U.K. "D.I.Y." & DIY-punk 1978-'84
-Oblique Encounters (Waldo's 002) Watford '78: Messthetics #102
This is actually Cally from the Tea Set [see their entry below]. Sometime back in '78 when friends came singing the praises of Throbbing Gristle's Second Annual Report, Cally's response was, nah, "Anyone can do that - dead easy!" And armed with a half-remembered college-mate's name Cally splattered together the X.Enc. EP from found noises, bass guitar, loops from a drum-instruction record he'd owned as a child, and samples from Charles Wuorinen's computer-music Times Encomium. Put-on or no, "Scattered Strategies" is insidiously cool: weirder and thicker and more energetic than almost anything that came out of the 'real' industrial scene. (The real Nigel Simpkins is now an (amused) local designer...) On Phil Smee's Waldo's label.
O LEVEL -We
Love Malcolm 1:45 (Kings Road) mgh
Many of D.I.Y.'s major bands formed while everyone was still in school, and the most influential crop of all may have come from the London Oratory School, a Catholic school in Fulham. Ed Ball, Dan Treacy, Joe Foster and brothers John and Gerard Bennett in various combinations became Teen 78, O Level, the TV Personalities and Reacta, and later launched or co-founded the Times, Teenage Filmstars, and the Whaam!, Creation, Artpop and Rev-Ola record-labels. Their first recordings were the "14th Floor" session (Dan in the lead, but no band-name at the time), followed a few weeks later by O Level's debut session with Ed, John, Gerard and a friend named Rich. O Level's "East Sheen" / "Pseudo Punk" and Teen 78's "14th Floor" single came out within days of each other, inaugurating a loose tradition of alternating projects by Dan and Ed. Dan's next 7" -as the TV Personalities ("Where's Bill Grundy Now?")- became their breakout indie hit,so it was only natural for Ed and O Level to release their version of an answer song: "We Love Malcolm" [McLaren].
2:45 / Mell Square Musick EP (No Rip Off) Birmingham '79 -#103
The name 021 comes from the Birmingham phone-code - chosen out of Brummie pride, though also, we suspect, as a clever rebuttal to the somewhat manufactured gloss of 999 (the emergency phone-code). Their manager Martin Frain was a friend and accomplice of Paul Panic's on the Mell Square project, so while the Accused got three songs, 021 got side one, cut one. Rhythm-guitarist Ian Kemp: "For some reason we ran over time and had to give the studio all the money in our pockets to be able to leave..."
021 cut a fine, straight-ahead punk track for A Tale of Two Cities before Kemp turned 18 and qualified for the Fire Service (for whom he still works). There was also an excellent (if maddeningly scarce) 021 single from 1982 ('Pop Song' b/w 'Aversion.')-after which the band split.
-Things in General (Vindaloo UGH2 / RT040) Birmingham '78 -#103
-Agony Column / Live October '78 CD (Caroline True CTRUE2)
The Prefects may have been the best unsigned '77-78 punk band in the U.K., but despite the evidence of their Peel Session 12" and 2004's Amateur Wankers CD on Acute Records they've remained criminally under-recognized (www.acuterecords.com, by whose kind permission 'Things' appears).
After the Pistols played Birmingham in late 1976 Alan [guitar] and Paul [drums] Apperley placed an advert in the Birmingham Evening Mail looking for a bassist and singer. They auditioned (and spurned) Nikki Sudden, then Robert Lloyd showed up complete with bass-player, and the Prefects were born. Better yet, Lloyd came with friends in high places, and before the Prefects had played in public a half-dozen times, they were at the Rainbow Theatre opening for The Clash, The Jam, Buzzcocks and Subway Sect (invited by the promoters of the "Anarchy in the UK" tour, who'd had the Slits cancel on them). The Prefects played parts of the "White Riot" tour (in place of the Buzzcocks), and supported the Buzzcocks' Scottish tour. They taped two Peel sessions after Joe Crow joined: 'Things' was recorded in August of 1978. The Prefects endured more personnel-changes (adding Dave Twist and Eamonn Duffy to their final version) and taped an October '78 show at the Co-op Suite, Birmingham with 'Agony Column'. The entire set is on Caroline True Records: www.carolinetruerecords.co.uk CDs, history, tour info etc. at www.thenightingales.org.uk
-Vince / Boys and Girls Come Out to Play V.A. EP (Boys and Girls Records
BAG ONE) Coventry 1979 -Messthetics #103
The Boys and Girls EP began with two bands of 14 and 15-year-olds from The Woodlands School, Profile and First Offence, who'd struck up a gigging relationship with an older band, the Human Cabbages. The Boys And Girls EP added three other bands from the scene. Profile's Guy Surtees [vox/gtr] took the lead on the business end with Human Cabbages' songwriter/keyboardist Steve Teers, who'd written for the local fanzine Alternative Sounds. Each band contributed a sixth part of the artwork for the poster-sized fold-out. The bands shared financing (£100 each), folded the sleeves -and divvied up 900 records between them... The EP's general rarity was boosted even further when Rich Elson's entire share got nicked from school.
With the Squad's Steve Young on drums, Profile contributed 'Nuclear Future' to Paul Panic's Tale of Two Cities tape, but despite plans for a 45, Profile split when they left school. Guy and Rich teamed up a bit later in Beachmantango. Rich joined Mask Party, then Oceansize, who morphed into Puretone (2 CDs on Fizzi). Elson has also lent occasional guitar to industrial electronica band Alaska Highway (alaskahighway.com). Guy Surtees has sung swing and soul and pounded keyboards from Bournemouth to Glasgow: songs of his with Legal Tender and solo are available at myspace.com/guysurtees
-£100 in 15 Minutes 3:07 (Riverside) Cardiff '80: Messthetics
Scritti Politti were the first band to print their manufacturing costs and supplier information on their record-sleeve...and this helpful gesture immediately touched off a widespread competition to show who could make their record out the cheapest. Indeed, an entire generation of bands were more likely to list their production costs than the band-members' names. So when later (and, naturally, anonymous) Cardiffians Puritan Guitars came out with "£100 in 15 Minutes" b/w "Making It" it was widely misunderstood that they were singing/ boasting about their manufacturing costs. (Instead they were complaining about boorish behavior at an open bar to celebrate the final gig of the Raincoats tour -which "the assembled radical DIY types drank up in 15 minutes.") Singer/guitarist John Williams started out writing a fanzine called After Hours, and after the Puritans broke up he joined The [ex] Janet & Johns to do two mid-80s singles as Thomas the Voice. He's now an increasingly celebrated author, and two of his novels deal with the DIY scenes in London (Faithless), and Cardiff (Cardiff Dead). He's married to Charlotte Greig whose CDs have featured Phil Moxham (YMG) and Julian Hayman (Discount Chiefs).
