Ha! Ha! Funny Polis – Groucho Marxist Records – 1981 / Quango – First World Problem Records – 2013

Defiant Pose – Fight / Urban Enemies – Who Do You Hate?

The Fegs – Mill Street Law And Order / X.S Discharge – Lifted

Uploaded today is a four track E.P from four separate bands from around Paisley, a town slightly west of the city of Glasgow in Scotland.

I do not know a lot about the bands featured on this record, but thankfully Inflammable Material / Defiant Pose main man Mike Clarke does know a bunch, and thankfully wrote out a little of what he knows onto the Shit-Fi blog sometime ago. I am ashamed that I lifted most of the article for this K.Y.P.P post today! Please go to the bottom of the essay for a link to the original Shit-Fi post, and for links to Mike Clarke and Inflammable Material.

Listening to the tracks on this E.P, a set of songs that are strongly anti ‘polis’ (police), I  realise, how truly wonderful the sound of the bands were. I can only assume that these bands did not get out of Scotland that often, although Mike’s article mentions a gig in Leeds during a showcase tour with all the bands featured on this E.P. If you missed these bands in the flesh back at the dawn of the 1980’s then there was at least a handful of 7″ single releases all based around these bands released on Groucho Marxist records to fall back on.

X.S Discharge is the standout track for me personally, and that fact brings me nicely to a band that are only a handful of miles away from me right now, Quango.

I placed the 7″ single by Quango, released on First World Problem records in 2013, for three reasons.

Firstly, K.Y.P.P’s very own Scottish boot boy Chris Low attacks the drums for Quango. Another band name to add to Chris’s rather impressive C.V.

Secondly the three tracks on this 7″ single, in my opinion at least, had the same urgency in 2013 that the four Paisley bands on the ‘Ha! Ha! Funny Polis’ E.P had in 1980, thirty three years later.

Thirdly my standout track for the ‘Ha! Ha! Funny Polis’ E.P, namely ‘Lifted’ by X.S Discharge, has a guitar sound resembling a police siren in parts, which in turn reminded me of the Quango track ‘Fatality’ which has a guitar sound resembling an ambulance siren in parts!

You could, I guess, add a fourth reason. The Quango record is a great noise, and as there was only four hundred copies of the record pressed up originally, the record has already gained a cult status amongst folk who happen to like this kind of noise.

Paisley Punk & Groucho Marxist Records

In the wake of the ‘Ha! Ha! Funny Polis’ furore a similarly titled package tour was mooted (Chik remembers “the four bands cramming into a transit van to play in Northern England, somewhere”; McGlynn recalls it as the Leeds F Club) whilst both Robin Gibson, of local fanzine ‘It Ticked And Exploded’, and Groucho Marxist records funder Wullie Harris managed to blag themselves column inches in London music weeklies Sounds and N.M.E, the latter under the pseudonym Harry Longbaugh (he later quit after several of his articles were credited to fellow Scot Johnny Waller, formerly of Fife’s Kingdom Come fanzine, who served as the current features editor).

This canny bit of self-marketing led to decent coverage of two ambitious Paisley R.A.R events, the first of which was a large open-air festival on the notorious Ferguslie Park Estate, wherein the usual suspects were joined by bands from Glasgow such as Liberty Bodice, The Zips, Alleged, and The Dyelatiks. (A special commemorative fanzine was also produced for the occasion and in the existing photos someone is apparently filming the event). Persistent rumours of both torrential rain and imminent phalanxes of charging riot police thankfully came to nothing (Ferguslie Park later made the news in the 1990s over a series of political scandals involving local gangsters, missing public money, laundered drug-proceeds, death threats, smear campaigns and vote-rigging—all “alleged” of course).

The main gig of the proposed ‘Ha! Ha! Funny Polis’ Tour featured all four bands venturing into the dubious wastes of a youth club on Glasgow’s (equally notorious) Easterhouse Estate. By reputation “a journey to the Heart Of Darkness”, far from being greeted with the sight of grinning skulls on sticks, the bands were instead gleefully booed off stage by an audience of local scallies between the ages of seven and fourteen, hyped up on a combination of Mars bars and Irn-Bru. Sounds: “The Ha! Ha! Funny Polis backdrop was last seen being dragged around Easterhouse by a bunch of kids followed by a police escort at three in the morning.”

