In which Dave reveals much hitherto unknown historical information regarding the early development of the Marauders and their transformation into the U.K. Subs...
(Tooting Flyer, early to mid 80s!)
"It was around this time I let Harper cut and dye my hair for the first and only time..."
Interview by Mark Chadderton
Dave Dudley got in touch with Time & Matter website in April 2010 after seeing information had been put on here concerning his involvement with Charlie’s solo singles, and his Stolen Property LP.
Beyond the fact that I knew he was a musical mate of Charlie Harper’s back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and that he had played some guitar on the aforementioned releases, I have to confess that I knew little about Dave aside from that he now plays in a band called Crush UK, and Charlie had nicknamed him 'Dirty' Dave Dudley!
Therefore the following information that Dave gave us in our chat, about those early days of the Subs and Charlie’s subsequent side projects was… err… magical music to our ears, especially as it included all those finer details that are so rare to unearth after such a long passage of time…
We kicked off by asking Dave to give us some background information on himself.
“OK, I am David Cameron Dudley, or Dave Dudley as you have it in a few of your articles and bits. I played the old six string devil and keys on and off with Harper in the 70s and 80s, and I am now playing with Martin Weller in Crush UK. I was never (properly!) in the Subs but I did an awful lot of solo/ Urban Dogs stuff - I was also in the Rhubarb Tarts (as was Pete Davies)…”
So when did you first know Charlie?
I first became aware of Mr Harper in about 1976 at The Castle Pub in SW17, Tooting. John Wayne opened the Castle in 1948 as it happens, and it was a large town pub owned by the Young’s Brewery company that used to be in Wandsworth. It had a good reputation for gigs.
So you were a regular there then?
Well, in 1970/71 it used to host the ‘Tooting Blues Club’ on Tuesday nights in the big back room, function room or club room, whatever you want to call it. Despite the name of the club it put on many contemporary bands whether they were ‘blues’ or not. It was the first place I started seeing live bands as a spotty teenager! I saw (among lots of others) Mott the Hoople, Status Quo, the Groundhogs, Duster Bennett, the Faces, Edgar Broughton, Stray, Black Widow, Fusion Orchestra, Gnidrolog and Blodwyn Pig.
Around 1976/77 the place was run by Eve Church. She had a healthy view on live music and put bands on nearly every evening in the same large room at the back of the pub. There used to be two bands on a night. I know the bands didn't get paid much but it lead to a thriving scene for local musicians to hang out at, network and play the occasional gig.
Amd was this where you first saw Charlie, and presumably, this was pre U.K. Subs?
Yes, that’s right, when I first saw Harper he was singing in the Marauders. The band was Harper (vocals/ harmonica), Richard Anderson (Chuck Berry Les Paul six string devilling and camouflage Angola street fighter chic), Barry Farmer (Shergold bass), Terry Felstead (rhythm six string devil - Gibson Marauder most appropriately!) and Bob Ball (drums & cymbals). Harper used to look like a cross between Lou Reed and Neil Diamond (!) with shades, short hair (for the time) and a suit jacket and jeans. They were plainly based on an early Rolling Stones R’n’B format but with a much louder, faster flavour and the repertoire reflected the early Stones: Talking ‘Bout You, Route 66, Little Queenie, Carol, Bo Diddley, Jimmy Reed, Muddy Waters et cetera et cetera...
And did the Marauders stand out at that time?
I noticed the lead style was always strummy-ish and not the bluesy single note stuff, which was more in vogue in those times. I played for a few numbers with them once, at a gig at the Fountain Pub (now knocked down) in Tooting. I think that was when they (Charlie/ Richard) were trying out those contenders who were about at the time for their new band!
The U.K. Subs?
In time Harper and Richard left to form the Subs. It’s a fairly well documented period and one I had little to do with, although people like Rory Lyons and so forth would often be at the Castle (see below).
Above: Two classified ads from Melody Maker, 16th July 1977, for U.K. Subs gigs on 15 and 18 July 1977.
So do you know what became of the other Marauders?
Actually, some time later the Marauders re-formed: Barry Farmer took over the vocal job, Steve Slack took over the bass (Gibson semi EB1) and Rob Milne (aka Bobby Milne and Bobby Harper) on six string wossit (copy Les Paul or SG Junior all carved up and painted). In fact, you can see Rob and Steve’s instruments in the pic of the Dazzlers below.
It sounds like the members of the Marauders and Subs were almost interchangeable at the time? As you can see the developing Subs and the Marauders were all still the same ‘family’! It was around this time that I started doing the PA for them. Harper had taken his 100w WEM set up with him and the Marauders were without. So I jumped in to help them out with my new HH 200w STEREO (!) PA complete with multicore. My mate John West would drive the car. This enabled me to look very important half way down the room ‘mixing’ the band. I had bought the PA for my band (Flickers) which played occasionally at the Castle but not as regularly as the Marauders! I did a gig or two with the Marauders playing my Vox Continental organ and Hohner Pianet during that period. Also around this time Steve Slack and Rob Milne formed the Dazzlers which got signed to Charisma and made an album produced by Tommy Ramone. Meanwhile the Subs I had not seen!