-Sus (Battery Operated WAC1) London '78: mgh, m1
After O Level (version #1) the Bennett brothers took on a couple more Oratory chums, Mark Denn and Adrian Uwalaka, and recorded Reacta's "Stop the World" b/w "Sus" for Dan's Battery Operated Records (the precursor to Whaam!). John and Gerard Bennett reunited with Ed Ball and Dan Treacy in 2005 to record the TV Personalities "My Dark Places" (on Domino, 2006). Ongoing info at www.televisionpersolanities.co.uk and www.reacta.net.
-Don't Go Backwards (Wreckord 001) Kent '78 first
-67 // 60-7 EP (Wreckord 002) Kent '79 second 45
The Record Players met in a folk club and tried to steer clear of the hippie/punk divide, but if they ended up a bit of all three, so much the better. The massive tremolo on "Don't Go Backwards" comes from their 1978 debut "Double 'C"-Side 45" and "67" is the cheerily nostalgic title track of their second EP (both on their Wreckord label). Two LPs went unreleased and after a third 45, they went acoustic and soon split. Philip Martin is now in Drohne (www.drohne.co.uk), co-leader Mark Addison went off to Italy, and sadly two other original members Martin Horne and Gordon Larner have since died...
-We Are Normal (Vibes 001) Manchester '78
-Can't Stop Now (Vibes 003) Manchester '79
The Reducers came from Manchester in 1978. The packaging is DIY, but the sound suggests they"d been on the scene for a while. Their debut, "We Are Normal," is straightforward DIY-punk that rather quickly starts questioning its premise. Their glam-rock roots show through more clearly on their second (especially on "Man With a Gun"), if not so strongly on "Can't Stop Now," excerpted here. There's a less interesting third single on EMI, but there was only one original member left at that point...
REFLECTIONS -4 Countries (Cherry Red 33) '81
From 1981, the Reflections were a veritable DIY supergroup of Nag [Door & the Window, Collective Horizontal], Mark Perry & Dennis Burns [ATV, Good Missionaries, D&W], Paul Platypus [Doof, Philip Johnson, 12 Cubic Feet] and Karl Blake [Lemon Kittens], though it's hard to say how many of"em are making noise on "4 Countries."
-Vision Smashed / Technique Street (demo) '77: Messthetics Greatest Hits
-Stir Crazy (demo) '77: Messthetics #101
The Rejects are difficult to place in the DIY pantheon since they never released a record...and though hundreds saw them, they'd already broken up by the time that D.I.Y. really hit the streets. Conflicting stories from Bruno have it that (a) the Rejects' material largely took shape over the summer of 1976, but upon scoring their first gig at the Roxy in January 1977 (b) "I wrote about twenty songs in three days:" Most likely the tunes had been around for a while but Bruno improvised fresh lyrics with every performance. Bruno had met Howard, a jazz drummer, in early 1976, and he'd found guitarist/keyboardist Ian doing the washing-up at Goldsmith College: the bassist was a 6'3" Rastafarian (soon dropped from the band) who knew John, a power-chord-crazy rhythm guitarist from Bruno's hometown of Sunderland. After five months of gigging the Rejects' lone surviving demo shows them blazing away - despite the fact that keyboards, bass and guitar are completely out of tune with each other. They broke up within days of this recording. See (of course) the Homosexuals' Astral Glamour for a complete history
-Saying Goodbye // Animal Noises EP (Z Block #3) Cardiff '80: mgh
Reptile Ranch was the "house band" of the celebrated Z-Block label (the label name comes from a college dorm in Gwent where they'd been squatting: see Spike's Z-Block history online at hyped2death.com). Indeed, they recorded their first 7" before they'd played a single gig in public, or even chosen a name. The sound didn't really come together 'til they'd moved to Cardiff and cut their DIY-hippiepsych classic "Waterhole" for the Is the War Over? compilation LP that also introduced the world to Young Marble Giants. (Reptile Ranch and YMG played their debut gigs within 2 weeks of each other at Cardiff's Grassroots coffee-bar.) The Animal Noises EP was Reptile Ranch's third and final release. Spike later teamed up with YMG's Alison Statton to form Weekend.
THE REST -Raga
(Shooting Star 2) London '80 second
The Rest released two 45s in London in 1979-80 -tradpunk/mod/Motors stuff, except for "Raga" -an especially handsome hippie-psych freakbeat groove with Beatley/Trafficky flourishes. After that things got more interesting still: they did a session with Terry Chimes and then Ian and Tony messed around a bit with their old school chum, Sade ("yes, that Sade..."), though nothing was ever released... Simon Matthews went on to the Colours (Mess. #7).
-From the Top (Pop:aural 007) Glasgow '80
.From Glasgow (and Italy), 1980, Restricted Code's "From the Top" is a fine gnarly groove with a prodigiously thick Glaswegian accent. It comes from the first of R.C.'s two singles on Pop:aural (Jo Callis" ex-Rezillos label). There were also two cuts on Second City Static. Their first drummer (Rab, who's later in Article 58) was barely 16 and couldn't join them on the road when they opened for the Human League; his replacement Steve Leroni joined Altered Images after RC broke up (and married Claire Grogan!). Restricted Code gtr/vox Tom Cannavan now helms wine-pages.com.
RESTRICTED HOURS -Getting Things Done // from split EP with The Syndicate (Rock Against Racism 1) Stevenage '79
Restricted Hours were a '79 one-off by the Astronauts' Mark Wilkins for the Stevenage chapter of Rock Against Racism. Apparently Mark enjoyed "Getting Things Done" so much that the whole band joined the second version of Astronauts [see Messthetics #5]. Alan Cowley is ex-Johnny Curious. The whole complicated story appears online at www.astronauts.org.uk.
