Time & Matter proudly presents...

An Interview with the

ORIGINAL U.K. SUBS DRUMMER...

 

    ROB HARPER    

 

   Part 1    

Introduction

The 40th anniversary of the U.K. Subs occurred a few months back in the summer of 2017 - see the advert below - and original Subs sticksman Rob Harper also holds a fascinating place in the early history of Punk Rock scene.
Obviously for this website, he was a key original member of the U.K. Subs in 1977 when they changed their name from the Marauders, via The Subs and eventually to U.K. Subs around the summer of that year. Rob played on the band's first ever demo (more on this LINK), however, prior to this he was an early drummer for Punk legends The Clash, occupying their hot-seat from December 1976 until January 1977, or, to further highlight his punk rock credentials, Harper was there with the Clash and the Sex Pistols during their legendary and infamous 'Anarchy Tour', much publicised at the time and much mythologised since due to the furore surrounding this tour to end all tours!
Time & Matter editor Mark Chadderton here interviews Rob at length and in detail about his extraordinary experiences both with the Clash, other legendary musicians, the U.K. Subs as well as his (unfortunately) long forgotten brilliant Power-Pop band the Dazzlers, which also included ex-original U.K. Subs bassist Steve Slack!
Rob was born in May 1949 and plays bass, drums and guitar...
 
EARLIEST U.K. SUBS GIG ADVERTISEMENT - JULY 1977

From the Alain De Rycke collectionAbove: Two classified ads from Melody Maker, 16th July 1977,
currently the earliest known U.K. Subs gigs advertised, for the 15th and 18th July 1977.

 
 
MC: Okay Rob, thanks for agreeing to be interviewed, let’s start by asking to hear about your early musical memories?
 
ROB: Well, I am very pleased to be able to say that I heard the first-ever radio Luxembourg broadcast of The Beatles' ‘Love Me Do’ while listening illicitly on a tinny transistor radio under the covers in bed (the classic scenario!)  The DJ said something like "here's a group with a rather strange name". I loved it straight away, and to this day prefer that first release to the subsequent album one. It is more atmospheric and sounds more home-made.
At that point I had been listening to pop music on the radio for about six months and my favourites were Elvis' ‘His Latest Flame’, ‘Johnny Will’ by Pat Boone and ‘Tower of Strength’ by Frankie Vaughan.  I've since gone off that last one, but still love the harmonies on ‘Johnny Will’. The Springfields' ‘Island of Dreams’ and ‘Say I Won't Be There’ are huge favourites to this day - in fact I prefer them to Dusty's solo stuff.  
I should say that, clear as some memories are, the actual time sequence could occasionally be slightly out: for instance, I'm not entirely sure that ‘Johnny Will’ was before ‘Love Me Do’, but that's how I remember it. 
The main thing is that, even by the standards of the time, I had very limited access to the pop world. Never read a magazine, never been to a gig, and we didn't have a telly. All that soon changed, of course, but I somehow maintained a sort of innocent naivety about the pop world.
 
MC: So, at this time, were you inspired to hanker after being a pop star one day?
 
ROB: No!  It was really only when I got on the inside, with The Clash, that I finally realised that all the pop stars were actually just ambitious talented people having careers. That is not to deny that they'd also been as touched and moved by the magic of the sounds as I was!  I just didn't have specific ambition, and was easily deterred by the realities behind the scenes - I'm talking generally here, not just about The Clash.
 
MC: So when did you go to your first gig?
 
ROB: At the age of thirteen, it was a gig at the church hall in Loughton, Essex.  
 
MC: Do you remember who you saw and how it made you feel?
 
ROB: It was not at all what I expected: dimly lit, with dangerous-looking youths and pretty girls. All still at school, including the band, who were named The Black Cat Bones. R&B. It blew me away, the primitive electric noise and, most of all, the deep pulsing alien sound of the bass. And that bass looked fantastic! It was a Fender Jazz with the chrome covers still attached, and looked to me like a rocket taking off. Each of the two chrome covers reflected a light ray which swung about the room as the player moved. And the sound it made! 
 
