ONE MAN FREAKSHOW
Doyley and pals come up with one hell of a rockin’ record.
This can only be described as relentless. What started out as a solo project for well-respected Klingonz guitarist Doyley developed into so much more. The multi-instrumentalist has gathered together some luminaries of the psychobilly and punk scene to enhance the already impressive tracks he put down himself. The bass playing is ferocious while guitar lick after guitar lick stoke the flames and up the tempo. The guests on the album keep the tracks eclectic while the style remains out and out high speed rockin’. This will leave you begging for mercy and for more all at the same time. I can’t recommend this enough, I’m almost too knackered to type just listening to it.
ON YOUR SLEEVE
(One Little Indian)
Countrified goodness born of hardcore roots.
This release from the former Heart Attack/ D Generation frontman turned country troubadour is beautifully crafted. The fragility of Malin’s voice is backed by an assured production and great musicians. ‘On Your Sleeve’ is a covers album but this guy makes songs his own. These honest interpretations of classics and new songs alike make for captivating listening. A surprisingly good cover of The Hold Steady’s ‘You Can Make Them Like You’ highlights how he can capture the essence of a song but interpret it in a fresh way. It’s easy to get caught up in the ride because this nostalgia trip is so varied and sweet-sounding. He’s literally wearing his influences on his sleeve.
A classic album repackaged and re-released, deservedly so.
King Kurt’s ‘Big Cock’ was released in 1986 and was unbelievably banned from WH Smith because of the title, even though the cover showed a picture of a rooster. How times have changed. The album contained some classic Kurt in ‘Billy’ and ‘Alcoholic Rat’ and is essential listening. They made the charts and appeared on Top of the Pops when psychobilly (although it can be argued that they don’t fall squarely into that hole) was considered the pimple on the (big) cock of music. It features extensive and excellent sleeve notes from psychobilly scholar Craig Brackenridge.
P. PAUL FENECH
(People Like You)
If it’s good to be bad is it bad to be good?
The Meteors frontman has come up with another stomping solo album to follow up the exceptional ‘F-Word’. There’s plenty of darkness and humour here. Tales of advice from long gone soldier mentors on how to fight mingle with Tex-Mex flavoured twang and echo drenched tales of the wild west and Fenech battle cries of telling the world to go fuck itself. PPF’s mastery of the guitar but is propelled by a double bass and additional female voices that interact well with the infamous Fenech rasp. “Hey Kids, don’t try this at home, it’s only a fuckin’ song after all”, well that’s the warning from the man himself, but you get the impression he’s daring you to try. Excellent stuff from the King of Psychobilly.
Rising up from the ashes.
You had to feel for Daniel, zombie-faced vocalist of The Rezurex. His band had come up with a super impressive album lauded by all who heard it and put up some super impressive shows that threatened to put them firmly on the top of the psychobilly pile. Fame and fortune should have followed, but instead his band were head hunted by the very luminaries of the scene that they had threatened to usurp. The band should have been finished but instead Daniel refused to let the Rezurex die and found another batch of top-notch musicians. The result is this album and it’s easily as good as the previous and does have a definite horror punk feel/psychobilly crossover feel.
Part of the Australian rock ‘n’ roll royalty that includes ACDC and the Angels, Angry Anderson and the Tatts’ first 2 albums are classics. But now, with 2 members dying last year, Angry singing like some heavy metal banshee and the blues, punk riffs of old long gone, this is a great disappointment. The bonus DVD just about makes up for it with some good live and TV stuff.
Eugene Big Cheese
THE TIM VERSION
DECLINE OF THE SOUTHERN GENTLEMAN
Tampa anthemic punks with whiskey fuelled, gruff third studio album.
The Tim Version have been tearing out awesome punk songs for years. With driving songs such as the belting opener ‘Shin Splints’ (complete with guitar solo!), the bouncing confessional of ‘Murder’ and the sing along of ‘W.H.A.’, as well as the dirty country punk of ‘Where the Wildmen Are’ and ‘Bitter Greens’, this album bursts with energy and tension. This is accentuated by Russ VanCleave’s incredibly raw vocals and honest lyrics about scrapes with the law and drinking. It’s nothing new but The Tim Version do this sound better than most. The Tim Version are raising the bar (or should that be drinking it dry?) for gruff punk.
THE TURNPIKE CRUISERS
ROCKIN’ POSSESSED 1984-1986
Lesser known psychos, but check ’em out.