The RICH AND FAMOUS
-Machine Gun / The Snoopies Album V.A. LP (1,000 Only Records RSB1)
Richmond '81: Messthetics #101
The Snoopies Album documented "the Last Remains of a Richmond Venue", but it was largely the work of scenester Ralph E. Boy, who selected tracks from Snoopies' stash of demo tapes by The Scissor Fits, the Tronics, Cardiacs, M.L.R., BabyBabyBabyBaby (with Nick from the 'Fits), etc. But the centerpiece was a song by Ralph's own Rich and Famous -a true Norse Saga of violence and heartbreak about Ralph's Norwegian girlfriend Gunhilde, a well-radicalized university girl whose friends nicknamed her "Machine Gun." Mr. E. Boy and Nick East played in the legendary (and, naturally, never-released) House of Noise, and Ralph also joined the Tronics during their Transistor Sister period, but released nothing further on his own. He now plays in a Pink Fairies cover band called Pink F.A. (natch) with former Snoopies-mate Tonal from M.L.R. (Messthetics #102).
-Television Television // EP (Cells 1) Bath '78
The Ripchords "4-Track EP" is their only release, and half slow thug/pub/trad punk, half horror-thug DIY, like this magnificently creepy meditation on the powers of the idiot box...
-Gerald's Eyes // from Shish EP (Tuzmadoner 1) '78
Royston -Gerald's Eyes 2:36 (Tuzmadoner 001) London '78 : Royston's "Gerald's Eyes" appears on the Shish split EP with the Different Eyes, although it's actually all the same band, called Royston when he's singing. (Royston's the bloke's name, bytheway, not the town.) On the enigmatic Tuzmadoner label, whose other release was the Folk Music compilation, where the Different I's [Messthetics #101] also appear. "Tuzmadoner?" was the stock response at the corner kebab-stand when the oft-penniless 'Eyes made their regular dinner-order of two small doner-kebabs —to split between the three of them.
Me Alone (Clubland 799) London '79
The Scabs, from Exeter, 1979, did just one 45, but "Leave Me Alone" is a world-class snotpunk rant -whose rancor is almost totally undermined by cheesy electric piano and mixed down guitars. It's a traditionally-printed PS, but in DIY "fold-it-yourself" form -to save a few more pence. More from their EP appears on the Year Zero compilation CD from Annalise Records (where there used to be a great Scabs interview).
-White House (Snotty Snail 5) Lancashire '81: from split 45 with X-Cells
From Lancashire, Schizoid's sole release was a split 45 with the X-Cells on the Notsensibles" Snotty Snail label. Four 14-year-olds and a ancient keyboard-player of 16 recorded "White House" on their summer vacation , assembled the sleeves over their school lunches, and delivered 100 copies to the Rough Trade shop in London on a school outing...
-Headmaster (Edible 001) Leamington Spa '78
School Meals released just one single... before they got sued over the unlikely matter of their name. 'Headmaster' was written from the standpoint of a harried young teacher (drummer, Dick 'Teecha' Burrows). The band recorded at John Rivers' Woodbine Studios on saved-up dole money, and they pressed 500 copies of their single. John Peel pronounced it amusing and all might have gone quite well, except for a "defunct kiddies theatre group that had been calling themselves School Meals", who served them with a court injunction to cease and desist. The legal papers referred to "School Meals who shall henceforth be known as the Defendants" so the next name was obvious. They invested in a stock of red "Defendants" stickers which they hurriedly plastered over labels and sleeves (the un-corrected versions are rather scarce). Three further trips to the studio produced some excellent mod-punk and pop from the Defendants, but nothing made it to vinyl.
After they broke up in 1982, leader Garry McManus went on to The Rent Boys, Toucan, Amazing Cats and a brief stint with longtime Defendants friends the Specials after Sir Horace Gentleman quit. (Garry's on part of their In the Studio LP, a "Top of the Pops" video, and a front-page NME photo.) He sadly died in February 1999. R.I.P. At least a couple of the others now teach for a living...
The full story and a number of MP3s are available at the Defendants' website, www.bzort.net/defendants
-I Don't Want to Work for British Airways / A Small One (Dubious SJP-793) Hounslow
'79 first EP: Messthetics #101
The Scissor Fits hailed from Hounslow, barely two miles off the main runways of Heathrow, so "I Don't Wanna Work for British Airways" takes to heart the DIY maxim "write what you know." Their debut EP was recorded before they'd ever played in public, and 'dedicated to the Soft Boys.' Mike Alway was a songwriter and part-time guitarist-and-general-inspiration who actually went on to manage the Soft Boys: he had the 'Fits open for them several times during the Underwater Moonlight era. (Alway later managed the Monochrome Set and launched the Blanco y Negro, Reviere, ...If, él and Sound of Chartreuse labels.) Yank drummer Bud Drago put out a (remarkably American-sounding) EP on the same Dubious label but soon headed back Stateside (he's now in Character Z, and running www.listening-post.com), while the 'Fits went on to record a live EP for Tortch that featured a couple of DIY's finer, longer, more psychedelic numbers. The band-name? "a Don Martin cartoon in MAD magazine depicted a woman with a long cigarette holder accidentally stubbing her cigarette out in a man's eye. The resulting sound effect was 'SIZZZA - FITZZ' or something like that..."
SCROTUM POLES -Pick The Cat's Eyes Out / Helicopter Honeymoon (One Tone) Dundee '80
What's in a name? Well, Dundee's Scrotum Poles were far from the first or the most influential practitioners of DIY, but their name made a big impact among the genre's early collectors. Their (highly-recommended) site scrotumpoles.com says: "'Pick the Cats Eyes Out' featured lyrics found on the back of a set list by one of the first Dundee punk bands, Bread Poultice and the Running Sores"... "Cats eyes" are what Brits call those little orange highway reflectors embedded in the pavement: "Cats Eyes Out Ahead" used to be a common roadside warning. Check YouTube for amazing videos and watch for a 'Poles CD or LP in 2007.
-Up Down Around (Pollen 024) York '79
Sema 4 came from York, 1979, and though the record itself is certainly a DIY effort, they were clearly modpunkers of considerable stature... There's an earlier EP (Pollen 022) we"ve never seen, but the tracks appeared on their excellent "In Memory Of..." LP, released on Detour in 1997. Vocalist Jock Marston died in 198-
-(I Saw) Batman (in the Launderette)/ Part Of The Furniture EP (Sofa Records
SEAT1) Leamington Spa '78 -#103
Seymour Bybuss and Brian Helicopter (Ben Browton and Gareth Holder respectively) chose silly names for themselves and formed The Shapes in the fall of 1977.