Below: Incredibly rare, previously unpublished pictures of the Marauders at the Tooting Castle, with Charlie Harper, circa 1978, from Dave Dudley's recently rescued Ilford Silver Nitrate 35mm b/w negatives! The website editors are extremely grateful to Dave for his time in searching these rarities out for us, below is what Dave has to comment on these pictures: (CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE) "The Marauders at the Tooting Castle... having looked in detail at these I can see this was no ordinary Farmer / Felstead/ Milne / Ball / Slack Marauders gig. I'm now sure it was a special New Year's Eve / Christmas gig, and the Marauders had 'guests' playing such as me, Charlie Harper, Security Risk (including Tony Conway) i.e. all their mates and so forth... NB: I've called Bobby Harper / Rob Milne, 'Milne' - so to avoid confusion with our belovéd David Perez!
Photo 1: L- R: Dudley (?!), Felstead, Milne Photo 2: L- R Headstock of Tony Conway's six string devil (was it him playing it?!), Harper, unidentified drummer, Bass player from Security Risk (this might be Harper doing a couple of tunes with, indeed, Security Risk) Photo 3: Harper (I had to really process this as the negative was so thin!) Photo 4: L- R: Barry Farmer, Dudley Photo 5: Felstead, Milne (with Terry playing the latter's cut down devil - as featured on the Dazzlers' 45 sleeve) Photo 6:The Marauders: Terry Felstead (extreme left with white Gibson SG Junior), Robert Bobby Harper' Milne (with his painted and mirrored doo-dah), Barry Farmer (looking like a tall thin streak of piss of a man and a cool vocalist!), Bobby Ball (on small stage behind Premier drum kit!), Steve Slack (also on small stage), unidentified person, definitely not from the band, perhaps with a beard, maybe picking up a drink from the pool table - might be bass player from Security Risk - name forgotten by me - just happens to be in shot!) Photo 7: Bobby Ball with what looks like Felstead and Slack in foreground (N.B. Slack playing bass as featured also on Dazzlers' 45 sleeve)"
But you were still a part of the local scene, just involved elsewhere?
Yes, and at another pub in the area (the Pig & Whistle) I had struck up a friendship with a Peter Davies. Peter was a drummer from Coventry and playing in a band called Dick Envy. This band was made up of Vermillion (vocals- an outrageous American girl), Pete Davies (Slingerland drums & cymbals), Kenny Alton (six string devil) and a bassist called Fritz! Kenny ended up in a band called Fingerprinz with Jimmy O’Neill and Cha Burns. We were also drinking mates with a Tom Hickland who was the fiddle player in Five Hand Reel (which included Scottish singer extraordinaire Dick Gaughan), a folk rock band doing very well at the time!
So what about the burgeoning punk scene at the time, tell us more of that?
Well, it was around this time that the Clash were famously auditioning every drummer in London including Pete Davies and Rob Milne!
The next thing I knew about the Subs was that they had a residency at the White Lion in Putney. The line up was Harper/Garratt/Paul Slack/Peter Davies. My band Flickers (Steve Hill - Fender Precision bass, Frank Dymore - Pearl drums and cymbals, Susan-Jane Tanner – vocals and me - vocals & six string devil) supported them on various occasions.
As did Crass (see poster right), Menace, Security Risk and dozens of others that I can’t remember the names of! They were still using Charlie’s 100w WEM PA with full on 100w Marshall backline. Subsequently the Subs became bigger and bigger, put out CID and so forth. But you already know all that part of the story! We were always trugging up the Northern line to the Music Machine (Camden Palace) to see the Subs. I got to know Nick Garratt and I gather it was my influence when Nick saw me using my 1974 Gibson SG with Flickers at the White Lion that made him switch from his Ritchie Blackmore style white Strat to a SG (all though he never said so himself)! Incidentally, Flickers' vocalist Susan Jane-Tanner found fame as JELLYLORUM in the original London cast of CATS 1981.
Were the Marauders still in existence around this time too, and what sort of musical style were they heading in?
