… your heart out ‘special editions’ present …
… a day to remember
“VIC GODARD REWROTE POP MUSIC. HE REWROTE IT FOR REAL AND ALL THE GREAT POP MUSIC THAT WE
PLACED IT IN A PARALLEL UNIVERSE .
HAVE LISTENED TO FOR THE PAST TWENTY FIVE YEARS SPRINGS DIRECTLY
SUBWAY SECT. Y OU KNOW WE ARE NOT TALKING B UT SOMETHING ELSE AGAIN. SOMETHING A TOUCH MORE EXISTENTIAL. I N ESSENCE HE REWROTE FOR THE FOLK WHO OTHERWISE LOVED TO READ OBSCURE F RENCH NOVELS , TRAVEL TO OBSCURE E ASTERN E UROPEAN STATES , DANCE TO OBSCURE N ORTHERN SOUL SONGS. THE OUTSIDERS. AND FOR THESE OUTSIDERS HE REWROTE FROM HIS BAND THE
ABOUT THE MERE CHARTS OR HITS HERE .
WITH THOUGHT AND PERSPECTIVE AND MYSTERY AND A WHOLE LOAD OF CHANCE .
REWROTE IT AS A GREAT DIRTY LAUGH AND NOT SOME SHAMEFUL REWROTE AND REWROTE. HE REMAINS ONE OF THE GREAT OUTSIDERS .” -JONNY B ROWN , RADIO JOY MONEY GRUBBING FAME CHASING LIE.
Sometimes moments in time take on a remote significance. In March 1980 Vic Godard and Subway Sect performed a couple of dates supporting Siouxsie and the Banshees at the Music Machine in London. This incarnation of Subway Sect played what’s become known as its Northern Soul set. The idea of these shows and some lovingly preserved tapes of one of the sets have become a key part of pop legend. To put this in perspective, MCA Records would have been getting ready to release the What’s The Matter Boy? LP. A single, Split Up The Money, would set the scene. Although things had been quiet for over a year in certain circles the name of Vic Godard and Subway Sect was very much a password for what pop should or could be. The logical thing would be to promote the new LP. Vic returned, however, with pretty much a completely new set for just a couple of shows.
3AM: THE LINE- UP THAT PLAYED ON THE WHAT'S THE MATTER BOY ALBUM OF 1980 INCLUDED TERRY CHIMES CLASH'S FIRST ALBUM… VG: AND HIS BROTHER WAS ON BASS. 3AM: ...AND THE B LACK ARABS VG: THEY WERE DOING ALL THE BACKING VOCALS. AND THE PERCUSSION. 3AM: WERE THEY THE SAME WHO PLAYED A DISCO MEDLEY OF PISTOLS' SONGS ON T HE GREAT ROCK AND ROLL SWINDLE? VG: Y ES. THEY ALSO DID A TOUR SUPPORTING DEXYS MIDNIGHT R UNNERS. THEN THEY JUST SPLIT UP . I WROTE A LOT OF SONGS FOR THEM . N OTHING CAME OUT ON RECORD . SOME OF THE SONGS I THEN DID MYSELF STOP THAT GIRL, DEVIL'S I N LEAGUE WITH Y OU, NO STYLE -- THEY'RE ALL STUFF I'D WRITTEN AS SOUL TYPE NUMBERS FOR THE B LACK ARABS TO DO . S O THEY USED THEM ON THIS TOUR AND THEY ACTUALLY WENT INTO A STUDIO , THEY WERE GOING TO DO A SINGLE , BUT THEN THEY SPLIT UP AND IT NEVER CAME OUT. T HE SONGS ALL GOT SHELVED AND THEN I DID A GIG AT THE M USIC MACHINE IN ROUND ABOUT 1980. A ND I WAS DOING ALL THESE N ORTHERN SOUL SONGS THAT THEY ' D BEEN SINGING WHEN THEY WERE ON TOUR . B UT I WAS USING MY OWN BAND . I RONICALLY , THAT WAS ALMOST THE ORIGINAL S UBWAY S ECT LINE - UP ! THE ORIGINAL BASS PLAYER . THE ORIGINAL DRUMMER . THE GUITARIST WASN' T THERE BECAUSE BY THAT TIME I WAS DOING THE GUITAR WORK . VERY QUIET RHYTHM GUITAR . A ND WE HAD A T URKISH KEYBOARD PLAYER . A ND ANOTHER BLOKE ON TAMBOURINE AND BACKING VOCALS. - RICHARD MARSHALL, 3AM MAGAZINE WHO WAS ON DRUMS ON T HE
Doing the Gene Clark thing, playing tambourine and singing backing vocals, for those shows would be Rob Green, who now sings in the magnificent Fallen Leaves with original Subway Sect guitarist Rob Symmons.
