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BACKBEAT: Squad were flying in punk era; LATE 70s EARLY 80s: BECAUSE THEY DON'T MAKE MUSIC LIKE THEY USED TO!

Byline: PETE CHAMBERS

IF you're talking Coventry and punk then you're talking Squad.

They were without doubt the finest punk band to ever come from this beloved city of ours.

They were lunatic, loud and loveable - nothing malicious, just out for a good time as their audiences inevitably were.

PETE CHAMBERS investigates.

SQUAD began life in the posturing safety-pin clad mid-'70s.

A certain Terry Hall was on vocals, Danny Cunningham on guitar, Billy Little on drums and Sam McNulty on bass.

Terry, who was never really cut out for a life of punk, left to join a band called The Specials (whatever became of them?).

He was replaced by the great Gus Chambers - and he was cut out to be a punk.

After seeing Roddy Radiation and the Wild Boys he was hooked.

Squad's rock 'n' roll punk style was the kind of dish most punters in the late '70s were looking for. If you didn't move at least a little at a Squad gig then you must have reached your sell-by date.

It was always sweaty, loud and enthusiastic with some great laughs thrown in. The line-up changed constantly, with the band effectively becoming a training ground for Cov musicians.

Danny Cunningham would leave and form The Ramrods/Major 5/Gdansk. Their drummers would include Mark Hatwood, Rob Hill and Steve Young. Guitarists included Jim Scully (from local band 1984) and Johnny Adams (from The Blue Jays, RU21, Fission, and Don't Talk Wet).

With Nigel Mulvey then Nick Edwards replacing Sam McNulty on bass, Sam eventually ended up with The Giraffes.

Vocalist Gus Chambers looked at all the line-up changes like this: "Coventry was a hotbed of talent in the late '70s early '80s, some cutting-edge bands were formed, so it was hard to keep good musicians in your own band."

Squad released two singles, Millionaire and Red Alert with the rather wonderful pounds 8 a Week on the other side.

They also got on to The Sent From Coventry compilation with the song Flasher. The singles also appear on The Anagram album Punk Rock Rarities Vol 2. Songs you were likely to hear at their gigs included Brockhill Boys (Millionaire's other side), Son of Sam, We Understand and Bag on Your Head.

They knew how to play the crowd. I will always remember them singing The Bells are Ringing for Me and My Girl at The Market Tavern.

Whatever the song though, whatever the venue, you knew they would always come up with the goods.

Of course it wasn't all fun in those days. Punk rockers, despite the fact that most of them were decent, friendly people, were stigmatised because of how they looked.

One incident Gus recalls happened in Birmingham after a Boomtown Rats gig.

"We were sitting in this club with a couple of band members, when in burst a guy with a huge kitchen knife screaming all punks must die because they had killed Elvis Presley.

"No-one was hurt but it shows what a negative role the media played in its portrayal of punks.

"But there were some positives in that time. The race barriers were smashed down during this period and there was nothing stronger than a united front."

As the last pangs of punk rebellion began to die in the city, Squad members moved on.

As for Gus, he joined 21 Guns who released the single Ambition Rock on Neville Staple's Shack Records.

Their line-up included Stuart Maclean, Kev Tanner and former Specials roadies Johnny Rex and Trevor Evans.

The record failed to sell and the band soon split. Gus later moved to America and formed Sons of Damnation, finally joining the no messing high- energy metal band Grip Inc.

They were formed by former Slayer drum king Dave Lombardo. Releasing three brooding albums in the mid to late '90s, finally coming back with a fourth entitled Incorporated in 2004 greeted as a true return to form by the critics.

"I've been very lucky in my career," said Gus, "I have had the privilege of playing in front of thousands of people at festivals like Rock in Rio and the Dynamo Festival in Holland. But nothing brings back fonder memories than playing in front of maybe 20 or 30 people in the Hand and Heart or the back room of The Swanswell."

SQUAD TRIVIA

pounds 8 a Week was covered by South London-based band The Last Resort who changed their name to The Warriors. They still perform it regularly.

WHILE Grip Inc were resting, Gus formed the band Squad 21. The name is made up from former bands Squad and 21 Guns. They released one album entitled Skullduggery. It includes reworkings of 21 Guns, The Flasher and Millionaire.

GRIP INC only get together for tours, because Gus lives in England, Waldomar in Germany and Dave in Los Angeles!

THE Grip Inc album Solidify charted at No 65 in France.

Were you part of city rock scene?

WERE you in one of these bands, or are you one of these artists?

A Band Called George, Adorable, The Ak Band, Fresh Maggots, Furious Apples, Gods Toys, Kidda Band, Ray King, Ludicrous Lollipops, Billie Myers, Ning, Dave Pepper, Peppermint Circus, Sonic Harmony, Steel Locks, Vin Lloyd and his Mounties.

If so please contact Backbeat via the Evening Telegraph or e-mail Pete at godivarocks@yahoo.co.uk

CAPTION(S):

BLAZING SQUADDIES: Squad in the heyday of punk, and (left) Gus Chambers performing live with Squad; GRIPPING STUFF: Gus Chambers (left) in Grip Inc, and (below) a ticket to see Squad perform at Mr George Nite Spot
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 15, 2005
Words:929
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