‘It’s All Done By Mirrors’ released on All The Madmen Records was the first album by The Astronauts that I bought. I retrospectively bought the debut album ‘Peter Pan Hits The Suburbs’ shortly afterwards.
Although I ADORE ‘Peter Pan’, I far prefer ‘It’s All Done By Mirrors’ as I feel ‘Peter Pan’ is a little disjointed, switching from Inner City Unit-esq noise to twee folk and back again throughout the album.
Great though that sounds, and is, the album ‘It’s All Done By Mirrors’ feels a more complete album, the songs fitting more comfortably throughout the two sides of the vinyl.
This is ironic as originally six of the songs that ended up on ‘It’s All Done By Mirrors’ were already available, The Astronauts cassette tape released on the Anarres Co Operative imprint in 1983 entitled ‘Only Fools And Optimists’.
The sleeve notes mention a ‘future release on vinyl’.
“For those people fortunate enough to be acquainted with the music of The Astronauts, this cassette is a rare treat indeed. Side 1 has the added bonus of having two tracks featuring the superb soprano saxophone playing of Lol Coxhill. This side consists of 6 songs recorded in a 16-track studio by various combinations of The Astronauts. They are all professional quality recordings intended for future release on vinyl”.
A young Mick Lugworm who aside from being involved in several autonomous / peace centres in London, and in and around the Kill Your Pet Puppy Collective circle, was also sharing squatted houses with members of The Mob and others.
I believe (although happy to be corrected) that Mick was instrumental in getting the idea of releasing that side of the cassette tape onto vinyl into the relevant ears of Alastair and the other All The Madmen honchos who were at the time settled around the Hackney / Islington wastelands.
Mick was also instrumental in getting the Flowers In The Dustbin 12” single released on All The Madmen Records in similar fashion.
If All The Madmen Records had any music bizz structure in the early to mid 1980’s, then surely Mick would have been the Artist Relations Manager’!
The songs that ended up on the second side of ‘It’s All Done By Mirrors’ which were not on the previously released cassette tape are a mystery to me. I could probably find out easily enough, but I have been feeling somewhat lethargic recently, so I have not contacted anyone who might know for information.
When I do, I’ll add any snippets of information to this post.
Whenever or however the songs for the second side came about or were chosen for release with the songs already available, it matters not as they all magically fit perfectly within the grooves of both sides of vinyl, with barely any clue that songs might have been recorded at separate times, at separate studios, with separate engineers, and more than likely separate line ups of The Astronauts…
By 1985 I was helping out at All The Madmen Records, at that point based along Brougham Road in Hackney, so the final couple of Astronauts albums that were released on All The Madmen Records during that era, ‘Soon’ and ‘Seedy Side Of…’, I recall with a little more clarity, although perhaps not too much more!
Here is the original N.M.E review of ‘It’s All Done By Mirrors’ from the pen of Tony D…
It’s All Done By Mirrors (All the Madmen Records)
No-one’s going to complain of The Astronauts holding back in the world-stakes. An average song on this, their second album, unfolds a mini-saga or describes an isolation-tinged scenario with painstakingly effective attention to detail. From Mark Astronaut’s lyrical pen comes a woman dreaming of the Dorset coast whilst writing to her former lover (‘Seagull Mania’); or the man on the street and his wife living out the final day before nuclear destruction (‘Typically English Day’). Carefully drawn, their personalities delicately shaded in – textured is the word. Sung deep in the shadows of irony, these verbose vocals are the framework through which the raw violins and guitars are weaved. Punchy drums keep things alive and alert when wimp-out threatens, which it does too much to be comfortable. However, it’s hard not to feel akin to such a loosely anarchic platter. Let it rip!
Tony D, NME, October 1983
The photograph of The Astronauts featured on this YT post is from Tinsels collection…
The Astronauts were a band partly responsible for me starting to help out at All The Madmen Records back in 1985.
