The Astronauts – Genius / Bugle Records – 1980

Still Talking / Baby Sings Folk Songs / How Long Is A Piece Of String / Amplified World / Midsummer Lullaby

Everything Stops For Baby / Protest Song / Sod Us / The Traveller / How Green Was My Valley

Happy 30th anniversary to The Astronauts and of course Mark Wilkins who has led the band all this time…search for more rare Astronauts material somewhere else on this site

Text below written by Robin Basak of Zero fanzine fame and ripped with love from his Acid Stings site.

Eternal long-haired losers who also have some of the best tunes this semi-legendary band has only released six albums in its long existence but each of them is a bonafide classic. The Astronauts second album ‘All Done By Mirrors’ judged by those who heard it as among the best albums of all time was a stunning collection of explosive pop songs and traditional folk ballads recorded at a time when all their gigs were with anarchist punk bands. Their fifth album ’In Defence Of Compassion’ experimented with ambient house music years before other conventional bands even thought of doing so.

With so many excellent songs (many never recorded it is probably the Astronauts enthusiasm for drugs and music over career and changing fashions which has stopped them becoming as well known as they should be).

Inspired by the UK punk explosion Mark Astronaut formed the band with a few friends in 1977 and began playing local gigs in their hometown of Welwyn Garden City. By 1979 The Astronauts were regularly appearing at free festivals and gigs in London organised by a hippy collective known as Fuck Off Records and from these began a close friendship with then London based punk bands Zounds and the Mob. That year the first Astronauts EP was released on local label Bugle Records and musically it reflected the hippie drug culture combined with the energy of punk. ‘All Night Party’ still sounds like the paranoid nightmare it did back then. The record established the Astronauts on the local gig scene among the non mainstram hippie/punk/biker crowd. Also in 1979 an EP was released under the assumed name of Restricted Hours on the Stevenage Rock Against Racism label. ‘Getting Things Done’ attacked the political apathy of smalltown life while ‘Still Living Out The Carcrash’ was musically a typically nightmarish theme.

By 1980 gigs throughout England with Zounds had won over an army of fans and the ‘Pranksters In Revolt’ EP sold all its copies within weeks. Musically the four songs were not as adventurous as the first EP although the lyrics were as incisive as ever. Like many great bands from the postpunk era the Astronauts were completely ignored by the UK music press which then as now was only interested in anything trendy, fashionable or middle class. Local fanzine Zero began to champion the band as did the local newspapers.

‘Peter Pan Hits The Suburbs’ album was released in 1981 to widespread acclaim. Incredibly it received great reviews in virtually all the UK music press. The typical Astronauts audience at the time was largely hardcore punks attracted by the energetic gigs and a handful of hippies so the album was something of a surprise. Full of heartfelt folk ballads and featuring legendary jazz saxophonist Lol Coxhill the album was not what fans had expected but appealed to a different audience. The contradiction of heavy chaotic punk performances and structured melodic alternative pop/folk/ambient songs continues to this day.

Throughout 1982-1985 there were hundreds of gigs with the many anarcho punk bands of the era and ‘All Done By Mirrors’ was arguably the finest album to date. The ‘Soon’ album featured great songs but was let down by lifeless production while the ‘Seedy Side Of Paul’ album combined a scathing indictment of the 1980s attitudes of greed with some truly wonderful songs. By 1986 Mark was fed up with constant gigs and decided to slow down. Astronauts songs were always socially aware and ‘In Defence Of Compassion’ album had the usual great tunes but was also very bleak. By contrast the ‘Constitution/Please Don’t Come Around Tonight’ 7″ was an upbeat pop punk gem.

In 1991-92 the Astronauts recorded their finest album for Acid Stings. For once it captured the heaviness of their live sound but due to instability within the band and lack of cash the album has yet to be released. Despite this the Astronauts can still be found playing gigs in forgotten parts of London and Welwyn Garden City.

22 Responses to “The Astronauts – Genius / Bugle Records – 1980”

  1. Andy Says:

    I’ve been looking for this for so long! Huge thanks =o)

  2. Penguin Says:

    No probs – that’s part of what this site is about…cheers

  3. admin Says:

    I’ve had this on a C90 for 26 years and never known what it was called. Thanks Penguin.

