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Chapter 9:

 

Shake Up The City:

Part Two

In which our narrator marries Mary, enjoys a bite on the side as a Dog, gets to Feelgood, confronts temptation, goes down a storm on German TV, experiences the horror of the holocaust with a visit to Dachau and is involved in a gig seige with 80s latter-day German nazis - whilst on a lighter note, witnesses Nicky Garratt exasperated by compacted blocks of brown rice - "Not this hippy shit again!"


 

   My body had orbited the sun a mere twenty-four times when I was seized by a delusional turn of mind that had me supposing matrimony would be a fitting institution for my time of life. Doubly delusional as, not only allowing for what was still an unripe age, I was professionally involved in one of the most unstable and notoriously self-gratifying trades in the world, namely the rock music industry. My defence for such poor judgement was that Mary Jordan was physically attractive, intelligent and cultured – all the elements that generally a person seeks for in a potential life-partner – plus we had unquestionably fallen in love. The idea of a more stable home life was attractive too, as were aspirations of domestic intimacy and the sharing of the burdens and pleasures of daily existence. I also naively believed marriage would quell, or at least regulate, the promiscuous desires that were an inherent part of my character.

 

   But I knew I would be constantly tested as I travelled and toured and encountered the various pleasing women I would meet on the road, and these temptations would sooner or later undo any pledge of sexual exclusivity and occasion all the inevitable guilt and necessary deceptions that are an inescapable consequence of spousal infidelity. So why get married at all?

 

   Well another reason concurrent with mutual attraction for this decision concerns generation and caste. I was the product of a solidly working class, mid-twentieth-century upbringing; a period when getting hitched, setting up a household, having children and aping the time-honoured matrimonial examples set by your parents and those around you – neighbours, aunts/uncles, grandparents – was the expectation for most proletarian young men and women at a time when alternative relationship options and family-diverse choices were still the atypical preserve of a progressive few. A good many of my school companions had already obtained wives and husbands by the age of eighteen. Marriage at twenty-four was actually deemed late-in-the-day by the majority of those who I grew-up with on the South London council housing estate I was raised on. It’s what you traditionally did after having spent a year or so dating and developing a romantic attachment to a girlfriend or boyfriend. Mary and I had already dated for some fourteen months and, despite being aware of the serious constraints matrimony would impose on me, I was no more immune to the pressure to follow this social custom that any other person of my social class or era.

 

   This contradiction is fundamental to what would always be the conflict at my very core: between an attraction to conventional arrangements and my natural inclination to rebel against them.

 

  The decision for Mary and I to marry was mutually arrived at some point during the month of July, 1982. We took a stroll down to the nearest register office serving the Kensington and Chelsea borough to check on what dates were available for a future civil ceremony. A church wedding was out of the question. I was an agnostic and my wife-to-be likewise had scant regard for formal religion as a result of the prescribed Catholic upbringing she’d experienced.

 

   For us it just happened to be the closest secular marriage venue, but being situated on the King’s Road in one of the most affluent and smartest London boroughs, Chelsea register office was, and still is, an exceptionally fashionable and popular location for civil weddings. It wasn’t too much of a surprise then to learn from the registrar that the earliest opportunity for us getting hitched would be in the latter part of the subsequent month – August the 27th, to be precise. A mid-morning slot was booked and I set about inviting my family and friends to the occasion. Mary had decided, for reasons best known to herself, not to inform her people in the USA until after the deed was done.

 

Above 3 photos - Klub Foot, London 1982 - click to enlarge images

Our summer gig drought came to an end with two Subs headline shows at Klub Foot in London and the Civic Hall in St. Albans; and, as an edifying bonus, the first ever Urban Dogs live performances at Manchester’s Drifters on the 18th of August and the Preston Warehouse on the 19th. Charlie, Knox, Mathew – then more commonly known by his nickname Turkey – and I had worked up a set of material at Alaska rehearsal rooms adjacent to Waterloo train station during two evening sessions. Our repertoire consisted of alternative versions of Subs and Vibrators’ covers, plus some less well known blues and rock ‘n’ roll tunes.

