The Business – New Mania

From New Mania no 5, 1981

The Business are a band from Lewisham in south London. Their only vinyl output at the time of the interview is two tracks, “Product” and “Suburban Rebels” on the Carry On Oi! LP, although they are due to have a single released on Secret records. This interview took place in a pub near Charing Cross station with Steve Kent, Quint Smith and manager Lol Pryor. So that’s the introductions over, let’s get to (the) business…

When did Business start?
October ’79, although we didn’t get serious until the next year. The first gig was in February that year at this girl’s party in Waterloo. We had been talking about forming a band for ages. We started off doing covers, before writing our own.

What were your first gigs like?
The first ones were just arranged through friends. We played at small pubs, gradually working up to better pubs. We played one gig at Guy’s Hospital.

What happened at that Rock Garden gig?
We were supporting a “Rough Trade” type band, called Vincent Units. We arrived at opening time, so by the time we went on, around 10.15, we was more than drunk. It was the first time we’d played up the West End and the place was packed with our mates. The owner said we were “generally unruly” and the sound engineer said we was the best band to play there since the Sex Pistols. The manager of the place didn’t have the guts to tell us to our face that we’re banned, he waited until he phoned us up the next day.

What do you think of the gig at the Bridge House with Cock Sparrer, 4-Skins etc? Cos I didn’t think the sound was really good.
Well, we nearly went home because we was being mucked about so much. The bloke at the place said we had to go on at 8 o’clock or not at all. When we went on the place was empty. If it hadn’t been Garry Bushell’s birthday we would have gone home. The guitar sounded like a ukelele. I think that gig done us more harm than good.

How did the gig at Southall with the Last Resort and 4-Skins come about?
We was going to do three gigs with them on an alternate headline basis. The 4-Skins headlining at Southall, Last Resort at Hastings and us at Crayford Town Hall. In the end that was the only gig of the three.

What happened when you got to Southall?
We didn’t get there until 8 o’clock. We got as far as the road to the Hamborough Tavern was in. There was a big traffic jam so we asked an Asian woman what was going on and she said there was an accident. Then about fifty Asians steamed into the van, so we wound the windows up and shot off down the road towards the Hamborough Tavern and ended up in the forecourt. We went into the pub, which was packed, and went straight on stage.

Did you get all the way through the set?
We only had 25 minutes to play and the singer just picked out the songs as we went along.

Who do you think was to blame for the trouble?
The police. They should have moved the Asians or called the gig off. Trouble could have been avoided.

After Southall, I suppose it was pretty hard getting gigs?
We tried lots of places. Some said wait until things cool down, and others said “no chance”.

Don’t you think you are now branded as “Oi!”, along with the other bands at Southall, even though your music is much different?
In our first poster we said we were an “oi-punk” band. Oi! is just something you get called, rather than something you are. Oi! is punk, 1981 punk.

Do you think you could appeal to a larger, wider audience than the other bands currently under the Oi! banner?
Yes. We appeal to the punks, the Skinheads and the herberts, the lads in the pub. It depends a lot on the area you live in. A lot of punk bands don’t want to get across to the 20-22 year olds who ain’t punk or Skinhead. No-one has really tried to get across to these people.

What sort of things do you write about?
Steve writes most of the words, but we don’t really sit down and try to write about anything in particular. We write about anything that’s in our heads.

Do you think the Oi! tag has done you more harm than good?
Being in with the Oi! tag did get us more gigs at first, as well as getting a record out. Now that’s all been cancelled out as no-one will put us on.

Are you signed to a gig agency?
No. We haven’t got much faith in agencies. They just get you gigs at places we’d try, but they take 15%. We just ring up places ourselves.

One side of your single is “National Insurance Blacklist”. What’s that about?
It’s about a blacklist for extreme trade unionists and rebels that cause a lot of grief for the government. They take the National Insurance number and when they go for another job, it cuts their chances down. (There is a monster said not to exist, they call it the Employer’s Blacklist.)

The other, “Harry May”, what is the story behind that?
Harry May is a well-known south London celebrity and ‘Robin Hood’, in no way a villain, contrary to rumours spread by the Metropolitan Police.

What is the deal with Secret Records?
A shady one! It’s an optional deal where, if the first single does well, then we’ll do another one. “Harry May” was going to be on the Oi! LP originally but Secret wanted to put it on the single.

What does the future hold in store for the band?
There are a couple of promotors in Dublin prepared to put on an Oi! package, so hopefully we’ll play there sometime. There’s also talk of New York dates sometime in 1982. Finally we’d like to find out whether ‘Crowd’s Favourite’ and Mickey have got a good thing going…

I sensed that this signalled the end of the serious conversation. So, I made my excuses and headed back to Charing Cross and boarded the train home…

aaabusiness

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