Ged Babey previews Punk-By-The-Sea’s 4-Dayer on the Louder Than War website, with plenty of references to the UK Subs...

"If it wasn’t for the likes of Knox, Charlie Harper, Captain, TV Smith we’d be mind-numbed zombies. Punk was our education."

"Charlie sounds the same as he always did, he’s still writing great songs and has an excellent band so the Subs are definitely worth watching. The UK Subs rock, end of!"

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Punk By The Sea : Portsmouth punk all dayer : interview


Aren’t the UK Subs, 999, Vibrators, the Damned and co ready to be put out to pasture? Or is it still worth seeing them play?

Ged Babey asks as he previews Punk-By-The-Sea’s 4-Dayer

Punk By The Sea festival announces bill

Punk By The Sea festival announces bill

South Parade Pier, Portsmouth 14th – 17th June 2012
75 bands, 2 stages over 4 days with headliners
for full line up click

Rebellion in Blackpool is long established as the essential Punk Rock Festival make no mistake, the 2012 line-up being unbeatable and more diverse than ever. This year, however, a potential rival has appeared: new punks on the block the Punk-By-The-Sea team from Portsmouth. After the success of local charity gigs and shows with Buzzcocks, UK Subs and 999, supported by lesser-known bands from the area, they hatched an ambitious plan for a four-day extravaganza of Punk Rock.

For promoters King Ratty, Darrin and Pinky this really is a Fantasy Festival; practically all their favourite bands from the first two waves of punk over four days in their hometown. There’s absolutely no attempt to appeal to a wider audience; this is a Punk festival by punks for punks. At £100.00 for the full four days it may seem expensive but if you manage to see all 75 bands it works out at £1.33 per act! Now that is value for money.

Darrin “We don’t see ourselves as in competition with Rebellion at all. PBTS started almost by accident; Back in 2010 we asked Arthur from the Lurkers and 999 to play at a birthday party, he couldn’t make it but asked the Vibrators to do it and it ended up being a proper gig. It seemed so easy, for my 18th we started organising a gig with Portsmouth band Night of Treason but because my little sister Sian has a rare disease called Linear Morphea, it ended up being a benefit gig to raise money for Great Ormond Street Hospital in London and we got bands like Buzzcocks, Vice Squad to play and it was a real success.

Organiser of the nearby smaller-scale Gosport Punk Festival and singer with Night of Treason, Pinky was asked to be ‘event manager’:

Pinky; “I was approached by two dodgy looking punks, one my age wearing bondage trousers and his ‘Sid Vicious’ lookalike son, who I knew vaguely. They had an idea and loads of enthusiasm but no proper plans, no backing… just good people doing it for the love of punk rock…

Ratty puts 120% into everything, making sure the bands & punters get what is written on the tin. Daz is an energetic young lad into old-school punk, we work well as a team. I think we do it for the ‘right reasons’; to get great bands (old & new) to our area, create a gathering of punks, old & young, and also try make a bit for certain charities. “

The 4 day indoor festival is being held at a local landmark.

Pinky: Portsmouth’s South Parade Pier is a historic monument to a bygone age of refinement, ballroom dancing and poncey wigs….. how apt to have hundreds of punks take it over for the day… Queen Victoria would not be amused! Ha ha ha!

Headliners are hardy perennials The Damned, Scots good-time-punk legends The Rezillos, 1976 Manchester veterans Slaughter & the Dogs, the original line up Sham 69 and GBH; Class of 82 heroes of the studs and mohican brigade. But tucked in amongst the seventy other performers are some interesting bands. Mark Perry’s groundbreaking Alternative TV, Brixton’s the Straps, from Northern Ireland the Defects, John Robb’s mighty Gold Blade. Then there’s the heroic TV Smith and the entertaining Henry Cluney (SLF) on the acoustic stage, a female Ukulele orchestra called the Pukes and Wigan’s young hopefuls the Adjusters. Portsmouth’s own Night of Treason, Southampton’s Flying Alexanders and the unmissable Pussycat and the Dirty Johnsons fly the flag for their county. For some bands like Sundays headliners Slaughter and the Dogs and Menace it’ll be the first time they’ve ever played in Portsmouth.

