CRIMINAL DAMAGE RECORDS
PART ONE 1983 - 1984
" Y'know what? This music has the power to turn zeros into heroes, to turn a poor boy into a rich man and of course to send beautiful girls into a frenzy. What else do you need? What else do you want? It's all here for the taking, all yours for the asking. Just open your ears. Oh yeah, and don't forget to say 'thank you with fucking bells on!"
Hardcore or ‘real’ Punk was the big seller in 1983, the younger kids determined to create a harder, faster ‘77. I never liked any of it but when Illuminated (forever with an eye on the next money spinner) offered the chance to set up a hardcore label I didn’t think twice. The Stills Yaron Levy joined me as fulltime partner and we named it Criminal Damage, a suitably hardcore name even though we had absolutely no intention of releasing anything like it. Thankfully, Illuminated never mentioned the ‘h’ word again.
From the start I was determined to leave the whole Reading thing behind and as luck would have it, the first couple of groups to interest us were the Stunt Kites from Sheffield and Twisted Nerve from Edinburgh. We still didn’t have a clue what we were doing and had no idea how tough it would be to establish the label as a viable entity but that was probably just as well.
The Membranes were our first long term signing and certainly helped our cause in the murky world of fanzines and DIY dogma if nowhere else. Their leader John Robb was, indeed still is, incredibly charismatic and would speed talk for hours in his Blackpool twang before sitting back and cackling like a loony, a kind of Northern Indie John Lydon. He would send me these genius lengthy letters in his scratchy, misspelt style but the thing I most liked about him was his infectious enthusiasm, positivity and realism. Having run his own label and been through the mill a few times, he knew the score, the only musician I ever knew who did.
During those early days I was still holding down a full time council job. When I wasn’t running the label from the work phone or making full use of the giant photocopier I was in the pub scheming and dreaming. So it didn’t come as a huge shock when I was finally asked to resign in the autumn of 1983. I was more than happy. For the first time I would be able to devote all my energies to what I loved doing. I didn’t need to worry about the lack of a regular wage either. Signing on proved remarkably lucrative and with the black market economy in full swing there was never a shortage of cash in hand jobs. And with the label also starting to earn a few quid it felt like I’d never had it so good. I could even afford a phone at home.
Together with a handful of smaller labels, Illuminated were based in 452 Fulham Road, now a shiny multi screen cinema complex but then a ramshackle collection of old warehouses. A short walk from Fulham Broadway tube and close to Stamford Bridge, it was a rabbit warren of offices and storage rooms packed with records. Eventually we were given our own small office on the first floor and for the next year practically lived there; meeting groups, taking in gigs by potential signings and hoovering up anything we could get our hands on. We even had some hired help in Caroline Reed, Mercenary Skank’s manager who would guide the very early career of the Stone Roses. Sitting in our odd shaped box, surrounded by artwork and the usual paraphernalia of running a label, we came up with plenty of hair brained schemes. One of the most ambitious involved the legendary Fall.
In the early months of 1984, word had gone around that Mark E Smith was less than happy with Rough Trade and was actively seeking a new label. While it sounds crazy now, naturally we were ultra keen but as usual money proved the stumbling block. A few phone calls to start negotiations had made it clear that an advance of at least £35,000 was expected. I happened to mention it to Illuminated who, much to my surprise, immediately offered to stump up half the total leaving us to come up with the rest. Unfortunately there was no way we could get hold of that kind of money quickly, bearing in mind my house at the time was worth around £20,000. In the end The Fall signed to Beggars Banquet.
A more realistic idea was re-releasing the Fistful Of Dollars and For A Few Dollars More soundtracks. I had an old, worn out cassette of both but found it impossible to get a new copy as they had been deleted from the RCA catalogue, a regular occurrence certainly until the early nineties. I rapidly hatched a plan to re-release both and surprisingly RCA were agreeable. They sent me a bible sized contract but once again finance, or rather the lack of it, was an issue. RCA wanted a £5,000 advance on royalties which we just didn’t have. And this time Illuminated refused because they didn’t believe anyone would buy it!
