U.K. "D.I.Y." & DIY-punk 1978-1984
Messthetics bands A-to-M * N-to-Z + links for other series
THE ACCUSED -Arrested
/ Mell Square Musick V.A. EP (No Rip Off) Solihull '79 -#103
- She'd Gone Punk / A Tale of Two Cities cassette LP (No Rip Off) '80 -#103
The Mell Square Musick EP is one of D.I.Y.'s true gems. At a total cost of £380 and named for Solihull's sleepy city center, it featured four bands, 6 songs, blank labels and different homemade sleeves by each of the groups involved (most of them so approximately scrawled that even John Peel couldn't tell whose song he was playing, although he valiantly gave it several tries).
The ringleader for the Mell Square project was Paul Panic, who recycled his first band, the Zits, into the Accused in late 1978. (Paul and Martin Hopeless were schoolmates of Col from G.B.H, btw.) Inspired by Eater, the young headliners of Barbarella's three-day bank-holiday punk festival in late August '77, and the Television Personalities, who'd shown how to put out their own records, Paul launched the No Rip Off label. The Accused debuted on stage with the three other bands on the Mell Square Musick EP: 021, The Undertakers and the Cracked Actors, at Solihull Civic Centre. (Local worthies soon barred them from performing their anthem 'Solihull'.) The Accused later opened for the Prefects, the Killjoys, U.K. Subs, and concluded their career at a 1980 gig with the Cockney Rejects.
With partial funding from Prince Charles' Princes Trust, No Rip Off released a C-80 of Brum and Coventry bands called A Tale of Two Cities, with the Ideal Husbands, the Solicitors, Profile, 021, Life Support, Human Cabbages and others. Watch for the Mell Square Musick movie!
-Distance // From Bromley comp LP (Alternative Music) '81 Messthetics
Bromley -a suburban borough in London's southeast- was NOT a popular place with the punks of '81. In fact, it was widely felt that conservative Bromley played a critical role in the demise of the G.L.C. and dole-band-friendly touches like 10 P tube-fares. So there were several layers of irony in the compilation title, "From Bromley with Love." (To be completely fair, however "the Bromley Contingent" had a lot to do with launching punk five years earlier...) There's some predictably unremarkable synth-pop (it was 1981) but there's also five nice DIY tracks, including the Acid Drops' sole release, where they borrow (a terrific) half a Joy Division riff and gnarl their way agreeably through "Distance." The 'Drops were true punks from the Mottingham and St. Paul's Cray "housing estates, who first collaborated on a fanzine called Intrusion, then formed the band when they turned 19...
-Violence // from Is the War Over comp LP (Z-Block ZA1) Cardiff '79
Addiction's "Violence" leads off Is the War Over? -a compilation LP on Cardiff's Z-Block label [Reptile Ranch, Rough Cuts EP] that also launched Young Marble Giants' career. Addiction were 15-17-year-olds from Pontypridd who played a small but intense South Wales punk scene along with Victimize and the Tax Exiles. No other vinyl but there's a live tape and material by Campaign 1, the band they turned into in 1980 available from southerndownrecords.co.uk.
-Who Can Tell 2:39 // On the Way to the Top 45 (Bonk AFF2) '80
The Afflicted were the unhinged brain-child of London busker-punk Steve Hall [The Afflicted Man, The Accursed]. Four or five singles and a bunch of LPs. "Who Can Tell" is off their second 45, from '80, which came in at least two different hand-folded sleeves. Steve cleaned up and got saved, but he's still playing - in a Christian band called Called, who've gigged in hospitals and prisons ranging from London borstal to the Maze...
-Co-Optimist // The Way We Were EP (Do It DUN7) '79
Again Again surely rate as the least likely stars of Messthetics #5. They're on the Do-It label that launched th'afore-mentioned Adam & the Ants, but the sleeve of their 1979 12" suggests the very direst sort of dance-wave posing... Not so: it's all great, gnarly guitar-DIY and No Wave+Birthday Party-ish grinds that absolutely shred later Marc Riley or Inca Babies stuff... Unfortunately there's no hint who the personnel might've been. They did a Peel session (whence two other tracks on the EP)... and vanished.
ANIMALS & MEN
-Don't Misbehave in the New Age (TW 101) '80 first
-Terraplane Fixation (Strange Days 1) Somerset '80
Animals & Men* should have made a bigger impact than they did. (Query: if someone smashes a guitar in the middle of Frome, Somerset, does it still make a sound?) "Don't Misbehave in the New Age" is their first (some people got confused by a more common '81 reissue); "Terraplane Fixation" is their second, and 1980's EP by the Terraplanes [Messthetics #2] came third. Ralph and Susan met at an Adam & the Ants gig and they named their band after a favorite song on the Ants "Dirk Wears White Socks" LP). A later development deal with Adam's publishing company failed to get them their big break, but fortunately for posterity we've archived and released 25 great A+M and Terraplanes songs (and a video) on their amazing "Revel in the Static" CD (H2D/ Messthetics #201). Puddle [P.D. Collier] played later with Silent Guests and Stalag 44.
-I'm a Square / Pets // Rapist in the Park EP (Slim) Herts. '80 first: mgh
Anorexia were school friends at the Watford council estates who hung out at the pub at the Southern Cross Hotel in 1977. There were three brothers: Andrew, Peter and Kevin Leigh on guitars, with Nick Page & Kim Glenister, vocals, and Graham Snell on drums. Their self-made & financed debut single 'Pets' / 'Rapist in the Park' became a minor hit on John Peel's Radio 1 show which afforded them a healthy fan-base and allowed them to tour widely in the South of England, opening for minor chart acts. Slim Records of course was a play on the band's name, and Kevin opened Slim Studios as a rehearsal space. Their most notorious client was George Michael's first band, Executive, who occasionally opened for Anorexia... before becoming Wham.
-Popstar (blank labels AF-01) Manchester '79
Armed Force have gotten to be a biggish deal with the punk collectors -probably because of the female vocals- but they're more important to the DIY/post-punk scene. From Moss-side, Manchester '79: blank labels and a handsomely handmade PS
-An Amazing Grace  (Old Knew Wave 003) London '78
"An Amazing Grace" is an astounding chunk of harmonica-chewing that ends up sounding like four solid minutes of guitar-feedback, at least if you play it at a standard 45 r.p.m. At 33.3 (an approved alternate speed) what he's doing becomes a little clearer. On London's Old Knew Wave label [False Idols+?], purportedly in an edition of 250.
-God is Walking a Tightrope Too 2:25 // When LP (Ace 20) Kent '80
The Arnold recorded their LP, "When," at Kent's Oakwood studios for the Ace label [Disorder -Air Raid]. Elsewhere on the LP, Phil Martin from the Record Players' [Messthetics #1] adds guitar to a ten-minute DIY-psych setting of the first 35 verses of the Bible...
-In Vogue (Vague 1) Manchester '79
From Nottingham, '79, Art Failure's "In Vogue" is a fine bit of punkwave, though the A-side shows heavier Roxy Music and Ultravox roots. They had a cut on the seminal indie-wave comp Hicks from the Sticks and did an '82 single as the French.
-Event to Come 2:42 (Rational 4) Edinburgh '81
Scotland's Article 58 appeared on the same Rational label as the Delmontes and Visitors [Messthetics #4], and the sound is clearly close to the Fire Engines gnarling guitars thing...Produced by Malcolm Ross [Josef K, Orange Juice]. Rab McCormack started out with Restricted Code [Messthetics #1]; lead guitarist Douglas McIntyre now helms the Creeping Bent label.
-All Night Party 2:38 (Bugle BLAST1) Reading '79: Messthetics #102
-We Were Talking // Pranksters EP (Bugle 5) '80 second: Messthetics #102
RESTRICTED HOURS -Getting Things Done / split EP with The Syndicate (R.A.R.) '79 Messthetics #102
Mark Astronaut [Wilkins] has led The Astronauts for almost 30 years, now. As for the others, well, three dozen-plus have passed through the Astronauts' ranks (though it's been Max on bass for much of the time). Alan Clayson (music-writer / Clayson & the Argonauts) produced the Astronauts' 1979 debut (with "All Night Party"), after which Mark went incognito as Restricted Hours -on a split EP with The Syndicate, released by the Stevenage chapter of Rock Against Racism (with "Getting Things Done"). Mark then took that band, including Ian and Alan Cowley from Bugle label-mates Johnny Curious, and recorded the Astronauts' Pranksters EP, whence "We Were Talking." (The Mark Wilkins who guested on the first Tea Set 45 was someone else.) Details of several more singles, seven albums, ongoing gigs, and much more from Mark's continuing saga are online at www.astronauts.org.uk.
