|One of Bangor, Northern
Ireland’s few (if not only) contributions to the punk movement of the
late 70’s was in the form of The Doubt, a haphazard teenage four-piece
who briefly did their bit to enliven the boredom of growing up in a dead-on-its-arse
Along with many others in small towns across Britain and Ireland at the time their immediate musical influences were Bowie, the Pistols, The Ramones, Clash etc blah blah blah. However, a more significant inspiration was a bunch of friends who had formed The Standards, a band comprising Mark Armstrong (drums), Brian Shaw (guitar), John ‘Rat’ Clarke (bass) and David Shannon (vocals). I’m not sure if they even ever played live and I can only remember one original song of theirs , ‘ Don’t Just Watch’, but the fact that they actually got together at all was a MASSIVE inspiration for others to do it.
The original Doubt line-up featured John Clarke from the disbanded Standards together with Hugh ‘Chad’ Cairns, Paul Corken and Steven Clarke. After going on for far too long about Cream, John Clarke was replaced on bass by Robert Scott who had recently disbanded The Skis because of a similar problem with a drummer obsessed by cymbals to an unhealthy degree.
So, armed with an amplifier with three inputs and a drum-kit worth about 28 pence (unpaid), The Doubt were ready to take on the world, or at least annoy the world from their rehearsal room with ever-so-slight sound leakage (i.e. the singer’s living room with the windows wide open).
Now The Doubt rocked, and they rocked to an unchanging beat, such was the drummer’s dedication to his craft. Fuelled by nothing more than cider and ham sandwiches The Doubt sound began to take shape. By the end of their illustrious career they’d even managed to get their Woolworth’s own-brand guitars (almost) in tune.
Doubt played as many gigs as possible (i.e. not very many) using teenage
enthusiasm and stupidity to overcome obstacles such as not having any
transport and being underage for licensed premises. On one particularly
memorable occasion a human train of ‘roadies’ carried all the equipment
necessary a couple of miles to a beach where dozens of purloined extension
leads were run across a main road from a friend’s house and the band risked
life and limb to play a few songs.
Other illustrious gigs included Hunter’s bar in Bangor where the band were unable to take ‘the stage’ until they’d moved the pool table out of the way. Playing at a birthday party in the Ward Rooms, Groomsport, The Doubt managed to utilise their specially-commissioned long leads to play several sections of the gig with only the drummer left in the same room as the bemused audience. The shy singer was in a yard by himself doing his bedroom Iggy, the guitarist was trying to get served at the bar and the bassist was heading up the queue for the buffet.
Boxing Day Blarge which featured a full and varied line-up including Boker
the Poet and Ricky Rubshite, took place outside a public shelter / toilet
where the band were usually to be found imbibing cider and arguing. Perhaps
their best show ever was a charity gig arranged by the band which also
featured slots by Fifth Column and Belfast bands Ruefrex and The Androids.
For the first (and last) time The Doubt had use of a proper PA and played
a storming set to a crowd of several hundred.
Inevitably, the band fell out with each other and split up. As the principal songwriters, Corken and Scott decided to go ahead with the release of an EP and roped in Adrian Maddox (Fifth Column’s guitar player) to play drums on the recording while Corken took over vocal duties. During the recording the snare on the snare drum broke. The fact that no spare was available at four in the morning explains the Doubt’s early pioneering use of the 2-Tone drum sound.
The Doubt EP was eventually released on Solo Records in early 1980 after numerous delays and sold a couple of hundred copies locally. It featured the tracks ‘Contrast Disorder’, ‘Time Out’, ’Lookaway’ and ‘Fringes’.
That basically is the end of the story until 20 years later when the EP appears to be in demand amongst collectors and tracks from it have been bootlegged on various punk compilations such as ‘Bloodstains Across Northern Ireland Volumes I and II’ and ‘Powerpearls Volume 6’. It is also rumoured that an album’s-worth of material featuring the classic Doubt line-up of Cairns, Corken, Clarke and Scott will eventually see the light of day in the near-future.
Thanx to Robert Scott for photos and biography