Alex Ogg's 2006 book, 'No More Heroes - A complete history of UK Punk from 1976 to 1980', published by Cherry Red Books in large paperback format was a mighty tome, running to 736 pages.
As we noted in our synopsis of the book on the Time & Matter website bookshelf, "this book is a phenomenal feat of research and information... this really is recommended reading for anyone with an interest in punk music and its story. It is mind boggling to think that the author cites the fact, in his introduction, that the original draft ran to more than twice the length of that which was eventually published!"
Alex's history of the Subs had some intriguing facts in it, which led to us getting in touch with him in connection with his sources. As an aside, we also enquired as to whether the Subs' history had been cut much from its original draft, for its final publication. Alex confirmed that it had been, and also offered to send us that original, unedited history, along with his kind permission to publish it exclusively on our website.
So below is Alex's U.K. Subs history, as originally written for his No More Heroes book, with new illustrations (some of which have never been published before) from the Time & Matter archives. Cheers Alex, nice one!
PLEASE NOTE THERE ARE FACTUAL MISTAKES IN THIS HISTORY, WE HAVE NOT EDITED/CORRECTED THESE AS WE WANTED TO PRESENT IT IN ITS ORIGINAL FORM - UNEDITED.
Please contact the website admins if you need clarification or confirmation on anything in Alex's piece.
Charlie Harper (aka David Charles Perez; vocals), Richard Anderson (guitar),
Robbie Harper (drums), Steve Slack (bass)
(Charlie, you git. On starting this article I thought I’d try to be thorough and document each and every line-up change and album, original or otherwise. About a third of the way in I began to realise what a stupid idea that was, but couldn’t stop myself. They’ve been through so many drummers in their 25-year career that I had to check my diaries to make sure I didn’t play with them at some point. In short, I started this piece a sane man and ended it with a full-blown obsessive-compulsive disorder.)
It’s easy to berate the Subs. After all, they’ve given their critics plenty of ammunition. If you lie down with dogs, you get fleas. And if you lie down in fleapits, where many of the Subs’ endless latter day gigs took place, and you’ve got a singer who was born sometime during the Norman conquests, you’re gonna get hammered by the music press. Especially when you veer into karaoke punk rock albums, when it seemed Charlie Harper was seeking to redefine pointlessness as an art form, and swap drummers and bass players like schoolkids exchange Pokemon cards.
But for all that . . . the early UK Subs albums especially, despite what the punk fashion police would have you believe, are engaging, entertaining, and musically literate. Few who do not know these records would associate the UK Subs with the level of finesse and aural bite they often displayed. It didn’t exactly help that they got caught up in the second wave of punk and were bracketed alongside one-trick ponies like the Exploited. But their first four studio albums contain some of the most searing musicianship of the punk era. And the band that produced them was smart, funny and personable. There are also a few treasures to be found on their later output, particularly anything that their genuinely innovative guitarist Nicky Garratt was associated with, but the gems are spread a good deal thinner.
Charlie Harper, as everyone knows, was knocking on a bit when punk kicked in. In fact, he was old enough to be a part of London’s last big generational upheaval, the swinging sixties. He’d busked around Europe with a harmonica and an acoustic guitar, hung out with the Rolling Stones (he was at one time nicknamed ‘Charlie Stones’) and taught Rod Stewart how to play blues harp. Thereafter he set up several pay-the-bills R&B ventures, the first being Charlie Harper’s Free Press Band, titled in tribute to Muddy Waters’ song ‘Albert Harper’s Free Press’. They split when his fellow band members showed no interest in turning professional, so instead he led the Charlie Harper band and also moonlighted with a group called Bandana. By the mid-70s he was playing countless pub and club engagements alongside Scott Gorham, before he joined Thin Lizzy, as Fast Buck (later Gorham would also record with the Pistols’ Cook and Jones as part of the Greedy Bastards). These nocturnal activities were largely subsidised by his hairdressing business in Tooting.
The fourth or fifth incarnation of his various R&B combos were the Marauders. He decided to switch tack after a few nights at the Roxy watching bands like the Damned. “To me,” reckoned Harper, “punk was an excuse for fanatics to have their say, people like me who never had a chance before, people who have just been laughed at. Blokes like me who’ve just been through life being sneered at, fingers pointing, saying, ‘That’s the local nutcase’. When punk came along it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I was accepted." The Damned would remain a particular influence, as he recalled to Phaze One fanzine. “The Damned are one of the bands that actually changed my whole life. I was going to Damned gigs, jumping around and then playing completely different music the next day.” A new name was evidently required so he opted for the Subversives, later trimmed to the Subs, and finally the UK Subs when he learned of the presence of a Scottish band of that name on Stiff Records.
Of course, Harper was in a unique position to compare the impact of the swinging 60s with the somnambulant seventies, as he confirmed to me in 2005. “The punk explosion was almost an exact parallel to the 60s R&B scene. In fact, early punks adopted all the 60s style, buying up all the old clobber. ‘My suit only cost a quid,” someone would say. Then someone would announce, ‘Mine was 50p!’. ‘Yeah, but it’s held together with safety pins.’ Every band played a cover version like ‘Wooly Bully’, a big hit in the 60s, every band has a sixties song on plastic, so the similarities were there.”
The line-up quoted at the start of this entry, essentially the Marauders in punk garb, was soon shuffled, shortly after Harper suffered his ‘first’ heart attack, largely as a result of prolonged sulphate use. Rehearsals at the Furniture Cave on the King’s Road saw Harper’s flatmate Greg Brown replace Anderson, who joined the Pentecostal Church, while Steve Jones took over on drums and a saxophone player, Dave Collins, was added. Of much greater import was the recruitment of guitarist Nicky Garratt, Harper’s soon to be longstanding co-writer. Classically trained but principally self-taught, he moved to London from Leicestershire on 1 January 1977. Previously he’s enjoyed a minor career in a local blues band with Honey Boy Hickling and Big Al Taylor, then a band with Geoff ‘J.B.’ Blythe, later of Dexy’s Midnight Runners.
In London he formed the Specimens, a short-lived punk band, though their song ‘Ronnie Biggs’ did transfer to the Subs’ set, where it became ‘B.I.C.’. He’d been advised to check out Harper’s group, who had “loads of gigs booked”, but had mistakenly presumed they were called the US Jets. “I first met Charlie at his apartment, where I was waiting for him to return from his salon,” Garratt told me in a letter in 1991. “Charlie was a hairdresser with a small business at the rear of a clothes store where the band would meet before gigs to load the ancient Marshall PA into the van. The UK Subs, as they turned out to be called, had been playing since the end of 1976 with a variety of personnel fronted by Charlie. They played a mix of punk and R&B with, at that point, a temporary guitarist and even a sax player filled in on covers like ‘Wolly Bully’ and ‘Talking Book’.”
Garratt made his debut at the Western Counties pub on 15 October 1977, three days after that first meeting, and without an audition. “He was dressed in black and looked like a young Wilko Johnson,” Harper later recalled. “I played the early demos that we did and he liked them and that was it.” “Although we kept the extra guitarist and sax player for another week,” Garratt told me, “Charlie and I put together a core of punk songs for the set in those two days before the first show. The songs included some that Charlie had written like ‘I Couldn’t Be You’ that Charlie had reworked while in the Marauders and ‘Stranglehold’, along with new (more punk style) songs we wrote together like ‘Telephone Numbers’ and ‘Illegal 15’. Suddenly the Subs were a 100% punk band.” Albeit one with a musical pedigree, as Garratt notes. “Charlie had a ‘street’ background as far as live performances, while I had five years’ training on classical guitar, as well as earlier bands. Charlie’s ‘get up and play’ spirit certainly taught me a great deal, but I think our musical DNA was fully loaded before that.”
With the line-up now settling down to Harper, Garratt, Slack returning on bass and Jones on drums, they secured residencies at the Western Counties and Tooting’s Castle pub. Jones was replaced by Rory Lyons in November 1977 as the group, whose HQ remained Harper’s Totting salon, where he coiffeured punk hairstyles for the likes of Adam Ant, further honed the new material. A show at Brighton’s Buccaneer venue on the 18th was filmed by Southern TV and transmitted in January 1978 – a photograph from the same show later appeared on the cover of the American release A.W.O.L.
On 21 November they cut their first demo as the UK Subs, featuring ‘Stranglehold’, ‘Tomorrow’s Girls’ and ‘Disease’, at YMC studios. “Our first attempts at recording were not good,” Harper told me. “We all recorded together in the studio to get a more ‘live’ sound, but it was hard to capture the live energy and attack”. Two days later they played Croydon Scamps to a crowd of absolutely no-one – the manager being required by his licence to put music on, receiving £35 for their efforts before the doors were even opened. Later that month they made their debuts at London’s most prominent punk venues, the Roxy and Marquee.
Steve Slack was losing interest, but agreed to remain while the band made their recorded debut as part of the Farewell to the Roxy compilation album (the UK Subs’ set, recorded on 28 December 1977, was later released as Live Kicks). His elder brother Paul took over immediately this was completed, and was given three days to prepare for his debut show at Liverpool’s Eric’s. In attendance that night were representatives from Stiff and Chiswick, both of whom passed on the group, though Stiff would later issue Live Kicks, much to the band’s consternation, shortly after debut album Another Kind Of Blues had charted. But then Charlie had sold off the publishing rights to the Roxy set in exchange for a crate of beer while down the Vortex one night.
The group, with Robbie Bardock stepping in for Lyons, who later moved on to King Kurt, continued to gig extensively throughout London, at the Vortex, Bridge House, Music Machine and 100 Club. Their 10th January show at the latter saw Paul Weller and Joe Strummer number among the audience. “We were supporting a reggae band,” Lyons recalled, “We’d finish a song and Charlie would say, ‘We’re just waiting for the drummer to catch up.’ I ended up tying him to a table in the bar by the end of his scarf after the gig. He didn’t even notice and the table and drinks toppled over when he got up to walk away.” At the end of January they’d secured a five-week residency at the Mitre in Tooting, which unfortunately fell through when the landlord was hit on the head with a pool ball.
On 3 February 1978 they entered the studio for the second time to record ‘Tomorrow’s Girls’ at Barry studios in London, but were unable to get the right drum sound. Despite the failure of these sessions, they continued to pull good audiences at venues including the Mitre and Forrester’s Arms in Tooting, Battersea Arts Centre, Putney’s White Lion, the Moonlight Club, Music Machine and Canning Town Bridge. In so doing they established a reputation as the hardest gigging band of their generation and Harper as the James Brown, or indeed, Peter Pan, of punk music. However, getting gigs was becoming increasingly difficult as the group faced bans from at least five pubs, as their volatile audience swelled and proved a little boisterous. At one point Wayne County accused them of having a ‘fascist’ following, which was unequivocally denied by the band, who also played a couple of Rock Against Racism shows to emphasise the point.
