When Flux Of Pink Indians released the ‘Neu Smell’ 7″ single on Crass Records, there was a certain interest in the previous band that Flux had transformed from in Bishops Stortford, Hertfordshire called The Licks (the name of the band if you check their only 7″ single released in the bands lifetime on Harlow’s Stortbeat Records in 1979).
The Licks was a label friendly name used purely for non shock value. The band had been called The Epileptics, but the record label deemed this moniker too offensive to put on a cover of a punk record. The Epileptics performed rudimentary punk rock, a lot of the time at The Triad venue in the town, and generally supported by The Eratics from Waltham Cross, U Samples from Bishops Stortford and Urban Decay from Harlow.
Members of The Epileptics included at one time or another Steve Drewitt from Newtown Neurotics, Stan Stammers later on of The Pack / Theatre Of Hate, Sid from Rubella Ballet and most surprisingly Annie Anxiety. The Epileptics played with Crass at The Triad at least twice, but both bands performed together elsewhere in London several other times.
Crass would eventually support the soon to be named Flux Of Pink Indians through shared gigs and tours, releasing the first Flux single on the Crass record label. Crass and John Loder of Southern Studios also went on to give advice and help to start up Flux’s own label, Spiderleg Records.
The original Stortbeat copy of the first Licks 7″ single ‘1970’s Are Made In Hong Kong’ was (and still is) a rarity. Stortbeat records either lost or refused to supply the master tapes for the tracks so Flux (as they band were now called) went into the studio with Penny Rimbaud of Crass sorting out the drumming duties, and recorded both the tracks that were available on that 1979 single again.
This rerecorded version of ‘1970’s’ was released as the debut release on Spiderleg Records at the beginning of 1981.
One other interesting fact was that The Epileptics performed at Stonehenge in June 1980, but the bikers would not appreciate the punk vibe on that day so started causing trouble, stopping Crass and Poison Girls from performing thier sets later on that night. The Mob and The Snipers got away with performing sets earlier in the day though. A fair amount of people following the punk band’s that afternoon and night were badly hurt by the much older biker fraternity. This is ironic as both Crass and Poison Girls performed at Stonehenge in June 1979 without any problems. From what I am led to believe, members of Epileptics had insulted some bikers from the stage which may have helped to ignite some of the trouble which was already brewing up.
The Epileptics (Colin Latter – vocals, Clive Griffiths – guitar, Derek Birkett – bass and Richard Coveney – drums) were originally going to be called The Epileptic Fits, a name suggested by Colin’s mum, but the band decided that The Epileptics sounded better. Early in 1978, the fledgling band practised in Clive’s bedroom. Self-penned songs such as “Dear Deirdre”, “I Wanna Give You A ‘69” and “Who’s Chasing Who” were soon put together, and the foursome announced their presence in their home town of Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire that summer with spray-painted graffiti.
Together with their name, they had a logo and a slogan – ‘Smash Guitar Solos‘ – which attracted my interest in a big way. I’d previously been guitarist with the band The Darlex, but as soon as I saw the Epileptics’ DIY publicity campaign I was impressed and wanted a part of their action. First, I had to find out who they were…
The Triad Centre was a great place to see bands and just hang around with other punks from Harlow, including members of the Sods and Newtown Neurotics, and surrounding areas. I asked around and was pointed in Col and Rich’s direction; I went over and said “If you ever need a guitarist, let me know.” Coincidentally, Clive was about to leave and go to college, so they told me to come along the following Saturday to one of their rehearsals. I did, and I was in!
They had already played two gigs – one at Triad in August, and one at London’s Covent Garden with Crass – but needed new material. Col and I reworked some of the older songs and changed the lyrics and titles, and collaborated on some new material too, such as “Tube Disaster”, and our first gig together was at the beginning of November 1978.
