U.K. Subs became quite ‘popular’ overnight in 1980. Their live album Crash Course even turned gold. That album documented their Brand New Age tour, in support of the album with that name that was also released in 1980. In two weeks time U.K. Subs will perform in Amsterdam on their Brand New Age 40 year anniversary tour, so if there ever was a perfect opportunity to give attention to the great Crash Course, it’s now.
The band formed in 1976 under the moniker The Subversives. Singer and founder Charlie Harper (real name David Charles Perez) brought Nicky Garratt, Paul Slack and Pete Davies together and the classic U.K. Subs line up was ready to dive into punk, with a rock and roll and pub-rock twist.
At first the band performed a lot at the White Lion pub and Action Space in London. Many of these first shows were put on in combination with anarcho punk band Crass. One night in particular is etched into both bands’ memories, the night only 2 people showed up:
Steve Ignorant (Crass):
The audience consisted mostly of us when the Subs played and the Subs when we played. Sometimes it was disheartening, but usually it was fun. Charlie Harper’s indefatigable enthusiasm was always an inspiration when times got bleak, his absolute belief in punk as a peoples’ music had more to do with revolution than McClaren and his cronies could ever have dreamt of.
Nicky Garrett (U.K. Subs):
We advertised it in the music press, yet for some reason still unknown to me, only two people showed up. We watched Crass and Crass watched us. Both bands turned in great sets and it was, for me, one of the best shows from that period. That is until we split the £ 1 taken at the door.
In May 1979 the band signed a deal with GEM Records, right after the band had renamed themselves U.K. Subs. The band released three classic punk albums in a short period of time : Another Kind Of Blues (1979), Brand New Age and Crash Course (both in 1980).
Following the release of Brand New Age on April 11th, 1980, U.K. Subs went on tour in support of the album. On May 30th a concert was planned at the Electric Ballroom in London, but because of fast ticket sales the show was moved to the (larger) Rainbow Theatre.
The show was recorded and would be released on September 12th, 1980, as album Crash Course. The story goes that singer Charlie Harper was so drunk that almost all his vocals had to be re-recorded. In between songs he swore and cursed so much that record company GEM Records felt obligated to place a sticker that said “This Album is Offensive” on the record.
By the time the album was released the classic U.K. Subs line up had already gone seperate ways. On June 4th, 1980, a mere 5 days after the Crash Course show had been recorded, both Slack and Davies quit, immediately following TV recordings in The Netherlands.
The album was a huge success for the band, it entered the charts at number 8 and was even rewarded with a Gold Record.
The first 30,000 copies of the album were accompanied by the free EP For Export Only, which contained recordings to the show that was held on July 15th, 1979.
At the time I thought it was a brilliant album. Even though some remarks could (and should) be made about the sound, it managees to give a fairly good impression of the band’s live achievements at the time and they are great. The punchy songs are performed with conviction without too much fuss, just a band playing the way they know how to do. The average song length lies about the 2 minute mark and why should it be more than that, really?
This album comes highly recommended to anyone who holds British punk close to their heart and to all that love straight on rock and roll. Give it a go!
|I Couldn’t Be You||1.57|
|I Live In A Car||1.21|
|Left For Dead||1.22|
|New York State Police||2.38|
|Brand New Age||1.27|
|The Same Thing||1.10|
N.B.: The photo on the back cover of Crash Course was shot on April 26th, 1980, just before the band’s encore of that day’s show.
- Charlie Harper – vocals
- Nicky Garratt – guitar
- Paul Slack – bass
- Pete Davies – drums
After Crash Course
After Slack and Davies left, the band sound started to change, which now resembled metal a bit more. The following album Diminished Responsibility announced the change. It was U.K. Subs’ last album that had some (real) success.
But, the band still had the aura of punk and resistance. Being the first ever Western band to play Poland, U.K. Subs played to an astonishing 20,000 crowd in July 1982. The band played by invation of the Jaruzelski regime, who wanted to demonstrate that the communists weren’t that bad at all (the regime would ban the Solidarność union three months later).
Despite dwindling sales, the band soldiered on, even when the number of ex-band members approached and went beyond 30. Even more, they decided to make all of their albums to begin with alphabet letters, in sequence and maintain that up to the letter Z. In 2016 that task had finally been accomplished.
All A-Z albums:
- Another Kind Of Blues (1979)
- Brand New Age (1980)
- Crash Course (live, 1980)
- Diminished Responsibility (1981)
- Endangered Species (1982)
- Flood Of Lies (1983)
- Gross-Out USA (live, 1984)
- Huntington Beach (1985)
- In Action (Tenth Anniversary) (live, 1986)
- Japan Today (1987)
- Killing Time (1988)
- Live In Paris Greatest Hits (live, 1989)
- Mad Cow Fever (1991)
- Normal Service Resumed (1993)
- Occupied (1996)
- Peel Sessions 1978-1979 (1997)
- Quintessentials (1997)
- Riot (1997)
- Sub Mission – The Best Of U.K. Subs 1982-1998 (compilatie, 1999)
- Time Warp – Greatest Hits (oude nummers opnieuw opgenomen, 2001)
- Universal (2002)
- Violent State Live (2005)
- Work In Progress (2010)
- XXIV (2013)
- Yellow Leader (2015)
- Ziezo (2016)
The band still exists to this day. In fact, the band is on tour right now with their Brand New Age 40 year anniversary tour. The only original member Charlie Harper (75 years old) is still there.
What do you think about U.K. Subs and Crash Course? Let me know!
U.K. Subs 1980, U.K. Subs – Crash Course, U.K. Subs – Crash Course – Back cover & For Export Only images: punkygibbon.co.uk
U.K. Subs & Crass – Concert poster image: facebook.com
U.K. Subs – Tour & Poster, U.K. Subs – Crash Course – Gold record images: uksubstimeandmatter.net
U.K. Subs – Crash Course – Ad image: discogs.com