Lack Of Knowledge, Alma Road’s finest. Ponders End, Lower Edmonton. The place was, and still is sadly, full of meatheads. Still from a relatively unconstructive part of the Lea Valley (North East London suburbs bordering on Essex) came this band who kicked against the pricks and came out screaming with this wonderful 7″ single late on in 1981. Things got even better in 1983 when the Crass label released ‘Grey’ which was scooped up, as were most of the Crass label releases at that time (and indeed before) by an eager Penguin who seemed desperate not to fit in with the fashionable order of the day which happened to be the wedged haired casual fashion, imported from Liverpool a year or so before, but now getting strong support in and around the London suburbs. The Casuals musical patron was George Benson which was a little surprising as a few of my old comprehensive school muckers who followed this fashion and who also bought into Thatcher’s vision of getting into massive debt by buying XR3′s, branded clothing and golf club membership all on tick were either members, or at least supporters of the Young National Front!
Anyhoo, this band seemed to be speaking to folk like me so my feeling of isolation was improved somewhat by the band’s existence!
Some more Lack Of Knowledge on this site if you care to search using the search function.
Plenty of knowledge (see what I tried to do there?) below courtesy of the bands website: lackofknowledge0.tripod.com
Surely there has never been a more stupid group than Lack Of Knowledge. What they saw as uncompromising, everyone else would have seen as just plain dumb. If there was any chance at all of sabotaging the furthering of a career, then they would find it. Sometimes it could be tough but mostly it was a piece of cake. Whatever sensible idea anyone outside the band could put forward, then the band simply took up the opposite stance. It worked a treat. Chorus’s in songs?; “why should we?”, release your catchiest tracks?; “we’re not your puppets!” , when you play live, why not try playing stuff you just released last week?; “i don’t think so” . No, instead we chose to have the guitarist, who can’t sing, to sing the title track off of the album. And then change the title of the song so it’s now not the title track. Genius.
For most groups, it’s nearly always a story of missed opportunities, just missing out on that big break, being in the wrong place at the wrong time. With Lack Of Knowledge there was no such thing as misfortune. Any decision, no matter how un-commercial in the eyes of others, was engineered entirely by the band. Bizarrely, Lack Of Knowledge was considered a success, but only by the group themselves. For a band that had never sent a demo tape to a record company, had no manager, no booking agency for gigs, no transport, no roadies, and only ever rehearsed twice in a real rehearsal studio with a proper vocal PA, Lack Of Knowledge didn’t do that bad in retrospect. We put out three singles and an LP (on three different labels, if you include a DIY release), actually received one royalty cheque for £24 each, got a record played by John Peel, made the UK independent charts, had proper interviews in the UK music press, and played around 60 shows. It would be great to roll out something like “we achieved everything that we set out to do”, but, the reality is that we achieved things that we had no real intention of ever doing. We had no plan. Groups have a tendency to talk themselves up a bit. They act as if they could have been huge had it not been for the fact that; everything went the wrong way, people and events conspired against them, bastards at the Record Company fucked up their progress, the music press caned them ‘unfairly’. We were under no such illusions. How can a band, that managed to exist for six years, expect to be as big as U2 if they only ever play four shows outside of London in the whole of that time?
But stating all the above, try as we might, and even though we found every review that we ever had, we could only find glowing praise. We were positive that we would find “inaudible vocals, dull sound” more than once. Danny reckons that if someone discovered these write-ups in the future and hadn’t heard the music, they would be convinced that this group should have been huge. But the reality is that we were so far outside ‘the biz’ that there was no real mileage in terms of bad reviews for Lack Of Knowledge, it would make no difference to sales of the press. We were always surprised if anybody liked us. It baffled us to a degree; we weren’t doing it for other people, we just did it. Most groups say shit like “we just do what we do and if anybody likes it, it’s a bonus!”. What a load of crap. They want people to like their stuff. We didn’t. We reveled in people not liking us, and got real enjoyment out of the kind of calamities that can happen to a group. I particularly like the guy in a band who bastardised the previously mentioned cliché to; “We just want everyone to buy our shit, and if we like it, it’s a bonus!”. I only wish that we’d come up with that one. It’s so Lack Of Knowledge.
