Charted at No. 31 on 13th January, had reached No. 12 by 27th January. 'Rat' is UB40's 16th British Top 30 single in the last seven years.Contrary to the claims of my eight-year-old self, they're not actually singing "there's a rat in my kitchen and I'm a kangaroo". After Boy George's reggae cover, it's almost ironic to hear Britain's most successful reggae band not doing a cover version. 'Rat' is also unusual among the group's big hits in that it doesn't feature Ali Campbell as lead singer - it's fronted by trumpeter and rapper Astro, though it was supposedly A. Campbell's real-life kitchen which featured the rodent infestation that gives the song its title. I hope there's a made-for-TV biopic somewhere which dramatises that scene.
Anyway, although the chorus might well have been made up on the spot, the finished song isn't really about any small animals, but about some sort of grass - as in an informant, obviously, not the smokeable sort of grass. Astro threatens to "fix that rat" in the chorus, although the verses are more explicitly violent. It's slightly incongruous against such a bouncy tune, but it's undeniably catchy and it makes a nice change not to hear Ali C's often whiny voice. The single version does sound a little inconclusive somehow, though of course it does fade less than half way through the full track. Perhaps on the album version Herb Alpert's trumpet part is more obvious as well. I never knew it was him just from hearing the edit.
Also appearing on: Now 1, 4, 6, 7, 13, 17, 18, 26, 41, 56
Available on: Triple Best Of