They picked up yet another new drummer, Pete Davies, in April. He was aboard for the group’s debut John Peel session, recorded on 23 May. Such was Peel’s enthusiasm for the band that he offered to finance their debut single, after sympathising over the lack of record company interest. (Two further Peel sessions followed, on 6 September 1978 and 17 June 1979). Their first national tour came as a support to the Farewell To The Roxy album, an ill-fated Scottish haul alongside Blitz, Acme Sewage Co and the Jets. Funding was non-existent and the group subsisted by undertaking washing up duties. They were forced to hire a car, on Nicky Garratt’s girlfriend’s credit card, in order to get back to London. Garratt: “By the time the tour happened, the UK Subs were by far the biggest band on it. Really, the attempt to do the tour was puzzling, as none of the other bands were really doing much. It was like the UK Subs and a ton of opening bands. I think the organisers were trying in vain to promote a couple of bands they were managing.” A series of supports to Sham 69, Girlschool, Tubeway Army and the Ramones, who would later cancel, at the Plymouth Metro, on 6 September, lifted their spirits somewhat.
Prior to that, on 11 July 1978, the UK Subs entered Spaceward Studios in Cambridge and cut three tracks; ‘C.I.D’, ‘I Live In A Car’ and ‘B.I.C.’.
These would comprise their debut single, released as part of a one-off deal with City Records, the only label thus far to express any interest. Garratt: “We most likely met Phil Scott of City through Girlschool, who were close friends of the Subs at the time. He was a good guy and did his best for us, as far as I can remember.” The single was released in eight different colours, establishing the Subs’ reputation for rainbow vinyl. The a-side was informed by the old bill constantly sniffing around their shows at the Castle in Tooting. ‘I Live In A Car’, always one of the band’s most enduring tunes, was “just about living in a tour van and not seeing much of anything else. The basic idea was that when the taxman or anyone's after you you're never there, you're in the van, you're away somewhere else. That's the kind of basic message, whenever anyone's trying to get money off you, you're not in. Which was very, very convenient. Most of the time.” A second TV appearance followed as part of a BBC2 Omnibus documentary on independent record labels.
Following the single’s release the Subs signed to Alistair Primrose’s Ramkup management team, including manager Mike Phillips, on 16 May, over a couple of beers at the Prince William Henry in Blackfriars. He negotiated a deal with RCA subsidiary Gem later that month. The group were now ‘proper’ punk recording artists, though, interviewed by Garry Bushell for Sounds in August, Pete Davies insisted: “I don’t consider us to be a punk band, because punk when it started was young kids who didn’t really know how to play. We’ve all been playing for years apart from Paul, the bassist, who started from scratch. He learnt the bass in about one week before we played Eric’s.” In the same interview, Harper pointed out how the band had changed. “When UK Subs started we were really political. We did a couple of numbers like ‘No Rules’ and ‘World War,’ which was about the Baader-Meinhoff gang, and was about 24 seconds long. We had to slow it down to 30 seconds so you could hear the words. We’ve dropped the heavy political angle now because when we get on stage we just wanna forget reality and create our own escapism.”
Sessions for the band’s debut album began on 29 May 1979 at Kingsway Studios in London’s Strand, owned by ex-Deep Purple singer Ian Gillan, whose bass player John McCoy would serve as producer, mainly because he’d previously worked with Samson, who shared the Subs’ management. Sessions were preceded two days earlier by an appearance at the Loch Lomond festival alongside the Buzzcocks, Stranglers and Skids. They also became tabloid fodder on the intervening day when they ran a story about fan Phil Sick bumping into Prince Charles in Windsor and inviting him to a subsequent Subs’ show at the Music Machine. Other versions of this story have Subs’ fans writing to old jug ears and receiving a personal reply stating he had a prior engagement. Either way, it sounds like a record company scam to me. "Actually the original incident was purely a fluke,” Nicky Garratt told me in 2005, “as some of our fans walked across the side of a polo field where Prince Charles was playing. The press actually brought them together - it made the front page of the Daily Express and the Sun. It was our management who tried to make a meal of it by inviting the prince to the Music Machine.”
The sessions were interrupted by another ‘toff’ related incident, an appearance on June 11 at the Cambridge Trinity May Ball. This was filmed for the recently re-released Julien Temple documentary, Punk Can Take It. The film originally ran as a support feature to Breaking Glass, Scum and Quadrophenia, ostensibly because Gem also ran GTO films and thus had some clout in that area. It was notable for the pitched battle that took place between around 200 local punks who were unable to get into the venue. Some of the footage was actually taken from the Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle, which Temple had recently been working on, as he indulged in a little celluloid cut and pasting.
The UK Subs’ first release for Gem, ‘Stranglehold’, gave them their strongest ever chart showing in June, peaking at number 26, selling 75,000 copies and bringing an appearance on Top Of The Pops. The ‘Stranglehold’ tour began soon thereafter, though the group decided to pull out of a planned appearance at the Glastonbury festival (which brought them a front cover story for Sounds). However, their final show at the Lyceum was also filmed for Punk Can Take It, and four of the tracks were recorded and issued as the ‘For Export Only’ 12-inch, later given away free with copies of the Crash Course album. They actually had more punch than the parent album, too. A third single, ‘Tomorrow’s Girls’, was readied, the cover featuring Joanne Slack, Paul’s sister, who also briefly ran the group’s fan club. It sold almost as well as its predecessor and brought another Top Of The Pops appearance.
Riding the momentum, Another Kind Of Blues, initially released in blue vinyl, reached number 21 in the national album charts on release in September, as Pinnacle re-released ‘C.I.D.’. Garry Bushell gave the album a five-star review in Sounds, noting the songs were “Short, sharp, fast with great hooks, nifty, simple guitar” and that the album was a “near perfect slice of good time high energy punk.” Certainly, none of the songs outstay their welcome. ‘Young Criminals’ was originally written to be played as the fadeout to the film Scum. ‘Rockers’ was not, according to Charlie, a challenge to the new mod movement, but an adaptation of an old song called ‘Totters’ – totters being gypsies, and the name of a pub the group used to play. A strong blues influence, courtesy of Harper and Garratt’s previous bands, could be detected, alluded to in the album title. Producer John McCoy actually co-wrote and played on a rough version of ‘Crash Course’ with Nicky Garratt while the rest of the band were on a lunch break. Another Kind Of Blues also started the tradition of Subs’ albums being issued in alphabetical order (apparently, long-time Subs fan Tim Burgess of the Charlatans can name them all – how very fascinating).
A 35-date national tour, including three successive nights at the Marquee, also began in September. By this time ‘Tomorrow’s Girls’ was resident in the Top 30. Booked to appear on Top Of The Pops, the band refused to pull at show at Exeter and insisted their record company fly them down after they’d recorded their clip. And to make sure the fridge was full. For their next single they elected to record their cover of the Zombies’ ‘She’s Not There’, which again hit the top 40 and brought them to Top Of The Pops. Because Harper couldn’t hit the right range, Paul Slack handled the vocals after they’d toyed around with it during sound checks. Later Charlie would slate it as “awful”, though its rama-lama haste is actually quite endearing. The year was rounded out by their first, 12-date tour of America and Canada, beginning on 20 November 1979, and including two shows as support to the Police.
Brand New Age, this time produced by Harper and Garratt at Underhill Studios with engineer Laurie Dipple, was released in January 1980, and reached 18 in the charts. Many of the lyrics were written in the studio by Harper at the mixing stage, while the more esoteric musical inspirations included Syd Barrett’s ‘No Man’s Land’ (on ‘Rat Race’). Once again Garry Bushell gave it five stars in Sounds, though the band might as well have not existed for all the attention trendier publications like the NME would afford them. The highlights included the nugget-tough ‘Emotional Blackmail’ as well as opener ‘You Don’t Belong’ and a brace of fine singles. These comprised ‘Warhead’, soon to become the Subs’ signature tune, constructed over a thumping bassline Paul Slack used to play at sound checks, which Charlie wrote the words to one day in a chip shop, and ‘Teenage’. The latter was a bit of rabble-rousing aimed at the mod revival scene (and a song Mr Harper routinely dedicates to himself on set, despite now being well past 60). While ‘Warhead’ was probably Harper’s finest lyric, the sort of prophetic Nostradamus text that Jaz Coleman would later make Killing Joke’s speciality, the b-side was also worth checking out for Harper’s harmonica-driven instrumental ‘The Harper’ and a cover of Lou Reed’s ‘Waiting For The Man’. ‘Teenage’ was also backed by two of the band’s strongest songs of the period, ‘Left For Dead’, which could have been Motorhead, and the sterling ‘New York State Police’ (‘Keep your mouth shut or we’ll break your nose’)
In February they embarked on a major European tour as support to the Ramones (a bootleg from this period, Dance And Travel in The Robot Age, recorded at the Palilido in Milan, offers an effective souvenir of these happy times). On their return they were back to Top Of The Pops to perform ‘Warhead’, which had reached number 29 in the charts, and they returned again for ‘Teenage’. We’re at a crossroads now,” Charlie confessed to Garry Bushell, “the temptations are coming up, the big houses, the holidays abroad, and we’ll either split through it, or see it through to a real brand new age.”
Shows in Scotland followed, though Paul Slack had to be temporarily replaced by brother Steve when he caught pneumonia. At the same time Charlie recorded his solo single ‘Barmy London Army’, rejected by the rest of the band, with Chelsea’s guitarist, dedicated to Jimmy Pursey, whom he felt was getting a hard time. “One of those drunken nights down the Marquee, there was a R&B band on and the record company were down there. They suggested I should find a band like this for their label. And I replied that I'd do their single for 'em, me being the R&B man, and it all stemmed from there and demos we did . . . I thought ‘Talk Is Cheap’ should have been the a-side but the record company thought otherwise.” Blow me if Pursey’s legal representatives didn’t then pursue him for half the royalties for using the ‘Kids Are United’ chant - which must have amounted to about 30p when all’s said and done. Charlie went on to record another solo single, ‘Freaked’, most notable for its excellent b-side, ‘Jo’. There was also an album of covers, Stolen Property, on which he was joined by a cast of thousands including Rachel Dolly Mixture, Paul Davies and Steve Slack of the Subs and Mood Six’s Tony Conway. It’s not unlistenable, surprisingly.
A 21-date full UK tour to promote Brand New Age culminated in a May 30th show at the Rainbow, but inter-band tensions had begun to surface. According to Harper’s comments at the time, Slack and Davies had become a little star-struck with the group’s new found popularity. It ended in a fist-fight one night after a Dutch TV show, and the two factions parted company after their management’s attempts at mediation failed. Slack and Davies briefly formed the reggae-influenced Allies to pursue a direction they’d forlornly attempted to push on the Subs. “I think the pressure within the band was quite high at that time,” Garratt told Ian Glasper. “Pete and Paul seemed to be unhappy, and as I recall, complained quite a lot. We were doing an awful lot of shows. Charlie and I felt the Subs were our baby, I suppose. We were working on stuff all the time and a natural crack formed between us.”
Harper and Garratt immediately drafted in Steve Roberts from perennial UK Subs support act Cyanide as drummer, and then held auditions for a new bass player, which ex-Users and Brian James And The Brains’ man Alvin Gibbs attended after a recommendation by John Towe. “It was at a rehearsal room in south London,” Gibbs recalled in his book Destroy, “where after a drink and a chat, during which time I discovered how affable and intelligent both Harper and Garratt were, despite their hardline reputations, we got down to making some noise. Nicky would call out the title of a song, give me the key and on a drum count from Steve Roberts we piledrived through a set of spine-snapping, super-loud numbers. After twenty or so pieces of this uncompromising punk rock, Nicky took off his Gibson SG and brought the addition to a close.” Gibbs had got the job. Others to audition included Cyanide’s Kev Nixon, Stan Stammers of Theatre Of Hate and Gill Weston, formerly of the Killjoys and later of Girlschool.
