Book Review: Diminished Responsibility by Alvin Gibbs


Diminished Responsibility – Volume I
Alvin Gibbs
Tome and Metre Publishing

Regular fans of the U.K. Subs will already recognise much of the content in this book. Over on the Time and Matter website Alvin has been serialising his exploits as part of a web blog for a number of years. Diminished Responsibility is his attempt to bring all those exploits to print, along with some new insights and some additional detail that was missing from the online blogs. What you end up with is a fascinating look at the life of a musician who has experienced more than most do in a single lifetime. While Alice Cooper had the Hollywood Vampires Alvin had his own Werewolves of London, a drinking group of likeminded London musicians, including the legendary Lemmy himself. Needless to say it’s a very difficult book to put down as the perils of a life on the road are told with Alvin’s typical flare, honesty, and humour.

With a life so rich and varied it’s no surprise then that this first volume details Alvin’s life from growing up on the council estates of Croydon up until the eventful split from the band that he has become synonymous with, the U.K. Subs, in 1983. It’s a warts and all presentation, detailing a time in Alvin’s life when he was, in his own words, “a bit of an arsehole”. Then again weren’t we all back then? Through it all though it shows a side of Alvin that many will recognise even to this day, an innate sense of what punk is, and the loyalty he has always shown to his friends and fellow musicians.

It’s also, as the book will show, a story that very nearly ended early in his career. From a venue under siege from Nazis in Germany, to nearly dying under similar circumstances to his childhood hero Marc Bolan, life has always been one lived on the edge. If you were to try and tell this story on the big screen you could be forgiven for dismissing it as fanciful, a tall tale made to sell a drama. Often these larger than life Hollywood “true stories” embellish the truth and combine the lives of several people into one chimeric individual (think Bill Nighy’s character in Love Actually). But it’s not a movie, it is in fact the life of a single person. It’s a story filled with peril, romance, double dealing record labels, madness, and a lot of music. There may also be some drugs, it is after all rock and roll.