Yes, back at the Castle the scene carried on with the Marauders every week and also the up and coming new local band the Merton Parkas. I had a spell in Mod revivalist band the Assets along with Andy Ball (Bob Ball’s brother) on Premier drums, Clive Asinder (Fender Tele), Steve Hill (of Flickers) and soon to form Mood Six, Phil Ward on vocals. I would like to mention that I was the last person on Earth suitable for a Mod band. I liked the music but I was always the antithesis of a Moddy boy and totally disliked the image the band was moving towards! All these bands played the sort of high-energy old school R’n’B that the Marauders specialised in. There was a large shared repertoire and a lot of personnel swapping. The music developed over time rather like a potted and highly sped up version of the 60’s. Raw R’n’B turned into 'Mod' music turned to psychedelic stuff. If the Marauders played a new one some night the other bands would learn it and try and do it better!
Any more memories from meeting other characters around the end of the 70s?
At this time I also met Ray ‘Captain Sensible’ Burns for the first time at the Castle. We talked about Vox Continentals and fuzz boxes. I’ll always remember him saying of keyboard playing, “If you can’t do it with a Vox Continental and a fuzz box; don’t bother!” I saw the Short Commercial Break band gig there, which was the Captain and Cursty. I didn’t know it was Matt ‘Turkey’ Best on drums though!
And Matt Best would of course go on to drum for Charlie’s ‘side project band’ the Urban Dogs, so what about your eventual involvement with Charlie, recording his first solo artist efforts?
Around about 1980 when Pete and Paul left the Subs, me, Pete and Tom Hickland formed a band called Ronald. This also included Kendall Sassoon on vocals and ‘The Milkman’ on Rickenbacker 4001 Stereo bass. I don’t remember Harper recording ‘Talk Is Cheap’ and the other side. He did that with Pete Davies, Steve Slack and James Stevenson (from Chelsea and then Kim Wilde’s band), who was also in Chelsea. I was busy writing and recording with Phil Ward in a project we called Darling Vices. We recorded two tunes and used the latest amazing piece of technology: the Linn drum machine! Phil sang, I played bass, keys and the six stringed doo dah. But soon Harper wanted to play pub gigs doing covers and the Subs weren’t interested. He wanted a ‘bit on the side’ as he called it.
So you were his bit on the side at the time?
Harper rounded up me, Pete Davies, Steve Slack and Tony Conway (of Security Risk and the newly formed Mood Six) to do gigs when the Subs were not gigging. I was full time keyboard player for this combo. We played a residency at the Two Brewers in Clapham and did the Castle and elsewhere. We also played at Gossips Club in Meard/ Frith Street, Soho a lot. Everyone in the band had a proper band to do but this was good fun!
Sounds like plenty of tales to tell of this fun time then?
Indeed! Pete was working at a youth project in Covent Garden and they had rehearsal facilities, which we borrowed, and an old van driver called John drove us around. Rumour had it that he was a de-frocked vicar, so he was known as Father John. He used to pick everyone and their equipment up, take us to the gig and then drop everyone home in the middle of the night. His Luton Transit had a paraffin heater bungeed to the dashboard and the front seats were old armchairs, but they were not screwed down or anything! Those were the days when dozens of fans would squeeze in the back with the amps just for a lift somewhere near home!
Out of interest, and for the record! Did Charlie keep his hand in with his old hairdressing profession after the Subs took off do you know?
All I can say is that it was around this time (in his tiny one room flat in Brixton) that I let Harper cut and dye my hair (black) for the first and only time!
So let us have some memories of Charlie’s second solo single…
At this time the psychedelic revival was afoot. Mood Six were the leaders of this small and short lived fad. Anyway, Harper announced that Ramkup were going to pay for a single to be recorded. So we had a couple of days at a studio in Salcot Road, SW11. This is when we wrote and recorded the A and B sides ‘Jo’ and ‘Freaked’. It was supposed to be neopsychedelia hence me playing pretend Syd Barrett period Pink Floyd cheesy organ (mixolydian mode). The mock live beginning had cheering and applause was lifted from a live Queen recording I believe. Harper did his best Jim Morrison (his idea of what psychedelia was!) I came up with the backward six-string devil idea but can’t remember if it was Tony or me that actually played it. The basic chordal structure of Freaked was by Tony Conway. Also I think the repeating E B D A chordal figure of Jo were Tony’s idea.
Above: The 'Jo' / 'Freaked' single and a music press article, Record Mirror, 4th July 1981
And did Charlie have the lyrics ready for recording?
Harper, as usual, wrote all the lyrics on the spot, dropping in each line as he came up with it. The studio wasn’t called Abbey; that was the name of the engineer. Captain Sensible was going to produce it but in the end just turned up at some point of the proceedings and listened to what we had done and then went away. That’s why it says ‘Thank you Capt Sensible’ on the sleeve. It’s supposed to be sarcastic!
And there was a certain image adopted for the sleeve photo?
