So It Goes & So It Goes

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Presented by Tony Wilson, the first series of Granada TV’s So It Goes ran from early July to late August in 1976 and was only shown on three of Britain’s regional ITV networks, none of these being my local channel STV, although I suspect it might have inspired that station to launch Sneak Preview, a late Friday night mix of conversation, film clips and bands early in 1977.

According to Paul Morley’s From Manchester With Love, the title of So It Goes was supplied by Wilson’s then girlfriend, Jane Buchan, via Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, a novel that includes the three words every time a death or deaths occurs. Given that it’s partly set during WWII’s Battle of the Bulge and Dresden bombings, this isn’t uncommon.

So far music-wise, the series has been a little bit pub rock, a little bit hippy and a little bit proggy. You know, Graham Parker and The Rumour, Stephan Micus performing music he’d composed on Afghan rubabs and first up on the final episode, some awful jazz tinged proggers Gentleman, whose bassist thought it was a good idea to take to the stage wearing red dungarees.

Something new and exciting was clearly required.

The pre-Factory Tony Wilson is a bit of a smoothie and looks rather self-satisfied too, but hey, he deserves to be self-satisfied by his coup here. Not only has the debut Ramones album just been recommended but now viewers are about to get their first ever glimpse on TV of an unsigned act who Wilson has already seen live twice in Manchester. Or at least claimed to have seen twice, some disputing his presence at the first Lesser Free Trade Hall show.

They’re led by a young man with severely chopped hair, a razorblade earring and writing scrawled on his torn jacket, which is also adorned with chains. He starts the song with an anti-hippy tirade and looks furious with the world. And then he begins singing about Anarchy in the UK.

Something new and exciting has clearly arrived.

Nick Lowe’s So It Goes also took its title from Slaughterhouse-Five and the single kicked off the Stiff label in the middle of August 1976, just two weeks before The Sex Pistols’ shock of the new television debut.

A press release explained of the song and B-side Heart of the City: ‘Both are under three minutes, use less than three musicians and less than three chords.’

This isn’t the version that appeared on the single but it does have a video shot by David Mallet, who went on to direct a bunch of promos for Bowie, including Boys Keep Swinging and Ashes To Ashes, so here you are:

If it ain’t Stiff, it ain’t worth a fuck. So went the slogan.

The Members’ Solitary Confinement, therefore is very much worth a fuck. Released by Stiff in May 1978 as a one-off single, this is a little tribute to singer Nicky Tesco whose death was announced yesterday.

The Shape Of Things That Win


Before a coupla weeks ago I think the last time I had heard Gimme Your Heart by Glasgow band The Subs on the radio might have been back in the days when Radio Clyde ran a weekly punk show called Street Sounds hosted by Brian Ford in the late 1970s.

If I have given the matter any real consideration I would have doubted I would ever come across the song again on the airwaves but tuning into Billy Sloan sitting in for Brian Morton on BBC Radio Scotland’s Morton Through Midnight show* I was in for a pleasant surprise. And not only did Billy give The Subs a spin, he also followed it with a track called In The Lonely Place by House Of Plywood, an act that that includes former Subs vocalist Callum Cuthbertson. Very good it was too.

But getting back to The Subs… Originally known as The Subhumans, the band made rapid headway after forming in the white heat of the punk revolution. They recorded a demo which impressed London’s best independent label, Stiff, who invited the lads down south, where they took part in a Stiff audition night at the Royal College of Art.

Stiff must have liked what they saw as they quickly signed the Glaswegians for a one-off single (on their 1-Off imprint) which was recorded at Pathway Studios in the capital and produced by Larry Wallis, an early member of Motörhead and also a Stiff recording artist at the time.

Live favourite Gimme Your Heart was selected as the A side and the single’s centre came adorned with a typical Stiff slogan ‘The shape of things that win’.

Reviews were generally good with fanzine Next Big Thing, calling the 45 the ‘best Scots vinyl offering since Good Sculptures’, while NME picked up on the ‘Neanderthal Man drumming from Ali Mackenzie’ and Cuthbertson’s ‘suitably disgruntled’ vocals, which I think were both meant as compliments.

‘The Subs created quite a ripple at the Rochester Castle in what was one of the group’s first London gigs,’ Nick Tester wrote in April ’78 in Sounds, a magazine that was obviously rooting for the band: ‘The Subs are in fact like a stainless steel carving knife, rawness combined with a clean edged melody which utterly carves up any opposition in these supposed Power Pop times. Enough hooks to hang your C&A bondage pants out to dry.’

Released in March 1978, this is Gimme Your Heart:

Despite recording one of the finest Scottish singles of the era, even by the blink and they’ll be gone standards of the day, The Subs were destined to enjoy only a very brief shelf life and sadly Gimme Your Heart would be their one and only release.

Drummer Ali Mackenzie left the band and they roped in Brian McGee of Simple Minds to replace him for a support slot they’d nabbed for a Graham Parker and The Rumour gig at Strathclyde Uni. The show was deemed a success but before long bassist Derek Forbes decided to join McGee in Simple Minds and guitarist Kevin Key took up the invitation to expand the ranks of The Jolt into a four piece.

Ali Mackenzie notably set up independent label Cuba Libre, which released records by James King and The Lonewolves, The Cuban Heels (who he later joined) and occasional Barras Market buskers The Shakin’ Pyramids, whose 1981 album Skin’ Em Up he also produced. From it and with a whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on, this is opening track Take a Trip:

As for Cuthbertson, well, he later carved out a career as an actor with a string of appearances in theatre, TV and film, appearing most recently in BBC Scotland sitcom Gary Tank Commander and the 2013 romcom Not Another Happy Ending, where he played the pub quiz fanatic father of Jane Lockhart (Karen Gillan).

* Available to hear for a week or so here if you live in Britain or know how to use proxy servers: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b05s4p99