Even though these brainwaves failed to reach fruition there were plenty more that did? I guess we were lucky because musically the early mid 80’s was the best of times to be running an Indie label. As we were hitting our stride, styles that had once been subsumed within the larger post punk rhetoric emerged from the genius of the early years to be named and identified as such, not least goth which had remained deep underground until the NME proclaimed the arrival of ‘positive punk’ in February 1983. Goth in all but name, while it was a manipulative attempt to connect the new rising groups resonating the most with the nations disenchanted youth, it did spark a massive surge of interest the likes of Southern Death Cult rode for all they were worth. Infact, goth became such a dominant force that almost every label had a like minded group on its roster and we were no different.
By the summer of 1984 we had gained the reputation of being almost exclusively goth with records by Look Back In Anger, Ausgang, Anorexic Dread and Geschlecht Akt. We didn’t care, it was all rock’n’roll to us. Renowned genre historian Mick Mercer gave us the nod on some signings and eventually worked part time for the label scribbling nonsensical press releases to bemuse his fellow scribes. Through Mich Ebeling we befriended Billy Duffy who bizarrely offered his services as a producer in exchange for tins of baked beans! In the end he only did the Look Back in Anger mini LP but that connection allowed us to freewheel round goths inner sanctum, blagging onto The Cults first UK tour and their Wembley Arena shows supporting Big Country.
Ironically, despite our supposed reputation, the most successful of our largely black hearted roster were The Membranes who were about as far from goth as it was possible to get. ‘Spike Milligan’s Tape Recorder’ and Death To Trad Rock, are still the best records they ever made and had a massive influence on the Independent network. Not only did they cement The Membranes in the consciousness as noise annoys gurus, they also inspired a multitude of like minded rowdy, punk rock action both here and in America.
STUNT KITES / Leanora / 7”Single A Side
Criminal Damage CRI 101 May 1983
TWISTED NERVE / Five Minutes Of Fame / 7”Single A Side
Criminal Damage CRI 102 May 1983
‘Leanora’ and ‘Five Minutes’ were brilliant records to start a label. I loved them then and I love them now. Released as a pair to let the Indie establishment know we were serious, both were a considerable step up from the limited thinking of the locals we’d been used to. Coming from large cities like Sheffield and Edinburgh, it wasn’t just The Stunt Kites and Twisted Nerves physical distance from Reading that was so huge, it was the mental distance too.
TWISTED NERVE / Geronimo / From ‘Eyes You Can Drown In’ 12”EP
Criminal Damage CRI 12 103 August 1983
We agreed to a second Twisted Nerve single a little too quickly. Unbeknown to us, they had recruited a new singer with a red Indian fixation and climbed aboard the emerging goth bandwagon, maybe not the best move for a bunch of punky pop herberts.
DESTRUCTORS / I Wanna Be Your Dog / From ‘Cry Havoc’ 12”EP
Criminal Damage CRI 12 104 November 1983
So, if we originally said we’d have nothing to do with horrible early 80’s punk, why did we release this? If only life were so simple. Guaranteed to up our visibility via the Indie chart and bring in some much needed cash to finance the Membranes, the question was really a no brainer.
MEMBRANES / Kafka’s Dad / From ‘Crack House’ Mini LP
Criminal Damage CRI MLP 105 December 1983
Much, much more than just a bunch of noisy bastards from Blackpool, The Membranes were the first group we went all out to sign. An unheralded, landmark record, to be honest Crack House was not what I’d expected at all. A fucking great smack around the ears, the six tracks of cacophonous racket did their best to hide any hint of tuneage lurking within and as such signalled a completely new direction, not only for The Membranes, but for loads of other groups scrambling about in the lower depths of the post punk underground.