We're at War (Brain Boosters 1) Portsmouth '79
Portsmouth's Attic had their own label, Brain Booster, who released the "Spring 79" single with "War We're at War", a second 45, and a terrific compilation LP called South Specific, which included two more Attic songs, two by the Frames and the first vinyl appearance of Renaldo and the Loaf (see Renaldo's online fan-site).
AUNTIE PUS -Marmalade
Freak (Septic AUNT-1) Messthetics #102
Auntie Pus discerned early on that his talents best suited a solo career. After getting the boot from Kings College, Wimbledon (where his dad was a housemaster) he suited up in his school uniform and entered the 1977 Melody Maker Folk Rock Contest ("and would have won except the judges were laughing too hard"). True fame arrived with his opening slot on the Damned's 1978 tour, where Pus was much beloved for his daring and larcenous largesse. "Marmalade Freak" was recorded in 1978 with Mr. Scabies (drums), schoolmate Robin Bibi on guitar, and the late Jim Payne [Stukas] on bass, but was not released til mid-1980 (with the message, "What a lousy year- first Ian Curtis and now this!") A second 45 was recorded for Spartan but never released, and three tours with the Ruts and part of one with Splodge followed before Pus's retirement. 1998 found Auntie Pus back in the studio to re-record "Halfway to Venezuela" and three other tracks for a briefly-available CD.
-Where are my Hormones // Dig It LP (Italian Appaloosa 013) '80
-Loose in the Sky // Ye Church of Ye Inner Cosmos LP (Italian Appaloosa 027) '83
Russell Murch's Avant Gardeners were too brainy to fit in comfortably with any of the '77 sub-scenes, and he was too fond of guitar-heroics to ever quite pass for punk. The slide guitar, cowpoke flourishes, pointed religious commentary and Hitchcockian outlook (Robyn or Alfred-you decide) of the Avant Gardeners' debut EP on Virgin kept everyone off-balance ...afer which the 'Gardeners two LPs came out only in Italy: Dig It in 1980, with "Where Are My Hormones?" and Ye Church of Ye Inner Cosmos in 1983, whence "Loose in the Skies."
-Jean Paul's Wife (Earwacks 002) London '80 second
The Balloons come from the more experimental end of things. Whatever pop sensibility they had came via mid-period Soft Machine, and Robert Wyatt fans should especially appreciate "Jean Paul's Wife." From the second of at least two singles plus an LP on London's Earwacks label.
-Madison Fallout (Pipeline Product 1) Cleveland '79
We asked Basczax' John Hodgson what other bands of his he'd like us to mention in the liner notes, and he responded with a partial list: Blitzkrieg Bop, Makaton Chat, Zoom, The Gynaecologists, Purity ...and about 20 others. Basczax came from way up around Cleveland and Newcastle, whence they bused several dozen of their "ICI Wasteland" mates to cheer their 1979 London debut. They're also featured on the Earcom 2 comp (with Paul Reekie and Joy Division). The name, bytheway, is pronounced Bahss-axe. Co-founder Mike Todd now runs Toddler Records. A 22-track Basczax CD is still-in-the-works but visit www.blitzkriegbop.info or myspace.com/basczax for MP3s and lots more.
My Girl (Axis 2) Bath '80
The Bearz from Bath are a band that's gotten a lot of attention over the years, but it unfortunately had little to do with their music. "She's My Girl" was the second single on the Axis label, which shortly afterward transformed itself into 4AD. (The Bearz' flipside, meanwhile, is a startlingly Homework-styled bit of American DIY-wave.) The Bearz also made TWO copies of an acetate single called "Sheila" (with sleeve, of course): one for them, one for John Peel...The Bearz from Bath are a band that's gotten a lot of attention over the years, but it unfortunately had little to do with their music. "She's My Girl" was the second single on the Axis label, which shortly afterward transformed itself into 4AD. (The Bearz' flipside, meanwhile, is a startlingly Homework-styled bit of American DIY-wave.) The Bearz also made TWO copies of an acetate single called "Sheila" (with sleeve, of course): one for them, one for John Peel...
BEE VAMP -Valium
Girl (Monsters in Orbit 2) Manchester '79
Bee Vamp's "Valium Girls" was the second release on Manchester's Monsters In Orbit label (made famous by the Colors Out of Time's postpunk classic "Rock Section"). The band's named for an early-'60s Booker Little jazz-tune, and their label-name comes from a Jack Vance sci-fi collection. "Valium"'s a loosely-sprung and rather depressed Slits-jazz honk-and-gnarl -creepily true to its title. After Bee Vamp split in 1981, Jim Parris formed Carmel, who are online (along with much more) at Jim's Neoglobal site.
-Office Practice // Hazards in the Home split EP with the Shrinking Men (Pop
Records 999) Reading '81
The Beevers came from Reading, 1980 (or before). Their drummer Nick Duckett went on to the Shrinking Men (who're on the other side this record), but the only story we have is about Nick's record label: he decided it'd be cool to swipe some graphics from the legendary ska label, Top Rank. (After all, everyone was already copying the Two Tone guy and the checkerboard graphics.) Well, Top Rank was not amused, and made the Shrinking Men put stickers on all their records explaining that Top Rank still had exclusive rights to the "man with gong" logo... So there.
BEYOND THE IMPLODE
-This Atmosphere / Lassitude // Last Thoughts EP (Diverse 101) Liverpool '79
"This Atmosphere" by Liverpool's Beyond the Implode is a near-perfect DIY song. There's no busted-up keyboard solo, but you do get a wind-up alarm-clock, and somewhere there's a home-made synth, as well. It's all recorded in Eddie's bedroom on the same reel of tape: "Lassitude" was a second or third take -recorded directly over the original, which is how its rather, um, psychedelic ending happened. Unsurprisingly, 250 copies of the '79 "Last Thoughts" EP was all they could afford. The band had a falling-out after this one, but there is a prettygood second 45 and a profoundly lo-fi live tape...
-Saints & Scholars flexi (Underground Records 1) Belfast '85
Big Sleep are admittedly late for Messthetics (1985), and "Saints & Scholars" clearly connects to DIY's freakbeat roots as much through the early Creation label 45s as through Belfast's Good Vibrations scene, but their record's a noteworthy breakthrough in DIY financing: it's a flexi-disc attached to a card filled with ads that the band sold to ten local shops.
-Break Down (Void 560) Peterborough '79
The Blanks were briefly notorious for "Northern Ripper," based on the exploits of Peter Sutcliffe, the "Yorkshire Ripper" (although the supposed recording of his voice that leads off the song turned out to be a hoax). Meanwhile, "Breakdown" -one of the flipsides- is first-rate DIYpunk scrubbing. Leader Alan Adams went on to The Destructors, Destructors 5, Five Go Mad in Europe, The Desecrators and Methods of Execution...
BLEACH BOYS -Chloroform
(Tramp 002) Hitchin '78
Copies of the Bleach Boys' legendary "Chloroform" single kicked around the 20P bins for years before people began to appreciate its sleeveless, lo-fi majesty. Their website thebleachboys.co.uk says they played one gig as the Fur Coughs (say it in an Irish accent) before becoming the Bleach Boys...who still exist! A cut from their gloriously in-your-face "Nazi Death Squad Bitches" 12" should appear on Bad Teeth #5 or #6 someday. Meanwhile, they have a retrospective e-LP available for download through www.mp3.com, and samples (including new material) can be heard at their website...
-Happy Home // Happy Home EP (End 1) Sussex '80
The Bloated Toads' "Happy Home" dates from the days when they were known as Edwin Frog & the Bloated Toads. A somewhat later version of the band finally recorded it, along with 3 others for their own End label. From the spirited Worthing scene, 1980. More info anon. (Next we need something by Luke Warm & the Tepids!)
-Gunpoint (demo '78): Messthetics #101
In February 1977, one Simon Paris invested £2.36 on a Melody Maker advert: "Limited but creative guitarist seeks versatile musicians for experimental fast bleak music." Keyboardist Igor was the first to answer, and between them they assembled Blue Screaming. Igor soon landed a Tuesday-night residency at the Duke of Lancaster starting June 14th...alas, before they had written any songs. "The first date was a kind of psychedelic punk slapstick" but by the end of their residency they'd found their groove. (Someone rather aptly called them "a fairground in a cement-mixer.") Their lone single featured "Bland Hotel", a new-wavey rant against mercenary new wave bands (the flip-side was far stronger), but Blue Screaming's best material was never released. "Gunpoint" comes from the first of two Weemeenit Studio sessions in late 1978. Both went on to Take It.