MC: Love at first sight then?
 
ROB: Bass is still my favourite instrument, really, though I've only been a bass player in a band a few times.
 
MC: So you took up bass first?
 
ROB: Well no actually. I remember standing on the footpath outside that church hall in the dark, on a later occasion, listening to the band, looking at my short little fingers and thinking ‘I'll have to be a drummer, these aren't long enough to play a guitar...’  I was wrong of course, but nevertheless started on drums, which I sort of taught myself, before ever sitting behind a kit.  The first thing I worked out was the drum intro to ‘Oh Pretty Woman’, just slapping my hands on my legs. By the time I sat behind a kit I could already play, beat-group style. This is nothing special, lots of people pick up the basics of drumming extremely quickly, if they have the knack!
 
MC: But you are obviously musically talented, so which instrument do you like best?
 
ROB:  The answer is, I LOVE all three. Although the bass just slightly more than guitar or drums! Didn't really go into drumming by default, though. Loved drumming!
 
MC: Hmm! Still undecided there then haha! Okay then, tell us about your experiences before you came to notice with the Clash in 1976?
 
ROB: I started out playing guitar in a college band and when the singer invited a guitarist by the name of Mark Knopfler to join, I switched to the bass!
 
MC: Is that the Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits fame?
 
ROB: It was indeed! Anyway, Knopfler joined on guitar, and I switched to bass, it was his suggestion to name the band The Cafe Racers. This was my first time as the bass player in a band, but I'd been playing along with records at home for years by this time, so it was quite easy and great fun. The guy we chucked out was a good bloke and fortunately took his sacking amiably... After college, I went to Sussex University and at that time I was actually invited by Knopfler to play bass in the band that was to become Dire Straits. I declined his offer as I wanted to concentrate on my studies at University!
 
MC: So you could have gone off on a completely different musical journey! Were you involved with any other bands or musicians whilst you were at Uni?
 
ROB: I spent a year at Sussex Uni, but dropped out in mid-1976, but I did play in a band called The Rockettes, as a lead guitarist with William Broad who as I'm sure you know later became known as Billy Idol!
 
MC: Tell us some more then Rob?
 
ROB: The Rockettes, named by myself, were formed by me and Bill, whom I met for the first time (though I'd seen him around the place quite a lot already) when I visited a girl student I liked the look of, at her campus flat, only to find him already there on the same mission!  (We all lived in different flats on the campus).  He was sitting playing his Gibson 33O guitar to her... the same guitar as mine! We took it as a sign and started the Rockettes...  I've still got recordings of the two gigs we did at Sussex... the second of them was attended by his two friends from Bromley, Steve and Susan... yes, them! I still have a Velvet Underground album which Bill gave me for my birthday, which he signed 'to Roberoo, on the occasion of his birthday'. I'd previously given him a copy of 'Louie Louie' by the Kingsmen... I remember also the time he came to my flat very pleased with himself and said; "I've thought of a great name for myself - Billy Idol!  What do you think? It's great, isn't it?"  And it was!
 
MC: Ha! That's fascinating. Any other brushes with future stars?
 
ROB: Adam Ant!
 
MC: Really? What happened there then?
 
ROB: I think also that it was my suggestion to Stuart Goddard was that he call his band either The Humans or The Ants. He very sensibly chose the latter, and came up with the Adam bit some time later, after I was gone. I was only in his band for two weeks! My suggestion for names wasn't out of the blue - he'd asked me the previous day if I had any ideas, and, as I'd just written a really terrible set of lyrics called 'I Feel Like an Ant', which included the idea of humans seething in millions like ants, so that is where the two suggestions came from...   
 
MC: He chose well as you said, as did 'Billy Idol'! Both artists did well from their 'punk' roots didn't they? And talking of punk roots, you certainly have a fascinating story to tell from the early days of both the Clash and the U.K. Subs!
 
