UK Subs - Another Kind of Blues (Cover Artwork)

UK Subs

Another Kind of Blues (1979)

Gem records

So here’s another cracker from 79! But considering how long the UK Subs had already been around, it’s amazing that we had to wait until 1979 to get their debut album. They had formed in 1976 as the Subversives, then changed names to the UK Subversives, and finally settled on the UK Subs. They played with all of the early punk bands, and even played at the short-lived Roxy Club, the spiritual home of punk rock in London in those halcyon days on 76/77. Their lineup was every changing in those early years, but they settled on the lineup of Charlie Harper (vocals), Nicky Garratt (guitar), Paul Slack (bass) and Pete Davies (drums) for their early recordings. Their first single “CID” came out in 1978 on City Records and was an immediate underground success. Lots of the original punk bands were starting to experiment with different looks and sounds by that time but the Subs were clearly very much a true punk band in every sense of the word, and that struck a chord with hardcore punks who felt they were being abandoned. The band got signed to Gem Records in May 1979, and the single “Stranglehold” quickly became their first release on Gem It was actually a hit, getting to #26 in the British charts. That song came to define their sound: definitely a fast and spiky punk rock song but with a repeated chorus that grabs you and doesn’t let go. The brilliant “Tomorrow’s Girls” was the next single and it charted too, and was the perfect precursor to their first album, Another Kind of Blues which was released in September of 1979. All of their singles had been released on colored vinyl which was still a rarity in the 70s, and the album followed suit by having a limited release on blue vinyl.

The album itself is killer. They had created their own tight street-punk sound which was to become their trademark throughout the years. A driving beat propelled by a super tight and punchy rhythm section, with Nicky Garratt adding power chords and crunching solos. Charlie Harper’s raspy, shouted vocals became the blueprint for lots of punk bands that followed. There was nothin pretty about it but it simply works. Some songs on the album even feature a harmonica, adding to the “blues” subtext that runs throughout the album. The songs are fast and short, dealing with politics, love and sex in equal measure. No other punk album at the time was so direct or had so many tracks on it: this had 17 songs and clocked in at 33 minutes, so you do the math. It included all of their singles to date. CID is the first track and Stranglehold is the last; bookends around the Subs sandwich. It even includes the b-sides of CID and Stranglehold, guaranteeing that you knew 6 of the songs on the album right away. That was an important thing for kids back then because you only had limited pocket money so you could only afford to buy one album out of the 10 that you wanted. So knowing that you liked some of the songs already was key.

I bought it when it first came out, and listening to it today it’s incredible how well it stands up after all these years. My favorite songs are the anthemic “Tomorrow’s Girls”, the driving “Rockers” (so meaningful to us back then when there was nothing worse than being a plastic punk -- “Born a rocker die a rocker, punk rocker”), and the slower and repetitive “Crash Course”, a song that was to become the name of their third album. This was a band that was perfect at what they did, and they became the blueprint for lots of “street” punk bands that followed in the decades to come, in both sound and look. Bands like The Exploited, One Way System, Vice Squad, Abrasive Wheels, The Partisans etc etc. They all took the Subs “classic” look (leather jackets, army pants, boots) and their fast (for the 70s at least), chunky sound.

Another Kind of Blues was their first album, and it started their “alphabetized” album title trend. Every one of their album titles begins with the next letter of the alphabet. 1980s “Brand New Age” was the second album, (my personal favorite UK Subs album), and it continued all the way to 2016’s “Ziezo”. The band continues to this day, and it fact recently issued a couple of covers album where they cover some of Charlie’s favorite punk rock songs. Charlie is 73 years old and still going strong, and long time bass player Alvin Gibbs is still in the band too. Long may they continue.