The Shapes opened a John Peel Roadshow in support of the Mekons, where they say they went down "like a fart in a space suit." Brian went to University in Newcastle for a few months and a revised version of the band got taken on by EMI, though they soon learned it was merely to lip-synch someone else's fake-punk bashing. Seymour and Brian recruited band #3 and sold their Honda motorcycle for £71 to buy recording-time, resulting in the Part of the Furniture EP [12/78]. Peel began to play it "incessantly," launching D.I.Y.'s best-selling one-off hit (at least until the Native Hipsters did 'There Goes Concorde Again').
There followed two solid years of larcenous, libidinous and bean-spattered touring, the redemptive/obligatory Peel Session (destroying the BBC Symphony's kettledrum in the process), and a way-too-late follow-up 45 'Airline Disaster' for Good Vibrations. All of which left The Shapes with one of the funniest stories in all of punk history (which we urge you to read for yourself at hyped2death.com/shapes)
Overground Records released The Shapes' Songs for Sensible People CD in 1998, featuring their entire recorded catalogue. Brian / Gareth went on to play bass for Hell's Belles (alongside Pooch and Spiv from Discharge), restore Harley-Davidsons and set six world records as a professional sky-diver. (Honest.) Seymour Bybuss currently lives in Hastings, and is film-making with his wife Lady Plush: www.plushproductions.co.uk He also runs a shop/gallery called +PLUSH+
SIX MINUTE WAR
-Giles Hall // 33.3 EP (blank labels) London '80 first EP
-Big Week // 33.3 EP
Six Minute War arrived on the scene a bit late (1980), exploring minimal lengths as well as minimal lyrics and instrumentation. It'd be a stretch to call them England's answer to the Urinals, but you get the concept: their 11-song debut —whence "Giles Hall"— was called 33.3: the next was More Short Songs (though there were only 5 of them). Their 4-track swansong was (naturally) Slightly Longer Songs. After that a couple of them morphed into Fallout, and Rob Taylor later joined Andrew Beer in Concrete and 400 Blows.
-Where Were You? from The Waiting Room comp LP (Object Music OBJ007)
Stockport '78, released 1980
Slight Seconds began as a schoolboy band called the Elite, inspired by near-neighbors the Buzzcocks. The Elite joined the Manchester Musicians Collective and shed their singer to became Slight Seconds, with guitarist Kevin Eden taking over vocals, Peter Hibbert still on drums and adding Mike Shaw on bass. They never had a single but did the DIY-thing proud by depositing fifteen months' worth of recordings onto a three-way split LP called The Waiting Room, on the Spherical Objects' Object Music label. "Where Were You" is from June 1978: two other cuts appeared on A Manchester Collection. They called it quits after drummer Pete Hibbert's 1980 suicide. Leader Kevin Eden went on to another Object band called 41 Degrees, and as an author he's written Wire: Everybody Loves a History (1991) and is co-writing a Brian Eno biography with Sid Smith. More at wireviews.com...
Positive (Tap 1) Worthing '79 first 45
-No Pictures of Us (Stortbeat 5) second 45
The Sods" two 1979 releases betray deep roots in glam, mixed with DIY instrumentation (antique keyboards), a little Brighton pub-rock, and a healthy dose of Johnny Rotten's snot-trilled "R"s. Both sides of each of their 45s are classics: the "No Pictures of Us" sleeve featured an empty frame, which the band occasionally decorated by hand. There's two unreleased Sods tracks on the stunning Stortbeat-A Musical Collective 2CD compilation with the Epileptics, Gangsters, Spelling Missteaks and Newtown Neurotics (on Handsignal Recordings --it may still be avaialble from the Newtown Neurotics).
-Sweet Tooth (Object 04) Manchester '78: second single
The Spherical Objects reveled in cool, gnarly tunes with really inventive weird twists, -and strange, strained vocals. "Sweet Tooth" is from their second 45: Manchester, 1978. There's one great LP and 2 others, another 45 or two, plus an utterly wigged-out DIY ramble as Alternomen Unlimited: all on their Object Music label. John Bisset-Smith* went on to form Grow Up. Lead vox Steve Solamar briefly played as the Noyes Brothers with one of the Xtraverts, then re-formed the Objects in 1981.
-Fibre (Rough Trade RTS01) 1978 first -Messthetics #103
Kenneth Spiers was a school-mate of Jowe Head's in Solihull up to the time they were 11 (a young peer of theirs insisted on mis-pronouncing him "Spizz" -and the name stuck). Some years later Epic, Spizz and Jowe were at Solihull Technology College together and played in a 1975 cover-songs band called Hassles No Sweat. But Spizz's musical epiphany came in 1977, when "future Swell Maps musos and others organised a 24-hour charity music sound-athon [at Solihull Tech] where sound had to be continuous ...and so inevitably anyone could pick up an instrument and make a noise..." (trakMARX interview, 2005).
Spizz played as a solo act at the Barbarellas punk festival 29 August '77: his time up, the PA operator cut off the power, but Spizz improvised "I've been switched off! I've been switched off!" -which became a regular audience chant at later gigs. By October he had entrusted guitar-duties to Pete Petrol (O'Dowd), allowing Spizz to throw body and soul into his live performance. Siouxsie loved them and invited them to tour (it helped that they were cheap and travelled with minimal gear), and when '77 passed they became Spizzoil. Their breakthrough gig was a gob-spattered opening slot for Siouxsie at the Roundhouse, July '78. (Spizz's salute to the crowd: "Your spitting's not hitting!") This act of madness earned Spizzoil a Peel session, which promptly landed them a deal with Rough Trade. 'Fibre' was one of the B-sides to Spizzoil's debut, '6000 Crazy', but it's been shockingly unavailable since 1982's Spizzhistory. See www.spizzenergi.comfor all things Spizz.
-How I Lost My Virginity // Spunky Onions Meet the Ghettoberries split EP (Templebeat
111) London '79
"The Spunky Onions Meet the Ghettoberries" (London "79) is nominally a split 45, they"re the same band, and it's their only vinyl. Guitarists Nick Noze and Mat Ducasse worked together in the 90s, too, before Mat went on to Skylab.
-Common Problems (Eustone 1) '79
Though Stepping Talk was obviously also listening to the Slits and Kleenex on "Common Problems," they were one of the few bands who showed clear influences from Scritti Politti -even moreso on their excellent second and third 45s -done as Methodishca Tune. Bassist Simon Booth=Emmerson was an early Scritti member (also Weekend/Working Week) and Barny Boatman is a recent European poker champ... [ta to John from the Puritan Guitars for this daunting ephemera].