As the line-up gelled, making their debut at a show at the Music Machine, they worked on new material, including ‘The User’ and ‘Isn’t It A Pity’, Gibbs taking some of the pressure off Harper and Garratt as songwriters by submitting his own material. They were undecided who to use as a producer, however, and Gibbs suggested his friend Guy Stevens, with whom he socialised frequently and who had just been lauded for his work on London’s Calling. But by the time the rest of the group met him, Stevens’ decline was even more pronounced, and they weren’t impressed with his idea to make the band sound “like Jerry Lee Lewis”. Instead they opted for Mike Leander, best known for his work with Gary Glitter in the early 70s. However, they were entirely displeased with the finished results, and Garratt remixed several of the tracks prior to release. “He [Leander] barely showed up,” Garratt remembered, “and managed to get a kind of hollow sound throughout the whole thing. I remixed as best I could, but for the most part the damage was done. For myself, I wanted to expand our sound to simply make better and more lasting recordings. Of course, the other major difference is that Alvin co-wrote a number of songs on the album.”
The new line-up’s first release was the effervescent, even poppy, ‘Party In Paris’, featuring Captain Sensible on keyboards. The album that housed it, Diminished Responsibility, followed, as did a tour of Europe, climaxing with a run of four headlining shows at the Marquee. Steve Keaton interviewed them on tour in Europe, once again for Sounds magazine. Garratt was asked about his new rhythm section.
“Well, I'd never put a slur on the old members of the group, they were really good - they still are, but new blood in a band always injects something else. There's no way we've gotten any worse, we think we've got a lot better. Alvin writes a lot of the material now whereas the old stuff was just me and Charlie, so we've added another songwriter to the band and Steve can handle faster rhythms without losing time as well.” In the same interview Charlie was asked about the overt commercial leanings of ‘Party In Paris’. "For me it's a big experiment. Actually, I wrote it for someone else, I didn't think it was for the Subs at all. It was meant for Marge Random And The Space Virgins, I thought it'd be good for them.
I told the others it wasn't for us, but the record company really liked it, they wanted us to put it out. It's a very commercial single, but if it flops I'll be proved right.” Meanwhile the old line-up had secured the Subs’ biggest chart success, for Crash Course, a live document of the Rainbow gig that had concluded their previous UK tour (this arrived with a free 12-inch featuring an additional four tracks recorded at the Lyceum, the aforementioned ‘For Export Only’). It reached number eight in the UK charts and brought the band a gold disc.
The UK Subs were now, if not pop stars, certainly highly visible, as colour pictures appeared in Smash Hits and other teen pop magazines. However, an appearance on Top Of The Pops for ‘Party In Paris’ was never screened due to a ‘pitch invasion’. 300 hardcore fans had been following them on tour from town to town. They hitch-hiked to the BBC studios en masse, only about half being allowed in. Captain Sensible also turned up for the mimed performance, and gleefully performed a stage dive at the conclusion of the song. But also appearing on the bill was Adam Ant, at that time subject to a tidal wave of criticism from once-admiring punks for his conversion to the cult of pop. He, Marco Pirroni and Adam’s girlfriend, actress Amanda Donahue, were subsequently set upon by a couple of Subs fans in the corridors. “A knife was produced,” remembers Gibbs, “and if it wasn’t for Donahue’s swift punch to the blade-wielding assailant’s jaw, the incident could have had a much more serious outcome.” However, Adam did receive a serious facial injury in the incident, resulting in a prominent white stripe across the bridge of his nose, which some mistakenly took as a fashion statement. Maybe. The UK Subs were blamed for the attack and banned from Top Of The Pops (though the ban was revoked a year later for Keep On Runnin’) “All this may or may not be true,” notes Garratt, “I didn't know the inside details. But the so-called ban could merely have been the normal Top Of The Pops practice of recording an additional ‘standby’ song. The former is a more interesting story though.”
Diminished Responsibility, which this time received four stars in perennial advocate Garry Bushell’s Sounds review, albeit announcing his consternation as to where all the songs about schoolgirls had gone, got a typically sneering NME write-up via Gavin Martin. “The UK Subs are the missing link in an existence which helplessly and needlessly goes from torturing animals and bullying younger kids to beery wife-beating evenings by the fireside.” Or try “The UK Subs are a reactionary cesspit.” A bit harsh. They found a more sympathetic ear in Melody Maker’s Carol Clerk, who at one point was considering writing a biography of the band. “Not that there’s been a total change of direction. It’s just that the band have taken several steps away from the battering punk of their reputation, while retaining the aggression that is their trademark.” It’s actually a fine album with some far more expansive songwriting, though others noted that ‘Face The Machine’ featured the regurgitated intro to the Only Ones’ ‘Another Girl, Another Planet’. Songs like ‘Time And Matter’, later covered by the Fastbacks, caught them branching out without falling off their perch. Although Glitter Band associate Mike Leander was provisionally the producer, most of his mixes were eventually rejected.
The release of Diminished Responsibility brought further touring, both in Britain and Europe, concluding with four dates in Finland, where they were supported by Hanoi Rocks.
The next single was ‘Keep On Running’, a ho-hum effort with notable similarities to the Police’s ‘Message In A Bottle’. It was produced by pop maestro Pete Collins (the Beat, etc) but stalled at 41 in the charts. The controversy here surrounded the record’s cover and the band’s subsequent appearance on Top Of The Pops. Gem decided that the UK Subs’ ‘look’ of basic black leather needed a bit of tweaking. And that new romantic thing seemed to be big. Hence they were sent out shopping for a makeover.
And behold, frilly dress shirts, Chelsea boots and silk scarves. Photographer Sheila Rock had funded the wardrobe outrage to the tune of £100. “We thought we could tap into Duran Duran’s pool of groupies,” Garratt maintains. You could hear a nation of punk diehards whispering to themselves, “What the **** is Charlie wearing?” Gibbs would claim the new look was partially influenced by their Scandinavian tours with Hanoi Rocks. No-one believes him. He also reminisced in Destroy about the filming of the promo video, and the band that followed the Subs on to the sound stage, U2. “Though I didn’t know it at the time, they represented the future of rock ‘n’ roll while we merely symbolised the past.”
The record label, in an effort to push the single higher and keep the band’s momentum rolling, issued a subsequent EP version (including a demo of the forthcoming ‘Ice Age’ and the French version of ‘Party In Paris’ that had originally been recorded as a one-sided fan club single). That didn’t work, and a short time later Gem went bankrupt when they backed a failed Eurovision entry (they should have pushed ‘Party In Paris’, surely?) Their American backers pulled the plug and the Subs were left without a label and without management, whom they sacked at the end of 1981, preferring to chart their own course for a while.
As the band regrouped, signing a new contract with NEMS, a new single and album were prepared while they played ‘secret’ dates at Gossip’s in the West End, at which future members Captain Scarlet and James Moncur were audience members. The semi-legal bootleg by Chaos Tapes would be recorded at these shows. They then entered Jacob’s Studios in Farnham, Surrey. It had a swimming pool, no less, where Harper would write the lyrics to one of the album’s less immediately distinctive songs, ‘Down On The Farm’ – ‘Blue skies and swimming pools have so much charm/But I’d rather be back in Soho than down on the farm’.
‘Countdown’, the first single from these sessions, a song similar in some aspects to ‘Warhead’, failed to chart. “I knew it wasn’t commercial,” Charlie told Flipside. “I wanted to put out something beefy and heavy, something we can believe in rather than something that could be the most commercial thing we had.” Endangered Species was promoted on another UK and European tour starting in October 1981. The album, which had been held up over legal hassles regarding their new contract thereby allowing the band to build up their reservoir of material, was something of a composite effort. One side featured songs designed to appeal to existing fans, the second was more experimental, in keeping with Garratt and Gibbs’ future vision. "Well, everyone thinks we're morons and we can't play intelligently,” Gibbs told Sounds. “We've developed, we're proud we can play well and that we've got the expertise. We don't want to lose old fans, but the band has to progress, and the way we've planned it we hope they'll follow through with us." The highlights included the title-track and ‘Living Dead’ (written and sung by Gibbs) on the ‘conservative’ side and the atmospheric ‘Ice Age’ and poppy ‘Sensitive Boys’ (originally intended as a single) on the ‘progressive’ half of the record. Strangely, it all seemed to hang together, even Harper’s bluesy ‘Ambition’, on which he got to wheel out his harmonica (and also, alas, some pretty appalling lyrics).
1982 began without a label and bereft of management. Eventually they signed with the New York-based Wartoke Concern agency and former Patti Smith manager Jane Friedman, in a bid to set up their second American tour. However, Harper and Garratt had come to a decision over the increasingly unreliable Steve Roberts, who was drinking heavily, and thus considered too unstable for such a long tour. Against Gibbs’s wishes - though he could see their point - ex-Chelsea drummer Mal Aisling (aka Sol Mintz) was drafted in his stead. He was on board for their subsequent US tour, which saw them criss-cross America, making some 30 domestic flights in the process. Nick Garratt recalled the sadness the decision engendered within the band to Maximum Rock ‘n’ Roll. “There was tension in the band. The drummer dropped by the wayside about six months beforehand because of his drinking problem. And although punk rock is an alternative, there's still a lot of work involved. We came to the conclusion, the three of us, that there's no way we can do a major US tour with this guy in the band. You know, he's going to get us thrown off planes, which happened by the way, in Europe, he got us thrown off a plane. Actually, as it turns out, Alvin ended up getting us thrown of a plane, remember that? It was here, it was Milwaukee, wasn't it? The cops all came on the plane, somebody goosed the stewardess. It was us and the Anti-Nowhere League on tour together, so you can imagine, it was just pretty crazy and when the cops came, Alvin got in their faces – ‘And I bet your mother's proud of you!’ etc. And the next thing they said was, ‘Alright, all off!’ So we had a temporary drummer, and I don't think the spirit of the band after Steve had gone was ever quite the same.”
The Subs arrived in America and set up camp at the Iroquois Hotel on West 44th in New York, arriving the same day that Iggy Pop and the Clash had booked out. Gibbs would bump into John Lydon in the evening and over drinks was told that he wasn’t missing England at all. The tour support on a tour dubbed ‘Hardcore Storms America’, which was pretty inappropriate for lots of reasons, was the scourge of Tunbridge Wells, the Anti-Nowhere League, and there was excellent camaraderie between the two groups, and a predictably enormous amount of messing about in a very juvenile manner.
NEMS were strapped for cash and the group lacked the promotion they had enjoyed at Gem. It was no surprise to anyone when the label went belly up shortly after Endangered Species’ release, which was a great shame, as arguably the UK Subs’ finest album was lost in the confusion. The year ended with a second on the bill performance in front of 7,000 at the Leeds’ Christmas On Earth punk festival. Charlie was perturbed that a group of 30 skinheads who’d travelled up from London to see them were turned away by security, despite his remonstrations. As Carol Clerk recorded, “The first band to provoke a notable rush to the front, the Subs delivered with a passion. They used the advantage of the large stage to the maximum - whirling, diving, dancing as if possessed, and Steve demonic over the kit. Nick Garratt collided with his own guitar during the third number and smashed a tooth, but the show went on.” Charlie and the band also helped take Black Flag, the culture-shocked missionaries of LA punk, under their wing as they played to a frankly bemused crowd.