“WE WERE PART OF THE SAME SCENE. I WAS SHARING A HOUSE WITH VIC IN BARNES. BERNARD RHODES SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES, AND IT WAS ALL HASTILY PUT TOGETHER AS THERE WASN’ T A S UBWAY SECT AT THE TIME . VIC KNEW I WAS A SINGER . P AUL MYERS AND B OB WARD WERE DRAFTED IN AS WELL. AND THERE WAS THE KEYBOARD PLAYER , WITH THE LONG HAIR , WHOSE NAME I CAN’ T REMEMBER . WE REHEARSED A BIT. BERNARD DIDN’ T WANT ME STANDING TOO CLOSE TO VIC . ON THE NIGHT, WE DIDN’ T GET A SOUNDCHECK OR ANYTHING. THEN WHEN WE CAME OUT, VIC HAD ON THIS STRIPY MOHAIR JUMPER HE’ D BORROWED FROM ME , AND WE HAD STRIPED TENNIS SHIRTS . THE AUDIENCE , ALL THE B ANSHEES ’ FANS , WERE TOTALLY BEMUSED . C OMPLETE SILENCE . APART FROM A FEW PEOPLE SHOUTING FOR OLD S UBWAY S ECT SONGS .” – ROB G REEN CAME UP WITH THIS OPPORTUNITY TO PLAY WITH
Beyond punk, writers like Dave McCullough, Robin Banks and Paul Morley had written important, influential, contagiously enthusiastic articles for the music press which helped build up the Subway Sect romance. New pop figures like Julian Cope were big fans. And in particular the most appealing independent label of the punk era, Postcard Records of Scotland, would cite Vic as its patron saint. It would be Postcard’s Alan Horne who would propel the Music Machine shows into pop mythology. In the Postcard Brochure he would write about how he went to these shows, and how he had arranged to meet the Go-Betweens there.
“I WROTE ASKING THEM TO COME TO GLASGOW AND MAKE A NEW STEVEN FROM ORANGE JUICE WOULD DRUM FOR THEM AND THEY COULD USE ALL ORANGE J UICE’ S EQUIPMENT. I T WAS NOW THE END OF MARCH AND S TEVEN AND I WERE GOING TO LONDON TO SEE THE S UBWAY SECT AT THE M USIC MACHINE SO WE ARRANGED TO PICK THEM UP AND BRING THEM UP TO G LASGOW WITH US . F IRST NIGHT AT THE M USIC MACHINE AND NO SIGN OF THEM . SECOND NIGHT THEY DIDN’ T SHOW. WE RANG THEIR NUMBER , NO REPLY . N O MESSAGE LEFT AT ROUGH TRADE EITHER . WE TREKKED AROUND HIGHGATE LOOKING FOR THE ADDRESS ON THE LETTERS ONLY TO FIND THEY ’ D MOVED OUT TWO DAYS BEFORE , NO FORWARDING ADDRESS . A FTER HUNTING DOWN ALEX F ERGUSSON TO PRODUCE THE NEW ORANGE J UICE SINGLE (B LUE B OY ) WE HEADED HOME TO FIND THAT THE G O -B ETWEENS HAD ARRIVED IN G LASGOW THE DAY BEFORE .” RECORD AND PLAY CONCERTS .