-Lovers of the Future (Art Theft 001) Oxford '80
The Stereotypes hailed from Oxford (no relation to the monster-rarity band on SRT): As you might guess, "Lovers of the Future" is an answer song to the Only Ones" "Lovers of Today." The "Art Theft" label may or may not be a sly commentary on their effort...
-Soft Babies (Factory 58) '82 second
Manchester's Stockholm Monsters never fit in much of anywhere: they displayed a really nice, low-key grasp of the psychedelic essentials on everything but their Peter Hook-produced LP ("84). "Soft Babies" is a handsome variation on a familiar drum-sticky Bauhaus groove with nice freakbeat flourishes. 3 CDs are available on LTM Records.
-Little White Lies // EP (Hornsey Rising) London '81
Stolen Power was an 8- or 9-piece outfit from North London, on the Hornsey Rising label. Typically, they list their production costs --it's recorded at home on a Teac-- but their major innovation in D.I.Y. cost-cutting is to leave us guessing whether or not they paid their electric bill... "Little White Lies" is their theme song.
-I Don't Know (All The Madmen 003) Somerset '80
Andy Stratton was a 16 year-old from Somerset who hung out with The Mob. They all trekked over to Spaceward Studios in Cambridge to record their singles (Andy played everything but drums himself) and released them on the All the Madmen label. Andy never played out under his own name, but The Mob and Andy's next band Null & Void toured England in a converted bus til it broke down in 1981 in London, where Andy's stayed ever since. Null & Void have a reissue in the works and Andy's recent work can be heard at themush.com...
SWELL MAPS -Camouflage
Attack / Wastrels and Whippersnappers CD (Overgound) home recording, 1977 -#103
Whatever their role in the development of "post punk", the Swell Maps were much more importantly pre-punk. The teenagers later known as Nikki Sudden, his brother Epic Soundtracks, Phones Sportsman and Jowe Head were already playing together in 1973 in the surpassingly ordinary suburb of Solihull. John 'Golden' Cockrill joined the gang in 1975, followed in 1976 by Richard Earl (Epic's classmate at King Edward VI School). The proto-Maps cheerily invented new band-names for each combination. The same night that Epic was off seeing Can, T.Rex-fanatic Nikki went to see the "Iggy and Ziggy" tour (crushed up against the stage-front barrier with Steve Gridley). 'Camouflage Attack' is one of two dozen 1974-77 home recordings on Wastrels and Whippersnappers (overgroundrecords.co.uk)
Nikki, Epic, Jowe and Richard became the main live version of the band, which debuted the day after Christmas 1977 at a 12-hour Punk Rock festival at Barbarella's [with Neon Hearts, Killjoys, Spizz+++]. A two-year blaze of 45s, LPs and live performances followed, before an exhausted band bid the ever-energetic Nikki adieu: see nikkisuddden.com. Epic played with Red Krayola and solo before (and after) re-joining Nikki in the Jacobites. He died in 1997 -and Nikki in 2006. R.I.P. Jowe Head went on to the Television Personalities and extensive solo recordings: his newest is Angel Racing Food on Topplers: (www.topplers.net)
The SYRUPS -Upwards
(unreleased, 1981): Messthetics #102
Rob Vasey dubbed his post-Dry Rib project "as, hem, syrup" after a line from a nonsense prose piece of his. (Befuddled friends took to calling them The Syrups.) By 1981 Rob and wife Lindsay (on bass) were joined by Paul Kendall and Ray Kent (on loan from the Times) for their first gig at the Africa Centre, Covent Garden, supporting the White Brothers -with the Ed Ball-and-Dan Treacy version of the Times opening up. With as, hem, syrup, the Barrett-and-Cale sound came more to the fore...while Vasey's lyrics became more exuberantly nonsensical. "Upwards" from their first studio session would be a more gentle example, but the Dry Rib/Syrups CD Whose Last Trickle (Messthetics #211) will showcase much, much more. Rob went on to play guitar on the Times' Boys About Town and Times TV LPs, and he's now with littlesongfilms.com.
- How It Is (Fresh Hold TR1) Hornsey '79 first: Messthetics Greatest Hits
-Taking Sides (Fresh Hold TR1): Messthetics #3
-Armchairs (Fresh Hold 1) Hornsey '80: Messthetics #101
After Blue Screaming [q.v.] Igor and Simon next reinvented themselves as Take It, whose spectacularly noisy debut is simultaneously as catchy and as extreme as anything in H2D's collection, with just the two of them hammering away at distorted keyboards and guitars or bass (although honorary third-member credit should be given to Cy Real [??] who'd [de]constructed their instruments). After Simon left music to pursue dance and theatre, Igor borrowed two of the 49 Americans and opted not to play keyboards at all on "Armchairs" from their second single. Then Take It's final iteration dazzled/bewildered nearly everyone by adopting a small-band swing jazz sound (with ex-Jelly Baby and latter-day alt-country star Alan Tyler on vocals [Alan Tyler and the Lost Sons of Littlefield], Paul Platypus, and drummer Dave Morgan [Casual Labourers, 12CF, The Loft, Weather Prophets, Primal Scream, Sun Dial, etc.]).
-Sing Song / B52G // Cups & Saucers EP (Waldos 003) St. Albans '78 first:
Messthetics #102, #2
The Tea Set's Nic Egan, Ron West and Cally (just "Cally") were students at Watford College of Art where they mingled with Wire founders Colin Newman, Bruce Gilbert and George Gill (whose song "Mary is a Dyke" may have heavily influenced the Tea Set's "B52-G"). Ron and Cally played together in the Bears, whose 1977 45 debuted Watford Art grad Phil Smee's Waldo's label, and Cally had done the Nigel Simpkins EP on his own (Waldo's 002), so the Tea Set finally arrived with Waldo's 003: the Cups and Saucers EP. This came in a fancy booklet, but it wasn't a patch on their second, which arrived in a folder sleeve on four different colours of paper -with a poster, a card and a 'tea bag' (containing tea, we believe). Cally: "Most all of the Waldos releases were laboriously hand-assembled and packed in Phil's living room. We dreaded a hit!" (Phil's now exclusively in the graphics trade: see Waldo's Design & Dream Emporium)
TEENAGE & THE
WILDLIFE -Colours (TEW) Keighley '82
Teenage & the Wildlife's "Colours" was recorded in Liverpool in 1982, but the black and white sleeve and the handsomely hand-colored labels were pure "79 -and the sound wasn't Scouse at all... Turns out they were from Keighley, West Yorkshire, where half of them later mingled with Skeletal Family members in The Big Bang.
