UK Subs and the story of ‘Our Generation’
By Tony Beesley
The ‘Our Generation’ trilogy of books started in 2008 by first time writer, Tony Beesley. Aiming to set the record straight about the effect Punk and its many varied aftershocks had in the North of England, in particular the writer’s home turf of Sheffield and the South Yorkshire region, the 3 volumes have been positively received by music fans world wide. Also achieving excellent reviews from magazines such as MOJO, Record Collector, Big Cheese and Vive Le Rock as well as online websites such as the ‘God Save the Sex Pistols’ site amongst others, the books tell the whole story of Punk and beyond through the words (and photos) of 100s of contributors, all branched together by the writer’s own journey through the period.
Bands such as the Vibrators, The Adverts, 999, Lurkers, Rezillos, the late Poly Styrene, The Boys, Skunks, The Crabs, Vice Squad, Pulp, Artery and the UK Subs amongst others all contributed some of their accounts of performing in the region… but the real stars of the story are the ordinary music fans and their many and varied stories of growing up to the sounds of Punk Rock and its related cousins.
Told for the very first time from the grass roots level and from a Northern view point, the ‘Our Generation’ trilogy paint a honest, passionate and often very funny and always human story of a time when music mattered to a generation more than anything else in their world.
Time & Matter website recently asked the author Tony Beesley to give us a run through of the UK Subs’ relation to the story, and the Subs content contained in the book trilogy, thus gathering an insight into what inspired and motivated the writer to piece together this unique view into the era.
“Punk Rock has been the most consistent music and ideology in my life for decades. From being a young teenager it has had an immense affect on me, from the sounds I listen to right through to my whole way of thinking. It’s truly under my skin and will never go away. After many years of being a fan, I just had to write about it. My eldest son, Dean had read a roughly scribbled manuscript that I had discarded and he was so fired up by it, that it inspired me to set about telling the whole story. I had read countless London-centric accounts and enjoyed them a lot, but mostly there was really no solid account of how Punk had spread up to my neck of the woods. It really was a shame that the story had not been told. We had the very first Clash gig (supporting the Sex Pistols in July 1976) as well as some of the most important venues of the North; the Limit club (which itself has spawned a book ‘Take it to the Limit’, to which I contributed) and the ‘Doncaster Outlook’ being two of them. Band wise, we had few standard Punk bands, except the Stunt Kites and the Injectors and a small handful of others, but the Punk spirit was very much embraced. There was some very early prototype Punks in the area too. To cut to the chase, we deserved a piece of the action and I aimed to get the story into print. I skipped the publishers and went ahead and got the books out in the true ‘Do it Yourself’ spirit of Punk. So far, the feedback has been fantastic, with people buying and relating to the books’ stories and theme from the USA, Australia and all over Europe and the UK.”
What input do the UK Subs have within the books?
Tony: “One of the first people I interviewed was actually Charlie Harper as the Subs were playing literally just down the road from me in June 2008, just as I was in the early stages of writing the book. When I found out the Subs were playing at a local venue, I bought tickets straight away and intended on nailing Charlie for a few words. On the night, I spotted Charlie at the bar and went over and introduced myself. I asked him if he could spare a bit of time for a chat on the other side of the venue where we could hear ourselves speak. I bought us a couple of beers each and we sat down and got chatting. Charlie was as friendly as ever and very open and honest. We spoke about Punk in general and some of his fave bands and the scene today etc. To be expected, although the UK Subs have performed around the area countless times, Charlie could only muster a few vague memories of gigs here. I really enjoyed listening to what he had to say and he seemed to do so as well. The highlights of the interview were included in the first volume ‘Our Generation’.
Do the Subs have any further mentions?