Just one part of a mish-mash roster of bands that included Flowers In The Dustbin, Zos Kia, Blyth Power and of course The Mob.
I was lucky enough to have been in and around the All The Madmen office, first in Brougham Road Hackney, and later on in Caledonian Road Kings Cross, when both these albums were being worked on for eventual release to the public.
Both these albums uploaded tonight showcase the bands mid ’80’s repertoire, which in general had a slightly ‘rockier’ edge, partly due to the drumming style of Arup Ghosh.
On the album ‘Soon’, recorded in 1985 and released in 1986, Lol Coxhill’s saxophone floats above the guitar, bass and drums on some of the tracks, soothing the rockier edges a little.
I have only placed the tracks recorded for this album in 1985 to this YT post, ignoring four of the tracks ending the B-side of this album, which were old tracks which were originally released in 1979 as 7″ singles on the Bugle record label based in Potters Bar, so not really relevant as All The Madmen material…
My personal pick of the songs on ‘Soon’ would have to be the Bowie-esq ‘Blues For A Septic’, but all the songs are above par.
The album ‘Seedy Side of…’ was released in 1987 towards the end of All The Madmen Records being active, prior to finally being wound down by Rob Challice in January / February 1988.
Slightly lighter in rock terms than ‘Soon’, this is my preferred album of the two uploaded tonight, mainly due to the B-side song, the two part, twelve minute long ‘Semaphore Man’ and the sublime ‘Indisputable Fact’.
Mark Astronauts’ well thought out lyrics are beautiful and impeccably delivered. Marks’ lyrics are always written with feeling and care, and have been that way since the songs have been appearing on cassette tapes and eventually the singles and albums.
A great final record for The Astronauts and the All The Madmen Records partnership, kicking off with the release of the album ‘All Done By Mirrors’ back in 1983.
I will upload that seminal album (and my personal favourite Astronaut album very soon).
‘All Done By Mirrors’, ‘Soon’ and ‘Seedy Side Of…’ and that was your lot, until 2013 and the revamped All The Madmen record label, born again, getting Mark From The Astronauts on board early doors to record new material for the label.
That’s how highly Mark Astronaut is viewed by the head honchos at All The Madmen Records now based between Bristol and Bath, and of course deserved and for good reason.
During the 1980’s I witnessed The Astronauts dozens and dozens of times, had all the records first time around, helped out at All The Madmen Records, getting to know the bands, including of course The Astronauts. I only bought one more record by The Astronauts, the ‘In Defence Of Compassion’ album released in 1989 on Acid Stings Records run by Robin Basak, one time Welwyn Garden City resident, Zero fanzine bod and fellow Mark Astronaut appreciator.
I had completely lost touch with Mark and his Astronauts by 1990 and that status remained for the following decade and a half.
I had no idea that Mark was still releasing records and performing with various new Astronaut members until the internet days of the mid 2000’s, when I was busy placing up the All The Madmen record label information onto Myspace and Facebook, while also working on the Kill Your Pet Puppy blog.
Surfing the ‘net back then helped me find Mark and the band again.
In 2010 (I think) ex All The Madmen staffers, Rob Challice, Sean ‘Gummidge’ and myself, were invited to participate in a documentary being filmed by Tali Clarke and Mathew Oaten entitled ‘Autumn Days’ which is available to view on the internet via Vimeo.
I was very happy to have revisited these albums recently, the albums had been stored on the racks for far too long.
All the audio, flyers and photographs featured in this YT post are from my collection.
This YT post is dedicated with love to Robert ‘Straight Up’ Dellar who passed away in 2016.
The absolutely majestic debut 12″ single by Blood And Roses, the only vinyl release from the classic line up and pretty much welded on to my turntable on release, alongside the debut Death Cult 12″ single and various Xmal Deutschland records.
