Monday, July 4, 2011

The Astronauts

     Another great band that was very obscure, The Astronauts were early touring partners of The Mob and Zounds from around 1979/1980(the infamous 'Weird Tales' tour), and mixed punk with folk and came up with of the most brilliant songs and lyrics ever created. Inspired by the punk explosion around 1977, Mark 'Astronaut' started the band that same year in his hometown of Welwyn Garden City. 

     They began playing an endless amount of free festivals and helped start the hippy collective Fuck Off records. They released several E.P.'s and began touring with Zounds and The Mob. Due to the immense amount of releases and musicians that have taken part in this band, I will only talk about two important albums and list the rest of the material in the downloads section.

     Like most of the 'Anarcho' punk bands, The Astronauts were swept under the carpet by the media seeing as though the media is only interested in trendy, fashionable, middle class garbage. One reason why their music was so different was because they showed an influence from the early Industrial/Experimental scene which included bands like Surgical Penis Klinic, Throbbing Gristle and 23 Skidoo. The excellent 'Peter Pan hits the Suburbs' was released in 1981, and showed how the band could write beautiful traditional folk ballads with a mix of punk and genius anarchist lyrics. Their audience usually consisted of hardcore punks and hippies and they responded positively to what the band was doing. During the early eighties, the band gigged with several other 'Anarcho Punk' bands and released several E.P.s and L.P.'s while maintaining an underground anti-mainstream attitude.

      'It's all Done by Mirrors' is considered their best work. It features several tracks such as 'Typically English Day'(which appeared in the recent Overground label's compilation)which are similar to the first album. By 1986, the band disappeared after growing tired of playing so many gigs, but continued passively gigging and releasing material even to this day. Recently, The Mob, Zounds and The Astronauts organised a gig together to be played this year just like they did in the late seventies in the 'Weird tales' tour almost 35 years ago. They still hold their old values and refuse to sell out and will also be also playing with Idiot Strength, Rubella Ballet, and Andy T.

"Protest Song"

I live my own life - do what I want - say what I mean
And you've got your own hope - strange ambition - different dreams
So who are you to say I'm wrong?
And who am I to say I'm right?
Though we live in separate ways, why do we argue, always fight?

A man who disagreed with a regime was termed a rat.
One night, some men came round - "we've read your books, we'd like a chat"
And then they kicked him round the cell
With cigarettes they burnt his face
Said "Remember, we're the law. Do you love your family, your dwelling place?"

And it seems that fools control the world, the nuclear button, the poison pen.
Most of us are in the dark, but then we're only little men.
But little men have mouths to feed
And little men don't want to kill
So little men are never told unless, of course, the earth stands still.

We have got a chant, ain't got a chorus, ain't even got a name
But it helps us through the night to know we don't share the blame
It's just another protest song ("Oh what a pretty protest song")
With words to try and make you think ("I think I'll go and have a drink")
But come the dawn resume your search for your ultimate power
Your missing link.

"Baby Sings Folk Songs"

Beautiful schemer came in through the door
Took off her necklace and crouched on the floor
Says she wants peace but don't know why for sure
Tell me your plan beautiful schemer
'Cos I've been out working my hands on the farm
Curse at my bosses that don't do them no harm
I'm waiting for action 'cos I can't stand the calm
Then I come home, baby sings folk songs.

Here I lie waiting for me true love to see me
His heart of the white rose and mines of the red
Northern romance in the inn of good plenty
Lord make him kind when he goes to my bed

Beautiful schemer came in through the night
Smiled with her left eye but glared with her right
Said shall we go out and worship the night
Tell me the prayer, beautiful schemer
'Cos I've been out working my hands on the grime
Working at Turner's on the assembly line
And I heard of the good life, but I know it ain't mine
Then I come home, baby takes downers

Here is a nice little bottle of sleepers
They'll help me to stay in me little dream world
There's moggies and mandies and nice little white ones
I'll dream that me true love is stroking me curls

Am I out of this race is that a smile on your face
Am I sorry for this misdemeanour
On the Icelandic coast with some hot buttered toast
Would an artist have made it much cleaner
Now you sit on the floor when he calls out for more
Did you feel the effects of the acid
With his lunatic air and face so debonair
He made Liszt and Lord Byron look placid