The picture on the back of the sleeve with all five of us was taken by Paul Slattery on the stairs at Gossips. Harper handed out the silk scarves. He asked me to change my Triumph motor bike t-shirt but I stuck to my guns. I also still have the dregs of the Harper cut and dye from some time earlier. Ramkup also managed to mix up Tony Conway and me. On the sleeve I’m labelled Tony and vice versa! Everyone looks moody but really we were just a bit pissed off having to wear Harper’s poncey accoutrements! I don't know how the picture of Harper on the front was done but it was supposed to look psychedelic!
And during this time the Harper ‘touring’ machine chugged on and on! Any of the gigs stick out in your memory?
Yes, we continued to do gigs. One I remember at Gossips when Nik Turner turned up out of the blue. He arrived at the sound check and said, “Hi! I’ve come to play tonight”. So I went into the gents’ toilet with him and his sax (the nearest to a quiet place!) and showed him the set list and explained the keys we did stuff in. Not a note was played. He said, “OK! That’s the rehearsal dealt with!” He played fabulously on the whole set. And another good gig I recall was when Captain Sensible joined the band at the 100 Club. He had just put out his first solo single on Crass Records and we had rehearsed this and a few others with him. It was very good. He hinted about making it a more permanent set up but it never came to pass of course! We even did a gig with James Stevenson (at the Pits Club) one time when Tony Conway couldn't make it.
Above: Exclusive, previously unpublished picture from Dave's personal archive, taken at the Basement in Covent Garden, London, circa 1981: (CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE) "Harper, Conway, Davies, Slack, Dudley (note on instruments: Epiphone semi - these were non-descript back then, but became very trendy indeed when Oasis and the Britpop boys were around. They were also used by the Beatles - Lennon in particular - and that's why a neopsychadellic and the Gallaghers would be using them!; Slingerland kit, Danelectro bass, Vox Continental organ - this is the same model of organ the Beatles famously used at Shea Stadium - also used by the Doors, the Animals and other 60s bands - mainly because it was all that was available in the 60s, and by the late 70s they were very old fashioned, until Elvis Costello advertised for a keyboard player with one in Melody Maker, found Steve Naïve and made them trendy again - absolutely perfect for old skool R'n'B and psychadelia of course! The Damned (Ray Burns) used one a lot on their 1979 Machine Gun Etiquette LP - listen to 'I Just Can't Be Happy Today' - they suited punk because they weren't synths and the prog rockers rather turned their noses up at such an outmoded device..."
ALL 12 PHOTOS FROM THE ABOVE GIG, ON STAGE & BACK STAGE WILL BE PUBLISHED HERE SOON...
Eventually all this led to the Charlie solo LP ‘Stolen Property’…
Well yes, soon after the single there was talk of an album. This was made to happen by the bloke from Flicknife Records (I don’t his name, everyone used to call him 'Frenchy' on account of him being a French chap! We were booked in a dingy, smelly 8-track studio in the basement of squat in Battersea and made ‘Stolen Property’.
So what can you remember about the making of Charlie’s only solo LP?
The engineer, studio owner was Dave Ross who I remembered from Alaska Studios at Waterloo from a few years before. We used to call him Dross! The picture on the back of the 'Stolen Property LP' sleeve is just down the road from where the studio was. As you can see the band are wearing their usual day clothes (as opposed to the Freaked picture!) and we all look a lot happier! You can also see an out of proportional number of Morris Minor cars! This is because there was a bloke round there that did them up, they were very old fashioned even in 1982! Anyway - he parked and worked on them in that street. That whole ’hood is redeveloped now. The album consists of all the tunes we did live, which was still essentially the Marauders’ set. There was also a couple of originals as ever, made up on the spot. It was a bit of a rush job done on a shoestring really. Going back to that picture on the back, it was by the wall at the back of the squat and Harper’s donkey jacket has Urban Dogs scrawled on it in chalk. This is at least a year before their inception! Weird!
How come you are nicknamed ‘Dirty’ Dave Dudley on the sleeve of Stolen Property? I was never called ‘Dirty’ either before or after that album! It was just a word someone - Harper’s little joke perhaps - put on the artwork. (When the website questioned Charlie about Dave's 'Dirty' nickname in 2010, he said that it was a reference to his dirty Blues style guitar sound...)
And you were still playing gigs?
Time moved on. Pete Davies had drumming commitments with Roddy Radiation & the Tearjerkers; Tony was playing more with Mood Six. So Charlie’s solo project became: Steve Slack on Danelectro bass, me on six string and Matthew ‘Turkey’ Best on drums.
We did a few gigs as The Original UK Subs. One time (and one time only!) we went out as a trio. Harper played bass and sang, me on six string devil and Turkey on drums! It was at the Greyhound in Fulham Palace Road. I have a picture! (see below...)
Left: Dave & Charlie playing as the three piece 'Urban Dogs'/'Original U.K. Subs'/'Tooting Flyers'. The gig was at the Greyhound, on the Fulham Palace Road, London, back in 1982/3.
Were there any more recordings that never surfaced?
