Wednesday 18 November 2009

Poem: Meditations On The Disappearance Of The Independent Record Shop


curse you, you gleam of vinyl, you spiral scratch of groove sublime,
curse you, for your magic hath prevailed against me at 33, 45, & 78rpm,
curse you, my beloved electric vampire, for the surly theft of my youth, & yet
you were my youth, from beats to brats in fractured tracks, I loved thee
for 50 yrs of bohemian life, I was pretty much mad for you, devoured you,
mainlined on your subatomic dark-matter stylus-fluff particles, got high on you,
my head a mess of matrix no’s, chart positions, composer credits in neat haikus,
yet what use my curses? your gonzo trash-aesthetic delineates my psyche,
your inherent vice and psychedelic romps define the Elektra glide of my dreams,
& now, as estranged lovers, you are no more,
there is no reason why, EMI, curse you where you lie,
let my curses reach you wherever you are and never may you rest,
once was I record-shop revenant by day, poet by night, licking surrealism off
laminated sleeves, off bebop, hiphop, ‘King Tubby Meets the Rockers Uptown’,
Capt Trips, ‘ZigZag Wanderer’, sweet Gene Vincent, Elvis, living on the flip-side,
in the liner notes, your garage-acid corrosive to reason & everything
more profound than thee, which is everything, Johnny, Joey, DeeDee, good times
curse you through sentient interstellar lifeforms radioactive with vinyl blackness,
let thy very shadows be accursed, let the power of my oath find thee, even there,
let my curses be heard even though you veil yourself in melancholy darkness,
even though you lie in flip-boxes alongside Count 5’s ‘Psychotic Reaction’,
X-Ray Spex’ ‘Identity’, Cabaret Voltaire’s ‘Nag Nag Nag’, changes, forever,
let me go down & dwell in the pit of desolation, for never shall I again hear thy like,
no Les Paul’s, no Link Wray, no lost ‘B’-sides, no Joe Meek, all is folly,
for who can reach those who sleep beneath the wings of techno-obsolescence
where not even thy devotees can hit on thee?
Curse You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin),
curse your a-wop bop-a-luma a-bop-bam-boom,
curse your goo-goo-g’joob, curse your Biff Bam Pow,
sometimes withdrawal hurts so good,
once more you count yourself in, 1-2-3, 1-2-3, restart your jittery vibes,
curse you as you’re born again in jewel-cases and mp3 downloads,
may you be reborn accursed, let you be utterly accursed
from the hour of your digital rebirth until sleep again takes thee,
yea, then be thy thrice-accursed, for then shall I overtake thee
with the great vengeance of betrayal, and utterly destroy thee,
for yea, though Rock ‘n’ Roll is dead
it sure leaves a sweet-smelling corpse…

Saturday 14 November 2009

Dennis Wheatley Books


As a human being, Dennis Wheatley was a fake. A fluent chancer, a self-promoting story-spinner in slicked-back hair and a foppishly camp velvet bow-tie. And also an advocate of a hideous and repellently ultra-conservative elitism. Although now neglected and seldom read, lost in time and out of taste, he’s primarily associated – if at all, with novels about Black Magic, spiritualism and occult forces, despite the fact that the major part of his prolific output was clunky adventure-romance thrillers. He preferred pulp espionage page-turners, racy Boy’s Own fiction closer to John Buchan, Rider Haggard, or Ian Fleming than, say, Stephen King or Simon Clark. As a result, for four decades – it’s claimed, his novel-a-year book-sales were second only to Agatha Christie, with 25-million copies sold. If his sympathies really lay with the Devil, it wasn’t so much a pact with demonic forces, as a cosy commercial arrangement.

But he did his research. He was acquainted with Aleister Crowley – the ‘Great Beast’ himself, seeking out an introduction through promiscuously gay politician Tom Driberg. He used the connection to authenticate elements of his ‘The Devil Rides Out’ (1934) by basing it on Crowley’s ‘Moonchild’, filching sections intact. And Wheatley’s style and values are apparent from its opening pages. The Duc de Richleau is first encountered in the library of his West End flat, resplendent in a ‘claret-coloured vicuna smoking suit’, drinking ‘wonderful old brandy’ and smoking one of the long Hoyos de Monterry that were ‘his especial pride’. Wheatley was not averse to exploiting the kinkier elements of Satanic ritual when, discovering that ‘an age-old evil’ was stirring in St John’s Wood, he and Rex van Ryn, a ‘virile and powerful’ young American intervene. Then on to a pagan ceremony on Salisbury Plain. The salacious content appealed to what he calls ‘The Old Adam’ in him. Yet the results are ponderously lumpy stuff. While he sniffs patronisingly at ‘sensational novelists’, among his own wackier literary preoccupations were witchcraft, the Astral plane, hypnotism, Atlantis, Walpurgis night, the Great God Pan, Devil-worship in the crypt, and furtive intrigue in dark corridors and locked rooms.