‘Shake Up The City’ was their first release for new label Abstract in October 1982, but failed to ignite much interest. A third US jaunt was timed for November, following a European tour, at which time the lucky extra passenger (i.e. drummer) was John Towe, operating under the guise of Kim Wylie, for reasons best known to himself. But the US dates failed to yield a much-desired American recording contract, and so the band returned home, with Towe, Garratt and Gibbs murmuring about their intention to quit.
Harper and Gibbs put together a side venture, the Urban Dogs, featuring Knox from the Vibrators and old friend Andy McCoy of Hanoi Rocks, along with Matthew ‘Turkey’ Best on drums. It was an effort to reinvigorate some old New York Dolls and Stooges numbers, as well as some originals, for fun and quick cash, which helped take their minds off the fate of the Subs.
Reluctantly, the mother group set off on another trek of Britain and Europe, but the fun was gone. A split was obviously close, but was averted when they found that a tour of Poland had been scheduled. The opportunity of becoming the first western punk band to tour Communist Poland, still under General Jaruzelski - who wanted to do some last-ditch teenage crowd-pleasing to appease the growing Solidarity movement - was too great to refuse. So they didn’t. According to Gibbs, it was “the most decadent tour I ever played with the Subs. We spent two weeks performing to upwards of ten thousand people a night in large ice hockey stadiums across the nation . . . For 14 days we ate caviar and drank champagne for breakfast, lunch, dinner and supper, threw Zlotys around like confetti and played punk rock for an audience of thousands that had never heard its like before. We were on the national news every night and had an armed guard wherever we went. It was like being in the Goddamn Rolling Stones.” The tour concluded with two sell-out shows in Warsaw attracting a combined audience of 24,000.
However, the split had been delayed rather than averted. Garratt and Gibbs wanted to take the band to a higher level, and were bored with playing small English pubs and repeating material that was now several years old. “We felt a bit trapped in a cycle of endless shows,” Garratt recalled to Ian Glasper. “And I really wanted some time to come up with a strong follow-up album to Endangered Species. That just wasn’t going to happen.” The fact that there was no longer a recording deal, and therefore no regular income, exacerbated matters. "We quit the UK Subs and formed a new band,” Garratt remembers. “John Towe dropped out very quickly but Alvin and I recruited Mal Wesson from TV Smith’s Explorers and The Scott brothers, Andy and Ken, from Wasted Youth. Ken was the former guitar player and second vocalist in The Tickets who were on the Farewell to the Roxy album. We got some backing from EMI, but ultimately the Scotts’ drug use destroyed the fledgling band. We were called Target Generation by half the band (after the story by Clifford Simack) and The Soft Pulse by the other. Two sets of the EMI demos do exist.”
So Garratt bunked off to New York, where he would eventually form the label New Red Archives (its first release being ‘lost’ UK Subs album A.W.O.L.) and also played with The Rebekka Frame and Ten Bright Spikes. He subsequently lived in New York City, Los Angles, San Francisco, Hanover in Germany and again in San Francisco, but continued to help out the band with American dates through the second half of the 90s.
The end of the Subs? Nope. Charlie being Charlie, he elected to persevere, recruiting the first of what would be a steady stream of musicians to become, for a few gigs at least, the Original UK Subs, in March 1983. However, he has stated that he did consider jacking the whole thing in, before he was asked to do a cancer charity show at the Fulham Greyhound, and felt unable to resist. “We had such a good time doing it, I decided to carry on.” The new line-up featured two returning members, Steve Slack (bass) and Steve Jones (drums), with new boy Captain Scarlet (aka Dave Lloyd) on guitar. Together, they set out to play the nation’s toilets again, supported by New York’s exhilarating Bad Brains, with the final show the Punk and Disorderly festival at the Lyceum.
In August the group recorded new album Flood Of Lies and single ‘Another Typical City’ at Alaska, between shows in Scandinavia. The album was notable for its lithe title-track, which was originally titled ‘Money For Guns’, ‘Dress Code’, whose elongated intro was slightly reminiscent of what Captain Sensible would do with ‘Smash It Up Part 2’, and ‘Seas’, which one critic noted was pretty similar to Amon Dull II. The cover was also arresting – a picture of Madame Thatcher as a diseased leper. ‘Another Typical City’ was, as a rather hostile critic pointed out, another typical UK Subs song: “Listening to this is like watching Jimmy Greaves try out for West Ham Youth,” they pointed out, unhelpfully.
On their return from Scandinavia the Subs embarked on their biggest UK tour to date, taking in a massive 42 venues. One of the shows, at Retford, was filmed for video release. The tour eventually finished in January 1984. The 12-inch, ‘Magic’, which was awful, was rush-recorded in a day before setting off for Norway. Harper maintained that part of the reason for the poor sound was that Captain Scarlet spent too long in the studio completing overdubs and left him only a couple of hours to do the vocal takes. The line-up shifted again for the next American tour, booked by LA punk music biz legend Gary Tovar. Terry ‘Tezz’ Roberts (ex-Discharge, Broken Bones) came in on bass and Pete Davies rejoined on drums, with Captain Scarlet still present and correct. Their show in front of 7,000 at the Los Angeles Olympic Auditorium alongside the Exploited was filmed for inclusion on the Flipside compilation later released by Jettisoundz.
Steve Roberts was lined up (yet again) to take over the drum stool on their return, but in the event could not commit the time necessary. Captain Scarlet was then abducted by the Mysterons (presumably) just before a Spanish tour with Chelsea and the Anti-Nowhere League. Actually he more prosaically missed the ferry, though he would later return to roadie for the band in 1986. The tour was completed with Tim Briffa on guitar (who had to be taught the chords on the ferry), ‘Deptford John’ Armitage on bass and Matthew ‘Turkey’ Beat on drums. On their return Steve Roberts played a few London shows before Tezz returned on guitar. Armitage was joined in the rhythm section by Rab Fae Beith, formerly of the Pack and the Wall.
Gross Out USA was a clock-punching exercise recorded on a four-track studio by Sandra Bruce while on tour at Chicago McGeevies and released in January 1985. The Harper/Armitage/Beith/(Tezz) Roberts line-up then toured the UK alongside the Exploited, and made their vinyl bow with ‘This Gun Says’. When it failed to sell even out of its first pressing of 1,000, the Subs hit the live trail again, once more returning to America. Tezz was replaced mid-tour, due to his erratic behaviour, by the Subs’ guitar tech James Moncur, formerly of Combat 84 (Tezz had, fittingly, been pictured on the cover of Gross Out USA vomiting). The band also replaced Hanoi Rocks to appear on TV’s Live In London series, filmed at the Camden Palace and aired in September 1986. A video of the event was released in September 1985 as Gross Out UK. The opportunity came via former manager Richard Bishop, who ended up shepherding Hanoi Rocks’ career after they’d supported the Subs in Finland.
Ricky McGuire (aka Plonker Magoo), formerly of the Fits and before that Scotland’s Chaotic Youth, became the replacement bass player when Deptford John was dismissed. He opted instead for life as tour manager with Dogs D’Amour, Siouxsie and the Banshees and Green On Red, as well as occasional stints as guest guitarist or bassist with Battalion Of Saints, the Exploited and Broken Bones. The new line-up set to work on Huntington Beach, a set distinguished by Moncur’s ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Savage’ and the Moncur/Beith composition ‘Sk8 Tough’. A double live album to celebrate the group’s 10th anniversary was also planned. In Action was meant to draw on shows at Telford Oakingates Hall and Aberdeen, but in the event the tapes weren’t suitable so the songs were run through ‘live’ in the studio. And its impact was scuppered further by Dojo issuing the Subs Standards compilation at almost exactly the same time, which only confused everyone.
1986 began with a blizzard-blighted tour of Europe where they filmed a promo for ‘Sk8 Tough’ in Rennes. Another US tour followed in April, lasting until June, and, invariably, they managed to lose their drummer. Though this time it was because Fae Beith met the love of his life in America, Monique (‘She lost her love to a UK Sub’, to paraphrase an old Gonads’ song title). He decided to return stateside once he’d completed a final show at the 100 Club. Pete Davies once again stood in before former Chelsea man Geoff Sewell took the post, and in August Doncaster native Mark Barrett replaced McGuire, who joined the Men They Couldn’t Hang. The year was rounded out with a short British mini-tour following a filmed appearance in Belgrade. “The crowd were absolutely crazy there,” Barratt reflected in a fanzine tour diary. “There were lots of young girls down the front throwing belts, t-shirts, scarves and badges at us. I had to stop and think if this was the Subs or Duran Duran.” Lest this go to his head, his bandmates elected to throw him into a pool of deranged fans so he could experience first hand the pleasures of being mobbed. Three days later at a much smaller show the band were tear-gassed three songs into the set. They gallantly played on.
1987 began with a Spanish tour and Harper and Barrett recruiting new members Dave Wilkinson (ex-Bazooka Joe; drums) and Darrell Barth (guitar; ex-Fishman). Moncur decided to return to his scaffolding business, later joining Condemned 84. They played three warm-up shows at the Surprise pub in London over January and February, debuting a new song, ‘Street Legal’. A decision was taken to postpone their annual trek to America to re-establish the Subs’ British reputation. Japan Today, originally destined to be called Jungle Blue, until some clever interloper noted the potential of the Far East market, was recorded at Alaska between September 24th and October 7th. However, by the time sessions were scheduled, Steve Roberts had, almost inevitably, returned to the drum stool, with Dave ‘Flea’ Farrelly on bass (he was handed a copy of In Action and ordered to learn 40 songs in just over a week). Alan Lee joined on guitar on a temporary basis from Sic Boy Federation alongside Barth. The new line-up made its debut with the ‘Hey Santa!’ 12-inch, which included ‘Street Legal’ as well as the title-track, a version of Australian comedian Kevin ‘Bloody’ Wilson’s original, and a burn through of ‘Captain Scarlet’, the old Gerry Anderson theme.
For Japan Today, Knox of the Vibrators added additional guitar, and Charlie’s girlfriend provided backing vocals. However, despite the massed ranks of contributors, few involved were happy with the finished result, Knox declaring it “unfinished”. Arguably the best song, ‘Another Cuba’, actually dated from 1982. Halfway through the sessions Barth moved on to join Lisa Dominique’s band (and later Dogs D’Amour, the Godfathers and Ian Hunter) while Alan Lee officially joined the UK Subs at the Astoria, when the Subs played with the Angelic Upstarts and Exploited at the Yuppie Festival on 29 October.
So how long did Steve Roberts last this time? Oh, just a few months. Next up, Duncan Smith (ex-Icon) warmed the drum stool. In fact, being a drummer for the Subs offered such low career expectations the new incumbent could well have been advised to prefix “Ian” to his name. Well, it made me laugh. Duncan Smith was in place for a European tour that began in Hamburg on 23 December, which took in the Troops Of Tomorrow festival in Antwerp, once again with the Upstarts and Exploited. By the start of 1988 Roberts was back again, Charlie clearly making a mint on his UK Subs drum stool timeshare scam. More UK shows followed before another 30-plus dates were undertaken in America, including a support to Iggy Pop at the Starlight Amphitheatre in June. An extension to the tour was worked out for some further Canadian dates, but then Roberts ducked out and Tezz Roberts, also a member of support band Broken Bones, was drafted in, though this only amounted to one date.
