WE MAKE HOMEBREW NOT WAR…. The Throbs were a Kingston punk band that existed from 1985 to around 1990 in various guises. Sometimes a joke band, sometimes political it’s rumoured they split up due to musical similarities. For the complete band history read on.
They recorded several demo’s but only ever made it to vinyl once (and that was by accident). This is a strange tale and well worth reading about in the biography below.
YEAH, YEAH, HE’S A CAVEMAN
Their most famous song (well the one everyone shouted out for when they were not shouting for “Get Off” or “Next”) was ‘Caveman’ – a classic song about a boy who gets chucked by his girlfriend for someone better looking with a flash car.
Part 1: MARGARET THATCHER…OUR PART IN HER DOWNFALL.
The Railway Tavern, Surbiton August 1985, a chance meeting of people who already knew each other and who had too much to drink led to the forming of the Throbs. Original guitarist Matthew Blakely and original bassist Andy Guy decided to pull a band together and stuck for a singer asked Steve Cotton to front it all up (for no other reasons other than he was a). available (as in he couldn’t sing and was therefore had previously never considered going a band) b). stupid enough to say yes which was probably because he was c). pissed at the time. The search for a drummer took another few minutes and Gareth Addicot joined the band. We decided on a get together at the local scout hut to write some songs and chose a name…THE SWABS.
Matt was a medical student at the time and came up with the name of THE SWABS and we all agreed that this would be punk rock enough. Unfortunatley Andy misheard this and merrily started telling everyone the band was going to be called The Throbs. A backdrop was produced and the name kind of stuck from this point onwards. Gareth didn’t last as a drummer (chiefly because his drumkit was a little sparse consisting only of a snare and hi hat) and we recruited local tub thumper Paddy to play our fast approaching first gig. We plastered the local town with flyers (even paying special attention to the windows of the Surbiton Conservative Club) and went round local pubs giving out flyers. When we finally ran out of the pubs we usually frequented, we tried some we didn’t normally go into and ended up in the Druids Head in Kingston. Here we met another local band No More Bloody Destruction (or NMBD for short) and gave them our flyers only for them to retaliate with their own flyers. This led to us doing the local band thing – you know – “we’ll go to your gig if you go to ours” and so a week later we all trooped along to a scout hut in New Malden to see how it should be done. Much to our surprise NMBD returned the compliment a couple of weeks later and turned up (along with a few mates) at our first gig with Liquid Hedgehog and The Third Man at Grove Hall in Kingston (September 85). We played for about 30 minutes; not bad seeing as we only formed five weeks before and some of us had never played live. By this time we’d built up a bit of trust with NMBD and they asked us to support them at their upcoming gig in St Andrews Hall Wimbledon. In the meantime we set about recording our first demo using their drummer, Tony, just three days after our first gig. It cost 39 pounds including the master tape and comprised of six songs. We remember thinking at the time that we could not sustain this kind of expense between us and that the band was getting costly already. We chucked the songs and a recording of our Grove Hall live set onto a fairly priced tape (i.e. one pound) and Matt knocked up a cover so we could flog it to unsuspecting punters. To date this demo is our best selling release, notching up over 700 copies sold.
Part 2: WHAT DO YOU CALL SOMEONE WHO HANGS AROUND A GROUP OF MUSICIANS…
Armed with this new product we got ready for the Wimbledon gig only for our second drummer Paddy to drop out at the last moment. Rob from Liquid Hedgehog (I think) stepped up to the mark with only 24 hours to go, learnt all the songs and played a blinder. Then he left as quickly as he came. This was getting to be a problem and so Tony from NMBD agreed to join the band and remained our drummer throughout the rest of our time together. Except for, that is, one gig at the William Morris when a geezer we didn’t know at all drummed for us and another where we poached Martin Jones from NMBD for the night). After going through six drummers in such a short space of time we started to eye up the drum machine box in our local ABC music store with renewed interest (less space in the van, drinks less, doesn’t moan about or pinch your girlfriends etc). The Wimbledon gig was great with a good crowd by our standards (but not by NMBD’s). We had a slight disagreement over the wording of a statement they gave out about the lyrics of one of their songs and the death of PC Blakelock in the Tottenham riots. Basically they were saying they extended their sympathy to his family or something similar and quite frankly at the time we didn’t give a fuck about his family to be honest, taking the All Cops Are Bastards line. Looking back theirs was the more logical approach – if you object to capital punishment how can you be in favour of hacking up cops? Still, we played “British Pork” and changed none of it’s “fuck the pigs” sentiment. In our lives up to this time we saw no reason to see the police as anything but the force behind the biggest bunch of organised extortionists in the land, i.e. the government. Tony joined the band on a permanent basis from this point on with gigs following in Leicester, Leighton Buzzard, Tottenham and of course Wimbledon, Wimbledon and Wimbledon again and again. We also played under the name of the Throbs in Durham just for a laugh at some battle of the bands epic on a CND summer tour but the less said about that the better. Matthew and Andy left the band around this time to be replaced by Chris Nash (ex Sex With Sharon) and James Jenkins (ex Maniac, Anathema and basically every band going locally at the time).
Part 3: THE OLD GOOD COP / BAD COP ROUTINE….
Our first gig (just felt right), any with NMBD (friendly crowds) / Maniac & Anathema (good drinking mates) / Culture Shock & Oi Polloi (big crowds / good bands). Kingston Green Fair – playing in the sun and pissing off the posh people in the houses on the other side of the river to the point we had the sound turned off for a while.
Playing with Fungus – this really should have just been resolved in a fight between both sets of crowds. Everyone was two faced, including us. It wasn’t a problem with Fungus but some of their followers really didn’t like our lefty stance.