In many ways, the Lack Of Knowledge group could be a blueprint for any young band anywhere in the world. Four teenagers from within half a mile from each other; buy instruments, learn how to play, write songs, do gigs, make records. By now you could be receiving some press attention, starting to cause maybe a ripple of excitement and could possibly develop a taste for the music industry as a whole. We were never sucked into the ‘biz’. We firmly believed that in order to become a ‘proper’ group we would have to have ‘showbiz’ haircuts or listen to ‘suits’ at record labels giving us dumb advice. In truth, we wouldn’t have known how to get sucked in if it bit us on the arse. We never knew how many copies our records sold, we didn’t care. If they just pressed one for each of us we would have been happy. To think that we played gigs in Youth Clubs, church halls and community centres is like another world compared to the way bands operate today. In hindsight, we were like a medieval folk group or something. We booked the hall, printed the flyers and stuck them on bus shelters, booked a PA, got all the other local bands to play and everybody who liked music came. It was a totally local thing. Obviously people still operate in this way to a degree, but the difference is that the gig wouldn’t have been inhabited by drunken wankers with green hair who think its punk rock to beg for money whilst clutching a bottle of alcohol. After we’d made records and started playing some regular club gigs, it never seemed as personal. The one’s that we organised ourselves were always the best and most memorable.
Formed in 1977, Headache were Daniel Drummond, the legendary (to me and my mates, at least) Steve Headache, Paul Cremona and Colin Chew. This band used to play shows in places like the ‘Roxy’ and ‘Vortex’ in Londons’ Soho district all throughout 1977, playing with bands such as, Raped, Bethnal, Merger, Mean Streets, and Crocodile. In November 1977 they released a single ‘Can’t Stand Still’ / ‘No Reason For Your Call’ on the independent Lout Records, which was so drastically over-pressed that 5000 copies were melted down a year later. All through the ’80′s you could get tired of seeing pristine copies of this single for fifty pence in the bargain box of second-hand record stores, or finding one in the ‘punk’ section on a stall at a record fair that had been there, ignored, probably for years. So it came as something of a surprise to buy a CD in 1995-ish, entitled ‘Punk Rock Rarities’ which contained both tracks. Rarity? You couldn’t give them away, even in 1990. Around 1995/6 there was a program on British TV called something like ‘Moving House’, in which they filmed people in the process of actually moving to, you guessed it, a new house. DD’s mum, Pam, was watching it one evening when it featured a woman from Edmonton, so she called Dan to tell him (TV programs featuring Edmonton are not by any stretch, commonplace). Looking at the screen, he recognised the house and pictures on the mantelpiece and realised that it was in fact Colin Chews’ mum who was doing the moving. The programs narrator was John Peel, probably completely oblivious to the fact that she was the mother of someone whose record he once played on his show.
While Danny was still in Headache, his sixteen-year-old brother Bernard (known as Bert to his family and friends) had bought a drum kit and wanted to form a band. He enlisted the services of a twelve-year-old called Paul Stevens, the younger brother of an ex school friend. Paul in turn brought along his friend, and classmate of his ‘middle’ brother, fourteen-year-old Tony Barber. Paul had a bass, Tony, a guitar. Bernard had ideas. Loads of them. And they were all mostly bonkers. They were to be a band that just played instrumentals and even though he couldn’t actually play an instrument, Bert would write most of the songs. Paul and Tony wanted to play rama-lama-punk-rock like their favorite bands; Eater, Slaughter & The Dogs, The Killjoys. Bernard was having none of it. It would be a totally original band that shouldn’t sound like anyone else. But why? We want to be punk rock. Of course, Bert was older, plus he was right. Bernard always was considered to be fairly eccentric, even without the aid of soft drugs, and some of his song ideas and song titles at the time had to be heard, or seen, to be believed. Like the track ‘Hybrid’, which consisted of one end of a guitar lead plugged into the amplifiers first input and the other end of the lead plugged into input number two. The result was a cacophony of feedback and vibrato, which Bert manipulated by turning the tone controls on the amp up and down, which in turn altered the pitch. No groups did nonsense like this, you’d never get anywhere. Except if you were Alternative TV, who recorded a remarkably similar track called ‘Red’ and also used something like it as an intro to the track ‘Good Times’, both on their ground-breaking LP ‘The Image Has Cracked’, released a good six months later. The ramshackle combo were christened ‘The Far Side’ and rehearsals took place in Bert’s bedroom in the ‘Tramway Avenue’ area of Lower Edmonton. Equipment consisted of Berts drum kit, Paul’s bass purchased from a catalogue, through a five watt guitar amp which spluttered as it was obviously not meant to have a bass put through it, Tony’s Woolworths guitar with only five machine heads, due to being dropped,(£14.99, still got it twenty-three years later), fuzz box made from an old transistor radio by Paul’s ‘middle’ brother, Mark and ‘the red practise amp’ which belonged to Dan Headache, which we no doubt trashed. By 1978, rehearsals were taped every day after school on a portable mono cassette recorder, placed in the middle of the floor. Different songs were written and recorded every day to the extent that Bert, who tended to deal in concepts, would have an album ‘in the can’ pretty much every week. ‘Lack Of Knowledge’ was the name of one such LP. While trying to dream up a title, Tony responded with the phrase upon seeing Berts ‘World of Knowledge’ encyclopaedias. Numbers on this ‘record’ were; ‘Doldrums’, ‘Barbered Wire’, ‘Running Blind’ and 20-4-89(pt 1)/20-4-63(pt 2). Other LP’s included ‘Wandering Sickness’, which contained songs such as; ‘Labrador Current’, ‘And Set It Undulating’ and ‘Begging For A Phew’. The album ‘The Far Side’ had side one as the ‘Near’ side and side two as the ‘Far’ side. Tracks on that one were ‘Misfits’, ‘Friends With Influence’, ‘Hybrid’, ‘No Kafir’, ‘Juggernaut’ and ‘I’m The Fluorescent Man’. Bernard designed sleeves for all the albums, gave them catalogue numbers, called the bedroom ‘Bedrock Studios’ and named the record label ‘BMD Entertainments’. He was mad.
