early-01.jpg (11953 bytes)UK Subs - The Early Years - By Nicky Garratt

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Chapter Two - John Peel & CID

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UK Subs - The Early Years
1 London
2 Band From The Pubs
3 John Peel & CID
4 In The Charts
5 U.S. Subs
6 Top 10 & The New Subs
7 Endangered Subs
8 The Cold War
9 Aftermath

Table Of Contents
UK Subs Main Page

Back To Bands

UK Subs - Jan. 1978 (Charlie Harper, Nicky Garratt, Robbie Boudock, Paul Slack)1978 brought the search for a new drummer who we needed immediately, as Charlie would never stop booking gigs. Paul Slack was now in place on bass and I suggested Robbie Boudock from South Of The River. Charlie’s suggestion was a local Keith Moon fan known as ‘Juggs’, but in true Keith Moon fashion Juggs destroyed his kit at the audition. Later he was expelled from Charlie’s salon for exposing himself to the clients. For an immediate replacement for Rory, this left Robbie Boudock. Still in touch with the Warple Road crowd (the Wimbledon Squat), Robbie had a drug problem. That combined with a wife and small child left him constantly short of cash. After only a few shows with the Subs, including the Stiff/ Chiswick challenge at Eric’s in Liverpool and Upstairs at Ronnie Scot’s, he turned up late and without his kit, having sold it for drugs. The opening band that night was Dick Envy featuring Pete Davies on Drums. Dick Envy’s singer, Vamilian, was an American punk/biker who’s boyfriend was ‘Goat’ head of the local Hells Angels. We played a half dozen shows with them in the south London area.

After losing our regular gigs at the ‘Castle’ & ‘Western Counties’, I felt it was my responsibility to replace them, as it was probably my fault. So, adorning a suit and dying my hair back to a single, natural looking color I set off looking for a new regular venue touting myself as a ‘pop’ music promoter. I found ‘The Mitre’ in Tooting (and later ‘The White Lion’ in Peckham). The owner, a plump bald headed man whose eyes lit up when he heard the live music would not cost him anything, agreed on a date.

With a little advertising we brought in a decent crowd (50p at the door) and all was well, until the above mentioned owner was hit on the head with a billiard ball. During the next few months we opened a number of pubs to live ‘pop’ music, (including ‘Forester Arms’ in Tooting). Inevitably the owner or manager, on seeing 200 or so thirsty punks cramming into their establishment, forgave my white lie about the genre of the entertainment.

Dick Envy had opened for us at the ‘Mitre’ and a couple of sold out one-off gigs back at the castle. Vamilion, who preferred to play topless, baring her breasts through an open leather biker jacket, wailed through their ‘Ramones’ influenced set with songs like Nymphomaniac and Angry Young Women. Later these songs were captured on 7” vinyl, released under the name ‘Vamilion’, way after Dick Envy broke up.

Pete Davies was a small cool looking guy from Coventry, with a James Dean hair cut. While not an energetic drummer, he was solid. We asked him if he could manage another set to fill in for our drumless drummer, and he agreed. He already knew our songs from opening for us, and although a little rough around the edges, it was clear he was the most solid drummer we’d had to date. This was important for me as I was now spending as much time diving into the audience or trashing the equipment about as playing. After the show we asked him to join, and after a couple of days consideration he said yes. This marked the start of the first stable, and in many ways, most successful line-up of the band. We now had the weapons to elevate to a new level.

After the ‘Mitre’ came to an abrupt end, we started punk shows at the ‘White Lion’ where we would feature a different strong opening band each week. Some of these bands were: Menace, Security Risk, The Pack, and Crass, who played their 2nd ever gig opening for us (also their 3rd, 4th & 5th). Of all of the opening bands, Crass and The Pack were my favorites and I pushed to have them open for us as often as possible.

The Pack
Kirk Branden’s Pack were an intense punk rock band with Canadian brothers Simon and John Werner on Guitar and Bass. Rab, their drummer eventually joined a later version of the Subs and appears on two albums, ‘Huntington Beach’ and ‘In Action’. Kirk, (who later started Theater Of Hate and Spear Of Destiny), was a compelling front man who could freeze an audience with a stare or let them off the hook with a smile. Three records by them eventually surfaced:- ‘Brave New Soldiers’ 7”, the excellent ‘King Of Kings’ 7” and a 12” vinyl of demos released posthumously called ‘Long Live The Past’. They are well worth looking for, particularly ‘King Of Kings’.

Back at the squat in Colliors Wood things were deteriorating. The newcomer and his girl friend were fighting and he, with missing fingers and an acute twitch which jerked his head back, was becoming increasingly erratic. One day I went to wash my hands and the water poured on my legs. Joe (The new Joe) had stripped the pipes and sold them. That night his girlfriend, who had been hit several times that week, knocked on my door claiming Joe was currently in a sexual relationship with their German Shepherd dog and wanted her to join in. She asked my advice on what she should do!