Psychobilly crew The Turnpike Cruisers’ roots can be traced back to a bizarre but entertaining early ‘80s outfit called Zanti Misfitz from the Blackpool area. No less bizarre, but certainly more focussed, the Cruisers never really rose above the status of mid-afternoon slots at psychobilly all-dayers, but they always put on a great show and are fondly remembered by many psycho old-timers. This set rounds up three recording sessions from, you’ve guessed it, 1984 to 1986, at Park Lane Studios and Tin Pan Alley, and if you’ve never heard the Cruisers before, the eighteen tracks reveal a quirky, diverse, and, yes, always Rockin’ band. And their cover of ‘I Wanna Be Like You’ is a killer.
IN THE ARMS OF MY ENEMY
Militant folk-punk from the former Ads man.
An indefatigable graduate of UK punk’s class of ‘77, TV Smith continues to write and perform with the same spirit of poetic social consciousness that informed his work both with The Adverts and TV Smith’s Explorers. The occasionally shambolic punk clatter of the Ads has long since given way to a more acoustic approach and Teev’s latest sees him very much in folk-punk troubador mode. Railing against consumerism, pollution and capitalism’s other more noxious by-products, Smith’s songs still reveal an unabated yearning for social values, most poignantly here with the reflective I Wish I Could See Clearly and the title track, whose spag-west stylings conjure-up Leone-esque visions of do-or-die standoff.
20 TRACKS OF UK PUNK AND SKA
Oh yeah baby, 20 tracks of, well you know…
How can you not love an album that proclaims on the sleeve that it contains ‘Music by people who drink cider in the gutter’? Exactly, this rocks and does indeed contain 20 tracks of the genres described. This is one of those ‘help ourselves’ releases that embraces the true punk ethic and showcases a load of bands that don’t get a look in, but should. There isn’t a shit track on here but some stand-outs in the shape of The Hyperjax and Buzzkill amongst plenty of others. TNS stands for Thatsnotskanking, check them out on MySpace.
ASHES TO ASHES EP
Corking punk rock from Sacramento’s finest.
Sacramento based WELT have been knocking out top notch punk rock ’n’ roll since 1994. Bristol’s Cider City have come up trumps with this long-awaited follow up to 2001’s critically acclaimed ‘Brand New Dream’. Produced, engineered, and mixed by the dream team of Bill Stevenson (of Descendants/ALL/Black Flag fame) and Jason Livermore (Wretch Like Me), this EP really delivers the goods in the form of mid-paced melodic punk rock somewhere between latter day Social Distortion, Reno Divorce and Face to Face; chock full of pop hooks and even a hint of country. It’s as shame they’ve only come up with a 4-track EP though, as a full-blown LP would go down a treat.
THE FALLEN LEAVES
IT’S TOO LATE NOW
Nifty debut from the sartorially impeccable ‘Leaves.
Utilising their regular Parliament Club in west London as a centre of operations, Fallen Leaves employ a distinctly old-school punk tactic in creating one‘s own scene and building it up from there. It adds up then that ‘Leaves guitarist Rob Symmons was the original guitarist with first-wave brit-punks Subway Sect, and is now back from an over-extended sabbatical with his distinctive high-slung Telecaster technique gloriously intact. With fellow class of ‘77 cohort Rob Green on vocals, Fallen Leaves have turned in for their debut full-lengther a brace of tuneful, high-powered mod-pop bursts executed with a punky sense of economy and a straight-from-the-garage lack of fuss. While up tempo belters like All That You Chose bring to mind the powerhouse drive of the early Who, Seven Years or Days of Summer reveal an agreeably Kinks-y sense of tune-age.
THE TROPICS OF CANCER FEAT. SHE ROCOLA / LADY AND THE TRAMPS
UNDER THE COVERS / S/T
Old school sophistication at pre-war prices!
The vampish Ms Rocola has been prowling the capital‘s garage rock underground these past few years, bringing more than a touch of sultry sophistication to the party, whether fronting Joe Whitney‘s trash-exotica project The Tropics of Cancer or the swing-jazz ensemble Lady And The Tramps. The Tropics’ Under The Covers, as the title suggests, throws together originals like the bewitching Sylvia’s Gate with class takes on such classics as Cry Me A River, plus a take on The Buzzcocks’ Get On Our Own that’s pure Wicker Man in execution. Lady And The Tramps meanwhile take a stricter jazz path, shaking up a batch of retro-faves from Weill and Brecht’s Mack The Knife to the GI-jive of the Andrews Sisters’ Rum And Coca Cola. Book ‘em for your next party, and make mine a Cuba Libra.