Beautiful schemer she wanders through the yard
Trying to make her good love look so hard
You think she's the answer but you hold the cards
Deal me in quick beautiful schemer
I've been out working to buy you a meal
My protest is shrink-wrapped, got a factory seal
And you say shall we go out and try to make it real
I need you to help that baby's got pen friends

Beautiful schemer with the never-ending smile
Invites you inside to her head for a while
Minx of the North lake, mad bitch of the Nile
Go back to Troy, beautiful schemer.
'Cos I come from Fulham where fables aren't made
Where night-life is ruled by DMs and blade
Sometimes I just get to feel quite afraid
I need you to help but baby plays hockey

Swish goes the stick when the ball hits the netting
I play with the girls on the old village green
And later we go to the fair and eat liqourice
Soon it will be Mayday and I'll be your queen

Beautiful schemer she lives far away
Never did listen to much that I'd say
Lives in a parallel world in a way
That I just can't come in, no no no.
And I'm going to go, don't want to see you no more
Going back to the ghetto with an uncultured roar
We never got much further than your door
Beautiful schemer, why are you crying

My body boys left me for a far away haven
My ribbon is wasted, my maidenhood black
He says that he's going and he won't be returning
Oh speed little glove and bring my Johnny back

"Typically English Day"

On a typically English day
When the man in the street alway has his say
On a terraced house with no yard
A couple of people are playing cards
And the street outside is a dance hall floor of the lunatic brigade
To help compensate the profits and the losses of the men who'd been self made
And she says maybe we should leave this place
And he says watch out I've trumped your ace
And they put the cards back and quietly fasde away
And they both have a doze on a typically English day

On a typically English night
When the announcer on the telly hopes that we're alright
ON a terraced house with thatched roof
A couple of people are hoping for truth
Becauase it's getting colder and they're both aware
That thier health is getting poor
And a man in a sports jacket on the TV
Was saying something about the war
And he says if I wasn't confined to this bed
I'd pick up my pistol and go and teach the reds
And she says "I know dear" and quietly turns off the light
And they both have a doze on a typically English night

On a typically English day
When the baying of the hounds keeps the fallout at bay
On a terraced house with no yard
A couple of people are finding it hard
But he says they can drop all the bombs they like just as long as I've got you
So lay down next to me, hold my hand, lets make love like we used to do
And damn this gout, and damn this leg
I really want to have you and I ain't got time to beg
So the fire storm slowly came their way
So lets leave them to cry on a typically English day.

"Behave Yourself"

The sun beats down on the wills of the oppressors
They never learn, they just keep you under thumb
They say if you want to go out late tomorrow
Don't go out tonight till your homework's done
And you behave yourself

When you behave yourself the day seems so much longer
Don't behave yourself it won't do any good
When you behave yourself you don't turn out any stronger
Don't behave yourself I know you would break out if you could

Now the people that seem to rule your lives forever will one day be gone,
So you had better be prepared
And you behave yourself

You may wake up one bright and sunny morning
And you will have found that it caught you unawares
You behave yourself

When you behave yourself it get so bloody boring
Don't behave yourself it will drive you round the twist
When you behave yourself you spend the whole day snoring
Don't behave yourself and you'll have better fun than this

So the sun beats down on the wills of the oppressors
But they never learn, they just keep you on the run
And you behave yourself

And all the time you sit around stagnating
You could be outside and having better fun
Still you behave yourself

When you behave yourself you're waiting for tomorrow
Don't behave yourself it'll only bring you down
When you behave yourself you spend the life in sorrow
Don't behave yourself and tonight we'll take the town.

"Big Ben"

In these days when good news
Barely gets a mention
Pills and booze
Can't ease the tension.
Money making is your pastime
But what good is profit
If it's the last time?

So what am I supposed to tell
My Children
About social barriers
And why you build them.

So where's your police force?
Where's your system?
Once the lips of fate
Have kissed them.......

