NME - 08/10/1983

Sleeve Notes 'Best Of'

Red Muze Ltd


All Music Guide



One of the classic mid-80s underground bands - seemingly every fanzine of the day carried an interview with them - The Three Johns opted for humour and political belligerence at a time when all around them were intent on making their guitars jangle and handing out jelly babies to audiences dressed in anoraks.

Imaginatively enough, The Three Johns were So called because they comprised three Johns - Messrs Hyatt (vocals), Langford (guitar) and Brennan (bass). Formed on Royal Wedding Day in 1981 as a collective of Leeds-based students, their career began With a run of fine 7-inch singles, two of which '- AWOL' and 'Brain Box' - are included here.
It was immediately evident that they had the capacity to write songs that combined intelligence with caustic, exquisitely observed humour. Their debut album, 'Atom Drum Bop', continued to employ a beatbox in the distinctive absence of 'proper' drummer. While all around them bands were attempting to retreat to their adolescence, songs such as 'Dr Freedom' showed The Three Johns reaching lyrical and musical maturity. Not that they were in anyway po-faced - around this time some of us were treated to the most inebriated cover on of 'Like a Virgin' known to man, beast or blonde.

Following 'Atom Drum Bop' the group applied a little more polish and restraint to the sinister rhythms of 'Death Of The Europe. Despite an NME single of the week award it was released in the aftermath of the Heysel Stadium disaster and proved too topical for radio programmers - not that The Three Johns were ever regulars on the Radio 1 play list, but they were John Peel favourites . Come to think of it, who could forget their rendition of 'You'll Never Walk Alone' on their first Peel session - a shameless attempt
to ingratiate themselves with the renowned Liverpool FC supporter (five further Peel sessions followed).

'Death Of The European' was actually a vicious attack on the American destruction of European culture while 'Sold Down The River' summed up the mood of resignation which followed Thatcherism's triumphs of the mid-80s. Both confirmed The Three Johns had musical deftness which belied their perceived on-stage daftness.

Far too often the group were dismissed as A1 blokes with an ocean tanker-like capacity for beer. None of them would deny they liked the odd pint - but they were committed to excellence in writing and performing even if they never took themselves seriously. You could rely on them to cut through the austerity of any Miners' Strike benefit with their acidic stage patter and Wide-eyed enthusiasm. The music? Distinctive -is one adjective which could be ascribed to Hyatt's careering vocals. His fellow Johns backed him up with a no-breaks musical assault course which was both restlessly creative and relentlessly energetic.

The Three Johns were always musicians and drinking pals first and socialists second. The politics were important, as their only other studio album proper, 'The World By Storm' confirmed. But instead of simple rhetoric their lyrics were always expressed in non-linear ways usually dripping with sarcasm.

1988's ' The Death of Everything' included the Adrian Sherwood-produced single 'Never and Always' which is about the closest the band ever strayed towards conventional rock. But 'The King is Dead' and 'Bulishitiaco', with their shifts in tempo and rhythm, confirm they hadn't straightened their backs quite yet. A half-live, half-studio affair, shortly after its release the group played their final gig in December 1988. Babies and family commitments then took precedence. Langford continued his association with the Mekons while Hyatt's art work was exhibited in Liverpool.

How good were The Three Johns? In their early days Alan McGhee of Creation Records was desperate to book them for his club (believe it or not) the Three Johns pub in Islington. Think what he could have done with Three Johns instead of just two Gallaghers.