With over 30 years of punk celebrated on this stunning documentary, ‘Punk’s Not Dead’ takes you into the sweaty underground clubs, backyard parties, recording studios, and yes, the shopping malls and stadium shows where punk rock music and culture continue to thrive. This incredible Susan Dynner film features Bad Religion, Buzzcocks, Good Charlotte, Sham 69, Green Day, The Business, Billy Idol, My Chemical Romance, NOFX, The Offspring, The Ramones, The Adicts, Henry Rollins, The Sex Pistols, Sum 41 and many more for an in-depth and fascinating look at a genre, past and present.
To be in with a chance of winning this great prize, just answer this easy question:
Q: Which UK punk group had a song called ‘Punk’s Not Dead’?
Send your answer, name and address to firstname.lastname@example.org
Vienna, host to this year’s Spring Rebellion festival, and the venue ‘The Arena’ is as punk rock as it gets. Formally an abattoir and used for the horror film ‘Hostel’, the old rundown slaughter house was a prefect setting for the two day festival, with over 50 bands including Ska legend Neville Staple from the Specials and American punk rockers the Dwarves.
The sun was shining and the day had only just begun, and by noon punk rockers were itching to enter the doors of the Arena. The first outstanding band of the day was GOLDBLADE (4/5), with catchy, sing along choruses and a unique rock and roll rhythm, Goldblade performed a blinding set, with the audience singing every word to ‘Psycho’ people couldn’t help but dance, giving an opening show to the festival punters.
However the street Dutch Oi! band DISCIPLINE (4/5) wrecked the stage as they followed on with an aggressive and fast performance, with heavy thrashy guitars and powerful shouting vocals, the show just seemed to get better.
Discipline tear it up at Vienna Rebellion
On the other hand a quite rigid set from PETER AND THE TEST TUBE BABIES (2/5) with not much charisma on stage, the excitement died down a bit, and the smoke machine wouldn’t stop smothering the drummer! However the boys classics such as ‘Banned from the Pubs’ and ‘Student Wankers’ were definitely the tunes their fans paid to see.
Ska Legend NEVILLE STAPLE (5/5) bopped on stage full of energy, with the crowd cheering him on performing classics such as ‘Monkey Man’, ‘Too Much Too Young’ and ‘Ghost Town’. Staple had no problems pleasing the crowd as he non-stopped skanked through the strewn hay pit, boots were getting muddy but no frowns were to be seen.
However, it was Saturday night headliners, also known as the godfathers of Oi!, COCK SPARRER (5/5) that made the festival come alive. The 1970s reclaimed Oi! legends delivered a set of pure raw rock and roll, combining with thumping working class anthems, and sing along lyrics. Soaring their way through infamous classics such as ‘Riot Squad’, ‘Working’ and ‘Watch Your Back’, Sparrer also threw in their new sound from current album ‘Here we Stand’, performing ‘Gotta Get Out’. The boys gave a classic ending with ‘England Belongs To Me’ giving a true sing-a-long vibe to the show, giving the old boys a thumbs up from me.
With the festival coming to a close, another day dawned of punk rocking in the tranquil city of Vienna. The first big act of the day was London’s SONIC BOOM SIX (4/5). The ska punk rock sensation produced a sing a long set with ‘Piggy in the Middle’ and ‘Monkey See, Monkey Do’. However, with them being on so early, Sonic Boom Six didn’t get the crowd they deserved.
Austrian punk rockers SKEPTIC ELEPTIC (3/5) got the crowd going with a cover of Blondie’s ‘Call Me’. Climbing on the stage’s scaffolding, this band definitely knows how to entertain a crowd.
Watford’s Oi! boys ARGY BARGY (5/5) made a groundbreaking performance with fast shouting Oi! rhythms and a distinct sharp edge of street class punk. Delivering a set of their original Oi! anthems, Argy Bargy also gave the crowd of Vienna a taste of their new album with two tracks ‘There’s Gonna Be A Riot” and “No Regrets”. Receiving a brilliant response the show only got better as lead guitarist Mickey Beaufoy from Cock Sparrer joined on stage for the performance of ‘Argy Bargy’.