After that there was a hiatus, during which Harper, and old pals Garratt, who had guested on the previous tour for their CBGB’s date, and Gibbs found themselves in New York. Borrowing a drummer, not for the first time, in the shape of Belvy K of Demolition Boy, they decided to have a crack at the studio. It was some studio, too; Sonic Edge was state of the art and they only got access to it by pretending they were working for advertising giants Saatchi and Saatchi. The result was Killing Time, which Garratt released on his own label, New Red Archives. It was the Subs’ finest album for some time, notable for the inclusion of Gibbs’s ‘Drag Me Down’, which featured his friend from Iggy Pop’s band (with whom Gibbs had been playing), Andy McCoy, and the sweeping ‘Lower East Side’. Several of Garratt’s songs that ended up here had originally been intended for The Rebekka Frame. He was pressed into action as a vocalist on a couple due to Charlie having to leave early.
On his return to England, Harper put together UK Subs Mark CVIIXXII, with Matt McCoy, son of Another Kind Of Blues producer John McCoy, taking over from Steve Roberts. Lee returned to play guitar only after he won a horse bet to pay for the flight back from the States. McCoy made his debut at the Bristol Tropic Club on 11 August. A successful UK tour ensued as the group signed to Vince Mortell’s Released Emotions. A 12-inch, led off by ‘Motivator’, again, one of the best things they’d recorded for some time (an outtake version of this had been included on Killing Time) followed in December. The sessions were produced by Dave Goodman and included his anti-Apartheid song ‘Fascist Regime’, which he confessed he’d originally written for 1977 band the Front – members of whom later became the Vibrators. They also offered a seasonal punk variation on ‘Auld Lang Syne’, which featured a tramp that Goodman had found in the park playing the accordion. He gave him a fiver for his troubles and told him to buy a new suit. The sessions had one other repercussion – Goodman was impressed by Lee’s guitar sound and used him to record his Ex-Pistols’ scam, ‘Schools Are Prisons’. Lee would also spend time in Paris on Stiv Bators’ final recording sessions as part of the putative Lords Of The Dead, recording two new songs and a jam version of ‘Sonic Reducer’, before marrying and moving to Australia. His replacement was Darrell Barth, who rejoined for the Fulham Greyhound show after he’d been ousted from Lisa Dominique’s band in favour of her brother, Manno.
More touring took up the majority of 1989, including a package tour with the Vibrators and Splodgenessabounds and the Back On The Streets festival, which resulted in the bootleg video, Alive And Kicking. Before they embarked on another American tour Flea moonlighted with his old group Vagabond, and Barth and Matthew McCoy linked with former members of Norfolk political punkers Reality for demo sessions under the guise of the 2-Bit Hustlers. Barth would additionally tour with Arturo Bassick’s Tower Block Rockers as support to Die Toten Hosen, and later link up with the Rockers’ John Plain, more famously of the Boys, to work as the Crybabies. The Subs’ American tour with the Vandals was followed by slots at the Shepherd’s Bush Opera On The Green (at which Bators’ Lords Of The Dead played their only show) and then a gig at Downham Market Town Hall, which was filmed for video release as Down Amongst The Dead Men. I remember reviewing a copy of this and, while the performance is fine, it’s almost completely neutered by a shockingly timorous audience.
By January 1990 Barth had been replaced by Karl Morris, formerly of the Exploited, while Released Emotions pushed out a couple of live albums (Live In Paris and Europe Calling, the latter featuring a smattering of studio tracks recorded during the time Alan Lee was with the band). Meanwhile Leo Mortimer deputised for McCoy, who ran off to America with his girlfriend, for Finnish and Spanish dates, and Darrell Barth rejoined to help complete sessions for the upcoming Mad Cow Fever album, once again helmed by Dave Goodman. It was preceded by the release of the seasonal ‘Hey! Santa!, a punk cover of Australian comedian Kevin ‘Bloody’ Wilson’s novelty hit. In the meantime Harper received a phone call from LA to tell him that Guns ‘N Roses had played ‘Down On The Farm’ at the Farm Aid Festival on 5 April 1990. The group also set up a new management company, the ill-starred Rocksparrow, while demo-ing new songs ‘Back To Maryland’ and ‘Summertime’ with Urban Dogs’ bass player Laura.
Released in January 1991, after a launch party at JFK’s Bar in Portland Street attended by a motley collection of Subs past and present, Mad Cow Fever was the band’s absolute nadir, an unlistenable coupling of so-so new tunes with bar room blues on the other side. It was promoted via a six-week tour of Europe, though absolutely no-one was shouting for the likes of ‘Ecology Blues’ during the encores. During a British tour in April, Flea departed to be replaced by Brian Barnes, who handled bass for subsequent US dates in July. In the meantime Charlie got married to a girl about a third of his age (conservative estimate), and his bandmates cheekily sent in a photo of the poor thing to Spiral Scratch, which I was editing at the time. “All I wanna know,” I thought about replying, but didn’t, “is does she drum?” Well, that would have been useful. An autumn tour of the UK saw Lars Fredrickson contribute guitar, passing through between his stints with Operation Ivy and Rancid.
Sporadic gigging continued in the early 90s without any studio albums to support. By 1993 they were playing the former eastern bloc again, their show in Zagreb broadcast live on radio and released as a bonus CD on their next studio album, Normal Service Resumed. This featured a line-up of Harper, Alan Campbell (guitar), Brian Barnes (bass) and Pete Davies (drums).
The standouts this time round were ‘Jodie Foster’ - not the first time she’s been immortalised in a punk song - ‘Mohawk Radio’ and ‘Here Comes Alex’. But their attempt at reggae, ‘Squat The World’, is horrid. McCoy was back on drums for the subsequent American tour, while concurrently playing with support act Johnny Bravo.
In the meantime the long-rumoured inclusion of a UK Subs song, ‘Down On The Farm’, on Guns ‘N Roses’ The Spaghetti Incident album of punk covers, finally happened. The LA decadents had picked up a copy of Endangered Species alongside a Black Flag LP some years previously, as a result of Barth hosting Guns ‘N Roses in his Stockwell flat when they first came to Britain in 1987, when they also jammed together. Duff McKagan, an old punk rocker himself, selected the track. It brought an influx of much needed mullah, but not quite as much as some assumed. “The Guns N' Roses thing is a very sad thing,” Harper later recalled to No Pictures, “because . . . the NME wrote we were gonna get £100,000 from it. The initial money, our money from the song, was around £100,000, but by the time it got through our publisher, who was screwing us at the time, we had to have a court case against them. It came to about, taxed and through all these agencies, it was down to £30,000, and this was shared between three people . . . So we each stood to get ten grand. The thing is that our court case cost us 27 grand. So we had to pay that and we ended up getting a grand each. So it was a very sad affair but we did win the case and our money started coming through to us from way back, and then we did get a whole bunch of money, like five grand, in a lump sum. It put us on the road and we could buy lots of t-shirts and do all the things we wanted to do, like get a new van.”
New van or no, the transatlantic touring continued apace. 1994’s US dates featured George Kramer on bass and Karl Morris on guitar. They also issued a one-off single, ‘Betrayal’, for New Red Archives, featuring Garratt and Tezz playing the guitars alongside Harper, McCoy and Kramer. Tezz, Kramer and McCoy remained on hand to complete an autumn tour of America. 1995 produced a split single with the Swinging Utters, Split Vision Vol. 1, while Harper and Garratt renewed their acquaintance for a one-off single, ‘Postcard From LA’, using the Ten Bright Spikes rhythm section of Dave Ayer (drums) and Jacek Ostoya (bass). More dates in Scandinavia followed before shows in France and Germany and a winter UK tour.
It’s the start of 1996, so we must be in Germany, right? Or Austria, Slovenia, Poland, Sweden or Finland, perhaps. The new album is called Occupied and the line-up is a return to the Harper/Davies/Campbell/Barnes formation. A return to form? It’s not bad, the better tracks still crunch, like ‘Darkness’. And ‘Let’s Get Drunk’ does what it says on the, er, tin. They also appeared at the inaugural Holidays In The Sun festival in Morecambe, where rumour had it that one of the attendees was older than Charlie, but this turned out merely to be a sighting of an OAP’s coach party from Ludlow.
Harper, Garratt and Gibbs spent the tail end of the year in the US, working with Samiam drummer Dave Ayer, recording enough material for three singles and two albums over a three-week period. These were released in a burst of 20th anniversary celebrations at the beginning of 1997, Quintessentials in January followed by Riot in March. The three singles were ‘War On The Pentagon’ (a bit pre-9/11 that one), ‘The Day Of The Dead’ and ‘Cyberjunk’, with b-sides featuring the City Records’ versions of the original tracks from their first single (i.e. ‘C.I.D.’, ‘I Live In A Car’ and ‘B.I.C.’) plus new tracks. “We were going to do one album,” Garratt told Maximum Rock ‘n’ Roll, “but I called them a bunch of sissies. I said let's do TEN albums! But we settled on two. But to me, songs are like a reservoir, and when we were doing two albums a year, all that water was being siphoned off. But since I haven't been doing this for thirteen years, or actually since '88 when we did Killing Time, I've got all this anger inside me, and all these fast riffs. In fact, if you listen to these albums, most of my parts are fast riffs almost like the first album.” Which discomforted Charlie a little. “In fact we had to tell Nicky, look, we can't get off on all this fast stuff anymore, so we told him actually to slow down. But the albums are still pretty fierce.” They were, with Quintessentials being the marginal pick. The combined 30-odd songs stand up well, though they are perhaps not best destined for ingestion in a single sitting. The themes remained constant, the titles of anti-authority tracks such as ‘Killer Cops’, ‘Power Corrupts’ and ‘Human Rights’ pointing pretty accurately in the direction of their content. While a song like ‘Flat Earth Society’, from Riot, was too much of a penalty kick for some critics, it was glorious to hear the Harper/Garratt/Gibbs line-up in unison again.
The same line-up toured in February, though due to Gibbs’s sickness the final dates featured a female bass player by the name of Carly. Then it was a second tilt at Holidays in the Sun, some European dates and finally a British tour, with newbies Gary Frantic on bass, Gary Baldy on drums and a succession of different guitar players. By now, as Harper admitted to Maximum Rock ‘n’ Roll, there was effectively a UK and a US version of the band. “Yeah. A European version and an American version. There has been ever since Pete Davies told the band never to play in the US ‘cos they can't earn any money, which is basically true, you know. You don't earn any money. It's a shame, you have to get a work permit to work here but you don't earn anything. It's criminal, what a con! So one by one the band just stopped coming over. The whole band were over one year, then it was just like three of us, the next year it was two of us, and the last time I came over I came completely by myself. But there's easily enough former UK Subs in the US to not bother about getting new musicians.” It should be noted that having separate line-ups for two continents is an achievement that even the Beatles or Rolling Stones, or anyone else for that matter, could not rival. An entirely worthless achievement, but an achievement nevertheless.
