The Disappearance of the Subway Sect

altered images

In the early 80’s my band Butisitart? secured a couple of local support gigs for Altered Images. The Glasgow band were at the peak of their success at this time having secured some indie credibility though the DJ John Peel’s support. Now they had broken into the big time with the single ‘Happy Birthday’.

 

We had secured the gig by simply sending the band a cassette tape. We had made our recording debut in a council flat on one of the rougher estates in Nottingham. This was our rehearsal space for a short period. The existing tenant wanted to make some money and could put up with our noise. The other locals weren’t so accommodating to the point where one of them turned up and banged on the door. Our host let her in to talk to us, it was pretty obvious she had been in the pub until the 2pm closing time but she was reasonably pleasant to us despite telling Meloni our singer that she sounded like ‘a scalded cat’. She made it clear that there were others in the locality who were not so accommodating to our post punk experimentation and might decide to make their own visit. The landlord was not phased by the threats ‘tell them I’ve got a gun’ he informed her.

Before we moved on we did do some recording on a two track machine which meant the band were on one track and Meloni was on the other. Her vocals were very loud in the mix, it was a bit frightening really but it did the trick. Claire Grogan had listened to the tape while doing her ironing and gave us a chance, bless her.

Altered Images were a bit out of their depth to be honest. It was apparent that they weren’t really musicians of the highest calibre and one of their songs just ground to a halt in front of a packed audience, it wasn’t long before they sacked their drummer.

Sandwiched between our incompetent efforts and the almost equally incompetent headliners were a bunch of very professional musicians indeed trading under the name of Vic Goddard and The Subway Sect. Vic had just decided that he would be a crooner in the Frank Sinatra mould, it wasn’t really my thing so I spent most of his set using my access all areas pass to go places in the venue denied to the public. At one point I went through one door and found myself out on the street but my pass got me straight in again, it was such fun.

On the second night Vic didn’t make it up from London on the train but his band had turned up and treated us to a set of instrumental cocktail jazz. Just prior to this their drummer sought me out and asked to borrow a piece of my drum kit which he very decently returned to me later.

In a few weeks Vic and his band had parted company, the latter members going on to form Joboxers who had a sizable hit with the single ‘Boxerbeat’. Whenever this appeared on television or radio it gave me the opportunity to point out my own close personal friendship with their drummer but by and large my own friends and relatives remained unimpressed.

But a mere 4 years previously Vic Goddard and the Subway Sect really could have been contenders. For a period of a few months they were the fourth best punk band in London trailing behind the Pistols, The Dammed and The Clash. They were on the bill at the first punk festival at the 100 club in 1975 and from then on were available as support on tours by the bigger bands. Joe Strummer rated them highly and for a short period they were best mates with the Clash as Bernie Rhodes was managing both bands.

Where the Pistols and the Dammed where clearly throwing their hats into the rock ring despite their protestations to the contrary The Sect were different, favouring a thinner sound. Guitarist Rob Simmons used a Fender Mustang rather than the Gibsons favoured by the others. He also wore the guitar tucked up onto his chest to further avoid any rock god temptations, it sounded a bit like television would have if they had been born in London and failed to practice their scales.

“They (Pistols etc) just want to revitalize rock’n’roll whereas we just wanna get rid of it.” Zigzag.

The Sect never really achieved lift off, from the early days they were shedding drummers at an alarming rate. Being managed by Bernie Rhodes wasn’t exactly the leg up they were hoping for as he decided to sack the band before they could release a record.

And that was it for the Subway Sect. Obviously Vic Goddard reformed them but the new band bore no resemblance to the combo who had appeared at the 100 club. The original bassist Paul Myers went on to join Steve Jones and Paul Cook in The Professionals where he developed a heroin habit but little else. Vic Goddard continued to make music for a while but then went on to get a job as a postman for which he is as famous for as any of his musical exploits, certainly as far as popular culture is concerned.

As we all know, the music never really dies however much you want it too. Goddard continues to occasionally make music as do the other two band members but by now he’s collecting his pension from Royal Mail there’s not the same incentive.

Despite the paucity of product from the original band the sound they made influenced the next wave of Glasgow bands like Orange Juice, rumour has it that Goddard is singing on Edwin Collins’ hit ‘Girl like You’ but I can’t hear him. There’s an element of post punk in the band before punk even happened and although it won’t get your recordings on the latest Guitar Hero game it’s an influential noise.

Word to the wise…Rob Simmons now plays in a band called The Fallen Leaves. After being sacked he found he couldn’t collect his guitar from the garage where it was stored so he simply gave up music for 20 years. The Fallen Leaves play 60’s influence garage punk. If you like that sort of thing as much as I do check them out.

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