Some songs are just burned in your brain, like it or not. This one is in mine. Chances are I saw the below performance on Top of the Pops from 1980 at the time. It used to be on at 7pm on Thursday. This was still before music videos were widespread and you had to sit through a lot of crap to see a few good songs, if you were lucky. And the music wasn’t even live. The performers mimed and pretended to play, and half the time they didn’t appear at all, and we got to see some interpretive dance instead. The audience pretended to be fooled, except in cases like this one, where they just look bored.
We were a bit suspicious of singer Charley Harper, even back in the day. He looked a bit old and he had a dodgy barn (hair). Now, with the benefit of the internet, I see he was old, much too old to be miming on TV, even in 1980. And prior to finding punk stardom he was a hairdresser. I’m not kidding. Suddenly it all makes sense.
But there’s something about Warhead. It still sounds prescient, even with the dismantling of the Berlin Wall and the shift in East-West geopolitics. And it captured the prevailing sentiment in England at the time, when the country was awash in CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) paraphernalia and the Greenham Common protests were still a year or so off.
Well I don’t know what it is — But I feel something coming — Stuck in the middle — Of the Yankees and the Russians
The whole thing is great. And not just the lyrics. It’s also one of those songs that all aspiring bands could play, more or less. A punk rock You Really Got Me or Smoke on the Water.
The U.K. Subs planned to name their albums using consecutive letters of the alphabet. I lost interest at C, which is for live LP Crash Course. Like 29,999 others I had the limited edition in purple vinyl (I think it was purple or perhaps pink). Not sure if I swapped it for something else or if it’s still somewhere in my parents’ attic in England. I doubt anybody thought they’d make it to W. And that’s not counting all the other incidental LPs that didn’t get an official letter.
But the really amazing thing is they’re still out touring and playing Warhead. Born in 1944, Charley Harper is now getting on for 67. I can’t help thinking he should have invested those royalties more wisely or perhaps switched back to his former trade. But maybe that’s just sour grapes as his hair is still looking good, different but good. Here are geriatric Charley and the boys from 2006, kicking off with the “classic” I live in a Car before lurching into Warhead. Enjoy.