The Mob formed in a village near Yeovil in Somerset, England, around the beginning of 1978. The band at this time consisted of Mark (guitar, vocals and songwriter), Graham (drums), and Curtis (bass and backing vocals). All of the members of The Mob had previously been in a band called Magnum Force while at school together…
The Mob played local halls and did not go too far out of the west country region during this early time in the band’s history.
A lot of the early gigs were attended by local meatheads, and there was quite a bit of hostility shown from some members of the audience towards the band and their friends, which sometimes ended in violence. This aggression was common all over England during and after punks ‘heyday’ specifically in small towns and villages. The Mob blagged a slot on the 1978 Stonehenge free festival, a festival which the band supported and had attended before the punk explosion of 1977. The Mob performed at this free festival throughout the following years until the band’s breakup in 1983.
The following year in 1979, the band’s gigs opened up quite a bit, the band went on the road with Here and Now who drew a different audience than the ‘bored youngsters’ that would cause trouble in youth clubs in and around Yeovil. The band also experienced playing their first European gigs with Here And Now. Both these bands performed together in Holland towards the end of 1979 which was useful for The Mob as they got to know the members, and the hangers on, of the free festival scene. The Mob performed for a second year at the Stonehenge free festival during the summer solstice.
At this time there was a small explosion of various like minded individuals in the local area who had started bands and began to organise their gigs with The Mob. Some of the friends included Geoff, who had the original All The Madmen fanzine based at his parents house, where most of the friends would hang out without too much grief from Geoff’s parents.
The record label name, soon to be born, was a continuation of the fanzine name. The fanzine was dying down a bit by 1979-80. The members of The Mob, Debbie (who went on to form My Bloody Valentine in the mid 1980’s) and Christine from The Bikini Mutants were also regular friends and visitors to Geoff’s parents house along with Wilf who supplied the artwork for a lot of the releases on the All The Madmen record label and all The Mob’s vinyl output in particular.
The Androids Of Mu were also close to The Mob at this time.
The band’s first single ‘Crying Again’ 7″ was recorded in the winter of 1979 at Crypt Studios in Stevenage, by Here And Now’s soundman, and resident Street Level Studios engineer, Grant Showbiz.
The record was released on Geoff’s All The Madmen record label, with the help of Max who saved up a fair bit of cash to put the single out in the early months of 1980.
The next single, the ‘Witch Hunt’ 7″ was recorded in the summer of 1980 at Spaceward in Cambridge, and had a much bigger impact, reaching further out via the network of fanzines growing up in the rise of Crass and bands of that scene. Also John Peel played it a bit, and therefore this single was just about everybody’s first experience of The Mob specifially if you were outside the band’s immediate local area.
At the start of ‘Witch Hunt’, there is a blood-curdling scream, this scream was used on the ansa-phone message when ringing up Geoff’s house in Larkhill Road from then on!
More local gigs followed, also a small ‘free’ tour in the vein of what Here And Now were promoting a year earlier. This tour was called Weird Tales and included The Mob, The Astronauts, Zounds, Andriods Of Mu plus any local bands that happened to be in the area the tour had got to that day. The band’s got paid by passing around a hat during the gigs…
A few tracks still exist on tape of this era, mostly on Kif Kif’s cassette label Fuck Off tape label, ‘Tribute To Bert Weeden’ and a little later on ‘Folk In Hell’ being two of them worth listening to.
The band played the Stonehenge free festival in 1980, unfortunately this was the year when some trouble brewed up during the day from some violent biker gangs who did not have the patience to listen to ‘punk’ music and specifically Crass who were to play there set later on in the evening. The Snipers and The Mob got off lightly, but when The Epileptics (soon to be renamed Flux Of Pink Indians) were performing the trouble started and many people were hurt in the clashes. Zounds, Poison Girls and Crass did not even get to perform as the promoters and the sound guy, Grant Showbiz, could not guarantee the safety of these bands or the punks who had come to see them perform. Ironically both Crass and Poison Girls successfully played this same festival the year before in 1979 with no trouble whatsoever. The difference between both years, according to Mark Mob, was that hundreds of ‘Kings Road’ fashion punks turned up in 1980. This is what seemed to upset the biker gangs.
In the beginning of 1981, Mark and Curtis moved up to London into the squats of Brougham Road, Graham had decided to stay in Yeovil so the band were in need of a new drummer. After previously trying out Adie (from Null And Void) and a guy called Tim Hutton (from Zounds), they recruited fellow Brougham Road resident Josef Porter (from Zounds, Null And Void and Entire Cosmos).
On the back of the popularity of the ‘Witch Hunt’ single, and with the new drummer in place, the band got together to record some tracks to be released on cassette format. The tape was recorded in Josef’s bedroom in Brougham Road, Hackney and was eventually entitled ‘Ching’. This very basic bedroom recording was sold at gigs and through mailorder to people writing to the band.
The Mob caught the attention of Penny Rimbaud, drummer and writer for the seminal anarcho-punk band Crass, who recruited them for a recording of a single on Crass Records.