DEAD MAN’S SHADOW / Another Year / 7”Single A Side
Criminal Damage CRI 106 December 1983
Despite their reputation, Dead Man’s Shadow had come a long, long way from the punk roots that had garnered their reputation. Live they were absolutely blistering while the Ruts like ‘Another Year’, a great tune with a great lyric, was a positive step in the right direction.
LOOK BACK IN ANGER / Flowers / From ‘Flowers’ 12”EP
Criminal Damage CRI 12 107 February 1984
‘Flowers’ was a really good record. Produced by Tim Parry it was a lot poppier than either Look Back In Anger or myself had expected and scraped into the bottom end of the Indie charts. Nonetheless, suspicious and sour faced, I still found the group impossible to like as people. That relationship didn’t improve any when the NME’s Danny Baker spent a couple of column inches ripping apart my deliberately pretentious, suitably ‘flowery’, press release while completely ignoring the record. As po-faced as ever, the group went apeshit, completely failing to see the funny side even though it was so obviously hilarious.
DESTRUCTORS V / Love Like Glass / 7”Single B Side
Criminal Damage CRI 108 February 1984
We liked Destructors main man Allen Adams and we liked his version of ‘TV Eye’. ‘Love Like Glass’ was even better, his bold attempt to move on musically working in every way despite being ignored by the group’s small minded solidly hardcore audience.
AUSGANG / Vice Like Grip / From ‘The Teachings Of Web’ 12”EP
Criminal Damage CRI 12 109 March 1984
During the first phase of Criminal Damage The Membranes and Ausgang always headed the pack. For some strange reason, even with the tribal drums, the darkness and the dirt I never thought of Ausgang as truly gothic. I thought of them more as back to basics post punk, a Birthday Party nightmare fusing drugs, sex, and twisted rock’n’roll. Of course, looking back it’s easy to see how they fitted right in and why, once we’d begun releasing their records, our goth reputation was well and truly sealed.
DEAD MAN’S SHADOW / This Heart / From ‘To Mohammed A Mountain’ LP
Criminal Damage CRI LP 110 April 1984
From the title to the cover to the songs, everything about To Mohammed A Mountain was designed to confound the purists. And in that respect it succeeded magnificently yet, was still doomed to fail because, just as The Destructors discovered, what the kids really wanted was more of the same old clichéd punk shit. We did our best with it, even going to the expense of advertising in the music press, but nothing seemed to help. Sadly, I don’t even remember it being reviewed.
DAMAGED PRODUCT / C30 Promo Cassette
Criminal Damage CRI CAS 111 May 1984
A 250 copy, limited edition, promo C30 cassette featuring Look Back In Anger ‘Flowers’, Dead Man’s Shadow ‘This Heart’, Ausgang ‘Strip Me Down’, Leather Nun ‘Ensam I Natt’, Anorexic Dread ‘Tracys Burning (Edited Version)’, The Membranes ‘Spike Milligan’ and The Ghostriders ‘Heartbreak Hotel’.
AUSGANG / Solid Glass Spine / 7”Single AA Side
Criminal Damage CRI 112 May 1984
I may not have thought of Ausgang as goth's but everyone else did. This double A side of ‘Solid Glass Spine’ and live favourite ‘Strip Me Down’ never set out to change anyone’s perception but still did a great job building on the success of their debut by climbing the Indie chart.
THE LEATHER NUN / Ensam I Natt / From ‘Slow Death’ Mini LP
Criminal Damage CRI MLP 113 June 1984
Originally released in 1979 as a 7” EP on Throbbing Gristles Industrial label this legendary record was still very much in demand. I’d been in touch with Jonas Almquist asking about any new Leather Nun tracks when he suggested a re-release of Slow Death as a mini LP with the addition of the full version of ‘Ensam I Natt’ and an incredible 15 minute live rendition of ‘Slow Death’ featuring Genesis P Orridge and Monte Cazazza.