Within a short time Orange Juice would be performing a cover version of Holiday Hymn, one of the songs premiered during those Music Machine shows. It would feature in the OJs’ second Peel session, recorded in August 1981, and the lyrics would be reproduced in the Postcard Brochure. Interviews at the time, conducted by Dave McCullough and Paul Morley, with the new Scottish groups would invariably refer to Vic Godard and Subway Sect as a touchstone for a new pop sensibility, echoing the Sect’s own “no more rock ‘n’ roll for you” approach.
“A LITTLE WHILE LATER I WENT TO SEE ORANGE JUICE, WHO WERE PLAYING WITH THE UNDERTONES , AND WAS HOLIDAY HYMN. I HEARD THAT E DWYN HAD GOT A TAPE OF THE SHOWS. THERE MUST HAVE BEEN QUITE A BIG SUBWAY SECT FOLLOWING IN SCOTLAND, AS THERE WERE SOME OTHER PEOPLE WHO COULDN’ T GET IN TO THE M USIC MACHINE BUT WE WEREN ’ T ABLE TO DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT. LATER I WOULD TRY TO GET SOMETHING OFF THE GROUND WITH ROB SYMMONS AND THE OLD RHYTHM SECTION FROM ORANGE J UICE , BUT THAT NEVER HAPPENED .” – ROB G REEN AMAZED TO HEAR THEM PERFORMING
“Y OU SEE, THE JAM-PACKED EDWARDIAN-STYLE VENUE THAT IS THE WIGAN CASINO HAS SEEN MANY , MANY EVENTS IN ITS TIME , BUT NOTHING AS STRANGE AS THE WEIRDO PHENOMENON OF N ORTHERN SOUL . WHEREIN MANY YOUNGSTERS , MOSTLY OF A NGLO -SAXON ORIGIN , ASSEMBLE AT 12.30 ON A SATURDAY NIGHT/S UNDAY MORNING , INTENT ON FORGETTING THE FROWSTINESS OF AN EXISTENCE WHICH IN WEEKDAYS CONSISTS OF A BORING DEAD -END JOB , OR NO JOB AND NO MONEY . T HEY FORGET IT ALL , SUBMERGE THEIR SORROWS IN A WHIRLPOOL OF HIGH -ENERGY ACTIVITY , DANCING THE NIGHT AWAY TO SINGLES LONG SINCE FORGOTTEN BY EVERYONE EXCEPT POSSIBLY THE ARTISTS CONCERNED . SINGLES WHICH , GOOD OR BAD , ARE THE LOSERS OF THE RECORD WORLD . THEY ARE RESURRECTED FROM THE MOULDERING VAULTS OF WAREHOUSES IN C HICAGO OR JUNK SHOPS IN B URY , LANCS ., TO LIVE AGAIN AS THE FOCAL POINT IN THE LIVES OF THOUSANDS OF N ORTHERN WORKING -CLASS KIDS . A ND THE WIGAN CASINO IS THE TEMPLE OF THE HOPES AND DESIRES OF THIS RACE WHO SEEM (AT LEAST TO THIS OUTSIDER ) TO FIND LITTLE OR NO SATISFACTION OUTSIDE THE STEAMING WORLD OF THE DANCE FLOOR .”
-VIVIEN GOLDMAN, THE ROAD TO WIGAN CASINO , NME 11 OCTOBER 1975.
On paper there is little to tie Vic Godard and Subway Sect to the Northern Soul phenomenon. Time and location would be against that. But in that period after the punk explosion Northern Soul became shorthand for something, a music, that was not orthodox rock. Back in 1978 when Ambition was released Sounds ran a Dave McCullough feature using the headline: “The Northern Soul of Vic Godard”. In it Vic cited Abba, Francoise Hardy and the Javells’ Goodbye Nothing To Say as influences. That Nosmo King (aka Steve Gold/Steve Jameson) track was a perfect reference point. A song specifically written in a light soul/pop style, which gets a new lease of life thanks to the vintage soul scene’s often unexpectedly wide ranging tastes. It’s a recording that became more popular still when it appeared on a Pye Disco Demands collection. For naturally the grass roots success of the old soul scene prompted a flood of reissues, reworkings, compilations and cash-ins arguably far removed from the spirit of the all-nighters. But in this way a far wider market was able to absorb and appreciate these sounds, even if initially by accident when, say, Robert Knight, Tami Lynn or Wayne Gibson got into the charts.
