Subway Sect to end the week – Their first session for John Peel, recorded on October 17, 1977 and first broadcast on October 24th of that year.
Subway Sect were one of the first British punk bands. Although their commercial success was limited by the small amount of recorded material they released, they have been credited as highly influential on the Postcard Records scene and the indie pop genre which followed.
The core of the band was singer-songwriter, Vic Godard, plus assorted soul fans, who congregated around early gigs by the Sex Pistols until Malcolm McLaren suggested they form their own band. Subway Sect were among the performers at the 100 Club Punk Festival on Monday, 21 September 1976 – sharing the bill with Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Clash and the Sex Pistols. The first line-up of Godard on vocals, Paul Packham on drums, Paul Myers on bass and Rob Symmons on guitar lasted for 4 gigs before Mark Laff replaced Packham. Laff himself would leave for fellow punk group Generation X after the White Riot tour. A third drummer, Bob Ward, was recruited, and it is this line-up that can be heard on the band’s first John Peel session and also on the single “Nobody’s Scared”. This was the first and only release on Braik Records, a label owned by Bernie Rhodes, who managed both Subway Sect and The Clash. Rhodes subsequently supervised the recording of their debut album at Gooseberry Studios in London, with Clash sound man and producer Mickey Foote at the production helm. At that time the band toured intensively with The Clash and others.
However, just as their first album was ready for release, for reasons that remain obscure, Rhodes sacked all the band (except Godard) and Subway Sect mark 1 ceased to exist. The album was never released, although a single from the sessions “Ambition” was remixed and released on Rough Trade Records, with the B-side “Different Story (Rock and Roll Even)” also taken from the same sessions. “Ambition” was ranked at No. 15 among the top “Tracks of the Year” for 1978 by NME. A further track “Parallel Lines” was released as a track on the C81 cassette produced by NME magazine. Since then, some monitor copies of tracks from the lost album have come to light on various Subway Sect compilations, including a Motion Records’ 20 Odd Years double album anthology, and a CD and CD/EP set We Oppose All Rock And Roll on Overground Records. Any copies of the actual album tapes appear to no longer exist.
As a result of 1977 appearances at The Roxy club in London, live recordings were made of Subway Sect performances by Don Letts, the club’s disc jockey. Subway Sect appears in Letts’ Punk Rock Movie (1978).
In 2007, a new Subway Sect (featuring on some recordings original members Mark Laff and Paul Myers, as well as former Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook) released 1978 Now, a re-make of the original 1978 album as, Godard indicated, it had originally sounded. In 2011, Myers rejoined Vic Godard and Subway Sect permanently; his first official gig back was at Nambucca in London on 28 October 2011. Further vintage material was recorded in 2012 – again with Paul Cook on drums – and released in 2014 as 1979 Now.
To jog your memory, here’s their first session for John Peel, which you are enthusiastically encouraged to play loud.