- Above: The book cover (click to enlarge)
Full Book Title: The Wrong Outfit
Author: Al Gregg
Year Of Publication: 2010 (23 August 2010)
Format: Paperback (22.9 x 15.2 x 2.3 cm ) / Dust Jacket Hardcover (22.9 x 15.2 x 2.6 cm)
Pages: 416pp (HB & PB)
ISBNs: Paperback: 9781452001524 / Dust Jacket Hardcover: 9781452001531
Synopsis of U.K. Subs content: 'The Wrong Outfit' has many references to the U.K. Subs and a main chapter of a gig with the Subs headlining the Clapham 101 Club on July 21st 1980 with Honey Bane's band The Allies supporting (with ex-Sub Paul Slack on bass).
The book also has a fair bit on two ex-drummers of the Subs; Rab Fae Beith and Dave Wilkinson, so it's definitely a must purchase for all U.K. Subs fans. BUY IT NOW!
There is also a Foreword to the novel written by David Marx (also a Foreword writer with Captain Sensible for Alex Ogg's 'No More Heroes'), an original guitarist of 'The Aggravators' from Swindon, who supported The Clash and Subway Sect in '77 during the White Riot tour.
'The Wrong Outfit' by Al Gregg, is a powerful novel about a boy called Adam Nedman, who grows up through the 1970's and 80's and is greatly affected by both Football and Punk. Perhaps Adam was just in the wrong place at the wrong time? Or perhaps he was in the right place but at the wrong moment?
He could never quite work it out. Or maybe it was just from that very first moment? Maybe right there, right then. From birth. Like he was marked out by something. Like he was....Damned. Well, that's how it felt sometimes. From home life to football terrace. Through school daze to punk chaos. Perhaps there had never been any doubt?
Adam was in the wrong outfit....
'At times, a journey into Punk Rock's own "Heart of Darkness", Al realistically captures the moment Punk Rock finally implodes. If you want to know what it was like to be a young Punk Rocker, on the ground, at the time - you won't find a better/sharper book than this'.
Dave Parsons (Sham 69)
'Al Gregg, who grew up in the dizzy heights of the Punk revolution, is a fearless, tenacious and brilliantly talented new writer'.
'Replete with childlike wonderment and an aficionado's knowledge, Al Gregg might just as well do for Chelsea and Punk Rock, as what Nick Hornby did for Arsenal and Bruce Springsteen. A must for all purveyors of the punk movement. An absolute must for all football fans'.
David Marx (Foreword writer for Alex Ogg's 'No More Heroes')
'I saw the review of The Wrong Outfit in the recent CFC UK Fanzine and I've been reading the book and really enjoying it. The writing is very good'.
John King (Author of classics 'The Football Factory', 'Headhunters', 'Skinheads', 'Human Punk')
'The Wrong Outfit', is Al Gregg's debut novel and alongside his writing, which includes both plays and short stories, he is also a professional actor and musician. Leaving school at sixteen, he sang and played guitar in various punk bands including The Wall (Wall website - click here), who were label mates on Polydor with Sham 69, The Jam and Siouxsie and the Banshees. After punk he trained as an actor and has since appeared in many Theatre, Television, Film, Commercials and Voice Over productions. His co-written play with David Schaal (from TV's 'The Office', 'Inbetweeners') about punk called 'Reality Chokes' had a very successful run at the 2009 Edinburgh Festival garnering some 5 star reviews and a nomination for the MTMUK Edinburgh Fringe Awards.
Al is married and lives in West London.
INTERVIEW WITH AL GREGG ABOUT THE WALL
PUBLISHED 22/01/2011 (PUNK ROCK '77) - CLICK HERE
INTERVIEW WITH AL GREGG ABOUT THE WALL
PUBLISHED 23/01/2011 (STUDS AND PUNKS) - CLICK HERE
During the summer holidays, Adam and Steve decided to travel to Chelsea’s second division away fixture at Millwall. Although they weren’t sure exactly why they did. The match was a London derby of the less appetising sort. A friendly it most definitely was not, and you could be sure that the local New Cross constabulary would have a little flutter in their tummies come Saturday - that’s if they hadn’t gone on holiday, or taken sick leave at short notice. Millwall versus Chelsea was known as a ‘ding-dong’ derby. Millwall fists would probably be the ‘ding’ and Chelsea heads would probably be the ‘dong’.