All apparently harmless flim-flam, until he confides to a youthful Melvyn Bragg straight-faced that now ‘the Devil is operating through the Communist States’. Bragg, fronting the ‘Read All About It’ TV-show (1974), looks politely amused. Elsewhere, a 58-minute DVD ‘Dennis Wheatley: A Letter To Posterity’ has been rescued from ‘The Book Programme’, another vintage Literary screen-slot, with a round-table invocation of various oddball talking-heads discussing aspects of Wheatley’s bizarre career-path, from an occult devotee (Mogg Morgan), to a publisher (Kate Bradley), to an oldster who seems to share Wheatley’s more eccentric and extreme political views (Anthony Lejeune, ‘friend and critic’). There’s even some rare interview sequences with Wheatley himself, some movie excerpts and formally-posed historical footage.
I first discovered Dennis Wheatley on holiday in Bridlington in 1966, when I encountered his shot at SF, ‘Star Of Ill-Omen’ (1952), on my cousin’s bookshelf. I’d already read better stuff by better writers and wasn’t greatly impressed – especially by the sequence detailing the physics of his Martian UFO’s non-grav lavatory! Hero Kem (misprinted as ‘Ken’ a couple of times in the ‘Arrow’ paperback), is an Agent with British Special Intelligence (SHAEF) on a mission to discover nuclear Weapons of Mass Destruction in Buenos Aires, when he’s bagged by giant aliens who use his ‘bedding as a big sack’ by gathering ‘its corners together’. In the big sack with him there’s overnight girlfriend Carmen, and her cuckolded scientist husband Estévan (a graduate of Von Braun’s Peenemünde missile project). He’s along to explain – at tedious length, in a dry and (now) factually incorrect four-page planet-by-planet teach-in dissertation on the likelihood of life in the solar system – citing Percival Lowell, or the principles of motion and propulsion in space. The dominant Martian bee-beetles with their giant humanoid slave-species plan to use Estévan’s nuclear expertise to conquer Earth. Only the Argentine WMD-programme was as much a sham as Saddam Hussein’s. Estévan knows how to moor ‘a static airship’ in the stratosphere as an ‘aerial raft’, but not how to build a nuke! Yet if the Martians are dangerous – until Kem provokes an insurrection against them, it’s the three brutal Communist abductees who ‘held life cheaper than among any race of savages’, who are stranger still, animalistic, politically deluded, and humourless – they continue the devious Cold War antagonisms into their planetary exile, and even attempt to nuke London on their return to Earth. Wheatley does score some lucky hits – mentioning ‘greenhouse’ in relation to the atmosphere of Venus. And the book does accurately predict Argentina’s threat to seize the Falklands, albeit crediting it to Dictator General Juan Peron.

Wheatley’s earlier genre-stabs include ‘Such Power Is Dangerous’ (1933), ‘Black August’ (1934) – in which the English Price Regent defeats the forces of totalitarianism, ‘Sixty Days To Live’ (1939) where a rogue comet destroys civilisation, and ‘The Secret War’ (1937). Further short ventures into fantasy are collected into ‘Gunmen, Gallants and Ghosts’ (1943), while an extenuating exception can be made for the creditable ‘A Century Of Horror’ (1935), a massive genre anthology which he edited. He also edited and wrote the introductions for the ‘Dennis Wheatley Library Of The Occult’ paperback reprint series for Sphere Books during the seventies, reintroducing works by Crowley and Madame Blavatsky.