TERRAPLANES -Evil Going On (Strange Days 2) Somerset '80 The Terraplanes named themselves after a futuristic American automobile of the 1930s. Their 45 came with a lyrics booklet that inexplicably features...a Chrysler. Meanwhile, 1981's "Evil Going On" features some first-rate DIY honking (and winds up at what we believe may be the handsomest segué in all of H2D). We"ve got a full CD of A+M / Terraplanes material (and a couple pics of real Terraplanes) titled "Revel in the Static" with a lengthy and witty bio by Ralph and Susan -available as Messthetics #201. Visit the Animals & Men website, too!
THEY MUST BE RUSSIANS
-Psycho Analysis // split 45 with JOE 9T (Gemme) London '79
Finally, a great bit of DIYpunk bashing from London's They Must Be Russians - no relation to the Sheffield band. Both took the name from the notorious the Sex Pistols headline (wuzzat a Bill Grundy quote? Please forgive our composting grey matter). This one came as a split single with Joe 9T, and seems to be the only thing this batch ever did. Former "Russian Mike Clarke now runs London's Inflammable Materials label/mailorder.
-Girl on the Bus (Lowther Street) Carlisle '80: mgh
The Cumbrian scene (way up in the northwest) was known to the world chiefly through a handful of stellar 45s on the local Matchbox Classics label. The Thin Yoghurts required nothing less than total independence, however, so, armed a name from a premium yoghurt advert and a unique sound, they struck out on their own. Bass player, Duck, died shortly after the single was released, and after an excellent, but barely-released cassette the band fizzled out in '83. Next project was a blazing alt-garagey band called Them Philistines (one 45 and a couple cassettes), then leader Smoz formed Cosmic Cat in the early 90s. (More tracks are coming on Messthetics' first Northern volume.)
-More Than This / The Bearer (ASA 100) Edinburgh '80 first
35mm Dreams were part of the Edinburgh scene that hatched TV21 and Another Pretty Face: they did two lookalike 45s in 1980-81. After that there were "loads of bands" but we"re still piecing together the details. Bassist David McDonald did a stint with Rex Begonia before trading axe and traps for a desk. Lead vocalist/ drummer Moray Crawford is now in Japan, where he's playedwith Osaka Stainless (and guested on Shonen Knife's "Heavy Songs" CD).
-Pictures (Wessex 263) Portsmouth '79
The Thought Police's only 45 appeared on the DIY-friendly Wessex label (Teenage Filmstars, Nightrider): "Pictures" is a monstrous pop anthem, and while they were surely paying attention to a lot of South Coast mod bands (they"re from Portsmouth), the "Police's gracious nod to Bryan Ferry ("Valllll-enTIno") lets you know their hearts are still in "73. Vox/gtr Billy Hughes is not the same guy as led the Riot Rockers...
-Back to the Bow flexidisc (own label) London '83 first: Messthetics #101, #3
-Know Better (Elastic Music 001) London '84 second
Tiny Town begans as an Australian band from Brisbane called the Supports. In 1978 drummer Geoffrey Titley moved to London and joined the LP-era Desperate Bicycles, then did the wonderful Lusty Ghosts (Refill #8!) with Danny Wigley from the 'Bicycles and Dennis Burns [ATV, Good Missionaries, Reflections]. The Supports split, Peter Loveday [vox/guitar] formed Birds of Tin, and then he and Lee Bradshaw [keyboards/vocals] joined forces again in Antic Frantic and Tiny Town. Transplanted to London, they and Caroline Bush [violin] recovered Titley and bassist Cameron Allan from the Lusty Ghosts and released Tiny Town's "Back to the Bow" flexi and their handsomely-silkscreened 45 with "Know Better." There's an earlier cassette, another single, a 12" and a 1985 LP Little Tin God. Leader Peter Loveday now lives in Barcelona and has three solo CDs, two collections of short stories and an extensive Supports/Birds/Antic Frantic/Tiny Town history online at peterloveday.com.
Mind Wanders (Provisional EMI) Luton '79
The Toys had decidedly pop impulses -as you might deduce from the name, but "My Mind Wanders" (from the first of two singles) is classic DIY fare. One of them became a classical composer, and the singer later handled publicity for 2000's Millennium Dome project.
-Time Devours (Silent Pocket 01) Northampton '80
Trance hailed from the unusually competent climes of the Northampton postpunk scene [Bauhaus, the Glass label bands]: they teetered on the edge of the big time themselves, but called it quits after a year of major-label broken promises and a musicians" strike that prevented a Peel session. 'time Devours" was their only release. Leader Allan Greenwood is now half of trancey folk stars Dark Lantern; others included an ex-member of My Captains [4AD], and a future game show host... Silent Pocket label owner Barry Hale's video art is online at intraference.net
-Danger Zone // 5 'A'-Sides EP (Rather GEAR 2) '78 first: Messthetics #102,
-Step Inside a Worn-Out Shoe (Backbone 1) '79 second: Messthetics #3
-Change of Plan // third EP (Backbone 2) '79: Messthetics Greatest Hits, #3
-Tempest Fashion Baby (Backbone 2) '79 Messthetics #102
In the last days before Punk exploded onto the scene Steve Treatment and the late Nikki Sudden arrived in London as teenagers straight from the Midlands ...and headed directly for T. Rex fanclub/headquarters. Steve and Nikki busked together through 1978, and all four Swell Maps appeared on Steve's debut 45, recorded June 1, 1978 (Rather GEAR2) (the same sessions as A Ttip to Marineville, where Steve plays, uncredited). Steve's signature song "Change of Plan" was written in early 1977, though it was not released til '79: it's about outdated social ordinances, though it could just as well be a commentary on punk vs. the last children of the 60s..."Tempest Fashion Baby" was another early song, though it wasn't released til Steve's third 45, with the Zodiac Fassions. "Tempest" was recorded "looking at the clock trying to get it done in time, foot frantically on the wah wah pedal. I made everyone detune two strings of their guitars!" Tales of Steve's entanglements with Marc, Nikki, the Damned, the Moors Murderers, Derek Jarman, Jubilee, and many others are told in full on his 25 "A"-Sides/Your Friends are in the News 2CD (Messthetics #202: including parts of his unreleased 1979 LP and a full CD of amazing later work) Most recently Steve's been collaborating with Glasgow's NoMen: CDs & vinyl at topplers.net
-Shark Fucks (Alien 18) London '81 second 45: Messthetics Greatest Hits, #3
-Cruisin // Love Backed by Force LP (Alien 3) '81: Messthetics #3
D.I.Y. demigod Ziro Baby (more recently known as Zarjaz) started out in a teen band-cum-street gang called the Star Dogs, but he first hit vinyl as a 16-year-old with The Tronics, who between 1979 and 1984 released four singles, a cassette, an LP and a flexi-disk. Apart from one single on the Creation label, Zarjaz (nicknamed from a futurist comic-book) has always been more comfortable as the administrator of his own musical planet(s) ...whose present expression is the sci-fi/fantasy-saturated Freakapuss empire. 1981's "Shark Fucks" is mostly Ziro/Zarjaz and an out-of-tune guitar over the sort of drum sound that would set even the most budget-minded producer scrambling to reposition the microphone(s?): imagine a waterlogged conga drum being struck with an old shoe. Choice Freakapuss and Zarjaz items plus CDs of the Tronics cassette and unreleased material are available through freakapuss.com.
