The Apostles & Demolition Company – B.B.P – 1987 / Chron Gen – Gargoyle & Step Forward Records – 1981 / Mark Stewart & The Maffia – Amsterdam Paradiso – 1986 / Lack Of Knowledge – Southern Studios Rough Mixes – 1984 / Blyth Power – All The Madmen Records – 1985 & 1986 / Various Artists – Top Ranking Records – 1977

The Apostles Side

Demolition Company Side

‘Cartography’

The first side of this cassette tape features The Apostles.

To be more specific, for this release many of the songs were written, performed with various instruments and recorded on a four track recorder by Dave Fanning.

So in effect it is pretty much Dave Fannings ‘solo’ project.

The second side of this cassette tape features Demolition Company from Basildon Essex, who for this recording of their debut live performance, featured both Andy Martin and Dave Fanning.

The core members of Demolition Company were Sean and Colin, who around the time of this debut performance in February 1987 were also the new members of The Apostles after Scruff and Chris Widni had departed shortly after the album, ‘The Equinox Screams’ was released.

The Apostles recordings on this cassette tape are edging towards the more industrial / experimental side of the band that was more prevalent from the mid 1980’s.

Andy and Dave seemed to be steering their band’s sound away from the straight forward traditional arrangement of songs, to create soundscapes, many of which were devoid of vocals, but did have tape recordings on a loop to create a focal point to any of those recordings.

Demolition Company has a more percussion based sound on many of the songs performed on that evening of their debut performance. There were several drummers all crash, bang and walloping all together at the same time. I would imagine sounding like a very much smaller version of the drummers of Calanda, parading the streets of this medieval village in Spain every Easter. Adding feedback, squeaks and shouting, it’s quite a cacophony!

Importantly, ‘Cartography’ was a sonic assault secondary to the sheets of information and artwork that was included in the A4 sized see through plastic envelope.

All those double sided sheets are scanned and are featured on this post.

Chron Gen – Gargoyle Records A

Chron Gen – Gargoyle Records B

Chron Gen – Secret Records A

Chron Gen – Secret Records B

I remember buying the debut 7″ single by Chron Gen, released on Gargoyle Records, from Startime Music situated along Post Office Walk in Harlow in 1981, and immediately loving it.

The record spun hundreds of times on my cheap mono ‘Dansette style’ record player that I had acquired a year or so prior from a Summer school fete, rubber-banding a penny onto the stylus head to stop the stylus skating across my precious records that I might have just bought!

The band members of Chron Gen were all based around Hitchin and Stevenage. The Stevenage Bowes Lyon House was on the punk circuit and many bands performed at the venue on the weekly punk nights.

Chron Gen were a local band to where I was living at the time, although perhaps a rather tenuous statement! Crass in Epping, Newtown Neurotics in Harlow, and Lack Of Knowledge in Enfield were probably nearer, well definitely nearer to where I lived at the time, but I still thought of Chron Gen as a ‘local band’.

Chron Gen’s sound had a mid paced tempo with clear lyrics to counter the speed noise and barely understandable screams of Discharge, a band (not a condition)from the same era.

Discharge were immense, but every now and again you need a break.

The second single that was also released in 1981 on the very excellent Step Forward record label was ‘Reality’ and ‘Subway Sadist’. Two tracks of immense power, the A-side dealing in one of Chron Gen’s loves, acid, dope, and magic mushrooms.

This second 7″ single trumped the Gargoyle Records release, but not by much. Both 7″ singles rotating on that same little mono record player in my bedroom many times…

I wore my original Chron Gen T- shirts with some pride as a thirteen going on fourteen kid.

As an aside; I really wish I did not put all my old original punk, goth, industrial and anarcho T-shirts on a fire in on the cusp of the 2000’s!

Bushell rated Chron Gen, so what could go wrong?

Seemingly for a while, when Bushell rated a band, that band had a high chance of ending up on Larry Prior’s Secret Records, a large record company masquerading as a small record label.