Some squatted houses in New Malden where we went on at 2AM in the morning, just after the guy with the vocal PA cleared off and the Police turned up. This meant Steve had to stand in front of the band and just shout as loud as he could. Also, Matt couldn’t play ‘cos he was tripping and generally off his nut. He thought he sounded ace.
Hey it was great / No it was shit gigs
Newtown Neurotics in Leighton Buzzard where Matt’s guitar broke and the Neurotics wouldn’t lend us one (this was going to be our only gig with two guitarists). They carried the wounded out in dumper trucks that night – there was so much violence with the Police in attendance again. On the plus side there were 14 of us who traveled up so we all had a right laugh all the same staying in a squatted recently built but already condemned house.
Legion Of Parasites in Hounslow. Some guy got a bottle in the neck before we went on stage, blood everywhere. The Hackney hell crew turned up in force and intimidated everyone. Some seriously tough looking NF skinhead (circa 20 stone) checked the gig out for free and the cops turned up twice while we were playing. This sounds like a bad gig but it was one of the best. We played our socks off because basically we were shitting ourselves the whole way through. As you do.
Part4; HAPPY…BUT IGNORANT … THE THROBS MAKE IT TO L.A’s RODNEY ON THE ROQ RADIO SHOW AND DON’T KNOW IT.
After recording their first demo “Homebrew Not War” (six tracks start to finish in one day) the band decided a little more thought and application was called for if they were going to make it onto vinyl. As a result the luxury of recording just two songs in a day seemed to be the answer to a better product. “British Pork” was recorded specifically for an upcoming ROT records compilation (home of legendary Mansfield punk heroes RIOT SQUAD). A second track, “Happy But Ignorant” was started but never finished with just the guide vocal being left in rather than being sung without any real pretence of being a proper song (as if that would have made a significant difference)!
The master tape was duly sent off to ROT records who for reasons we never really understood got the two tracks mixed up and put out “Happy But Ignorant” on the brilliantly dumbly titled “Punk Lives Lets Slam” LP. The funniest thing about the whole sorry mess was that they even managed to spell “Ignorant” wrong on the sleeve. Guitarist Matt was so disgusted by the cock up he has never owned a copy. Bassist Andy was on the hand a bit more egocentric and played it to anyone who would listen much to the rest of the bands embarrassment
Years later singer Steve randomly bought an out of date copy of LA based magazine Flipside whilst in Australia. On looking at the charts for the Top 20 requests for Rodney on The ROQ’s he found much to his surpise that “Happy But Ignorant” was the fifteenth most requested song over a considerable period of time. Unsure if he was pleased or embarrassed about the whole thing he did the decent thing and kept quiet about it until years later he saw Blur on the front cover of the NME with none other than Rodney On The Roq, the interview inside stating that for Blur to break in America they had to get their records played by one of Americas most influential DJ’s, the aforementioned Rodney. So there you have it, a song never intended to see the light of day almost got the Throbs broken Stateside (I may be exaggerating here) and they would never have known about it. Maybe one day we’ll tell Rodney this story when we’re a bit more wrinkly and he’ll invite us on the show so he can play the song that should have been on the LP instead.
Part 5: THE END OF THE ROAD.
Quite simply it all ended where it started _ in the Railway Tavern in Surbiton. As Steve remembers there was no huge fight – the conversation went a bit like this….
Tony: “I’m thinking of leaving the band”
Steve: “OK, what are you drinking?”
And that was it, we played our final gig at the William Morris Club (The Final Throb) with Oi Polloi and shut up shop as quickly as we’d started….
Make Home-brew Not War (Homebrew Music cassette)
Hersham Boys – studio and live (Homebew Music cassette)
Skateboards From Hell – studio only (Homebrew Music Cassette)
Happy But Ignorant on ‘Punk Lives Lets Slam’ Rot Records LP and Step1 CD.
ORGAN FANZINE – Issue 6: Steve, Tony and Seamus interviewed at depth by the great Organ fanzine with a particular emphasis on hippy aspects of the band!
BALD CACTUS FANZINE – Issue 3: Steve interviewed by post by Andy from Bald Cactus zine about possessions, cops and dirty fingers in dirty pies.
NOT A PRETTY SIGHT FANZINE: Steve and Chris interviewed about euthanasia, huntin’ and fishin’, the plod, best and worst gigs etc.
Now that we’ve gone we’d like to thank you to the following for the good times and the bad times….
No More Bloody Destruction, New Malden Bowie Division, Nightmare By Day, NMBD (make your bloody mind up chaps)! Cheers for all the gigs, cigs, cider and bills. Oh, and your drummer!
Wombat (aka lee White) for the advertising campaign amongst other services rendered.
Oi Polloi, Hey, we know you always watched us from the bar (which was in the other room) and when pressed Deek politely described our music as “an interesting and unique version of punk” but we enjoyed playing with yer. Plus we broke the world record for how many people can fit in an Austin Maxi when taking you back to the train station.
Maniac and March of Anger. Bassist Ed’s best compliment about the band was “you could have got somewhere three years ago, but now….” Cheers for the extended free transfer of your guitarist!
All the great bands we played with including Liquid Hedgehog, The Third Man, Sex With Sharon, News From Nowhere, Culture Shock, Wat Tyler, Legion of Parasites, Atavistic, Newtown Neurotics, Anathema, Menace Dancers, Intensive Care, Error of Judgment, Shrapnel and Axegrinder.
Andy from Bald Cactus Fanzine
The Organ fanzine crew
Not A Pretty Sight fanzine
Chris Vogan for turning up every time….