ROB: Well, regarding The Clash and the Subs... I did audition for The Clash in late 1976. I 'passed the audition' and played drums with them on the 'Anarchy Tour', along with the Sex Pistols et al, and also at the Roxy in Covent Garden at the very beginning of '77.
 
MC: We'll come back to the Clash in more detail later Rob, it seems to me that it must feel like a bit of a blur with so much happening at that time? You were also involved with the Marauders, who were the roots of the U.K. Subs, and as I heard about in a previous interview I did with Dave Dudley about your involvement with Charlie Harper?

(CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE)

Above:

Incredibly rare pictures of the Marauders at the Tooting Castle, with Charlie Harper, circa 1978, from Dave Dudley's rescued Ilford Silver Nitrate 35mm b/w negatives! Dave's full comments on these pictures can be viewed on his T&M interview HERE:

"The Marauders at the Tooting Castle... having looked in detail at these I can see this was no ordinary Farmer / Felstead/ Rob Harper / Ball / Slack Marauders gig. I'm now sure it was a special New Year's Eve / Christmas gig, and the Marauders had 'guests' playing such as me, Charlie Harper, Security Risk (including Tony Conway) i.e. all their mates and so forth...

Photo 1: L- R: Dudley (?!), Felstead, ROB HARPER
Photo 2: L- R Headstock of Tony Conway's guitar, Harper, unidentified drummer, Bass player from Security Risk (this might be Harper doing a couple of tunes with, indeed, Security Risk)
Photo 3: Harper (I had to really process this as the negative was so thin!)
Photo 4: L- R: Barry Farmer, Dudley
Photo 5: Felstead, ROB HARPER (with Terry playing the latter's cut down devil - as featured on the Dazzlers' 45 sleeve)
Photo 6: The Marauders: Terry Felstead (extreme left with white Gibson SG Junior), ROB HARPER, Barry Farmer, Bobby Ball, Steve Slack (also on small stage), unidentified person.
Photo 7: Bobby Ball with what looks like Felstead and Slack in foreground (N.B. Slack playing bass as featured also on Dazzlers' 45 sleeve)..."


ROB: Well, everything must've happened very quickly in '77!  After two or three significant musical liaisons/coincidences etc. I answered an ad to audition as bass player for the R&B band that was The Marauders. Steve Slack was at the same audition, which I think was at The Castle in Tooting. He got the job but I was taken on as well as a guitarist as Charlie liked my Chuck Berry guitar playing! So Terry Felstead and Barry Farmer left The Marauders and were replaced by me and Steve Slack. I was Rob Harper then and trying to lose the Milne surname as I thought it was a bit mumbly and square-sounding. Harper was originally my middle name. Coincidence that Charlie and I had both changed our names to Harper!  The other band members were Bob the drummer and guitarist Richard Anderson.

MC: And Richard Anderson was the original U.K. Subs guitarist of course!

ROB: Yes, but Dave is incorrect in his assertion that Charlie left the Marauders to form the Subs.  At some point I ended up on drums - I can't remember how that came about though!

MC: Well as you've mentioned, it was all happening very fast in '77...

ROB:  Yes, some of these memories or assumptions could be wrong: for example, I always assumed that Steve and me replaced Barry and Terry in the Marauders - but come to think of it, it's possible that there was briefly another bass player between Barry and Steve. Another example: I only vaguely remember the audition being at the Castle - in my mind's eye it is, but I could be wrong!  And another: how come Charlie was able to hear my guitar playing when I went to audition as a bass player?  Perhaps the advert was for a guitarist and a bassist! Anyway, Charlie wrote two or three songs which went into the repertoire while we were still The Marauders; then he announced one day that the name of the band was being changed to The U.K. Subs. The first Subs line-up was Charlie, Richard, who co-wrote at least one of the songs, Steve Slack, and myself. Towards the end of the year Steve and I left to form The Dazzlers... but, as Dave says, we continued our connection with the whole Castle/Marauders family.   

