The Desperate Bicycles – Refill Records – 1978

Occupied Territory


Two lo-fi tracks of sublime beauty are on the fourth record released by The Desperate Bicycles.

Got to be one of my favorite 7″s that I own, seriously love the A side ‘Occupied Territory’…all six minutes of it! A near perfect pop record for the old folk browsing the site.

Text below ripped from site in a grateful style.

Formed in Dalston East London during March 1977, the Desperate Bicycles were one of the first bands to seriously aspire to the DIY recording ethic that punk had sent into overdrive. They took one stage further Mark Perry’s 3 chord call to action and showed groups could have total artistic control. A concept later taken up by bands like Crass.

The band formed the Refill label in May 1977 and released their first single Smokescreen/Handlebars (unusual EP featuring same tracks on both sides and in mono and a break down of recording costs on the back) for the mighty sum of £153 for 500 copies and recorded in 3 hours. They repeated this six months later with The Medium Was The Tedium/Don’t Back The Front (Refill July 77) this time pressing 1000 copies. New Cross New Cross a six track EP was released in May 78 – Holidays/Housewife Song/Cars/(I Make The) Product/ Paradise Lost/Advice (On Arrest). One more – Occupied Territory/Skill (Refill July 1978). While never troubling the charts each release self financed the next and by 1980 they had managed 6 singles.

  1. luggy
    January 10, 2009 at 5:33 pm

    Great single, my favourite one of theirs. Prefer ‘Skill’ myself though.

  2. Steve
    January 10, 2009 at 6:10 pm

    Occupied Territory is the DIY punk Bohemian Rhapsody!

    But in a good way, natch.

  3. Nuzz
    January 10, 2009 at 7:20 pm

    “It was easy, it was cheap go and do it.” a rallying cry, brilliant band!

  4. baronvonzubb
    January 10, 2009 at 7:21 pm

    ‘Natch’; Does that mean ‘noch’?
    Great band, great ethics.
    Crap watch…Thats why they never charted.

  5. richpassivity
    January 13, 2009 at 6:09 pm

    While it is obviously their choice/right etc I find it odd that THE DESPERATE BICYCLES have never reissued their stuff on CD & have declined all offers by labels such as Rough Trade & Acute (who did the PREFECTS & METAL URBAIN reissues) to do the same. You would have thought they would have espoused availability/access to their music?
    Nevertheless a great, inspirational band.

  6. Richard Cabut
    Richard Cabut
    January 13, 2009 at 9:34 pm

    Desperate Nicky Stephens is now a carpenter in Nunhead. He put up some floating shelves in our living room, and a good job he did, too.

  7. Tony Puppy
    Tony Puppy
    January 13, 2009 at 11:01 pm

    Richard, I’m surprised he didn’t say to you, “it’s cheap and it’s easy, go and do it”.

  8. Richard Cabut
    Richard Cabut
    January 14, 2009 at 12:48 pm

    Me too, Tony. I asked him for a breakdown of costs and sources so that I could take control of the production process, but he told me to do one.

  9. richpassivity
    January 14, 2009 at 6:40 pm

    You should have given him a Kick, Richard!

  10. Martin C
    Martin C
    January 14, 2009 at 10:36 pm

    Love the DBs – where else can you find instantly memorable pop choruses detailing exactly what to do and say down the cop shop after being nicked? I know Conflict tried it with ‘The Arrest’, but, even years later, I still remember the ‘Advice on Arrest’ chorus.

    Fantastic fucking band, ‘Smokescreen’ is amazingly, melancholically beautiful, ‘I Make the Product’ is worth ten million situatuionist wanky ‘anti-work’ manifestos, and as for ‘Grief is Very Private’…full respect to them for not licensing the stuff to CD. Some stuff’s worth digging around for. Luckily, the bloated record dealer pigs haven’t ever been able to push the 7″ prices up to the exorbitant level. I would say though, avoid the ‘Remorse Code’ LP – they’d finally become ‘competent’ musicians but, by their own admission, it was pretty soulless and almost an admission of defeat by the knowledge of proficiency.