-1992 (Pretentious 100) Bristol '81
Bouncing Czechs came from Bristol, and despite their label-name, "1992" is an admirably understated downtempo DIY groove, reminiscent of the early Lines. The A-side of their only 45 is in the more polished/anthemic style of fellow Bristol bands on the Heartbeat and Fried Egg labels...no relation to the Cardiff Czechs (Messthetics #7).
-What is Done (Barclay Towers 1) Edinburgh '79
The Brills were an Glaswegian/American duo who put out the first record on Tony Pilley's Barclay Towers label [Metropak, Neon Barbs, Electric Personalities, Tony Pilley], but they never turned up anywhere else. We admit that parts of "What is Done" sound a lot more like Brinsley Schwarz than the Desperate Bicycles, but the gnarlier patches are classic. The flip-side's a psychedelic Byrds-meet-Velvets strum ...with some very creditable guitar-pickin'.
-Life Ends / Asylum LP (own label) Shrewsbury '81 -#103
The Buzz initially formed in 1977, and cut a fine melodic punk 45 ('Insanity') at Redball Records in Shropshire. Ian Davies joined on drums and Chris Bellingham took over on vocals (with Nic Evans still as the principal song-writer) and a year later they recorded a lost four-song demo. Summer 1981 found them at Dave Anderson's Foel Studios in North Wales to record their album "Asylum" -with a more distinctly post-punk flavour. The band continued to gig, but support for the LP was limited, and after Ian left the Buzz folded (the Cravats gig was among their last). The others re-emerged in 1982 as the synth based Luxi Trio (three Evans songs of theirs are lost as well). The Satyrs, the Loosehound Drifters and Gilbert Grape followed before Ian Davies rejoined Nic and brother Richard Evans in a wonderful janglepop band called the Gilberts, who have recently morphed into the New Planet Animals: visit myspace.com/newplanetanimals
CAPTAIN SWOOP &
the Fabulous Wonderfuls -Tonight Could Be the Night // !!?!...a taster
comp LP (Relentless 101) '81
"Tonight Could Be the Night" by Captain Swoop & the Fabulous Wonderfuls (they soon dropped the Capt. Swoop part) comes from the !!?!...a Taster compilation LP on Relentless, which was meant to be an offshoot of Manchester's Absurd label, though few of the releases mentioned on the insert -apart from the Fab Wonderfuls' "Being in Love"- seem to have made it to vinyl. George Borowski formed the band after flaming out of the Out ("Who is Innocent"). The FWs toured with the Freshies and Sad Café (with George briefly joining when the latter's guitarist broke his arm -and leg). After that there's a couple years with Meat Loaf, and a ton of sessions and a solo album... Borowski and fellow Fabster Kim Turner are playing together again...
CARL GUSTAV &
the 84's -Through Birds, Through Fire, But Not Through Glass 2:25 (Convulsive
001) Norwich '81
Carl Gustav and the 84's certainly had fun with their lyrics. After quoting Cicero, Baudelaire and Clausewitz (long before the Reaganauts and Bushies revived his legend) on their hand-folded sleeve, you'd think they'd be trying to tell us something rather important in "Through Birds, Through Fire, But Not Through Glass," but we're not so sure. Still, the images are arresting: "I disemboweled myself to please her / She keeps the pieces in the freezer." Etc. From Norwich '81: Jon Ward later helmed the Kamikaze [Sex] Pilots.
I Know (Attrix 13) Brighton '81 second
Brighton's Chefs specialized in breezy twee-pop melodies and wry commentary on relationships -punctuated with gnarly DIY guitars. "Friend of a Friend" comes from their second of two EPs on Attrix, both in signature bright yellow sleeves. Helen's pre-Helen & the Horns...
CINDY & the
BARBI DOLLS -In Silence // Press the Shutter EP (A Not Major Production
NOTEM1) Cornwall '79
Cornwall's Cindy & the Barbi Dolls are named for a Big in Japan song: there's no Cindy - or even a female singer. Wonderfully minimal stuff, though, with a guitar or two, a drum machine (or nothing at all) and sparse electronics (absent on "In Silence"). We've seen several copies with part of the folder PS cut or torn off, which leads us to think they eventually got menaced by the friendly "Barbie" folks at Mattel.
-Puffa Train (Pulsebeat 001) Luton '82
The Cinematics got a lot more famous when they turned into Razorcuts (great stuff on Subway, Flying Nun, Creation, etc.). "Puffa Train" from their 1982 single shows Gregory Webster and Tim Vass' evolution from TV Personalities DIY to breathy twee-pop well underway. When Razorcuts split in 1990, Tim went on to Red Chair Fadeaway and Dandelion Wine, while Gregory continues touring & recording with John Peel faves Sportique. (See TweeNet.com!)
ALAN CLAYSON &
the ARGONAUTS -Superman // Last Respects EP (ARG 36) London '82
Alan Clayson spent time in the freakbeat/folkbeat scene with Turnpike, before bouncing around some'70s dinosaurs and the Portsmouth Sinfonia, and then briefly working the punk circuit with a '78 single as Clayson & the Argonauts. Along the way he became one of the foremost experts on English rock'n'roll and the sixties Beat scene (several books and innumerable Record Collector contributions). As you listen to "Superman '42" there are moments when you'll realize that punk and the Softboys have happened, but most of his Last Respects EP (written between '74 and '82) could be straight '69 LP freakbeat. Visit alanclayson.com for more music and Clayson's many ongoing ventures.
-Performance (Dining Out 7) London '81
Club Tango were a mini-supergroup of London artists from the Dining Out Records roster, including Dave Henderson [Disco Zombies], Andy Ross [Disco Zombies, Steppes, 50 Fantastics, Sounds scribe, Food Records], and Alex Turnbull [pre-23-Skidoo] "Performance" is a lengthy ramble and jam from the first of their two singles.
-Beach Coma / Tortured Meanderings // EP (Dolmen) London '79
Collective Horizontal's EP contains some of the finest sprung rhythms and DIY-creaky keyboards we've ever heard: we coulda used the entire EP, but you'll have to settle for half of it. It's the folks who ran London's New Wave Magazine (9 issues back in '77) a couple years on: Adrian Taylor on vocals with Nag (Door & the Window, Reflections, Mark Perry) and Igor (Blue Screaming, Take It). Some of the creepiest lyrics ever, but you'd have to listen really hard. Adrian presented the record to the BBC for John Peel atop a cake he'd baked. A week later he hadn't heard anything, but when he ambushed Peel on his way to his program, the Great One not only said, yes, he had eaten the cake and played a song, but he invited Ade up to watch that evening's show...
-Dierdre is an Artist (See Saw Sounds) London '80
The Colours' Simon Matthews led the Rest (Mess. #1), and took several of their songs with him when he launched the Colours, including "Dierdre is an Artist." No other releases, but we're still sorting out their back-story (and waiting eagerly for tapes!).
-Simon // 16 Again & Again EP (Comm 1) Scotland '81
The Commercials were school-mates from North Berwick, Scotland, though they recorded in Wales, where Commercials guitarist Ian Anderson's brother Dave owned Foel Studios. Vocalist Ali McKay now writes for The Scotsman. Filmmaker John McKay [brother of bassist Ken McKay, but no relation to Ali] designed the sleeve: his newest is Crush. And just to bring things full-circle, Ian Anderson now produces music for television...and commercials.
-Uranium (CON-001) London '81
Concrete was Andrew Beer's band before his lengthy run with 400 Blows (and greater success as a producer for Severed Heads, Skinny Puppy, etc.). Rob Taylor came from Six Minute War (Messthetics #1) and Fallout: he also continued in 400 Blows. Concrete once got yanked off an Xmal Deutschland bill for showing up to play with four Sony Walkmans and a banjo... Nice hints of On-U and TG/industrial, though you wonder how they liked it when Porky scribed the dead-wax: "Don't need this Franz Kafka groove thang..."
-Someone Like You // Future/Past EP (Object 11) Manchester '79
Object Records grew more or less directly out of the Manchester Musicians' Collective, which initially included Dick Witts [Passage], classical and electronic composers (respectively) Simon Holt and Trevor Wishart, and guitarist Tony Friel, whose band, The Fall, had their first gig at a Collective meeting. Contact, then, was a duo of Object label-mates Friel [Fall, Passage, Teardrops] and Duncan Prestbury [Steve Miro/Eyes, Spherical Objects, Future Primitives, Warriors]. Tony's now in the Woodbank Streetband, and Duncan's with Gravity's Rainbow.
