ONCE JOE Strummer saw the Sex Pistols he quit pub rock and r’n’b and formed The Clash. When Charlie Harper saw the Damned he did the same thing.
This was the mid 1970s, when stadium rock was far removed and aloof from the audience and glam rock was fizzling out. It was time to go ‘back to basics’ and make music by the people for the people - punk was the result.
Harper, like Strummer, was part of the London r’n’b/pub rock scene out of which British punk, in part, grew. He gathered together guitarist Nicky Garratt, bassist Paul Slack, and various drummers, under the name UK Subversives, later shortened to UK Subs.
Early gigs - including one recorded at the infamous punk club the Roxy in Covent Garden - led to several John Peel sessions in 1977 and 1978, and a recording contract with GEM, which released their classic debut, 1979’s Another Kind Of Blues.
The Subs are regarded as one of the first street punk bands - a more working class genre of the music that is harder, faster, and angrier, with lyrics reflecting life on the streets. Image wise it involved multi-coloured hair, mohawks, spike-encrusted leather vests, and clothing with political slogans. The UK Subs were prime examples of this.
The band’s style combined punk with the rock’n’roll edge of the pub rock scene and was heard to good effect on the singles ‘Stranglehold’, ‘Warhead’, ‘Teenage’, and ‘Tomorrow’s Girls’.
By the early 1980s, punk seemed dead and the Subs embraced heavy metal elements. In July 1982, they became the first Western band to perform in Poland following the imposition of martial law, and the suppression of the Solidarity trade union.
Over the years the band’s line-up has consistently changed, but Harper has remained a constant member and the group continues to record and tour to a devoted cult audience. Their songs have been covered by Guns’n’Roses (‘Down On The Farm’ ) while ‘Warhead’ is featured in Shane Meadows’ film This Is England.
The UK Subs play the Róisín Dubh on Monday July 25 at 9pm. Support s from Monica & The Explosions, Excuses, Rural Savage, and Galway pop-punk band Stick Around. Tickets are available from the Róisín Dubh and www.roisindubh.net