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UK Subs - Charlie's Dead : History Part 3

  by Matthew Clarkson

published: 13 / 1 / 2002

UK Subs - Charlie's Dead : History Part 3


Yet another line-up change followed, including the re-emergence of yet another ex-Sub, Steve Roberts, who features alongside a plethora of guitarists (Three!!) and the bassist Flea on 'Japan Today' (F

Yet another line-up change followed, including the re-emergence of yet another ex-Sub, Steve Roberts, who features alongside a plethora of guitarists (Three!!) and the bassist Flea on 'Japan Today' (Fallout /Jungle), the group's most commonly used label in the 80s and 90s,1987). I don't actually possess this album, but with track names like 'Hey!Santa' and 'Punk Rap' is it really that surprising. Sorry Charlie, no disrespect, but this one is definitely not on my Christmas list. Also I'm not into surfing or skating which seems to be a major lyrical focus here. One hidden gem,I've heard elsewhere, is on this album, 'Another Cuba', so maybe it's not altogether bad. Something I wouldn't mind receiving from Santa Harper is their 1988 release on New Red Archives 'Killing Time'. I6 tracks recorded in New York by an almos fully reformed Subs of the classic early 80s period has to be worth repeated listening. Harper, Garratt and Gibbs, whowas on time out from touring with Iggy Pop at the time, alongside new boy Belvy K feature.Further details of this reunion album and the circumstances surrounding it are available at the UK Subs website. Sadly from here the Subs lapsed into a period where their recording output can best be described as desperate, and it looked to some particularly critical rock journalists that the curtain might be finally lowering on the Subs stage act. I remember NME/Melody Maker being especially harsh in their reviews, but then again an even cursory reading of these papers, reveals a general dislike of anything 'dated' and not trendy. Nonetheless I feel some level of agreement with 'The Guinness Who's Who's of Indie and New Wave Music'(predecessor of the current Virgin tome) which stated that 1990s 'Mad Cow Fever' (Fallout/Jungle)great title aside "features an even mixture of rock 'n' roll standards and originals, but lacks the drive and spontaneity of old." A depressing time to be a Subs fan, indeed. No offence Subs, but including 4 covers 'Pills', 'Route 66', 'Roadhouse Blues' and 'Baby Please Don't Go amongst a total of a dozen or so total tracks, is a sign of treading water. The previous year's predictable live recording (bringing the total number of releases of this nature to 3 out of the previous 7) 'Live in Paris' (Released Emotions) gives advance warning of this worrying trend, with the end of the set being made up of non-original material, including a couple of 'Doors' tracks. Surprisingly, however, it was around this time ('91) that the guitarist Lars Frederiksen (now of 'Rancid' fame) joined the band for a 30 day UK day. I'm not quite sure this constitutes Epitaph (Rancid's label) claims that Frederiksen was an ex-UK Sub. Fine guitarist, but I feel 30 days is hardly a deep and meaningful input. Still this could serve to attract more people to the ranks of Subs fans. Yet with the appearance of 'Normal Service Resumed' (1993/Fallout?Jungle) Charlie revealed that there was life in the old war-horse yet. With an almost entirely new band, consisting of Alan Campbell (who had joined the band in 92) on guitar, Pete Davies on drums and the bassist Brian Barnes in addition to that Punk stalwart Charlie Harper, the Subs descend once more into the savage fray of the rock 'n' roll world. In fact Davies had also featured as sticksman on 1985s 'Gross Out USA' This album is most certainly a return to form (all 17 tracks of it), and I feel I can say it is one of their best since 'Endangered Species' way back in '81. Several tracks stand out, and with better than average lyrical content too. These include 'Mohawk Radio' 'Jodie Foster' and the slower, almost ballad like (to start with at least), but surprisingly haunting 'Lydia'. My personal favourites, however, are 'Brixton' and 'Squat the World', both which show heavy reggae influences, amidst thundering guitar. Add these to an excellent cover of 'Die Toten Hosen's 'Here Comes Alex' and a reworking of 'Down on the Farm' (an Axl Rose cash-in perhaps, well why not), and a free live album 'Live in Croatia 1993' (at least with the first 5,000 copies, possibly still a few of these about), and I'd say you've got value for money. Good work, gave me my faith back in Planet Subs. Despite being fairly ropely recorded (sounds like it's been recorded in a toilet) and having some dire crowd chat 'Say hello 101Radio', the live stuff gives a fair impression of the sheer speed and power the band give off in concert these days. of particular note is that 'Telephone numbers', always a short song, is reduced to a searing 40 or so seconds. As a side note Charlie sounds a lot more English on this, rather than somewhat Trans- Atlantic as he is on the studio material. Furthermore the sleeve also relates a fascinating history of the groups trip to Zagreb in war-torn Yugoslavia, which is also currently available to read at the UK Subs website. And, remember this album comes free, so no complaints there. I saw the band at Cas Rock Cafe, Edinburgh, a number of times around this period, both before and after the album's release, and can