(There isn't much time left and they're crawling out of the walls)

"Gothic Rooms"

We all live in Gothic rooms
Live out our dreams in Gothic rooms
It's always clean in Gothic rooms
It's never ending

We have come to sink in Gothic rooms
Still on the brink in Gothic rooms
And it's hard to think in Gothic rooms
Who you're defending

But in the day we're holding hands
We use in-jokes to make our stand
But get depressed by the barren land
And the roots of the soil and the buds and the trees
And the bills and the dole and the misery
And the changing of moods and the state of our blooms
In Gothic rooms

The children sleep in Gothic rooms
Screams in the night in Gothic rooms
The gas has filled our Gothic rooms
But we're still breathing

If I collapse in the night
Turn my gun to the West
One last desperate strike
Against the rich men of zest
Who take what they like
And fuck the rest
So we sit in our rooms
With the strange and the scared
And the weird and the twisted and the silent
And the impaired
And a man calls each week to inspect our rooms
In Gothic rooms 

"Getting things Done"

There's a woman on the corner and she's carrying a banner
Saying down with the oppressor and the men who overran her
And at least she's getting things done

There's a factory and a union and the men are having doubts
About working for a pittance so they're going to do a walk out
(At least they're getting things done)

You sit there with a grin on your face
Always been a moderate and you knwo your place
Slowly going nowhere in this nowhere race
(And if you get into power nothing, nothing's going to change)

There's some schoolboy on the corner from the school just down the road
Teacher said he'd have to punish them - they decided not to go
And they've got a sort of feeling there's a better sort of scene
So they put their heads together and they start a magazine

But you turn round with your pint of real
If you'd been so oppressed you'd turn quite pale
But "I'm alright Jack" is what you always wail

There's a lot of them talking and their heads are getting prouder
There's a lot of them been talking and their voices getting louder
They're growing in their number and they will not go away
They're growing in their number and waiting for the day
But you turn round and say "That's not fair - you know that Anti-Nazi rally man I was there"
But when the music stopped that's when you ceased to care
And you still turn round with your pint of beer
Don't like radicals - think they're weird
Still do anything to get out of here

"Latin and Greek"

Provided this letter can reach you on time
It gives me a chance to redress the crime
Because things aren't as clear as I thought they would be
And I suppose that I blew out my chances to be free
So wipe off your make-up and screw up the myth
Let's walk hand in hand to the edge of the cliff
Have you got a gas mask to face the crowd with
To try and suss out a brand new way to live
Now I am not very tall and my hands they are sore
My body is thin and my head's in a roar
But I think that the violence begins to make sense
Because we're bored with the feel of the weight of the fence
If I conduct myself with precision and grace
Do I stand half a chance of losing this place
Pretend to be jelly, forget about hate
How far is the goal, how long must we wait
Because I scream in the night at the slightest excuse
My mind ain't unhinged, but it's pretty damned loose
Shaking hands as I wake to the muddle again
But there's some who are worse off so why complain
And my secretary's phoning me three times a week
In a curious mixture of Latin and Greek

There's a shop on the corner in which we all pose
There's a life which we live in in which we all doze
Don't talk very loud there's a maniac inside
Hits out of self-defence, hits out of pride
In the room when the conversation gets tense
Shall we drift to the ceiling to try and make sense
In the street when the feeling is never at ease
We can touch passers-by, give them the disease
So send me your wire, please drop me a line
I need something concrete through which to unwind
If I sit here much longer I think I'll implode
I wonder if screams will be heard down the road
But I am just insecure, nervous, scared
Need someone to help us, need people to care
Isolations ain't fun, but it gets pretty real
How to put across all the things that I feel
Shall I take a few drugs, as I feel like a kick
Can I smash up t he wall, can I make myself sick
It's a laugh, got to grin, what a nutter they say
It's all part of the act though he's really OK
And my secretary's phoning me three times a week
And she always is speaking in Latin and Greek

"Seagull Mania"

Early in the morning, just after dawn
Baby's posing around the lawn
Because it's quiet at the moment
And the world is hers
She has responsibility for that obscure freaking sound of the old milk float
She adds a postscript to the letter she wrote
Saying "City living takes it out of me -
Won't you send me a sachet of sanity"
Sits with a pile of magazines
Her face is falling apart at the seams
Looks pretty awful
But she says she dreams of some land
But dreams get frozen pretty fast around here
Choked by the suffocating atmosphere
Nothing ever seems to be really clear
Living in the urban slum land

In spite of the heaviness of her heart
She claims that her life is killed by art
And no reality shot will spoil it
D.H. Lawrence in the downstairs toilet
See pictures on the bathroom wall
You could swear you could hear the curlews call
The kindly fisherman drags his net
Goldfish in a bowl in a stereo cassette
But I bet you deny her methodical grace
Keeps every fantasy filled in its space
But still has a vision she could leave this place
For some land

