writing, UB40 was — like the Pitney song — a few hours from Tulsa.
UB40 featuring Ali Campbell and Astro, with Shaggy will perform 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 20 at Skyline Event Center inside the Osage Casino.
“Everybody in your part of town, come to our show,” Astro said during an interview to promote the Tulsa gig. “We’re coming to party, and we want you to party with us. It’s as simple as that.”
The globe parties with UB40, which has sold over 70 million records worldwide. The band’s biggest U.S. hits include covers of “Red Red Wine,” “I Got You Babe,” “Here I Am (Come and Take Me”) and “(I Can’t Help) Falling in Love With You.” Two of those songs went to No. 1 in the U.S.
Here are two selected conversation topics from the Astro interview:
Red Red Wine
It seems fitting that you can buy wine on the band’s official site (ub40.org).
UB40’s Red Red Wine Bordeaux Superieur was vinified especially for the band.
Origin story? Astro said many of the band’s fans said something along the lines of “you’ve been singing about it for so many years. How come you haven’t got your own red, red wine?” Request granted.
The song “Red Red Wine” was written and recorded by Neil Diamond in 1967. UB40 put its own spin on the song and took it to the top of the charts 16 years later. Diamond must love the guys in UB40?
Said Astro: “We have made him a… load of money. And you know what? He has never even so much as once said ‘thank you.’ Never once.”
Asked if there was a cover song whose writer greatly appreciated his or her material being covered, Astro mentioned Lord Creator, who was responsible for “Kingston Town.” At the time UB40 covered the song, Lord Creator was in a hospital in Jamaica and couldn’t pay his bills, according to Astro. When the cover charted in many countries and went to No. 4 in the UK, Lord Creator reaped a financial windfall and got back on his feet.
“You can’t get a better feeling than that, and that’s just one example,” Astro said, citing other examples.
You know her as Chrissie Hynde, the driving force of the Pretenders. The guys in UB40 call her “Aunt Chrissie.” Here’s why: She basically discovered the band.
“The truth is, we decided we wanted to be a band and none of us could play an instrument,” Astro said. “We spent a year learning how to play instruments.”
UB40 learned how to play a few songs and hit the pub circuit. Coincidentally, Hynde was in the audience for a show and invited UB40 to go on tour with the Pretenders. Huge? The Pretenders’ “Brass in Pocket” was the No. 1 song in the UK at the time.
UB40 released its first single while on tour and hasn’t stopped touring since, according to Astro.
“We love Aunt Chrissie,” he said, indicating that she put the band on an accelerated track. “It would have taken people a few years to find us, but they would have found us eventually.”