Indebted to Andy Martin for suppling the essay below in 2010:
That it has taken me twenty-seven years to have in my collection any music by Blood & Roses is surely perverse. I knew both Bob Short and Lisa Kirby from my days as an unlikely secretary of April Housing Co-op and I met Richard Morgan, the first drummer (who tried – without success – to convince me that Magazine really were a group worthy of my attention). I think I met Jez James, too, but it was also so dark in that terraced house in Yoakley Road, Stoke Newington, that I could never tell who I was talking to; “Do any of you have any rent for us? You do know you’re two months in arrears.” Brief shuffling of feet from Bob accompanied by slightly guilty grin. “Oh, er, sorry Andy, not this week.”.
So why has it taken all this time for me to appreciate what they contributed to pop music, especially in a decade as starved of anything decent, interesting or relevant as the 1980’s?
First: in the 1980’s I was so completely submerged within my own private hell (still not recovered from nearly two years in a psychiatric hospital, realising I was queer and loathing it) that only truly psychotic music could break through the mental turmoil in which I suffered – i.e. The Pop Group, Throbbing Gristle, The Lemon Kittens and Five Or Six (to give four examples). Punk rock was always utterly irrelevant to me (middle class spoiled brats playing at being rebels only appeal to the homicidal side of my nature) and the few genuinely working-class people involved in the scene never seemed to bother being in bands.
Second: the group appeared to be adopted by the Kill Your Pet Puppy collective (as I perceived it – probably erroneously) and at the time I had an extremely turbulent relationship with that crowd – you see, I possessed the social skills of a rhinoceros (and probably still do – that I have hardly any friends will attest to that) yet these colourful characters actually dared to have parties and enjoy themselves in spite of – or perhaps to spite – Britain under Thatcher. I was unable to forgive such blatant decadence! After all, it was our duty to fight the good fight, to engage in the struggle and be forever frothing at the mouth with much wailing and gnashing of teeth while we locked ourselves in darkened rooms to plot the revolution. What an utterly boring bastard I must have been back then, unlike the supremely cool, windswept and interesting chap I am now.
Third: I was in a two-bit little pop group that I think I suspected was always destined to go nowhere very fast indeed and when Blood & Roses came along and showed us how it should be done, well, maybe I was just a little bit jealous.
Fourth: through no fault of the group, the music press (very briefly) developed a fascination with the group and decided to market them as New Goth Thing (oh Jesus, give us a break) and exaggerate the Crowley Connection. In fact Bob Short did possess books by the miserable magi but, unlike so many other people during the previous two decades, he actually read and understood them (in so far as anyone can genuinely comprehend a book by Crowley). My heroes were people like Arthur Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Fred Hoyle, Carl Sagan and Patrick Moore so anything even remotely associated with magick, UFOs or the supernatural (I naively made no distinction) I simply dismissed as irrelevant to me.
Also, there is nothing ‘Goth’ about Blood & Roses. How could anyone familiar with the group ever have concocted such an absurd relation?
The trouble is, whenever a pop group (or a writer, artist or film maker for that matter) cannot be easily labelled and categorised by those feeble-minded miscreants who are employed to write about such people, the public have shoved in their faces so much ineffable twaddle that everyone (even the group) becomes perplexed and confused. I do remember the day Blood & Roses appeared on the front cover of the NME (and, I think, one or two other glossy magazines). In retrospect it was an excessively damaging development – the group was given an identity totally inappropriate to what it was actually about and the audience was thus completely misled.
Had they been allowed to evolve at a more gradual pace, perhaps their ascent to the glory they deserved would have finally happened. That they were only able to release two singles and one album (whereas all that dismal and utterly irrelevant punk rubbish from Crass to The Exploited unleashed a torrent of vinyl, most of which was dire) is a damned shame, frankly – a case of quality rather than quantity.
Indebted to Tony D for the original typed transcript of his interview with Bob Short for Zig Zag magazine.
Dedicated with love to Lisa and Cory R.I.P.
