Apr 13

PATO BANTON – “Baby Come Back”

Popular45 comments • 5,621 views

#712, 29th October 1994

m98940iffzd(This review was originally written as “UB40 ft PATO BANTON” not “PATO BANTON” which actually makes a material difference to my commentary – see “EDIT” section below)

So, the Friday before last was the day that Popular died. Not in terms of its updates – feeble though they’ve been again – but it saw the end of the backbone of Popular, an ancient and unbacked-up hard drive which housed the corpus of MP3s I’ve been writing about, downloaded in a great gobble ten years ago and rarely updated, save when wrong. When I bagged and tagged this horde I had barely heard of torrents or streams – so their loss (and the vanishing of all my other music) is an irritation, and a liberating one at that, more than a tragedy.

But apt, I guess, that this should happen as it’s time to write up a song about materialism. Not in its original, Equals form, but Pato Banton’s scene-saving guest spot here puts a wicked spin on the song’s one-track narrator. “Come back! Yes with mi colour TV and mi CD collection of Bob Marley”. It’s a fine approach to the becoming-obligatory guest verse – an undermining counterpoint to Ali Campbell, taking the song’s Point-of-View on a heel turn. OK, as unreliable pop narrators go it’s hardly subtle, but Banton’s funny, unflashy presence makes “Baby Come Back” easily the most tolerable UB40 Number One.

(Also – is this the most explicit drugs reference so far to go unbanned? “Bag of sensi” is one of the items Pato’s lover has made off with and I can never remember hearing a radio edit.)

Banton takes on his duties with relish, and just as well: the rest of the record is a rather sorry effort. It’s brisk enough – it stomps rather than grooves, and busybodies you onto the dancefloor, but the Equals version did something similar. Ali Campbell’s delivery is more painful than ever, though: a strained bellow with a terrible fear of consonants. If ever there was a man who needed to be sidelined from his own song, it’s Campbell, and we can be thankful Pato Banton was on hand to do the unpleasant job.

(EDIT: As pointed out in the comments thread, this is NOT a UB40 song, except inasmuch as it has Ali Campbell and UB40 on it – it was supposedly just credited to Pato Banton and I was sure enough in my memory that I didn’t check Wikipedia, or anywhere else. Mea culpa! But that makes this a very strange single – is there any other non-remixed number one where the credited artist is on it so little? It’s a fair reflection of the division of quality on the record, however.)



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  1. 31
    weej on 17 Apr 2013 #

    * If this is a ‘featuring’ you wouldn’t expect the first listed artist to wait until the second verse to start or to be so low in the mix.
    * In fact, Pato’s vocals seem to last no more than perhaps 40 seconds in total – the only place he features heavily is the video.
    * Still, probably the best UB40 #1. Not a lot of competition there though.

  2. 32
    anto on 17 Apr 2013 #

    A friend of mine who was at Manchester Uni around 2000 went to a bar one night where Pato Banton was appearing live. He opened his show with “Baby Come Back” and he closed it with er.. “Baby Come Back”.
    The fleeting manner of pop fame in a nutshell.

    Genuinely surprised at the score on this one. Even a 5 seems flattering. This strikes me as UB40 bagging themselves another number one by blanding out an old hit yet again. Not the most noble formula, but blimey it worked. The rather incompetent young Pato merely a decoy.

  3. 33
    Auntie Beryl under the radar on 17 Apr 2013 #

    For me there’s a general feeling of this one being a little late to the party. It’s a good 15 months after the 1993 summer peak of the pop-reggae revival; it’s the last time we’ll see UB40 in a Popular billing (one wonders why the entire band weren’t credited – perhaps the seeds of the eventual split were sown here as Ali Campbell’s first solo album would be released not long after).

  4. 34
    Vince Modern on 17 Apr 2013 #

    #29 Thanks Chelovek, I’m Vince the owner of the Neggae (90s reggae, or ‘not quite’ reggae) blog. We’re coming up to Baby Come Back shortly; we’re currently in April 1994 with this week’s review of CJ Lewis’ ‘Sweets for my Sweets’.

    We (the Neggae Elders) believe the 90s Reggae phenomenon climaxed with in the summer of 94 with this Baby Come Back, the culmination of some pretty big hitters from April onwards:

    C J Lewis  Sweets For My Sweet 3   Apr-94
    Ace Of Base  Don’t Turn Around 5   Jun-94
    Aswad   Shine 5 Jun-94
    Big Mountain  Baby I love your way 2   Jun-94
    Dawn Penn  No No No 3  Jun-94
    China Black  Searching 4  Jul-94
    Red Dragon  Compliments On Your Kiss 2  Jul-94
    Pato Banton  Baby Come Back 1  Oct-94

    There were so many Neggaefied cover versions by 1994, and Baby Come Back is the epitome of this style. A Synthetic reproduction complete with digitalised horns, metronomic drums and quadruple-tracked, EQed to the hilt vocals. Kids lapped it up, so did mums and dads. It was the soundtrack to 90s school discos and social clubs.
    I’d give it an 8, perhaps with a hint of sentimentality due to being (IMHO) the beginning of the end of Neggae.