ANOREXIC DREAD / Tracy’s Burning / From ‘Tracy’s Burning’ 12”EP
Criminal Damage CRI 12 114 June 1984
Watching the Dread at The Batcave I was convinced singer Phil Black was a dark star in the making. We put them in the studio with Southend legend and drug fiend Ed Hollis where they came up with ‘Tracy’s Burning’, nine minutes of fearsome, doomy, splendour. It reminded me of punks early days, when groups with limited skill but loads of energy made one brilliant record that helped define an era. ‘Tracy’s Burning’ was one of those records!
MEMBRANES / Spike Milligan’s Tape Recorder / 7”Single A Side
Criminal Damage CRI 115 July 1984
This was the one. Every label has a record that defines it, the one it will be remembered for if it’s to be remembered at all. Ours was ‘Spike Milligan’s Tape Recorder’. A perfect brew of The Membranes ugly noise and tuneful sensibility, it was a fucking great monstrous slab of punk rock fury that took everyone by surprise. Single of the week in every weekly music paper, No 12 in the Indie Chart and No 6 in Peels end of year festive fifty, almost overnight The Membranes went from being Indie establishment outsiders to celebrated lads about town. Ain’t it weird how the gift of life works with no apparent rhyme or reason?
THE GHOSTRIDERS / Heartbreak Hotel / From ‘Baptism Of Fire’ 12”EP
Criminal Damage CRI 12 116 August 1984
I’d known Mick Brophy back in ’77 as guitarist with new waver’s Trash. Seven years later he got in touch to tell me The Ghostriders, a group he’d produced for RCA Norway, were looking for a UK outlet. Suckered in by their radical reinvention of ‘Heartbreak Hotel’, we put it out to see what happened. Incredibly, Peel latched onto it straightaway. Then Kid Jensen followed suit and before too long it was outselling some of our more celebrated releases. Definitely our most unexpected success.
FIVE GO MAD IN EUROPE / Decadence / From ‘Five Go Mad In Europe’ 12”EP Criminal Damage CRI 12 117 August 1984
Allen Adams last desperate attempt to throw off the chains of The Destructors but this time without the safety net of their infamous name which unfortunately meant it sold about 10 copies. Oops!
LOOK BACK IN ANGER / Grey Sky / From ‘Caprice’ Mini LP
Criminal Damage CRI MLP 118 September 1984
Following the animosity caused by the Flowers press release I was surprised when Look Back In Anger came back for more and even more surprised we agreed. The difference this time was Mich Ebelings beau, Billy Duffy. Yet to become a superstar axe God, he was one of the nicest, most down to earth blokes we ever met while his more realistic approach to life as a fulltime musician seemed to have an instant calming effect on Mich and her sulky band mates. Caprice was a far better representation of what the group sounded like despite the obvious Siouxsie comparisons.
GESCHLECHT AKT / The Temptress / From ‘Foreplay’ 12”EP
Criminal Damage CRI 12 119 September 1984
THE CREEPSHOW / The Vulture / From ‘Fu Man Chu’ 12”EP
Criminal Damage CRI 12 120 September 1984
So intoxicated were we with the Fulham high life that we began to lose all sense of direction by signing almost anyone that crossed our path. All I remember about The Creepshow is that I was so untogether I thought we were signing enthusiastic Oxford goths Chatshow, a far better proposition who eventually slipped through our net. And the only thing I remember about Geschlecht Akt (apart from the brilliant ‘Temptress’) is a publicity scam dreamt up with Mick Mercer involving a fictitious nationwide ‘Sex Act’ tour, vivacious strippers and a subsequent ban by outraged powers that be. We even took posed photos of the group on stage with their girlfriends as strippers. All bollocks of course but the music press fell for it hook, line and sinker.