Above: The three amigos (from L to R) Knox, Charlie and me.
Urban Dogs gig at the Moonlight Club, 1982 - click to enlarge

    Positive audience reactions at both events gave us the confidence to urge Richard Bishop to book as many additional Dogs gigs as he could. He did as asked and ‘phoned to tell me that a show supporting the Adicts at the Marquee Club was duly reserved for the day after my wedding. This was probably not the sort of honeymoon Mary had in mind but if you’re going to marry a professional musician it’s this kind of disagreeable reality that any spouse needs to get speedily used to from the off, if a relationship is going to have any chance of longevity.

 

Above: Just about to get hitched, Chelsea Registry office,
King's Rd, London August 1982 - click to enlarge

   The marriage ceremony was light-hearted and enjoyable. My family, friends and comrades in the UK Subs were all in attendance. My best man was Mel Wesson, a good friend since my mid-teens and once a member of my pre-Punk glam rock band, Marionette, since progressed to playing keyboards for TV Smith’s Explorers. The bride and groom’s choice of clothing for this event was not traditional. She wore an elegant black silk cocktail dress, black stockings and black high-heeled court shoes; I matched her sartorial darkness with black Chelsea boots and tight black leather strides gathered at the waist by a wide metal studded belt – all purchased at BOY on the King’s Road – while for the upper half of my body I sported a vintage black waistcoat, a midnight-black Johnson’s La Rocka bolero jacket and singly veered from the funerary theme of our clothing with a white ruffled dress-shirt and a burgundy silk cravat entwined into a loose pre-Raphaelite bow.

Above: Wedding party, Croydon 1982.
Note Knox wearing white tuxedo jacket in the foreground - click to enlarge

   Our post wedding party was at my parents’ house in Croydon and it was a disparate crowd that converged there for celebratory food and drinks. Members of the Subs, the Vibrators, the Defects, TV Smith’s Explorers and the Fits along with other Punk rock faces mixed happily with my far more conservatively dressed uncles, aunts, cousins, neighbours and school friends. Those that’d been invited but were unable to attend due to being away on tour, such as the Adicts, the Anti Nowhere League, the Damned and Hanoi Rocks, generously sent telegrams of congratulations.

 

   I drank Jack Daniels straight from the bottle throughout and worked on coming to terms with the undisputed fact that I was now a married man. The next day I played a gig.

 

The week that followed on from my wedding and that Adicts’ honeymoon show had the Urban Dogs returning to the Marquee to open up for the Lurkers. On the ensuing evening we played a support show with the Angelic Upstarts at the 100 Club. Richard Bishop, when not expending his managerial energies on Hanoi Rocks, had taken on the Dogs as a side-line project and booked us in for a day at Silo Studios to record three tracks for a prospective single release. Charlie had two freshly written songs pre-prepared for this session: New Barbarians and Speed Kills. We also agreed with his suggestion that we lay down another accelerated version of a blues cover song that Chas and I had recorded with the Subs while in New York earlier in the year, the Rev. Gary Davis’ Cocaine.

 

   These recordings would emerge as a seven-inch vinyl forty-five on the Fallout label at the end of September ’82 with New Barbarians as the A-side choice. The front cover would feature a photo of an old friend displaying his cranium dragon tattoo – Big Tim was a towering, tough but judicious lad who would sometimes function as both roadie and bodyguard for the Subs when we toured in the UK.

Above: Urban Dogs make the pages of Smash Hits! 1982 - click to enlarge

 

   A week or so after the Dogs’ sessions the Subs returned to the studio to likewise record three new tracks for a single. Entrenched at Jacobs (the same studio where Endangered Species had been recorded) Chas, Nicky, Kim and I worked on three songs penned by Garratt and Harper. Being responsible for all the musical components Nicky had seemingly decided to emphatically move the band away from the brisk R & B-based material commonly found on Another Kind of Blues to a more contemporary hardcore Punk assault. I think he wanted to compete with the likes of the newer faster, more vigorous outfits that were changing the essential sound of the Punk genre – Minor Threat, The Exploited, Discharge, Bad Brains, etc; and in keeping with his recent conversion to the frenetic character of such music Garratt had also slashed his hair into a floppy Mohican with shorn-to-the-skin sides and adopted a more severe Punk rock dress sense.