Chron Gen were no exception.

When you see a B-side of the third 7″ single, ‘Jet Boy’ being ‘live’ tracks from some gig, you might hazard a guess that the studio tracks might have dried up somewhat.

Jon Thurlow (who ending up later on in the 1980’s selling scented candles, silver jewelry and trinkets at the door of the Stevenage Bowes Lyon House on the weekly punk nights) had actually left Chron Gen shortly after the Apocalypse Now tour, and eventually formed Verdict (who went on to support The Mob at Monks Walk in Welwyn in the middle of 1983!)

Jon Thurlow leaving the band might have had a bearing on the writing of new songs temporary halting… Or maybe it didn’t!

He stayed on for the recording of the album in any case.

The long anticipated (by me at least) debut album was released on Secret Records in 1982, complete with (you guessed it) a live 7″ single slipped into the package.

I took a deep breath, after spotting some more ‘live’ track credits on the album cover, and gave the record a spin.

‘Lies’, ‘Jet Boy’ and ‘Hounds Of The Night’ (a firm favourite of mine) kicked the album off in a decent enough way, already eight out of ten on the score board.

From the ending of ‘Hounds’ the quality of the tracks on this album went south (in my opinion, which means sod all…but).

I felt let down, and thinking deeper, I came to an opinion that an eight track mini album would have been a powerful work, shafting the studio fillers ‘You Make Me Spew’ and ‘Friends Tell Me Lies’, and the live tracks, ‘Reality’, ‘Alice’ that were all cluttering up the twelve track album.

Chron Gen did come back slightly stronger with a final 7″ single release on Secret Records in 1983 called ‘Outlaw’.

This single was a final bow out from Secret Records and from Chron Gen themselves.

A new look Chron Gen, with new guitarist and bassist, released another album, ‘Nowhere To Run’, in 1984, throwing themselves towards a slick pop punk, rockier sound.

Although I bought that album, it did not end up receiving too much interest from me at the time (or in fact since).

The album was, with the possible exception of ‘Fiasco’ a little too ordinary.

The two 7″ singles that were released in 1981 were the dual high points for Chron Gen in my opinion.

Great stuff.

I took the liberty of adding a photograph of myself as I looked around the time when Chron Gen were among my favourite bands in 1981 towards the very end of this YouTube post.

In case anyone thought it was some random…

The promotional posters of ‘Puppets Of War’ and ‘Reality’ are from my collection.

Mark Stewart & The Maffia A

Mark Stewart & The Maffia B

These Mark Stewart / Tackhead / ON U Sound events were loud, hallucinogenic and warped.

The audience consisting of B-Boys, Rastas and ‘Dread At The Control’ bass-heads, punks and Peace Convoy types.

I witnessed several of these events. They were immense soundscapes with Adrian dripping with sweat, pushing switches and dragging faders throughout the night, being another ‘attraction’ to be stared at!

And how we all stared.

Dozens of people eyeballs completely fixed on the sound desk booth trying to get at least a glimpse of how these noises were generated, some taking back clues garnered back to their own small sound systems across the country.

The text below courtesy of John Eden.

Bristol 1978, Mark Stewart started the Pop Group – an out-there, genre-busting band whose titles, political conviction, disrespect for copyright and willingness to collaborate laid the foundations for his later work. This militant gang of leftist radical politicos specialised in a funk-driven cacophony of sound that was abrasive, strident, and ultimately very exciting.

Railing against Margaret Thatcher’s Tory UK government, the state of pop music, racism and sexism, the Pop Group were not the easiest band of the early post-punk era to listen to.

Never intending to make a serious run at the pop charts, the Pop Group imploded in 1981 after three albums. They did, however, contribute some talented people to other bands: most notably Gareth Sanger, who formed Rip Rig & Panic, which also featured the lead vocals of a then-teenage Neneh Cherry. Stewart of course went on to flourish in Adrian Sherwood’s On-U Sound stable of artists.