Try as you might you will not find any articles on any websites regarding Tribesman.
Nothing apart from a couple of YouTube posts, eBay and Discogs, and other commercial outlets persuading the viewer to purchase some original or re-released copies of the 7″ and 12″ singles and the one album pressed up during the band’s career.
Nothing else on-line. Ziltch.
I have not found any mention of Tribesman in any of the reggae books that I own, and I own quite a few!
Before I got bored, I glanced through the more obvious books that the band might have garnered a mention at least.
Steve Barrow’s ‘Rough Guide To Reggae’, David Katz ‘ Solid Foundation’ Tighten Up – The History Of Reggae In The U.K (ahem, except one band), the Virgin Encyclopedia Of Reggae (yuck – a Christmas present several years back, but does list about every reggae artist and band (ahem, except one band).
Further, I looked in Steven Davis’ ‘Reggae International’ and finally Dave Thompson’s ‘Reggae And Caribbean Music’ and Lloyd Bradley’s ‘Bass Culture’ and ‘Sounds Like London’.
Nothing in books. Ziltch.
Absolute madness considering…
What I do know is that Tribesman seemed to have been close to Dave Goodman, ex live soundman, and the studio producer for Sex Pistols in 1976.
Dave Goodman produced the Tribesman records that were released in 1978 and 1979 via ‘Boa’ Records, affiliated to his ‘Label’ record label, the latter record label better known as the recording home of punk band, Eater, and novelty records like the ‘Cash Pussies’ 7″ single.
Tribesman released three records for Boa Records;
The ‘Rocking Time’ 7″ single.
The ‘Finsbury Park’ 7″ and 12″ single.
The ‘Street Level’ album.
Tribesman also released a promotional mini album that I own, released on Dave Goodman’s aforementioned ‘Label’ record label. The generic sleeved album unofficially known as ‘Wonder Wolf’ due to the title of the first track on the album.
Overall Tribesman’s sound (in my opinion) is similar to the U.K’s foundation reggae bands that were formed in the late 1960’s and the dawn of the 1970’s. Bands like Matumbi and Cimarons.
Tribesman (again in my opinion) sound similar to the way those two foundation reggae bands did sound towards the end of the 1970’s, leaning towards a more commercial sound but with some attitude, compared to their mid to late 1970’s contemporaries, the tougher sound with nothing BUT attitude, of Aswad, Black Slate and Misty In Roots.
This extended play 12″ single by Tribesman does seem to sit more comfortably with the tougher reggae bands.
Adding to the kudos of these recordings, ‘Finsbury Park’ features the horn section of Dick Cuthell and Rico Rodriguez, two legendary musicians who were also busy recording and touring with The Specials in 1979.
I have seen a mention of Tribesman being part of the whole R.A.R scene in 1978, which is righteous enough.
Like Marley, Tosh grew up in effect fatherless in the countryside, yet made his life an extraordinary trajectory. When I first met him in a New York hotel to cover Legalize It, he reminisced warmly about the “peeny-wally” (fireflies) he loved to capture as a boy, to guide him through the forest at night. Peter’s alpha male charisma shared the creatures’ restless, irrepressible twinkle. These belated, deserved official recognitions cannot bottle the zany flamboyance with which Peter approached his revolutionary mission.
Startling Tosh tales abound, usually recounted with lingering amazement, even awe, by associates. I can’t forget one heated exchange that the photographer Kate Simon and I had with Tosh in a Kingston car park. Like many Rasta rebels, along with Peter’s fierce kung fu moves and ever-ready tracksuit garb, he could be a pretty patriarchal radical. To confirm his point, he bellowed that there was nothing more to be said, as he could make the thunder roar and the lightning flash. In an operatic gesture, he pointed to the sky. Right on cue, the elements loudly and brightly obliged, to Kate’s and my stupefaction. You can call it cheap theatre, but I’m not sure how you’d actually buy it; and as a closing argument, it was compelling. Passionate about mystic African science, Tosh was known to replicate such shamanism elsewhere, giving substance to another of his chosen titles – the Bush Doctor.
