Steve Baker – Vocals
Bob ‘Smooth’ Coterell - Drums
Jim Luszcz – Bass
David Marx – Guitar/Vocals
Life’s a mad prostitution
And there’s little to choose
Search For Sanity
The Humans were essentially a continuation of The Aggravators - all Fray Bentos guitar chords bequeathed at unspeakable volume amid a Bon Scott shouting fest – the only difference being Steve Baker and myself had become (slightly) better songwriters. Better in as much that Steve was attempting to write about society as well as shagging (Newscasters, Nine To Five), and I was introducing minors and sevenths into rather more structured and considered arrangements.
It was April Fools Day, 1978. The then Labour Prime Minister, Jim Callaghan (RIP), was perceived as a fool, and to substantiate his folly further, he was about to bestow upon the country what’s now (nostalgically) referred to as ‘the winter of discontent.’ I was sat in the infamous Affair somewhat discontentedly myself, when Steve sat down and declared: ‘I’ve got all these lyrics and different concepts… wanna form another band?’
We wrote two songs the very next day whilst the very next week, he actually moved in – much to Ma’s delight – replete with saxophone, typewriter, NMEs and non-stop converfuckinsation about Lou Reed.
Having seen him just last Saturday, I can indeed clarify that (t)his conversation on just about any subject, is no different. The rant remains the same!
We were joined on bass by one of Swindon’s greatest ever guitar contenders, Jim Luszcz; formerly of Candid Blue and a menagerie of potentially toptastic blues bands who - from a soul-drenched-guitarchitecture perspective - left many a Swindon guitar hero/twat, wanking in the wind!
Present day hero/twats absolutely included.
Moreover, the real reason Jim ended-up playing bass with The Humans, was because he’d somehow lost his way along the way - and we were hoping to help him find his way back.
That, and the fact that he wasn’t really a songwriter.
So we now ended up rehearsing in Jim’s house rather than in Ian’s Dad’s house - which (in hindsight), might’ve actually had a lot more to do with him joining the band!
As might the small issue of him being utterly insane! How many people do you know that has had conversations with coyotes?
Anyway, drummers were auditioned, but never found. We found Bob Smooth (so called because he had a car, wore a tie and was such a smooth operator, he made the rest of us look like murderers!) who solidified us for a while and partook in a couple of photo-shoots. But other than that, we merely went through a spate of drummers - all of whom were fundamentally crap. At any given gig, we’d more often than not end up with he who was marginally less crap than he previously.
T’wasn’t so much a case of yer Pete Best, but yer second best.
However, the songs more than made up for tired/shoddy/van driveresque drumming. What with our amalgamation of influences – The New York Dolls, Bruce Springsteen, Lou Reed, David Bowie, T. Rex, Jimi Hendrix, Slade, The Beatles and naturally the aftermath of the Sex Pistols and continuing catharsis of The Clash - Steve and myself wrote over an album’s worth of semi-incendiary, guitar-driven, angst-fuelled, in-yer-face, council house sounding songs; that were more lipstick vogue than a collection of tarts at a slapper convention.
For somewhere betwixt The Buzzcocks and Jimi Hendrix, The Velvet Underground and Elvis Costello – were The Humans; signed, sealed, delivered and (I suspect), fucked-up.
Not to mention the real thing.
Three cheers for the EEC
Land of hope and poverty
See the crowds of refugees
From the fifties
Who cares for the jubilee
Up the royal charity
We’ve paid the price of monarchy
Since the sixties
Land of Hope and Glory
The band played their first gig at The Affair (no surprises there) on April 26th 1978, and I remember us being so loud, we shattered a light-bulb and Bob Smooths’ ear-drums.
So far as the light-bulb was concerned (for which The Affair and XTC manager Ian Reid charged us £10 the next day), I thought fuckin great - as to my (then) reckoning, it meant we were louder than The Clash and The Buzzcocks – of whom both had recently played the same venue without destroying anything! So far as Bob’s ears were concerned, well, we never saw him again.
In fact, I haven’t seen Bob Smooth to this very day.
But all things considered – apart from those that got shattered - the gig went quite well. I remember XTC’s Barry Andrews (among others), commenting on how Steve and myself had come on since The Aggravators - to the effect that we were very visual to watch and were by far, far more exciting than such fellow Swindon bands as Urban Disturbance and Stadium Dogs (which to be honest, wasn’t really saying much, but hey, still nice to hear…).
Void of a drummer, we essentially spent most of May writing new material, rehearsing and looking for gigs further afield. During one of our countless visits to one of the town’s three music-shops (The Aggravators used to actually rehearse in Kempsters on the premise that we were gonna buy things), me and Steve inadvertently bumped into XTC’s drummer Terry Chambers, who told us he’d stand in and play drums!
Good on him we thought (both chuffed and cheered). Nothing came of it of course, cause in those days, XTC were (almost) constantly on tour.
Still, onward and upward, but not so much to infinity and beyond, but to such local template for tosser ‘hoods as Shrivenham, Hungerford and Reading – all three of which did indeed beckon and behove us Humans to perform. Oh yes, we were New Thugs on the Block alright: all stallion studs in stained clothing and (I suspect) personalities . Rebellion and guitars amid a fleet of cars - one of which contained a hairy drummer clutching a flask of tea.
Houston we (did indeed) have a problem.