Post-Pop Group members Mark Stewart, Bruce Smith and John Waddington thus heading off to London and hooked up with the emerging On-U Sound as part of the New Age Steppers.

On-U supremo, Adrian Sherwood, had previously worked as European tour manager for legendary Jamaican deejay Prince Far I, whose live backing band largely comprised members of Creation Rebel and later Roots Radics. So, while Lincoln Valentine ‘Style’ Scott (drums), Errol ‘Flabba’ Holt (bass) and Eric ‘Bingy Bunny’ Lamont (rhythm guitar) formed the core of Dub Syndicate, they were also enlisted as part of Stewart’s new backing band – the first line-up of the Maffia for the recording of the ‘Learning To Cope With Cowardice’ album.

On ‘paper’ it didn’t sound like it would work. Urban paranoia and a techno sensibility; the positivity of dub reggae gone horribly wrong; dystopian visions mixed with those of William Blake, Donna Summer and William Burroughs; voodoo and ultra-left texts. But it worked, and when it didn’t, the fractures could be far more rewarding than the gleaming monolith of any corporate uber-production it could never have been.

Prior to the second album, ‘As The Veneer Of Democracy Starts To Fade’ being recorded, Mark Stewart’s Maffia had mutated. Though Stewart had been aware of Doug Wimbish, Keith LeBlanc and Skip McDonald and their seminal work as the Sugarhill Gang, it was Adrian Sherwood who had recently brought them to the UK and started working with them on a largely experimental but ground-breaking project called Fats Comet. Stewart heard them play at the Language Lab in the mid-80s:

“It was this tape they’d done with like rockets going off and drums that sounded like steamhammers. I was going mental playing it to everyone.”

Sherwood soon introduced the trio to Stewart, and so the new Maffia were formed. Parallel to recording as the Maffia for Stewart, without him and sometimes replaced by Gary Clail or Peech-Boy Bernard Fowler, Keith, Doug, Skip and Sherwood continued to record as Fats Comet and later Tackhead with their own, equally influential brand of funk-soul-sonic mayhem.

Mark Stewart & The Maffia’s ‘Veneer…’ album was without doubt one the heaviest albums he ever made. ‘Passivecation Program’ sets the agenda for the rest of the album by being wickedly harsh, dubby and funky. The track was a highlight of the Maffia’s live set at the time, and Paul Meme recalls their early live shows:

“Basically, the live Maffia experience was just like seeing Tackhead – i.e. a brain-pulverising intense experience, the closest music could get to all-out apocalypse and still be endurable – but with the addition of a front man who projected this incredible political / social paranoia vision which twisted the energy up yet another notch. He was a very focussed performer, he wasn’t obviously in need of help to function, but he wasn’t ‘controlled’ in the sense of being a cynical fake. Watching him bouncing up and down and calling out ‘Operation Passivecation’ had this amazing propulsive energy. There’s no way the On-U story would have happened without him.”

Lack Of Knowledge Rough Mixes A

Lack Of Knowledge Rough Mixes B

Lack Of Knowledge Rough Mixes C

The rough mixes of the tracks that would eventually be included on the album ‘Sirens Are Back’, recorded at Southern Studios, and which was released in 1984 on Corpus Christi Records being the band’s only album.

The text below written by the late, and much missed Lance Hahn, writer for Maximum Rock And Roll magazine.

By 1984, Lack Of Knowledge had been transformed into a combination of ideas which, while further distancing themselves from the traditional notion of creating a sound unique to anything else at the time.

The Joy Division comparisons are again obvious, especially on ‘Flame Thrower’ which could’ve fit in nicely on ‘Closer’. But in general, the comparisons have more to do with the similar vocal styles.