    This is one of my all time favourite albums. Side two still chills me in a scary way.

  4. SteveE Says:

    Peter Pan is a great album!

    You wouldn’t have “Seedy Side Of…” there somewhere, would you?

    It’s the one Astronauts LP I’ve never been able to track down.

  5. Penguin Says:

    Yeah got all the early ones. Will put it up sometime next week.

  6. SteveE Says:

    Thanks Penguin! :-) I look forward to it.

  7. Steve Ardcorr Says:

    Mark Wilkins fans should check out the Otters on myspace
    (http://www.myspace.com/theottersband )
    They’ve got a couple of tracks up there and curiously typical they are too.

  8. Paul Wilson Says:

    I forgot how much i loved the astronauts til i heard this yesterday

  9. Justin Sane Says:

    Thanks for posting this – they’ve got to be one of the most underrated bands ever.

  10. Nuzz Says:

    Mark is The Astronaut. His mission will never end. Top geezer.

  11. Penguin Says:

    The Astronauts – Seedy Side LP now uploaded in post 86 section

  12. SteveE Says:

    Thanks, Penguin!

    Greatly appreciated!!! :-)

  13. Thross Says:

    So good to hear, brings back great memories. Anyone from Welwyn still alive out there? Hey Mark, you should have signed that deal…

  14. Joe Says:

    Hi Thross, I reside in Welwyn AND I’m alive! Hopefully we’ll see some Astronauts reissues soon if we’re lucky…keep checking the link above.

  15. Astronauts Says:

    The Astronauts – The Donkey Riding – EP

    The first studio recordings from legendary anarchic folk-punks The Astronauts in almost a decade – burning with passion, wit and bile

    1. Donkey Riding
    2. Erupting
    3. Lonely and Loaded
    4. Waiting For July

    Featuring the irrepressible Mark Astronaut (lead vocals and songwriting) and the stalwart line up of Rico (guitar), Grae J (guitar, harmonica and backing vocals), Andy (violin), Sean (drums) and Matt (bass) along with some keyboard from Joe on Erupting.

    details on myspace page

    cheers x

  16. Matt Tangled Says:

    I’ve just been listening to my CD copy (old school I know!) of this album.
    Its a classic album with great tunes and searing lyrics.
    One of the best out there for a nostalgia wave….
    Its All Done By Mirrors was a classic too.

    I remember me and my mate getting a lift back to Cardiff with them after a great gig somewhere in Swansea-damn good folk.
    I remember the punk rock element being mystified by this hippy looking character (Mark Astro) getting very animated which culminating in him swinging a chair round his head. Great times.

    This is a great site, as the fanzine was back in the day, well done Penguin.

  17. Rob Says:

    I loved the Astronauts so much I released some of their records. When UK punk had become a cliche’ and ‘alternative’ music was vapid only the Astronauts and the Apostles were interesting. Living in Welwyn meant I was able to see them over 100 times. They were sometimes chaotic but mostly inspiring and occasionally mindblowing.

  18. Marcus Blakeston Says:

    FYI this has just been re-released on vinyl, so you might want to remove it for the few weeks that it will be available :)

  19. Dave Sez Says:

    Terrific! I’ll be adding this to our Here & Now/Planet Gong/Street Level megapost where you’ll find links to more put-of-print Astronauts … cheers, Dave Sez.

    http://knowyourconjurer.blogspot.com/2010/12/here-now-megapost-by-dave-sez-go-get.html

  20. pinkie Says:

    Thanks so much – downloading this right now!!

  21. Broccers Says:

    Love this LP thanx means I don’t have to convert it me self.
    They were a local band so I managed to see them live quite a lot first time being
    on The Campus in Welwyn Garden City at a peace festival and the fondness grew from there.

    I have just posted a live Mark Astronaut recording on my blog from 1988

    http://www.ivomit4u.blogspot.com.

    Just like to say a big thanx for all the memories and joy your site brings me.

    Appreciate your hard work.

  22. gavin Says:

    Cheers so much for putting this up. Terrific. Unfortunately the clash and clatter of many anarchy punk bands drowned out the beauty of these guys…what a fantastic album

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