The ‘Ha! Ha! Funny Polis’ E.P itself, despite ritual patronizing reviews in the national press and though less gleefully amateurish and individualistic than the debut E.P, wins out through its sheer verve and immediacy. Recorded live in one day again, this time at Sirocco Studios in Kilmarnock, X.S Discharge once more borrowed Snexx drummer Ian Andrews for “Lifted”, the almost endearing tale of police brutality. Defiant Pose shambolically urge local youth to “Fight,” the Fegs posthumously decry the local cop-shop in ‘Mill Street Law And Order”, and Urban Enemies, noted for their on-stage uniform of striped mohair jumpers and ‘the ultimate fat kid street gang member…playing bass’ (Sounds) play a lighter, more melodic punk reminiscent of early Outcasts, with plenty of S.L.F tuneage and plaintive “whoah whoah” vocals, only let down by the painful “because we only wanna rock’n’roll” refrain on the chorus. As with the first E.P there is none of the calculated pretension you might have expected from a similar project originating in London or Manchester. With traditional D.I.Y constraints ever to the forefront, the bands simply plug in and play, first or second take, overdubs / polishing irrelevant. As a whole, the record benefits from a collective theme, and reflects the dynamic, rabble-rousing vision of Tommy Kayes himself. Joe McGlynn remembers driving down to London’s Rough Trade with Kayes and Harris in a car crammed with boxes of the single: “We were stopped and searched in an underground carpark by Special Branch (the I.R.A were busy at the time), they opened all the boxes and I thought our time was up, but they let us go. I don’t know what they were looking for, maybe they didn’t know what ‘Polis’ meant, ha ha! Arriving at Rough Trade, the Spizz Energi single ‘Where’s Captain Kirk?’ had just been released: strangely, that was the name of the top cop in Paisley whom our record was dedicated to. Good old Rough Trade, they took every single copy, agreed to distribute them, AND paid us in cash!”

Summed up by Tommy Kayes as “high energy revolt” (It Ticked And Exploded), X.S Discharge remained a core duo throughout their existence, borrowing drummers from Snexx or Defiant Pose, losing others to, variously, married bliss / illness / the Orange Lodge. Barred twice from Paisley Tech, their one concession to political comment on 1980’s “Life’s A Wank E.P” was “Across The Border”, written about Northern Ireland. This, the third release on Groucho Marxist records, evoked a standard, patronizing, N.M.E review: “A stubborn refusal to stray even an inch from the tenets of ’77 has already caused a sell-out of the first pressing…. One day their devotion to dogma will be rewarded with a revival”. Paisley bands were generally dismissed by their Glasgow contemporaries as “trapped in an endless punk time-loop,” but the curious thing in hindsight about “Life’s A Wank” (though this is probably due also to the change in perception over time) is just how little it sounds like a standard ’77 dole-queue rant. Whether down to a more expansive, brittle production, there’s more than an element of the first two P.I.L albums (particularly the second) influencing the crystalline guitars, accentuated snare and reedy vocals of “Across The Border,” “Confessions,” “Frustration,” and “Hassles”. N.M.E noted in the earlier, abortive Easterhouse gig: “X.S Discharge came on and made the event seem even more like entertainment for dissident refugees hiding out in the sewers of a Dalek city. They have the tattered clothes and subterranean-life white skin and though they’re highly derivative of P.I.L, it all sounds bleak and dismal instead of haunted and rhythmic.” In short though, despite a natural progression from their earlier efforts, X.S Discharge simply didn’t take themselves seriously enough to turn the P.I.L influence into some portentous ‘lost post-punk classic’, but legions of younger punks digging in the used record bins in the following years would at least hear something different from the three-chord / fuck-the-system punk-by-rote conjured up by the band name and record title.