We did a couple of demo recording sessions at the squat studio in Battersea. I still have a recording of us doing New Barbarians and Utopia. A lot of tunes attributed to Harper on the Urban Dogs albums were conceived by the four of us in that cellar! We also did a few gig as the Urban Dogs. Then it went quiet. There were no gigs for a while. Next thing I knew was Knox and Alvin were in the Urban Dogs and Steve and I weren’t!
So where did your musical road lead off to at that time then?
Meanwhile… along came the Rhubarb Tarts! In 1984 three 16 year old school girls ran into Pete Davies in Thames Ditton, Surrey (don’t ask how or why!). Pete at the time was working with Roddy Radiation (Ex Specials - Two Tone band). The girls, Shelley, Rebecca and Melissa, could, “sing a bit”. It turned out they could sing in very good harmony, quite naturally without too much “working out” (well two of them could!) I met up with them with a view to forming a band with them (I’m not some sort of music biz Svengali, I just thought, having seen and heard them, that it could work). Anyway we started rehearsing at my house and sorted out an eclectic bunch of material, ranging from Zappa to the Carpenters via Marilyn Monroe. After a few rehearsals we needed a band. I played six string twanglers, my old friend Pete Groves came out of (at the time) musical retirement to hold the bass and after much nagging, we persuaded Pete Davies to bash the skins.
We booked a couple of local gigs and did them (Cricketers at the Oval, Grey Horse in Kingston). After the first flush of performances, Shelley left. The five of us continued gigging for some months. We added another strummist, Kenny Alton (ex-Fingerprintz), so that I could be freed up to play keys as well as six-string devil. When he left Tom Hickland (ex Five Hand Reel) joined on violin and keys. Shortly after Alun Davies joined on rhythm. All these changes happened within about six months! Alun is no relation to Pete the drummer, but was Rebecca’s father! Alun had a long pedigree having played with Cat Stevens all through the seventies (and Ronnie Lane, Ralph McTell, Albion Dance Band, Jeff Beck, Kate & Anna McGarrigle to namedrop but a few!)
And did that line up last?
Alun and Tom then left! Although he stayed involved (being related to the blond singer) and produced the one recording session that produced anything approaching releasable. One tune was a version of Jo the B-side of Freaked, written of course by Harper and us. We were part of the ‘huge’ Urban Dogs though. This band did at least one gig at the 100 Club in 1985. The line up was Harper/ Knox/ Turkey and Davies- drums/ Plonker Magoo- bass/ Anthony Thistlethwaite (from the Waterboys)- sax, Rebecca & Melissa singing and me on Gibson SG2 and keys. I have a recording of this gig! And a picture of it is on the back of one of the Urban Dogs’ albums (No Pedigree). I am silhouetted just to the left of a Marshall stack. You have to look very hard to see me! You can see the girls just to the left of me. You can also see it’s Davies on drums in the picture and Anthony holding his sax on the right of the picture. The girls sang on the studio album (No Pedigree).
There was a lull in Urban Dogs activity after 85, did you stay in touch with Charlie much at that time?
In 1990 I got a call from Harper to go and play with him. We did a gig at the pub on the corner across from the Rainbow at Finsbury Park. I can’t remember the line up but someone called Pete Davies played BASS. He was a different Pete Davies from the drummer! And shortly after I was asked to play Telecaster at the launch of the Mad Cow Fever LP in some club in town. Pete Davies played drums, Richard Anderson also played. This was the last gig I did with Harper.
Any other memories spring to mind?
I've been reminded of some bits and pieces looking at your site. Matt Best's diary stuff is brilliant! I was definitely at the Cecil Sharp House gig when Nik Turner and Captain Sensible played their gig as mentioned by Matt. They definitely did an instrumental of Sugar Sugar by the Archies. I remember playing a Urban Dogs/ Original UK Subs/ Charlie Solo Band gig at the Hope & Anchor in Islington. This was after ‘Big’ John had left and it was a squat. Power was via generators and beer was tins sold out of cases. It must have been about 1985...
I also recall Chelsea supporting us at Gossips once - or the other way round?
I also recollect being in the studio when the band recorded the Flood of Lies LP. It’s me and Jim Moncur shouting the backing vocals (“Ooh Ee Ooh!”) on Working For The DB’s!
Once I was getting off a bus in Wandsworth Road with Charlie. We bumped into Douggie Trendell (Buster Bloodvessel out of Bad Manners) He knew who Charlie was but after he’d gone Charlie asked me who Douggie was!
The specific Flood Of Lies information is new to me, what other LPs did you ‘appear’ on then?
Well, I took most of the dressing room pictures (see below) on the Gross Out USA LP. They were taken at a gig in Amersham, although the audio actually came from the US tour obviously.