His own ‘lost-world’ SF begins with ‘The Fabulous Valley’ (1934) and ‘Uncharted Seas’ (1938) set in a dense Sargasso of lost ships, later extravagantly filmed by Hammer as ‘The Lost Continent’. Then ‘The Man Who Missed The War’ (1945) visits an Antarctic Viking realm, while ‘They Found Atlantis’ (1936), involves a cast of irritating aristos and wastrel playboys taking time out from their busy social calendar to descend via bathysphere using a Euphrates scroll found in Eridu to guide them. It’s a poor and confused narrative, with pages of diversions into the simultaneous development of the Phoenician and Maya phonetic alphabets as proof of a mid-Atlantic cultural connection, as well as various race-myth-memories of deluge, flood, and sunken realms. Meanwhile, stranded fathoms deep by pirates they encounter mermaids and cannibalistic sub-men before reaching the idyllic subterranean island of the last twelve Atlanteans, who spend their years telepathically ‘spirit-travelling’ the surface world. Wheatley then loses whatever slight plot potential this entails in pointless romantic intrigues. Until, expelled for the murderous disruption they’ve brought with them, the disparate characters finally use explosives to clear disused tunnels and return to Pico, in the Azores.

Despite such inpetitude, Wheatley’s success and wealth from such stuff bought him a Georgian-style mansion in Lymington, Hants. And it was here he wrote his ‘Letter To Posterity’ (dated 20th November 1947) ranting against the ‘anarchists and agitators’ of what he calls ‘the all-men-are-equal’ school. Insisting ‘all men are NOT equal’. He opposes what he calls ‘the coming of the machine-age’ and the ‘baleful influence’ of equality, which is causing the ‘destruction of the Old Order’. This attack on the ‘ruling elite’ – represented by the ‘socialist planning’ of Atlee’s Labour Government of 1945, is a betrayal of all he claims to value. He advocates setting up Mosley-style Secret Societies of Gentlemen’s Clubs and Country Houses, Right-Wing Aristos intent on launching a coup, an insurrection – what he euphemises as ‘extreme measures’ against the ‘unjust tyrannous officials’ responsible. ‘If need be, die for it’ he declares boldly – then squirrels the document away in his mansion where no-one can find it. Until now.
Dennis Yates Wheatley was born (8th January 1897) in the south London suburb of Streatham, his father a remote authoritarian figure. He was unhappy in the ‘detested’ Dulwich College, preferring to escape into the fiction of Dumas or ‘The Scarlet Pimpernel’. Following expulsion from Dulwich he completed his schooling aboard the naval training vessel HMS Worcester, from which he was commissioned into the Field Artillery regiment. He started World War I by wallpapering his billet in a ruined French chateau until it was ‘really top-hole’, only to be invalided from the front as a victim of a gas-attack during the Ypres Salient. But coincidentally he happened to meet a certain Eric Gordon Tombe in the army. Tombe – gentleman crook, charming fraudster and colourful con-man, helped broaden his intellectual, literary – and sexual horizons, using what he terms a potent combination of ‘drink and ink’. Introducing him to the works of Proust, Nietzsche, and Joseph Conrad, fuelled by an in-debt hedonism of champagne, nightclubs, and ‘hectic nights’ with women. By age 31, Wheatley was deep into a troubled second marriage and bankrupted when the family wine-business he’d inherited was wiped out in the 1929 Crash. So he tried his hand at writing a book. ‘The Forbidden Territory’ (1933) in which Simon Aron, Richard Eaton, and Rex van Ryn – his own rebranding of ‘The Three Musketeers’, relocate Dumas’ high-action exploits to Lenin’s USSR. It immediately became a best-seller, and Alfred Hitchcock bought the film-rights. But as early as his 1936 novel ‘Contraband’ he was seeding his books with right-wing ideas, claiming that ‘Communism is the new face of Satanism’. His heroes – like charming egoist Gregory Sallust, are all decent square-jawed chaps with patriotic motives, flawed by often-sadistic sexism and now-comic jingoism. Heroes who are up against sinister figures such as the twisted Lord Gavin Fortescue, and devious ‘Johnny Foreigners’. In ‘The Devil Rides Out’ de Richleau finds himself facing what he calls ‘a most unprepossessing lot’ of racially offensive stereotypes, a mandarin ‘whose slit eyes betrayed a cold, merciless nature’, a ‘fat, oily-looking Babu in a salmon-pink turban’, a ‘red-faced Teuton’ with a hare lip and a mute Madagascan who was ‘a bad black, if ever I saw one’. Even accepting the different sensibilities of the time, such pulp-magazine caricatures suggest at best limited literary powers, and at worst, a snobbish xenophobia. At first Wheatley merely seems content to live vicariously through his characters and their high-action romantic adventures. Then, faced with a second global war, he found himself at the heart of the British Establishment. As the King’s favourite novelist, he was seconded to the Joint Planning Staff, tasked with preparing theoretical strategy papers, such as those which recommended misdirecting invading forces by switching rail-station names and spinning signposts around to face the opposite direction.