-Disco // Mell Square Musick EP (No Rip Off) Solihull '79 -Messthetics
-Statues (own label) Solihull '79 -Messthetics #103
Singer David Wright: "I was very much into Bowie and the Glam scene and Richard [Smith] was very much into Iggy Pop and the Punk scene" so they chose to combine the two genres, as Cracked Actors. With the bassist who'd first introduced them at Solihull College, they added keyboards, drums and a second guitar. But Paul Panic approached them “about taking part on the Mell Square Musick EP... 'when do we go into the studio?'...'Saturday" came his reply... 'Disco' was written and recorded within 72 hours. Due to our drummer having a bout of 'studio fright' the day before recording, we had to borrow another drummer we knew -who learned the song on the way to the studio by tapping his drumsticks on the back of the driver's seat while I sang the song to him!
They released "Statues" in a pressing of just 250 copies in plain sleeves, due to cost. There was also a second single, 'Rock'n'Roll Fantasy', but after the death of a guitarist and ensuing unrest, David and Richard deci-ded to bring the curtain down on Cracked Actors. After subsequent bands The End, Theatre 21, Panic Station and Theatron, David and Richard returned to glam-rock in the early '90s as the duo Mighty Fly -who are writing and recording to this day (a CD is underway: myspace.com/themightyfly).
CRASH ACTION WINNERS
-Hurricane Fighter /Two Trains (Sonic International) '79
Crash Action Winners are arguably the most obscure outfit on Messthetics #7 (and certainly the longest-running mystery). They went to great lengths to pass themselves off as a Texas band, including a deliriously scuzzy cover of Roky's "Bermuda." Meanwhile, "Hurricane Fighter Plane" [The Red Crayola song?] got retitled "Texas Girls"... The sleeve shows a stack of original American '60s LPs and singles [all U.S. pressings, too: nice touch] while the back features liner notes from a deejay at a fictitious Austin radio station, talking about "America's hottest new band" who'd just blown him away when they played at the Continental. Unfortunately, Crash, etc., didn't know that radio stations west of the Mississippi all start with a "K", so WPBX was an impossibility. (And no true Texan would ever say "America" where he could say "Texas" instead...)
-Gordon (CH004) Redditch '78 first -#103
-Situations Vacant (CH004) -Messthetics #7
The Stranglers played their first gig in Birmingham at Barbarellas, March 1, 1977, and back home in Redditch the next day, 19-year-olds The Shend and Robin Dallaway resolved to start a band. The Shend (the name was simply made-up) elaborates: "Our first gig was playing at our school on speech day. The headmaster had told all of the parents and teachers to leave because some pupils were going to make a lot of noise. These huge red velvet curtains parted and about four hundred pupils went absolutely bonkers screaming and shouting. We played four songs: 'Precinct', 'Shut Up', 'Crash Barrier Dancer' and 'I Hate The Universe', in which we rolled around the floor and pushed things over. The Headmaster said no group would ever play on that stage again. We were thrilled and besides ourselves with joy." The Cravats borrowed £400 off Shend's Mum to make a 45, using a massively amplified saxophone as their lead instrument, courtesy of 'Yehudi Storageheater,' whose name changed with every release.
The Shend managed to pass the resulting single to John Peel, which promptly led to the first of four Cravats Peel Sessions and a signing to Small Wonder. The Cravats recorded eight or nine more singles, two LPs and the aforementioned Peel Sessions before transmogrifying into Dada-Cravat-Laboratories (DCL) for the purpose of releasing music from their other incarnations The Very Things, The Baby-men and DCL Locomotive. Drummer Dave Bennett joined Poison Girls and saxophonist Svor Naan [a/k/a Yehudi, Richard, etc.] also played with Pig Bros. The Cravats' career is handsomely chronicled on DCL/Overground's essential 2CD, The Land of the Giants: www.overgroundrecords.co.uk. History, photos, chat and music galore at www.thecravats.com
-Zip Nolan / Live at the Cedar Club 6/4/80 CD (Topplers) -Messthetics
Gary Jones and Jon Hodgson [a/k/a Jonathan Figure] met in 1976 in the Art Foundation course at Solihull College of Technology. Epic Soundtracks and Richard Earl of the Maps were in the same class, with Spizz a year ahead. (While in the class below came Martin Hughes who became the Cult Figures bass player.) By late '77 Jon was playing in the Scent Organs, and Gary had bought a £20 guitar and formed the Cult Figures with a mate who'd begged a pair of Rick Buckler's drumsticks. One of their earliest compositions was 'Zip Nolan Highway Patrolman' -after a weekly feature in the 1960s boys' comic-book, Lion. With some time out to learn to play, they debuted at a Solihull youth club with the Scent Organs headlining. Jon played with both bands and soon joined Cult Figures full-time (Organ-mate Jeff Thomas having been recruited into Duran Duran). Epic became a partisan of the band and when the Swell Maps formed Rather Records, he asked Gary and Jon to record 'Zip Nolan'.
This live recording comes from their final days -a double-bill with GBH, lovingly captured on their Live at the Cedar Club 6/4/80 CD on Topplers. (They were armed for the occasion with GBH's bass and homemade guitar, although neither of them really made its way into the soundboard mix.) See www.cultfigures.co.uk and www.topplers.net, where you can also hear their pop classic 'Almost a Love Song' AND the No Men's thrilling cover of 'Zip Nolan.'
-Fish (Bland 1) Cardiff '82
Cardiff spawned a larger-than-usual number of DIY bands, and most all of them somehow joined or crossed paths with the Young Marble Giants' extended family. Current Obsessions is technically the title of an EP by "Lewis and Debbie," but you'd never know it from the PS. Guitarist Lewis Mottram's band the Electric Fires played regularly with YMGs, but never recorded. Debbie Pritchard joined as a backing vocalist, and Lewis and Debbie started working on their own with Debbie singing lead. Two years on, their song "Simian" appeared as a swirly guest spot on the Gist's 1981 "Embrace the Herd" LP, and soon afterward, they released this samba-jazzy/psychedelic EP on their own Bland label, with a couple local jazz pros on horns. Lewis, Debbie and drummer Mike Southern [most recently stateside with Oracular] all played earlier with Moira & the Mice.
-Suffocation from Rough Cuts V.A. EP (Z-Block 3) Cardiff '80
From Rough Cuts - the final release on Z-Block, The Czechs were 17-year-old mates of Spike [Weekend] and Reptile Ranch, from the 'Ranchers' old squatting-grounds in Gwent. Brilliant minimal DIY...
-Don't Say Yes // Wild Men of Pop Vol.2 cassette: London '80
The Dad released a dozen 1980 cuts on the second Wild Men of Pop cassette put out by the London-based Shrouds. Pete Hewitt from Ollie at the Cuband Cringe (one of our very favorite cassette-only acts) wrote a couple of their songs and that's his brother? Simon on bass. All of the Dad (and Ollie, too) were students at Christ's Hospital school.
Dad singers Noj Mcleod [bass] and Andy Davie [guitar] formed another CH band called Pants Off (1980-83), Noj did The Comparative Unknowns, and then entered Cambridge with ex-Pants Trevor Parsons, where they formed Red Army Choir (1984-88). Jon Maxim went on to Skunk and the North London Mad Dogs before establishing himself as an advertising star (www.themaxim.com) based in Sydney. Andy Davie returned to his native Scotland, where he's drummed with Aberdeen bands Going to Honolulu, Spoil the Dog, Afronauts, and (Funk Connection ).
GIRLS -Dangerous Girls (Happy Face 115) Birmingham '78 -Messthetics
-I Don't Want To Eat (with the Family) live, unreleased
-MO7S (Human 1) Birmingham '80 third
Midlanders Rob Peters [drums] and Rob Rampton [bass] played with a succession of Exeter University art/prog/Gong bands, which culminated in Plaenet, who moved north to Birmingham. There they met Exeter native Mike Cooper [vox/ gtr] and soon spied a newspaper headline "Dangerous Girls" -and a new band was born (sans girls, of course). They wrote 12 songs in two weeks, then recorded them all in two days at the Old Smithy (October 1978). Eight months, 40-odd live dates and a new guitarist later [Beetmoll], a re-mixed version of 'Dangerous Girls' was released on the Old Smithy's Happy Face label. The B-side, 'I Don't Want to Eat (with the Family)' has recently been popular with punk-collectors: this live take is from The Railway, Birmingham July 15,1979.
"MO7S" comes from the Dangerous Girls' third single. (Driving home to Birmingham one night th'lads were playing "I Spy" to pass the time: singer Mike Cooper spied the letter "M" painted on the road and just about got tossed out of the van when the rest figured it out.
Although they should obviously
be counted as a "working" band, the Girls' special twist on D.I.Y.
financing was that they ran a P.A. rental business (Plaenet P.A. Hire), which
paid the bills even when their incessant touring and the records did not. After
the Girls' demise, Rob Rampton carried on the band's P.A. business, Beetmoll
has been Jack Bruce's long-time guitar-tech (now Eric Clapton's, as well), and
Peters went on to drum for Here and Now (as the nth replacement for Kif Kif
le Batteur), Everything But The Girl, and Boo Hewerdine. Mike Cooper did GOD?
with Peters, then Taaga with Beetmoll.