  11. Aaron W
    Aaron W
    May 11, 2009 at 12:40 pm

    I’m doing some research about punk/DIY music in Dalston/Hackney area and someone pointed me this way.
    The Desperate Bicycles’ ‘Smokescreen’ was recorded in Dalston according to the back cover of the Medium was Tedium and I imagine that was in Tangerine Studios. Does anyone have any info or descriptions of either the DB’s being in Dalston/Hackney or the studio?

  12. Penguin
    Penguin • Post Author •
    November 13, 2009 at 12:42 am

    F.Y.I – There is a launch for the book I have written about the Desperate Bicycles and the birth of the punk DIY movement – ‘Splitting the Atom on Dalston Lane’, now published by Hackney’s ‘The Eel’ Fanzine.

    It’s on Friday November 20th at the Stag’s Head on Orsman Rd, (off Kingsland Road N1 – see attached flier).

    Starting at 8pm, there are several bands on the bill headlined by the legendary ‘Slit’ – Viv Albertine, and original DIY-ers, Television Personalities (‘Where’s Bill Grundy Now’ etc).

    I’m also launching a new band that night, ‘The Feral Four’, featuring myself (‘Rrron’), Pauline Smith (‘Maul’), Simon Raven (‘Gorge’) and Yuko Morita (‘Dingo’). Aleks Kolkowski will be cutting a vinyl record, live, of our number ‘Yelp!’ for immediate playback by the DJ, Nervous Stephen.

    The Desperate Bicycles’ songs will be performed by ‘Typical Girls’ – a sister act of two 14 year olds. . . Hari Kari, the girls’ Uncle will also contribute DB’s covers.

    Stage lighting is to be bike-powered.

    The gig is free entry, and the book is available (with an introduction by Iain Sinclair) for £2.50 on the door.

    The venue is quite small, limited to 80 people – so only attendance near to 8pm assures entry.

    Aaron W

  13. Nic
    November 13, 2009 at 5:17 am

    Sounds like a good night out – especially Typical Girls!

    Can Aaron let us know where the book will be available from?
    I’d definitely like to read a copy…

  14. luggy
    November 13, 2009 at 11:27 pm

    Should make it to this, going to Tod Hanson’s latest exhibition first so might not fit in!

  15. Penguin
    Penguin • Post Author •
    November 14, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    I fancy hopping over to that one as well Mick. Where Tod’s thingymigig?

  16. Penguin
    Penguin • Post Author •
    November 14, 2009 at 2:57 pm

    I will try to get to both Mick. Will bell you up nearer the time. I was at THFC last week when Sunderland tripped up somewhat due to the new striker missing a penalty. Did not see Dick Ugly or his brother hanging around though.

  17. luggy
    November 14, 2009 at 5:20 pm

    Lucky result for you lot though! See you on Friday.

  18. Neil Transpontine
    Neil Transpontine
    January 29, 2010 at 12:09 am

    As someone documenting SE London music scenes, I was disappointed when I found out that the DBs weren’t actually from New Cross. But was there any connection between ‘New Cross New Cross’ and SE14?

  19. Aaron W
    Aaron W
    January 29, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    Neil – yes there was a connection. The DBs had two phases, first with Roger Stephens as founder/leader. He was older than the others and whereas he and his brother Nicky seem to have roots in South London, Roger was living and working in Hackney when he formed the DBs with Danny Wigley from Barking/Ilford way. The punk DIY movement was definitely Rogers idea/passion (and precedes Rough Trade) but after the first two singles he appears to have lost interest a bit and the band then shifted its focus to New Cross where Nicky lived and had built a rehearsal studio in the basement of the house he lived in. The book I did about the DBs (with eel fanzine, see other pages on KYPP) was focussed specifically on the founding of the punk DIY movement and that happened in and around Dalston: the Centerprise bookshop and the Studio opposite the Four Aces being key venues. The New Cross version of the DBs were more musically aspirational than the first two singles and songwriting seems to have become their main effort although they did still make their own records on their Refill label.

  20. dave papworth
    dave papworth
    November 13, 2011 at 12:16 am

    well done people? you have got 98 percent of our history correct

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