American long-haired thrash punk rockers MDC (3/5) had no problem entertaining the crowd at this year’s festival, with crazy head banging and soaring through heavy guitar riffs, blasting the Oi! fans away.
However the closing headlining act of Spring’s Rebellion Festival 2008, didn’t exactly go off with a bang. The American punk rockers THE DWARVES (1/5) didn’t exactly hold a crowd, and even the crazy antics of the guitarist being naked with a thong did not help. With a bad sound and a half empty crowd, the closing of Rebellion’s Spring festival came to an anti-climatic end. The weekend belonged to Cock Sparrer, Neville Staple and Argy Bargy.
Former Adverts mainman TV SMITH, the hardest gigging man in punk rock showbiz, has just released his new ‘solo’ album ‘In The Arms Of My Enemy’. TV kindly found time while (inevitably) on tour to respond to Vive Le Punk’s questions.
VLP: Just in general terms, how would you compare ‘In The Arms Of My Enemy’ with ‘Misinformation Overload’?
“I think they both share a very strong selection of songs but have quite a different approach musically. ‘Arms’ is less reliant on electric rock guitar. On ‘Misinformation’ I played all the guitars myself, and it was a fairly straightforward rock sound, but on the new album I wanted to broaden the musical spectrum and integrate some more interesting instruments while still keeping the power and energy of the last album.
VLP: Haven’t you made a rod for your own back here? Just in terms of your prolific work as a solo performer, how on earth are you going to recreate some of those cross-current guitar lines on stage, or will you have to simplify them for performance? I’m presuming a lot of the lead lines are played by Tim Renwick (I have to say, stuff like ‘Open Up Your Heart’ (especially), ‘My Trojan Horse’ and ‘In The Arms Of My Enemy’ reminds me of Jimmy Wilsey’s work with Chris Isaak. There’s a definite country influence too. That should shock the punk nostalgics!
“Basically I don’t try and recreate my albums on stage. In fact it’s the other way round: I write the songs on acoustic guitar, then go out and road test them at gigs solo. By the time I come to record the songs I have a good idea of the way I want them to sound and I try and aim for that. I like having a full band on the records because I think you get more out of repeated listenings that way, whereas a solo record is not something I’d personally listen to very often. Luckily over the years I’ve built up a collection of musicians and friends who I can call on when I want to make a record, depending on the sound I’m after – people like Tim Renwick who I know understands my songs and can put them across with his playing. The guy is a genius and I think he’s played some of his best ever guitar on this album.”
VLP: I noticed the unmistakable aroma of self-doubt on ‘I Wish I Could See Clearly’. I’ve always thought one of your songwriting strengths, going back through Adverts days and beyond, was in your ability to express confusion as much as certainty. You’re no stranger to phrasing a line of a lyric as an interrogative, are you?
“Well, if you’re going to be honest in your lyrics you have to take on board the fact that you basically don’t know what the fuck is going on. Anything else is just arrogance or self-deception.”
TV Smith in the Adverts days
VLP: Okay, other themes. ‘Get It Now’ – defiant, dance while your knees will still support you kind of thing – the album’s most optimistic song and a very different take on ‘consumption’ to that expressed in, say, ‘Clone Town’.
“Yeah, I’ve writtten a few songs around this theme and I have to keep coming back to it to make slight adjustments. I think this one fits in with songs like ‘The Future Used To Be Better’ from ‘Not A Bad Day’ and The Adverts’ ‘We Who Wait’, among others. The idea of the song is: consumerism as a lifestyle is clearly destructive, but you have to remember to enjoy your own life while you have it. Most people want more all the time and forget to enjoy what they already have, so they wouldn’t actually be capable of appreciating ‘more’ if they had it. I often find myself coming back to the same subjects when I’m writing songs. It’s a bit like hammering down a plank – you get to one end and find the first nails have popped up so you have to go back and have another swing at them.”
VLP: ‘It’s Warming Up’ – it’s about that old Egyptian river de nile ain’t it? Was very pleased you just stuck to the line of taking the piss and not sneaking in some silly homily at the end.
“Heh heh! I just decided, for a joke, to make a blatant statement that I didn’t actually believe myself: that mankind isn’t responsible for global warming. There have been a few theories like that going around, and when one of them gets made public you can almost hear the collective sigh of relief – back in the gas guzzler, no need to bother with any more recycling! Life would be so much easier if we didn’t have to be responsible so if someone tells us we’re not responsible we’re desperate to believe them.