The band at this point was reflecting many different ideas. Moments of ‘Modern Dance’-era Pere Ubu pops up all over the record especially with the bass/drum inter-play. Early Killing Joke can be heard on some of the more primitive rhythms. The gothic affectations driven by, at times, dance beats were reminiscent of X-mal Deutschland’s ‘Incubus Succubus’. The more upbeat or punk songs brings to mind ‘Young Savage’-era Ultravox. The album is atmospheric and lyrically suggestive without giving any clear directions. The record is one of the few releases on Corpus Christi not to include a lyric sheet.

Lack Of Knowledge: “In retrospect, the album sounds even less like anyone else than was previously imagined. It also represented the most uncommercial Lack Of Knowledge material available for recording at that time.”

The recording process seemed to be a clash of generations.

During the recording of this record, the bands refusal to have any connection whatsoever to rock music or its traditions became apparent. Previously, they had refused to refer to performances as ‘gigs’. Now in the studio, they clashed with veteran engineer, Mel Jefferson, over approach and semantics. They refused to refer to bridges as “middle eights” and pretended they didn’t know what Jefferson was talking about when he referred to headphones as “cans”. They sneered at him when he used bands like ‘U2 and Simple Minds’ as reference points. Despite this antagonism, the band and engineer were able to work well enough together to produce a pretty slick sounding record.

It was released to positive greetings from the music press. All Lack Of Knowledge records, incredibly, received very favourable reviews although English music journalists are not exactly noted for their discerning taste!

The anarcho-punk scene by 1984 was reducing its musical scope into narrower and narrower definitions. The opportunities for creativity and experimentation that were made available by the post-punk boom were now giving way to the ‘80s and new wave.

While not directly affecting the still fiercely independent anarcho-punk scene, the safety of known musical genres became as much an issue as in the mainstream.

This mentality regressed underground music to entertainment over art and the fan/star quotient was only one negative effect. The more easily recognizable musical styles associated with punk and hardcore were quickly embraced while musical outsiders were often ignored.

In the face of this adversity, Lack Of Knowledge still managed to find their niche outside of the mainstream and on fringe of the anarcho underground.

A reputation as a great live band helped, even with a brand-new line-up (Paul the bassist replaced by Karen on bass) following the release of ‘Sirens Are Back’.

This is reinforced by a review of the bands gig at the Hammersmith Clarendon:

“Faces twisted by concentration, tongues lolling from corners of mouths, Lack of Knowledge unleash everything they’ve got. Tonight, they are at their very best, under pressure; pushing, pushing, always pushing… A charge surges through them. They win the attention of a (to begin with) completely uninterested Living In Texas audience, and then they push further still, whipping up a multi-textured headfirst collision between Joy Divisions lump-in-the-throat axe-heroism and the driving gritty raunch of the Buzzcocks. And it works like magic. Lack of Knowledge treat us to the epic ‘Sentinel’ – featuring, incidentally, what must rank as one of the Great Bass Intros of rock and pop’s illustrious thirty year history – followed by a handful of numbers from their new album, ’Sirens Are Back’, and in the blink of an eye they are gone, beaten by the clock but elated, nevertheless.”

Mr Spencer, ’Sounds’, April 1985

Dedicated with love to Lena Servo…

Blyth Power – All The Madmen Records – 1985 A

Blyth Power – All The Madmen Records – 1985 B

Blyth Power – All The Madmen Records – 1986 A

Blyth Power – All The Madmen Records – 1986 B

It is the autumn of 1985 and I am asked to go to Holloway Prison to pick up a friend who had just completed a nine month prison sentence for being involved in a stabbing in Harlow.

My friend did not actually stab the victim; her boyfriend did. He had a considerably longer sentence handed down to him by the Court.

They were both skinheads.

I was not working, just signing on at the Labour Exchange every couple of weeks, so I agreed to drive to Holloway and pick her up from prison.

Turning up at the prison I saw that she still had the same look, bleached short feather cut hair, Union Jack T-shirt, bleached jeans, boots and braces.