In these arguably drier digital days, discussing such cosmic flourish could be seen as an attempt to trivialise Tosh’s political seriousness. Rather, Tosh was an uncompromising Afrofuturist, whose highly charged livity (as Rastas call a way of life) helped make him a lightning rod for conflict. Tosh understood brotherhood. Rumours of sibling rivalry around the Wailers split must be countered by the fact that Marley helped fund Legalize It when the label’s money ran out. Yet Tosh banged heads with his friend and then label boss Keith Richards, whose mountaintop Ocho Rios home Tosh first visited, then commandeered. The salvoes burnished both men’s piratical myths.
But more seriously, Tosh’s brutally blunt, wickedly satirical rants, as well as his ganja habits, led to innumerable beatings by the police, more than once approaching the point of death – a tragic resistance fighter’s accolade that Tosh shares with Nigeria’s postcolonial liberation musician Fela Anikulapo-Kuti. It was one year after the army destroyed Fela’s Lagos commune, leading to the death of his mother, that Marley found himself in a Kingston prison cell, shocked to tears by the sight of his close bred’ren Tosh lying battered and bleeding on the floor.
This brutalization, the gravest of many, was prompted by Tosh’s showstopping speech at the One Love Peace Concert held in 1978 to mark the truce between downtown’s warring dons, which had led to a politically motivated attempt on Marley’s life two years previously – part of a spectacularly bloody run-up to the election. Supported by the classic Sly and Robbie rhythm section of his Words, Sound & Power band, Tosh boldly skewered corruption in the world, Jamaica and the audience itself, scathingly naming names in a bravura performance that stunned the crowded stadium.
And vengeance had soon come. So a violent death may not have been unlikely for Peter Tosh, though ultimately, its manner was unexpected and grotesque. Along with his DJ bred’ren, Doc Brown and Jeff “Free-I” Dixon, Tosh was shot to death on 11 September 1987 in his Kingston home by Dennis “Leppo” Lobban, a longtime acquaintance recently released from prison, whom Tosh had been trying to help.
It was Marlene Brown’s testimony that about 7:30 pm on September 11, 1987 amidst drinks and subdued laughter, the night’s quietude was shattered by the unexpected entry of “Leppo” Lobban, accompanied by two gunmen, hitherto unknown to her.
Lobban was toting a gun. They were ordered to “belly it”. She understood that to mean, they should lie face down. Lobban demanded “US currency”.
Lobban instruct the two men who accompanied him to disarm Tosh, as “he was a Black Belt”, whereupon Tosh was frisked and gun-butted; he seemed unconscious. When she objected to the remarks made by Lobban, witness testified that Lobban threatened to kick Tosh, who was lying there helpless on the floor.
Just about then, witness recalled, there was a knock at the door. One of the gunmen opened the door. Free I and his wife were ushered in. They too, were ordered to lie face down on the floor.
Free I objected and a gun was jammed into his side. He obeyed. They were all stripped of their jewellery and other personal effects.
What followed after was a barrage of shots. Tosh, Free I and Wilton Brown was killed instantly.
Marlene Brown was shot in the head but lived.
When the men were about to leave, one of them observed: “She no dead!”
He was about to turn back, but Lobban commanded: “Come! She dead a’ready.”
Sybil Hibbert – Jamaican Observer
Indebted to Gerry Ford for the audio of this Crass performance. Gerry’s memory is hazy but as far as he recalls this tape was given to him by the singer of the original Chaos UK who he remembers as ‘Paul’ but according to Discogs is Andy Snell. He was punting his ‘Summer Of Hate’ single and offering the Crass tape as an incentive. He told Gerry that he had recorded it himself.
The sound is pretty atrocious but good enough for a document of this performance.