M.A.D. / Craving / 12”Single B Side
Criminal Damage CRI 12 121 September 1984
Mankinds Audio Development was Rob from Play Dead’s project, an attempt to get away from goths clichéd, stereotypical, wastelands. Pushed as a kind of supergroup there were hints that Killing Jokes Youth, New Orders Peter Hook and Billy Duffy were involved although in the end it was just Rob and Mich Ebeling. Sounding way ahead of its time, it may have cost over two grand to record with infamous producer John Fryer but it sold so many that these days it would get into the top ten of the UK national charts no problem and was easily our best selling record ever.
MERCENARY SKANK / No More Dancing / From ‘No More Dancing’ 12”EP
Criminal Damage CRI 12 122 October 1984
Mercenary Skank moved to London from Rhyl carrying with them the rock’n’roll urgency of The Clash filtered through The Alarm which despite being a lazy comparison was still spot on. Visually if not musically they had future stars written all over them but like so many others it all came to nothing.
DIATRIBE / Seventeen And Dying / From ‘Diatribe’ 12”EP
Criminal Damage CRI 12 123 November 1984
Tim and Jonathan Kirby were Reading actor brothers playing as a drums and bass duo. Artfully confrontational and in your face, they went out of their way to piss people off. Their most controversial stunt was bursting into the NME, aiming a pistol at the receptionists head and firing off a couple of blanks before making a rapid exit. As you can imagine that didn’t go down too well. I was left fielding calls from an angry NME editor and the police for a couple of days. In the end we blamed enthusiastic fans but the EP had already been given the media kiss of death.
AUSGANG / Lick / From ‘Head On’ 12”EP
Criminal Damage CRI 12 124 November 1984
‘Lick’ was always my favourite Ausgang track. Produced by Andi Sex Gang, Head On should have done a lot better but by the tail end of 1984, goth had already started its slide down the shitter. No matter how hard they tried, Ausgang just couldn’t break free of its self imposed conformity and gloomy cliches.
MEMBRANES / Myths And Legends / From ‘Death To Trad Rock’ 12”EP
Criminal Damage CRI 12 125 December 1984
Death To Trad Rock was a record surrounded by tales of early release dates and poor distribution yet was still our highest ever Indie Chart entry at No 8. Undeniably things weren’t going great for us at that point but the demand for Death To Trad Rock was so huge nothing could have stopped it’s piledriving wave of furious riff collisions, the aftershocks of which are still reverberating through the underground all these years later. Having said that, I’ve picked the most tuneful blast from it, the classic ‘Myths And Legends’, re-recorded and re-worked from Crack House.
PART TWO 1985 - 1986
In 1984 I’d been busy having the time of my life, all the while juggling the label, a wife, a kid, a mortgage and signing on every two weeks back in the old hometown. But if 1984 was living the dream, 1985 was clinging on for dear life. Where once we had sold 5,000 records we were now struggling to sell 500. Independent sales had started a slide so dramatic it would eventually lead to the dissolution of the independent network.
We knew well enough that sales were hitting rock bottom and suffered accordingly. The Membranes went off to Creation while Ausgang signed to FM Revolver as we became bogged down in a litany of distribution lash ups, cash flow problems and a whole host of boring business crap we struggled to get our heads around. Even so, we were still left dumbfounded when, with absolutely no warning at all, Illuminated dumped us owing thousands of pounds we would never get.
Underlining my eternal faith in the old mantra ‘something good always comes from something bad’ within days we were offered a new M & D deal with Backs of Norwich. It was the ideal time for change. Following a couple of stop gap releases by old friends The Orson’s and San Francisco art accordian legend Angel Corpus Christi, Yaron went off to America with The Cult having mastered the art of sound engineering while I decided to rebuild the label from scratch and work with a core of groups who more accurately reflected my own ever changing, expanding taste.
I soon found a new aide de camp in Ged Athendriou, part time club promoter and quiff about town, and the second phase of Criminal Damage began to coalesce around Mighty Ballistics Hi-Power. Veterans of the early 80’s Reading non scene, they had relocated to North London before developing into a thoroughly modern, heavily politicised dub crew with snatches of rockabilly and blues. All our other London based Reading groups; Them Howlin’ Horrors, The Jack Rubies and the De Freitas sisters Heart Throbs came out of the capital to play their home town. For the first time we found ourselves with a bunch of groups who were all connected one way or another whilst remaining hugely different in style and content.
