The interview: UK Subs
Punk survivor Charlie Harper is leading his UK Subs into battle next month at Blackpool’s Rebellion festival at the age of 71. TONY DEWHURST hears how the veteran rocker will ‘never give it up’
Punk pensioner Charlie Harper has vowed to keep rocking at the age of 71.
Since 1977, Harper has fronted The UK Subs – who he describes as ‘the SAS of punk bands’ – typically playing 200 shows each year.
“The UK Subs help me stay young. I live and breath it,” said Harper ahead of the UK Subs’ appearance at Blackpool’s Rebellion Punk Festival next month.
“Age is no barrier if you enjoy what you do.
“People don’t realise that playing fast punk music is the greatest thing to do. I’m still having so much fun.”
Many people imagine their 70’s will be a peaceful time: perhaps pottering around in the garden pruning the plants, going for a stroll in the countryside or maybe a holiday in the sun.
But Charlie says: “I’d never give it up – I’ve no plans to retire.”
He added: “You can’t beat staying busy and this is what I love – music is my life.
“We’ve certainly had some hell-raising moments over the years. We’ve been thrown off planes, trains, out of hotels and God knows what else.
“We would rather be infamous than famous.
“These days, though, I enjoy a glass of wine and an early night.”
The UK Subs scored four top 20 albums and seven consecutive top 40 singles – Stranglehold, Tomorrow’s Girls, She’s Not There, Warhead, Teenage, Party in Paris and Keep on Running – and have long outlasted most of their punk peers.
Charlie, who is a trained hairdresser, first started playing music in London’s R&B Scene in the 60s: he chatted to the Rolling Stones at their shows and was taught to play harmonica by Rod Stewart.
“I used the harmonica on a couple of songs on Another Kind Of Blues, our first album, and I still enjoy listening to it.
“I live in a little village near Brighton and sometimes I’ll just go down to my local pub and sing a few songs with my friends and play the harmonica.
“I also like to paint and I’ve sold quite a bit of my work over the years.
“We’ve done thousands of gigs but I still get very nervous before shows, whether that is a little bar in Norway or playing a big festival like Rebellion.
“My grandson Marley is 16 and he is playing Rebellion with his band – Anti Meathead Inc – and I’m very proud that he enjoys his music too.
“Marley loves to come and see The UK Subs play and I just say to him go and have a great time with music like your Grandad does.”
Rebellion Festival, Blackpool, August 6-9. Tickets available call 02476 601678.