Once the war was over, of course, the novels continued. ‘To The Devil, A Daughter’ (1953), was made into the final Hammer horror film in 1976. ‘The Satanist’ (1960) fictionalised Hitler’s involvement with Satanic cults. They were given added gravitas by the addition of ‘health warnings’ about the power of Black Magic, designed to elevate their dramatic power. His Duc de Richleau (Christopher Lee) is cautioned ‘in magic there is neither good nor evil. It is merely a science. The science of causing change to occur by means of one’s will. The sinister reputation attached to it is entirely groundless and is based on superstition, rather than objective observation. The power of the will is something that people do not understand. Attributing to it mysterious qualities that it does not posses.’ But it’s in that dangerously slippery interface where the Fascist ‘Triumph of the Will’ elides with Occult mysticism that Wheatley unexpectedly found his place in the anti-rationalist coven-revival of the late-sixties. Even raising his profile into the early-seventies despite the advent of ‘The Exorcist’ (1973), which made his witchery seem posed and stale, something better left to shock-rockers Ozzy Osbourne’s Black Sabbath, or more lately, the likes of Cradle of Filth. By then the writer had grown to resemble one of his own characters, living a ‘suburban baronial’ existence of the smoking-jacketed connoisseur in his Grove Place mansion, until his death on 10th November 1977.

Although it was the very-great Christopher Lee who first advocated Wheatley to Hammer Studios, and is therefore instrumental in getting ‘The Devil Rides Out’ onto the screen (scripted by Richard Matheson, 1968). And – admit it, the film is among the best of the highly variable Horror output. Yet Wheatley remains a deeply unpleasant snob, a rascally social-climbing popinjay, a nouveau riche fantasist who began to believe his own fantasies – not the harmless Black Magic ones, but the far more dangerously offensive class superiority ones.

Based on a review of DVD: ‘DENNIS WHEATLEY: A LETTER TO POSTERITY (THE BOOK PROGRAMME)’ (ARC / BBC Scotland / Lion Television – 2005)
Additional research from:
by Phil Baker (Dedalus, 2009) Review by Luke Jennings in ‘Observer’ 8th November 2009

Original Review Featured on:-
‘ZONE-SF’ website (Nov 2005)

Subway Sect CD's

1978… & NOW…!!!
Album Reviews of:
(Motion Pace CD-010, October 1999)
and ‘1978 NOW’ by SUBWAY SECT (Overground Records, 2007)

For those of you who’ve just joined us – Hi, siddown, shuddup, and pay attention. Let’s play the catch-up game? And stop me if I’m going too fast. A Subway Sect double-CD might not necessarily be an attractive proposition. The conscientious reviewer anticipates less a heart-warming nostalgia-rush as a nose-picking pimple-squeezing near-death experience. But pay attention, this is heritage stuff. Subway Sect began as two residents of the obscure suburb of Mortlake SW14. Tall gaunt Vic ‘Godard’ Napper and guitarist Rob Simmons evolved from busking the blues with the minimum of fuss, while retaining something of Mortlake’s sense of distance and insularity. Early participants in the Punk purge, they had no kamikaze controversy for the red-top nationals, little attitude for the Pop inkies or anti-star charisma for the fans to pick over, although Vic Godard’s dead-or-alive drone probably betrays too many e-numbers in his orange juice.

