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

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Chapter Four - In The Charts

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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

Now with management, Label and Agency, the process of doing gigs was suddenly completely different. There was no more lugging around equipment, we had a road crew. We didn’t have to deal with money, that was the tour managers job. Food and Hotels were provided, where as before we would crash at peoples houses or sleep in the van. Now we spent our time doing radio interviews before the sound check, then local press interviews after. I wouldn’t say it was easier because more was condensed into each day, even two shows some days, but it was certainly more productive. Now the shows were well advertised with posters in each city and radio spots for weeks before. The first tour was short, but things heated up when the single was released in early June and entered the national charts in the top 30. We were driving back to London in a rented car, when Tony Blackburn, (an extremely mainstream radio 1 DJ who hated Punk), was forced to play our song on his chart rundown show. Spirits were high. That week we got the call from a frantic representative of GEM informing us that we had to play ‘Top Of The Pops’, England’s longest running and incredibly influential pop chart TV show, and we would record it that week. On this, our first appearance on T.O.T.P.’s we decided to sing live (although we pre-recorded the music), which was quite unusual for that show. The show aired the next day and we were household names overnight. ‘Strangle Hold’, along with ‘Tomorrow’s Girls’, Tomorrow's Girls 7"was already published by Chapel music, who rushed the sheet music out. We played a headline sellout show at the Lyceum that week as Strangle Hold immediately dropped out of the Top thirty. This was expected as punk was certainly not a cross-over commodity but what was not expected was the single re-entering at #26 the following week. We recorded another ‘Top Of The Pops’.

In the week following the recording of Strangle Hold, we returned to Kingsway with John McCoy to record our first Studio album. The album mostly documented the songs we’d been playing live up to that point - ‘C.I.D.’ (newly re-recorded), ‘I Couldn’t Be You’, ‘I Live in a Car’, ‘Tomorrow’s Girls’ (same recording as the single but a different mix), ‘World War’, ‘Rockers’, ‘I.O.D.’, ‘Lady Esquire’ (on which Charlie persuaded me to sing the first verse), ‘All I wanna Know’, ‘B.1.C.’, ‘Disease’ & ‘Strangle Hold’ (re-recorded and added at the request of the label). Along with these sub-standards came new songs, ‘Killer’, ‘T.V. Blues’, ‘Blues’, ‘Crash Course’ & ‘Young Criminals’.

It was during these sessions that we came close to killing our producer! Jon had a playful nature to him, instigating races around the studio on the producer’s chairs after each day’s work, or generally goofing around. One day we wrestled him to the floor and threw foam rubber chairs on him and then we all piled on top. Unbeknownst to us his face was pressed against the foam and he was suffocating. We got bored and jumped off just at the point he was passing out.

Record Mirror ran a feature to coincide with Strangleholds release. The interview was conducted in London zoo where, during a staged shot in front of the elephant enclosure, one of the elephants decided to pull me over the moat using its trunk. I managed to hook my legs over the railings and was briefly suspended over the moat as the elephant still had its trunk wrapped around my arm. Although the photographer Gill was snapping shots all the time the film was destroyed during developing and the article ran with with replacement shots from a local bar.

Manager Mike Philips & Chutch In UK Subs London Office (left to right)At one of our sold out Lyceum shows, director Julian Temple shot footage of the Subs for his new film, a twenty minute documentary about the Subs. Another location was at the Cambridge Trinity college May ball. Temple, who had become famous by directing the Sex pistols “Great Rock & Roll Swindle”, along with two others, smuggled cameras and sound equipment pretending to be the band’s road crew. The end result was only a few seconds in the finished film but what an image. The band are in a tent playing to college kinds dressed in suits and bow ties and women in full white evening dresses. At the end kids are pictured after ripping up their suits and dresses. The film opened for both “Scum” and “Quadrophenia”.