It was time to move! Irish Joe and I got a lead from Kirk Branden on an empty apartment one floor above where ‘The Pack’ rehearsed not far from Brixton, and all we needed to do was to gain entrance. The building was council property, I was told, and had been empty for years. Squatting was my best option at this time as I had no income to speak of, so Joe and I promptly went around to their address and sure enough ‘The Pack’ were rehearsing in the basement. Kirk told me “Sure, just go up the stairs”. We proceeded, Joe and I, to locate the apartment and, bracing against the banister, Joe (who was about 6’ 2” and worked in construction) gave the door a mighty kick to reveal a frightened elderly Jamaican Man in Bed.

“I’m going to call the Police”. He croaked.

We apologized and fixed his door. (He didn’t get out of bed). 

“What’s wrong with you?” I asked Kirk when we got back downstairs. He told me he was sure it was empty, until Simon, the guitarist corrected him saying it was the flat above that which was empty. We’d had enough of flat hunting by this time and headed back to Colliers Wood. Irish Joe left the squat shortly after that.

Crass
Crass were a five piece anarchist punk band who wore all black and wrote left wing songs about Government ills, Sexism, Racism and anti war. They were also involved in animal rights and showed independent movies behind them (Action Space on Tottenham Court road). They also published their own radical books.

Photo Of Nicky Used In 1st Sounds ReviewAt the ‘White Lion’ show, Crass had an argument with Charlie over a Subs song “All I Wanna Know” during the set, claiming it was sexist. Some members of Crass pulled Charlie from the stage. But later, after going through the lyrics with them and explaining the context in which the song was written, things were resolved and we decided to do a double headline show way out in a residential area of Northeast London. We advertised it in the music press, yet for some reason still unknown to me, only two people showed up. We watched Crass and Crass watched us. Both bands turned in great sets and it was, for me, one of the best shows from that period. That is until we split the 1 pound taken at the door.

Our following continued to grow as the buzz on the band moved outward from London. The shows were often sold out and the venues more prestigious. The live album ‘Farewell to the Roxy’ hit the stores and the Subs, due to the short length of the songs, were the only band with two tracks. The premier Radio one D.J. John Peel picked up on the songs and put them on rotation. John got in touch with us and asked us to do a Peel Session. (A day long studio venture aired only days later. The first was recorded on May 23rd. We would eventually do three John Peel Sessions). We met John outside his office at the B.B.C. and went to talk in a cafe. He suggested we record a single, and raved about ‘I Live In A Car’ from the Roxy recordings. We confessed that we didn’t have the money to do a record ourselves and he offered to finance the project himself. This became unnecessary when the band came to the attention of Phil Scott, owner of a small independent record company based in South London. We agreed to record a seven inch single for his label ‘City’ and went into Spaceward studios in Redding, in the summer of 1978. Spaceward was a tiny studio packed with an array of outboard equipment. Many early punk bands cut records there. We laid down three tracks:- ‘C.I.D.’, ‘I Live In A Car’, and ‘B.1.C.’ choosing not to record our most commercial song ‘Strangle Hold’, preferring to keep it for a company who might better exploit it on radio. Our gigs were becoming more prestigious, helped by John Peel’s radio show and a surprise review of a live show at Northeast London Poly written by Gary Bushel for Sounds magazine (July 8th 1978). Gary would sing our praises in the press right up until he left to work on the daily newspaper ‘The Sun’. We started to get semi regular shows at the ‘Marquee’, played the now trendy ‘100 Club’ and played ‘Upstairs at Ronnie Scots’ Jazz club again. A series of sold out shows at the ‘Battersea Arts Center’ continued to gain foot holds for us with the bigger venues. It was outside one of these ‘Battersea Art Center’ Shows that we snapped the photo for the C.I.D. cover posed behind the railings of the men’s toilets.

We were now getting the attention of the bigger promoters and soon played Camden’s ‘Music Machine’ (2,000 capacity) regularly selling it out and a series of ill fated (for the headliners) opening spots at the Lyceum (3,000 Capacity). Among the latter was the infamous Generation X show, where several hundred UK Subs fans threw bottles driving headliners Generation X off the stage after three numbers. A similar incident ensued with Wayne County and The Electric Chairs, but this time the abuse continued into the press for weeks after the show.

I moved out of the squat and into a room (called a bed sitting room in England) in Tooting Bec only a mile up the road. Rent was 10 pounds per week and I shared the ground floor with a Pakistani Moslem who delighted in playing the latest recordings from Pakistan and India for me. I enjoyed that, but the food was another matter. As a vegetarian since 1970 it was difficult to come to terms with sharing a kitchen with an omnivore. Harder still was the fact that a serving hatch opened from the kitchen to my room. To pay for rent I started working for the temp. agency. Some of my jobs included:- delivering wine, removals of office furniture, delivering medical equipment for sterilization and demolition.