In early 1979,Bert left to join a real band called The Position. Real, to the extent that they actually had a singer. Bert immediately embarked upon the mission of writing their songs for them, and penned some absolute classics. If they’d put out any records at the time they’d be on everyone’s ‘wants’ lists today. Tony joined the band as rhythm guitarist in time to cut six tracks at ‘Front Room Studios’ in September 1979. He was promptly sacked two months later for not showing up to a rehearsal, choosing instead to let off fireworks in the streets as it was ‘Guy Fawkes Night’. Tony and Paul got back together and then spent the next six months changing the groups name and members every other week. ‘Assorted Tools’- one gig supporting The Position. ‘Lack Of Knowledge’- one gig without a drummer but with a singer called Frank Hodgson, and another gig as a five-piece this time with John ‘Einstien’ on drums and Danny Boyce on guitar. (Danny was to tragically die within a couple of years of an accidental heroin overdose). Tony and Paul then decided to record a couple of songs to send in to the Crass label for inclusion on volume two of the compilation series, ‘Bullshit Detector’. Rather than use the Lack Of Knowledge name, they came up with (or possibly Bernard again) the immortal ‘Trio Of Testicles’. The tracks, somehow, were over-looked.
By now, Headache had split and Dan was now looking to start a new band. He offered his vocal talents to the wandering minstrels, who nearly collapsed with shock. After all Dan was someone who’d actually made a record. It was as if Roger Daltrey had asked them to ‘maybe, get together and, y’know, try out a few ideas’. The new group practised in ‘Bedsit’ studios every Saturday and wrote stacks of material straight away. Christened ‘English Assassin’ after one of the songs, they played their first gig, (inevitably, with Bert back in the drum stool), at a party in someone’s house. With parents away, it was obviously a great idea to get a full band to play in the front room. At least until the neighbours called the police, anyway. Still unable to find a drummer, they had to take the only sensible option left open. Simply walk up to a complete stranger and ask them if they’d be the drummer. ‘Chief’ (real name Jason Powell, although I’ve never heard anyone ever use it) was on his way to school, in traditional school uniform of blazer, tie and black bondage trousers, when asked if he could play drums. “No”. Well, what about if we a) buy a drum kit and b) you learn to play them while rehearsing with us. Easy.
After managing to obtain a room at the Ponders End Youth Club, which was immediately painted entirely in white, a measly collection of equipment was installed and rehearsals took place every night, and at weekends, until Chief had learnt how to play. It took about two months. He’d gone from never having sat at a kit, to playing whole songs, properly, within a matter of weeks.
A name change back to Lack Of Knowledge was decided upon, all new stuff written, and in March ’81 they travelled miles and did their first recordings in a ‘real’ studio.
We wanted to put out a record but didn’t really like the results, so, re-recorded some of it in a place called ‘Octave Electronics’. We’d played our first gig with a stage and PA system in another youth club, and ‘Octave’ was the PA Company. They told us they had a studio in Edmonton, so it worked out great. It was also cheaper. We decided to put out a 7″ ourselves. We took a bus to the pressing plant, then three weeks later went back and brought home 500 singles on the bus. We put every single one of those bastards in the sleeves we’d had printed and then took them ’round to all the independent stores and distributors that we could find. God only knows how they sold them. We waited outside the BBC’s ‘Broadcasting House’ to give a copy to John Peel, who played it on his show. Not thinking that he’d actually really play it, we missed it. We took a copy to give to Crass at their house in the wilds of Epping Forest, and amazingly, Penny Rimbaud offered to put out our next record on the label. It took another year to get round to recording, but it was well worth the wait. By the time we did get around to the recording, Chief had left the band (he may have been sacked!), to be replaced by Philip Barker. Philip was a fan of Lack Of Knowledge and drummer of another local band Klee; who had blagged a gig or two with us. Furious rehearsals at our new luxury complex, ‘Waller Studios’ (Dannys’ dads’ garage), and off we trooped to Southern Studios in London N22.