In the pre-punk ‘70s labels like K-Tel and Ronco put out a series of budget compilations, like Super Bad, Souled Out, Soul Motion, Black Joy, Soul City, and Boogie Nights that were scattergun round-ups of soul/disco tracks. Sometimes there didn’t seem much logic to the selections but invariably they were a wonderful way to enjoy the music. One of the earliest of these was Ronco’s Black Explosion which had a fantastic track listing, including First Choice’s Armed And Extremely Dangerous, Limmie & The Family Cooking’s Walkin’ Miracle, New York City’s I’m Doing Fine Now, Main Ingredient’s Everybody Plays The Fool, The Dels, Delfonics and many more. The oldest track it featured was Tony Clarke’s Landslide, which was getting a new lease of life on the Northern Soul scene.
“BLACK MUSIC OF FEBRUARY ‘74 KICKED OFF WITH A FULL PAGE ADVERT FOR SELECTADISC, A NOTTINGHAM BASED RECORD SHOP WHO WERE RESPONSIBLE FOR A LOT OF PRESSINGS , AS WELL AS RUNNING THE B LACK MAGIC LABEL. SELECTADISC’S TOP 10 SELLERS WERE THE GEMS , SHERRYS, DIDI NOEL, THELMA HOUSTON , CHRISTINE COOPER , S WEET 3, P.P. ARNOLD, PATTI AUSTIN AND TONY CLARKE-LANDSLIDE AT NO. 1.” - P ETE SMITH , BLACK MUSIC (NORTHERN SOUL IN THE MEDIA )
Tony Clarke was a songwriter who provided Etta James with Pushover and Two Sides (To Every Story) to revive her career as the soul sound took over. He would go on to cut some sides of his own for Chess, recording among others The Entertainer in 1964, and Landslide in 1967. These two numbers are among the most loved of any tracks on the enduring Northern Soul scene. But for such a talented song writer and gifted singer he doesn’t seem to have much to show for it, before his tragic death in 1970 when it’s said he was killed by his wife in domestic incident. There seems almost a fitting irony to the fact that it was Tony Clarke’s Landslide that Vic Godard and Subway Sect covered for those Music Machine shows.
“I WAS WORKING IN A DIY STORE IN BRISTOL, PLAYING WITH A FEW PUNK BANDS, JUST FINISHED ART COLLEGE, THINGS WERE LOOKING GRIM. LOCAL KID JOHNNY BRITTON WAS BEING MANAGED BY B ERNIE RHODES , THE CLASH'S MANAGER , UP IN LONDON AND HE NEEDED A BACKING BAND . THAT WAS IT, I TOLD THE BOSS WHERE TO STICK HIS PENSION PLAN , GOT IN MY ‘67 H UMBER S CEPTER AND DROVE . F IRST STOP , PICK UP CHRIS BOSTOCK THE BEST BASS PLAYER IN BRISTOL, NEXT STOP ROB MARCHE THE HOTTEST GUITARIST IN TOWN , GOT ON THE M4, NO COMING BACK , NEVER COMING BACK . WORKED WITH JOHNNY B RITTON IN L ONDON ON ONE SINGLE , SLEEPING ON A MATTRESS IN THE C LASH ’ S STUDIO IN CAMDEN TOWN ...” - SEAN MCL USKY , BEFORE JOBOXERS
One of the absurdities of pop history is that nobody has got around to recording a full set of Vic Godard songs. There has been the occasional cover, of course, but even these are few and far between. An exception to this is the one-off single recorded by former Subway Sect guitarist Johnny Britton in 1980 which features on Side two HappyGo-Lucky Girls, a version of one of the numbers from Vic Northern Soul set. The single was produced by Bernard Rhodes and released on his occasional Oddball label. Other Oddball releases would be Dexys’ debut, Dance Stance, Vic Godard’s Split Up The Money 7”, the What’s The Matter Boy? LP (via MCA), and the Stop That Girl single (via Rough Trade) at the start of 1981.
