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Red Red Wine by UB40

Album: Labour Of LoveReleased: 1983Charted:
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  • This was written and first recorded by Neil Diamond. His original version first appeared on his 1967 album Just For You (Bang 217) and was produced by Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich (a.k.a. The Raindrops of "The Kind Of Boy You Can't Forget" fame). Neil's version of the song (Bang single 556) peaked at #62 over a three-week run in April, 1968.

    In the UK, two versions of the song charted in 1969: a soul cover by Jimmy James & The Vagabonds hit #36 (it also made #127 in the US), and a Reggae rendition by Tony Tribe hit #46. UB40, whose members grew up listening to these versions, took it to #1 UK with their 1983 cover.
  • The lyrics sing the praises of wine, and its ability to make you forget your problems. Diamond wrote another song about red wine in 1970 with Cracklin' Rosie.
  • UB40 recorded this as a cover of the Tony Tribe 1969 reggae version, which reached #46 in the UK charts. The band did not realize until after it topped the charts that Neil Diamond wrote it and originally recorded it. Lead singer Ali Campbell recalls in the book 1000 UK #1 Hits: "The funny thing about the song is we only knew it as a Reggae song. We had no idea that Neil Diamond wrote it." Terence "Astro" Wilson, confirmed: "Even when we saw the writing credit which said N. Diamond, we thought it was a Jamaican artist called Negus Diamond or something."
  • This was re-issued in the States after DJ Guy Zapoleon at KZZP-FM in Phoenix, Arizona included the song on his "Would've Been, Should've Been" feature. There was such a positive response that he urged the record company to re-issue the single. Within a few weeks the song had climbed to the top of the charts.
  • UB40's original recording reached #34 in the US in March, 1984 when it was released on A&M 2600. This version clocked in at 3:00. In 1988, it was reissued as a longer version (5:16) with a rap by Terence "Astro" Wilson, and finally hit #1.
  • The 1969 Tony Tribe version caught on in England with a hooligan crowd known as "bovver boys." These guys typically sported shaved heads, heavy boots, and cropped pants held up by suspenders (or as they're called in England, "braces").

    Tribe performed the song in September, 1969 at a reggae festival held in London at Empire Pool; other acts on the bill included Desmond Dekker, Johnny Nash and Max Romeo. To show his support for the bovver boys who bought his record, Tribe wore suspenders for his performance. His cover of the song would later find its way onto various "skinhead reggae" playlists.
  • The album Labour Of Love is a collection of covers comprised of reggae songs the band grew up listening to; other tracks include "Many Rivers To Cross" by Jimmy Cliff and "Cherry Oh Baby" by Eric Donaldson. It was UB40's fourth album, and the group was eager to expose their expanding fanbase to the reggae classics they loved. "Before we come along, people just looked on reggae as Rastaman, and half the white English people don't want to know," the group's rapper Astro Wilson told NME. "To some degree that alienated people from getting into reggae. When we came out - just the fact that half the band are white when reggae was supposed to be for Rastas only - they started to realize that reggae is just music and it's there for whoever wants to listen to it, and whoever wants to play it."
  • This song didn't take off America when it was first released in 1983, but another reggae tune did: "Electric Avenue" by Eddy Grant, which hit #2. UB40 bass player Earl Falconer recalls being mistaken for Grant when the band toured in America around this time.
  • In the music video, lead singer Ali Campbell is actually drinking beer, and not red wine. The video was filmed in a local Birmingham, England pub where you wouldn't want to be caught drinking wine.

    To avoid hiring extras, the band invited guys from a nearby factory to join them at the pub, graciously paying the bar bill in exchange for their services. It was shot in the morning, and by noon, most of these hired hands were blotto. According to various accounts, when they staggered back to work, they were fired on the spot, although later given their jobs back.

    The black-and-white clip was directed by Bernard Rose, who worked on many of UB40's videos and also directed the original, bacchanalian "Relax" clip for Frankie Goes To Hollywood.
  • In America, a slower, string-laden version of the song made #70 Vic Dana (Liberty 56163) in 1970.
  • UB40's next #1 UK hit came in 1985 with another reggae-tinged cover of a song by an American artist: "I Got You Babe." They recorded the song with Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders, who brought them on tour early in their career. This cover also made #28 in America.
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Comments: 24