She got in the car that I had borrowed and I told her that I needed to go to Hackney to get a couple of records. Having no choice in the matter she reluctantly agreed.

Ending up at Brougham Road in Hackney I searched for number 96 while driving along slowly squinting in between the parked coaches, caravans and various cars in various states of repair trying to see any of the numbers on any of the doors.

Dogs without leads were playfully running around, wood smoke was coming from one of the parked coaches, curtains on that coach closed.

Battered old army surplus boots and other clothing lay around the front ‘gardens’, I assumed thrown out and long forgotten.

All the small terraced houses along that side of the street seemed run down.

The overall grimness of each house was interrupted slightly by each house having a pastel colour painted around the doors and on the window sills. One house had one pastel colour; the next house had a different pastel colour and so forth.

After parking up, we both walked to number 96. I knock on the door and we waited patiently.

The door swings open and a large man is in the middle of the doorway.

I ask nervously. “Is this the correct place for All The Madmen Records?”

He tells me it is, and then looks over my shoulder to see the skinhead girl behind me.

Due to this sighting, he starts to interrogate me further.

“Who are you?”

“What is it you want?”

“Are you sure you are at the right place?”

I insist that we are here for All The Madmen Records and he finally lets us both in.

This person I was shortly going to know was J.C, a South African who had been living over in London for several years after dodging national service in the S.A army.

Almost stepping on the cat, my friend and I both shuffled up a thin staircase and immediately saw a woman dressed all in black with long crimped black hair sitting on the top of the staircase looking incredibly nervous at both of us walking up the staircase.

She cowered as we walked passed.

This person I was shortly going to know was Louise a veteran of various dismal squats from years past. An ex-member of the ‘Puppy Collective’, an ex-member of The Witches and Youth In Asia, and who was shortly to front a band called Hysteria Ward.

There was a smell of dampness, roll your own tobacco and cats evident around this small terraced house.

I walked into a small room which over looked the street that was filled up with the coaches, caravans and various cars in various states of repair.

There was a small table against the single window. Some record racks on the right and various other cassettes and fanzines stored around the room along with stacks of untidy paperwork and a large double cassette recorder.

In this small office was another large man who asked who I was and what I wanted in a very pleasant tone.

I told him that I wanted to buy the Blyth Power 12”single ‘Chevy Chase’ E.P which had been released recently and would also like to look in the racks.

This person I was shortly going to know was Sean ‘Gummidge’ who at that time was an avid follower of Blyth Power, as I recognised him from the gigs.

I was allowed to look in the record racks, and my friend sat on the floor in the hallway looking bored outside the office.

After about ten minutes I had chosen a couple more records, the boredom that my (recently released from prison) friend was suffering was almost over.

I had to go, and as I did I gave the large man my details and a told him to call me up if he ever wanted any help. I explained that I was not doing anything just signing on.

The large man replied that he would give my details to the man in charge who was out at that time.

My friend and I walked along the hallway and back down the stairs where the lady in black was still camped out.

She cowered again as we both walked past and after exiting the building we once more breathed in wood smoke from that coach with the curtains drawn.

My friend and I got back into the car and I drove off with my newly bought records and eventually deposited her safely back home for ciders.

After a week, I received a telephone call.

All records, flyers, postcards, promotional literature, original badge, band photographs, and the original ‘Junction Signal’ train and church window photographs from my collection.

Side A

Side B

Text below – Garry Steckles – Caribbean Beat

The first time I met Tommy Cowan, I ended up in one of the Caribbean’s most notorious prisons.

The year was 1976. I was in the middle of my first trip to Jamaica, an island that had intrigued me since I first heard and got hooked on reggae music years earlier.

I was working on a music feature for a major Canadian newspaper, and Jamaican friends had told me that, rather than scurrying around the island looking for reggae musicians, I could just as easily let them come to me.

Go to Kingston, they advised, and make yourself known at 1C Oxford Road.