Paul and Tony, especially, were fans of Crass from around 1978, when they’d heard their demo tape at Small Wonder Records. Instantly hooked, they bought everything the band released, went to as many shows as they could and became friendly with them, a friendship which still lasts today.
Lack Of Knowledge only ever got to play one show with Crass, at a huge all-day squat gig in December 1982 at the ‘Zig-Zag’ club in West London (after which we went and played another show that night!). The record was to be an EP called ‘Grey’, like all Crass releases, Penny Rimbaud produced it, Gee did all the artwork and Andy Palmer, Crass’ guitarist, took sleeve photos. This EP was released in 1983.
We were like one of those ‘Crass Bands’. Except all the Anarcho ‘fab-erati’ at the ‘Anarchy Centre’ hated us, as we didn’t conform to what their stupid idea of ‘Anarcho-Punk’ was about. To us, it was a real record on a real label and it got in the real independent charts, and after more gigs, it was time to start thinking about ‘The Album’. In 1982, Crass had started another offshoot label called ‘Corpus Christi’, on which bands that had made singles could release albums, and they duly offered us the chance to do one. Paul decided to leave the band during the rehearsals for this record, but said he’d stay on until after it was released. In 1984 recording again took place at Southern, this time with the band co-producing with the engineer; Mel Jefferson. Farce was descended into when Mel kept referring to bits of the songs as ‘middle eights’ and the like. Stubborn ’til the last, we refused to acknowledge these types of expressions and also pretended that we didn’t know what ‘cans’ were; ‘headphones’ was the correct un-rockist term. Mel also claimed that we were “competing with U2 and Simple Minds”. “What utter fucking drivel” was our response. By the time we’d finished, poor old Mel had had enough of us, for the time being at least.
By the time ‘Sirens Are Back’ came out in 1984, we’d already been rehearsing with a new bassist, Karen; Tony’s girlfriend. She’d obviously, true to Lack Of Knowledge form, never touched a bass guitar in her life, but nonetheless, was told to ‘fucking hurry up and learn it’. She managed to pass the initiation to Lack Of Knowledge by not complaining after playing her first ever gig three weeks after having a baby. We also had a change of rehearsal space, this time to an annex of a disused, burnt out multi-storey car park. Crucially, it was only twenty yards from Karen’s house, and; we were able to store our equipment in her mum’s shed. Transporting it to the room was made easier by the assistance of some of the many discarded shopping carts left strewn around the estate. It wasn’t all sweetness and light, as we had to pay for the first time ever. Four quid a night.
Around this time, Philip had become friendly with a band called Living In Texas, who ran ‘Chainsaw’ records. They were invited down to see us play and promptly offered us some shows, and the opportunity to do another record. ‘Sentinel’ was a song from the ‘Paul’ days, and was originally going to be our second ‘home-made’ release. Back we trooped to Southern again, Mel back in the engineer’s chair, and the job of producing left entirely down to us. When it came to mix we were told to go to a different studio. We were informed that we had to make way for Grandmaster Flash to record, as he was in England. We ended up mixing it at Guerilla Studios in West London, owned by a bloke who Bert knew from his days in The Position, called William Orbit. We thought that was neat; he’s got that far, having his own studio! When the record was released, we got our first coverage in the mainstream music press. Some live reviews, ‘single of the week’ and a full-on whole page interview in Sounds, a feature in ‘Zigzag’ magazine (both now defunct), airplay on Janice Long’s BBC Radio One show and quite a bit of interest from fanzines. One fanzine, ‘Alphabet Soup’, was run by two schoolgirls, Miki and Emma, who were fans of LOK. They came to plenty of shows, came to the house (where we were now all living, Monkees-style) to interview us, and became friends. After Lack Of Knowledge split, Tony, Philip and Karen decided to form a new band and asked Emma to join on guitar. After a couple of rehearsals, it fell apart and Emma and Miki formed a band called Lush which never really did much, other than make a load of records, tour the world, have hit singles and appear on ‘Top Of The Pops’. More gigging followed in the usual toilets around London and in August 1986 Lack Of Knowledge played their last show in Colchester, about 70 miles from London. It was possibly the furthest we had ever travelled to play. No one in the band can really remember why we split, even though we were ready to record another LP and we had interest from other labels, but it seems now as if it was a good idea.