MC: Nicky Garratt has said that you "pushed the band’s direction toward punk - he was the drummer on the demo I’d heard..."

ROB: That first Subs demo has only two songs: 'I Could Be You' and 'I Live In a Car'. Both excellent. 

Above: The Time & Matter Records 7" release of the first ever Subs demo,
recorded circa Summer 1977 - click to enlarge

MC: What do you remember about recording that demo Rob?

ROB: Not a great deal!  I recall being driven with the band one evening to a little studio not too far from The Castle in Tooting.  The recording area was very small and in my memory it was in the back room of a house, but that could be wrong... I think probably I used my own white Premier drum kit, the one I'd played at my Clash auditions and which can be seen in the footage of The Clash rehearsing that shows up occasionally...
I recall doing the backing tracks quite quickly, with lots of enthusiasm, and listening more to Richard's guitar than to the bass for feel and cues...
I remember Richard - or Da'vid as he is known as these days - played his small-bodied acoustic/electric guitar: I think it was a Fender, and was a kind of hybrid with the neck of an electric and a hollow, acoustic body roughly shaped like a strat...
Charlie did an overdub or two, which may have been just the harmonica, as it's possible he sang the vocal live with us... Richard did guitar overdubs...
I also remember being more and more pleased with it as the dubs went on... none of it took very long, first or second take... that's all I can remember!  Oh, and I can recall the moment when Charlie said 'that's it' at the end of the track, and I wondered if they'd leave it on the track. They did! Whoever 'they' were...

MC: ...you mentioned your audition with the Clash there Rob - it's unfortunate that there are very few recordings or bootleg recordings of you playing with the Clash, did you record with anyone else Rob?

ROB:  Yes! The Suspects! There is an obscure vinyl album from 1977 called 'Live At The Vortex', featuring various new-wave bands playing live at the short-lived west-end venue called The Vortex. The Suspects are on it doing 'Nothing to Declare'. The band at that time comprised Barry, Terry, and myself on drums.

MC: That's more Marauders related stuff I didn't know! It's a complicated story, that band! Going back to the Subs then, tell us some of your favourite memories of your time working with Charlie?

 

 

 

Click to enlarge

ROB: I suppose my favourite memory of my time with the Subs would be going over to Tooting mid-afternoon on a Saturday and sitting around in Charlie's little hairdressing 'salon' with various band members, girlfriends and friends listening to music and drinking the occasional lager that Charlie handed out while doing the hair of his slightly older female customers, who seemed to love the very informal atmosphere.  In fact I only attended three or four times but it has remained a vivid memory...  and the song I associate most with those afternoons is 'Venus de Milo'  by Television!  People seem to think 'Marquee Moon' was their best, but  'Venus' is the one for me.  
I still listen to it in the car, and always recall hearing it on a tape at Charlie's shop... love the pretty chiming bits and the way Tom Verlaine sings it. Most of the Dazzlers' stuff has pretty chiming bits too so I guess I really like that sort of thing!
I don't really have a 'favourite memory' of Charlie himself, just a fond recall of his amiability, tone of voice and demeanour... he was just sort of there, making things possible.  I am grateful to him for a number of things, not least for taking me on as a guitarist when really he was looking for a bass player!    
 
MC: What about any crazy stories of the time?
 
ROB: Ha! Two things come to mind at the moment. One was in 1977 when Charlie got me and Paula and himself into the CBS convention at the Grosvenor House Hotel, at which the Beach Boys played! CBS had just signed them and Brian was onstage too!
 
MC: So I take it you didn't have an invite?
 