Indebted to Matt Worley for kindly digging into his music weeklies collection to find the issue that had the Jon Savage review of the evening among its ‘black ink on fingers’ print…
This was not the first time that these three bands had shared a stage together.
An earlier ‘Small Wonder Records’ showcase was held at the Camden / Mornington Crescent Music Machine in February 1979, with The Wall, Poison Girls, Crass, Nicky And The Dots and Puncture.
Tony D of Ripped And Torn / Kill Your Pet Puppy infamy ‘noticed’ Crass at this Music Machine event, prompting him to attend other Crass and Poison Girls events throughout that year and into the 1980’s. Tony D had seen Crass before 1979 (but did not notice anything special at that time) in November 1977 supporting The Nipple Erectors and Dead Fingers Talk at the Drill Hall in Covent Garden.
The Jon Savage review of the Acklam Hall gig is written in full, and not altered, below.
A sparsely attended benefit for the Anarchist Black Cross Cienfuegos Press; a slow night – both the cause and it’s supporting groups (safely) out of the clutches of local London fashion – offering a good chance to see three diverse groups still struggling to find the best way of presenting their ideas.
What’s rumbling under the surface?
The Wall played what has by now become orthodox, four square ‘political’ (as in Clash) punk: lyrics about Sunday papers, Malcolm McClaren etc, dual guitar whine, breakneck rhythm section.
As often, touches proclaimed the groups own identity emerging from the stylistic straitjacket: the singer sang gruffly, scratched some subtle guitar and hogged the spotlight like a man drowning; the subtlety, and some understandable cynicism. Belied the impression they could give up heading straight for the Sham / Upstarts / Subs vortex. Given the chance however they may well.
The Poison Girls; black and red, bizarre, they play music that on the night suffered from lack of control and nervousness, veering uncomfortably from a powerful frustration to numbing boredom.
An initially aberrant line up – superficially from left to right, an early middle aged ascetic intellectual, a middle age, short and plump lady with a rangy blond youth with a tiny guitar – eventually makes sense in a way that haunts and suggests a whole range of expressive possibilities.
What is impressive; their dignity, quiet and strong, and one extraordinary song ‘Piano Lessons’.
Crass have been reviled by exactly the relevant writers to suggest that they maybe doing something right: contradictions aside, their show is an impressive assault.
The set begins with a recitative; ‘Asylum’, delivered over a hail of feedback by Eve Libertine. There-on the sound varies little: apparently, basic incompetent punk thrashes (the name is Crass remember) with rousing aggressive chanting – unremittingly bleak and harsh, the silence at the end like light at the end of a dark tunnel.
After due consideration, the contradictions are inherent and sought: Crass are a deliberate, intriguing mixture of awkwardness and sureness, staginess and unselfconsciousness, complexity (ideas) and simplicity (presentation).
And yet again, although the sound varies little, four vocalists are used: Steve Ignorant, Pete Wright, Eve Libertine and Virginia Creeper (on the un-recorded ‘Shaven Women’). The basic noise is informed by thought and subtlety.
Further in seeking to confront not only our ‘system’ but peoples need to believe in it, Crass tread on ground that is often dangerous.
An example: they all (eight) wear what passes for a uniform – black, ripped (yet carefully tended) clothes, militarist boots and hairstyles.
Behind them is hung the Crass logo: a visual mixture of various nationalist symbols.
The resultant ambiguity has led them being called on more than one occasion ‘left-wing fascists’ (eh?). This is a sloppy fashionable reaction, but understandable in the current context of polarisation.
Crass attack but refuse to lead; the problems that may occur will arise out of the audience’s habitation to being told what to think and so on… anything may happen.
And, finally, Crass are at a crossroads (the first of many); used to being reviled (if not courting it)., they reacted awkwardly to the demands of an encore that followed the set. Obscurity is easy, but how do you cope with even limited success?
Now that’s the test.
Jon Savage – Sounds Music Weekly – March 1979.