On January 16th 1919 (January 16th) the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified; it prohibited the sale or transportation of alcoholic beverages in the U.S.A.
(Was repealed by the 21st Amendment in December 1933)...
On October 9th, 1988 UB40's covered version of "Red Red Wine" peaked at #1 (for 1 week) Hot Top 100 chart.
Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
When making this song into reggae style, I imagine UB40 did with some of Led Zep's "D'yer Mak'er" tune and rhythm in mind. Hearing "D'yer Mak'er" I used to wonder whether that was an earlier version of this very song (because I couldn't remember the title or lyrics at the time). Other people have noted that "Me Love" by Sean Kingston rips a riff from this song, and the tune from -- yours, truly -- Led Zep's "D'yer Mak'er" also. So Sean Kingston thinks like I do: hear one, be reminded of the other. In fact, the lyrics of "Red Red Wine" sound like what happens soon after the events of "D'yer Mak'er".Drew - Birmingham, Al
The song was actually wrote in the early 60's by, but never credited to Sonny Sons of Heismer, Louisiana.Melissa - Patterson, La
i love this song alot. this is my fathers favorite song, passed it on to me i guess. much love to niel diamond for a song that touches all of us who appreciate this song.Sarah - Honesdale , Pa
Bob Rivers managed to get the same sound in "Red Neck Swine." Listen to it at http://bobrivers.com/#v8436Steven - Sunnyvale, Ca
I think the video of this song is a miniature work of art. It tells the coming of age story of a young man who gets his pocket picked at a pub, has unrequited love for a girl (her picture is on his bathroom mirror), and experiences his father's unconditional love for him. I think the video is brilliant. The themes are extradinary, and it should probably be expanded into a movie.Ed - Panama City, Fl
I love this song, everytime I hear it I want to get up and dance. I don't think it sends a good message to people but it has a amazing beat and
melody is amazing.
But I bet anyone who has ever heard this song can
say that it has made them think of a lover who had hurt them.
Jessie - Saldotna, Ak
It's also one of those songs to dance to at a Small Town Saturday Night Dance in South Central Texas along with"Amarillo By Morning".John - Mansfield, Tx
Louisiana Swamp Pop Legend Charles Mann had a big regional Louisiana hit with "RED,RED WINE" in 1969. Neil Diamond wrote this song. This is a big hit and a slow dancing favorite. Jukeboxes still play this song. A big seller! To hear a song clip by Charles Mann of RED RED WINE check out http://charlesmannmusic.tripod.com/. It can also be found on his Charles Mann Essential Collection CD on Amazon.com. GREAT SONG AND GREAT VERSION! You can hear and almost feel the pain of the heartbreak of this singer. GREAT ARTIST! I love it! One of my favorite songs!Melony - Lake Charles, La, La
I do believe that a fellow named Charles Mann of Lake Charles, Louisiana wrote Red Red Wine, and if you check Neil Diamond's web site, he does not take credit for writing it.Marvin - Mandeville, La
I do believe Charles Mann of louisiana wrote Red Red Wine, and if you check out Neil Diamond's web site, he does not take claim for writing it.Marvin - Mandeville, La
i have been in barbados and for many years have heard this song played on the radio stations there by a guy call rudy grant. i was told that he wrote this song for a woman who got him trouble and whist in prison in germany i think is when he wrote this song to her. is there any truth to this.Nancy - Essex, England
I love this version of the song right up until the idiotic rap starts. The reggae spin on what was originally intended as a country song is really fun, but the rap is so imbecilic it ruins the whole thing. Obvously the general population didn't feel that way, but man alive when I hear this song start I change the station.Dennis - Anchorage, Ak
Um... for Shell, Riverdale... the rap version, was actually the original single version. So it wasn't a so called "updated" version, the one that you all hear is the radio edit.Jemma - Camborne, England
This song had the previous record with Billboard for taking the longest time from date of original release to reach #1. As indicated it came out in '84 and reached #1 in '88. That record was beaten by the "Sheriff" release "When I'm With You" which was originally released in '83 and peaked at #1 in '89. Sheriff's song was also only 1 of 2 songs since MTV to reach #1 without a video. The other song was "Amanda" by Boston.Alan - Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada
Great Song!!!!Julian - Anaheim, Ca
i can never get enough of this songKristina - Houston, Tx
Hypnotic. Makes you feel better than the singer feels.

He may feel no pain but he can't protect his blue, blue heart. Very sad. Felt for the guy on the video who was practically crying behind his drunken smile as he made his way home alone. Classic.
Brian - Meriden, Ct
Neil Diamond's original of this was a ballad; a great song! It was back in the days when he actually sang instead of the weird way he vocalizes since he became a "Legend". I like the UB40
version a lot. Reggae's an amazing direction to take such a song.
Frank - Westminster, Sc
UB40 didn't realise that it was a Neil Diamond song; they'd only heard the reggae version by Tony Tribe and that's what they covered. Apparently Neil now performs this song live with the UB40 rap!Derek - Manchester, England
great song makes me wanna get drunk when i think about the girl i fell in love with and who rejected meAli - Lahore, Pakistan
Since I've yet to find anyone else who agrees with me, I must be the only one who detests the (ahem) "updated" version that includes the rap. Hated it when it came out, hate it now.Shell - Riverdale, Ga
Personally, even though Neil Diamond wrote it, I think his version of the song sucks. If you haven't heard it, don't listen to it. It may just ruin you for life.Josh - Pittsburgh, Pa
Here is a dare. The next time you hear this, be it on your cd player or on the radio, I DOUBLE dare you not to sing along with it. The melody is absolutely gorgeous, and the chirping guitar just makes you smile. I DARE you not to sing along. You just can't help singing.....Ken - Lasalle, Canada