Despite being a first wave punk band, unlike many groups from that period they stuck around and continued into the 80’s and became associated with the Second Wave of Punk in the early part of that decade, and were considered to be peers of acts such as Anti Nowhere League and The Exploited. Harper is often termed “The Godfather of Punk” due to the fact that he was rather old (in his 30’s) when the movement first started.The band continues to play the British Rebellion festival yearly as well as touring constantly, often playing as many as two hundred gigs a year.
10. Party Animal
From 1986’s Huntington Beach “Party Animal” is a rocking tune that see’s the band venturing into more hard rock territory. This album was yet another that saw Harper assemble a completely different backing lineup. Joining him was bassist Plonker Magoo who had previously played with The Fits, guitarist Jim Moncur from the controversial Oi band Combat 84 and drummer Rab Fae Beith who had played in bands including The Pack and The Wall. The album was released on Beif’s own label RFB which also put out the seven inch “Live in Holland” the same year.
This excellent debut single from their seminal debut Another Kind of Blues was released in August 1978 on City Records on several different coloured vinyls (which set a precedent for what the band would continue to do throughout their career.) and its success led to them being signed by GEM Records.
8. You Don’t Belong
The opening track from third album, 1981’s Diminished Responsibility which was a record that had a notably slick production when compared to the band’s other early releases. This was most likely due to the fact that it was produced by Mike Leander who had produced Gary Glitter. The band stated in the book Burning Britain by Ian Glasper that they were not very satisfied with the way the album came out. Original guitarist Nicky Garratt said of Mike Leander “He barely showed up and managed to get a kind of hollow sound throughout the whole thing.”
7. Rock n Roll Savage
Another track from Huntington Beach that is easily among the heaviest that the Subs had ever recorded. The metal influence is very evident here, with Harper even trying out a high range vocal style rather reminiscent of Judas Priest’s Rob Halford. Also the guitar work is quite technical sounding, much more so than their earlier work. The band were clearly embracing the crossover sound between metal and punk that was prominent at the time.
6. Emotional Blackmail
The second album Brand New Age was was released in April 1980 and saw the band working on a much harder and aggressive sound. “Emotional Blackmail” was a particularly abrasive sounding number with a striking intro followed by a thrashing and heavy riff, which helped establish the band’s place in the Second Wave of Punk and the direction in which this new generation of bands would be taking the genre in. The record was self produced by Harper and Garratt.
Continuing with our top 10 UK Subs songs list we go back once again to the band’s debut album. The closing track from the first album is one of the band’s most famous and celebrated singles and the songs which got them invited to appear on Top of The Pops. It was released in May 1978 and reached number 26 in the charts. “Stranglehold,” features a great mix of punk and pop sensibility.
4. Japan Inc.
This track from 1998’s Japan Inc. clearly shows an interest that Harper had seemed to developed with Japan at the time. This album saw yet another change in personnel. Magoo left to join alternative rock band The Men They Couldn’t Hang, Moncur left to become a full time guitar tech and Beif left to concentrate full time on his label. Harper, who at this point was used to these things happening recruited Flea (Dave Farrelly) on bass, two guitarists in the form of Alan Lee and Darrell Barth who actually left halfway through recording to join hair metal band Dogs D’amour and Steve Roberts on drums who had previously been in the band.
3. Tomorrow’s Girls
Another Kind of Blues track was recorded at London’s Kingsway studios with producer John McCoy who was the bassist in Deep Purple’s frontman Ian Gillian’s band. The album is one of the greatest punk debuts of all time and actually began the tradition of the band releasing all of their albums in alphabetical order.
It reached number 21 in the charts and “Tomorrow’s Girls,” was released as its next single and also cracked the Top 30.Gillian actually included it in a top ten list for a music magazine. Garrat stated that although he felt Gillian likely did this because it was recorded in his studio, it was still an honour to get recognition from him, as he was one of his early heros.
This simple and catchy number was the second album’s lead single and reached number 32 in the charts, which marked the fifth Top 40 entry for the band in the space of a year which was not something many other punk bands had achieved at the time. It got them so much attention that they were soon heading off to America as main support to The Police.
We close out our top 10 UK Subs songs list with the great track “Warhead.” A true classic in every sense of the word from Brand New Age, it features one of the most iconic and powerful basslines of all time. It was released as a single in March 1980 and was also a Top 30 hit. It is without question their best known and loved song and to this day is an absolute staple of their live sets. Lyrically it is about the growing threat of the Cold War and it was famously featured years later in the 2006 film This is England.