ROB: Well the plan was that Charlie knew the son of the head of CBS worldwide, and that this guy would get us in but when we got there, the contact was nowhere to be seen. We stood in the large hotel lobby, by the bouncer-guarded stairs leading down to the banquetting hall, listening forlornly as the first three songs wafted up to us. No-one else around, just us and the bouncers... then: three older American ladies came out, complaining that it was too loud for them!  As the bouncers watched, Charlie charmed the access passes from these three wonderful ladies, and the unsmiling doormen let us in without any quibble or comment.  So, thank you, Charlie!  Thank you Doormen, thank you American ladies! And after it was all over, we were upstairs again where there was a free bar til dawn. Paula suddenly spotted Ringo coming into the lobby from Park Lane. I ran over to him and he was friendly and chatty - his entourage were edging towards the lift, but ringo ignored them - Charlie and Paula came over, and Ringo asked Charlie if he could have 'The Boys'  badge Charlie was wearing. At the end, Ringo gave me a big hug and lifted me off my feet! 
 
MC: And the second story?

ROB: Yes, the other thing I was going to mention was the time Charlie got me the job drumming on a demo for Angie Bowie. That has always been a mystery to me! How the hell did Charlie come up with that?  But it was real, and surreal: it was in a basement studio in Denmark Street, the piano player was that guy who played the heavy-handed piano on 'Something in the Air' by Thunderclap Newman. He played in that same style, wonderfully and a was very nice man too! The session came to nothing in the end, mostly I suspect due to the fellow who was  organising it disappearing to the toilet at frequent intervals, leading to a lack of focus! The most surreal aspect though was when I looked out of the drumming booth to see Roger Taylor of Queen there! What the fuck do they need me for if that guy's here? Again, thank you Charlie for that very interesting experience! 
 

MC: So after the Subs, you went onto form The Dazzlers along with your fellow ex-U.K. Sub Steve Slack, tell us about that? You released 3 7" singles - 'Phonies', 'Lovely Crash' and 'Feeling Fre'e and an album also entitled 'Feeling Free' yes?

 

Below: Have a listen to the superb 'Lovely Crash' single...
Please note it is incorrectly named 'Lovely Crashes' by the person who uploaded it to YouTube...

ROB: The Dazzlers were a London-based group comprising Keith Wild (vocals), Rob Harper (guitar), Steve Slack (bass), and David Inglesfield (aka Dave Modesty; drums). Myself and Steve recruited drummer David (who later formed, and played keyboards in, the '80s funk/disco trio State of Grace) and singer Keith via adverts in the Melody Maker. In early '78 the band signed a record deal with Charisma, releasing three singles and an album (the latter produced by Tommy Ramone), before breaking up at the end of 1979. As a basic synopsis yes we did a few singles but the album we recorded is virtually unobtainable as it was never really released, although some were pressed. Critically speaking I think that several of the arrangements were rubbish, and we knew it at the time, also, the sound wasn't as wild as we wanted either. So I'm quite pleased it's not all available!  In general I'm proud of the Dazzlers, as represented by our best 7 or 8 tracks... but not as on the album!

MC: You were known as Bobby - which led to the name?

ROB: Not exactly as simple as that I'm afraid! The name 'The Dazzlers' was forced on the band against my wishes. 

It was an atrocious name, especially in that era, although we were called 'The Heartdrops' before that, again not entirely suitable for the times, but I liked it and still do. It suited us... so me being put on the sleeve of 'Phonies' as Bobby - implying the name 'Bobby Dazzler' was an additional insult which I went along with extremely reluctantly!  I was resigned at the time to the idea that the project had been partially taken out of my hands. I was Rob Harper! So that moniker was just a one-off aberration on the cover of 'Phonies'. As was the 'e' on the end of Keith Wild's name. It was Dave the drummer's sister who came up with the name 'The Dazzlers'.  

She was Keith the singer's girlfriend at the time, and has recently got back with him, which I think is rather nice!

MC: So how do you view your debut single 'Phonies' now?

ROB: Well it was very energetic and dynamic live, but we wanted 'Heartdrop' as the first single - with even blander words, but a great sound, and even better live.

 
Below: Dazzlers singles - hover pointer over images for more detail and/or click to enlarge.
 
 
 
 
 

MC: It's interesting to hear you recall the album never being released, can you expand on that as I have seen the record listed on a few websites including Discogs?