I was also at the mix down session for Gross Out at some studio in Tulse Hill. The whole tour had been recorded on 4-track cassette. The four tracks consisted of: 1. Capt Scarlet- loud six string devil 2. Davies - Drums and loads of Scarlet’s six string 3. Harper - vocal and loads and loads of six string twangle-ing and yet more drums 4. Tez - clean DI’d bass! Mixing mainly meant trying to get rid of the six-string noise on everything!
When was the last time you two ran into each other then?
I actually haven’t seen Harper since the 25 years anniversary gig at the Castle in Tooting. This is not because of any bad feeling - far from it! I always have found him most friendly and personable! He apparently (typically if I remember the old days) omitted or forgot me from the guest list. I said to the bloke on the door, “get Harper”! He came out and said smiling and friendly, “Oh! It’s you”, but he plainly wasn’t going to be allowed by the door staff to let me in as the place was predictably roofed. I know the ‘guest list’ a Subs gigs was always a palaver and I hope it still is!
So you haven’t ruled out a future collaboration, maybe for the X-Subs album?
Well subsequent to that Castle gig I just haven’t been to see them. They just haven’t played anywhere for me to conveniently pop in and see ’em! I always assume should I need to talk to him, I’d get in touch via Pete Davies or someone that I still am vaguely in touch with! Perhaps I could fancy another short stint with him sometime!
In hinsight then, what would you say is your favourite track you recorded with Harper, and why?
It has to be his second solo single ‘Freaked’. I actually had a lot of input its arrangement and production. If one knew my other Dudley stuff, I think you can hear my influence: the psychedelic organ, backwards six string devil and cymbals, Indian style mixolydian modes, paying attention to stereo mixing effects and so forth! It's a similar place to where the Damned had got to at that particular time. Charlie's previous solo single ‘Barmy London Army’ (see picture right) was OK, but rather in the same mould as mainstream Subs stuff. ‘Freaked’, and the b-side ‘Jo’ stood out at the time of release as a step forward from the bash it down drums and Fenders and vocals material that had been available up until then. But I also like ‘Utopia’ and the original ‘New Barbarians’ that we did. It was interesting learning Ray Manzarek's Vox Organ parts for ‘Light My Fire’ and I'd like to hear the 'lost' demo sessions with Turkey, Steve Slack and Charlie, which included ‘Limo Life’, ‘War Babies’ and other half finished stuff and ideas that turned up as either later Subs or Dogs tunes!
And following on from my previous question - what do you consider to be Charlie's best recorded work over the years?
I think ‘Another Kind of Blues’ obviously captures them at their youthful freshest, and his stuff with 'us' and Knox et cetera has always been a little more left of the field than the Subs stuff proper, and therefore isn't so stylized as the 'Subs concept' allows. I think that Harper works with a little more fun, maturity and perhaps a broader view with people outside the Subs gang.
Considering your involvement with the Subs circa the Gross Out and Flood Of Lies LPs, and the Urban Dogs in the early-mid 80s, were you ever asked to actually be a UK Subs member at any point?
Above I mentioned 'the gang'. I believe this gang-like attitude has always been subliminally promoted by Harper amongst the members of the Subs. The gang consisted of the band and the road crew, which exuded a 'punk' attitude. I was never ever in the gang proper! Charlie likes to be the leader of the gang and the main creative force. He also needs a six string deviller that can play a bit but is up for doing Harper's version of the world. Stumbling across Garratt was perfect. During the 80's I thought quite a few drummers and bass players were chosen for their 'hard-man' or laddish personalities; they could play but they were ‘blokes’ and all that entails! As you can tell, I would have loved to asked but I was far too snooty and creative and no way laddish enough to ever get invited into the fray of the inner sanctum! The Subs were always more than just the music.
The music was supposed to be simple fast thrashes with Harper hollering. The Subs were Harper's gang, out to change the world by gloriously singing three chord riffy anthems about street life: not many other instruments, less interesting arrangements, all mouth and trousers! My musical world, although completely embracing what I described in the last sentence, was rather more catholic and eclectic. When working with Charlie at the writing, arranging, recording stage, he was always a bit wary of my plans to put in 'dodgy' chords, strings or horns or solos or percussion or actual singing backing vocals or any 'pretty' bits or even 'proper' lead six string devil parts. His musical vision was always simple and straightforward, mine is often quirky and intricate. He always seemed to be worried that I would turn any piece into electro-pop, Yes, jazz, Sparks or Zappa or whatever! He always wanted everything to sound like either the New York Dolls or the Kingsmen doing Louie Louie! We could never have worked full on, full time like he did with Garratt or Captain Scarlet and so forth...