To aid the labels visibility we began promoting showcase gigs at the tiny Paradise Club where in a few short steps you could go from a steamy, sweaty bunch of psychobillies rocking out stage front to a gaggle of ganja smoking West Indian OAP’s slapping dominoes down in the bar. When the opportunity arose we moved to the 1,000 capacity Majestic ballroom where Reading’s show starved youth turned out in force every Wednesday for The Meteors, The Redskins, Fields Of The Nephilim, The Primitives, Voice Of The Beehive, Zodiac Mindwarp and far too many others to remember. I would stumble home in the early hours, pockets stuffed with a couple of grand in cash to hide under the floorboards, money used to bolster the labels recording fund.
With Ged ducking and diving my closest confidante was Denny Mills of Them Howlin’ Horrors. Like John Robb, Denny’s sheer enthusiasm was infectious if naïve and I loved him for it. He didn’t give a shit about anything much although sadly in the end his own sense of failure ate him up so much he became just another depressed junkie loser. Chris Maund of The Ballistics was no less intense but the complete opposite. A tee total, anti drugs puritan, he would spark many a heavy duty debate on anything from the miner’s strike to the number of rapes in London, throwing his heart and soul into every possible cause. Idealistic beyond compare, I often wondered how he would get through the rest of his life.
Meeting the likes of Denny and Chris certainly expanded my musical horizons. Much as Ausgang’s Max had once turned me onto The Stooges, their encyclopedic knowledge gave me a remarkable education in 50’s rockabilly, 60’s classic soul, ska and all things rockin’. For a while it felt like I was living in Joe Strummer’s jukebox. Then, having been educated in the past, along came Karl Bonnie to educate me in the future. Recording as The Jackal before setting up Renegade Soundwave, he opened my ears to a future of sampling and hip hop.
In the end the summer of ’86 proved to be the very best of times. MB Hi Power, Them Horrors and The Jack Rubies were always around and without even trying the label had finally found its own identity. Even better, we were also raking in the plaudits. ‘Underneath The Arches’ was Sounds single of the week while MB Hi Power and The Jack Rubies were notching up more and more column inches week by week. Even Denny and his Horrors found some acclaim from journo’s keen on their trebly, chaotic racket. Everything looked good while waiting in the wings we still had Rose and Rachel De Freitas Heart Throbs. They would prove the most successful of the lot though sadly not with us. As I pulled together the bits and pieces of the Blast sampler everything felt like it was on the up. Our fortieth release, it was set to be the culmination of Criminal Damage’s all new second phase and a springboard for what was sure to be a bright future.
In the Indie game sales figures always used to take months to filter through. When ours finally began to dribble in it became immediately obvious that the huge amount of publicity we’d attracted had failed to transfer into sales. Infact, if anything they were decreasing month by miserable month at a truly alarming rate. MB Hi-Power were even struggling to recoup recording costs and when a group as vibrant and revolutionary as they were looked like they would be losing money, it made me question whether the label would be able to survive at all.
In the end my mind was made up for me. The Majestic show profits had always provided a safety net to ease any cash flow worries but when its availability was curtailed by a new manager all certainty disappeared. Ged found a full time job in London and the benefits office began to tighten the noose around my neck, threatening to stop all payments unless I could prove I was actively seeking a job. That game of cat and mouse would go on for another year but nonetheless, given all the mounting problems, in December 1986 I decided to close down Criminal Damage for good.