VLP: ‘Backstage Bob’ – so how many of these phrases were genuine quotations? Because you’re a very warm performer, I would guess people see you as approachable offstage. But it sounds like you feel uncomfortable with unadulterated flattery as well as the falseness of the whole ‘backstage’ premise.
“This might shock you, but ‘Backstage Bob’ is actually totally sincere. It’s about a fan who was a great friend and willing to help me out at gigs, give me lifts in his car, even researched publishers for my ‘Tour Diaries’ book because I didn’t have time and would probably have never got round to doing it. He never wanted any thanks for it, he just said it was the least he could do to repay me for what my music gave him. When he died from a brain tumour a little over a year ago I decided to write a song for him. The only irony in it is that he would never have tried to “get backstage” – he just wasn’t that kind of pushy type of person – and his name wasn’t really Bob.”
VLP: Have you ever written a more musically complex song than ‘In The Arms Of My Enemy’? Some observations, which may of course be hugely wide of the mark – the lyric here reminded me of Justin’s early New Model Army work (he was very good at painting pictures of the slow death/suffocation of the individual), but also, to an extent, Mike Scott of the Waterboys (probably cos you’ve got all epic, like). I do think it works terrifically well though. I presume you do as well, hence making it the album’s title.
“I often get compared with Justin and Mike, I think it’s fair to say we’re fellow travellers. As for ‘most complicated song’, I think ‘I Looked At The Sun’ on the Adverts second album, and some of those Explorers songs must be in the running! The structure of ‘Arms’ isn’t all that complex but the arrangement and musicianship on it is, and the lyrics are pretty devious. It’s nice every now and then to stretch out a bit and not feel you have to get a song over with in three minutes.
VLP: And your voice sounds uncannily like Vi Subversa’s on ‘Open Up Your Heart’, strangely enough.
VLP: Are you, in terms of spirit and intent, the trojan horse of the title of the last track – is this what you do, effectively?
“Yes. Obviously when you’re over fifty years old and still out there playing music with no particular mass appreciation of what you do there’s a certain feeling that you’re slipping your ideas into the culture undercover. Over the last few years I’ve been getting more and more people to gigs and selling more records than ever before but it’s purely through word-of-mouth – there’s no media push, no big business backing. Another reason that Trojan Horse is important to me is that it’s a song I originally wrote and recorded with Tim Cross and Tim Renwick as a demo in the mid-‘80s, at a time when no one was interested in what I was doing and I’d pretty much slipped off the musical map, kicked out of the music business by the charlatans who run it. I always thought, one day I’ll get this song our there and people will hear it…and now, my audience has found me again and it’s the right time. To me, that song is a symbol of survival.
‘In the Arms of My Enemy’ is out now on Boss Tuneage.
BORN A ROCKER, DIE A ROCKER
The undeniable godfather of British punk, Charlie Harper and his UK SUBS have set the benchmark for every home grown band that’s followed in their wake…
"We were playing the sold out Rainbow theatre, five thousand people there and we nicked this ladder and had it up to the dressing room, getting everyone in for free" says Charlie Harper, man of the people, punk rock legend and singer for the UK Subs for the last twenty nine years. We are in a Holloway Road pub talking to the man who is widely regarded as the grandfather of punk rock. A man who has played in nearly every country around the world, to literally hundreds of thousands of fans. He’s had his songs covered by Guns N’Roses and shortly after our interview will head off on tour to Russia to play a festival with Kiss! And the great fact about all this is that when I saw the band recently Charlie and the Subs played with more fire than most kids half his age (he’s sixty two!). From his early days in pub rock bands in London in the ’70s with people like Thin Lizzy’s Scott Gorham, Charlie has remained one of the most approachable, genuine and friendly guys on the scene. So just how did he get started?
"I wasn’t just playing what’s called punk rock, one year I was in five different bands. I was in a band with horns, I was also in a kind of Irish folk band. I love it all, there’s just good music and bad music, that’s all there is. I love ’50s stuff, there’s a great ’50s revival right now."
VLP: So how did you get into punk? The Subs were pretty much right there at the start.