testify, that dangerous bouncers, aside they just got better and better. A video was supposedly made of one of these shows (1993/4) but I've never seen any sign of it, I'd be very pleased to hear from anyone with any further information on this. Another thing I feel greatly adds to Subs shows, is that at these,possibly more than concerts by other Punk bands, one can find something of a sense of community. The more you go, the more you realise that quite a lot of the audience is the same as last time. I got to know quite a few interesting, unusual and extremely friendly people at these gigs. I emember being somewherenear the bottom of a mass pile-up on the dance floor, and those dancing but not involved stopped moshing, to make sure that everyone was all right and helped those near the bottom back on their feet. Can't see much evidence of this kind of spirit at raves, somehow. Since that time a number of albums have been released, none of which I possess I'm afraid, been in Eastern Europe too long. But for the inquisitive here's what I know about them. 1996s 'Occupied' (Fallout/Jungle) was recorded with no change in line-up, and I imagine contains similar material to that of 3 years earlier. In other words probably worth a look, if you can track it down. I appreciate some of the titles, though such as 'God Bless Amerikka', 'Nazi C**ts' (subtle as the 'Dead Kennedy's' 'Nazi Punks F**** O**' I imagine) and the ominous sounding 'The Great Northern Disaster'. The letter 'P' is represented by the retrospective 'Peel Sessions', originally recorded for the British DJ, supportive of modern and unknown bands, John Peel in 1978/9. Great stuff I'm sure, but as with many Peel Session albums, the majority of tracks are probably better represented elsewhere. For collectors only. 1997 saw a flurry of activity with two entire albums of new material being released. Once again there has been a line-up change, with Harper as the only surviving member. Fans, however, appear to be in for a most pleasing treat, with the reappearance of a guitarist and bassist who have done so much to shape the history of the group, Nicky Garratt and Alvin Gibbs. The drum seat was occupied by Dave Ayer. Neither 'Quintessentials' nor 'Riot' were put out on Fallout, instead the former appears courtesy of New Red Archives, and the latter on Cleopatra. Track titles include 'Dunblane' a tribute to the appalling Dunblane massacre of more than a dozen young school children by a gunman in Scotland, in 1996, and 'Squat 96' (possibly a re-working of the superb 'Squat the World', yet to hear this). Despite this apparent change in band members, the Subs website mentions the stability of the line-up and that Alan Campbell, who joined in 1992, is still on guitar. It would be interesting to have further clarification of this situation, especially when one considers the make-up of the current touring group. The most recent Subs album to appear on the market is the compilation 'Sub Mission' (1999/Jgle/Fallout). Intelligently Harper et al have decided that the world can do without yet another mix of the early commercially successful material. Several are in existence already. Instead the focus is on the albums and singles put out between 1982 and 1998 ( or the letters F to R, take your pick). Sounds like a trip to the shops might just be in order. To coincide with the release a world tour is in progress. Sadly the majority of the British and European dates, have been and gone, and I've missed them once again. Still there's always the next time, as the saying goes 'UK Subs on Tour Forever' (or at least until Charlie loses his false teeth..). For those of you on the other side of the Atlantic your in luck, as the band are part of 'The Social Chaos Punk Package Tour', and what's more as of July 16th have announced a new stunning membership Charlie, of course, with Gary Baldy on drums, as well as theirrepressible Garratt and Gibbs. Wish I could find someone to pay for a flight to the States, maybe next life. Another great advantage of going to see the Subs springs to mind, the cost, stunningly low, for a band who were once one of the biggest names in Punk, and still valiantly march on. When I've seen them prices have ranged between £3.50 and £4.00 (about $6.00 or so) and there have usually beenat least two support acts. T-shirts are also available to those of us with limited expenses, though be warned, both the ones I got were stolen, one in a Hull (city in Northern England, and as anyone who knows me reminds me, the 12th biggest one in the country) laundrette and the other somewhere in Poland. Just shows the Subs have fans in strange places, I just wish they weren't T-shirt nicking ones. Anyway one of the had big holes in it, so if you're out there thief, you won't get much use out of it, before it falls to bits. That'll teach you. Well here's to another twenty years of recording and touring to those bastions of the Punk Rock world.

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UK Subs - Charlie's Dead : History Part 3

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Charlie's Dead : History Part 2 (2002)
UK Subs - Charlie's Dead : History Part 2
'The Brand New Age' as the 1980s were called in their first release of the decade was a time of mixed fortunes for the Subs. The early years of the eighties saw a continuation of their earlier succ

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