By February of 1998 Alan Campbell had once again take the guitar spot as the Subs carried on touring, including shows in Ireland, the Belfast leg of which produced the CD Live In The Warzone. The ‘Riot 98’ EP emerged in April followed by further British dates and a third successive appearance at Holidays In The Sun and the inaugural Punk Aid in Croydon, as the punk nostalgia-fest of the late 90s began to peak.
For January 1999’s European tour the line-up featured old stagers Alvin Gibbs on bass and Darrell Barth on guitar, plus Gary Baldy refusing to relinquish the drum stool and thereby totally dishonouring a proud Subs’ tradition. It was soon Holidays In The Sun time, before Harper was reunited with Gibbs and Garratt, plus new drummer Gizz ‘Lazlo’ Navarro of Dead Lazlo’s Place, for their Social Chaos tour of America. This lasted from July to August, though by the end of the month they were back gigging in Britain. For the subsequent November tour Barth returned as guitarist until Garratt cleared time in his schedule a few weeks later, as Gary Baldy returned to the drum kit and Gibbs continued on bass. However, when Gibbs once again became sick, Tezz and Alan Campbell stepped in to fulfil the dates. For similar reasons Tommy Couch of the Pink Torpedoes had to replace Gary Baldy when he was on the sick list.
The new millennium began very much like the last ended with more touring, this time of Europe, with Couch confirmed as the band’s new permanent drummer (permanent drummer? In the UK Subs?) Naturally enough he’d gone by June, with Vice Squad’s Pumpy getting the most temporary of temporary jobs in punk history. They managed another British tour, an appearance at the second Punk Aid and some more American and Canadian shows, as well as releasing a mini-album, The Revolution’s Here.
The group’s most recent studio album was 2003’s Universal for Captain Oi!, now the home of most of their (quality) re-released material. This saw Charlie backed by Alan Campbell on guitar, Simon Rankin on bass and Jason ‘Dulldrums’ on percussion. The release was preceded by a reworking of the traditional ‘What Shall We Do With The Drunken Sailor’. A couple of the songs are actually keepers, especially the schizophrenic blues of ‘Last Man Standing’, and the chop-chop rhythms of ‘The Dark’, though ‘Don’t Blame Islam’ is more ambiguous than it sounds. Harper: “Universal came out better than expected. The then new bassist Simon Rankin was actually the guitarist from Zero Tolerance. He wrote some very good stuff. As a guitarist, he was very ‘Subs influenced’, ala Nicky Garratt. The finished package was very well received. I’d rank it easily in the top five. Or maybe sixth…” So will the Subs ever fulfil their prophecy of an album for every letter of the alphabet? “V is done! W will be the hardest, ‘cos I’ve kind of got X worked out. But it will take us the best part of five years to finish.” It seems rumours of Harper’s impending retirement are premature.
In the autumn of 2003 they launched their biggest US tour so far, with 48 shows through October and November, with Harper and Gibbs joined by John Towe on drums and Soho Steve on guitar, with Nicky Garratt then returning for the early 2004 European dates. Over Christmas Charlie would contribute to the Punk Aid Christmas single featuring Captain Sensible and TV Smith.
In 2004 they announced the forthcoming American dates would be the last by the band. Hmmm. The new line-up was, basically, impenetrable. Charlie used the Garratt/Gibbs stalwarts for European and American dates, along with Jason Willer. Back in Blighty, Charlie led a revolving cast of musicians including Bri of Slutch, Eric of the Ulcers, Clara of Intensive Care and anyone else who they found in the parking lot. Another contributor was Jay of the Short Bus Window Lickers - a band whose three drummers at various times have all played with the UK Subs. I once bumped into Noel Martin of Menace at a show in East London where the Subs headlined. “I’ll probably end up playing the drums for the Subs too,” he pointed out. He did, too.
That’s your lot. If you want to know more about the line-up changes, or spot any holes in the discography, please make an urgent appointment with a counsellor. The UK Subs are an institution, of sorts. The fact that I like them, despite being as fashionable as asbestos, doubtless disqualifies me from polite society. But I still play (mostly) Diminished Responsibility and Endangered Species from time to time, and I’m yet to be convinced by anyone that these aren’t fine albums.
I must also confess that when more erudite schoolmates were attempting to convince me of the majesty of Postcard Records, and debating which of Wire’s first three albums most accurately captured the zeitgeist, I subscribed to the UK Subs fan club.
Come to think of it, they still owe me a poster.
C.I.D./I Live In A Car/B.I.C. 7-inch (City Records NIK5 September 1977)
(issued in six different shades of coloured vinyl as well as black. Reissued in 1979 by Pinnacle Records, PIN22)
Stranglehold/World War/Rockers 7-inch (GEM GEMS 5 June 1979)
Tomorrow’s Girls/Scum Of The Earth/Telephone Numbers 7-inch GEM GEM 10 August 1979)
Another Kind Of Blues LP (Gem GEM LP 100 September 1979)
C.I.D./I Couldn’t Be You/I Live In A Car/Tomorrow’s Girls/Killer/World War/Rockers/I.O.D./TV Blues/Lady Esquire/All I Wanna Know/Crash Course/Young Criminals/B.I.C./Disease/Stranglehold
(Issued in blue vinyl with insert. Reissued on CD by Abstract, AAB CD 801, 1991, and in red vinyl, AAB LP 801. It was then reissued by Dojo DOJO CD 226 July 1995 with bonus tracks, and by Diablo, DIAB 86-2, July 1998, with bonus tracks ‘Scum Of The Earth’ and ‘Telephone Numbers’. It was then given a more fitting reissue by Captain Oi!, AHOY CD 134 in 2000, with bonus tracks ‘C.I.D. (single version)’, ‘I Live In A Car (single version)’, ‘B.I.C. (single version)’, ‘Stranglehold (single version)’, ‘World War (single version)’, ‘Rockers (single version)’, ‘Tomorrow’s Girls (single version)’, ‘Scum Of The Earth’, ‘Telephone Numbers’)
Warhead/The Harper/I’m Waiting For The Man 7-inch (Gem GEM 23 March 1980)
Brand New Age LP (Gem GEMLP 106 April 1980)
You Can’t Take It Anymore/Brand New Age/Public Servant/Warhead/Barbie’s Dead/Organised Crime/Rat Race/Emotional Blackmail/Kicks/Teenage/Dirty Girls/500 CC/Bomb Factory/Emotional Blackmail II
(originally issued in clear vinyl. Re-released on Abstract, AABT 802, in red vinyl in 1989, and later on CD, AABT 802CD. Reissued again by Dojo, DOJO CD 228 in 1995, with bonus tracks, and finally on Captain Oi! AHOY CD 136 in 2000, with bonus tracks: She’s Not There/Kicks (Single Version)/Victim/Same Thing/Warhead (Single Version)/The Harper/Waiting For The Man/Teenage (Single Version)/Left For Dead/New York State Police)
Teenage/Left For Dead/New York State Police 7-inch (Gem GEM 30 May 1980)
Crash Course LP (Gem GEMLP 111 1980)
C.I.D./I Couldn’t Be You/I Live In A Car/Tomorrow’s Girls/Left For Dead/Kicks/Rat Race/New York State Police/Warhead/Public Servant/Telephone Numbers/Organised Crime/Rockers/Brand New Age/Dirty Girls/The Same Thing/Crash Course/Teenage/Killer/Emotional Blackmail
(live at the Rainbow Theatre, London, 30 May 1980. There are overdubs on some tracks, allegedly due to the fact that Charlie was a bit intoxicated at the actual gig. Came with free 12-inch single, For Export Only, GEM EP1 featuring ‘I.O.D.’, ‘Lady Esquire’, ‘Blues’, ‘Young Criminals’, from a Lyceum show in 1979. Reissued on CD by DOJO, DOJO CD229, in 1995, with ‘Export Only’ tracks included, then on Captain Oi! AHOY CD140 in 2000, again with the ‘For Export Only’ tracks).
Party In Paris/Fall Of The Empire 7-inch (Gem GEM 42 October 1980)
(orange vinyl. Also issued with a French vocal as a one-sided single by UK Subs fan club, RAMKUP CAC002, 1981)
Diminished Responsibility LP (Gem GEMLP 112 1981)
You Don’t Belong/So What/Confrontation/Fatal/Time and Matter/Violent City/Too Tired/Party In Paris/Gangster/Face The Machine/New Order/Just Another Jungle/Collision Cult
(originally issued in red vinyl. Reissued in red vinyl and on CD by Abstract AABT 804 LP/CD in 1991, and again by Line Records Germany, TCCD 9 00546, in a different sleeve. Re-released on CD in 1995 by Dojo, DOJO CD232, with six bonus tracks, and again by Captain Oi! in 2000, AHOY CD 143, with bonus tracks: Party In Paris (Single Version)/Fall Of The Empire/Keep On Running (‘Til You Burn)/Perfect Girl/Ice Age/Party In Paris (French Version)/Barmy London Army (Charlie Harper)/Talk Is Cheap (Charlie Harper)
Keep On Runnin’ (‘Til You Burn)/Perfect Girl 7-inch (Gem GEM 45 April 1981)
Keep On Runnin’ (‘Til You Burn) 7-inch EP (Gem GEMEP 45 1981)
Keep On Runnin’ (‘Til You Burn)/Ice Age/Perfect Girl/Party In Paris (French version)
Countdown/Plan Of Action 7-inch (NEMS NES 304 January 1982)
Endangered Species LP (NEMS NEL 6021 1982)
Endangered Species/Living Dead/Countdown/Ambition/Lie Down And Die/Fear Of Girls/Down On The Farm/Sensitive Boys/Divide By Eight/Multiply By Five/Ice Age/Flesh Wound
(originally issued with full lyric insert. Reissued in 1990 in limited edition of 1,500 copies in red vinyl by Link Classics, CLINK 4, with an out-take version of ‘I Don’t Need Your Love’. Reissued on CD by Line Records Germany, TCCD 9 00546, with different sleeve, and again by Captain Oi! in 2000, AHOY CD 143, with bonus tracks: Plan Of Action/I Don’t Need Your Love/Keep On Runnin’ (demo)/Limo Life (demo))