On May 28th the Subs hit the front page of all the daily papers when they ran a story of the Prince and the Punks. UK Sub fans Phil Sick, Ann Wobble and Joe Horrid were passing a Polo field where Prince Charles was playing. A reporter managed to bring them together and Phil Sick invited Prince Charles to The Subs show at the Music Machine. The Prince declined but our management sent him an invite and put him on the guest list anyway. We did get a card back from Buckingham Palace, but no one spotted Charles at the show.

The Stranglehold tour started on June 11th 1979. Scheduled for the 22nd was an appearance at the Glastonbury Fair. When we arrived it was awash with the unwashed, with maybe a couple of punks in their midst. We decide to cut our losses and left. As we left the concert area the cops pulled us over while a crew from Sounds magazine were snapping photos. This gave us our first (And only) front cover of Sounds 30th June 1979. There were no arrests, but someone did manage to stick a UK Subs sticker on the back of the Police van. The Strangle Hold tour ended on the 31st but included a stop off at Maida Vale to record another John Peel Session. The long walk down the corridor at the BBC studios was now quite familiar to us - pass the basketball court sized orchestra studio, the vending machine, then finally to the small suite of studios at the end. First time in, they were just removing the old valve mixing board from one of the studios and the monster was propped up against the wall Another Kind Of Blueswith it’s huge levers, forerunners to the slick faders we’re so familiar with, protruding out. Our sessions there were for the most part dress rehearsals for our next releases. At the time of the initial broadcast, of course, this was the first taste our fans had of the recorded versions of songs they had been listening to live for over a year. Although the structure of these songs did not change substantially when they were re-recorded for record, many of the guitar solos are different and generally the energy is somehow different. New Musical Express followed Sounds with a two page feature on the Subs on July 7th and Melody Maker on August 18th with a full page.

We rushed the 3rd single, the remixed ‘Tomorrow’s Girls’, to maximize the impact ‘Strangle Hold’ made. Again we added two harder hitting (Non-LP), tracks on the ‘B’ side. Although ‘Strangle Hold’ got joint record of the week in Sounds magazine with the Ruts ‘Babylon’s Burning’, Tomorrow’s Girls’ was a stronger single. The cover showed Paul’s sister Joanne reflected in a shop window and was released on blue vinyl, (Strangle Hold was on red). Again the single charted (#28) and we went into the BBC to record another Top Of The Pops. Meanwhile ‘Another Kind Of Blues’ had charted at # 21 in the national album charts.

Although we’d toured somewhat in the UK on the strength of the Strangle Hold single, we now embarked on our first major tour for our new agency “MAM” starting in Derby on the 20th of September and ending in Guilford Surrey on She's Not There 7"the 9th of November. The tour included Newcastle, Sheffield, London (Three nights at the Marquee), Nottingham, Manchester, Leeds, Plymouth, Glasgow, and Birmingham, but also included many smaller towns which became so important for our fan base over the next three years. Towns such as Colne, Middlesborough and East Retford were home to some of our most loyal fans. A special mention also should go out to fans from Witon, The Isle of Sheppie and the Leicester punk girls. The hardcore fans from these three crews followed us from town to town between 1978 and 1983 sleeping in fields and barns and hitch hiking from show to show. For the UK dates they would sometimes swell the numbers at a given show by over one hundred. This was particularly significant at the venues in the smaller places tucked away in the English countryside. Sometimes these sleepy towns had never seen more than a couple of punks and were ill prepared for the invasion of subs fans. Often the local punk scene in these small communities consisted of less than ten people. These punk fans were often ridiculed by the “Real music fans” who were still listening to “Yes” and “Genesis”, when our tour rolled through it must have been a huge validation for them. Certainly if the Subs returned to the same town even, six months later, the same punk scene had bloomed to twenty or thirty with half of those so-called “Real music fans” cutting their hair and pretending they were there.

Sounds, now firmly championing the Subs, ran another two page feature on October 3rd.

We had been messing around with the Zombies classic “She’s not there” at sound checks, and although not ready to record another album decided to release it as a single to keep the momentum going. This was my first time producing. The single, released on green vinyl, charted at # 33 and again we did Top Of The Pops. This time Paul sang lead vocals, as he did on the record, while Charlie jumped around with a flying vee guitar.

 

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