Friday, December 29, 2006

Band of Holy Joy

We have lots of writing about music here at Transpontine, but not enough actual music. To correct this we are now going to try and include links to MP3s, concentrating on South London obscurities and otherwise unavailable stuff.

First up, The Band of Holy Joy, decribed in The Rough Guide to Rock as follows: 'Amidst the glossy, superficial optimism of a lot of mid-80s chart music, Band Of Holy Joy were lauded by the music press for bringing the dirt and hurt back into pop. The ramshackle line-up – acoustic instruments ranging from accordion to toy trumpet, and not a guitar in sight – invited comparisons with The Pogues, but there was something very English about a group steeped in lowlife London and happy to make something of it. What they made of it fitted the band’s name. Singer/lyricist Johny Brown supplied the words for strangely uplifting songs of urban angst that brought comparisons with Brecht and Brel, but were firmly contemporary, with privatization, Prince and E-type hedonism all targets for the densely detailed lyrics. The band grew out of a group of friends living in the New Cross area of south London, although Brown was originally from the northeast of England. A south-London indie label, Flim Flam, released their first records, the mini-album THE BIG SHIP SAILS (1986) and the full-length MORE TALES FROM THE CITY (1987)'.

As Deptford Fun City notes, Band of Holy Joy emerged from a squatting (later housing co-op) scene centred around Nettleton Road in New Cross. Vocalist Johny Brown told Melody Maker in 1987: 'It was at a time when New Cross was really brilliant... Me and Max used to live in a big house with Test Department. That was how Holy Joy were formed... in Test Department's basement where they rehearse. We found an old organ there. It was this big house with no windows. They had a black door with a wreath on it and the house was haunted’ (Melody Maker, 1987).

BoHJ’s 1986 album ‘More Tales from the City’ was recorded at Chocolate City in New Cross, a now vanished recording studio on New Cross Road (think it was where that now equally defunct night club stands between the White Hart and Besson Street). The band split up in 1992, although they did reform a couple of years ago.

Mad Dot, from 'More Tales from the City' includes the immortal lines: ‘I get the madness in my head, when I lie for days in bed, or when I walk up the New Cross Road, When I’m starved and I haven’t been fed'

Band of Holy Joy - Mad Dot (MP3)

Some of their later stuff is available at ITunes but not 'More Tales...', which defintely deserves a re-release.


Lashtal said...

Although I am very thankful for the amount of coverage you give to the Nettleton Road squatting scene, the SE London scene as a whole would not be complete without a consideration of the Old Ambulance Station on Old Kent Road and the anarchists and bands centred around Bourbonese Qualk who squatted and ran the Ambulance Station as a music venue. Also, Recloose Records, their label were based in Camberwell

Transpontine said...

Yes keep meaning to write about that, it's one of those things I have a long draft of that I never get round to completing. I went to the Ambulance station a few times in anarcho-punk period (saw Conflict, Chumba, No Defences etc), and also came across Bourbonese Qualk later via Dead by Dawn/Praxis