That’s where Tommy Cowan, reggae jack-of-all-trades, had established the headquarters of a company called Talent Corporation. And that’s where virtually every reggae performer on the island would hang out in the heady days of the 70’s, an era still widely regarded as the music’s golden age.

I took their advice, and I’d barely introduced myself when Cowan asked me if I’d like to accompany a couple of the bands he was managing, Jacob Miller and Inner Circle and Ras Michael and the Sons of Negus, to Spanish Town Jail, where they were playing a concert for the inmates the following day.

I jumped at the opportunity . . . Which is how I found myself in the middle of a grim prison yard, surrounded by almost 600 inmates, 55 of whom had imminent appointments with the gallows, listening to some of the best reggae I’ve heard to this day.

A few hours later, while I was still trying to get to grips with what I’d seen and heard, Spanish Town Jail is not, believe me, a very nice place, I was on the road again with Cowan, this time heading for the Kingston home of superstar Jimmy Cliff, where there was some record business and socialising to be taken care of. It was then I started to realise that, journalistically speaking, I’d struck reggae gold.

Tommy Cowan not only had his finger on the pulse of this wonderful new music, he was a significant part of that pulse.

If the full story of reggae, rocksteady, and ska is ever told, Cowan, without a doubt, is the person best qualified to tell it.

He’s been at the heart of the action from virtually the beginning, as singer, songwriter, manager, producer, concert promoter, talent scout, agent, and MC. His career began way back in 1964, when Kingston was throbbing with the new sounds of ska, and a fledgling group known as the Wailers had just started to make it big in the Jamaican charts.

Cowan joined a group called the Mericoles, who soon became the Jamaicans, and had a smash hit with a song called ‘Ba-Ba Boom Time’, winner of the prestigious Festival Song Competition in 1967.

As well as recording, the Jamaicans toured frequently, and Cowan got his first taste of life on the road in the United States and Canada, on the same line up as Byron Lee and the Dragonaires.

And he started to learn about the business of reggae.

In the early 70’s he made a major career move, joining Byron Lee’s Dynamic Sounds organisation as marketing manager. With the guidance of Lee, one of Caribbean music’s most astute businessmen, as well as a legendary bandleader, Cowan was soon helping manage the careers of many of the top Jamaican performers of that era.

He was also honing his business skills, and the ambitious young Cowan soon decided he was ready to branch out on his own. Lee gave his full support, and Talent Corporation was born.

Before long, Cowan was guiding the careers of Ras Michael, Zap Pow (featuring a promising young singer called Beres Hammond), Inner Circle, and Israel Vibration.

And his sprawling Kingston yard had become, as he puts it, an “inspiration centre” for reggae performers.

“Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer, and Bob Marley would frequent the place. Bob would play football at 1C, and he released ‘Natty Dread’ and ‘One Drop’ there. Bunny gave us ‘Blackheart Man’ to release and promote. Peter’s ‘Babylon Queendom’ and ‘Legalise It’ were released there as well.”

Cindy Breakespeare (who went on to become Miss World, and is the mother of Bob Marley’s son Damian “Junior Gong” Marley) worked in a restaurant on the premises.

For a few years, 1C Oxford Road was the heart of the reggae world. Then Tommy decided to join his good friend Marley in establishing what was to become an even more famous reggae address, 56 Hope Road, a few blocks away.

Cowan produced the legendary 1978 One Love Concert for Peace out of 56 Hope Road, using the sprawling colonial mansion, now converted to the Tuff Gong recording studio and reggae hangout, as its nerve centre.

He toured Europe with Marley, and played a key role in organising the historic Zimbabwe Independence Concert.

After Marley’s death in 1981, Cowan joined forces with the Reggae Sunsplash organisation, became main MC at its annual reggae festivals in Montego Bay, and toured the United States, Europe, Africa, and the Pacific islands when Sunsplash started to take leading reggae acts on the road.

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

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