CH: "It was a complete accident, really. My heroes at the time were people like Wilko Johnson and Doctor Feelgood, but no one really coined the word punk in those days. I was a big Wilko Johnson fan. He’d break a string and get a string pack out of his top pocket of his old mohair suit while he was still playing and singing and change the string while he was still playing and singing. And then there was the Kursaal Flyers and the bass player just kinda stood there staring at someone in the crowd like they were a real oddity. And then suddenly you’ve got the Sex Pistols and word went round ‘Have you seen this band?’ They kinda dressed really stupid, ’cause you know we used to go down to the Old Piccadilly Market and buy suits for fifty pence and put a couple of safety pins in the lapel, otherwise the suit was solid you know. And the Sex Pistols used to go for real sassy ten pence suits. They were the kind of characters which we don’t get now, there’s no real characters in bands."
UK Subs – classic second line-up
VLP: Today punk seems a bit faceless with kids doing it for a career almost…
CH: "I really try and encourage any kid I see with a bit of talent and say, ‘I’ve had a great life, I’ve toured just about every country in the world’, but to make a great band there’s got to be some great characteristics about the band and when The Clash came out for instance, they didn’t know a lot about politics, but the people around them were giving them all these ideas about the political situation and everything. So the young ‘uns have got to wake up – maybe they haven’t got it as hard as we had it.
When we played the Rainbow theatre, we had good line-up, and the place was full up, but in those days it was a strange kind of business music. We were pop stars, rock stars and we were poor as hell at the time. After that show I stayed at this party at a pub and next morning I had to get my ass up to Brent Cross and start hitching to Manchester while on a sold-out tour!"
VLP: You have had a lot of success, and music’s kind of taken you all over the world…
CH: "Yeah, there’s always ups and downs in every kind of career, life, whatever, but I wouldn’t change it for the world-it’s been brilliant. Yeah, we continue to go round the world and looking back it’s all worth it. We played a really big show in Poland, when no one had ever been there before. That’s when it was closed. I think we were invited because the government said if we didn’t go there’d be a revolution or a civil war! They listened to all our songs, but they didn’t really want us to play ‘Warhead’ -they thought that was too rebel rousing. We weren’t allowed to wear our solidarity shirts, but when we went on stage our drummer kind of snuck one on cause these were huge gigs with ten or twenty thousand people .It caused a few arguments because it was a kind of dangerous situation. Our drummer Kim Wylie insisted on wearing one. He lives in France now in a big farmhouse with a few acres and at the end of his drive he has a bit of old rotted bark nailed to a tree, and it’s got carved in it ‘Punk Cottage’. Born a rocker, die a rocker!"
VLP: So who is the most punk rock person you’ve ever met?
CH: "Well I’ve always said Wattie (singer from The Exploited) because they just took it a stage further than the Sex Pistols, the next batch was meaner and that’s what happened to punk. You’ve got bands like Discharge and Broken Bones with Terry Bones-far more dangerous people, and it went on and on from there."
VLP: Green Day, My Chemical Romance- its all termed punk but kind of different- what do you think of punk now?
CH: "I think it’s good you know ’cause you can’t go along the same old cranked up guitar level. I love it. I think punk is like a wild animal, you know stripped down-music stripped to the bone. I look at it like a tame domestic cat to a wild cat- and that’s punk rock. And the wild cat is far more beautiful cause it’s just stripped down, basic."
VLP: Have you ever played the Warped Tour in America?
CH: "Oh no, that’s commercial shit. Horrible commercial shit, probably sponsored by McDonalds and KFC. MTV for sure. That’s the music business that’s above us, and what we hate, but we are going on a big American tour with the Misfits and the Adicts soon. We’re very excited about it-this will be the biggest thing we’ve done since we went on tour in Europe with the Ramones."
VLP: So you’ve done thirty five US tours and this will be the last?
CH: "No, no. A couple of years ago I said that’s it, we’re finished, but then someone comes up with a good idea. We’ve been going over there every year since ’79 and we said we just wouldn’t go anymore. Then someone offered this Misfits, Adicts and Subs tour… It’s gonna be a great tour."
VLP: Any chance of you slowing down?
CH: "No not this year, and next year is the thirtieth anniversary of the UK Subs and we wanna do an album and a tour. If it all dies down after that we don’t care. You know I’ve gotta slow down a little bit."
VLP: How many gigs a year do you do?
CH: "I wear out a few wheelchairs, I’ll tell you that! We’re a band, we love gigging. It’s the most simple thing to us to be performing, whether its two to three hundred or a thousand. We’re always looking for ways to make our music more exciting. In our attitude towards music, it’s got to be exciting."
