Being converted from the Beatles to the Stones very early in his musical discoveries was just the start of a journey for a young Alvin Gibbs, eventually establishing himself as a pillar of the community, the Punk Rock community. Alvin is best known for his driving bass guitar next to Charlie Harper’s vocals in the UK Subs, where he has claimed a place at the top table of rebellious icons. Now with plans more than underway to release his solo album, Alvin gives us a look at what inspired and created his musical taste and style while growing up.
The Rolling Stones version of Little Red Rooster. I saw the Stones performing this in the company of my parents and sisters on the iconic 1960s Television show ‘Ready, Steady, Go’ in 1966, when I was eight years old. Up to that point I was a Beatles fan but there was something so captivatingly sleazy and languid in both the sound and their performance of this song that I immediately transferred my allegiance to the Stones and became a lifelong fan of their more edgy take on blues and rock music.
The Kinks – Waterloo Sunset
Waterloo Sunset by the Kinks. This was played repeatedly on the radio in our family home during mid-1967. Whenever my young boy-self heard it I would be transfixed by its haunting melody and the bitter-sweet atmosphere it conjured up. When I hear it now I’m instantaneously transported back to that mid-1960s period. For me, that song along with the singles, All Day and All of the Night and the sublime Lola, are the Kinks’ finest recording moments.
T-Rex – Bang A Gong (Get It On)
Get it On (Bang a Gong), T.Rex. I was already a Marc Bolan fan when this record emerged in 1971. The first single I personally purchased with my hard earned weekend job money while still schoolboy was Jeepster and, instead of some football related item as per the norm, I’d surprised my parents by asking for the T. Rex album Electric Warrior for my birthday present when I turned 13. But it was while watching T.Rex’s TV performance of Get it On (on Top of the Pops in the company of my family in ’71) that I decided to give up my aspirations for a professional career in football playing for my beloved Crystal Palace FC and become a rock musician instead. It was a moment, a performance and a song that changed the entire arc of my life.
Mott the Hoople – All the Young Dudes
All the Young Dudes, Mott the Hoople. I first encountered this song when I was on a family holiday in Cornwall. It was one of a series of wonderful single releases that graced the airwaves that splendid summer of 1972. It encapsulated the Glam rock sound that I loved at that time and had/has one of the most rousing and uplifting choruses of any song from that genre. The end result of that was I became a huge Mott the Hoople devotee and still have every vinyl album and single released by the band, including all the offshoot records such as Ian Hunter’s solo albums and singles (with and without Mick Ronson) and the 2 Mott LPs and British Lions’ album, which were recorded by the other former members thereafter.
Alice Cooper – School’s Out
Another deeply influential song from that summer of 1972 is Alice Cooper’s School’s Out. I loved it’s clever ‘we got no class, we got no principles’, double meaning lines, and the general irreverence and anarchic stance of the lyrics, plus the raunchy guitar-led sound. It was the first hint of an approach to rock music in the mainstream that corresponded to what became commonly considered Punk attitude in the late 1970s.
Stooges – Search and Destroy
Not in the mainstream but from the fringes of the rock music scene, Iggy Pop and the Stooges were also making proto-Punk records and the album from that outfit that first caught my attention was Raw Power. It’s from this album released in 1973 that I’ve selected Search and Destroy as my sixth choice. As far as I’m concerned, a gritty, despairing, frantic vocal performance from Mr. Pop and a full-on sonic assault from the Stooges really put this song at the front of the grid of essential rock music. No other bands were choosing firefights and death and destruction in the malarial jungles of Vietnam for their lyrical inspiration in 1973 and its unflinching realism was in sharp contrast with the insipid musings of contemporary outfits like the Doobie Brothers, Chicago and Seals and Croft. This song is also special for me because when I became Iggy Pop’s bassist in the late 1980s I would share Iggy’s microphone to sing the ‘honey I’m the world’s forgotten boy, the one who searches to destroy’ chorus with him, plus it was one of my favourite songs to play in the set.
Ramones – Sheena Is A Punk Rocker
The Ramones’ – Sheena is a Punk Rocker. On the strength of hearing this melodic and engaging song on the radio at work after having left school a couple of years before, I went to see them play at the Croydon Greyhound on their UK Leaving Home album tour of 1977. It proved to be another life-altering experience. I was blown away by the sheer energy and directness of their approach to rock music, an act of deconstruction that was a necessary remedy to the pretentious, over-complex nonsense being churned out by the Likes of Yes and other Prog rock types at that time. ‘That’s how it should be done’ I told myself, and I became an adherent of Punk rock there and then.
The Clash – (White Man) in Hammersmith Palais
White Man in Hammersmith Palais, the Clash. I loved the Ramones but the Clash quickly became my favourite Punk rock outfit. Their debut album is a garage rock masterpiece and one of my all-time favourite LPs. But it’s their 1978 single release White Man in Hammersmith Palais that really caught my imagination and, as with the Kinks’ Waterloo Sunset and the mid-1960s, invokes for me the spirit of those heady times from the early Punk movement when the genre was still new and visceral and rebellious, and I was still a young hound on the make.
Johnny Thunders – You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory
You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory, from the Johnny Thunders’ solo album, So Alone. Wonderful album with this song, to my mind, being the prime cut. Johnny’s idiosyncratic guitar sound, his wire-whip vocal and a highly memorable sing-along chorus adds up to an abiding classic which my sometimes band with Charlie Harper, Knox and Mathew Best, the Urban Dogs, covered on our last album. Hated the Junky chic that enfolded Thunders and some of his wannabees – let’s face it, heroin is simply a destructive drug that destroys lives and careers, including Johnny’s own – but all is forgiven when you put another kind of needle to that vinyl record and allow this song to embrace and enliven you.
Johnny Cash – Hurt
Johnny Cash’s cover of the Nine Inch Nails’ song, Hurt. Cash’s vocal performance on Hurt is so compelling, so vulnerable and perfect that it has now quite rightly reached iconic status. The video for this song with its images of a life lived reaching the end of its course is both beautiful and moving in equal measure. It’s as fitting a piece of work to culminate a remarkable career as I can envisage – Cash died just seven months after Hurt was released – and a testament to the truth that age is no barrier to artistic accomplishment.
Iggy Pop with Alvin Gibbs – I Wanna Be Your Dog
Favourite all time song: Wow, that’s just too hard an ask! All the songs that have connected with me over the decades have their own unique place in my personal history. Sorry, I cannot bestow favored status on just one of them.
UK Subs – Down on the Farm
Favourite song you have been musically involved in: I guess it should be Down on the Farm, the song I co-wrote with Charlie Harper for the UK Subs’ album, Endangered Species. It was, after all, recorded by Guns ‘n’ Roses for their Spaghetti Incident LP of 1993 and having sold over six million copies worldwide, has provided me with the only platinum disc to grace my memorabilia wall at my home in France. But, actually, my favoured song that I’ve been involved in is a recent one entitled Heaven and the Angels, which will be on my forthcoming solo album entitled Your Disobedient Servant to be released the Time & Matter Records’ label. It’s something different from what I’m usually known for, being a dark, edgy Nick Cave-ish piece with sinister guitar parts and a haunting vocal. Buy the album and give it a listen, I’m sure you’d like it too.