 

   The eventual A-side, Self Destruct, and B-sides, Police State and War of the Roses, were all reflections of Garratt’s enthusiasm for this new, decidedly metallic Punk rock formula. Charlie duly provided titles and lyrics in keeping with the feverish pace of these compositions though, unlike Nicky, resolutely resisted any changes in the barnet department and maintained his trademark bouffant hair which continued to make him look like a Punk and disorderly Gary Glitter clone.

 

    Our Shake up the City red vinyl EP submission was released on the Abstract Records’ label in late September 1982. None of this was due to the endeavours of Jane Friedman. Abstract Records had been established in ’81 by an ex-Gem Records’ executive, Edward Christie. We all knew him pretty well from his tenure with our former label and Nicky Garratt had negotiated the deal directly with Christie at his Tiverton Road offices in London. We had also taken the initiative and booked the only trickle of shows that the U.K. Subs had played since signing terms with Wartoke Concern in April. We were now starting to feel that our own contributions to the furtherance of the band’s career were superior to that of our new management company.      

        

  Despite this dissatisfaction with Friedman’s managerial lethargy she did finally succeed in securing European and UK booking agents for the Subs at the beginning of September. We were much relieved then to receive itineraries for our first continental Euro visit of that year from an agency called, unimaginatively, the Agency.     

 

   On the afternoon of the 17th of September ’82, we took a ferry from Dover to Germany. Having made our way to the ship’s bar we noticed that members of that fine Canvey Island derived outfit, Dr. Feelgood, were already happily in situ sampling a variety of alcoholic beverages. They were also Germany bound for an extended European excursion.

 

   I took the opportunity of introducing myself to singer/frontman Lee Brilleaux and confessed to him how much I had enjoyed the band when I used to go see them play live in the 1970s. Lee was more interested in what I was drinking.

   ‘What’s your poison there son?’

   ‘Jack and coke’ I answered.

   ‘Bet you picked up that habit while touring in the States, didn’t ya?’

   He turned out to be a very genial and most excellent drinking companion. We exchanged a lot of tour stories, joked around and then Lee revealed how he liked to relax when off the road:

   ‘I bet on the horses and dogs; drink and smoke, play pool and darts at my regular pub in Leigh-on-Sea… I’m a bit of a sportsman actually’.

   Having shared a fair number of rounds together and with the ferry preparing to enter our designated Teutonic port, Brilleaux reached into the top pocket of a suite jacket that formed part of a very smart three-piece assemble where he located a printed card and thenceforth placed it in my beverage free hand.

 

   ‘Take this’ he said ‘my address and telephone number is on it. If you’re ever in Essex give me a call and I’ll take you to my local for a proper session. Good luck with the tour son’.

   Of course I fully intended to take him up on his kind invitation at the first possible opportunity once we’d returned to England but, inevitably, the card remained in my wallet, I got busy with other matters and I never did get to drink and play pool with the talented, charismatic Lee Brilleaux at the Grand Hotel in Leigh-on-Sea.

   Tragically, Lee would succumb to cancer in 1994 at the far-too-young age of Forty-one.

  Below: The card Doctor Feelgood's Lee Brilleaux gave me en route to Germany, 1982.
I much regret never taking him up on his invitation of a visit. - click to enlarge

 

   Jane Friedman had sent over her second-in-command, Laura Lorrey, from New York to tour manage our Euro jaunt. Initially I wasn’t too impressed with this idea being as Lorrey freely admitted she had never taken on the taxing job of shepherding a band on the road before and this lack of experience could easily prove to be a big liability during the three weeks we were scheduled to travel around the continent. The other worry was that she had become romantically involved with Nicky Garratt.

 

   This relationship had begun during the concluding part of our North American tour earlier in the year. Laura had taken on a strong liking for Nicky, while Jane had nurtured an amorous crush on me. They both flew to a gig together with the premeditated objective of seducing each of us back at the hotel after one of the USA shows.

 

From the Nicky Garratt collection From the Nicky Garratt collection

 

   Jane cleverly lured me into her room with the promise of Jack Daniels and cocaine. I wasn’t adverse to a small amount of the devil’s dandruff in those days and she was well aware that the Lynchburg liquor was my favourite tipple de jour. I drank some bourbon, partook of a line or two with her, and then got plenty nervous when she invited me up onto the bed where she was seductively reclining in order to view what she claimed was a long-term career plan for the Subs that she had printed out on some sheets of paper that reposed on the bedside table.