“I F YOU GET A CHANCE TO SEE AN OLD FILM OF ORANGE JUICE , FROM THE MID-‘80S, CALLED DAD A WITH JUICE, THEN SEIZE IT. I T CAPTURES A PERFECT MOMENT IN TIME. A MOMENT WHEN JUSTICE HAD DESERTED EDWYN COLLINS’ GROUP , AND MORRISSEY , HIS SMITHS AND OTHER ARTISANS, HAD STOLEN THEIR THUNDER . THE PERFORMANCE CAPTURED ON THE FILM IS FANTASTIC, AND THE LINE-UP HAS HUGE HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE FEATURING AS IT DOES THE FATALLY PHOTOGENIC JOHN B RITTEN (J OHNNY B RITTON ) ONCE OF SUBWAY SECT ON GUITAR , AND PAUL HEARD LATER OF M PEOPLE ON BASS . AND SOMEWHERE IN THE FILM THERE’ S D ENNIS B OVELL GOOFING AROUND IN A STUDIO .”
- JOHN CARNEY , FIFTY THOUSAND REASONS (PART 40)
There remains the possibility that Vic Godard will record the Northern Soul set in full. A few of the songs, however, have haphazardly been captured along the way. The Water Was Bad, for example, appeared in a slower statelier version on the 1993 set The End Of The Surrey People, which fittingly had Edwyn Collins at the controls and was released on a revivified Postcard Records. Another number, Devil’s In League With You, would appear on the T.R.O.U.B.L.E set which eventually was released by Rough Trade in 1986. By that time a new wave of groups was active, having been inspired by Vic Godard and Subway Sect, including Primal Scream, The Jesus and Mary Chain, June Brides and Jasmine Minks. Devil’s In League With You would provide the title for the MCA released LP in the summer of 1980.
“PERHAPS IT MIGHT NOW BE APPROPRIATE TO MENTION G ODARD’S NEW ALBUM , WHAT ’S T HE MATTER BOY? – NO , TEN MINUTES – TELLS ME IT’S JUST WHAT I WAS LOOKING FOR . ‘M USIC AWAKENS THE SAVAGE BRAIN’, SAYS THE NIGHT NURSE , AND THIS LP IS SO UP , UP THAT IT IMMEDIATELY HAUNTS ONE WITH A DELICATE ENERGY TINGED WITH MELANCHOLY . VINYL HASN’ T HIT ME SO HARD FOR TOO LONG , AND ‘C RASH ’, HERE IS A CLEVER CONJURING OF EARLY K INKS , VERY EARLY VELVETS , AND TOTAL ORIGINALITY . WHIMSICAL – FRESH AND FRIENDLY – NO HINT OF DECADENCE – NO RESTRAINT, NO RETROSPECTION – NATURAL MUSIC .” - ROBIN B ANKS , ZIGZAG , J ULY 1980 WHICH ARRIVED THIS MORNING . THREE HOURS WITH IT ON THE TURNTABLE
“I’m sorry, I’ve got to leave.” Vic Godard jumps up suddenly, twitching and pale. “What’s the problem?” “It’s the music, the music, I can’t stand it.” “What music?” Then the door swings slightly open, and the distant notes suddenly tidy themselves into Vic Godard’s new first album! But before I have time to start unraveling the contradiction of having your shiny new first album make you grab for the bag, Vic’s bolted, a frightened ferret with a keen homing instinct Vivien Goldman, NME, 26 July 1980
Ways of hearing â&#x20AC;Ś This recording of Vic Godard and Subway Sect was transferred directly to digital format from an ancient cassette tape. It hasnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t been cleaned, treated or edited in any way, although it is likely that improvements could be made to the quality. This, however, was how music was listened to. So much of the music was absorbed via cheap cassettes copied countless times, played on decrepit machines. Invariably this was music not formally available. Demos, live recordings, sessions taped off the radio, compilations lovingly put together.
With thanks to Ally Payne (Dusty C90s), Per-Christian Hille, Rob Green, and Simon Rivers. Special thanks to Vic Godard for granting permission to make this recording available. To Alan Horne for making the recording. And to Bobby Gillespie for sending a copy all those years ago.
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