ROB: I thought the album was not released because none of the singles were successful, and perhaps because our record label Charisma possibly became disenchanted with our management. Having paid absolutely no attention to the whole Dazzlers thing for about 30 years, I just assumed that nothing was released, but obviously something was, either overseas at the time, or subsequently by whoever bought out Charisma. I don't know how many were pressed originally, but some must have made their way to the bargain bins. Some, as you point out were released after all.
 
Below: The Dazzlers' incredibly rare album 'Feeling Free', hover pointer over images for more detail and/or click to enlarge
 
 
 
 
MC: I also see that some of your promo videos can be viewed on YouTube... 
 
 
ROB:  We made a promo video for each of our singles; we've finally found two of them (see above - Ed), but not the one for 'Lovely Crash'. Anybody got a copy?"
 
MC: It'd be great to see it again eh? Talking of which, do you still see the other Dazzlers?
 
ROB: I'm in regular touch with Dave - we get on well and, unlike the other two, he lives quite nearby... recently we've been meeting for a drink every couple of weeks...

MC: That's great to hear, and the other two?

ROB: Well actually The Dazzlers had a Steve-less rehearsal reunion a couple of years ago as we couldn't find Steve, although we have since and it turns out he's entirely off-line, hence the difficulty locating him... it sounded exactly like it did in 1978 - apart from the bass, of course - Dave had been concerned at his not having drummed at all for the last couple of decades, but he came back just as accurate and ferocious as he ever was! To his own great surprise! He played the intro to 'Lovely Crash' perfectly first time...
Keith sang well, although at first the high notes were a bit too high for him!  He also played guitar on some songs... the combination sounded superb mostly but a little too intricate sometimes!
When we eventually contacted Steve he came up on two occasions to meet us all at The Hole in the Wall pub in Waterloo. I hadn't seen him since 1982 so it was a lovely reunion... he's an extremely successful and talented carver of picture frames these days. I'm still hoping that we'll have a proper Dazzlers reunion soon, even if it's just a rehearsal...
So I still see Dave regularly, Keith occasionally, and Steve on the phone...
 
MC: It's also interesting that you played in three bands with Steve Slack: Marauders, U.K. Subs and the Dazzlers...
 
ROB: But even more interesting, and here's a coincidence worth mentioning! In early '77 I'd placed an add to sell a band colleague's bass for him. It was a Gibson solid one pick-up bass that I'd earlier borrowed to stand in with the Cafe Racers while I was on holiday from Uni and they were between bass players. Anyhow, a spotty teenager came to buy it and when I mentioned the Clash, he'd obviously not yet heard of them and replied somewhat combatively that he'd once been in a band called The Crash! Anyway, that teenager was Steve Slack, although I didn't know it at the time, and I couldn't believe it when he was there at the Marauders audition, on the other side of London, with the bloody bass we'd persuaded John to sell, and I found myself back in a band with the bass and the guy I'd sold it to! It all worked out OK though...
 
MC: That is crazy! You mention that it all worked out in the end, so I think it's time we talked about that episode in your musical career which didn't quite work out that well. I've recently re-watched 'The History of The Clash' documentary in which you are interviewed, and it seems you were actually very reluctant to be a part of The Clash, I'd love to hear your story in far more detail than you've been afforded by Clash commentators and biographers in the past Rob?
For example, what was it like working with Mick Jones, Joe Strummer, Paul Simonen and Bernie Rhodes, and what are your recollections of that ill-fated Anarchy tour. It must have felt like madness at the time...?
 

ROB: My recollections of the Anarchy Tour are many, various, disjointed and probably blurred by the mists of time... however:  the first I knew that anything had gone wrong was when I read the headlines on other peoples' papers on the underground on the way to rendezvous with the tour on its first day... by the time I got there I already had a pretty good idea that cancellations were likely!

MC: No 'cash from chaos' you could say!