THE LEATHER NUN / No Rule / From ‘Backlash’ Compilation LP Criminal Damage CRI LP 126 April 1985
In 1985 we were suddenly left with nothing. Booted out of Fulham Road most would have given up the ghost there and then but I didn’t even consider it. To get the cash flow going again we released Backlash, a best of Criminal Damage Part One. Portrayed as an art film soundtrack obviously it was nothing of the sort, but did give us a couple of month’s good grace to start planning a new future.
ORSON FAMILY / Crawdaddy Hole / From ‘Bugles, Guitars, Amphetamines’ LP Criminal Damage CRI LP 127 May 1985
Saul Pumphrey was a rich kid from Ealing who’d played at being a hillbilly with The Orson Family. Ged had known him for years and when he learnt we were on the look out for new releases he offered us an Orson compilation. Of course, Saul being Saul, he wanted quite a substantial fee upfront but actually, as it soon worked out, he’d done us a huge favour. The record sold so well that not only did we get our own money back it set us up nicely for Criminal Damage Part Two.
ANGEL CORPUS CHRISTI & ALAN VEGA / Cheree Cheree / From ‘I Love New York’ Mini LP Criminal Damage CRI MLP 128 July 1985
Angel Corpus Christi was a strange waif like creature playing her own inimitable versions of New York songs on an accordion. Art with a capital A, I wasn’t sure about I Love New York even though Ged was convinced it would do OK. In the end he was right although it must be said, the appearance of Alan Vega helped considerably.
LES THUGS / Night Dance / From ‘Raw Cuts Volume One Garage French’ Compilation Mini LP Criminal Damage CRI MLP 129 September 1985
The new Backs/Cartel deal took quite a while to sort. In 1984 we had released 17 records. In 1985 we released four. Largely off the back of The Orsons LP, I began to get a steady stream of records and tapes from Europe. I’d always been an avid reader of Lindsay Hutton’s inspirational Next Big Thing fanzine so, blessed with an unhealthy knowledge of the European garage scene, I dreamt up the Raw Cuts series to be a contemporary version of all those lauded 60’s compilations like Nuggets and Pebbles. Getting Les Thugs classic ‘Night Dance’ was a nice bonus.
MEMBRANES / ‘Pulp Beating’ Compilation Mini LP
Criminal Damage CRI MLP 130 January 1986
Both ‘Spike Milligan’ and Death To Trad Rock had sold out of their numerous pressings and were proving impossible to find for The Membranes ever increasing legion of fans. With John Robb’s agreement we re-released both records together as Pulp Beating. Ironically, within a year that had sold out as well.
MIGHTY BALLISTICS HI-POWER / Franco’s Fleet Street / From ‘Here Come The Blues’ Mini LP Criminal Damage CRI MLP 131 January 1986
The second phase of Criminal Damage really began with Mighty Ballistics Hi-Power. I remembered them from Beyond The River but had no idea what they’d been up to since. However, when Ged gave me a tape of some new tunes I was blown away. Not only were they our future, they were the future, a group that existed outside the limiting boundaries of all those desperate mid 80’s micro genres. We’d never heard anything like them. They were incredible.
HIDDEN CHARMS / The Witch
SLOBSTER / Call Off Your Dogs
From ‘Raw Cuts Volume Two Swedish Beat’ Compilation LP
Criminal Damage CRI LP 132 April 1986
This second volume of Raw Cuts did phenomenally well and is still revered as one of the best documents of the Swedish 80’s garage scene. It was also the start of a long friendship with Per Hagred’s Hidden Charms, The Slammers and Problem that would continue through to Blast and Satellite.
THEM HOWLIN HORRORS / Encouragement / From ‘The Changing Tide’ Mini LP Criminal Damage CRI MLP 133 May 1986
Denny Mills was one of those characters you had to know to realise he had that indefinable ‘it’. Mr Lordy Self Righteous indeed. There’d been a few incarnations of the Horrors over the years but this version was definitely the best. Even so their rackety rock’n’roll was hard to pin down on tape and I’m not sure The Changing Tide wholly succeeded. It’s still a clattering good listen though.