    Thanks to anyone that’s read our nonsense today – and thanks Tom for inspiring my friends and I to document this era (watch out for the BBC4 Friday night docco surely in the pipeline.)

  5. 35
    James BC on 17 Apr 2013 #

    The neggae blog is brilliant!

  6. 36
    Lazarus on 17 Apr 2013 #

    I wouldn’t put China Black in the same company though – it sounds more like Charles & Eddie/Simply Red/Lighthouse Family territory to me. Not much to say about Pato Banton or UB40 that hasn’t been said already to be honest. The Brumsters did have some good original material didn’t they – One in Ten, King/Food for Thought, Earth Dies Screaming, Please Don’t Make Me Cry, Sing Our Own Song … but their four number ones were all with already-familiar songs. And when the songwriting royalties dried up and there was a big group to provide for, money troubles hit. Pato was releasing records as recently as 2008; there seems to be some confusion as to whether he was born in Jan 1960 or October 1961.

  7. 37
    chelovek na lune on 17 Apr 2013 #

    Now, China Black’s “Searching”: that was a tune and a half; and even takes me back to when Kiss FM was both legal and not aimed at social and moral delinquents, as it becames. I think I’d still categorise it as near, or 90s, lovers rock (novers rock?), rather than neggae, though. How about a big up for Carroll Thompson, anyway?

  8. 38
    Izzy on 18 Apr 2013 #

    From memory the TOTP performance was Pato doing his thing for a bit, then bopping around on his own for the rest while a recording of UB40 played on a tiny screen. I also remember it being fairly amusing.

  9. 39
    Billy Hicks on 19 Apr 2013 #

    #23 – I’ve sent you an email. Basically the 1992 release, the 1994 re-release and music video confusingly use three different edits, although the sound of the track itself is (mostly) thankfully the same in all three, it’s just what they include that’s different. Hope it’s helped!

  10. 40
    fivelongdays on 19 Apr 2013 #

    I was 12 in 1994 so, as I think I’ve said before, we’ve got the usual adolescent marks inflation for me over the next 7/8/9 years.

    Bearing that in mind, I bought this. I can’t remember if it was while it was at number one, or whether it was just before it got to number one, but 12-year-old me really liked it.

    Listening back, it is likeable. The Campbells don’t sound as pained as they usually do – as someone said, that mght be because it’s a more upbeat tune – and PB’s bit it awfully good fun.

    I remember the whole Neggae thing and I guess (esp in the context of Reggaed-up covers, which seemed to be every third song in the top 40 at the time) this was the apotheosis.

    I’d say 6, maybe a 7.

  11. 41
    James BC on 24 Apr 2013 #

    Sorry to hear about your hard drive, Tom, by the way. It takes an admirable mindset to see something like that as liberating.

  12. 42

    I saw a copy of this in a charity shop today and can confirm that the spine merely credits Pato Banton (presumably for space reasons) though the Campbell brothers get their sub-credit on the front.

    The Sunshine Band aren’t on ‘Give It Up’ are they?

  13. 43
    Erithian on 4 Jun 2013 #

    A perfectly amiable song I’m quite happy to spend a few minutes with, and the Campbells in small doses are quite OK. Pato Banton I first recall on Whistle Test in 1985 doing “Mash Up Me Telly” – I think my first reaction was something like “must we fling this trash at our pop kids?” but seeing it again now it’s quite funny – Banton sounding like a lower-gravitas Smiley Culture while a bunch of 80s hairdos stand around thinking “is someone more interesting coming on?”

    But yes, he does add another, likeble, dimension to this one, starring alongside – ha! – a telly. Come to think of it, the video is almost contemporaneous with “Buddy Holly” by Weezer, the Happy Days spoof, and obviously prefigures “Hey Ya” by Outkast – any others that pull this kind of trick, i.e. not just being a stylistic throwback, but setting the band in a 60s studio?

  14. 44
    James BC on 17 Sep 2013 #

    The Neggae blog’s caught up with this now – review here:

    They give it 9 out of 10, which is the very least that one of the defining tracks of the movement deserves.

  15. 45
    Gareth Parker on 20 May 2021 #

    Yep, I rather like this. Good fun, so I’ll go with a 6/10.

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