Also I was not prepared to live on the dole and ‘work’ my way around the country and the rest of the world. If I wasn't gigging sufficiently, I'd get some sort of a day job. This was inconsistent with playing full-time in the Subs. Having said all that, as I previously mentioned, Harper, Steve Slack, Turkey and I did a couple of gigs as the ‘Original U.K. Subs’ though and I played (more of a deputy though really) in the Subs twice, twangling the old Gibson SG six string: once, as I said before, at the launch of the Mad Cow Fever LP and once at a gig the same year (1990) at the Lord Robey pub, Finsbury Park.
Are you still in touch with any of the musicians you played with in Charlie’s solo projects, for example, Steve Slack?
Unfortunately I have lost track of the lovely Mr Slack Jnr. It was always a joy to be in his company. A fabulous fabulous man (as was Matthew ‘Turkey’ Best as it happens). And definitely the best bass player the Subs have ever had. In fact, I think he was the best bass player to emerge out of that whole period. The short time that Urban Dogs was Steve Slack, Turkey me and Harper was a wonderful time. Those guys and me really got on and we (as a band both musically and personally) existed in a space very different from the Subs boys!
How about Tony Conway then?
Tony Conway was a friendly enough guy. We used to meet up occasionally and have a pint. He was a bit like me in as much as although we liked, enjoyed and supported the revolution punk had brought to the musical scene, we were a little removed from all the mainstream dyed hair, nihilism and shouting. He and I both wrote songs and had our own agendas (he: Security Risk and later Mood Six, me: Fancy Goldfish). In the end his band Mood Six did quite well. Of interest to Subs historians, their lead singer, Phil Ward, was in a band with me at the time of the Marauders called the Assets. We did all the old school R'n'B like the Marauders and the Merton Parkas did. A year or two later Phil & I recorded a couple of tracks as a duo using the very new and height of technology at the time, Linn Drum Machine, which was a million miles from what the Subs were up to in 1983. But back to Tony Conway! He and I were a little competitive as we both strummed guitars. Unfortunately the Assets, Mood Six and, of course, the Merton Parkas veered towards Mod-ism! This is a style I was never at home with. If it wasn't for that I may have ended up as Mood Six's keyboard player! Mood Six (and the neo-psychedelics) tended towards the Small Faces / Who style psychedelia with neat tunes and haircuts, Paisley shirts and beads - as opposed to out and out Pink Floyd / Syd Barrett acid freakouts and Cream / Iron Butterfly / Hendrix-like six string shredding. I last saw Tony about ten years ago doing his weekly shopping in the Co-op in Mitcham. We spoke but have never stayed in touch.
I've known Peter Davies since about 1976. He was fresh from Coventry when we met. We were very good mates for most of the eighties and the nineties, but some ten years ago he moved out to the middle of nowhere in Suffolk and we have lost touch. In about 1991, he met his other half Cathy, because Cathy was my other half's (who is called Mary Nazareth) best mate. Before they moved away, the four of us spent loads of time together. Before that period Pete and I formed, and were in, the Rhubarb Tarts of course. He also played for my band(s) and recording sessions on many occasions. Pete is a wonderful drummer. It wasn't necessarily his actual playing (gorgeous though it was), it was the way he tuned and hit his gold coloured Slingerland kit! Listen to the tom toms on Stranglehold for instance or the intro to Freaked! You have to look a long way to hear anything sounding so good, both sound wise and playing wise. As I said, in the late 70's and the early 80's we used to hang out lots and lots, I used to go to all the London area gigs he did with Roddy Radiation and the Tearjerkers and others. His flat in SW18 was a pad and a half! In the 80's it was full of semi-pop stars day and night! We used to stay up half the night watching music videos and films like Erazerhead (quite a new luxury back then), playing games on a Spectrum computer... His old flatmates at previous different times included Joanne Slack, as per the picture on the Tomorrows Girls sleeve – and if you look carefully at that picture you can see Pete's blue jeans-clad leg and baseball boot on the extreme left of the shot, just below and to the left of the poster hording, held out at a 45 degree angle. And there was also Kelly (RIP) from Girlschool and Rebecca from the Rhubarb Tarts. Other people who lived there were Kenny from Fingerprinz, Tim (RIP), the man who looked after Girlschool on the road and sometimes mixed the live Motorhead sound, endless musicians and roadies staying over because of gigs etc. Davies’ place was conveniently almost dead opposite the Pig & Whistle pub! The place where we would be if it was open and there was no gig! You get the idea!
Is there anything else you want to add to our interview concerning what you have been saying and your memories of your time spent with Mr Harper?
Well, I think you must bear in mind that although we musicians may have happily worked with Charlie and, in my case, known him and liked him for some time, we might not necessarily be FANS! And I suppose you know how unenthusiastic musicians are… and are not gonna wax lyrical about acquaintances' and colleagues' other projects… or is it us just trying to be cool about most things? Well except themselves and their music, booze, girls, drugs and free food!