A Dorset coast is where she would rather lie
With a chorus of gulls serenading the sky
As she watches the unemployed sail by
Living in an urban slumland
Radical solutions didn't get very far
The past disappears like a falling star
And now she follows the normal rule
A time warped fossil of the social school
But one day a letter came through her door
Mailed by a lover from '64
Saying "Come along to the coast with me,
I'm setting up a communal fantasy"
1 o'clock she is watching the rain
2 o'clock she is running for a train
At 9 o'clock she is home again
With shaking hands
Because Gerald was married with a house in Slough
He had wanted to escape, fate wouldn't allow
And now she wants to disappear somehow
Away from the urban slum land
There is a crippled note by the side of the phone
Traditional excuses for being alone
She's dressed in a white frock trimmed with lace
Beaks and feathers all round the place
The radio blares it's usual tune
Bruckner comes from each part of the room

"Sod us"
It's six in the morning and this corner's getting cold
Occasional faces but they all look too old
And all the others have gone safely back home
Mystical moneyless or somewhere on their own

And it's a gas
They're searching around looking for someone to harass
And they don't like your face
Well you'd better run away or get out of this place

And they're speeding their balls off getting nicked for petty crimes
The clerk of the court says you're a problem of the times
Probation officer he gives me his word
Says he's on my side but he's a stupid bloody turd

I couldn't care less
As he babbles on to me about the way I'm in a mess
You don't hurt me
Well you may have a salary but at least I'm still free

And sooner or later you know something's gonna come
To get us off our feet and get us off our bum
But until that day arrives we'll go back to our room
Play the guitars though they're all out of tune

And it's sod me sod you
And sod the people who tell us what to do
I know we're right
So get up off the streets we're gonna need you tonight
I said get up off the streets we're gonna need you tonight. 
Downloads: The Astronauts E.P. 1979 Bugle Restricted Hours E.P. 1979 Stevenage RAR The Night 1979 really Weird Compilation Pranksters in revolt E.P. 1980 Bugle Peter Pan Hits the Suburbs L.P. 1981 Bugle Only Fools & Optimists Cassette Album 1982 All the Madmen It's all Done by Mirrors L.P. 1983 All the Madmen Soon L.P. 1986 all the Madmen Live at the East Coker Hall, Yeovil 29/12/84 Live at The Crypt, St Albans 07/12/85 Seedy Side of the Astronauts L.P. 1987 All the Madmen In Defence of Compassion L.P. 1989 Acid stings Constitution 7" 1991 Acid Stings Upfront and Sideways L.P. Acid Stings You're All Weird C.D. 2000 Irregular Donkey Riding E.P.(I Don't have this one. I have have to buy it)


  1. Top band, and I actually envy anyone hearing them for the first time. The main problem I think would be that most of their records sounded completely different to their previous releases, so you would really need to listen to them all before you decided they weren't for you. I always used to describe Mark as a sort of left wing Billy Bragg, that got a few people's interest around here.

    In defence of compassion was always my favourite, but I guess it all really depends on what sort of music you like to begin with. They pretty much did everything from one-chord primitive punk to synthesiser stuff and accoustic folk.

  2. I see. I first heard of them on Sean's compilations CD's with the track "Typically English Day". I got instantly hooked and dove into 'Peter Pan Hits the Suburbs' and 'It's all Done by Mirrors'.

  3. 23, 2012 at 11:53 AM

    Wow, great resource! I have all these on vinyl / tape so thanks for digital copies & for yr labour of love with the blog. I saw the Astronauts many times in the 1980s in WGC, Stevenage, London, e.g. when Tim Nixon was playing violin, and Lol Coxhill sax, with them. And Tom Whitter on bass (?).

  4. Bless ye mate. I didn't know they had any records beyond Peter Pan!

  5. There is just something about film images that are way more rock n roll than the digital photography age. There is something very real about it! Great resource!

    Fred H | Amazing Support

  6. Lucky enough to stumble upon the LP 'In Defence Of Compassion' on another blog - nice to see many others feel the same way about this group.

  7. Huh! I was there in sunny WGC 1978 at the kite festival & various pubs for a couple of years - cant believe Mark survived! most of the set they were at best a disorganised shambles... then sometimes it all came together into remarkable music. Anyone remember Johnny Curious?