Shake Up The City EP (Abstract ABS 012 October 1982)
Self Destruct/Police State/War Of The Roses
Another Typical City/Still Life 7-inch (Scarlet/Fall Out FALL 017 August 1983)
(also issued as a 12-inch, FALL 12 017, with additional tracks ‘Veronique’ and an extended version of ‘Another Typical City’. Featured Knox from the Vibrators’ artwork on the sleeve, a pastiche of the Sex Pistols’ ‘Holiday In The Sun’)
Flood Of Lies LP (Scarlet/Fall Out FALL 018/SIG 3 October 1983)
Flood Of Lies/Veronique/Soldiers Of Fortune/DBs/Tampa Bay/After The War/Violent Revolution/In The Red/Dress Code/Revenge Of The Jelly Devils/In The Wild/Seas
(re-released, again as FALL 018, in 1987, then issued on CD by Fallout in 1995, FALLCD 018, as Flood Of Lies + Singles 1982-1985, with different sleeve and 12 bonus tracks drawn from various permutations of the band. Reissued by Captain Oi! AHOY CD 166, with bonus tracks: Another Typical City (7-inch version)/Still Life/The Spell/Private Army/Multiple Minds/Primary Strength/Another Typical City (12-inch Version). The Captain Oi! version restores the original ‘Thatcher’ artwork and contains everything released by the Harper/Scarlet/Jones/Slack version of the band)
Magic 12-inch EP (Fall Out FALL 12 024 September 1984)
The Spell/Private Army/Multiple Minds/Primary Strength
Gross Out USA LP (Fall Out FALL 031 January 1985)
Emotional Blackmail/New Barbarians/In The Wild/Veronique/Flood Of Lies/Warhead/Limo Life/Disease/Violent Revolution/Soldiers Of Fortune/Ice Age/Dress Code/Telephone Numbers/Stranglehold/You Don’t Belong/Party In Paris
(live album recorded at McGeevies, Chicago, 1984. Reissued on CD, FALLCD 031, in 1995)
This Gun Says/Speak For Myself/Wanted 7-inch (Fall Out FALL 36 May 1985)
Huntington Beach LP (RFB RFBLP 01 1986)
Rock ‘n’ Roll Savage/Between The Eyes/Suicide Taxi/Party Animal/The Unknown/Miss Teenage USA/Huntington/All The Kings Horses/Jukebox/SK8 Tough/Death Row/The Bullshitter/Dirt Boy/All Change For Hollywood/Blinding Stories
(reissued on CD, CDRND 001, in 1999, and on Captain Oi! AHOY CD 114, in 2000 with bonus tracks: This Gun Says/Stranglehold (Live)/New Barbarians (Live)/Tomorrow’s Girls (Live)/Between The Eyes (Live))
(reissued by FM Revolver Records, RECCD/LP 150, June 1990, then by Captain Oi! AHOY CD 114 1999, with bonus tracks ‘This Gun Says’, ‘Stranglehold (live)’, ‘New Barbarians (live)’, ‘Tomorrow’s Girls (live)’, Between The Eyes (live)’)
In Action double live LP (RFB RFBLP 02 1986)
Emotional Blackmail/Endangered Species/Fear Of Girls/New York State Police/Does She Suck (All I Wanna Know)/Organised Crime/B.I.C./You Don’t Belong/Confrontation/Barbie’s Dead/Keep On Runnin’/Warhead/Teenage/Police State/Teenage/Telephone Numbers/I Couldn’t Be You/I Live In A Car/Party In Paris/Crash Course/Blues/Killer/Rat Race/Young Criminals/Left For Dead/Rockers/Between The Eyes//Sk8 Tough/C.I.D./Tomorrow’s Girls/Stranglehold/New Barbarians
(reissued on CD, CDRND 002, in 1999)
Live In Holland EP (RFB RFB SIN1 March 1986)
Stranglehold/New Barbarians/Tomorrow’s Girls/Between The Eyes
(lifted from the ROIR album Left For Dead – Alive In Holland)
A.W.O.L. mini-LP (New Red Archives NRA 05 1987; USA)
Self Destruct/Shipwrecked/Enemy Awaits/War Of The Roses/Police State (Part 1)/New Barbarians/Keep On Runnin’ (‘Til You Burn)/Police State (Part 2)
(the versions of ‘Runnin’’ and ‘Police State (part 2)’ are new, and this was the first airing of ‘New Barbarians’. Also available on CD)
Hey! Santa 12-inch (Fall Out FALL 12044 1988)
Hey! Santa/Captain Scarlet/Thunderbird Wine/Street Legal
Japan Today LP (Fall Out LP 045 1988)
Another Cuba/Punk Rap/Streets On Fire/Captain Scarlet/Sex Object/ Japan Inc./Interview With Yuki Yumi/Warzone/Thunderbird Wine/Comin’ Back/Hey! Santa/ Skateboard Billy/Surf Bastard/Street Legal/Angel
(reissued on CD, Fall Out CD0045, in 1993, with a different sleeve, and by Captain Oi!, AHOYCD 167, in 2000, with five bonus tracks from the ‘Motivator’ 12-inch – ‘Motivator’, ‘Combat Zone’, ‘Fascist Regime’, ‘Auld Lang Syne’, ‘Cycle Sluts From Hell’)
Motivator 12-inch (Released Emotions REM 004 1988)
Motivator/Combat Zone/Fascist Regime/Auld Lang Syne/Cycle Sluts From Hell
Killing Time LP (Fall Out FALLLP 048 1989)
Yellowman/Motivator/Lower East Side/Drag Me Down/Never Say You Won’t/Megalopolis/Planet i/Killing Time/Holy Land/American Motors/Big Apple/Killing With Kindness/Nico
(also released on CD, FALLCD 048)
Live In Paris (Greatest Hits) LP (Released Emotions REM 005 March 1990)
Rock ‘n’ Roll Savage/Motivator/Combat Zone/Emotional Blackmail/Endangered Species/I Robot/New York State Police/Streets On Fire/Punk Rap/Captain Scarlet/Sk8 Tough/She’s Not There/Warhead/Rockers/You Don’t Belong/C.I.D./Stranglehold/Tomorrow’s Girls/Teenage/Thunderbird Wine/Brand New Cadillac/Road House Blues/Back Door Man
(show recorded from French Radio Bienvenue, Strasbourg, on 11 February 1989, with additional mixing on 1 September 1989 by Nick Head. The band were a bit embarrassed about their ‘blues jam’ at the end, but label head Vince convinced them it would add to the record’s desirability to fans . . . if not necessarily music fans. This has now been reissued as Live And Loud! by Harry Mary, MAYO CD 561, in 2005. It was originally licensed by Link from Released Emotions for a Link release but it never came to pass. The Harry May reissue includes the original planned cover for the Link release)
Europe Calling LP (Released Emotions REM 012 1989)
(five studio tracks, the rest drawn from live shows in Vienna and Paris. Reissued on CD, REM 012CD, in 1997, and again in 2000, Pinhead Productions PINCD 101)
Mad Cow Fever LP (Fall out FALL LP 048 1991)
Walked With A Zombie/Mandarins Of Change/Boneyard/Welfare Mother/Saints And Sinners/Pearl Divers/Roadhouse Blues/Talkin’ ‘Bout You/Roadrunner/Route 66/Pills/Baby Please Don’t Go/Last Bus Boogie/Ecology Blues
(also issued on CD, FALL CD 048)
Normal Service Resumed LP (Fall Out FALL LP 050 1993)
Mohawk Radio/Jodie Foster/Here Comes Alex/Ozone Death/Strangeways/Joyride/Brixton/Dumfux/Killertime/Believe In Yourself/All The People/Space Patrol/Reaper/Squat The World/Bailiffs/Down On The Farm/Lydia
(also issued on CD, FALL CD 050, first 5,000 copies with free bonus CD – Live In Croatia CD (Fall Out FALL CD 049 1993), taken from a Radio 1, Zagreb broadcast in February 1993)
The Road Is Hard The Road Is Long 7-inch EP (Fall Out FALL 051 1993)
The Road Is Hard The Road Is Long/Jodie Foster/Here Comes Alex/Another Cuba
(also issued on CD, FALL CD051)
Split Vision Vol. 1 split 7-inch single (New Red Archives NRA 44 1994)
Postcard From LA plus Swinging Utters’ ‘Teenage Genocide’
Betrayal/Nobody Move 7-inch (New Red Archives NRA 49 1994)
Occupied LP (Fall Out FALL LP 052 1996)
Let’s Get Drunk/Shove It/DF 118/Solutions/Public Address/Revolving Boys/One Of The Girls/Darkness/Not So Secret Wars/Infidel/MPRI/Nazi Cunts/God Bless Amerikkka/Y.D.M.S/Great Northern Disaster/Ode To Completion
(also released on CD, FALL CD 052)
Quintessentials LP (Fall Out FALL LP 053 March 1997)
Jump On It/Your Ego/War On The Pentagon Parts 1 & 2/Quintessentials/State Of Alert/The Day Of The Dead/AK47/Media Man/Mouth On A Stick/Outside Society/Bitter & Twisted/Accident Prone/Killer Cops/Psychosis/Squat 96/Dunblane
(also released on CD, FALL CD 053)
Riot CD (Anagram CDMGRAM 113 1997)
Cyberjack/Rebel Radio/Power Corrupts/Preacher/Riot/Chemical War/Paradise Burning/House Of Cards/Human Rights/Guilty Man/Lost Not Found/Music For The Deaf/Beggars & Bums/My Little Red Book/Flat Earth Society
War On The Pentagon/Rebel Radio/Live In A Car 7-inch (New Red Archives NRA 46 1997)
Day Of The Dead/Chemical War/C.I.D. 7-inch (New Red Archives NRA 47 1997)
Cyberpunk/Quintessentials/B.I.C. 7-inch (New Red Archives NRA 48 1997)
Riot 98 7-inch EP (Fall Out FALL 056 1998)
Riot/It’s A Scam/Bathroom Messiah/UK Subversives
The Revolution’s Here CD (Combat Rock CR050 2000)
Reclaim The Street/Metro/Go Home/Something In The Air/The Revolution’s Here/Party In Paris/Something In The Air (dub)
Universal CD (Captain Oi! AHOY CD 204 2002)
Last Man Standing/Soho/Spoils Of War/Third World England/Universal/Hollywood/The Dark/Fragile/White Lie/Don't Blame Islam/Cross Fire/Papers Lie/Custody/Devolution/On My Way
(first 1,500 copies came with a free CD, Live At The Borderline (AHOY CD 204B)
Drunken Sailor/Reclaim The Streets 7-inch (Captain Oi! AHOY 701 July 2002)
Live Kicks LP (Stiff Mail 1 1980)
B.I.C./I Couldn’t Be You/I Live In A Car/Tomorrow’s Girls/Stranglehold/Illegal 15/C.I.D./No Rules (Victim)/Lady Esquire/Telephone Numbers/World War/Disease/Stranglehold
(unofficial live album available by mail order only and recorded at the Roxy on 31 December 1977, featuring the Lyons/Steve Slack/Harper/Garrett line-up. “We fought against it all along,” Harper told a Cambridge fanzine. “As you know, two of the tracks, ‘I Live In A Car’ and ‘Telephone Numbers’, were taken off the original recording for inclusion on the Roxy album. Those two were the only two that were good enough, the rest was to me reject stuff. It just wasn’t good enough to put out, which was true. The whole affair was an embarrassment.”)