 

   I took a big mouthful of the whisky and gingerly got up onto the bed to sit beside her. She quickly refilled my glass and started rubbing her hand slowly up and down the inside of my thigh. It crossed my mind that maybe I should just let things happen, but there were two impediments to this idea: first of all I didn’t actually find Jane that physically attractive and, more importantly, I knew one of the prudent rules of my profession, as explained to me some years before by Guy Stevens, was never to blend business with sex.

 

   ‘If you start sleeping with a female record employee or a woman manager or agent say, then when things end badly, as they generally do, they are likely to placate their resentment by doing their utmost to fuck up your career’ he’d warned. 

 

   Besides, I had a fine-looking girlfriend back in London and getting involved with a woman who was supposed to be reviving our business fortunes and enlarging our careers was a complication too far. So, I got off the bed, thanked Jane for her hospitality, and, much to her evident disappointment and annoyance, I exited the hotel room and made for my own hired place of refuge.

 

   I think it’s fair to observe that after this failed attempt at seduction Jane Friedman was never again as personally amiable to me as she had previously been.

 

   Where Jane had failed, Laura had succeeded. My worry then was that we might have a repetition of the problem we’d experienced with Mal and Katie, where the two infatuates slowly became a semi-detached component of the Hardcore Storms America tour. But both my apprehension regarding Lorrey’s ability to tour manage and the possible negative effects of her burgeoning liaison with Nicky Garratt during this trip proved to be unfounded.

 

   Indeed, Laura turned out to be a very efficient and able facilitator; and, apart from one embarrassing dressing room squabble, these fledgling lovers did not let their emotional and physical involvement interfere with the day-to-day concerns of the tour in progress.

Above: Tour manager Laura Lorrey counts out our wages for the week.
German hotel on the September Euro tour, '82 - click to enlarge

   The tour itself was reasonably successful and particularly memorable for three equally indelible events. First of these noteworthy experiences entailed our appearance on the German television rock music institution that was Beat Club. Beat Club had been offering a national televisual platform for rock bands since the early 1970s, with Deep Purple, T. Rex, Black Sabbath, Slade and many other British, American and European outfits having been featured over the years. At the time though I hadn’t a clue just how famous the show was in this country. It was only when earlier in the tour I casually mentioned to a German Subs fan that we were due to perform for it that I caught a glimmer of just what a big deal our invitation was.

   ‘You’re doing Beat Club?’ he asked, in manner that registered a fair degree of disbelief.

   ‘Yes,’ I reconfirmed, ‘We’re due to play a set live on it’.

   ‘If you’ve been invited to play on Beat Club, you’ve made it in Germany!’ he exclaimed.

   Not only would we be playing live on the programme but upon reaching the TV studios situated in the city of Bremen we grasped there would also be an attending audience. The room was heaving with local Punk rockers in full statutory regalia – leather jackets, studded wrist bands and belts, multi-coloured Mohawks, Doc Martin boots – which put us at our ease while having the opposite effect on the director, producers, camera crew and the other television technicians who were plainly unnerved by the posture and dress of what were alien creatures to the majority of them. The result was visual dynamite.

    

   As the mobile cameras glided around the room capturing our energetic performance on the superbly lit stage specifically constructed for the event, the audience put on a show of their own: wildly thrashing around to the music and leaping about in a spirited but nonaggressive fashion. This broadcast certainly did enhance the U.K. Subs’ public profile in Germany at the time – a country that still attracts the biggest audience numbers to Subs’ shows during our yearly, five-week-long European tours – but as good a TV performance as it was we didn’t quite reach the pinnacle of ‘having made it’ there on the strength of this one televisual display.


Above: Beat Club TV show, '82 - click to enlarge

   A DVD of that TV performance entitled U.K. Subs Live in Bremen can be obtained from the Noise Annoys company based in Poland. As well as film of this concert in its entirety there is some additional footage of us playing live in Warsaw in 2000. As Subs DVDs go, it’s one of the better releases.

