This time round I’m writing about about 4 lads from Merseyside whose music has gone on to influence bands around the world. Of course I mean the “fab four” – Hockey, Tabby, Bazza, Ant – better known as Instant Agony. I suppose there are other bands I could be talking about, but I can’t think of them just now
Coming from Birkenhead, Instant Agony released 4 singles during their original time together before things went a bit wrong for them. They seemed to make an impression that lasted with punk bands in far flung corners of the world acknowledging them as an influence. This is despite the fact that other than one 100 Club appearance they didn’t play outside the North West back in the day.
Instant Agony released their debut single Think Of England on a label called Half Man Half Biscuit (would have made a good band name) in 1982. It was pretty basic uptempo punk, but fun, and was the first of several releases to feature the none-more-punk cut and paste artwork of guitarist/songwriter Tabby, showing a punked up Charles and Di. The follow up single Fashion Parade was slightly more competent, with a slow build up before launching into another fast thrash-about song.
This single seemed to make a breakthrough reaching no 7 in the indie charts and things were looking promising. So much so that they soon found themselves on Flicknife Records, alongside such punk luminaries as The Saints, Glen Matlock ..and Hawkwind! No Sign Of Life, their first single on Flicknife, is the one I’d rate as their classic and as it’s been the set closer pretty much every time I’ve seen them live I guess they thought so too. It was just a tad slower than their first two singles and added more melodic lead guitar. Agony still sounded undeniably punk while having come up with a sound that was pretty unique amongst their contemporaries.
I guess not everyone was impressed as instead of being the hoped for breakthrough the single stalled at 21 in the indie charts. Perhaps it just didn’t fit the Discharge mould that was the in thing at the time.
The next single Nicely Does It was in a similar vein but was rushed out by Flicknife before the band had finished mixing. The single flopped. Worse was to come as an album was recorded but the tapes disappeared. There were rumours of one of the tracks Death Or Glory mysteriously getting released in Japan, although the album tapes have never appeared (Maybe if Japanther checks Mrs Japanther’s collection something may turn up! In fact maybe Sakura could check down the back of her sofa as well!). Anyway here’s Nicely Does It, I like it even if no one else (including the band) does
Instant Agony split having failed to make punk’s big league, but on the other hand like many of the UK 80s punks they acquired a certain international cult status. Hockey continued to be prominent on the local punk scene, fronting the Go Heads. In 1997 Tabby and Hockey relaunched Instant Agony and gigged solidly for another 10 years at least, managing 5 further 7”s and two albums, this time without losing the tapes. They even achieved perhaps their greatest exposure when Hockey and Tabby featured in a Daily Mirror article on old punks entitled Pretty Ancient. Hockey wasn’t amused and reckons his quotes were made up, but then seeing as on their song Homicidal Media he sang about “shit and lies” perhaps he should’t have been surprised.
After plugging away for so long Hockey left to a couple of years back to form the 70s-punk influenced Bite Back so I guess the Agony is finally over (sorry…!)