Friday, 17 December 2010

Stephen Duffy on The Subterranean Hawks

There are quite a few folk, myself included, who hope that one day history will record that the world at large missed out on one of the very best bands of the early 1980s, The Subterranean Hawks. Birmingham's finest released just the one single, “Words Of Hope” on Five Believers Records, a bunch of demos were recorded, and then they were gone. The album that came with issue 3 of What A Nice Way To Turn Seventeen included one of those demos, “Big Store”. The magazine itself included the following, purported to have been written by one Dean Spence, who we now exclusively reveal to have been......Stephen 'TinTin' Duffy.

“Punk Rock claimed a great deal of casualties. But is casualties the right word? Shall we consider head cold? Or Athletes foot? Anyway I've got a note and the Subterranean Hawks are excused from showers. Why five nice boys should take a bloated discredited idea as their divinity, and the decadent enemy they had only just finished fighting, as their role model is not worth investigating. But we shall.

Formed in 1979, the original line-up managed to get as far as Christmas 1981 before falling apart in a myriad of acrimony. They performed.....concerts and recorded......songs. Success makes the best excuses and the Subterranean Hawks had none. Fame allows a rosy hindsight, turning whims into campaigns and darkest hours into hotbeds of creativity. So with a little borrowed rosary; Kusworth was the image and the noise. Twist the leader (from behind at that). Duffy the songwriter. Adams the backbone. Colly the musician. Without management the band floundered. With management, most of the band would have been sacked. The Subterranean Hawks proved that rock'n'roll was either dead or researching hastily into the complexities of death duty and the chances of reincarnation. They proved that it was impossible and implausible to be a rock'n'roll band in the eighties. Ahh, maybe it wasn't rock and roll's fault.

Let's face it the lead singer was a poseur and worse, a pragmatist. (He went on to make disco records). The bass and guitar players although gung ho with rock'n'roll dreams, were sensible chaps and kept day jobs. The Hawks then were not so much gung ho as ho hum. Only Kusworth and Twist remained true to their beliefs. Young men have their idols and the idols of these young men were the inspired, the originals and the innovators from the halcyon days of a sixties childhood. Can anything be as unsound? For them to have thought that the Beatles, Stones, Dylan et al would not've been recording with Rushent down at Genetic if 61 by magic had been 81, was nonsense.

Pop demands new blood and if not blood, a synthetic equivalent. And yet it is easy to be arrogant with others theology. Dog eat dogma. Most innovation in pop is spawned from mimicry. If that alone is the case, can we ask one final question, the Subterranean Hawks, where are they now?

C. Dean Spence 1984

STEPHEN 'TINTIN' DUFFY has released three singles “KISS ME”, “HOLD IT” and “SHE MAKES ME QUIVER”. He is signed to Virgin 10 and lives in London.

DAVID KUSWORTH has released an album “JACOBITES” and an EP “SHAME FOR THE ANGELS” with Nikki Sudden, has scored a top ten hit in Finland with the Dogs D'Amour and plays with his own band the Rag Dolls.

PAUL ADAMS and SIMON COLLY are members of the group SOMMERVILLE and are also signed to Virgin 10.


“Big Store” was written by Stephen Duffy and recorded in August 1979 on a 4 track machine in Bob Lamb's bedroom.”

That just leaves us with including, for your delight, “Big Store” by the Subterranean Hawks.

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