Below: Postcard from the Patrick Kerrane collection.
From Alvin Gibbs 30/9/1982, mentioning the TV show- click images to enlarge

Front - click to enlarge    Back - click to enlarge

Above: After show party. From L to R on couch - Charlie, Kim & Chutch - Foreground - me (polishing off a bloody mary) and our driver for the tour, Chris Johnston. Hotel, Sept Euro tour, '82 - click to enlarge

   The second memorable event consisted of a very different kind of experience. On a gig-free German travel day our driver for the tour, Chris Johnston, noted that we would be passing Dachau concentration camp, situated just outside of Munich. He asked who wanted to visit this preserved remnant of Hitler’s Third Reich, and Chutch, Kim and I all raised our voices in favour of this plan. Charlie, Nicky and Laura didn’t want to join us for reasons unexplained, so we dropped them off at a restaurant and drove on to the memorial site.

   Coming face-to-face with the barbaric realities of that dark period in German history was important but harrowing. Within its confines we learned that over a twelve year period (March 1933 to April 1945) some forty-two-thousand men and women inmates were executed or died from sickness or starvation. We viewed the murky, malevolent bunkers that were used for the torture and murder of prisoners whose crimes were that of being communists, socialists, trade unionists, or some other illicit political organisation which the Nazi Party had deemed ‘subversive’. Other offences included simply being Jewish, Slavic, homosexual, or an academic or journalist who had publically questioned the methods and legitimacy of the homicidal Fuhrer’s totalitarian regime.

 

   We witnessed the crematorium where the bodies were burned in their thousands and read the shocking personal accounts of the half-life in that abominable institution along with photos of its skeletal, starving inmates and the heaped bodies of the dead in the carriages of the Dachau death train.

 

   As I was progressively exposed to these horrors I wondered what manner of primordial darkness those who committed these offences had wilfully tapped into to provide justification for the dehumanisation of these people, and which legitimised in their minds the rapes, brutalities, starvation, beatings, barbaric medical experimentations and executions they indifferently dispensed. And the chilling fact is that Dachau’s monstrous regime was not even in the same murderous league as the Jewish Holocaust designated camps such as Auschwitz-Birkenau, Treblinka, Ebensee and Sobibor.

 

   There is a wall at Dachau that displays two words written in five separate languages – Hebrew, French, English, German and Russian. Those two words are NEVER AGAIN. I would dearly like to believe that to be true; but as I examine the present world, with its recent upsurge in far-right political parties, its accelerating overt racism, deadly religious fascism and burgeoning crude nationalism, I’m beginning to contemplate that these are fertile times for a matching sinister ideology to that which held sway in German (and let’s not forget Italy, Spain and Japan) in the 1930s and 40s; and that this modern more cryptic form of radical illiberalism may again corrode the fragile veneer of our civilisation and plunge us back into the darkness of those former times; the subject of which connects me neatly to the third notable 1982 Euro tour occasion that I wish to share with you…

 

   We arrived at our venue destination – the guttural sounding Batschkapp – in Frankfurt to discover that both the building and the gigs that took place there were under the jurisdiction of one of the seemingly many left-wing collectives that offered live Punk rock music for the German public, and in particular its youth, during the early 1980s. This was substantiated by the various murals on the walls of a sizeable live room that featured painted heroic images of leftist icons such as Che Guevara, Castro, Marx and Lenin. There was also a lot anti-Nazi literature, flyers and posters in the entrance hall. I was very comfortable with all these trappings of political conviction but there was one aspect of playing this type of venue that I had grown to despise – the food.

 

   For what I can only assume was an absence of imagination mixed with a large dollop of political rectitude-meets-old hippy-style ethics, just about every one of these leftist collectivist gigs offered the very same band meal: plain tofu and overcooked vegetables in a tasteless, bland, spice-less tomato sauce served with some unseasoned brown rice that usually had coagulated into a solid saucepan-shaped lump by the time sound-check was over and we were ready to eat. Now don’t get me wrong, even back then I enjoyed meat-free food and absolutely agreed with the vegetarian lobby’s philosophical point-of-view – I had even sought to acquire the behaviour of a vegetarian myself, with mixed results  – but why oh why, could they not provide some animal unburdened food that actually looked appetising and tasted good?

 

   And sure enough, when an appropriately dishevelled and bearded man named Dieter (chief organiser of this Frankfurt collective and interim promoter) informed us there was hot fare awaiting the band in the dressing room situated at the top of the building two floors above, there, awaiting our groans and ingratitude, was the offending tofu stew accompanied by a compacted block of brown rice. Nicky Garratt, who had been a committed vegetarian since his early teens, threw up his hands in disgust and yelled ‘Not this hippy shit again!’ and mimed putting a gun to his head and pulling the trigger.

