How UB40 Ended Up Trending, Thanks to Alleged Melee-Igniting Fan Brett Kavanaugh

“How f---ing aggro was Kavanaugh that he started a brawl after a UB40 show?” asked one tweeter.

Kanye West had to be Perrier-bottle-green with envy Monday night, if he was studying Twitter and seeing that the British pop-reggae band UB40 had found the most effortless path possible to becoming a trending topic on social media — by inadvertently triggering a bar fight more than 30 years ago.

The world already knew that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh likes beer, but suddenly everyone was also learning that he likes “Red Red Wine,” or at least did when he attended a concert of the band’s while a Yale student in 1985. This provided an answer to a question that music fans had already been entertaining themselves by posing in recent days, about what kind of music the justice was most likely to have favored in his allegedly rowdier high school and college days. Derisive speculation had mostly focused more on the likes of Night Ranger.

“UB40 wasn’t even on my Brett bingo card,” as one tweeter commented Monday night.

Other sample social media riffs: “How f—ing aggro was Kavanaugh that he started a brawl after a UB40 show?” “I can’t believe boofing and Devil’s Triangle and UB40 are all going to be in our kids’ history textbooks.” “Sneer about ‘Red Red Wine’ all you like; ‘One in Ten’ is a massive tune. #UB40”

Fans with a sense of music history couldn’t help pointing out that the conservative hero was into a band whose very name bespoke liberalism, since UB40 was named after the unemployment form in Great Britain, an unaffectionate poke at the Thatcherism that rockers generally considered the British equivalent of Reaganism.

Of course, Kavanaugh would have been more likely to be attracted by the group’s No. 1 U.S. cover of a Neil Diamond oldie, then just two years in pop’s rear view mirror, or their minor follow-up hit with a duet with Chrissie Hynde on Sonny & Cher’s “I Got You Babe,” than their not always blatant politics.

In recent years, the splintered factions of the band have become more famous for their squabbles and threats over rights to the name — which, sadly for fans of irony and destiny, will probably never go before the U.S. Supreme Court, with or without Kavanaugh on it.

Fellow Yale alumnus and one-time Kavanaugh buddy Charles Ludington — now a history professor at North Carolina State University — recounted the incident Monday in interviews with Bloomberg News and CNN. By his account, the two of them and one other friend had retired after the UB40 show in ’85 to a bar called Demery’s, where they noticed a man they thought resembled Ali Campbell, the group’s lead singer, and decided to approach him.

“He looked at us looking at him and said in sort of an aggressive manner, ‘What are you guys looking at?’” Ludington told Bloomberg. “And I said, sort of apologetically, ‘Sorry, we thought maybe you were the lead singer of UB40.’ ” The lookalike was more angered than flattered, which led Kavanaugh to swear at him and the man to swear back. “The next thing you know, Brett throws his beer at the guy,” Ludington said. “The guy swings at Brett.” A brawl ensued, and Kavanaugh was one of five men questioned by the New Haven Police Department, records show.

Naturally, the UB40 singles catalog will be mined for song titles that somehow seem prescient about Kavanaugh’s past or present situations. Here’s a starter kit: “Dream a Lie.” “Reckless.” “I’ve Got Mine.” “Many Rivers to Cross.” “I’m Not Fooled So Easily.” “Where Did I Go Wrong.” “Get Along Without You Now.” And, of course, “Cover Up.”


More Music

  • Bruce Springsteen FYSEE Opening Night with

    Bruce Springsteen-Codirected 'Western Stars' Film Will Premiere in Toronto

    “Western Stars,” the film that Bruce Springsteen has made to accompany his recent album of the same name, will have its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, it was announced Tuesday. The feature is being listed as a co-directing project between Springsteen and his longtime filmic collaborator, Thom Zimny, who just picked up [...]

  • Pandora voice mode

    Pandora Launches Voice Mode for Everyone

    After first launching a limited beta earlier this year, Pandora opened up its mobile voice control to all of its iOS and Android users Tuesday. The new feature allows users to ask for songs, albums, playlists, stations, and even soundtracks for activities or times of day, with simple voice commands. Pandora’s voice mode is similar [...]

  • Terry Wakefield Exits Sony/ATV to Head

    Terry Wakefield Exits Sony/ATV to Head Up A&R at UMPG Nashville

    After a decades-long tenure at Sony/ATV Nashville, Terry Wakefield has followed another alumnus, Troy Tomlinson, across town to take a top position at Universal Music Publishing Group Nashville. Wakefield is senior VP of A&R at UMPG after having been senior VP of creative in his previous post. Personal loyalty to Tomlinson, UMPG Nashville’s recently named chairman/CEO, [...]

  • Sally Williams at PBS Country Music

    Sally Williams to Leave Longtime Opry Home for Top Post at Live Nation in Nashville

    Nashville executive Sally Williams is leaving Opry Entertainment, where she rose to the top over a two-decade tenure there, to join Live Nation’s regional office as the president of Nashville music and business strategy, the company announced Monday. Live Nation said Williams will not only lead programming and marketing for their concerts in the area, [...]

  • 'Welcome to New York The Empire

    Woodstock 50's Permit Denial Heap Keeps Growing

    In what’s become a broken record for music journalists everywhere, Woodstock 50 was once again denied a permit to hold its event, slated for Aug. 16 to 18, as a daytime festival at Vernon Downs in upstate New York. Previous attempts to convince the town of Vernon, on June 18 and July 3, were rejected [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content