I soon moved out of that room to share an apartment (rented) close to the Colliers wood squat with a woman I’d been seeing. She was a school teacher named Sue with a huge stock of thick black hair. I met her after a show and she was a friend of Pete Davies. Pete meanwhile started to date Joanne, Paul’s sister and soon they moved into a house together which they shared with Kenny Alton, (Former guitarist with Dick Envy now playing bass with Fingerprints, and the lead vocalist of Girlschool and her boy friend.

During 1978 the band cemented their position as the hottest ‘Hardcore’ punk band around, in addition to increasing their profile with T.V. appearances on Omnibus ‘The Record Machine’ (set up by John Peel), and the belated ‘Southern Report on Punk Rock’ and a second John Peel session recorded on September 16th.

UK Subs First 7" C.I.D.C.I.D was released (Sept 22nd 1978) on red, yellow, blue and green vinyl and immediately went on rotation on John Peel’s show. Although chart success eluded the single, it reached #1 in the Alternative charts and we were now getting numerous show offers and, for the first time, mail from abroad.

The year ended with our regular shows at the ‘Foresters Arms’ and numerous other London venues. Opening bands were often:- ‘The Tickets’, ‘Security Risk’ and ‘The Pack. Moving into the new year, a pivotal year for the Subs, we played the City records showcase at the ‘Music Machine’ followed by more shows including ‘The Marquee’ and the ‘Electric Ballroom’. On March 22nd, Reggae band ‘Misty’ and the Subs co-headlined a Rock-Against-Racism show in Fullham Town Hall, which ended in a small riot afterward as fascists attacked the crowd. After another ‘Music Machine’ and Lyceum show, we played the 2 day Loch Lomond festival in front of 35,000 people (The Largest rock festival ever held in Scotland to that date). Headlining were ‘The Stranglers’ with ‘The Boomtown Rats’ and ‘The Buzzcocks’. We played just as it was getting dark with minimal P.A. and lights. By the time ‘The Stranglers’ went on it was dark and their light show and sound system was in it’s full glory including flares dropped by helicopter. However, we still managed to make a lot of new fans.

Stranglehold 7"The old marshall P.A. system was on permanent loan to another band by this time and was, besides, way too small for the venues we were now playing. So, instead we took to hiring P.A. systems from a music store in Tooting which sometimes came with a Sound man. Mike Phillips, the manager of the store, caught one of the Battersea Arts Center shows when his brother-in-law was operating the P.A. system. Shocked by the energy and huge turnout, Mike tipped off Alister Primrose who had recently started his own management company and used Phillips P.A. system for their bands ‘Trade Mark Newman’ and ‘Samson’. Primrose and Phillips attended the next show and immediately offered the Subs a management contract.

C.I.D. went into it’s next pressing after the first 10,000 were sold, this time on yellow vinyl, but was quickly pressed again on lime green and then again on Black.

After accepting the management offer, Primrose & Phillips went into high gear to secure a label for us. Primrose, an accountant by trade, owned a freelance accounting firm in the city. Their offices overlooked St Paul’s. This became our new base. In the street below was a bar/club which was a regular haunt for Primrose. Here many ‘business’ deals were Promotional Photo Shot During Strangle Hold Session (Nicky, Pete, Paul, & Charlie)considered over hard liquor and the band occasionally held meetings in the back room. (The club is pictured on the back of the ‘Demonstration Tapes’ LP, where the band are posed around the pool table). Primrose, and later with his sideman Peter Jefferies, made the executive decisions, but the day to day work was taken care of by Michael Phillips who quit the PA hire job to become the band’s personal manager.

Though generally not popular with the band, I thought Phillips was a decent man, who was often unfairly targeted when things went wrong. Caught between the president & his side kick (Primrose and Jefferies) and the band, Phillips was frustrated with his position, but I always felt his sympathies were with the band. Primrose was more interested in socializing at his club and drank heavily. Whenever possible he would ‘do lunch’ with music business contacts propping up the bar, sometimes with Jefferies, and throwing out cliches like “How are you old chap”.

However, a record contract and publishing contract were forthcoming and soon we were scheduled to go into Kingsway Studios (Owned by Ian Gillian of Deep Purple), to record ‘Strangle Hold’. The label was GEM records who were financed by R.C.A. worldwide. It was a new label who had no artists of note. John McCoy, Gillian's bass player, was booked to produce the session. John was a huge man with a shaved head and a goatee beard, who had a off-beat sense of humor.

After saving ‘Strangle Hold’, which was very pop-y, for this single, we decided to back it with two harder hitting tracks on the B side. We chose ‘World War’ and ‘Rockers’. ‘World War’ was less than a minute long including an echoed out the lead vocal into an explosion. (An oil tanker exploding mixed with the actual Hiroshima atomic bomb blast), this lead into the Tom Tom intro to ‘Rockers’. ‘Rockers was originally called ‘Totters’, (South London Gypsies) and dates back to the Boudoch days. The recording session went O.K. and we prepared for our first nation-wide tour to support ‘Strangle Hold’.

 

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