   After we sent Chutch on a mission to acquire pizzas I went and investigated the large metal bins that I noticed at the top of the stairs leading to our dressing room. They were filled with bricks and rocks. My first thought was that this was the residue of some building work that must be going on somewhere in the venue, but when I encountered Dieter and asked him about this he matter-of-factly shattered that theory.

 

   ‘Oh, yes, they are there so if the right-wing skinheads break into the venue later you can throw the big stones down at them to stop them from getting up to the dressing room’.

   ‘Can you run that past me again, please?’

   Dieter explained there was a football match being played in Frankfurt that afternoon that would attract a lot of far-right skinheads and other Nazi types in pursuit of some leisurely weekend soccer hooliganism.

   ‘They have sent word that they intend to come here after the game to smash their way into the venue and beat up the people attending the concert because they hate our collective and all left-wing people. We must fight them with sticks [he nodded towards another bin filled with broom handles that I’d failed to spot just to the right of the stairs] and these big stones’.

   I wasn’t too keen on the word ‘We’ in that final sentence.

   Yes, this was somewhat unnerving news, but I wasn’t unduly worried. I’d heard these kinds of reports before. Sometimes they turned out to be valid. In the main though such threats were not acted upon, but I still thought it best to teasingly warn the rest of the band that we might be involved in a medieval-style siege at some point during the evening.

 

   After sound-check and the consuming of the substitute pizzas, the main doors were opened. The concert hall quickly filled to capacity with hundreds of local, mainly young, Punk rockers looking to enjoy an evening of music too loud to ignore. We continued to relax in the dressing room dominated by a vast oblong-shaped window which, from our high vantage point, offered a perfect view of a refuse-filled canal and the only visible footbridge to straddle it at the rear of the venue. At some point thereafter I heard some distant Germanic chanting and went over to the window to attempt to see what the source of this commotion was. The chanting gradually grew louder and then, on the brow of a hill beyond the canal, appeared sixty or seventy young men running towards the building mechanically rendering the sieg heil salute in unison and loudly reciting what could only have been far-right slogans in their mother tongue. Dieter’s information had been verified. The siege of the Batschkapp commune had commenced in earnest.

 

   I turned to the rest of the band and directed them to join me to see what was occurring outside. By the time Charlie, Nicky, Laura, Chutch and Kim had reached the window this substantial gang of Nazis had poured across the bridge led by a trio of men whose faces were concealed by black balaclavas. Even more menacing than the masks were the identical firearms that each of them carried. From our vantage point they could easily have been lethal automatic handguns; but we didn’t have long to wait to discover exactly what kind of ammunition these weapons delivered.

 

   Seeing easy targets framed in the window the armed leading men dropped to their knees and aimed their guns directly at us. We immediately backed away from our vulnerable position. On hastily retreating to the doorway, three lit flares shattered the window glass, landed on the carpeted floor and began to ignite its synthetic material. We had no means of supressing this fledgling fire so we headed down the stairs to the corridor below to see if we could discover something to douse these preliminary flames.

 

   Apart from the bins full of broom handles and rocks there was nothing to be found on that level. I volunteered to find Dieter and some of his commune comrades on the ground floor and return mob-handed to properly take care of the smouldering incendiaries in the dressing room. The balance of the Subs’ touring party would remain on the first-floor corridor hunting about in case we had missed a cubbyhole where a heavy rug or some drapes might be found to extinguish the combusting flares.

 

   On reaching ground level I could clearly hear the sound of people trying to kick and pummel their way in through the rear doors. I then took a right turn into a passageway I thought led to the back of the stage where Dieter’s office was sited. Having reached halfway along this corridor I realised I’d turned in the wrong direction but before I could about-face to rectify my mistake, a side door that offered access to the exterior flew open and two tall and physically intimidating skinheads carrying baseball bats strolled in.

   ‘Oh fuck’, I thought, ‘there is no way I’m going to be able to reverse direction and get help before they put those bats to work’.

   I didn’t move. I just stood there stoically awaiting the outcome of this unlucky encounter.

   The giants gazed hard at me and smiled.