That’s the sales pitch done …. But I have to be honest; Surely this has got to be “the Last Time” we see some of these bands? How old are these performers now? 55 plus? Over 60 in some cases. Aren’t they way past their prime? Some of them do bring out new material to a lukewarm response, but a lot trade on old glories. Shouldn’t they retire gracefully?

I perhaps unwisely put this, rather unwieldy question to the PBTS team and some of the people playing at and going to the Punk by the Sea 4 Dayer.

Ratty: Bollocks! Do you really think we’d put all our time energy and money into this event if we thought that. You get all the books, documentaries, art gallery exhibitions on Punk – its not a museum exhibit, it’s not history – it’s still here, alive! These bands sound great still, the songs are classics, I’m proud and honoured to put them on for people who’s lives were changed by punk.

Darrin: It don’t matter how old they are, these bands are heroes. Punk ‘il they Die. They won’t ever retire. They don’t care what people think. Their answer would be ‘Fuck You!’,

Pinky: How can you say that? You either like it or you don’t! If it wasn’t for the likes of Knox, Charlie Harper, Captain, TV Smith we’d be mind-numbed zombies. Punk was our education.

Beki Bondage from Vice Squad took exception to the Grandpa Simpson comparison.

Beki; You wanker! Charlie sounds the same as he always did, he’s still writing great songs and has an excellent band so the Subs are definitely worth watching. The UK Subs rock, end of!

My friend Ian Canty, in a previous life Terry McCann the Oi! Poet, refers to Charlie as ‘the Queen Mum of Punk’.

Beki; I can’t see any similarity between Charlie and the Queen Mother, Charlie has to work for a living for a start and as far as I know he doesn’t bet on the horses or guzzle gin. He may wear flamboyant hats in private.

No, but he’s universally loved by the punk public, you can’t say a word against him and he’s maaarvellous for his age. I was tempted to ask if Beki thought she was the Princess Anne of Punk but decided against it in case she went all Xena Warrior Princess on me.

Beki; I don’t believe in monarchy but I admire Boudicca because she refused to bow down to her oppressors and would definitely play a Gibson if she was around today. There is too much hierarchy in society so part of Punk’s appeal is that it has no Kings or Queens, well, apart from Gene October.

The constantly-gigging, ever-energetic TV Smith celebrated his 50th birthday in 2007 at the 100 Club playing with the Bored Teenagers, a Spanish band of thirty-somethings. I caught him just before he set off on a six week European tour supporting UK Subs:

It seems like I’ve been defending punk for more than thirty-five years now – the whole “punk’s not dead” issue had already begun in ’77! But the fact is, there are musicians out there who want to do their own thing and not be part of the bland corporate music business – and there are a lot of people out there who want to hear them. I wish all the commercial bands infecting the charts had to go under the same kind of scrutiny routinely aimed at punk – most of them wouldn’t survive ten minutes without their record company paymasters behind them – whereas punk has lasted thirty five years and stayed independent.

The interesting thing is that punk is becoming ever-more popular, and at the same time it’s becoming more diverse again, encompassing everything from high energy solo singer-songwriters like myself to leather-clad electric four-piece bands in the original “Ramones”-style. That’s what I always liked about punk – its diversity.

I think he evaded the actual question there but TV Smith has no intention of retiring and still has plenty to say, music wise and lyrically.

Jock Strap from the Straps and Punks Reunited:

Sadly we are all getting older, But I’d say all these great bands can still get the elderly pogoing just as long as they don’t jump too hard, there are knee joints and full incontinence pants to consider…But seriously It beats ballroom dancing any day.