In January 1979 we got the chance to support Crass and the Poison Girls in Bradford, but the van we’d hired broke down on the way, and we reached the gig just as Crass were finishing their set. In March we recorded our first demo tape and started to attract a small following; thereafter we regularly played at Triad, as well as doing gigs in London’s Conway Hall with Crass.
For a while we changed our name to Epi-X, but then reverted to the Epileptics; our line-up also changed briefly in summer, when Stan Stammers replaced Derek on bass. (Stan would later go on to Theatre of Hate and Spear of Destiny.) After playing one gig under the pseudonym Acid Experience, with Derek back in, the Epileptics decided to take a break as personality clashes had been surfacing. In August, we were approached by Stortbeat Records to record a single, and – with a dubious change of name to The Licks – did just that in September.
Having played just one gig as The Licks, the name reverted to the Epileptics again, but by November differences in how we thought the band should go led to Richard deciding to leave; Col and Derek decided to get Sid (from Rubella Ballet) to replace him, and within a week of their decision, I made up my mind to leave too. Two guitarists were brought in, Andy Smith and Neil Puncher (previously of the U. Samples), and the band continued to play local, London and other gigs – including Stonehenge Festival where they were bottled offstage.
During the middle of 1980 the band changed their name to Flux Of Pink Indians.
Colour memories above, courtesy of Michael Mitchell.
Written memories above, courtesy of Kev Hunter from The Epileptics, ripped off for all the right reasons from punk77.co.uk site
Black and white memories below, courtesy of Tinsel and the Bowes Lyon House Stevenage.
Verbal memories below, courtesy of Sean ex Eat Shit and God Told Me To Do It. Many thanks to him for the text.
Ahhhhh, my youth revisited…..No one except Stortbeat ever called them The Licks. Derek used to sit on my mate at school to steal his fruit pastilles. The story of Dereks bass playing (as related by Colins little brother) was that when the lads decided to form a punk band, big Derek said “I’m not playing bass, bass is a morons instrument” picked up the waiting to be assigned guitar and promptly broke several strings, so bass it was to be. Funnily enough when a bass was acquired for him he immediately broke a string on that too. Sid of Rubella Ballet passed through the drum slot, as did Discharge skin thumper, Bambi Ellesmere. Stan Stammers was friendly to the young punkers hanging out in Saffron Walden (all three of us, I had school mates there) but Kirk Brandon was above being seen with us kids.
I first saw Crass with The Epileptics at Triad on a sunday night, it seemed strange to me then that no one made a fuss about bands of local notoriety playing on sundays. Stortford was quite lively punkwise, but there was a lot of mod violence early on, mainly by kids who had been punks the year before, the skinheads came later, mostly from Harlow. That town was a hotbed of NF/BM recruitment (the lyric “I’ve got a target on my back but i’m not a fucking mod” was poignent). On one notable occasion, when Conflict came to the Triad, some skinhead violence was nipped in the bud by Colin Jerwood who promptly smashed his mug of tea over the miscreants head. There was even a shortlived squat in Stortford in a condemned house at Hockerill but the coppers gave short shrift.
So many memories…One of my first girlfriends was from Debden, so “Last bus…” struck a chord. Harlow was punky town, but lots of aforementioned skinhead violence. After a gig at the Square, three of us were chased until lost (easy in Harlow, it all looks the same) and had to take cover in an elderly couples house who offered us refuge and a phone to call mum. People will tell you these days that they were into the Neurotics, but most in Harlow considered them a bit naff. Steve Drewitt will tell you that I was the only person to sport a big Newtown Neurotics logo on my leather. Notable local band was Premature Death, who I think made it onto a Crass released ‘Bullshit Detector’ album. We tried squatting an old lock keepers cottage on the river Stort in Sawbridgeworth when I had run away from home (again) but the police went and borrowed my dads big bolt cutters (he was the local lorry engineer / pikey) and put an end to that, and I’ll put an end to this rambling off subject!
This post is dedicated with respect to Graham Burnett, who is celebrating his 50th birthday today. Happy birthday from all here at KYPP online. Hoping you are well and happy.