VLP: You’ve taken quite a few people under your wing in the band…
CH: "There’s a film coming out called ‘Punk’s Not Dead’-it’s about history through punk and there’s Alan and Ryan from the Subs in it and they’re counting who was in the UK Subs – ‘Oh after Nicky, Captain Scarlet, and that guy who died but he didn’t really die,’ and they come back and read off another ten people. It’s a really funny bit. Lars from Rancid is doing well and he was with us for a while too."
VLP: What does punk mean to you these days?
CH: "They always said if you want a job done proper do it yourself, and the whole DIY idea I love. We’re kind of doing our records ourselves now with Jett, our guitarist, and his tiny little record label-so it’s all gonna be like DIY-isn’t that what punk music’s all about. Forget the middle man, the middle man just runs off with all the money."
And with that Charlie is off down Holloway Road. There are more gigs to play and more fans to meet and you just know that as long as there’s a good band on he will be there, checking them out. Because punk’s in Charlie’s blood.
‘Warhead’ is out now on Jet13.
The UK Subs play this year’s Rebellion festival.
Eugene Big Cheese
UK SUBS FACTS
Formed 1977 in London.
‘Crash Course’ was their biggest selling album reaching No 8 in U.K charts.
Seven singles made the UK Charts, with ‘Stranglehold’ having the highest position at 26 (1979).
Charlie Harper was born David Charles Perez on April 25th 1944
Prior to forming the UK Subs, Harper was in five other bands, including R&B band The Marauders.
Two punk legends in their own right explain what Charlie’s contribution to punk means to them…
"The first record of an English punk band I ever heard was the UK Subs’
‘Another Kind Of Blues’. Little did I know that, at the age of nineteen, years later I would be playing guitar right beside one of my all time heroes Charlie Harper.
Charlie is one of the most humble people you can ever come across. He is the first guy at the party to greet you and normally the last one to leave. We have stumbled home many a late night together so I know this from my own experience. I’ve learned so much from him over the years and I hold him in high regard. I feel that he has helped me become the man that I am today – don’t know if that’s saying much! He is more of a father to me than anyone has been in my life, to the point where people have stopped us in the street and asked if he was me dad…Is there something I should know Charlie? You lived in Campbell in the early ’70s…
For that I will always love and respect him. His voice is unique and parallel to none. He has a style that has been often imitated, but never duplicated. In my opinion, his stage presence has made him the most exciting singer to watch in all of punk rock, much less in all of rock ‘n’ roll. I don’t know anyone who can do it with such consistency and still keep the audience at the edge of their seats night after night after night. He’s the Dean Martin of punk, only better.
For those of us who have been graced by his presence, you will know they don’t make ’em like that anymore, but that’s fine. I’m sure we wouldn’t want it any other way. Because there’s only one Charlie Harper!"
RANCID’s Lars Frederiksen
"Charlie Harper is a living legend who defined the punk experience. He was one of the first guys to put the audience on an equal footing and reject the stardust approach of being aloft and removed. He gets down there in the mosh pit and shares in the blood, sweat and cheers of Joe Public. That is the way to do it. If there is anyone from the old school I’d model myself after, then it would be Charlie Harper."
THE MASONS’/Former BUSINESS guitarist Steve Whale
Four singles and an album. That’s all it took for THE SEX PISTOLS to become the most infamous punk band of all-time. Vive Le Punk takes a closer look at those defining moments in the Pistols story.
‘ANARCHY IN THE UK’
The Sex Pistols’ debut single was released in November 1976 on EMI and was a clarion call all for a generation. It was actually the second proper punk single to get released (a week later than The Damned classic ‘New Rose’) but that didn’t lessen its impact one iota. From Rotten’s manic cackle over the intro and Steve Jones’ huge guitar sound, ‘Anarchy’ sounded like no record ever before. Sure, there were touches of The Who or the New York Dolls in its raunch but this was another level.
Lyrically it was spot on. It was a mangle of ‘70s political confusion, with the singer looking for total personal freedom, “I wanna be anarchy” he sneered in the songs white heat meltdown. Few debut singles have ever been this good or had this much impact. Within a few weeks the band had been banned from most venues on their tour, record label EMI dumped them in a total panic and they lost a member when in February 1977 Glen Matlock was out of the band. Matlock was replaced by Rotten’s mate Sid Vicious, who couldn’t play bass but was the ultimate rock ‘n’ roll icon. After ‘Anarchy’ things were never going to be the same again. The Pistols’ Steve Jones has always maintained that after Bill Grundy they stopped being a band and became a freak show- he’s right of course but for one brief year it was the best ‘freak show’ in the history of rock ‘n’ roll.