Charlie Harper is as close to being the punk god/guru …I dont worship things too easily but I do admire his energy for a man that age. I just hope that in 30 years from now when I’m his age I’ve got that drive, and I can drink as many pints as he does. (Thirty years time Jock, are you sure?)

I think the Subs music is timeless, they are still a great live band and I enjoy them just as much as I ever did all those years ago. So I hope that Charlie can keep going, but I dont think anyone would hold it against him if he stopped .I wonder how many gigs he has played ?

I think I’m learning; it’s not wise to insult everyones favouite UK Subversive. I asked some of the Hampshire bands the same question, steering clear of the Subs specifically. Jon Sansom is the large than life singer with punk’n’rollers the Flying Alexanders from Southampton: celebrating twenty years together as a band.

Jon: I think that as long as someone has the desire and the ability to perform then why not? Rock n Roll is not necessarily the domain of the young any more. The audience at PBTS will be cross generational. Whole punk families will attend and I think that’s great. Growing old gracefully is for quitters, we’re still in love with rock n roll, aint we ?

Perry Flatt, surrealist wit and guitarist with the Flying Alexanders ;

I’ve always said I wouldn’t like to be up there doing it that age, but the problem is that it’s very addictive and you just can’t stop! On a good night some of them have more energy now than they did in ’77 ! Bringing out new material is essential though. I don’t think they should retire gracefully, no.

Puss Johnson is the striking lead singer and stage prowler with Pussycat and the Dirty Johnsons:

“For me, music is such a major part of my life, and I can’t think of anything else I’m good enough at to forge a career from! I can’t think that there will come a day where I’d just say “ok that’s enough now”. However, I think it’s important to keep proving that you are worthy of your place on the bill, and it’s unfair for bands to get headline slots just because of their name. Being past 50 isn’t an excuse not to keep innovating or be exciting.”

Ian Canty, veteran of many a punk festival (HITS, Wasted) and fanzine writer:

I always find it tremendously inspiring seeing older people still with the fire, heart and spirit playing live – I would much rather see them than the current twenty-year-old woe-is-me singer/songwriter types that are everywhere these days.

Not everyone agrees however. A veteran of the Roxy in ’77 and last years Rebellion Festival who sadly wasn’t invited to Punk By the Sea, Mike Herbage, ace guitarist from Department S had this to say about the line up:

Most of ‘em shouldn’t have set foot on a stage 30 odd years ago, let alone now. About as punk as Sooty and Sweep!

Sealing his reputation as a curmudgeon who is no longer welcome in Portsmouth.

It was pointed out that, your humble scribe had been seen many a time ‘at the front’ during gigs by some of the bands he seemed to want to consign to the scrap heap. My defence is that, the whole atmosphere at these gigs is like that of a booze-fuelled school reunion – only sometimes with people you’ve never met before – but after a drink and an introductory conversation usually concerning brothel creepers, the t-shirt one is wearing, you become friends for life. The camaraderie and atmosphere is what makes these gigs still worth going to, perhaps as much as the music.

No-one used the usual defence of ‘jazz and blues; musicians carry on playing into old age and no one questions them’ which is true to an extent. The energy of punk though was partly due to the physicality and sweat of the youthful performers but some of it was the kinetic energy of the actual music and that is the same now as it was then. By which I mean that New Rose, Can’t Stand My Baby, Nasty, Nasty and CID still sound just as fuckin’ great today as they did in the Seventies and can transport you back in time so that you feel ’16 Again’ for as long as they last.

I’ve been convinced; Punk By The Sea –the 4 Day-er is going to a lot of fun and well worth going to. Be sure to catch some of the bands lower down the bill though. As well as Pussycat and the Dirty Johnsons and the Flying Alexanders there are Dragster, a great sleaze rock band, the Adjusters, Southamptons wonderfully Ottway-ish Eat the Document, and loads more.

Get that knotted hanky on your head, draw out plenty of beer money and come for a punk rock paddle by the sea!

Ged Babey