Group bounces back with a love song

(L-R) Ian Hewitt recorded his guitar lines and vocals for Touch With Love in England, Andrew Redfern at his Nadi home, recording the bassline for Touch With Love, James Woodward put down the drum grooves for Touch With Love from England. Picture: SUPPLIED

ONE of the world’s biggest reggae bands, UB40, shares a close affiliation with Fiji.

I’m not speaking about the English group’s 2006 tour of the country or the song Fijian Sunset penned by lead singer Ali Campbell, inspired by his trip here.

UB40 was signed to Graduate Records, the same company that signed Whizz For Atoms, another British band in the 80s, whose bass guitarist Andrew Redfern lives in Nadi.

Whizz For Atoms made some waves on the English music scene but did not quite enjoy the same commercial success as UB40.

However, the group has re-emerged on the international music scene after a hiatus of 35 years with a new single titled Touch With Love, which was released last month.

The new single was partly recorded in Nadi and the music video also features Nadi beach scenes.

Because of COVID-19 travel restrictions, the band recorded their different parts and using the worldwide web, managed to put the song and associated music video together.

Redfern said it was good to be back after enjoying TV appearances, radio play (both nationally and internationally) as well as extensive touring around the UK college and club venues from 1980 to 1986 when the group decided to call it a day.

He said as the members settled into a life outside of the music industry, they slowly drifted apart to places as far away as New York, Australia and Fiji.

Redfern said Touch With Love was about trying to find the perfect partner in a world of isolation “that perfectly echoes the struggles faced by many in today’s COVID-19-affected society”.

“The song was written in the 80s about the then-emerging computer/video dating trend,” he said.

“But when I listened to it recently, I realised it was more relevant today than ever, as more and more people rely on apps or websites to find love.”

About four decades after they had drifted off to different parts of the world, Redfern decided to breathe new life into the ditty.

He set about recording a backing track from his Nadi home and sent it to lead singer Ian Hewitt in the UK.

Redfern said when he received Touch With Love back from Hewitt, he knew it was a project worth pursuing and roped in the other members – saxophonist and backing vocalist Jane Smith, drummer James Woodward, trumpet player Rob Lancaster, who lives on the Gold Coast, Australia, keyboardist Russell Davis, Tim Lancaster on trombone, Jane Smith on saxophone and Marc Wishart on percussion.

Somehow, Whizz For Atoms managed it and only a couple of weeks after posting the video on YouTube, they were snapped up by Cherry Red Records, one of the UK’s leading independent record labels.

Cherry Red Records, founded in 1978 by Iain McNay, lists among its catalogue artists, icons such as Aretha Franklin, BB King, The Buzzcocks, The Byrds, Carly Simon, The Cutting Crew, Deep Purple, Duke Ellington, Dusty Springfield, Eartha Kitt, The Emotions, Earth Wind and Fire & Elvis to name but a few.

Redfern said because of his band’s success and network in the UK, he was keen to help local artists or bands break into the international scene.

He said since he arrived in Fiji in 1996, he had been overwhelmed with the creativity and skills displayed by local musicians and vocalists.

“I have recorded with Fijian artists such as Freddie Kado, Glass Alley, David and Petrina McComber, DeeTui and Etta Gonerogo – although none of the recordings were ever commercially released,” Redfern shared.

“Like so many others from overseas, when I first arrived in Fiji I was completely blown away by the musical talent here and in particular the beautiful vocal abilities that so many Fijians possess.

“I’ve always had a desire to see more Fijian artists achieve success on an international level.

“I would love to find someone locally to do a collaboration with Whizz For Atoms and get it out on our London-based record
label and invite any interested artists to touch base through our Facebook page.”

Touch With Love is now available on Spotify, Amazon Music, Apple Music, iTunes and YouTube.

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