The greatest British bands you’ve probably never heard of – Blyth Power

Martin Cooper April 13, 2020
The greatest British bands you’ve probably never heard of – Blyth Power

Martin Cooper rummages through his record collection as lock-down forces him to ‘sort out the loft’

One of the tasks I’ve set myself during lock-down is to tidy up what passes for our loft. This involves shuffling around a dark, cramped dirty space akin to a sensory deprivation tank – on my overdeveloped stomach – and bitterly regretting being too tight to pay for a second door. Among the bedraggled boxes of toy cars and Subbuteo sets I thought would be worth something, I came across my record collection.

Flicking through the album sleeves – I haven’t owned a record player for nigh on 20 years – I came across a number of bands that should be household names but have probably slipped under most people’s radar. Therefore, here is the first in what will be a decidedly short and sweet series under the banner ‘the greatest British bands you’ve probably never heard of’.

I’m going to start with Blyth Power, who have released almost 20 albums but remain on the pub circuit despite a loyal following.

Great Performances at the Met | Wagnerians in Concert Official Preview | PBS

What’s unusual about the band? The drummer is the singer, songwriter and driving force for a start. Joseph Porter formed Blyth Power in late 1983 after a spell at the back of the stage with seminal anarcho punk bands Zounds and The Mob (he proudly sets his drums up at the front of the stage these days).

Porter’s epic songs cover his love of politics, history, cricket and trainspotting – Blyth Power is named after a locomotive – so, although I hate the word ‘unique’, this band is pretty close.

In the band’s early days, amid the rule of Margaret Thatcher, Blyth Power stood out from the throng of protest songs, although Porter’s clever lyrics confused many who sought only shout-along slogans against the poll tax. Blyth Power covered these and many other subjects but with interwoven storylines that raised them above the hoi polloi.

A Blyth Power song can take you from the Dark Ages to the darker-still battlegrounds of modern-day Iraq with a singalong chorus and a love interest to boot. The music is best described as a mix between English folk and punk rock.

The band has enough songs to record another album and the current line-up of Porter, Annie Hatcher, Ben Bailey and Jerry plan to enter the studio when this is all over. When the all-clear sounds the band will also resume its annual cricket, camping and live music festival, The Ashes.

Joseph Porter of Blyth Power

After thousands of gigs up and down the country and further afield, this incomparable band is worth investigating online during the lock-down. Once this is all over, it will be worth checking them live too. See their Facebook page for more details on discography, lyrics, history and more.

Marius Moves

Marius moves, an oath is sworn
To the parish churches and the blood-stained corn
And where have all the flowers gone?
They’ve gone west young man, says I

Stiff in the saddle, Cromwell came
They met together in a shower of rain
We ground them into Salisbury Plain
And it came as no surprise

To see you outgunned and outmanoeuvred
Even as you planned your wild campaign
Black were the boots of the young men
Trampling the fields of yellow grain
He lights up his pipe as he tells you the story
Again and again and again

Stop the city, block the drains
Tear down the houses and stop the trains
Johnny came marching home again
To watch the news at ten
Cavalry charges in a flank attack
Tape it on the video and play it back
Look there’s me, I’m the one in black
He tells his new-found friends

Remember how you stood there screaming
On the steps of the corn exchange
Black were the boots of the young men
Trampling the fields of yellow grain
He passes the bottle and tells you the story
Again and again and again
Tell me again

How General Purpose quit the field
The military objectives unfulfilled
We bore him away on his cardboard shield again
Copyright: Joseph Porter

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Martin Cooper is a senior editor and writer at The Focus. The man behind the style guide comes from a newspaper and magazine background and has worked in the sports, aeronautical and hospitality industries. While head of production at The Argus he appeared on the Jeremy Vine radio show and worked as a freelancer on the sports desk at The Sunday Times. Martin is also an FA Level 1-qualified coach and took his youth team from division five to division one in two seasons before going out at the top.