The last Groucho Marxist release came in 1981, a double-header from Defiant Pose: ‘After The Bang’ b/w ‘Someone Else’s War’. Coupled with a 1982 practice tape featuring tracks like ‘Day Goes On’,’Hello Boys’, ‘Lookin’ After You’, and a raging cover of the UK Subs ‘Gimme Your Heart’, the two-headed single reveals a tight, punchy outfit, again moving away from standard three-chord punk into a more Jam / Purple Hearts suited ‘n’ booted vintage Who / Mod-stomp, but combined with the snap and urgency of the rockier tracks from ‘London Calling’, This trio of Joe McGlynn (guitar / vocals), Crawfy (bass), and Callum Reid (drums) was the seminal Defiant Pose line-up and followed the single by signing up with Scottish agency Regular Music. Support slots with the Chords, Exploited, Killing Joke, and more followed, but just as they began garnering column inches in the likes of Sounds (they also produced their own, eponymous zine, unrelated to this author’s own rag), Crawfy packed up and left without a word, and McGlynn disappeared for two years to, as he put it, “pursue my criminal career.” Come 1983 he and Reid recruited Davy Cameron of local third-generation punk band Destroy for a new line-up, only for Reid to leave due to that old chestnut ‘”musical differences” (he preferred Rush, apparently). Next to fill the drum-seat was Blair McDonald (aka Preacher) and some recording ensued until Davy took the same road as Callum…. Rush! And in the same band as well! (McGlynn). The next, short-lived, Defiant Pose incarnation was in 1986 but after a less than memorable show at Paisley’s Paris Disco a year later, McGlynn killed the band off. Blair McDonald, whose brother David Tennant is the current Dr Who on B.B.C Television, moved to London and became C.E.O of Sony UK. After a short-lived band called The Uprising, McGlynn put his guitars under the bed and went back to 9–5 work, except for a brief fling doing sound and then second guitar for jangly shoe-gazers The Close Lobsters in the early 1990s.

By 1981 the initial Paisley scene had grown older and begun to fragment. A fifth E.P, another compilation provisionally called ‘Pissing In The Wind’ and featuring Defiant Pose, Fallout, Destroy and Urban Enemies, was recorded but never released, possibly because it was deemed below-par. The Bungalow Bar, as well as a regular platform for local bands, soon became part of the national tour-circuit, hosting everyone from the Skids / Angelic Upstarts / Exploited / Cockney Rejects / Discharge to Wah! Heat / Tenpole Tudor / Theatre Of Hate.

Mike Clarke

The original article written by Mike Clarke on Shit-Fi.com may be viewed HERE

For information on Defiant Pose, the long standing fanzine / magazine written by Mike Clarke please view this K.Y.P.P post HERE or go straight to the Inflammable Material website HERE

Fatality

Living In A Shit Hole / Quick Quid

1. The standard question: how did the band come together, and how does it differ from previous bands you’ve been in? What’s the current line up?

The present line up is –
Richard Lewis – vocals
David Barnett – guitar
Johnny White – bass
Chris Low – drums

Quango first came about through my friend, and original Quango guitarist, Nuno who suggested forming a band with another mate of his, Richard Lewis of Hygiene. We subsequently met up, got along great and at our very first practice came up with four songs, the three on the E.P (‘Fatality’, ‘Living In A Shit Hole’ and ‘Quick Quid’) and another, as yet unreleased, called ‘Viva Il Papa’. We recorded the E.P after only about five or six practices and never even expected it would be released on vinyl. We were amazed by the incredible reaction it got and all the interest in the band it generated. Due to one reason or another we only played a few gigs at this time , originally with Richard also playing bass. Nuno then left the band and was later replaced by my flatmate, and Part1 bassist, David Barnett who joined on guitar, with Johnny White who also plays in Hygiene with Richard joining on bass. So Quango is now 50% Hygiene; 50% Part1. Apologies for it all being very complicated and incestuous! Hopefully this line-up will stay together for a while as it seems pretty solid. So far!

2. Having played in prominent anarchist and political punk bands like Political Asylum, The Apostles, and Oi Polloi, did you feel a need to get away from serious politics with a project like Quango?

Obviously I think punk and politics go hand in hand and can’t imagine it any other way but , after nearly thirty five years of banging on about the same subjects in song lyrics you would think – and hope – bands might think of some other subjects to cover. The Quango songs have themes that are ‘political’ but we’re not about trying to shove any message down anyone’s throat. We like to think people are intelligent enough to interpret the lyrics and any ‘message’ they may have without it being spelt out for them. But to answer your question, it’s not a conscious departure from bands I’ve played for in the past, Quango is just great fun!

3. I had to look up the meaning of a ‘quango,’ as I’d never heard the word before your band. Can you please explain what it is for other ignorant Americans like myself?