Dance And Travel In The Robot Age LP (Black and White Records ABC7833 1980)
You Can’t Take It Anymore/Rat Race/I Couldn’t Be You/I Live In A Car/Tomorrow’s Girls/Telephone Numbers/Kicks/Warhead/Public Servant/C.I.D./Rockers/Organised Crime/Brand New Age/Killer/Dirty Girls/Stranglehold/Emotional Blackmail
(bootleg recorded live in Italy at the Milan Palilido on 16 February 1980)
Danger: UK Subs Live cassette (Chaos cassettes LIVE 009 1982)
(4,000 copies, live recording from Gossip’s, London, 28 September 1981 of ‘unofficial’ status, and pretty poor sound quality)
Recorded ’79 – ’81 LP (Abstract AABT 300 1982)
Emotional Blackmail/Too Tired/Scum Of The Earth/I Live In A Car/Kicks/Warhead/Left For Dead/B.I.C./Telephone Numbers/Public Servant/Keep On Runnin’ (Till You Burn)/Tomorrow’s Girls/Time And Matter/C.I.D./Party In Paris/Ice Age/Stranglehold/Teenage/New York State Police
Demonstration Tapes LP (Konnexion 1982; Belgium)
Organised Crime/Bomb Factory/Dirty Girls/Waiting For The Man/Rat Race/Teenage/Warhead/Sensitive Boys/C.I.D./Tomorrow’s Girls/Left For Dead/She’s Not There/Kicks/I Don’t Need Your Love/Limo Life/Cocaine
(Out-takes collection, including a version of ‘I Don’t Need Your Love’ featuring Gibbs on vocals, demos from Brand New Age, a version of ‘Sensitive Boys’ from an early 1981 session and live recordings from New York in 1982, ‘Cocaine’ and ‘Limo Life’, plus snippets from Crash Course. The cover featured the band’s drawing of Charlie on the cover. It was originally released as a cassette through the Tuck Shop fan club. Would be re-released as Raw Material)
Subs Standards LP (Dojo DOJOLP 28 1986)
C.I.D./Tomorrow’s Girls/Telephone Numbers/You Don’t Belong/Rockers/TV Blues/Crash Course/New York State Police/Stranglehold/Party In Paris/New Order/Violent City/Emotional Blackmail/Warhead/Brand New Age
Left For Dead cassette (ROIR ROIR A42)
C.I.D/Emotional Blackmail/Endangered Species/Fear Of Girls/Rock ‘n’ Roll Savage/Sk8 Tough/New York State Police/Does She Suck (aka All I Wanna Know/Limo Life/Confrontation Street/Warhead/Police State/Teenage/I Couldn’t Be You/I Live In A Car/Blues/Telephone Numbers/Left For Dead/Rockers/Stranglehold/New Barbarians/Tomorrow’s Girls/Between The Eyes
(recorded live in Holland, featuring Harper/Moncur/Plonker Magoo/Rab Fae Beith line-up. Reissued on CD in 1999 by ROIR, RUSCD8256. Sleevenotes by the amazing Jack Rabid!)
Raw Material LP (Killerwatt KILL LP 2001 1986)
(vinyl reissue of Demonstration Tapes with same track-listing)
Flood Of Lies – Singles 1982-1985 CD (Fall Out FALL CD 018 1991)
Mad Cow Fever/Japan Today CD (Fall Out FALL CO48)
The Singles 1978-1982 LP (Abstract AABT 800 1991)
C.I.D./I Live In A Car/B.I.C./Stranglehold/World War/Rockers/Tomorrow’s Girls/Scum Of The Earth/Telephone Numbers/She’s Not There/Kicks/Victim/The Same Thing/Warhead/The Harper/Waiting For The Man/Teenage/Left For Dead/New York State Police/Party In Paris/Fall Of The Empire/Keep On Runnin’ (‘Til You Burn)/Perfect Girl
(released on CD by Get Back, GBR001CD, 1991, with bonus tracks ‘Ice Age’, ‘Self Destruct’, ‘Police State’, ‘War Of The Roses’ and ‘Anti Warfare’)
Live At The Roxy LP (Receiver RRLP 146 1991)
B.I.C/I Couldn’t Be You/I Live In A Car/Tomorrow’s Girls/Stranglehold/Illegal 15/C.I.D./No Rules (Victim)/Lady Esquire/Telephone Numbers/World War/Disease
(A reissue of the Live Kicks set, sadly without the encore of ‘Stranglehold’. Also issued on CD, Receiver RRCD 146, with sleevenotes by John Tobler. Reissued again by Going For A Song, GFS 621 2004, but sadly once again without the encore version of ‘Stranglehold’)
Endangered Species/Huntington Beach CD (Dojo LOMA CD 7 1992)
Down On The Farm – A Collection Of The Less Obvious CD (Dojo DOJO CD 117 1993)
C.I.D./I Live In A Car/B.I.C./Down On The Farm/Endangered Species/Countdown/Plan Of Action/Living Dead/Ambition/Fear Of Girls/Lie Down and Die/Sensitive Boys/Divide By Eight Multiply By Five/Ice Age/I Robot/Flesh Wound/I Don’t Need Your Love/Motivator/Combat Zone/Fascist Regime
Another Kind Of Blues/Crash Course CD (Get Back GBR 002 CD 1993)
Brand New Age/Diminished Responsibility CD (Get Back GBR 003 CD 1993)
Greatest Hits Live CD (Dojo DOJO CD130 1993)
Punk Singles Collection CD (Anagram CDPUNK 66 1993)
C.I.D./Stranglehold/Tomorrow's Girls/She's Not There/Warhead/Teenage/Party In Paris/Keep On Running/Countdown/Self Destruct/Another Typical City/Private Army/This Gun Says/Motivator/Sabre Dance/Hey! Santa/Here Comes Alex/Barmy London Army/Freaked/New Barbarians/Limo Life
(includes Harper’s solo a-sides, ‘Barmy London Army’ and ‘Freaked’, but sadly not the excellent b-side ‘Jo’ from the latter)
Scum Of The Earth – Best Of CD (Music Collection International MCCD 120 1993)
Stranglehold/Tomorrow’s Girls/Rockers/TV Blues/Young Criminals/Scum Of The Earth/Warhead/Teenage/Emotional Blackmail/500CC/New York State Police/I’m Waiting For The Man/Party In Paris/You Don’t Belong/Violent City/Confrontation/Time And Matter/Face The Machine/Just Another Jungle/Collision Cult
Peel Sessions 1978-1979 LP (Fall Out FALL LP 053)
I Couldn’t Be You/Tomorrow’s Girl/Disease/C.I.D./Stranglehold/World War/TV Blues/Another Kind Of Blues/All I Wanna Know/Totters/Killer/Crash Course/Lady Esquire/I.O.D./Emotional Blackmail
(tracks 1-5 23/5/78, tracks 6-10 6/9/78, tracks 11-15 16/6/79. ‘Totters’ is actually an embryonic ‘Rockers’. Also issued on CD, FALL CD 053, with sleevenotes by Nicky Garratt)
Punk Rock Rarities CD (Captain Oi! AHOY CD 93 1998)
Tomorrow’s Girls/Warhead/Waiting For The Man/Teenage/Left For Dead/Organised Crime/Bomb Factory/Dirty Girls/Rat Race/Kicks/Shoot You Down/Keep On Runnin’/Countdown/Sensitive Boys/Divide By Eight Multiply By Five/Ambition/Limo Life/Cocaine/New Barbarians/The Enemy Awaits/Ship Wrecked/Self Destruct/War Of The Roses/Police State/Postcard From LA/Nobody Move/Betrayal
(rarities collection with detailed liner notes and an extensive discography)
Warhead CD (Harry May MAYO CD 107 1998)
C.I.D./I Live In A Car/B.I.C./Countdown/Endangered Species/Fear Of Girls/Down On The Farm/I Robot/The Motivator/Combat Zone/Warhead (live)/Stranglehold (live)/Tomorrow’s Girls (live)/Teenage (live)/Emotional Blackmail (live)/I Couldn’t Be You (live)
Sub Mission – Best Of The UK Subs 1982-1998 double CD (Fall Out FALL 055 1999)
Disc 1 (Best of 1982-1988) – Police State/Speak For Yourself/Self Destruct/Captain Scarlet/Thunderbird Wine/Hey! Santa/Another Cuba/Down On The Farm/Another Typical City/Planet I/Drag Me Down/Here Comes Alex/Ozone Death/Strangeways/DF 118/Solutions/Outside Society/Bitter And Twisted/Squat 96/Riot – Disc 2 (Live in Bristol 1991) – Saints ‘n’ Sinners/Emotional Blackmail/Fear Of Girls/Down On The Farm/I Robot/New York State Police/Another Cuba/Barbie’s Dead/Police State/Warhead/Left For Dead/Rockers/Stranglehold/Tomorrow’s Girls/C.I.D./Party In Paris
(Charlie Harper’s personal selection of the best of the band’s work from ‘f’ to ‘r’ in the album sequence, plus a live show from Bristol)
Time Warp: Greatest Hits CD (CD PUNK 120 2000)
Endangered Species/New York State Police/Time & Matter/Countdown/Tomorrow's Girls/Emotional Blackmail/Crash Course/Organised Crime/Warhead/Confrontation/C.I.D./Party In Paris/I Live In A Car/Down On The Farm/Stranglehold/Limo Life
(re-recordings of all the old hits)
Countdown/Europe Calling CD (Snapper Recall RECALSMD331 2000)
Fuck You Punx Vol. 3 7-inch EP (Blue Moon/Vigilante BMR018/VJR001 2003)
(The Subs contribute a new track, ‘Terroristos’, alongside Ed Temple, DRI, The Eight Bucks Experiment)
Staffordshire Bull CD (Invisible Hands IHCD 28 2003)
C.I.D./Live In A Car/Squat 96/Emotional Blackmail/Endangered Species/Organised Crime/You Don’t Belong/Left For Dead/Tomorrow’s Girls/Teenage/Warhead/Riot/Stranglehold/Limo Life/Party In Paris
(recorded live at Lichfield Festival 8 August 2002)
Before You Were Punk CD (Anarchy Records March 2004)
C.I.D./Tomorrow's Girls/Stranglehold/Teenage/Emotional Blackmail/Warhead/New York State Police/Party In Paris/Endangered Species/Down On The Farm/Shoot You Down/Countdown/Limo Life/Police State/Self Destruct/War Of The Roses/Holy Land/Motivator/Postcard From L.A./Nobody Move/Riot/Rebel Radio/Preacher/House Of Cards/Lost Not Found/Music For The Deaf/Stay Away/I Need A Life (UK Subs Vs. The Damned)
Complete Riot CD (New Red Archives NRA99CD 2006)
Jump On It/Your Ego/War On The Pentagon Parts 1 & 2/Quintessentials/State Of Alert/The Day Of The Dead/AK47/Media Man/Mouth On A Stick/Outside Society/Bitter & Twisted/Accident Prone/Killer Cops/Psychosis/Squat 96/Dunblane/Cyberjack/Rebel Radio/Power Corrupts/Preacher/Riot/Chemical War/Paradise Burning/House Of Cards/Human Rights/Guilty Man/Lost Not Found/Music For The Deaf/Beggars & Bums/My Little Red Book/Flat Earth Society
(Quintessentials and Riot on one CD)
Important Various Artists Compilations:
We Don’t Want Your Fucking War LP (1984; ‘Anti-Warfare’)
Charlie Harper Solo:
Barmy London Army/Talk Is Cheap 7-inch (Gem GEMS 35 July 1980)
Freaked/Jo 7-inch (Ramkup CAC 005 July 1981)
Stolen Property LP (Flicknife Sharp 100 February 1982)
Hoochie Coochie Man/Femme Fatale/Hey Joe/Louie Louie/Pills/Light My Fire/I’m Waiting For The Man
Charlie Harper’s Urban Dogs:
New Barbarians/Speed Kills/Cocaine 7-inch (Fall Out FALL 008 November 1982)
Limo Life/Warhead 7-inch (Fall Out FALL 011 March 1983)
Urban Dogs LP (Fallout FALL LP 12 1983)
(cassette version features two extra tracks)
No Pedigree LP (Flicknife SHARP 032 1985)
The Best Of Charlie Harper & The Urban Dogs CD (Captain Oi! AHOY CD 108 1999)
(features selections from Stolen Property plus the Urban Dogs’ output)
Like NO MORE HEROES, then get another Ogg!