Visit Rob Peters' waferthin.org website for Dangerous Girls discography, history & lots more: Rob's current project is The Heathers, at myspace.com/theheathersuk
DANNY & the
DRESSMAKERS -Don't Make Another Bass Guitar Mr. Rickenbacher // Weird
Noise comp EP (Fuck Off 001)Manchester '80: mgh, #8
-Eggs on Legs // 39 Golden Grates cassette (Fuck Off Records 2/Weird Noise 003) ['79 recording]: #8
Danny and the Dressmakers derservedly rank at the top of any register of D.I.Y. nobility. The average hummability-factor of their massive output may be negligible, but that's not to say they never stumbled onto a world-class hook: "Don't Make Another Bass Guitar" needs little introduction as their greatest hit -off the Weird Noise sampler EP, and their only appearance on vinyl. Their 39 Golden Grates cassette mentions at least 12 additional cassette releases, but D/D's most notorious contribution to the D.I.Y. cause was their insistence that they would only circulate their efforts on third-generation tapes (odd shreds of the previous recordings frequently assert themselves...). Lead 'Dressmaker Graham Massey went on to Biting Tongues, 808 State, Bjork producer, etc. etc.
-Beyond the Autumn // Two Spires Split EP (Oblique Sound 1) Sheffield '80
de tian were Paul Shaft's band after he left 2-3, but they're a long way from the prevailing Sheffield sounds. Shaft says he wanted to take off from folks like Stockhausen and John Cage but to produce an avant-garde music that could be played in pubs and clubs -adding films, slides and an onstage magician. de tian released only this EP and one compilation track before a name change to the much jazzier Bass Tone Trap. Shaft collaborated with later dt/BTT member Martin Archer on several further projects (see Archer's Discus Records site), but these days he is Professor and Director of Research at the Dental Institute, Kings College London and spends much of his recreation time extreme mountain biking and keeping goal for Blackham and Ashurst FC - see "beat the keeper").
DEEP FREEZE MICE
-Dr. Z // Teenage Head in My Refrigerator LP (Mole Embalming 2) Leicester '81
Hands-down the most prolific of the DIY-era bands on vinyl was the Deep Freeze Mice, whose careers now sprawl across four decades and scores? of releases on their Mole Embalming and Cordelia record labels. "Dr. Z" comes from their second LP, "Teenage Head in my Refrigerator." After no less than ten DFM albums, leader Alan Jenkins went on to The Chrysanthemums, Ruth's Refrigerator, the Creams, Thurston Lava Tubes and now works with Sorted Records.
-Frontier (Citizens 1) Birmingham '80
The Denizens managed three singles and a cut on the Birmingham v.a. LP Bouncing in the Red: "Frontier" comes from their '79 debut. Gavin Lawson had previously played bass with John Dowie, while guitarist Andy Downer remains active on the Brum-beat scene. (The Denizens may be plotting the release of further original recordings... details tba)
-Smokescreen (Refill 1) London '77 first
-The Medium Was Tedium (Refill 2) '77 2nd
The Desperate Bicycles' "Smokescreen" and "Tedium" are where everything else begins. It's not just because they came first (1977), but because of the way the 'Bicycles insisted that everyone else should join them (in both these songs): "It was easy, it was cheap: go and do it!"
-There is no Shower (Con 1) Manchester '80 first
The Diagram Brothers, meanwhile, had emerged from the Manchester Musicians' Collective scene back in '77, but didn't hit vinyl til '80. Bassist Andy Diagram* was the sixth Diagram brother, but the only one who carried on the name: he added trumpet and more to those later Dislocation Dance recordings and also played with the Mud Hutters, Pale Fountains, James, and the Honkies. Andy now leads the Spaceheads [rejoined by Richard from Dislocation Dance] and also backs David Thomas as one of the Two Pale Boys.
-Drive Your Car to the Middle of Your Brain (unreleased) Shish sessions, '78:
-This Week // Folk Music V.A. LP (Tuzmadoner 002) London '80: Messthetics #101, #8
Simon Gilham, Des McManus and Geoff Watts got together in late 1977 along with 'non musical' friend Royston to record six songs (some with Royston singing lead), four of which became 1978's Shish EP. ("Drive Your Car..." is an out-take from that same session.) John Peel promptly hailed Shish as the worst record-sleeve he had ever seen (probably true), and the DI's were (somewhat) famous. The Different I's later released the Folk Music 12", also on Tuzmadoner, with four different (albeit heavily interrelated) bands. "This Week" probably features the world's first-ever duck call solo. Further recordings languished... and not long after Folk Music, the Different Eyes/I's split up. Geoff Watts and Royston went on to Hibi Yaki, while Simon Gillham played with Colin Newman and later paired with Simon Fellowes in Intaferon.
-Aliens in Your Skies / Earpop cassette (Spott PUSS2) Coventry '79
-Fingers and Thumbs (Spott PUSS1) 45 version, 1978 Messthetics #103
-Baby Snakes // A Bagful of Angst compilation cassette (Sexy Records 005) Coventry '80 -Messthetics #8
-The Sideways Man // Angst in my Pants double comp EP (Deleted Records 002) Coventry '80 Mesthetics Greatest Hits
Digital Dinosaurs were
one of the foremost cassette bands, with nine releases on their own Spott label.
The 'Dinosaurs were a couple years older than most of their cassette-swapping
peers, and if their music is more varied and complex (even a bit schizophrenic),
it also draws more extensively on their pre-punk heritage...especially their
heroes the Bonzo Dog Band, who they honored both musically and theatrically.
Having given up on singles on account of the expense (their debut may exist only as an acetate), the DDs embraced the cassette format with a vengeance. Selections of their first three tapes, Earpop, New Needles and The Final Touch, appear on Armchair Theatre (Messthetics #214), joining treasures of their middle period on Extinction (Messthetics #207 CDR) and their wonderful DIY rock-opera, "Huh?" (Messthetics #209 CDR). Images of their many cassettes and more are here at the Digital Dinosaurs Archaeology page... In 1984 Sidwell launched Crocodile Tears as a solo vehicle, although he/they were frequently abetted by the Dinosaurs' late Gordon Francis. Their most recent CD is Gullible's Travels.(myspace.com/crokodiletears)
-Different Light (Round Ear 2) Monmouth '81
"In a Different Light" was the only single from Wales' Discount Chiefs, who clearly had plenty of musical chops, but also something of an identity crisis (the flipside, for example, is anthemic, horn-driven post-punk). The 'Chiefs' rhythm section had played with Ralph & the Pony-Tails, while guitarist Julian Hayward went on to increasingly less structured efforts. He now does "ambient folk" with Charlotte Greig [wife of the Puritan Guitars' John Williams] and also works on occasion with former Mekon Jon Langford... See the 12 Bar club site.
-It's So Difficult (Delicate Issues) Manchester '80
From Manchester, Dislocation Dance were pals of the Mud Hutters. They covered quite a bit of musical territory on their first EP (a New Hormones co-release), though "It's So Difficult" shows them checking out the sounds that made Delta 5 famous. But even as their second 45 added horns and some twee-pop influences, there's always that trademark DIY gtr-twang gnarl... Ian Runacres later played with Brightside.
-Betrayed (Parole PURL 3) London '81
London's Disturbed were an early signing to the Raped's Parole label. The fact that their sleeve/bag looked almost exactly like one of the Radio Stars' best -but least successful-45s can't have helped. Turns out it's Josephine Lascaux pre-Josi Without Colours and Josephine (she also appeared in a bunch of Radio One plays). Guitarist Ian Willcock is now an experimental / classical / electronic composer of considerable renown...
DIVERT OFF CENTRE
-Love in Ephemeral ...I Confess // A Drop in the Ocean compilation LP (Lightbeat
002) Blackpool '82
Divert Off Centre contributed "Love in Ephemeral..." to the Blackpool compilation A Drop in the Ocean on the Lightbeat label (the later home of oi stars One Way System). Maybe a little on the lush side -with very tasteful trumpet-work. There was a earlier picture-disc fanzine flexi that we're most anxious to hear. Tim, Phil and Jak went on to Oktober Group and several other ventures.