A quango stands for a ‘quasi-autonomous non-governmental organization’. It’s not a term you hear much in politics now but you did hear of them a lot in the 1980’s. Quangos basically functioned in the drawing up of government policies and were non-governmental bodies that served the purposes of the government, an example being the prison system. They served a purpose in giving governments a degree of separation from policy and it’s implementation and a get-out clause should it fuck up i.e when there was a wave of prison riots in the ’80s they could blame the quango rather than government and legislature.

4. I can’t help but feel that the demo 7″ sounds so much like a lost Rough Trade release or UK D.I.Y record right down to the older looking layout and cover. How intentional was the sound, premise and aesthetic of the band? Were you consciously influenced by early Rough Trade releases or UK D.I.Y bands like the Desperate Bicycles or Scrotum Poles?

I wouldn’t say those bands you mention, but aesthetically, I must admit the Six Minute War and Fallout 7″s were a bit of an ‘influence’ graphically as I have always LOVED their appearance and that whole early ’80’s photocopied A4 sheet folded round a 7″ samizdat D.I.Y aesthetic. Musically, it wasn’t anything deliberate and more a matter of the songs being recorded in a friend’s garden shed (really!!) on a 6-track Tascam recorder, which is about as basic as you can get other than a ghetto-blaster.

I’m an absolute perfectionist and utterly obsessive when it comes to graphics and typography in particular and it took days of work to get the look and feel of the cover absolutely right.

One of the images used is from a early 1980s photo-journalism magazine about Northern Ireland which, by strange coincidence both myself and Richard found we both had copies of and loved a certain photo. All the elements, images, and even the fonts I used on the cover have a reason to be there and some (hidden) meaning or significance. But more than anything I just wanted it to look like a record I know I would buy were I to see it in a shop myself and have no idea about it other than the sleeve. I’m certainly as proud of the cover as I am of what’s pressed on the vinyl which is something I can’t say for many of the other records I’ve played on.

5. From an outside perspective, British culture seems very forward focused in that retro music is nowhere near as popular as it is here in America. For instance, there’s few, if any, bands from England that sound like Discharge, Sacrilege, or Ripcord, yet there have been numerous bands from the States in recent years citing old UK bands as an influence and emulating their style. Why do you think this is, and what made you want to play a style heavily based on older bands?

Interesting question. Personally speaking, some of the punk bands I have always liked most have been A.T.V, Gang Of Four, Crisis, Joy Division / Warsaw, early P.I.L, Six Minute War, Fallout, The Rondos and other late 70s / early 80’s stuff. Myself, Richard & Nuno all shared many of those influences which is probably why the E.P Tracks sound like they do, but it certainly wasn’t in any way whatsoever a deliberate emulation of those band’s sound. I’d regard that as a very pointless exercise. Love Discharge (who doesn’t??) but sorry to say I don’t know Sacrilege, or Ripcord. And, must admit I don’t really know much about American punk bands as I never got into the hardcore scene, tho I do love Flipper.

6. With (my perhaps naively perceived) less focus in England on contemporary bands so closely resembling older bands, how has the reception been both live and to the 7″?

We’ve only played a few gigs so far. The best ones have been with Irish band The #1’s last year, who we are playing with again this month, and looking forward to, and also with American indie band Howler, who had actually asked for us to play with them on their London date as they had got hold of the E.P in Minneapolis and loved it! They were great guys and that’s probably the best gig we’ve played so far.

7. When reading interviews with old UK punk bands, many mention how difficult it was getting noticed because they weren’t from London or how thrilled they were to finally get their first London gig. Being based in London, do you feel that gives you more exposure or an inherent ‘credibility’ that other bands from less culturally prominent areas might have to fight for?

To be honest, I think it’s possibly the opposite. There are now so many gigs going on in London most of them I don’t even hear of. And also because everyone now seems to rely solely on Facebook to promote events if you aren’t lucky enough to know anyone ‘invited’ to an event there’s a chance it might escape your orbit! I certainly know many other areas in the UK (Not to mention abroad) which have much, much better punk scenes than London and, tho I am only speaking for myself, I wouldn’t say Quango have any great affinity with certain aspects of the London Punk scene and in fact, have possibly had greater support from bands, promoters and individuals which have no involvement with it.