The train journey was endless, changing from this line then changing to that. The boys were most definitely in a different part of town - there was no welcoming committee and New Cross Gate station seemed as if it had been refused council refurbishing grants since the Industrial Revolution. A steam train was expected at any moment. There was then a long walk to the ground partly because they got lost and it wasn’t long before Adam and Steve found themselves behind schedule.
They were trying to keep a low profile, but being only just thirteen (Steve was only a year older) they didn’t quite understand the meaning of the word subtlety. They both wore nylon Chelsea scarves tied around their wrists and Steve had brought his lucky Chelsea jacket covered in badges, of the large sew on variety, for good measure. Fortunately, both teams played in blue and white so at a hundred yards distance it would not be completely obvious they were ‘Blues’ supporters.
Not only did both clubs share blue and white colours, they also shared the same animal on the crest of their shirts. The Lion. Millwall called themselves, ‘The Lions’ and their ground, ‘The Den’ in Cold Blow Lane, continued the theme. I suppose you could say that Adam and Steve were just another two ignorant visitors coming to be fed to them.
Millwall’s ground looked similar to the Shed End at Chelsea, only this time it was all the way round. If it was a food it would most likely resemble a bowl of concrete. Terraces on three sides. Rickety fences. A small side stand of seats for the more retiring supporters. They even had mounds of rubble outside for ammunition and old railway tracks, tunnels and breakers yards littered the barren dockland terrain, probably to hasten a quick getaway. Adam and Steve were a little bit concerned. Nothing of this was mentioned in the brochures. To their dismay, it seemed as if only one member of the local constabulary had bothered to turn up on his bicycle and he was an old extra from Z Cars."
SWEET BITTER (Extract from 'The Wrong Outfit' C Al Gregg 2010)
The formation of a new band the ‘Allies’ was certainly a new adventure for female punk singer Honey Bane (or 'Donna Boylan' - as the press misquoted) who Adam reckoned that he could more than identify with. She was similar in age and had had some well documented childhood brushes with the Law and experienced an absent without leave home life, so there was some sort of connection. More importantly, Adam really liked her music, especially the classic song ‘Violence Grows’ from the Fatal Microbes EP and the by now, legendary vinyl collaboration ‘You Can Be You’ with the anarcho-punk band Crass. So much so, that back at school, Adam had penned a short poem in his dinner break about the singer’s compelling ‘Girl on the Run’ song. He kept quiet about it though, as writing a poem at school wasn’t a particularly wise move. As a result, it was pretty much his only creative moment.
Rushing through the corridors
Running from the routine
Dodging all the screeching
Rules and regulations
‘Going to the city!’
‘And never coming back!’
Racing through the crazy streets
Coloured sparks in hair
Words, dreams and uniforms
Ain’t tucked in don’t care
Thoughts and schemes like bullets
Spewing all about
Catch that number 13
Then scream and shout.
The music press reckoned Bane was now dropping her earlier made-up first name for the real and more mature - as Sounds magazine put it, “Donna” if you please’, but she wasn't. What she had done by now was realise that there was no point in exhausting further the various Fatal Microbes line ups, her fresh departure seemed to open up an exciting avenue, appearing with experienced, gig hardened musicians like the ex-UK Subs bassist, Paul Slack, and the rest of the Allies line up; the hard hitting ‘Steve Jones’ on drums (not the irrepressible Pistol) and the expressive Swift on guitar, who was certainly not just a closet bedroom musician.
The UK Subs, already considerable Punk legends, had been founded on their inexhaustible appetite for playing every type of venue, from the less than friendly Town Hall to that subterranean toilet the length and breadth of Britain and across Europe. Many venues which other bands would simply turn their noses up at, Charlie Harper and company would assault with relish. And with half of that rhythm section now in Honey Bane’s new band, the signs were auspicious.
With so many positives about, Adam thought the group’s hastily arranged debut gig at Clapham’s 101 Club, supporting the new look UK Subs seemed appealing and one that his girlfriend Carol would definitely enjoy. Especially, as she had already started to become a little bit bored of the male orientated punk rock straight jacket. For her, bands with a front woman were a bit more of a spin on the old template. The added plus was that her mum’s flat in Battersea was just around the corner.