Sure, they were there at the Sex Pistols second-ever gig – The Nashville 23 April 1976, alongside such future luminaries as Tony James, Adam Ant, and Dave Vanian. Jon Savage’s ‘England’s Dreaming’ (Faber & Faber 1991) sets the scene. Strolling past the Marquee Club one Spring night of 1976 he was drawn in by the dissonant racket of the Sex Pistols on stage, or rather, Johnny Rotten already ‘in the audience, throwing chairs about’. Something new was in the air, above and beyond trajectories of phlegm. Savage loved this confrontational image which blew the R&B stuff he’d previously been into, clear out the water, even though he was less convinced by the actual music. Then, on the first night of Malcolm McLaren’s legendary 100 Club Punk Festival of 20th September, the first band on-stage supporting the Pistols were Subway Sect – Paul Myers on bass, Simmons guitar, Rob Ward drums, plus vocalist Vic. They played alongside Stinky Toys, and a hastily convened Siouxsie & the Banshees – with Sid Vicious on bass. First-person accounts make the event sound about as attractive a proposition as being hermetically sealed in a padded cell full of repugnance and pig-snot. Less the sound of the suburbs, more the sound of the sewers. McLaren had wanted as many groups as he could get, rough was fine, but the proto-Sect he deemed even too inept for that. Nevertheless, as Godard recounts, ‘Malcolm paid for our rehearsal time, at a place called Manos in Chelsea… he booked us in there, eight in the morning until seven at night, all week, and paid for it. And we were supposed to be on the festival the next week!’ On the night they did all five songs they had ready, including “Nobody’s Scared”, “Don’t Split It” and “Out Of Touch”. In Vic’s later lyric they were a band ‘sitting at the bottom of a learning curve’ (“Same Mistakes”).

But in contrast to the speed and blur of the other groups, there was something more rigorous about Subway Sect, even then, a stage demeanour as relentlessly drab as Eastern Europe, a sound coming in at oblique angles more akin to, but less able than, the New York art-Punk of Television. To Mark Perry they were ‘melodies immersed in a beautiful, monotonous dirge… a sign that Punk could be a lot more than the fat sonic assault of the Pistols, the Damned and the Clash’. ‘We wanted to sound like the Velvet Underground or the Seeds’ says Godard now, ‘nothing remotely heavy. We never used ordinary guitars, a Gibson or a Strat, we used Fender Mustangs because they have a trebly, scratchy sound. We became quite purist.’ Kevin Pearce called them ‘the strongest, wisest urchins ever to take part in Pop’, four ‘piquant punk pucks straight out of a Truman Capote story’. As Godard resumes, they used to ‘dye all our clothes grey in those days, in a big bath. We liked the colour. We got the twangy guitar stuff from the Velvet Underground’. Vic later conceded a more varied mix of inputs, the acid-garage of Count Five and Thirteenth-Floor Elevators all the way to French chanteuse Francoise Hardy. ‘Our guitarist refused to allow any macho Rock ‘n’ Roll attitudes on stage.’ So, no logo long before the ‘No Logo’ movement. But back then, a badly-tuned pimply guitar cutting through the tune like rusty razor was enough. A certain measure of ability was suspect. Blank, inspired incompetence was better, defined by lame-brained mentally-retarded riffs. But as blank, fast rock exponents the Sect soon reconfigured into a fuller, more coherent sound.

Clash manager Bernie Rhodes, appreciative of the Sect’s angles of subversion took them under wing – a strained relationship from the off. But it made them an integral part of Clash’s ‘White Riot Tour’ – twenty-seven dates through May 1977, what Jon Savage calls ‘the last great Punk tour’ alongside the Slits and the Buzzcocks. The Clash even poached a Subway Sect song – ‘USA’, to spice up their own ‘I’m So Bored With You’, to create “I’m So Bored With The USA”, making it a far more a brilliant rant than the Sect’s template.

Recorded some months earlier, the totally essential 45rpm “Nobody’s Scared” c/w “Don’t Split It” (Braik, March 1978) eventually came out on Rhodes’ own label. And it’s not quite Stanley-knife slash-your-wrist stuff, with Vic’s wavering wimp-vocal more ‘Pete Shelley’-vulnerable, than it is a derisive ‘Johnny Rotten’-sneer as he opens ‘everyone is a prostitute’. Vituperative bass-runs resemble pieces of heavy artillery, running high buzzing lead guitar over the top of the answering ‘singing a song in prison’. Vic’s flat-voiced inflexionless voice accuses ‘moral standards the wallpaper… media TV what’s to speak, take my decisions’. Daft Punk seldom came dafter, a poor artefact, with the Subway Sect already peaking at a low point. But essential? Yes, this is heritage stuff. If the Punk aesthetic places value on the spontaneous amateur over the virtuoso, then – where most of the bands that made it actually had respectable histories with competent Pub-Rock credentials and beyond, the Sect actually lived the aesthetic.