THE JACKAL / Underneath The Arches / 12” Single A Side
Damage CRI 12 134 June 1986
MB Hi-Power and Them Howlin Horrors recorded all their records at Saul Orson’s Hex Studios which led neatly to producer/DJ Karl Bonnie, otherwise known as The Jackal. The pioneering ‘Underneath The Arches’ came out over a year before all those other mega producer/DJ records like MARRS, Bomb The Bass, S-Express and Coldcut but never got the recognition it so fully deserved. Karl went on to form Renegade Soundwave soon after. Initially called Deceptikon Soundwave they were all set to sign a one off with us for ‘The Kray Twins’ 12” until Mute stepped in at the last minute.
MB HI-POWER / Springheel Jack /From ‘Matchless Triple A’ 12”EP
Criminal Damage CRI 12 135 July 1986
In the six months following Here Come The Blues, MB Hi-Power had gathered a mass of press features and rave reviews. When we circulated pre-release cassettes of the Matchless recordings to distributors, Rough Trade advised us to release ‘Springheel Jack’ as a 7” single, convinced it would get loads of national radio play and push the group on to the next level. When I mentioned this to Chris Maund he let me know in no uncertain terms that he didn’t give a fuck about such music biz games. And in the end, not only did ‘Springheel Jack’ sit buried on a 12”EP wearing its heart literally on its sleeve with a list of closed down coal mines, it also bore the inimitable words ‘Pay no more than £2.99’, about a quid cheaper than normal.
THE JACK RUBIES / Dallas Blues / From ‘Witch Hunt In Lotusland’ Mini LP
Criminal Damage CRI MLP 136 July 1986
Ian Wright of the Rubies gave me a tape at an MB Hi-Power show. I went home, played it, loved it, rang them up and signed them the next day, the one and only time I ever signed a group solely off the back of an unsolicited tape. As luck would have it, The Rubies were another Reading group who had moved to London in search of fame and fortune. Their Smithsonian jangle and haywire percussion would ultimately beat a different course but in the summer of 1986, ‘Dallas Blues’ fitted in perfectly with what we were trying to do.
ANGEL CORPUS CHRISTI / Rock And Roll Heart / From ‘Wake Up And Cry’ Mini LP Criminal Damage CRI MLP 137 August 1986
I Love New York did OK so we followed it up with Wake Up And Cry , largely made up of Angel’s accordion pop originals apart from the best track on it, a cover of Lou’s ‘Rock And Roll Heart’.
TENNESSEE THREE / Stack O Lee Blues / From ‘Let The Good Times Roll’ 10”LP Criminal Damage CRI LP 138 September 1986
The Tennessee Three were an MB Hi-Power side project of old rockabilly and country tunes that had been inspiring them for years. Most were sung by Gary Taylor although it was Chris Maund’s whisper on ‘Stack O Lee Blues’ that sent shivers down my spine.
THEM HOWLIN HORRORS / Dig Down Deep / From ‘Dig Down Deeper’ 12”EP Criminal Damage CRI 12 139 October 1986
If anything even more raucous than their debut, ‘Dig Down Deep’ was one minute forty seven seconds of the 60’s garage staple ‘Shortnin’ Bread’ put through the Mills mincer before finally collapsing into the cackle and everlasting run out groove of a laughter box.
MB HI-POWER / Version Train
THE HEART THROBS / Toy
From ‘Blast – From The Hip To The Heart’ LP
Criminal Damage CRI LP 140 November 1986
‘From here on its shake, rattle and roll’. Blast was supposed to be the big celebration, the big four O, life begins at forty and all that. Of course it didn’t work out like that but I’m still real proud of it, showcasing as it does my closest allies and friends through the last year of the label; from Swedish legends Problem to Garry Jones pretentious as ever multi tracked voice; from MB Hi-Powers contemporary dub mix up to The Heart Throbs tuneful pop thrash. How ironic that the last group on the last track on our very last record went on to become one of the most successful.