‘No Doves Fly Here’ 7″ is not quite like anything else the Mob ever recorded. This is partly because of the tune’s violently slow pace and vivid anti-war lyrics. It’s also due to the production tweaks added later by Rimbaud at Southern Studios in North London, including his famous sound clips and a very prominent synth track that the band hadn’t expected. At the time when the soon to be released record was sent to The Mob, the sound effects annoyed the band members to various degrees. There are test pressings of the original drum and bass version around, which sounds decent enough, but I think what Penny tried to do does add emotion to the tracks, and the tracks sound better for the tweaking. That is just my view though, and I must add, I also like and respect Penny very much!
More information on this release by The Mob HERE
The intense power of the song, combined with Crass’ better distribution via Rough Trade, ensured this release to be in the top 5 of the then independent charts for several weeks.
The Mob played a Streetlevel music festival in 1982 at a playground on Hampstead Heath, this performance was witnessed by Alistair Livingston, Tony D, Val D, Min and several other notible Kill Your Pet Puppy collective members. The first time the band and the fanzine contributors had crossed paths.
The band also performed at the infamous ZigZag squat gig in December 1982, along with some of the best in the anarcho-punk scene including Omega Tribe, Faction, D.I.R.T, Null And Void, Lack Of Knowledge, The Apostles, Conflict, Poison Girls, D & V, and Crass themselves. This gig was partly organised by members of the Kill Your Pet Puppy collective.
In the autumn of 1982, The Mob recorded some tracks at Spaceward with the financial help of Kill Your Pet Puppy collective members, Alistair Livingston and Mick Lugworm. The product was released by All the Madmen records early on in the spring of 1983 with the backing of Geoff Travis of Rough Trade, who saw the potential in dealing with this band / label for his organisation.
The ‘Let The Tribe Increase’ album was a milestone for The Mob, and for the anarcho scene that the band had been lumped into against their wishes. The band never wanted any labels pushed onto them, although the band members had respect for all the individuals that they crossed paths with, bands, writers, activists etc. The album is considered a ‘classic’ by many 1000’s of people around the world, and rightly so.
The release came with stunning artwork from Wilf (borrowed if we are to be polite, from Alternative TV’s second album ‘Vibing Up The Senile Man’ – The ATV album nobody liked, because the tracks were not fast and did not have enough fuzz boxes on them) and a huge poster…
The original artwork by Wilf that was considered would have been too expensive to print so the band went for the cheaper two colour option instead.
The album hit the top 3 in the independent charts with the help of the fanzine writers and the music weeklies of the time which in no small way was down to Alistair Livingston and Tony D from Kill Your Pet Puppy fanzine pushing the album whenever and wherever they could, including getting a cover and centre spread of Punk Lives magazine which had quite a large circulation at the time. Also The Mob who had previously been playing to such colourful audiences at the Wapping Autonomy Centre, the Centro Iberico, Meanwhile Gardens and a host of other ‘off the circuit’ venues throughout the last couple of years helped to push the record.
Furthermore bands like Blood And Roses, Sex Gang Children, Southern Death Cult and Brigandage were getting positive publicity at the time, and The Mob were generally regarded as a similar sort of band attitude wise, esp in the better fanzines like Kill Your Pet Puppy and Vague, as well as the music weeklies like the N.M.E.
The final Mob release was the ‘Mirror Breaks’ 7″, again recorded at Spaceward and released in the summer of 1983. Musically it was one of the prettier songs that the band had attempted, but with the same feel and some of the best lyrics of any Mob song in the set at the time.
This last single was selling very well, as was the album, what better time to knock it all on the head, and get something else done than during the pinnacle of the band…!
Mark Mob decided a couple of months after a European tour in the winter of 1983, to put down his guitar, put his teepee in the truck, and roam around the countryside, originally with the Peace Convoy, then settling at Pooh Corner for several years, later still settling down near Bath with his family.
The Mob bowing out at the top of the band’s popularity was a sensible thing to have done, and the band’s legacy is greater for it.
In 1984 Josef and Curtis continued performing together with Blyth Power until those old friends split up late 1986.
Josef carried on Blyth Power for many years with different line ups, and they still play a few times a year. Curtis has settled in Wales and has became a chef. He hopes to own his own restaurant sometime in the future. Josef is now in charge of testing models (airfix toys not girls) for a magazine. Josef’s ‘dream’ job. Mark has a van parts business, buying and selling scrap metal. He spends a fair bit of time in his second home in Morrocco. Wilf, the artist of all the record sleeves and much more than that, a close friend to all the band, passed away in the late 1990’s.
All the Madmen records continued thoughout under Alistair Livingston’s guidance after Mark Mob had disappeared in 1984. He helped release the Astronauts album ‘All Done By Mirrors’ in late 1983, the Flowers In The Dustbin 12″ and the Zos Kia 7″ in 1984 featuring Kill Your Pet Puppy collective member, Min.
Rob Challice from Faction, took the record label over in 1985 and released a whole heap more material by Blyth Power, The Astronauts and Thatcher On Acid until early 1988, when All The Madmen records closed it’s doors for the last time.
All artwork by Wilf including the record sleeves, photographs from the collections of Mark Mob, Min, Val D and Penguin. Joanne Childs also supplied the original Wilf artwork that heads this post and Mark Mob supplied the original artwork for the ‘Let The Tribe Increase’ LP.
The very early Mob flyer promoting a gig at Poole courtesy of Kerr Ray Z Fokker, the Weird Tales Tour posters and photo are from Nick Godwins collection and all other flyers and the two examples of Wilf’s artwork at the bottom of the post from Penguin’s collection.