Uploaded tonight is a set from The Astronauts recorded via the mixing desk at the infamous and much missed Sir George Robey pub in Finsbury Park. On this particular night the headliners were Blyth Power recently ‘reformed’ with Steve Corr on guitar, Protag on bass and Sian Jefferies on secondary vocals. Josef and Sarah were the only survivors from the first line up with the departure of Curtis, Neil and Andy to pastures new.
The first band to perform on this spring night were Hysteria Ward, a band that contained Puppy Collective member from a few years previously, Louise and who had just released a cassette only album via All The Madmen records. Blyth Power were still (just about) signed up to All The Madmen records as were The Astronauts who were going to be releasing the ‘Seedy Side Of The Astronauts’ album a little later on in 1987.
Blyth Power were shortly to sign to Midnight Music who started to release several decent albums and singles up to the early part of the 1990′s, ending that stint with Midnight Music with a secondary guitarist Jamie Hince in the band. The same Jamie Hince who would become Kate Moss’s husband in 2011.
This All The Madmen showcase gig went as far as I can remember went without incident and was an enjoyable affair with all bands doing well on the night. Of course most, if not all of the crowd wanted to see Blyth Power’s debut performance with the new line up. From memory Blyth Power were as enjoyable as they were when the band last performed at the same venue in December 1986 with the previous line up and with other All The Madmen records bands, We Are Going To Eat You and Thatcher On Acid in tow. I did not take photographs of The Astronauts during this gig at the Sir George Robey but I did a few months later in August at the Meanwhile Gardens festival when The Astronauts performed with We Are Going To Eat You a band that also have their own post on KYPP (a few posts under this one). The photographs I took then was of the same line up that performed at the Sir George Robey back in the spring so I am adding some of them to this post.
This Astronauts set has many tracks that do not get heard that much anymore. My cassette tape is straight from the mixing desk, but only has forty five minutes of the performance. I assume (but can not actually remember) that the sound man on the night did not flip the cassette towards the end of the set, but forty five minutes of The Astronauts is better than no minutes so here you go.
Text below taken off Devotional Hooligan so thanks to him. All photographs and the flyer from my collection…
Eternal long-haired losers. This semi-legendary band have only released seven 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 London 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 mainstream 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 small town 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 post-punk 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.
The debut album ‘Peter Pan Hits The Suburbs’ was released by Bugle / Genius Records 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 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 the second album ‘All Done By Mirrors’ on All The Madmen Records was arguably the finest album to date. ‘Soon’ again on All The Madmen Records featured great songs but was let down by lifeless production, yet it still remains one of my favourite albums.
‘Seedy Side Of The Astronauts’ combined a scathing indictment of the 1980s attitudes of greed with some truly wonderful songs. By 1988 Mark was fed up with constant gigs and decided to slow down.