aka Wildcat known to UB40 and fellow fans, wonderfully called the UB Loonies. Devotee enthusiasts who follow the reggae band from Birmingham across the UK and the world.
Initially published in 1995, when the fan’s perspective as a book was not as widespread as they are today. Tanya sadly passed away on 28th August 2020 due to cancer. Her husband,Andy, Jason Disley, and Beatnpress have produced a second edition, with moving and touching contributions from Robin Campbell and Martin Meredith, of UB40. From Robin’s and Martin’s words, it is clear that Tanya was well-loved and respected within the UB40 universe.
Tanya’s recollection starts as a bored teenager in a council estate in Somerset. However, her parents had a keen interest in music, and within her mother’s record collection is UB40’s classic debut album, Signing Off. Yet the discovery of this timeless vinyl record doesn’t turn Tanya into a fan; it is her friends at school, with one boasting to Tanya that she is a member of their fan club. Soon Tanya submerges herself with the music by the lads from Birmingham.
Tanya captures that thrilling and often life-changing moment when you discover a band that resonates with you to perfection. Her words conjure up the warmth, rebellious yet confusing feeling you get from finding something that feels just right for you. It reminded me so much when by accident, I discovered The Jam.
Once you have declared your love and loyalty to a band, your life has a purpose, filled with many holy grails, from seeing the band live to meeting them. Furthermore, friendships, ideology, and adventure come in abundance when you become a fan of a band, as you wait with bated breath for any news on them.
With accurate details and vivid emotional recollection, Tanya takes the reader to that special time of your life, when the band is your world. Nevertheless, Tanya remains grounded throughout her addiction, as she knows that she has to live her own life, as she knows that being a fan is sensational, but it’s not going to pay the bills. Therefore UB40 (A Legal Drug): A Fan’s Eye View goes further than a tribute to UB40; it is an insight into the life of a working-class girl in eighties Britain, which is an interesting aspect of the book, an authentic account from an everyday person.
In addition, Tanya doesn’t put UB40 on a pedestal. She is critical of them moving to a more commercial sound after the release of Red Red Wine and their collaboration with Afrika Bambaataa in 1988, Reckless, a single that she refused to buy, which made me smile.
Other elements of UB40 (A Legal Drug): A Fan’s Eye View that I liked is how Tanya details the songs and the recording of some of the albums. She is a real trainspotter, then she can be a fan on a mission, as she blags her way backstage, sometimes with success, others with not. Her raw writing style is engaging, as it makes you feel like you are standing next to her.
Fans of UB40 will enjoy this book, as will fans of any music and people who lived through the eighties. Yet it’s far from nostalgia; it’s Tanya Kennedy’s story and her love for UB40, a woman who sadly left this world far too early but has left a beautiful legacy in a book that is a page-turning read.