The Best Band You Never Heard In Your Life

No, I am not referring to whatever late period version of his touring band Frank Zappa was referring to with the title of his 1991 live album. I am, in fact, referring to two separate bands, although they are really one and the same – Submarine and Jetboy DC.

In the spirit of honesty and all things up front, let me start by saying I count Neil Haydock, the guitarist, singer and songwriter in these two bands, to be one of my closest and dearest friends, even if the old git constantly proves to be a slippery bugger who it is almost impossible to pin down. I am biased. But I am also able to identify great music when I hear it. Read on…

Let me start somewhere near to the beginning. Submarine played their first live gig on 2 November 1989 at the Leviathan along the St Albans Road in North Watford. That was about the time I was packing my bags to get out of London and move up to the wilds of north Scotland. God, I used to go drinking at the Leviathan as a teenager in the mid 1970s. It was the venue of choice on the one and only occasion I went out drinking with my dad. I wish we’d had a chance to do it a few more times.

Neil sang and played guitar (the best guitar you’ve never heard - the man is as good a guitarist as I’ve ever come across), Robbie played bass, and probably looked cool, Jeff played drums, and someone I don’t know the identity of played second guitar. That’s how it remained for the first 20 gigs, until it became just Neil, Robbie and Jeff.

I saw Submarine just the one time, at Drummonds in Aberdeen on 23 March 1994. This band wasn’t exactly the Ramones on record, but good grief did they play it slow live! Faced with a typically unresponsive Aberdonian crowd, the band got angry and increasingly played with a strange kind of pissed-off intensity. Afterwards, Neil got into an argument with someone at the bar who had come up to him to say how much he liked the show.

Their first record was a 7” single, ‘Chemical Tester’, with ‘Salty Whale Killers’ on the other side, released on Ultimate Records sometime late in 1992. They made other singles. ‘Dinosaurs’ was a fan favourite, I’m told, but ‘Living With Ghosts’ on the other side rocks my world.

They released an album as well, just called ‘Submarine’, again on Ultimate Records, at the beginning of 1994. If a copy comes your way you could do a lot worse than to pick it up. I am, or used to be, a drummer of sorts, which is to say a shit drummer, and I must admit Jeff’s drumming doesn’t really do it for me, but there are some great songs here. Pretty much the whole thing is great, actually, even if the version of ‘Empty’ (one of Neil’s best songs) they recorded for John Peel is a whole world of better than the album version.

What does it sound like? I don’t know. It sounds like Mercury Rev, maybe a little bit, and the Flaming Lips. Whether or not Neil would thank me for this, I don’t know, but it probably sounds like Spacemen 3 and My Bloody Valentine. I guess it sounds like Galaxie 500. They even covered a Dean Wareham song, ‘Tugboat’, available on the CD version of the ‘Lips And Fingers’ single – and before that on the b-side of the ‘Jodie Foster’ 7” single.

Another album, called ‘Kiss Me Till Your Ears Burn Off’, collecting their various singles together, got released in America.

And so, after supporting Tool on a brief European tour, off they went to the Playground in Chicago to record their second album proper with Keith Cleversley. Jeff had gone by this time and they had a new drummer, another Rob, who played drums like John Bonham!

The recording of the album (which I am pretty certain was going to be called ‘Space Girl Rock’, although I might just have dreamed that) and its failure to get released is the stuff of legend. It’s bloody brilliant and what were Ultimate thinking? This was Submarine going through their Big Star third album period meltdown.

So, that was thank you and goodnight to Submarine, but they came back as Jetboy (later to become Jetboy DC). Same line up, with Damian joining as second guitarist, but a new sound. This was the MC5 by way of Dead Boys and a touch of the Ramones.

There’s only one Jetboy release out there, the magnificent CD single ‘She’s So Fine’ (Monkeyland Records, 1997), plus a couple of random tracks on obscure sampler compilations. If you ever come across ‘She’s So Fine’, buy it!

They recorded a bunch of other stuff and by all accounts the twenty or so gigs they played were incendiary affairs, but that’s pretty much where the story ends. Neil and Robbie still record together, sometimes with the others, but laziness, apathy and stone-bloody-mindedness means it’s probably never going to get heard.

But, maybe there is hope. In 2003 Taky Recordings released ‘The Slow Motion World of Submarine’, a live CD limited to just five copies. This has subsequently been followed by ‘She Don’t Like The Bee Gees’, the first official release of the Chicago recordings for the second Submarine album. I can’t say I’m too fond of the title (Neil did mention the possibility of ‘Not Pronounced Lěh-nērd Skin-nērd’ during a drunken night in the pub – now that would have been funny), but the contents are bloody fantastic.

‘Camp Freddie’, a collection of demos recorded before the Chicago recordings, is the third Taky release. Maybe now that Submarine has been served well there will be room for some Jetboy DC releases. They deserve to be heard.

Submarine website
Taky Records information here

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Found out too late ,never got chance to see them live. Do have 3 of their releases & a couple singles .Would be great to have one of the festivals(All Tomorrow's Parties) to get them together again