Y TRWYNAU COCH
-Byw ar arian fy rhieri / Mewn Levi's (Recordiau Sgwar 2) Wales '78 first
Trwynau Coch were one of the very best Welsh punk-era bands, as evident from their 1978 "Merched Dan 15" EP (which Zig Zag scurrilously suggested means "I often think of 15-year-old girls"). This is their first? of five singles and an LP. "Mewn Levi's" appears to be a song about their bluejeans, but that's as close to an English lyric as they got. Members are now active in Welsh language TV, and there's a Trwynau Coch retrospective CD out now on their Sain label, "Y Casgliad."
TWELVE CUBIC FEET
-Evercare / Straight Out The Fridge 10" (Namedrop 2) '82: Messthetics
After Exhibit A and a handful of interim projects Paul Platypus, Andrew and Matthew joined Fred, Sally and Glenna to form12 Cubic Feet, who recorded the second 10" LP on Name-drop Records -with "Evercare". After this and a cassette they fell in with Alan McGee's Creation / Communication Club crowd, and met Dave Evans [Biff Bang Pow] who replaced Matthew on bass. The late Duncan Jack [What is Oil?] replaced Glenna on guitar, Dave Morgan [Take It, The Loft+++] came in on drums... and 12CF cut a final Joe Foster-produced demo. Plans for a new band foundered, and Paul checked into a commune (temporarily); Fred went to university, Dave M got famous, Dave E became a roadie for Jesus & Mary Chain, Shop Assistants and later, Belly; Sally sang in Khmer Rouge, and Matthew and Dan formed Solid Space... Got that?
-Ethics (Pineapple Products 23) London '81 first
23 Skidoo may seem unlikely candidates for Messthetics, but their later success on Fetish and Illuminated has little in common with their wonderful first 45 (almost all of which seem to have been mis-labeled): "Ethics" could"ve been one of the Lines" greatest hits... Alex Turnbull came from Club Tango [Messthetics #7] and David Tibet went on to Nurse With Wound and Current 93. 23 Skidoo are playing again and their entire catalog is available again on their Ronin label.
-Mr. Fixit (Crazy Plane 002) Wolverhampton '80
Cannock (Staffordshire)'s U.X.B. have become quite sought-after by the modpunk crowd, but "Mr. Fixit" is, well, substantially weirder than that, though it's certainly loud enough... They"re pre-Balaam & the Angel & Fire in Cairo. There's an LP-length reissue in the works: visit"em at their website...www.u-x-b.com
-Television Viewer / Dead Girl // Punk Rock LP '78
The Vacants never really got going in the U.K. but while singer Guy Greenhough was working for RCA they got themselves signed to an exploitation deal to release a 'punk' LP overseas. Along with a companion LP by F.U.2. (who were the Downliners Sect incognito), the Vacants' brilliant 1978 DIY-punk LP (titled either Punk Rock or Worthless Trash) appeared in France, Australia, Germany, Spain and the Netherlands, with a different full-color cover in each country... with at least the Australian Vacants LP ending up looking a lot like a Downliners record. Terry Gibson of the 'Sect plays on several tracks. Their drummer 'Martin Question' later emerged as Martin Chambers of the Pretenders, and Guy Greenhough sang on The Greenhouse of Terror's Compulsion LP, but not a single note of the Vacants music ever came out in the U.K. (nor anything by F.U.2)! breaking news: 'Worthless Trash' and 'Television Viewer' are now available on the Vacants' CD-single on their own Beathotelz label.
Romances // Key of E EP (Thin Sliced) Croydon '80
Croydon's V.D.U.s contribute "Holiday Romances" from 1980. VDU guitarist Paul Dewey wrote "Michelle Archer [vocals] was one of the original punks (The Bromley Contingent which included Billy Idol and Siouxie)...Caroline Coon's book 1988 had a photo of Michelle and her then boyfriend Bruno queueing up outside the 100 club for the now famous Punk Rock Festival where the Pistols played and The Banshees made their debut." Jef Harvey became King Kurt's vocalist (briefly).
-Newtrition (Shanghai 2) Birmingham '80 -#103
Nick Gilbert and Lawrence [never a last name] were chums from age 11. When Iggy Pop played the Hippodrome with David Bowie on keyboards (in March of '77) Nick and Lawrence fell in love with the opening band, the Vibrators. They started hanging out with Gary Jones [Cult Figures], Roger Taylor and Jeff Thomas [Duran Duran], and became confirmed fans of the Prefects. Lawrence bought a guitar and recorded his own single onto a cassette, which he released in September '79 under the name of "Felt" (past tense of "feel") [Shanghai #1]. Next, Lawrence and Nick decided to make a record together, and with two drums and three chords, the Versatile Newts debuted in early 1980 with 'Newtrition' b/w 'Blimp'. Presently Maurice Deebank joined on [more competent] guitar, and they began playing together as Felt. In the meantime, however, Nick had mailed the 'Newts single to his heroes the Fall - who adored it, and invited the Versatile Newts to open for them in Manchester. Nick nervously advised Mark E. Smith of the name change (fortunately Felt and the Fall had a certain euphony) and the first-ever Felt gig was pronounced a success. (Sadly, Felt never performed the Newts songs live.)
