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UK Subs

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  • Years Active: 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s


Biography All Music Guide

All Music Guide:

As part of the original punk rock movement in England during the mid-'70s, the U.K. Subs scored several hit singles in their homeland, switching between politically charged material and party-hearty rockers. Led by singer Charlie Harper (who previously fronted a R&B outfit called the Marauders), the U.K. Subs formed in November of 1976, after Harper discovered the Damned. Originally called the Subversives before shortening their name, Harper recruited guitarist Nicky Garratt, bassist Steve Slack, and a revolving door of drummers (eventually finding a semi-permanent member with Pete Davis), and soon after began plotting their plan of attack from Harper's place of business, a hairdressing salon in South London. Around this time, the up-and-coming group recorded a live set at the infamous punk club the Roxy (just prior to its closing), with hopes of the recording being issued as their debut album. Although the recording did indeed go down, the tapes sat on a shelf for several years, before eventually being issued in 1980 under the title of Live Kicks. This led to several John Peel sessions on BBC Radio One in 1977 and 1978, and eventually, a recording contract with the GEM record label, and what's often considered to be their finest recording, their 1979 full-length debut, Another Kind of Blues.

The group enjoyed success back home straight off the bat, as they had several moderate hit singles ("Stranglehold," "Tomorrow's Girls"), appeared at the mammoth Glastonbury Festival, landed a cover story for Sounds magazine, and were even the subject of a Julien Temple-directed film documentary, entitled Punk Can Take It. 1980 saw the U.K. Subs attempt to crack the U.S. market, with a few opening gigs for the Police, as a pair of studio albums were issued, Brand New Age and Crash Course. But as the public's interest began to shift from punk to new wave/synth pop in the early '80s, the U.K. Subs saw their popularity quickly begin to dwindle, as bandmembers began to come and go. The band continued on with such further releases as 1981's Diminished Responsibility and 1982's Endangered Species (among others), as the group's sound grew more and more a kin to hard rock/heavy metal. But despite almost all of the original U.K. punk groups going their separate ways by the early to mid-'80s (the Sex Pistols, the Clash, the Damned, etc.), the U.K. Subs never split up; although Harper was often the only original member left in attendance, the group continued to issue albums and never ceased playing shows. '80s-era bassist Alvin Gibbs would go on to briefly play bass for punk godfather Iggy Pop in 1988, and even penned a book about his experiences, Neighbourhood Threat: On Tour With Iggy Pop. The '90s saw the release of countless U.K. Subs "hits" collections, the best of the bunch being 1991's Singles 1978-1982 and 1996's The Punk Singles Collection.