respect the classics

UB40 Thought They Were The Bachelor’s Big Finale Act

“That’s obviously not the case and it was just a date night, and all of the girls were in London together.” Photo: Craig Sjodin/ABC

The fifth, COVID-afflicted episode of Zach Shallcross’s Bachelor season was full of surprises, from the Zoom cocktail party all the way to the … Zoom rose ceremony. Perhaps the most inspired shake-up, though, was the choice of musical guest. While normally a haven for C-list country-music artists, the franchise recruited reggae-pop elder statesmen UB40 to serenade Shallcross and his one-on-one date, Gabi Elnicki, after the couple galavanted around London for the day. (Yes, of course they played “I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You.”) It was a nice performance, and it’s always a good time to remind people of the band who somehow found themselves in a feud with a certain Supreme Court justice. But how did it all come together? We called up Robin Campbell, UB40’s longtime guitarist and vocalist, to get the backstory, only to find out that the band was misled about the nature of their appearance.

It was a surprise to be asked, really. I guess that’s the only reason we did it. The production team approached our management and asked us if we’d like to do the show. We ummed and ahhed a bit about it. It’s not the kind of program that we’re into or a program that we watch. But we were intrigued. Of course we were told about the millions of people watching it every week. Because we were doing nothing at the time, we thought, why not?

They explained that it was going to be a surprise. Nobody knew we were there. It was very top-secret. When we arrived, we had to stand in a room in silence waiting for the couple to come in. It was a very strange thing to do. It was unusual for us to be asked to do something like that. If we had been touring, there wouldn’t have been a chance.

We were told it was the night of the finals we were appearing on — which it actually wasn’t. Maybe they told us that to encourage us to do it, I don’t know. We were under the impression that was the final date of the couple, the Bachelor had made his choice amongst the group of girls, and it was the final night. And that the couple had come to London to celebrate the finale of the show. That’s obviously not the case and it was just a date night, and all of the girls were in London together. But I don’t know if it makes that much of a difference. The whole thing was a surprise that we were doing it at all, whether it was the final or semifinal. I just don’t know enough about the series. I understand it’s a reality show, but it’s a program I don’t watch.

We only played that one song. They walked into the room, we burst into song, performed the one tune, and they were very surprised to see us. They danced when we were singing and then we had a brief chat with them afterwards. That was it. They were very friendly. Both said they were massive fans and were chuffed to see us there. We wanted to play something else, but of course the production wanted the romantic No. 1 song, so that’s the one we gave them. We would’ve preferred to play something a little more current. If you get that kind of exposure to millions and millions of people around the world, it would be nice to play them your current song. We’re constantly recording artists and always have current music and something new that we play to our audiences. But you generally find for that kind of program, they want something more well known. Obviously a No. 1 record around the world is the one that they want you to do.

I have no idea if the appearance has made a difference for us. There’s been media attention and quite a few things in the American press. Existing fans have been talking about how we did the show — with some surprise, I might add. It was an easy experience and wasn’t a difficult thing to do at all. I’m glad it worked out well. We thought people that would be surprised because it’s not the kind of thing that we normally do. Obviously the numbers that watch the program are incredible. It’s been a good experience all around.

UB40 Thought They Were The Bachelor’s Big Finale Act