Most of the gigs were a success (for want of a perhaps more descriptive term). They did after all, enable Steve and myself to hone our songwriting by hearing/seeing what (really) worked and what (really) didn’t. And what we found was not only were our newer songs such as People, Strangers and Newscasters more inviting/exciting to play, but they were going down far better than our earlier (Aggravators) material. Perhaps this substantiates the oft adhered to adage that new songs are always performed with more vigour and passion than olde songs (unless of course, you’re either Bruce Springsteen or Chas’n’Dave).
Other than that, the gigs also gave Jim the opportunity to rummage through various backstage areas and swipe as much food and drink as he could possibly muster: blocks of cheese and tins of stewed beef from Hungerford, blocks of cheese and (literally) crates of beer from Reading. How he did this none of us knew; for t’was only when we got back to Swindon that he’d smile and ultimately reveal his wares - like a striptease artist.
No wonder we never got asked back!
She sent me kisses in every letter
She walked out so many times
She took to pills and then I hit her
We had a fight before she died
Glen (Doughty), my former compadre in The Aggravators called round one day, and I could tell the minute I opened the door that all was not well. ‘Nick’s dead,’ he announced – just like that.
What? How? Why? Where? When?
Thinking about it still saddens me to this day.
Nick (Brooker) had recently acquired a motorbike that was by far, too big and too powerful for any self-respecting drummer in a punk band. One night he decided to play ‘chicken’ with a mate at considerable speed and both went the wrong way.
Both were killed instantly.
He was 18.
The only time I ever saw any of the others cry was at Nick’s funeral.
And I’ll always remember it.
Due to XTC having recently been signed to Virgin, both thought it might be a novel idea for said Record Company to traipse along to Swindon to check out the (local) talent. Needless to say, we, along with anyone who’s ever thought of picking up a guitar, partook in one of three Virgin showcases at The Affair. For some reason, we were billed on the third night along with The Purges - which consisted of the other two remaining Aggravators, Ian (Doeser) and Glen, along with singer Frank Famous – the latter two of whom asked me to help them out by playing drums. I immediately agreed (how could I but not?), which triggered futile friction with our (aforementioned hairy) drummer. So I relented - on the premise that we were on after The Purges and I therefore had no choice but to comply with arse-wipe’s wishes; otherwise who knows what may have occurred. Something I’ll always regret and something that ensured there was a division in The Humans from that moment on. It was a case of Steve and myself on the one side - toss-pot-fuck-bag-drummer and (eventually) Jim on the other.
I remember the place being completely packed and playing the sort of gig that’s instilled in the filing cabinet of ones’ brain forever. Not only was Ma in attendance, but my three sisters (which was a first), all four members of XTC, numerous Virgin moguls and anyone who was anyone in Swindon.
I know we played well. Even Jim looked great!
The local paper - whose ghastly rambling(s) and right-wing opinion(s) have always counted for phish – wrote: ‘The Humans stance is reminiscent of the excellent Wire and ATV – they seem to be carving themselves a niche in the avant garde pink punk stakes.’ Whatever ‘pink punk stakes’ are/is, is anyone’s guess, but on July 26th 1978, we were Swindon’s answer to The New York Dolls meets the Musical Dogs-Bollocks on Acid.
Virgin never signed us.
According to the XTC grapevine, Virgin thought Steve and myself had it - and that the other two didn’t.
No surprises there then.
Still, onward and upward, but not so much to infinity and beyond, but to what turned out to be my first ever time in a recording studio. Somewhere amid the swamps on the outskirts of Swindon, stood a barn cum rehearsal room cum recording set-up I can’t remember the name of. But I do remember it being run by an over-smug, over-weight techno-head - who clearly considered us as nothing other than council estate terrorists with attitude (which come to think of it, we were).
Split over two evenings (22nd & 25th August 1978), the band recorded a total of ten songs, that if nothing else, continue to stand the test of time so far as the actual time itself was concerned (if that makes any sense). Pants production admittedly - really fuckin’ pants – but beneath the piss’n’hiss’n’somewhat shambolic performance/terrible drum sound, lurk a bunch of songs that simply reek of (providential) potential.
In between recording, The Humans played their final gig (supporting The Members) at Bones in Reading on August 23rd. A tempestuous affair if memory serves, but one which was as equally inevitable as it was foreboding.
Looking back, Steve, Jim and me had some wild times and collected a few fans along the way; but due to the ever present trajectory of two very different ideologies fighting to be heard, it was always going to be a matter of time before the band would implode.
That said, I’m both happy and pleased we recorded an album’s worth of songs - even if it’s only value remains that of reference. And talking of which, apart from banging on endlessly, Steve is (still) of the opinion that we ought to re-work and re-record some of the them properly…
Watch This Space!
Easy Lay (S. Baker/D. Marx)
Fantasy Actor (S. Baker/D. Marx)
Green Shield Stamp Collector (S. Baker/D. Marx)
Jean (S. Baker/D. Marx)
Jumpin’ Jack Flash (M. Jagger/K. Richards)
Mummy (S. Baker/D. Marx)
Newscasters (S. Baker/D. Marx)
Nine To Five (S. Baker/D. Marx)
No Hope/No Glory (S. Baker/D. Marx)
People (S. Baker/D. Marx)
Search For Sanity (S. Baker/D. Marx)
Society Says (S. Baker/D.Marx)
Strangers (S. Baker/D. Marx)
Suicide (S. Baker/D.Marx)
Telephone Jesus (S. Baker/D. Marx)