‘GOD SAVE THE QUEEN’
For many this is the best ever single in pop history. It ticks every single box – fiercely exciting, brilliant production, a neat line in psychosis and a brilliant tune to boot. Add to this a great guitar sound and raw power and what else do you need? On a new label, Virgin, the band were stoking the fires of controversy releasing this anti-royal diatribe and nihilistic take on the rubbish state of Britain one week before the Queen’s silver jubilee. Whilst most people in the UK had tatty street parties and celebrated the rubbish German family that get away with sitting on top of the pile there were many dissenters. The Pistols was the rallying call for all those that didn’t agree with the decadence of the royals and they gleefully sent it to number one.
A psychotic rush of sound with some of the greatest guitar riffs ever, the Sex Pistols were firing on all cylinders for this single, which is a concise and deadly explosion. It’s hard to think of another number one that sounded so dangerous. Hardly any rock music sounds this powerful and intense. The record was kept at number 2 by the terrified authorities whilst everyone else knew that by far it was the number one selling record. A perfect pop moment.
The closest the Sex Pistols came to pure pop was the anthemic ‘Pretty Vacant’. With words and lyrics by the ousted Glen Matlock it intros with that fantastic guitar arpeggio – the one that everyone learns on their guitars and then crashes into a deceptively simple four chord churning verse half-inched bizarrely off Abba’s ‘Knowing Me Knowing You’. The chorus is sublime. It’s a classic football terrace sing-along. ‘Pretty Vacant’ may not have been as immense as ‘God Save The Queen’ but it was still a delicious, nihilistic anthem for a generation fed up with crap Britain.
‘NEVER MIND THE BOLLOCKS… HERE’S THE SEX PISTOLS’
The best album title of all time was coined by guitarist Steve Jones as a joke. It was the perfect title for the autumn 1977 album from the band who, by now, were dangerously surrounded by the bollocks of the media and the states attempts to crush them. The album was greeted with mixed reviews on release as the notoriously snooty music press was trying to push the band aside, but the record, which they had spent the summer working on, was a fantastically executed work. Again Jones’ guitars (and bass – as Sid was not very busy on the sessions) and Paul Cook’s great drums provided a perfect platform for Rotten’s sneering vocals). There’s a terror and neurosis in his singing that no-one has got close to since. The Sex Pistols were not a direct political band – this was the sound of a supremely intelligent, sharp individual with a chaotic and terrifying imagination. The songs are powerful, personal tirades and they were easily identified with that particularity weird and wonderful generation of psychotic mid-‘70s youth. Never has pop music sounded this vital and dangerous.
‘HOLIDAYS IN THE SUN’
Weeks after the album came the Sex Pistols’ proper last single. Yeah, we all know about the later cash-in albums but they are the work of a different band. Quite literally as they had already imploded by early ‘78 and the Pistols existed in name only for the next album, ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle’ – a footnote to manager Malcolm Maclaren’s situationist showbiz theories. There were to be great moments after ‘Holidays’ but this was the real Sex Pistols in action for one last time. The fourth and last single release came in the autumn of 1977. Ostensibly a ranting jackboot stomp about a trip to Berlin that year it could also be about the traps of the band’s image and reputation that Rotten felt especially after getting slashed by royalist thugs that summer. This is the singer at his most paranoiac and the ad-libbed “looking over the Berlin wall” vocal at the end is almost terrifying – and bizarre for a top ten hit. The song is many people’s favourite Pistols song from the mighty intro to the song’s chanting, churning psychodrama. Forget all the bullshit, the Sex Pistols were a genius rock ‘n’ roll band. Few bands have ever matched them for their intensity or had their influence.
The Sex Pistols have oddly become a classic British band sitting alongside the Beatles, Pink Floyd and the Stones – the very groups they set out to destroy. History still can’t make its mind up about them, the mythology sometimes drowns up the truth – people will still tell you that the band had no talent and couldn’t play but listen to ‘…Bollocks’ and you are listening to one of the best hard rock albums aver made – a powerful mix of guitar action with one of the greats vocalists of all time.
They existed for two short years but they packed more incident and controversy into that time than every other band does in a whole career. Luckily they could back it up with their music.
For the story of the Sex Pistols from 1975-1978, check out the Vive Le Punk mini-mag that’s free with the new issue of Big Cheese! (out July 24th)
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