The ‘Allies’ tight musical unit seemed to have potential and certainly a powerful stage presence, despite the hasty formation. And for Adam, making mental notes could perhaps influence the direction of his own band. He hoped that they would play the classic material, and maybe there were even more diverse dishes on the menu too, perhaps a bit of Reggae/Ska and even a rock tinge, what Honey called their 3-Tone Sound. Whatever the situation, when the cranked up herberts in the audience demanded a pogo, Adam reckoned the Allies would still be able to hold more than their own. Honey’s following had always been loyal, despite being perpetually in search of that ever more sporadic Bane appearance. She could pop up just about anywhere. On stage with Killing Joke. In the studio with Jimmy Pursey. She had absolutely no fear. But performing was most likely going to be the least of the problem. Even the earlier outfits that Honey fronted, had themselves hinted at an intimidating undercurrent, which made for an electrifying but hazardous live experience. The many explosive gigs earlier that year where violence was never far away, being a prime example. But crucially, it was the hurdle of a similar vision or mindset amongst the new band members that would most likely scupper the prospects. One thing Adam already knew from being in a band, however elementary, was that at least he and Plug could completely trust each other.
Another difficulty would lie surely in the speed of it all, as Adam was beginning to find out. Everything was as hurried as an amphetamine; get the band together, rehearse it in, shape the music, write the lyrics, learns the songs, get the gig, do the date, drink the beer money, load the van up, that’s if they had one, start again, keep the band together etc, etc. All this graft trying to retain that elusive punk ethic, the DIY code, while also trying to manoeuvre around the limited punk M25 of, ‘You gotta be true to your punk roots’, ‘You’re only allowed three chords’, ‘You gotta keep it loud’ and ‘You have to play fast!’
The recent interest from the Subs independent label Gem Records, was encouraging for Honey and resulted in about six songs being quickly recorded in demo form at a South London studio to begin chiselling out the up to scratch Bane sound. Top tracks from the demo were ‘You Fight Alone’ and ‘Allies Anthem’, a title busting rocker to give the band’s following and Adam, perhaps even more of a sense of identity. The other numbers were more experimental musically, searching even, as if the quartet were short sighted buskers struggling to see if any elusive pennies had been dropped.
The gig was fly posted locally as a bit of a knees up, a celebration and even a ‘barmy army manoeuvre’. When Adam and Carol arrived, the venue was packed to the rafters, with as many punters as could be squeezed at short notice into the luxuriant pub rock auditorium, with its Victorian purple curtain backdrop, whitewashed walls and decrepit electric wiring permitting. There were probably some reviewers waiting in the wings, and some fanzine junkies hovering, but in terms of a long line of rock critics, this being a Monday night and downtown Clapham, they were conspicuous by their absence.
However, Adam would later find out by reading the music press reviews that The Allies had had no last minute rehearsal, not even a moment’s sound check and what’s more they weren’t even using their own gear, always a risky business and the PA certainly wasn’t the best. Carol reckoned that due to the cutting feedback and distortion from the more than close up speakers, her hearing was never the same again.
Keen to break into their stride as soon as possible, the Allies piled onto the stage, the spectators staring back avidly, although perhaps in the back of their mind waiting for their maestro’s Charlie Harper and Nicky Garratt. Paul Slack was sporting a pair of none too hip sunglasses. Honey looked more sedated in her dress choice than previously. Her hair now dark raven was more stabilised than elevated. Her stage clobber was all crisp white shirt and suit. Her make-up had a hint of Goth with most of the accent round the eyes and the lips. A kind of doll among thugs. Behind the veneer lurked the rest of the band in the obligatory black, who supported ably from the shadows, all the incredible angst and holler.
With no announcement but the drum click count, the first song began. The bouncing ‘You Fight Alone’ managed to force the crowd into some moving factions and early gobbing, partly due to the expectant shouts for Honey’s previous material. But anything more rocking than an organ grinder would have had the devotees jumping. After another experimental number or two, Bane announced to resounding applause, that there would be a more advertised exposure, at the second wave punk sanctuary the Music Machine in Camden Town, which Adam was more than pleased about, it being one of his favourite venues. Most likely guesting again with the Subs, with more vinyl 45’s certain to follow from all the busy demoing.
And, as if by magic, the haunting opening bars of Violence Grows chilled the venue, the cheering and clapping from her announcement having almost smothered the song’s start. Bane’s storytelling was so intense, alongside the spiralling, echoing riff, that it was as if she was holding up a long mirror, reflecting all the jagged attitude crowded right in front. As the loping bass and reverb finally diminished, Adam marvelled at how much contrast there was already in the brilliant set. The first Lesson had just ended. The only problem might be that it was almost too far ahead of it’s time for its own good. ‘How can you even try to categorise it’ he considered. Adam almost tried there on the spot, but of course he couldn’t. Carol couldn’t either, as she just shrugged.