ROB: Well it was interesting to me, having just been studying sociology at university, to see a moral panic in full swing... the papers portraying the whole Sex Pistols/punk thing as far more lurid and decadent than it really was - behind the scenes, the band members and even the managers were decent people, if a bit left-field... I was disappointed that the tour was mostly cancelled, but it was still a great experience to watch the various machinations from the inside - although I was far from being an 'insider' - watching Malcolm McClaren turn the publicity to his advantage, and to participate in a few trailblazing gigs...

MC: And some of the characters you met along the way...

ROB: At the Manchester venue, in the afternoon of the soundcheck, Johnny Thunders was informed that the president of the New York Dolls fan club - or appreciation society, whatever - had turned up and wanted to speak to him... JT murmured to those of us nearby that he hated this sort of thing and found it awkward and embarrassing... he spoke to the long-haired, shambling, great-coated, head-bowed fellow and signed something or other for him... you couldn't possibly have known that in short order this bloke would be well-known as The Smiths singer. Amazing...

MC: Yes, amazing indeed, especially when you could argue that another Johnny; Lydon and Steven Patrick Morrissey were two of the most revered and influential singers and lyricists for the decade 76 to 86!

ROB: At the same venue, I think it was the Electric Lady?

MC: Electric Circus in Manchester... (19 December 1976 - ed!)

ROB: ... yes there! On the other occasion we played there, again at soundcheck time, I was alone in the spacious Victorian toilets, rinsing my hands, when I heard the sound of someone throwing up in one of the cubicles... then Johnny Rotten appears from the cubicle, and is shocked to see me.... "you won't tell anyone about this, will you? I have to drink so much honey and warm water coz of my voice that it sometimes makes me sick!" I muttered something sympathetic and promised to say nothing... and here I am reneging on that promise decades later... I didn't have any proper conversations with JR but in the few brief exchanges we did have, and from watching him around the tour, he was a genuinely nice guy...

I do recall one particularly - in retrospect - funny occasion when Lydon, who obviously likes to study people and suss them out, came up to me away from everyone else, and actually asked... "'Why do you go to bed so early?'

On another occasion, backstage at Plymouth while I was waiting (alone) to go on with The Clash, he confided that "you lot are really hard to follow, you know..."  I said "yeah, I know", but if anybody could better them, it was him... I mean it... I saw lots of soundchecks and lots of performances, and the Pistols were fucking brilliant, overwhelmingly new and powerful - as were The Clash, in their different way - but JR's presence dominated everything, including even Joe Strummer's awesome onstage charisma and authority...

MC: OK Rob we'll have to leave it there, but we'll talk some more about the Clash, that tour, the Subs and The Dazzlers in a follow-up interview at some point, thanks so much for everything so far...

ROB: Thanks Mark, yes, I promise to delve into my memory for you as and when time allows us...

 

   Rob Harper in The Clash...   

 
Below: Rob interviewed on The History of The Clash documentary...

 
 
Below: A selection of photos/scans of Rob's involvement with the Clash.
...click images to enlarge

Pics 1 to 3: Dave Smitham's photos of the Clash playing 'Castle Cinema' Caerphilly, Wales in December 1976 
 
ROB: The drum kit I am playing at Caerphilly was actually Paul Cook's old one, lent to me because Bernie Rhodes (quite rightly) thought my white Premier kit wasn't good enough... that white kit can be seen in stills and rehearsal footage of me with the Clash, and also in shots from Uni with the Rockettes, because our drummer borrowed it, not having his own drums at Uni...
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Below: Clash at the Roxy
 
 
 
 
 
 
PART 2 OF THIS INTERVIEW TO BE PUBLISHED...

A planned follow up interview with Rob will be published on the T&M website, sharing his further thoughts on early Subs, more on the Dazzlers as well as additional insights into the early days of the Clash and the Anarchy In The UK tour...
 
Above: Supporting XTC with The Dazzlers, and drumming with The Clash
Below: Rob with The Marauders, post Subs departure...
 
 
 
   ROB HARPER INTERVIEW FIRST PUBLISHED 31 OCTOBER 2017