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.