UK Decay tonight – their second session for John Peel at BBC Radio 1. Recorded on July 27, 1981 and broadcast on August 5th of that year.
In case you aren’t familiar:
UK Decay was born out of the ashes of another Luton band called the Resiztors, who had formed in 1978. The Resiztors’ lineup consisted of guitarist Steve “Abbo” Abbott, drummer Steven David Harle, bassist Martin “Segovia” Smith and vocalists Ricky Smith and Paul Wilson. After the vocalists’ departure in the spring of 1979, the remaining band members changed their name to UK Decay, with Abbott as singer (and guitarist). They soon released the Split Single 7″ EP in partnership with fellow local band Pneumania, on their own Plastic Records label. The EP featured two tracks from each band, with UK Decay contributing “UK Decay” and “Car Crash”. Split Single sold extremely well, mainly thanks to a damning review in the NME by Danny Baker and Charles Shaar Murray. At the same time, some UK Decay members produced their own monthly fanzine The Suss and ran their own punk record and clothes shop called Matrix. Guitarist Steve Spon was soon recruited from Pneumania, allowing Abbo to concentrate on frontman duties.
The next release for Plastic Records was UK Decay’s The Black 45 four-song EP, issued in early 1980. It hovered in the UK Indie Chart for 15 months. Alex Howe from Fresh Records offered to license the first two singles, and signed UK Decay to the label. The first official release for Fresh was the single “For My Country”, issued in September 1980. “For My Country” received airplay from John Peel (for whom they would record two sessions) and spent eight months in the indie chart, reaching No. 13. The single was promoted by a major UK tour with hardcore punk band Dead Kennedys. By 1981, two further singles had also been released, “Unexpected Guest” and “Sexual”. The former achieved the band’s highest indie chart placing of No. 4, and paved the way for UK Decay’s debut album, For Madmen Only, released by Fresh in December 1981. The album had taken a year to gestate, due to delays caused by a time-consuming US tour and a frustrating search for a new permanent bass player. When original bassist Smith left, Lorraine “Lol” Turvey from the Statics stood in for some UK dates and an early 1981 European tour. For the US jaunt and subsequent UK tours in spring 1981, Creetin K-OS (of US punks Social Unrest) stood in. Following that stint, K-OS returned home and Eddie “Twiggy” Branch from Northampton joined on bass, just in time to finish the album. During this period, Abbo jokingly referred to the band’s sound as “goth” in a Sounds interview, helping to immortalize the beginning of the gothic rock movement, although UK Decay considered themselves a punk band first and foremost.
In early 1982, Fresh Records collapsed, and UK Decay were caught up in the ensuing management buyout by what would become Jungle Records. With the help of John Loder and Southern Studios, they managed to buy up the rights to their back catalogue and set up their own label, UK Decay Records. Loder also introduced them to Penny Rimbaud from Crass, which resulted in the Rising from the Dread 12″ EP (featuring the 10-minute epic “Werewolf”) being issued on Crass’ Corpus Christi label in August 1982. However, despite a strong showing in the independent charts and an ever-expanding fanbase, the five years of continuous touring took their toll and UK Decay split up in December 1982. Posthumous cassette-only live album A Night for Celebration was released during the summer of 1983.
Abbo, Harle and Branch would regroup with new guitarist Albie de Luca (formerly of Gene Loves Jezebel) as Furyo in mid-1983, releasing two mini-albums through the following year and recording an unreleased album before splitting again in early 1985.
Spon went on to form In Excelsis with former members of Ritual; the group released several singles and an album on Jungle Records. He later formed the trio the Big Eye, released two EPS and a CD during 1994–95 on the Hydrogen Dukebox label. He also released several solo singles and two techno albums (from 1997 through 2011) under the name “Nostramus”.
As a postscript: They reformed in 2008 (after a brief reunion in 1993 and a few fits and starts in 2005). They have since gone through several personnel changes but are currently active.
Here’s a reminder of what 1981 was sounding like.