-Hi Rising Failure (I.M.E. 1) Barry, South Wales '79 first
Victimize were the stars of an intense but little-documented South Wales punk-scene: both of their 45s are DIY-punk classics. "High-Rising Failure" is the flip of their 1979 debut -their I.M.E. label, as you might expect, was an EMI parody.) Bassist Bryn Merrick went on to a 10-year stint with the Damned. Guitar Andy Johnson now leads the Sameheads. All four Victimize tracks are reissued now on guitarist Andy's Genevieve label and on Last Year's Youth from Germany...
-Moth (Deep Cuts 1) Edinburgh '79 first
The Visitors hailed from Edinburgh, where they started off as the Deleted, who played to 10,000 with the Clash and hung out with the Skids and most of the Postcard bands before the name-change. The Visitors debuted with the Electric Heat EP (with "Moth"), which sufficiently impressed John Peel that he financed their second and third 45s.
-Let's Talk About Prams (Lowther International) Norwich '81
Norwich was the Madison, Wisconsin of the UK scene -a parallel musical universe with utterly different standards of merit and pop-sensibility [Higsons, the whole Backs label, Bogshed, etc...horns everywhere!]. Vital Disorders" three singles amply display the usual Norwich complements of Pigbaggy horns and mangled melodies, but "Prams" ranks among the finest feminist pop/anti-pop rants ever... Check out Susan Cox's Un Kilo d'Cirque
-Talk of the Town / Robot // Mass Medium LP (Riverside Common #1) Cardiff '80-81
After the Nylonz, Straights, Bomb and Dagger, Moira and the Mice, and The Prose, Cardiff's Hugh Volk hit a hyper-politicized pub/coffeehouse scene playing acoustic "folk-punk." His LP was a mystery for years (he spent a lot of energy covering his tracks). Hugh later became a trade union official while serving with the national health service, but he's now back in the DIY-punk biz with The Imp of the Perverse, whose newest CD "All Bum and Greatest Tits" is available from Hugh.
MISERABLE JOHN VOYSEY
-Don't Let Him Be Surprised / Sweet Broken Heart (D-Notice GAM1) '81
One "Miserable John Voysey" left us with "Don't Let Him Be Surprised" -a lengthily overdubbed one-man DIY gnarlpop groove: the flip's a slide-gtr DIY-twang adding glockenspiel & detuned tenor saxes. (We at H2D are total suckers for voices that can go sharp and flat at the same time.) John later played with Marc Hewson in the Flying Kebab Brothers and recorded several solo cassettes as Whisperin' Slim...
-No Next Time / Removal (My Death Telephone Records 01) London '81: Messthetics
-Last Telegram (demo) Messthetics #102
-If I Could Turn the Clock Back / We Couldn't Agree on a Title V.A. LP (Integrated Circuit 001) '80
The Walking Floors took shape in the punk-deprived climes of Basingstoke -originally as The Brothers K. The five of them first played together rehearsing Malcolm Harris' songs at the home of David (guitar) and Colin (organ) Parker in 1978. In August of 1980 Mike Barnes (drums) and Ian Sturgess (bass) helped out the Lemon Kittens on their Cake Beast EP, and in payment they got a day to record their own songs including: "If I Could Turn The Clock Back" Within a matter of weeks the 'Floors had their own 45 out as well ("No Next Time").
"Last Telegram" is from a December '81 demo (unreleased). After the Floors split, Ian recorded with Danielle Dax, The Jazz Butcher and others, Mike wrote Captain Beefheart, a biography (Quartet Books, 2004), and David became a premier chronicler of the life and times of the late Syd Barrett with his Chapter 24 fanzine and Random Precision (Cherry Red Books, 2001). Harris, Barnes and Sturgess now play together as The Swinging Signs, whose double album is Lime (2007).
-Ono / Our Radio Nation Burns // Want Not EP (Ellie Jay 9261) Canterbury '79
At least some of Wasteland went on to play in mod faves the Ignerents and the Beekeepers. While "Radio Nation," from their Want Not EP, shows definite proto-mod leanings, "Ono" is pure punkwave. It's on the Ellie Jay label [Psykik Volts, Bashful Alley], but the paper sleeve says Disaster 60691.
-Mauve Shoes Are Awful (Company 003) Lincoln '79
Wavis O'Shave seems to have composed "Mauve Shoes are Awful" over a period of days or even weeks, making up additional verses and recording them in different places and with different tunings as the spirit moved him. The whole splendid piece is nearly 10 minutes long and the sound-quality's absoulutely hideous: we spent a day cleaning up a couple minutes of it for your delectation/bafflement... Wavis (a/k/a Foffo Spearjig) has a limited CD retrospective called "Bedtime Songs for Problem Children" (sadly sans "Mauve Shoes")...
-Why Free Myra Hyndley (Industrious Youth) Manchester '80
The squeamishness of the English media is a remarkable thing. Half the time, of course, banning a song simply creates an instant smash hit. Other times, it's just, well, stupid. Following the hyped-up furor over the fake-punk anthem "Free Myra Hyndley," a bunch of youth-club kids from Cheshire did an answer-song (while missing the irony completely). Naturally the X-Defektors thought it would be a dreadful idea to parole the infamous Moors Murderess, but because they"d used the MH word, they got banned, too. Ah, well, the pop-charts probably weren't ready for DIY death-punk with trombones, anyway... Btw, X-Defectors shared some members with the Surgical Supports...
-New Law (Retaliation FIGHT1) Yorkshire '81 first 45
Xpozez ["Exposés"] came from Yorkshire. Three solid punk 45s (their third was on Bad Teeth #4): "New Law" was on their first EP, initially issued in a taped-together photocopy sleeve with an apology-note (which was to be redeemed for a regular sleeve whenever the band got around to ransoming them back from their printer). A retrospective CD is out now on GTA.*
-Sniper (Enchaine 1) Cornwall '80 first
-Yellow Fidgets (Human 7) '80
Cornwall's Zeitgeist on the other hand were a band that arrived at DIY sounds through a far more professional, if still minimalist approach. After "Sniper," their first, their A-sides trend increasingly toward commercial new-wave, but all the flipsides, like 'the Last of the Yellow Fidgets" grind and groove away quite understatedly...