In the short hiatus before the next surprise, the requests started up again, the newly born ‘Allies Anthem’ more than achieved its objective, working up the audience again into another frenzy, especially when the band suddenly then careered into a potent ‘Porno Grows’ and then tailgated into a fast and furious ‘Girl on the Run’. The song’s thundering bass riff and drums almost seemed chopped up into great undigestable chunks by slicing, manic guitar. The treble managed to cut through pretty much in line with Adam’s exacting specification’s, as if the Crass band members from the original recording had entered the building. He also noticed that a cartoon-like ‘slam dance’ was beginning to break out in the crowd to the mid paced barnstormer. At the song’s more than chaotic, but intentional climax, Adam turned to Carol.
‘That’s one of the best songs ever!’
‘Definitely one of the loudest!’ she replied half joking, with her hands almost covering her ears.
Wrapping up the lethal set was a brief punk medley of ‘Boring Conversations’, that then cleverly flowered into the reggae dub song ‘Guilty’. The latter causing a swathe of spitting and dubbed down pogoing, and also the repeated grabbing of Honey’s mike stand. Perhaps because of all the sweaty bedlam, and Carol fast becoming a fresh punk critic, she argued that sorting out the sound and all the levels could have helped the nerves.
‘You’re joking!’ said Adam, adamant.
‘She was nervous. You could tell!’
‘Yeah, but who wouldn’t be, with the Subs coming up!’
Adam had to admit the feedback and treble on the guitar alone cut through the lobes like a chainsaw, not that the already half deafened clientele were that bothered, and with the next edition of Sounds, the reviewers reckoned the cool punk diva had managed a ‘sensual vocal’ as Duncan Disorderly commented, which was certainly against the odds. No mean feat with some prototype Mohicans breathing down her neck. Eventually, after a further swelling of the crowd through the eye of a needle, an emptying of the booze supplies and all the expectant banter, the new UK Subs came up and right according to plan ripped up the venue. The band were in unstoppable form despite the old certifiable hits being largely banished from their set. Harper didn’t waste any time, dedicating the mind blowing ‘You don’t Belong’ to the largely absent muso music reps and spat out the words like he always meant it. Again microphone stands were soon fought over as the new bassist Alvin Gibbs motored through the catalogue. The peroxide Garratt, all ammo belts and fatigues, made shapes with his guitar like a demented Chuck Berry. Suddenly after another flurry of caustic rock ‘n’ roll and an explosive encore the gig ended in a heap of writhing leather, boots, studs and audience fists raised in the hot air. Not because the group had run out of songs but because they couldn’t carry on; the ever present axe hero Garratt deciding to smash up the drum kit (Not in itself an unusual occurrence as he had already recently used his Gibson SG as a warhead, puncturing the crumbling ceiling tiles down the Marquee during one frenetic final encore). If Paul Slack had regretted leaving such an incendiary band, as he watched tight lipped through the chaos, he probably wouldn’t have shown it, while Honey would go home at the end of the night with not so much a milestone surpassed as another punk tattoo etched on her memory.
- Below: Newspaper review of the book. Saturday 16th October 2010, in the West London Times, Ealing Gazette and Leader. Click to enlarge.
- Update: 8th January 2011
Below: A fantastic review in the CFC UK Fanzine, which mentions the Subs.
Click to enlarge.
UPDATES FROM THE AUTHOR:
26/02/2011: Here are some links to the Chelsea Football Fancast 148 that features both my novel and Chelsea song (which I also wrote) that have been put up on both the main large CFC Net and CFCUK sites recently. The interview mentions Charlie and the Subs and The Wall a lot and punk in general, plus they plug the song massively!
Another belter of a review - on CFC Net
Vive Le Rock news item about the book has been published HERE
09/03/2011: Another great review by David Marx (the Foreword writer of the book who supported the Clash in '77) HERE
29/03/2011: Another top review, this time on the Blue Tinted website... HERE
02/09/2011: Three more great reviews:
The Chelsea Football Fancast (CFFC) HERE
The Chelsea Supporters Group (CSG) HERE
Jon Culley of The Independent (The Sports Bookshelf) HERE
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