-Choke (Leisure Sounds) Cambridge '80
The DOGMATIC DUO -Up / Going Up // Live at the Dogma Café cassette (DC 02) '80
The first sideof the Dogma Cats' "Live at the Dogma Café" cassette sticks pretty close to the 2nd-LP XTC sound of "Choke" (the 'Cats' only vinyl on their own Leisure Sounds label), but side 2 is just Steve Penn and Ed Harbud as The Dogmatic Duo, and it's some of the finest DIY gnarling and strumming around (especially since they've provided clean masters!). "Going Up" is a DIY-pop classic, while just plain "Up" should have had a less kindhearted combo thinking major lawsuit v. Nirvana ["Lithium," anyone?]. Dogma Cats morphed into The Great Divide, which soon subdivided into The Fruitbats [Ed], Jack the Bear [Steve] and The Bible [Boo Hewerdine], all of whom had vinyl on the Backs label (though clearly, none of them came from Norwich). Steve later joined Mike Kemp's Spaceward Studios and helped launch SADiE, while after the Bible, Boo went gone on to a successful solo career, frequently abetted by Rob Peters of the Dangerous Girls [q.v.]
-Domestic Bliss (demo) Woodbine Studios, Leamington Spa '79 -#103
Three 15-year-olds formed Domestic Bliss in 1978, out of "total boredom & despair" from the barely-warm embers of Damaged Rabbits, Obscene On TV, and Body Stained Underpants. Simon Morgan - thrown out of Flack Off earlier that year for being "the worst gtr-ist in the world", Darren Guy (bass/vocals) and John Henderson (drums) played with the Shapes, the Cravats, Fashion, the Ideal Husbands & many others. Their lone 45, 'Child Battery' b/w 'Life' came out in '79... The single got roundly trashed by the NME but John Peel played it three times. The group's anthem 'Domestic Bliss' was recorded at the same time, but was "lost down the back of the sofa adjacent to the mixing desk & only found 25-years after the fact by its original producer, John Rivers." They added a lead vocalist (Chris Jennings, ex-Fragiles) after the single, but ran out of steam without recording again. Darren headed off to university, where he and John Thorne of the Living Daylights formed Ears to the Ground. (They still play together as The Rockin Raja Brothers). After exploits too many (and sordid) to mention, Simon now helms punk's best online magazine, trakMARX.com
THE DOOR AND THE
WINDOW -Part Time Punks // Detailed Twang LP (NB 5) [courtesy of Overground
-We're Better Than / Dr. Egg CD
Having faithfully followed D.I.Y.'s minimum prescriptions for musicianship (none, initially: they learnt as they went), production values (ditto), and packaging (blank labels with stickers, hand-folded sleeves, thank-you credits listing just themselves), Nag and Bendle a/k/a/ The Door and the Window took it all one step further by abandoning all pretext of melody. (Their lyrics remained enjoyably but conventionally witty/Marxist/anti-rockist.) After two resolutely unhummable EPs on their NB label (for 'Nag & Bendle'), The Door and the Window's glorious din had annoyed and enraged much the press and large segments of the DIY 'establishment' as well...but it was pure aural catnip for anti-pop icon Mark Perry (Sniffin Glue/ATV) who promptly recorded two similarly tune-free 45s for NB -and modestly accepted a position as The Door and the Window's drummer. This line-up recorded TDATW's landmark LP, Detailed Twang. Overground Records has reissued 'Twang on CD (adding both EPs).
"We're Better Than" is from a 1983 [?] version of TDATW (topically it certainly seems much earlier) that featured Tony Clough from Conventional Tapes/New 7th Music (now in Sun Dial with Dave Morgan). It's available on a lovely and very limited CD of '83-87 performances called Dr. Egg —available from Bendle, who currently describes himself as "a psychospiritually inclined herbalist and a neofolkie singer" (bendle [at] vip.solis.co.uk.) Nag's musical trajectory includes The 49 Americans, the Reflections, Payola, Repetition and the Repetitions, the Clams and the Ultraviolets. After twelve years in Melbourne Nag came home again to launch the London International Animation Festival -on rather the same principles as NB Records: why not set up a festival and see what happens? www.liaf.org.uk
-Quail Seed (demo, 1978): Messthetics #102
-Alaska // The Dry Season EP (Clockwork) London '79: #102 and #8
After several versions of a band called Dial 192 [the number for directory enquiries at the time] leader Rob Vasey, drummer Andrew Goodwin (ex-Oxy & the Morons, later with the Times, and Vendino Pact) and bassist Mike Mulholland emerged as a three-piece called Dry Rib. Rob: "I was starting to write songs which didn't make any real sense but which were delivered as though they did and that they were important...It's the first record on Edward Ball's short-lived Clockwork label (where Eddie & Dan Treacy's Teenage Filmstars also appeared). The connection's that Eddie was a school chum of Dry Rib's drummer's girlfriend...got that? Gtr/vox Rob Vasey later played guitar on the Times' "Boys About Town" and "Times TV" -and had his own group as, hem syrup a/k/a The Syrups [q.v.] There's a Dry Rib/Syrups CD coming soon on Messthetics! Vasey is now with the very cool littlesongfilms.com.
DUM DUM DUM
-Dum Dum Dum (Struck Dum) Oxford '81: mgh
Dum Dum Dum grew out of Wow Foundation, a legendary underground band on the rabidly anti-commercial Oxford postpunk/D.I.Y. scene. Their theme-song is one of the few DIY efforts that pushed past the innovations of P/i/L and On-U. DDD recorded extensively, but they only released this 45 and the Rub A Dub Dum cassette. A fluid array of musical confederates joined their gigs, including Lol Coxhill, Ed Alleyne Johnson of New Model Army, and various My Captains, Play Dead and English Subtitles. Later versions included Tom Green of Another Fine Day, The Orb, and Baka Beyond (Martin Craddick was also a Dum alum). Band founder [and Nephilim, etc. producer] Bill Buchanan now runs RPPtv.com's online TV production venture, and lead singer Paul Conneally helms the Haikumania internet project.
-Fame and Fortune 2:07 // No Elephants This Side of Watford Gap EP (Irrelevant
Wombat Records DAMP1) London '79: mgh
-Distance (Irrelevant Wombat Records DAMP2) '80: m101
Exhibit 'A' formed in late 1978 when four 14-year-olds discovered a shared interest in John Peel's late night radio shows — whilst avoiding sporting activities together during school breaks. They produced three issues of a fanzine, Wombat Weekly, and recorded their first EP, No Elephants this Side of Watford Gap at a central London youth club in 1979. At age 15 and 16 they were thought to be the youngest band to release their own record independently. Their brilliant second EP followed two months later, but Exhibit 'A' split by 1981. Six further tracks on three collections on the Dead Hedgehog label completed their official catalogue. Guitarist and main indie idealist Paul Platypus also played with the Reflections (with Mark Perry and Nag from the Door & the Window) and Twelve Cubic Feet (joined by former Exhibits drummer Andrew Lunchbox and bassist Matthew Matrices among others), and founded Namedrop Records and Cubic Music publishing. Matthew carried on in Solid Space (1981-).
-I'm Glad (EJSP 9771) '81: m101
Existence was the four-year solo project of one Allen Ashley Lucas. His ambitions were more "acoustic psychedelic" than punk, and while inspiration came partly from the DIY movement the major influence was Allen's lifelong love affair with Hawkwind (much more evident on the B-side). Lucas and occasional collaborator Jenny Yeatman traveled to Woodbine Studios in Royal Leamington Spa, where they enlisted a session drummer and The Specials' Sir Horace Gentleman on bass ...resulting in the song's rather remarkable extended cadenza (after they ran out of lyrics). (Note also Jenny's quite extraordinary vocal range.) After the 45, Lucas had poems and music reviews published in Hawkfrendz fanzine, and performed live with them in 1988, reciting/singing selections from his poem "The Space Cycle". As Allen Ashley he's become a celebrated sci-fi/ fantasy/ slipstream short-story writer and novelist (and lyricist for Foul House). He edited a collection of short stories, The Elastic Book of Numbers, which won the British Fantasy Society's 2006 Best Anthology award. www.allenashley.com
-Boy Detectives (Aquamarine Records MODEL1) 1980 -Messthetics #103
The D.I.Y. bug first bit Steve Gridley (and possibly Nikki Sudden as well) at Victoria Station in late 1976, where a crowd had gathered to welcome David Bowie back to London and The Warm were passing out free copies of their debut 45, 'It's the Kooler.' Musically there's little that was new or 'punk' about it, but it was unmistakably D.I.Y. (Help us find Jah & Rui!)
Gridley made some solo demos and finally joined a band called Mental Block at the start of 1980. Mental Block rehearsed a lot...but never played out, and when their singer had an accident, Steve deemed it time to put out a single on his own, aided by Scritti Politti's pamphlet, 'How to Make a Record'. With John Howl on drums (the other two 'musicians' were Steve himself) the Famous Explorers recorded at Spaceward in September 1980. Steve splurged for red ink for the hand-folded sleeves, and earned a Peel spin and a nice Zig Zag plug for his troubles. He later played with Broadway Rebels, but Gridley's more prominent role was as royal photographer to Nikki Sudden, in which capacity he documented the Jacobites and much of Nikki's solo career.
