Punk arrived on the dinner plate and Burnley, Lancashire, greedily tucked in ...and promptly threw up Notsensibles, the youth club band (first year spent without a bass player) grew up covering Slaughter & The Dogs and wearing their school uniforms with safety pins.
They'd skive off to go to Manchester - where you could buy stuff by Pork Dukes, Metal Urbain, The Adverts, John Cooper-Clarke's first single, Ramones albums. Roger was the musician - a parks gardener who had one of those synthesisers with a million knobs on: a leftover from pre-punk love of twiddly-twiddly dinosaur artrock.
Sage sat by his record player trying to play guitar along to Buzzcocks. Kev - Ploppy - couldn't sing (despite knowing all the words to the Nosebleeds "Ain't Been To No Music School") and so he bought a drumkit and Haggis took over on vocals. Haggis sported huge dinnerplate badges on his black dufflecoat and had Kate Bush's first album along with "Nasty Nasty" on green vinyl. He could sing. Gary was poached from rival punk band The Pathetix, part of the mushrooming Central Lancs punk scene. Now all they had to do was try and keep time with each other.
They auditioned at workingmen's clubs, playing their songs at half-speed in the hope that the promoter wouldn't work out what was going on - and then, on the night of the gig, they'd turn up with a sizeable punk following and race deafeningly through the set in front of seventy pogoing idiots and half a roomful of shocked blue rinses. At the half-time bingo break (I'm not kidding) the promoter would quietly pay them off and everyone'd have to leave.
Notsensibles' charm was their naivety. They hammered their way through the catchiest pop songs with a wide-eyed ineptness which would have The Undertones looking like serious musos.
They bounded their way around the stage, sang about their mates, took the piss out of everyone and everything, and barely realised the glorious, singalong chaos they were creating. Their recordings were slappy and spontaneous, and their clothes never matched the postaway punk look that most bands sported - Sage was for a while infamous for buying huge trousers and taking them in, widthwise, to absurdly tight circulation-stoppers, Kev was the first person in Burnley to bleach his hair, whilst throughout the band's career, Roger stubbornly kept to flares and feather-cut. As Sage's dad remarked when they were first getting the band together - "you're ...you're not sensible!"
This small-town eagerness translates best on the earlier, slapdash songs - the strange time signatures, the messed-up endings, the "let's just stand around a microphone and make something up" approach. "Lying On The Sofa" was a classic of its time - a sort of pre-slacker's hymn - whilst the idiocy of "Coronation St. Hustle" or "Death To Disco" are balanced by the catchy pop beauty of "Wrong Love" and "Girl With Scruffy Hair".
Then came "(I'm In Love With) Margaret Thatcher". Meant as neither a pro - nor anti-Thatcher song. It revolved around the idea that no-one was too sacred to get the piss taken out of ...
Notsensibles' collision of absurdity and popular culture, their love of sarcasm, their ability to bring stupidity and notsensibleness to pop, all pointed to this being the point at which the band utterly glorified their own ridiculous singalong naivety.
From this time on the band fought to keep control of their own ideas, whilst being swept clumsily along by a media-led industry. Notsensibles lost. Food-battles in motorway cafe's, tantrums, fist-fights, arguments about money, overhyped London gigs ...and worst of all, the time and money to make real records - the pop was becoming rock and you could smell the dreaded ideas which took out the sillyness, the abnormality, the stupidity.
And Notsensibles, if nothing else, were profoundly and beautifully stupid. We loved them because, whilst they wanted so much to be good, they succeeded better at being fantastically notgood. We loved them because they were scruffy oiks who seized on punk, twisted it around, and made it laugh at itself. And we loved them because - well basically we loved them because they really did make a balls of everything they did..... (Oh, and they could write good tunes, too).
Thanks to all those who came to see us at Rebellion 2012 and there were quite a few. It was great to meet and chat to those who came to the stall we had at the entrance to the "Opera", including the guy from Slovenia who told me about the time he was 17 when he played in a punk band which covered "(I'm in love with) Margaret Thatcher". Because of this, he was arrested and spent the night in the nick! Now whether or not this is true remains to be seen but it's a great little story. By the way, if the guy who thought the Snotty Snail release of Thatcher was the first release is reading this, sorry you were disappointed. The Opera was a great venue and we were the first band to ever play there! Hope you all enjoyed the show and thanks for your support.
Watch "(I'm in love with) Margaret Thatcher" from Rebellion HERE .
A SHORT & SWEET HISTORY OF NOTSENSIBLES Band formed in 1978, for four years of unorganised chaos. Played regularly around Manchester and supported Undertones, Clash, and er... Mick Hucknall. 1st Release was “Death to Disco” on Bent Records, released March 79. Gary Brown joins on Bass. 2nd single “(I'm in love with) Margaret Thatcher” reaches number 2 in Independent charts. Recorded John Peel session early 1980. Appeared at Futurama 2 Festival, Queens Hall in Leeds on September 14th 1980. Album “Instant Classic” released same year (rated five stars by Sounds), followed by full page interview by Gary Bushell (his band of the week). Played at Electric Ballroom August 1981, with Splodgenessabounds & Peter and the Test Tube Babies, followed by tour of scout huts in remote locations. Released “I Am The Bishop / The Telephone Rings Again”. Sage quits in October 1981 and is replaced on guitar by Paul Wright. Band stagger on for another few months and decide to take a break, after a storming gig at Coventry Polytechnic in March 1982. The break went on and on until August 1996 with a re-appearance at the first Wasted / Holidays in the Sun festival in Blackpool, with Scott Wilkinson replacing Paul Wright on guitar. More hibernation until August 2005 when the band make a full and succesful reunion at the 25th anniversary of the Railway Workers club and release a limited CD of unreleased songs. NEWEST RELEASE
Singles Remastered CD Cat No Sensies 002 out now! - get it HERE Also available as a digital download & from Amazon and all good record shops.
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Check out THESE Notsensibles pics from the Futurama 2 Festival in Leeds 1980 by Philippe Carly on his site.
You can also see Notsensibles performing "Death To Disco" from the same gig
The video for "Oh Boy Now I'm In Fashion", featured on the newest release "Singles" can be seen