There were sessions in Gooseberry Studios, off Gerard Street, working towards a 1978 vinyl album, but – abruptly curtailed by Bernie Rhodes, only one ironically-titled track emerged – “Ambition” c/w “Different Story (Rock And Roll Even)” (Rough Trade, December 1978). Opening with a Who power-chord and piping organ-riff it’s their best shot at commercialism – even in the raw and flawed alternate take salvaged onto the ‘Twenty Odd Years’ compilation. ‘What you want is buried in the present tense’ yelps Vic in contemporary year-zero vein, then more mysteriously, ‘I won’t be tempted by vile evil, ‘cos vile evil is vile evil’. Elsewhere, the tapes for that projected album still gather dust, gaining legendary status as the ‘Great Lost Punk Album’. As a teasing taster, four of the tracks – including “Double Negative” and zinger “Stool Pigeon” (‘I play the right track when the needle is bleeding, / I remember money wrapped in dishonesty’), were salvaged onto ‘A Retrospective 1977-81’ (Rough Trade 1984). Then Motion Records collected further candidates onto ‘Twenty Odd Years’, with “Parallel Lines” (issued as a free ‘NME’ flexi), “Chain Smoking” and “Rock & Roll Even”. Another cut, “Exit – No Return”, resembles something like a slicked-up New Wave not a million miles from a ragged Boomtown Rats. It opens with slow guitar, although a jarring edit abruptly cuts to a faster vocal section, as though two tapes are colliding, losing some of its energy, before closing with a shimmering cymbal-clash. The gathering reputation buzz, accelerated by dedicated blogs and journalist’s re-evaluations, finally led to Punk archivist label Overground Records initiating a project to recreate the songs intended for their debut LP, reconvening the Sect for ‘1978 Now’. Despite the intervention of years and separate career-developments the resulting album recaptures what had been thought forever lost, proving that Vic’s delivery has only strengthened over his odd recording history, developing rather than losing its original character. Original drummer Mark Laff plays, and bass-player Paul Myers also appears on some tracks.

Meanwhile, caught up in the turmoil of 1978, Godard was concentrating more on solid musical settings and earnest lyrical vignettes in a tradition that runs from Dylan to Verlaine (that’s Paul, not Tom). ‘What I was trying to do with the songs was to change the way Rock songs were written. To pare it down, take out all the Americanisms. I didn’t mind what went into the song, as long as the language was different; no ‘yeahs’ and ‘babys’.’ The Clash’s JG Ballard ‘High Rise’/‘Crash’ urban hyper-realism was quickly overlaid by a more conventional sense of social relevance. For the Sect, the idea was to work – not with power, but with weakness and introversion. To them, failure was more interesting than chart success. An appropriate inclination, as it turned out. To Geoff Travis who released “Ambition”, ‘Subway Sect were so literary. Vic is the great lost soul of the era, his nihilism is more extreme than anyone’s. He seemed to have seen through the circus which he was being enticed into, from day one. He saw all the contradictions and didn’t want to be a pop star.’ On a strange track collected on ‘Twenty Odd Years’, with accordian and producer Wiggy on guitar, Vic teases out the conundrums of the Punk ethic, ‘we are part of the new breed, and love is not what we agreed…’

To Vic himself ‘I thought the Sex Pistols were the end of Rock ‘n’ Roll. But it turned out, they weren’t. Nor were the Clash...’ instead, there was movement within and without. Already the first wave of bands were charting with albums, as the Sect remained under-represented on record. Instead they supported Buzzcocks on their summer ‘Love Bites’ tour, as Sect’s continuing personnel metamorphosis charted an erosion of democracy – away from four-way tension. The split seemed inevitable. Paul Myers briefly pacted with Pistols Steve Jones and Paul Cooke as part of The Professionals. Drummer Mark Laff joined Generation X. And a new Sect appeared with a revised line-up for LP ‘What’s The Matter Boy?’ (1980), recorded in Stoke Newington with Terry Chimes of the Clash drumming, and his brother Paul on bass. Rhodes brought in the Black Arabs to overdub the rest. Narrative track “Empty Shell” hangs together well. “Split Up The Money” is a petty-criminal cash-from-chaos scam that opens with laughter and develops into a kind of Sham 69 sing-along. “Vertical Integration” uses an acoustic strum of the Who’s “Can’t Explain” riff as a vehicle for symbolist lyrics about a ‘wilderness of change’, ancient monuments in the desert and ladders lying on the ground (representing vertical