KAREL FIALKA -Ghosts
(Red Shift 01) '79: m101
Karel Fialka's parents were Czech and Scottish and he was born in India, although he'd been living in Brixton working in film, acting, and doing street performances for several years before punk hit, and then D.I.Y. He writes, "My head was focused on synths (as they were then, very rudimentary and exciting with hands-on oscillators and filters, and without banks of presets) which I'd originally had a good introduction to via Miquette Giraudy [Gong, Hillage], and the wonderful but hardly-known Robin Landridge. 'Armband' was done using a Micro-Moog, which was what I had..." The "Armband" single was a thoroughly D.I.Y. affair -rubber-stamped plain sleeves, a photocopied A4 insert, and two mixes of the same song. But the A-side established itself as a new wave anthem of sorts. The B-side was credited to "Sven the Busker" and titled "Ghosts". Acoustic guitar and glockenspiel replace the electronics, while the backwards echo 'came from seeing John Carpenter's Assault on Precinct 13: it was an attempt to capture some of the weirdness of the papers floating above the desks in the gunfire.'
FRANK DETAILS -False
Pretenses (Buzz Bomb 1) '80: Messthetics #102
Frank Details were were built around two guitarists -Richard Furzer and Andy Milner- who shared a distinct taste for the New York City sounds of Richard Hell, Television, and [Fred and] Patti Smith. (Their 1979 demos lean even more heavily in that direction.) They played around London and the Southeast (also in Belgium), released a 45, with "False Pretences", and saw additional exposure on the BBC's Radio Medway, but things crashed to a halt in '81. Richard and Andy continued writing together and recording in private as Telephone Songs through much of the 1980s. Andy's added diverse other styles to a virtuoso repertoire since then [CDs and samples at andymilner.com]. He still teaches guitar in Wales and has recently played with Nik Turner. Richard's now in computerized music and collaborates with the amazing Toks Ilorin.
-Compulsive Eater (Cool Cat Daddy-O PHUN1) '80: all these on Messthetics #101
FUNBOY FIVE -Haircut Bob Dylan '66 (demo)'80
MILKSHAKE MELON -What Did You Do with the Body? / Have You Seen a Whale? (unreleased) 1981
The Funboy Five were a 4-piece (natch), led by Mick Sinclair, who'd briefly played bass for the Vice Creems and guitar for the Anal Surgeons, although he gained far greater fame as a writer for Sounds and Zigzag (we're especially fond of his 'Cassette Pets' column for Sounds). An April '79 demo earned the Funboy Five a Peel session, which they followed up with their classic single "Life After Death" b/w "Compulsive Eater" -the latter inspired by a tabloid item about a prisoner who ate his way through bedding, lightbulbs, etc. after being left unattended in his cell. Milkshake Melon was Mick Sinclair's solo alter ego... A split FB5/Milkshake Melon CD is available -along with scads of punk-era (and later) reviews, travel books, etc.- at the new FB5 website: www.funboyfive.co.uk --which also includes a page on the Anal Surgeons to mark the re-issue of Aylesbury Goes Flaccid, and even has pages on Das Boomerang and 'Great Disasters That Shook the World & Marion' 'Great Disasters That Shook the World & Marion' (FYI, FB5 broke up a full year before the Fun Boy 3 appeared, although Mick was there to review their first performance...)
-Other People / Wickford's So Boring EP (Wax EAR2) '79: m101 [all]
-Politics (demo, 1980)
OUTRAGEOUS FLESH -Did I Pick It Up? demo, 1981
Grinder were a quintessentially English burlesque of most every bit of music or pop culture that passed their way. As such, they're also a band that would have existed whether punk had happened or not. Singer Terry Luckett had a different costume for almost every song...and they're still recording together, although in 1980 they changed their name to Outrageous Flesh in case "Grinder" sounded too heavy-metal. They gigged with Hornsey At War, defeated the Vandals (with Alison Moyet) in a battle-of-the-bands, and opened for Norman & the Worms (Martin Gore's pre Depeche Mode combo).
-Walking / The Hardware EP (N*A*R*C 001) Cheltenham '79 -#103
-Face the Flag (Narc 002) '79 -#103
In the absence of any discernable punk scene in Cheltenham and few punk-friendly clubs, Hardware’s influences came to town chiefly on vinyl: both guitarist James and sax/Wasp-player Roger worked at record-shops and eagerly spun everything that came in. Hardware combined terrific musicianship with John Danylyszyn's din of hallucinatory poetry for lyrics -much in the style of the '76-78 New York City punk scene.
A would-be Malcolm McLaren who ran the clothes-shop upstairs proposed 'Software' as a band-name but it rejected for not sounding hard enough. "All right, then," countered Dan, "what about Hardware?" 1979 saw two singles (changing bassists for 'Flag') and extensive gigs through the Midlands and in London. A third single went unreleased and after a recording session in Bristol was canceled (due to a crushed finger at work) the band split.
But soon afterward, guitarist James Johnstone invited Hardware mates Chip Carpenter [drums] and Mark J. Smith [bassist #2] to jam with two friends from Birmingham, Chris Hamlyn and Roger Freeman. They came up with the riff for 'Papa's Got a Brand New Pigbag', added Simon Underwood, and Pigbag was born. (Which explains a LOT about where all that amazing jazzy hornfunk got started). Roger Doughty opened the revered Revolver record-shop in Bristol around the time that Pigbag settled there. Danylyszyn went to university but continued with Mike Chandler and Mark Smith in Eaten by Sharks. And Mike, Chip and John Bennett still play for fun together as Monsters. Check out James Johnstone's wonderfully-addictive 'dub selectors' at infinitewheel.com -and watch for news of Hardware's retrospective CD at www.hardware79.co.uk
-Truth/Hey (demo, 1981): Messthetics #101
Although Bruno's material dominates the Homosexuals releases, and Jim was by far the most prolific in his post-Homosexuals / It's War Boys career, Anton Hayman was the member who most compulsively busied himself in the studio. He built these himself wherever he settled or squatted, but he was always wheedling his way into new venues as well. You'll hear more Homosexuals odds-and-sods on their Demos/Live at the Whisky CD (Messthetics #212), but here -as George Harassment/Harrasment (his official alias)- is an extraordinary tune that Anton did all by himself on a brief 1980 sabbatical at the house of Peter O'Toole's daughter, near Connemara, Ireland.
The HOMOSEXUALS -Technique Street rough mix: Surrey Sound session '78
For version #2 of the Rejects Bruno recruited 17-year-old bass prodigy Jim Welton, a twenty-something guitarist with heavy metal roots, Anton Hayman, and ex-Wayne County drummer Davey Dus. They gigged but never recorded - and Davey split over the name-change to The Homosexuals. The next session was actually a solo set of Anton's at Mike Kemp's legendary Spaceward Studios in Cambridge (this never got mixed, but we've found the 2" master!). Bruno and Jim attended but didn't play. Anton's next coup was to score free overnight studio time with Chris Gray at Surrey Sound. There, the Homosexuals immediately set about drenching their sound in acts of mixing-console violence and homemade studio trickery, but much of their most famous material actually began with direct to tape live recordings (everything else to date is on Messthetics' 3CD Astral Glamour). This rough 'live' mix shows "Technique Street" before Chris Gray and the Homosexuals applied any of their trademark fader-work, overdubs, and selective(?) overmodulations of vocals, drums or guitars.
-The Witch (Boys and Girls Records BAG TWO) Coventry '81 -#103
The Human Cabbages' Rosa Roberts' had a fine voice, but the Cabbages' real trademarks were Steve Teers' loopy, ice-rink keyboards and the constantly varied -and shifting- rhythms. (Indeed, they played to a radically different beat on each of the five songs they recorded) They made their debut on the Boys and Girls Come Out to Play EP. Steve Teers reprised the label for the 'Cabbages own 45.
Their first release was clearly influenced by the Coventry ska explosion, but the garagey 'Alabama Song' groove of 'The Witch' is probably no more representative of the band than the track that Steve's brother, guitarist Johnny Fagsnbooze sang, or their final recording (in 12/8 time?) for the Tale of Two Cities cassette. Chances are they never quite figured it out themselves. (There's a new version of 'Air Raid' on myspace.com/broughtbyorder -the Cabbages' drummer's son's band.) Steve Teers now carries on the D.I.Y. spirit on DVD with Diva Pictures, who've released the indie films 'Allen Ginsberg - Live in London' and 'Jeremy Hardy vs the Israeli Army' (divapix.co.uk).
