Ali Campbell on UB40, Brett Kavanaugh and an ugly bar brawl

The singer woke up to find himself embroiled in a global political scandal. He tells his side of the story

I first found out that my name was being dragged into the biggest news story of the year when I woke up and my wife came in and said: “What’s all this about you and Brett Kavanaugh?” I said: “I have absolutely no idea.” Then people started ringing up asking for a comment on this supposed ruckus in a bar between him and someone who looked like me in 1985. My obvious comment is: “It wasn’t me!”

I’ve been following the news story like everybody else. We’ve just come back from Seattle and you couldn’t turn on the TV without it being on. American politics seems particularly unsavoury at the moment: it’s at an all-time low. I don’t know the bloke, so I don’t know whether he’s innocent or guilty, but I wouldn’t support anyone assaulting women.

But I do know that nobody bumped me on the head with a block of ice in a bar. I would remember that, wouldn’t I? I don’t remember the gig in question [in Connecticut], but we did more than 1,000 shows in the US in the 80s. They blur into one another, but the last thing I would do is go to the bar over the road after a show – I jump straight into a car and go back to the hotel.

If someone had been staring at me, I wouldn’t have gone: “’Ere, who are you looking at?” I’ve been on TV screens for 35 years, so I’m used to people looking at me. Most people who do recognise me are lovely.

I guess this saga will follow me around for years now, because of social media. You know what they say, anything that happens in Las Vegas stays on Facebook, but it is rather surreal. It’s a bit embarrassing that we’ve toppled Kanye West – or rather, Ye! – as the trending act on Twitter.

We welcome Democrats and Republicans to our gigs – so long as they leave their politics at the door. There is no point preaching to the converted. And reggae is good-time music, so, if you are out drinking, it is the place to start. But it is a big surprise to find out that Kavanaugh used to come to see us in his Yale days. You don’t expect a rightwing Republican to follow a leftwing reggae socialist band from Birmingham. But we used to sing about really heavy stuff and wrap it up in frothy, happy tunes, so a lot of people got into us who had no idea what we were singing about. Maybe he just loves reggae … and didn’t listen to our lyrics.

As told to Dave Simpson. UB40 Featuring Ali, Astro & Mickey’s Real Labour of Love tour starts in March 2019. Details at

Ali Campbell

The GuardianTramp

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