Now this could be an interesting viewpoint to hear about for both 'fans' and 'musicians'. What is your take on the difference between these two sets of music lovers?
I think we live in a world where 'fans' and 'musos' are two quite different categories - like doctors and patients, shopkeepers and customers, prostitute and clients. I know blokes who aren't really even fans of the bands they regularly play in! So it would be wrong to assume that because anyone's played or worked with the Subs that they are particularly interested in what the Subs or Charlie does, or did after or before their involvement with him or them.
Well I’d say that at least some would retain an interest, but you think the majority don’t? Maybe you can elaborate on your ‘take’ on this ‘divide’? Generally I think we (musicians) think of fans as people who are rather naively impressed or excited by some of the simple tricks we do on stage with our instruments. Musicians aren't as influenced or as concerned as 'fans' are by different musical genres, fashions et cetera. When listening to, watching or thinking about other musicians, musicians can see the joins, the end of the conjurer's mirror as it were... the wallpapering over the dodgy cracks in the technical side of things, and so forth.
So does that mean you can’t actually enjoy others’ music?
What I am getting at is that musicians don't enjoy such a glamorous or fulfilling experience as 'fans' of music do; musicians all hear a band and think. "I can do that! But better!" It's the variation on that old joke: How many lead guitarists does it take to change a light bulb? Answer: One! But it needs a dozen more to watch and think they can do it better than that!
And thinking about that 'joke', maybe this is one of the unconscious factors that drives any cover version... and maybe even was what drove the recording of Stolen Property? Talking of which, how about another anecdote about Stolen Property to round off our little chat Dave?
OK, and trying to tie in with your cover version interpretation, you may be aghast to hear that the track Femme Fatale, the cover of the famous Velvet Underground & Nico song hasn't got Harper on it at all! There's Slack, Davies, Conway and me doing the usual, plus backing vocals and Rachel Bor of the Dolly Mixtures singing the lead. I believe she became Mrs Captain Raymond Burns Sensible at some time. We thought it would be a good single and even Charlie agreed. A Harper single without him on! Now that would have been a fine joke to play! But it never happened. But, of course, there was still a track on Charlie's album without him on it at all - which was quite a good and fun idea!
Cheers Dave for a brilliant interview...
Addendum: Here is some background information on our man, gleaned from our 'side chats' surrounding this interview… Dave was born in 1953, moved to Wimbledon 1957, and “apart from lovers and wives (he) has lived in the same house ever since!” Dave went to Raynes Park Grammar School (1964) where Graham Foster and Greg Brown were in his class... Greg Brown you will recall was in the earliest Subs line up. Dave’s musical journeyed kicked off when he played in a few prog-rock college/school bands for a few gigs during 1971-73. His first gigging band - Ashdale Highway - lead by singing six string holder Percy Josling doing hundreds of South London working man’s clubs played country music for the period 1973-75 before the period he has described in our interview. Other fairly “non-eventful (!)” projects were Fancy Goldfish (Phil Brace-bass / Frank Dymore – drums / Simon Tyler - keys/ Dave - vocals and strumming) and Telegraph Avenue (with two American singers: Dana Walker and Charlene Parsley). Post Harper Dave reveals that in 1986 he “stupidly got married” but in 1987 his son Alexander was born.
Dave reveals that in 1990 he “escaped!” In the 1990’s he played pub gigs with HooDoo Moon (Frank and Mary Nazareth / Hammy Howell / Archie Taylor and Jon O’Brien) (see picture right) of which he adds that Jon O'Brien did one gig with the Subs in Bristol around about 1998. In 1999 Mr Dudley played in an anarchic duo with a vocalist / sax / harp playing Kiwi called Mark Kington, the band being called Lightning Bugs. Later that same year he joined Crush and is still with them to this day!
If you want to catch up with Dave he now plays at least once a week doing Trad Irish Music at pub sessions. If anyone wants to see him, meet him, talk to him or buy him a pint you can catch him at the Kilkenny Tavern next door to South Wimbledon Tube Station every Tuesday at about 9.30 p.m. until late playing jigs and reels and diddly diddly on his baritone ukulele or Indian Harmonium with various flautists, fiddlers, pipers and squeezeboxes. Dave describes it as “pure acoustic, NO amps, perfect!”
CLICK HERE FOR... - EXCLUSIVE - 26 NEVER BEFORE PUBLISHED PICTURES OF THE U.K. SUBS GIG AT BATH PAVILION, 3RD MAY, 1980, TAKEN BY DAVE DUDLEY, AND RECENTLY RESCUED FROM SOME DUSTY OLD NEGATIVES... ...INCLUDING PICTURES FROM THE SIDE OF THE STAGE, BACK STAGE ACTION, SOUND CHECK, FANS & SUPPORT BAND! TASTER PIC BELOW! Click to enlarge...