8. Can you please describe what the song ‘Fatality’ is about, and is it based on any actual events, or is it completely fictitious? It’s my favourite song on the E.P and kind of reminds me of Velvet Underground’s ‘The Gift’ with the spoken verses. I love it.

No, the words are recited verbatim from a news story in the Daily Telegraph newspaper that Richard had with him at the band practice where we came up with the song! He just read them out whilst we were jamming the tune and they seemed to fit so well he cut out the story and they became the lyrics to the song. I’ve always liked songs which just have a spoken narrative but hadn’t considered the ‘Gift’ similarity before, though you’re absolutely right. The Apostles had a few songs structured like that too, ‘Last Train To Hellsville’ and ‘A Rebel Without A Cause’ being two which spring to mind. Though I suppose Gang of Four ‘Love Like Anthrax’ would be the best known example, or the part in Joy Division ‘No Love Lost’ – both fantastic songs. And by bands we all love so perhaps it was a subconscious influence that crept in?

9. Are there other contemporary London bands that you feel an affinity with?

Part1…. Hygiene…. We all like Sleaford Mods tho they aren’t from London.

10. Why was the song ‘Viva Il Papa’ left off the 7″ version of the demo?

I think that must have been Tim, the guy who very kindly put out the singles decision. I’m not too sure of the reason it wasn’t included, though as people have described it as being like a cross between Rudimentary Peni & Velvet Underground perhaps it wouldn’t have fitted in too well with the others?

However, if anyone would be interested in re-issuing the E.P they’re welcome to contact us at – quango.ok@hotmail.com – and they’d be more than welcome to add ‘Viva Il Papa’ to the release. It’s my favourite of our songs as well.

11. What are the plans for the future? Do you have any new releases planned?

Nothing at present but now we have a stable line-up we hope to write more songs and gig more. Hopefully if all goes well we will record something in the future.

12. Well, records are what people love to read about and what makes zines sell, so can you please list your top five favourite UK D.I.Y releases?

Ohhhh…… If you mean by ‘D.I.Y’ independently released 7″s my top 5 would have to include – Six Minute War – ‘More Short Songs’, Fallout – ‘Conscription’ E.P, Part1 – ‘Funeral Parade’, The Apostles ‘Blow It Up , Burn It Down, Kick It Till It Breaks’, Ramleh: ‘8 Ball Corner Pocket’. Please note I didn’t drum on that first Apostles E.P or Part1’s ‘Funeral Parade’; I just love those two records and have done since the first time I ever heard them!

For all info – quango.ok@hotmail.com or the Facebook page HERE.

Interview with Chris Low conducted by Erick SN of Negative Insight fanzine and printed over two pages in February’s Maximum Rock And Roll magazine from all decent alternative record / bookshops or have it delivered to you straight from Maximum Rock and Roll HERE.

Photos of Quango by Peyvand Sadeghian and Nikki Barnett.

Published by

Penguin

1985 – 1988 All The Madmen Records and Distribution
1988 – 1991 King Penguin Distribution
1989 – 2018 Southern Studios / Southern Record Distribution

4 thoughts on “Ha! Ha! Funny Polis – Groucho Marxist Records – 1981 / Quango – First World Problem Records – 2013”

  1. Great post! Tommy Kayes who ran Groucho Marxist Records is a lovely guy who was also involved with the Clydeside Anarchists who produced ‘Practical Anarchy’ a freebie anarchist paper and, to my knowledge, the only anarchist weekly Britain has ever had. I believe he still runs Clydeside Press printing co-op and if anyone is in touch please pass on my best regards.

  2. Hi Chris I think there was also a weekly anarchist paper produced in Leeds for a while during the 1980’s. Chumbawamba had something to do with it, and it also had the weeks TV guide in it, which apparently explained its widespread popularity!

  3. It’s good to find out some info about XS Discharge. Even three decades on! I bought the ‘Life’s A Wank’ EP back in the day from Small Wonder. Always liked it. Far more tuneful than a lot of the output at that time.
    Hello Graham. You probably won’t remember me. But, we used to write, swap tapes, ‘zines etc a fair bit back in the early 80’s. I was ‘Jess from Bristol’ back in that lifetime. Good to see you still active.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *