Blyth Power – All The Madmen Records – 1985 / 1986

My Ladies Games / Chevy Chase

God Has Gone Wrong Again / Song Of  The Third Cause

Junction Signal

Bind Their Kings / A Tribute To Admiral Byng / Sordid Tales Of The Ffucke Masticke Room

The first two Blyth Power 12″ records that were released within a few months of each other on the All The Madmen record label, which at this time was still based at Brougham Road, Hackney. The second 12″ ‘Junction Signal’ was also available in a limited run of 1000 numbered 7″ vinyl of which I own number 0001. As I was the ‘operative’ that stamped and folded most of the sleeves for this release I made sure that I ended up with that number. I also did one for Sean ‘Gummidge’ though! Note, number 0001 on the ‘Junction Signal’ 7″ is not as rare as say number 0743!

Anyway record collecting aside, Blyth Power in 1985 were certainly a force to be reckoned with, the plentyful live performances all over the country were generally very well recieved and enjoyable nights out.

Josef Porta had started writing and singing his own compositions for The Mob toward the end of that bands lifespan in 1983. The track ‘Hurling Time’, a soon to be Blyth Power ‘dirge’ (as Josef  likes to call some of his own material) was performed at the very last gig that The Mob performed at in Doncaster with Passion Killers and Benjamin Zephaniah. That Mob performance can be listened to on this KYPP site if you care to search for it using the search function.

When Mark Mob drove away in his converted truck from the stresses of urban squats, co-op housing  and performing in The Mob, to live a simpler existance at Pooh Corner, the two other remaining members of the band were slightly at odds at what to do…

Josef and Curtis roped in Brougham Road resident and ex Faction member Neil Keenan and started practising a host of Josef original compositions and a few cover versions down in the basement of 96 Brougham Road, the home of J.C’s sound system and also base for All The Madmen Records, which in 1984 was run by Alistair from KYPP, but soon to be run by Rob Challice, ex Anthrax and Faction.

It was this line up that performed at the Bingo Hall squat (now mainstream music venue – The Garage) down the end of Holloway Road, Islington just a few weeks after The Mob had folded. Two gigs in the middle of Febuary 1984 and KYPP’s Val Drayton was invited to perform the backing vocals for these performances.

The band did not perform again until the middle of May. These performances were at the squatted pub ‘The Hemingford Arms’ in which Blyth Power performed with The Mayday Theatre group, incidental music to a play entitled ‘Mother’ by Berthol Brecht. These performance continued nightly until the end of May. A very strange residency for sure!

Other notible performances in 1984 were three shows at Meanwhile Gardens in the summer and also the first ‘out of town’ gigs at Nottingham and Sutton Cum Lound, both of these gigs and one of the early Meanwhile Gardens performances are available to listen to on this KYPP site if you search for them.

In December of 1984 the band decided to record a demo in the basement of 96 Brougham Road, with J.C’s equipment along with Meanwhile Gardens soundman and ex Instant Automation, Protag on the mixer. Sarah Lewington, a Mob supporter originally from Leeds who had been mixing it up in the squats of London for a couple of years was invited to perform backing vocals during these sessions. The finished product was released as ‘A Little Touch Of Harry’ on 96 Tapes run by soon to be All The Madmen manager, Rob Challice.

The tracks that appeared on the cassette are (in my opinion) absolutely wonderful, and brought a fuller sound with Sarah on the vocals, Curtis’s basslines still seemed reminiscient of The Mob, Josef’s lyrics seemed wacky at first but on further understanding dealt with contempery issues. Neils buzz saw guitar sounded early Buzzcocksy, which was not a bad thing, and all in all things were going well.

At the beginning of 1985, Andy Morgan was invited by Josef to add further backing vocals, if memory serves me correctly Andy had a fair amount to do with the Street Level Studios organisation, and also performed in the Hamburger All Stars, a band afilliated with Street Level. This Street Level link is important as Grant Showbiz, the owner who had engineered work with The Fall, Here And Now, The Mob, The Astronauts, The Smiths and 100’s more would eventually engineer both these records uploaded tonight. Grant also organised the four times yearly Meanwhile Gardens free festivals along with Protag. Justin Adams from the Impossible Dreamers who performed at Meanwhile Gardens many times helped engineer the sessions that became the ‘Junction Signal’ release. Justin is now a massive name in world music.

The band got stronger and tighter in 1985 with this ‘classic’ line up and the live performances were by this time becoming well known by ex Mob followers, general punky riff raff and the music press alike. Soon a small piece in Zig Zag magazine would increase the interest. The cassette on Rob Challice’s 96 Tapes sold well over 1000 copies in less than six months of release, not bad sales at all, booklets were reprinted, tapes were again professionally reproduced.

Curtis and Josef had asked Rob Challice to become the manager of All The Madmen Records, a post that he accepted and he got to work on organising the recording sessions at Street Level that would be released as ‘Chevy Chase’. The finished product 12″ was released in August 1985 and became the first release on All The Madmen since the Zos Kia 7″ single released by Alistair in 1984.

The tracks on the EP were at first hearing not as good as the numourous live performances witnessed or even as raw as the cassette tracks which I thought were under produced but superior. On replaying the 12″ though I soon decided that the tracks were indeed worthy of a second chance and it was not long before both sides of the 12″ were glued to my turntable! The record managed to get Single Of The Week in Sounds music paper courtesy of Mr Spencer and gained decent reviews in the other music weeklies.

The rest of 1985 after the EP was released seemed to be Blyth Power solidly gigging, up and down the country in Curtis’s old blue Commer van with the band, Sean ‘Gummidge’, unless he was ill or something, Alan the roadie, and all equipment cramped inside it. One of the last gigs performed in December 1985 was a benefit for the Blue House squat in Hommerton, Hackney. Blyth Power performing with The Astronauts, Zos Kia and Psychic TV at Stoke Newington Town Hall.

I wish I had recorded that gig!  A great way to end the year, although I still witnessed a couple more Blyth Power live performances before the new year came along…

During 1986 it was business as usual regarding Curtis’s Commer van and the people inside it. Miles were racked up, new places were seen. The ‘Chevy Chase’ EP had sold out only to be repressed and sell out again. Rob at All The Madmen had found that his time was taken up a fair bit by interested parties on the phone wanting to book Blyth Power for a nights performance.

Rob was at this time also actively interested in releasing other products on the All The Madmen record label. A new LP by The Astronauts, a 12″ EP by Thatcher On Acid and a repress of The Mob’s ‘Crying Again’ on 12″ were all released during this year. Blyth Power’s second release ‘Junction Signal’ was released on 12″ and 7″ formats and quickly sold out of the first pressing (and only pressing of the 7″). The A side was a proper sing a long track and a firm Blyth Power live favorite.

What on earth could go wrong?

During the later stages of 1986, after hundreds of gigs together as Blyth Power it seemed that there were cracks appearing in the band and more noticeably between Curtis and Josef. There was a lot of pressure and stress ‘in the van’ and sometimes on stage. It all came to a head when Josef sacked the band after a gig in November 1986. Josef had recently signed a publishing deal in which it was ‘Josef’ the interested party wanted, not necessary ‘the band’. There were three more gigs to perform after the sacking, and also a paid up session at R.M.S. for the recording of the planned LP on All The Madmen records. To the bands credit, they played out the remaining gigs at Islington City University, Uxbridge Brunel University and Finsbury Parks Sir George Robey pub. The Robey gig was obviously a special occasion and the band roared through the whole roster of songs (some of them played twice) in front of a well over capacity Robey for two hours plus with huge amounts of gusto.

The LP was recorded by the ‘classic’ line up in early December 1986, but by the time of the release the members of Blyth Power performing live was Josef and Sarah, Steve Corr from Idiot Strength, Sian Jefferies from Lost Cherries and finally Protag who played bass and drove the band around just like Curtis did! The LP sold out of the original green sleeve version and also sold out the repressed blue sleeve version.

There was still much fun and enjoyment to be had Blyth Power gigs with the new line up throughout 1987 and into 1988. The new line up version of the band did not have a record released until 1988 as ‘Ixion’ was released first in the summer of 1987, a track recorded by the old line up and lifted off the LP. The material that Blyth Power recorded with the new line up was eventually released on the Midnight Music record label in 1988. The ‘Ixion’ 12″ and 7″ were the last Blyth Power releases on the All The Madmen record label.

Another notible event that occured in 1987 was that Rob Challice, Sean ‘Gummidge’ and myself who were all working at All The Madmen records moved from Brougham Road, Hackney and relocated to Caledonian Road, Kings Cross in the same building as Better Badges and F.O. Tapes, nicely grafittied N.Y.C. style this corner building was called, by the grafitti dauped upon it ‘Crucial Corner’, and was just over the road to Rough Trade Distribution.

Blyth Power still continue today over 25 years later from the bands origins from the ashes of The Mob and the band are still worthy of some attention.

Photos and memorabilia sourced jointly from both Penguin’s and Neil Keenan’s collections.

Many more Blyth Power downloads available if you use the search function.

Official ATM Site

Published by

Penguin

1985 - 1988 All The Madmen Records and Distribution 1988 - 1991 King Penguin Distribution 1989 - ???? Southern Studios / Southern Record Distribution

21 thoughts on “Blyth Power – All The Madmen Records – 1985 / 1986”

  1. Every time I hear Chevy Chase I remember red-haired Steve being arrested at a squat eviction/demolition party in Highbury Barn in the mid-80’s. Took about 4 coppers to carry him out while he was singing “We have to settle the score” at them. Must have had a few bruises on him the next day!

  2. I remember red haired Steve…..getting nicked seemed to be a hobby of his, if I remember right 😀

  3. Spent a year inside for the Poll Tax riot iirc, don’t think his home-brewing helped matters. Still see him about Hackney every now & then.

  4. Thanks for posting these tracks. Not heard them before, just so cool to at last get to hear the band’s earliest output. Have had Junction Signal on repeat. Have to say that BP slipped past me all those years ago, and despite my catching them at two McLibel benefits at Chats Palace ’97, was not taken by them… that is until I picked up comp. Ten Years Inside The Horse a few years later, delighted by songs Guns Of Castle Cary and Inside The Horse. Terrific band.

  5. DavidM. Blyth Power really were great (esp live) in 1985 and 1986. Certainly (in my opinion) the band’s heyday was at this time, although 1987 came close. Blyth Power got loads of articles in the musicpress and fanzines alike. The band had many venues to perform in, and whats more the venues were generally filled to capacity. I still see them once in a while and the newer versions of the band are still an interesting night out.

  6. Hard to believe anyone missed the wonderful Blyth Power at the time, they gigged so much! Some great venues and some odd ones too. Anyone remember Battersea Arts Centre on Lavender Hill?

  7. ah the good old days of the robey and the beckett,i followed blyth for years and years and those gigs in 85/86 really were the best,most memorable for me was at the clarendon with cardiacs and ten pole tudor although i always had a soft spot for the astronauts and still occasionally see mark from time to time,he’s still as vague as ever haha

  8. Hard to say one gig was better than others as BP always delivered the goods live, whatever the circumstances.

  9. Nice to see you here Steve. And do you still play with Blyth Power on occasion?

    I just remember it being a really weird place for a gig, with lots of confused punkies wandering around trying to find the right hall. When you did find it, it had really steep seating and a bit of dancefloor (probably never meant for pogoing business). Great gig, as I recall.

    How many gigs were the band playing a month back then?

  10. Good lord no, not played with them since whenever it was that was my final gig. I’m not sure if it might have even been that gig.
    I felt they were heading in a far too (serious) folk direction which didn’t feel right to me. having said that I love the stuff that came after my departure.

    Yeah Battersea Arts Centre was a weird gig. I think we tried to get the seats removed but neither management nor seats would budge.
    I remember the support act being some old hippy with an electric guitar and far too many effects playing some far out cosmic electro folk. Very good guitarist but quite dull.

    Most of our gigs do seem to be a blur as we were doing so many.
    We were doing well over a 100 a year or at least it felt like that.
    I do miss it though.

    Steve

  11. Hey Steve, hope life is treating you well in the south west. Shame you were not in north London tonight…It’s all gone THFC potty.

  12. Hi MIck
    I was certainly there in spirit but wish I could have been there in person.
    Bet the star of david flags were flying in Stamford Hill.
    Seems crazy sometimes that we should be so excited about finishing 4th though. I mean, first is where it’s at right? 🙂
    Steve

  13. i remember the days at the bunker sunderland many years ago and seeing them at the station gateshead newcastle and at the old pub the broken doll sadly there all gone now i havent herd them play in a few years now but hopefully they will be gigging in newcastle soon (DO THE ONE ABOUT THE HORSE)

  14. just found your site by accident whilst doing a blyth power discography. found some great stuff i didnt know on here. good write up chaps.

  15. Saw Blyth Power many times around Hackney and Stoke Newington from 87 on…Always a good show. Love those early recordings. I was a Somerset Mob fan and learned of the band thru that connection – god knows how before the internet! I suspect it was a combination of Acorn Records, the West Country grapevine in London, and reviews in the music press. Thanks to you Mr Penguin for doing the hard yards with all this info.

  16. Brilliant records that I have not heard for many years.I’m only new on the internet and in Australia and very appreciative that someone has kept this music and made it available.Many many thanks.

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