INNERPROPRIATES -Never (Obscure the Balance) / Is This the Aqueous cassette '81 Tony and drummer Jerry Wickings (Stick Nobils) from Drug Squad picked up singer Simon Relative (vocals) and Simon/Aquajet (bass) from M.L.R. and began rehearsing as The Innerpropriates in April 1981. "Never (Obscure the Balance)" came out of their first recording session in June, and by August they'd recorded their cassette album Is This the Aqueous. Nik Turner from Hawkwind/Inner City Unit and Ashley Wales (5 or 6, Shock Headed Peters, MLR) help out. Their 1996 retrospective CD is titled Thoroughly. The Innerpropriates' most recent clanning (2006) is as the Inner Sunns (...though there's no word yet on a new cassette!). Info from Tony: bytonal [at] yahoo.co.uk
-Scared to be Alone 2:04 // Angst in my Pants double comp EP (Deleted Records
002) Scunthorpe '80: mgh
D.I.Y.'s second wave began when the Instant Automatons took an NME advert for their new cassette LP: "send us a blank cassette and we'll send you our LP." Within two years, scores of other bands had likewise bypassed the traditional music-business altogether by swapping cassettes of their songs for free or for the cost of postage. Sounds and NME added cassette columns and charts and ZigZag did a tape-discography of the scene, even if few folks ever actually heard the music. Schoolmates Mark Lancaster and Protag (Martin Neish) began the Instant Automatons in rather splendid isolation, sharing guitar, bass, radio samples, and Protag's homemade electronics. An advert on their "Peter Paints His Fence" 45 asked for help with transport and Mic Woods answered it: he hadn't a van but he joined on guitar. The Instants released a dozen cassettes and several efforts on vinyl on their Deleted Records label, while cross-pollinating freely with Street Level Studio's Fuck Off imprint (see Danny & the Dressmakers). Deleted's most famed release was a double-EP titled Angst in my Pants, with Messthetics stars The Midnight Circus, the Digital Dinosaurs, 012 [Street Level owner Kif Kif's band], Mic Woods solo, The Door and the Window, and... "Scared to be Alone." The Instant Automatons retrospective CD, Another Wasted Sunday Afternoon is Messthetics #210, and much more of their material is available on deluxe CDR from Mark's Waterden labelWaterden label (reams of Mark Automaton's witty/ trenchant lyrics are online there and at H2D's site).
The JIMMY NIPPER
FIVE -Two Wasted Years // Got My Goat V.A. EP (Thin Face TIM1)
South London '81: Messthetics Greatest Hits
The Jimmy Nipper Five took their name as a backhanded tribute to jazz trombonist and Mingus sideman Jimmy Knepper (though there were only four members in fact). They earned a place on the obscenely-scarce Got My Goat 7" sampler -in exchange for backing two other musicians on their songs... The JN5's only other appearance came on the Index One compilation LP, where they were able to include some fuzzy photos and their own liner notes.
LESTER and the BREW
-A Bad Day at The City / Eyesight Bad / Things to Do (PL EP01) Birmingham '80
Paul Lester published his first book of poems, A Funny Brand of Freedom, in 1975, and his first experiments with poetry and music together were actually with reggae, as Lester & the Festers (in occasional cahoots with Jimmy Brown of UB40). 1980's Lester and the Brew were Paul Lester, with guitarist/ drummer John Adams and saxophonist Dave Panton. Adams had learned an Afghani folk-tune which became the backing for 'A Bad Day at The City'. 'Eyesight Bad' was actually a separate poem with different music, but the recordings were spliced together so perfectly on the record we couldn't bear to separate them.
Lester took inspiration from a previous generation of British "Jazz and Poetry" and also the 1960s Beat movement: disparate talents like Ivor Cutler, Pete Brown, Roy Fisher, and "The Liverpool Scene" (to whom John Peel once likened the Brew). Fisher introduced Lester to Adrian Henri and Lol Coxhill...
Paul's most recent book of poems is Going For Broke, from Protean Publications -who've also released a 23-track retrospective CD, The Legend of Lester. Visit myspace.com/paullesterandthebrew -or Google "Protean Publications."
-On the Air (Red RS001) '79 Messthetics #102
-Blisstability demo '79 (both songs courtesy of Acute Records)
The Lines' "On the Air" 45 and "Cool Snap" 12" have been desert island disks in these parts since they first straggled across the Atlantic, but the Lines' new three-CD retrospective on Acute [Metal U, Prefects, Theoretical Girls, Branca] should finally give them the showcase they deserve: www.acuterecords.com.
Rico Conning (guitar/vocals) and Jo Forty (bass) began playing together in 1976, won some studio time in a Sounds music competition and cut their first tracks at Phil Manzanera's PSL Studios. They debuted live as "Proof" before becoming The Lines later in 1977 (they played the nearly-defunct Roxy). In January '78 they recorded their "White Night" 45 (later reissued on Illegal), but the Lines truly hit their stride in 1979-80 with Rico, Jo, and Nick Cash on drums, (ex-pragVEC), recording "On the Air", and then adding Mick Linehan on lead guitar (ex-ATV) for their first Peel Session, an Alaska Studios demo (with the unreleased "Blisstability") and their classic Cool Snap EP.
-Orders (New Puritan NB1) Hornsey '81: Messthetics #102
-Mayhem / Not Music cassette (own label) '79: Messthetics #102
The London PX's musical heroes were the more melodically-inclined first-generation punks (plus Mod bands like the Chords and Purple Hearts) but they were also drinking buddies with the similarly loud-and-approximately-tuned Hornsey at War -so after they bought their first instruments in late 1979 and started a band of their own, the London PX set their musical sights on something relatively simple and direct. A December 1980 recording session at Starforce Studios produced three songs that somehow never made it to a mix-down, so the impoverished PX recorded their debut 45 under less favorable conditions. But whether it was the first hint that the home-made-punk sound would long outlive 1977, or the world's all-time worst-recorded Oi song (Gary Bushell's apparent opinion), "Orders" was an instant classic. They also released a 1979 rehearsal tape called Not Music that sold 26 copies through an advert in Sounds. All this and the newly-mixed Starforce sessions appear on their brand-new All That There Is: '77-81 LP -from our friends at Parts Unknown Records.
-Cold Rebellion (NeoLondon) Messthetics #102
Metrophase was scene photographer / filmmaker Steev Burgess' studio project -basically him with help from the Swell Maps. Nikki plays guitar and sings on all three tracks (brother Epic is on the other two) and "Simon Slider" plays bass. (We're not sure if Steev or Nikki found them first, but both were regulars at the early Exhibit A gigs.) There's also a rare second Metrophase 45 with Nikki and Jowe Head...
in My Kitchen [unreleased version] Richmond '79
M.L.R. leader Tony Deviant a/k/a Tonal had made a bit of a splash with Drug Squad, whose "Switchcleaner" (1978) is one of the dodgy/druggy classics of MC5-style proto-punk, but MLR embraced the anti-commerce wing of DIY with gusto. Most everyone used pseudonyms (Milton "Og" Kinder was M.L.R.'s resident poet, Black Haggis drummed, and 'Ronald Aquajet Melt' was a 16-17-year old Simon Bernal, pre-Empire), and they never sent out demos or played anywhere unless they were invited -thus netting them all of 8 official gigs 1977-1982. They 'released' one LP, Persian Version, in an edition of 100 copies, plus five cassette albums.[See also the Innerpropriates]. Contact bytonal [at] yahoo.co.uk
MUD HUTTERS -All
About 2:38 // Information EP (Defensive 263) Cheshire '79: mgh
Dick and Moon began playing together in North Cheshire in 1971, and Benny, Malc, and Pete Collier joined up 1975-76, although the Mud Hutters per se (and sans Peter) only emerged in late 1978 with the Information EP, whence "All About." They gigged in Cheshire, Trafford and Manchester, and their stunning Declaration EP was recorded in mid-1979 with Mike Hinds guesting on guitar. After Dick met Paul from Dislocation Dance at Band on the Wall the 'Hutters became involved with the Manchester Musicians Collective. Benny split for university, Pete Collier returned on bass, and the Mud Hutters joined a massive Manchester crowd on the "I Like Shopping" tour (w/Diagram Brothers, Dislocation Dance, Decorators, Ludus, Eric Random). An LP and tracks on the Four Ways Out compilation completed their catalog, but several unreleased sessions have survived and sporadic bursts of Muddy activity continue even today. Andy Diagram joined the Mud Hutters in 1984, and since 1990 he and Muddy Dick have been a/k/a Spaceheads (www.spaceheads.co.uk).