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All The Madmen


Sometimes it’s good to be wrong. In 1980 a group called the Mob released a single called ‘Witch-hunt’. A powerful piece of punk, it reflects and captures the sense of anger and despair felt by their generation as the new decade dawned. A line from the song sums up the situation as the newly elected governments of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan began ‘Stubbing out progress where the seeds are sown’…


The Mob Witch Hunt 7 inch single cover

The Mob Witch Hunt 7 inch single back cover


In 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis had shocked a generation into action The prospect of death by thermo-nuclear war concentrated minds and inspired a life-affirming counter-culture. The renewed threat of nuclear war revived the idealism of the counter-culture. So, despite its ‘never trust a hippie’ rhetoric, as blazing fragments of the punk explosion scattered across the land, there was a fusion with aspects of the existing counter-culture. In particular the ‘Do it yourself’ aspect of punk was able to grow through a fertile relationship with -for example- Joly McFie of Better Badges, Geoff Travis of Rough Trade and Pete Stennett of Small Wonder who were veterans of the sixties counter-culture. 

The Mob, along with hundreds of other punk bands released their music on their own independent record label. Alongside the independent record labels there were hundreds of punk fanzines. While most histories of punk focus on the few bands who crossed-over into the mainstream, there is also hidden  history of punk as a creative explosion through which thousands of young people made their voices heard.

Brougham Road Hackney

Punk did not end when the Sex Pistols split up in 1978. It carried on into the 1980s, given a new edge by the impact of Thatcher’s government on a generation of young people. It really felt that we had ‘No Future’…Radicalised by harsh reality, punks realised that they had to work together and co-operate just to survive. A practical example of this was the creation of punk housing co-ops like the Islington based Black Sheep Co-op which the Mob and other punk bands helped to finance through benefit gigs. The Mob also worked to renovate houses for the co-op which (along with Andy Palmer of Crass and members of other punk bands) they later lived in. All the Madmen was based in a Black Sheep Co-op house for two years before relocating to another housing co-op (originally a squat) house at Brougham Road in Hackney. 

Even if most histories of punk forget this hidden history, those involved have not. Against the competitive individualism which has become the norm over the past 30 years, we have held fast to the values of co-operation and mutual aid. But holding fast to a memory of what once was is not enough. Now another generation of young people are faced with a government which offers them ‘no future’.

The revival of All the Madmen as a collective on its own cannot undo the damage done by 30 years of neo-liberalism, but what it can do is offer this generation of young people inspiration in place of despair. The teenagers who created All the Madmen refused to accept that they had no future. Instead they chose to create their own future. And so the seeds of progress were not stubbed out but survived to flower again.