   ‘The sadist bastards, I’m about to be beaten to a bloody pulp and they’re smiling at the prospect!’

   I couldn’t have been more wrong.

   Both men opened their Harrington jackets so I could see worn over their Ben Sherman shirts the scarlet braces that hitch-up their Levi jeans. I knew what this signified: they were redskins, anti-fascist affiliates of that subculture and on our side of the ideological dispute. If white braces had been revealed instead there would have been a very different outcome to this chance assignation.

 

   They must have seen the trepidation in my face and worked out I was with the band as one of the heroic redskins said to me in good English ‘Don’t worry, Dieter telephoned us and asked that we come here to help protect you all.’

 

   He thwacked his bat into the palm of a massive hand and assured me: ‘No Nazi will get past us’.

 

   I thanked them for coming to our aid, then went and found Dieter stage-side with two of his associates. Having explained that the top of the building was about to ignite into a raging inferno, they all dashed off, found the buckets of sand and a fire extinguisher kept for such an eventuality and ran up to the dressing room to snuff out the flames that had started to consume the carpet and had now filled the space with acrid, grey smoke.

 

    Kim Wylie, who had never experienced this kind of situation before, had understandably been badly unsettled. He didn’t want to play the gig in case any armed ultra-right nut-jobs who might have managed to infiltrate the venue posing as ordinary punters used us for target practice once we were up onstage. Charlie, Nicky and I took it in turns to clarify to him why we HAD to play the gig: Firstly to show our defiance in the face of far-right aggression; and, secondly, to provide the audience – some members of which had had to run the gauntlet of Nazi intimidation before gaining entry – with what they had come for and duly deserve; to do otherwise would have been to betray our core philosophy as a Punk rock unit.

 

   He eventually agreed to put aside his concerns and do the gig. At the allotted time we mounted the stage to an immense roar of approval and played the best show of the entire tour while the battle between left and right continued to rage outside.

 

   When we’d finished Dieter told us the police had finally turned up and dispersed the combatant factions with water cannon and batons. Despite this dispersal he was still worried for our safety and had decided to change the hotel we were originally booked into for another across the city just in case the far-right had discovered where we originally had rooms reserved and paid us an unwelcome visit.

 

   Crazy times, certainly, but such incidents were a very real prospect in the first half of the 1980s. Punk rock was perceived as being primarily aligned with the political left due to, among other indicators, John Lydon having declared himself an Anarchist on record, the Clash naming one of their albums Sandinista (after the then socialist revolutionary government of Nicaragua) and Joe Strummer’s oft worn Brigage Rosse T-shirt (the Red Brigade: Italian, Marxist-Leninist militants with a propensity for murder). This perception rendered all Punk bands potential targets for violent reprisals by those at the other end of the extreme political spectrum. It was a matter-of-fact aspect of the work.

 

Above: Kim Wylie contemplates what to do with his Euro earnings.
Hotel room, European tour, 1982 - click to enlarge

After the European tour I returned to London to resume my married life. It was good to be back in the arms of Mary; but, inevitably, within a week or two of home and wife, I was itching to play again.

 

The problem was the U.K. Subs had nothing to offer, gig-or-recording-wise, for at least two seemingly endless months. So I again brandished my bass in the service of the Urban Dogs in the bars and clubs of the UK, this not only being a welcome reprieve from daily domesticity but which also fortuitously led to an offer for Charlie, Knox, Mathew and I to record a debut album under our shared inner-city/canine appellation.                 

 


Alvin on stage again - click to enlargeFirst published 10 March 2017.

TUNE IN NEXT TIME FOR...

 
>>>  'Our valiant road warriors return to the North American continent only to discover a new breed of more commercially-minded, radio-friendly bands in the ascent there that are fast making first-wave Punk outfits such as the Subs seem passé and antiquated; while visiting the Hound Dog’s singers home in Memphis on said tour, Charlie Harper amuses and astonishes by asking a question of such sublime triviality that our official guide is lost for words; mismanagement issues lead to yet another business divorce; the Urban Dogs make an honest and credible album, while the U.K. Subversives sense a real opportunity to put all their recent setbacks behind them and move positively into the future via a fortuitous and unforeseen invitation to be the first ever Punk band to play behind the Soviet Union’s Iron Curtain’    <<<
 

T&M