At last, a Subway Sect album. Even though it was recorded with what was essentially a pick-up band, and the Sect no longer actually existed in any meaningful sense. Yet Godard didn’t even promote it, he preferred to switch direction, bizarrely pursuing a more pointedly solo career as a torch crooner for his well-received ‘Songs For Sale’ album in 1981. The new reference points were Harry Connick Jrn’s hazy sax and tinkling keyboards, Big-Band swing, David Johansen’s ‘Buster Poindexter’, and the Jumping-Jive of ‘Look Sharp’. Of course there were cross-overs, but the newly evolving story would be different from the old, and deserves separate coverage elsewhere. While ‘NME’ produced a part-work self-assembly ‘The Book Of Modern Music’ supplement, which persisted in opining that ‘Godard is a major talent in the making’. Across the years since, Motion Records issues the Subway Sect ‘Singles Anthology’ (in 2005), while eventually Vic reconvened the Sect, bringing the story full circle by recording ‘1978 Now’…


‘John Peel Show’ Radio 1 session (24 October 1977) with (1) Chain Smoking (2) Parallel Lines (3) Don’t Split It (4) Nobody’s Scared'

"Nobody’s Scared” cw “Don’t Split It” (April 1978, Braik BRS 01)

“Ambition” cw “A Different Story (Rock & Roll Even)” (November 1978, Rough Trade)

“Parallel Lines” (free ‘New Musical Express’ flexi-disc)

Unreleased Original Subway Sect Album (1) Chain Smoking (2) Birth & Death (3) De-Railed Sense (4) The Ambition (5) You Stand Back (6) Rock & Roll Even (7) I, Change (8) Parallel Lines (9) Staying (Out Of Touch) (10) Imbalance (11) Eastern Europe (12) Exit – No Return (13) Forgotten Weakness (14) Enclave (15) The Idiot Of It All

What’s The Matter Boy’ (1980, 1996 Polygram expanded CD edition) – (1) Stop That Girl (2) Birth & Death (3) Stand Back (4) Watching The Devil (5) Enclave (6) Out Of Touch - View (7) Vertical Integration (8) Split Up The Money (9) Stool Pigeon (10) Double Negative (11) Exit - No Return (12) Empty Shell (13) Make Me Sad (14) Watching The Devil (15) Stool Pigeon (16) Double Negative (17) Head Held High
‘Subway Sect: A Retrospective 1977-‘81’ (Rough Trade Rough 56, 1984) (1) Nobody’s Scared (2) Don’t Split It (3) Chain Smoking (4) Parallel Lines (5) Ambition (6) Double Negative (7) Head Held High (8) Stool Pigeon (9) A Different Story (10) Spring Is Grey (11) Watching The Devil (12) Stop That Girl

‘Vic Godard & The Subway Sect: Twenty Odd Years’ (Motion Records, 1999) 2CD set covering Subway Sect plus Vic’s subsequent solo career with Working Week and Adventures In Stereo

Subway Sect: Singles Anthology’ (Motion Records, 2005) (1) Nobody’s Scared (2) Don't Split It (3) Ambition (4) Different Story (5) Split Up The Money (6) Out Of Touch (7) Stop That Girl (8) Instrumentally Scared (9) Vertical Integration (10) Stamp Of A Vamp (11) Hey Now (I’m In Love) (12) Mr. Bennett (13) Holiday Hymn (14) T.R.O.U.B.L.E. (15) Johnny Thunders (16) Imbalance (17) Won’t Turn Back (18) Won’t Turn Back (Version) (19) Conscience Be Your Guide (20) Same Mistakes (21) No Love (Now) (22) She's My Best Friend (23) Place We Used To Live (24) Lazy So & So

‘1978 Now’ (October 2007, Overground Records – new recordings of ‘lost’ original album songs with reconvened Subway Sect) (1) We Oppose All Rock And Roll (2) Stayin’ Out Of Touch (3) Shainsmokin’ (4) I Changed My Mind (On the Telephone) (5) Eastern Europeans (6) Why Did You Shoot Me (Birth And Death) (7) Stand Back (8) Imbalance (9) Derail Your Senses (10) Not Watchin’ the Devil (11) Stool Pigeon (12) Idiot Of All (13) Exit-No Return (14) Rock & Roll Even