Tony: “Well, it would be impossible not to, really. They are a part of the whole experience. Quite a few people in there speak about UK Subs gigs at places such as the Limit club, Sheffield Marples and Top Rank. I saw them quite a few times too, the most memorable being their 1980 Top Rank gig when Nicky Garrett came from under the stage floorboards as part of his act… it was a great visual effect! There are mentions of their records along with some photos and ticket stubs as well. The Subs don’t feature in the second volume ‘Out of Control’ though, as they didn’t play at the two venues (The Outlook and Windmill) that the book is about, but they are a part of the story in the ‘Our Generation’ and ‘This is Our Generation Calling’ ones.”
When did you first get to know about the UK Subs?
Tony: “I had heard ‘C.I.D’ as one of my mates had bought it, but it was to be the Top of the Pops appearance of ‘Stranglehold’ that really captured my interest and attention. Another mate of mine went out and bought it on red vinyl the next day. I bought the next run of singles from ‘Tomorrows Girls’, ‘She’s Not There’ onwards. I bought the ‘Another Kind of Blues’ LP on blue vinyl with a twenty pound note that me and my mates found in a shop on the floor. I think it cost £2.99 as a new release from a local Punk record shop called Revolution. I can remember ‘She’s Not There’ being massive at the youth club disco and us diving about to it… great fun.”
Do you still have your UK Subs records and gig tickets?
Tony: “I don’t have the same copy of the first LP, unfortunately, but do have another copy of it. I did have some signed stuff… a neckerchief and some record sleeves, but they are long gone now too. Somewhere I also have some letters from their fan club from around early 1980. I do have all the singles from ‘C.I.D’ to ‘Teenage’ left, though. I did have the ‘Roxy’ LP too that you had to order out of the back pages of Sounds. As for tickets… I have the Top Rank one and a couple of recent ones but that’s about all. They didn’t often do tickets at the Marples anyway, you just turned up.”
Tony: “Yes, I was and I can remember all the Punks queuing up with a toy each. It was an unusual sight really. All these spiky haired leather jacket-wearing Punk kids holding Dinky cars, boxed games etc. One Punk was told not to donate his Action Man because of its war connotation so he took off its uniform and handed it in.
Local Sheffield Punk band the Stunt Kites were support and they performed a nativity play instead of their usual set. That’s all I can remember about it, to be honest.
Another gig the Subs played was down the road from the Marples and a bit earlier that year. It was at the Polytechnic and was part of the series of free gigs that had been put on for the unemployed – though not all who managed to get tickets were really out of work. Others who we saw for free were the Damned, The Fall, Artery, New Order, Bow Wow Wow (with a young pre-fame Boy George as their onstage dancer), Pulp and the John Peel road show. There were some others but I can’t remember all of them. I can remember the UK Subs one as some glued-up skinheads set upon us and we were outnumbered. We managed to avoid them after getting some abuse and a couple of punches, but there was a fair bit of violence kick off when the Subs came on. Likewise, earlier on at the Damned gig too. Charlie can remember coming up on the train to the Damned one, which he recounts in the ‘Our Generation’ book."
How do you feel the music of the UK Subs stands up today?
Tony: “I think the UK Subs should get their name into the Guinness Book of World Records for being the hardest working and longest running Punk band. As for their music, my favourites are the first two albums and the early singles and I think they often get over-looked in Punk critique circles. It’s wrong that they always get labelled in with the second and third generation of Punk bands as they were actually on the go almost right from the start. I particularly like their mix of Rhythm and Blues with Punk as on the first LP. I think it’s possible that a few people overlook the diversity of some of their work. Although, I don’t have a lot of their records of later years, I will always have a place for their records in my collection. I have a great admiration for Charlie and the Subs legacy and I was well chuffed when Charlie remembered me when the book came out and he then shelled out for a copy… what a bloke and what better buzz can you get than that?”
Tony's triology of books are:
'Our Generation’ (featuring the UK Subs etc)
'Out of Control; Punk Rock at the Doncaster Outlook and Rotherham Windmill – 1976 -1978’
'This is Our Generation Calling' (featuring the UK Subs etc)
All are available from the official website at:
Reviews of Tony's triology of books will appear on this website in due course...