Joe Public


Joe Public Biog

I went to Cotham School from 1974-1979 it was an awful place academically but an inspirational place if you were a young musician.

There were members of the Cortinas and the Pop Group – two years older than me - and after seeing the Cortinas supporting Television and Blondie at the Colston Hall in 1977 and then seeing band members back in the playground the next day! - I decided that, this was going to be my life.

I was still at Cotham School when this version of Joe Public was formed - but there had been an earlier version with Philip Price (later of the Untouchables) on drums and Julian Griffiths on bass together with singer Kevin Leadbetter - we had done a couple of Steve Street demos and a few gigs courtesy of John Hewitt of New Bristol Records,the highlight of which was supporting Generation X at the Yate Stars and Stripes Club.

We were all at the age when you decide to leave school to get a job or stay on and this is the reason that I lost this rhythm section.

Shortly after this, I met Sean McLusky who had moved to Bristol to attend Bower Ashton Art College - he was stopping people in the street that looked likely to be musicians to invite them to a rehearsal/jam that he had organised with a view to getting himself into a band.

He ran into myself - a fellow nutcase dressed in a sixties suit on a boiling hot July day 1978 and that was the beginning of a partnership that lasted through fourteen years and several acts (Johnny Britton, Subway Sect, JoBoxers, Sandie Shaw & If?).

Sean quickly recruited bassman Mike Smith who he had played with before in the Midlands - they were both excellent musicians and we became a very tight outfit.

We played wherever we could, and cut two records (Hotel Rooms and Hermans back) before splitting - in those days everyone swapped girlfriends and bands every few months!

I later formed another version with John Shennan (The Spics) on vocals and Geoff Allsop (Glaxo Babies-see what I mean!) on drums and we put out a live recording on The Bristol Recorder.

I was still only eighteen and by now I had played everywhere in Bristol (at least twice) and I felt the need to move on, so when I got a call from (the Bernie Rhodes managed) Johnny Britton (formerly of the Primates) in 1980 inviting me to move to London to play for him, I was off like a hare (still there 29 years later).

Nearly everyone that I had known in Bristol joined me within a year, sadly breaking up most of the bands from that era in the process.

Ten years later in 1988, Kevin Leadbetter was signed to Virgin France under the solo name ‘Euston Jones’ and this line-up reformed in Paris and we spent a hilarious month rehearsing and recording an album.

I am still in touch with Kevin, Mike and Sean - my good mates.

Rob Marche

Joe Public – another band member Mike Smiths account of events...

I already knew Sean McLusky from South Warwickshire College in the mid seventies, he was on the Drama and Liberal Arts course and was already a great drummer. We had a band together briefly but when the summer of ’77 came to an end and we all moved on, I never really expected to see him again. So it was a surprise when I moved to Bristol and found him living round the corner. He was interested in the idea of “manufacturing” a band and one day went down town and handed out invitations for an audition to anyone he liked the look of, to be held up at Western Organ Studios a few days later. On the day, he played drums, I played guitar and we just got jamming with anyone who turned up. I remember Chris Bostock walking in with a brand new Fender bass, but he didn’t stay long. Towards the end of the session in walked Rob Marche and Kevin Leadbetter, Bristol boys fresh out of Cotham school, wearing sharp suits; Rob had his Vox Dagger guitar, and we knew they had something special. A few phone calls later and I cut my hair, switched to bass and Sean and I were in Joe Public. Rob had already written most of the songs so after a few rehearsals we started gigging in all the usual places and things started to happen. We went on the road with the Be Limp tour, put together by Dave Cohen and others, and we recorded Hotel Rooms for Simon Edwards’ Heartbeat Records. One of the great things about this time was getting to know Shoes for Industry and seeing them do their amazing show. We were invited to record Herman’s Back as a single for Thos Broomans newly formed Wavelengh Records and it was a disaster. Sean had left the band so Thos, bless him, deputised on drums. Then in the studio, I broke Rob’s Vox guitar while putting on new strings and he was forced to record with a terrible Japanese Gibson copy, and the sound of the band was all wrong. Not long after this, John Shennan took over from me and Kev, Geoff Alsop came in on drums and the old Joe Public was no more.

What I remember most about being in the band was the energy and power of the music. Sean was an amazing drummer and he and I made a tight sound, but all the aggression came from Rob’s guitar; with the Dagger Vox, sharp suits and Sicilian hard stares (we even had an instrumental called Stilletto) he gave the band great presence, and a hint of menace. We used to run on stage, play the set and run off. All the songs were short and perfectly formed. Apart from the way we got together, we were never post-punk. We were a mod band, if anything; young, good-looking, full of pep (and anything else going). We were probably never destined to last for long, but this was a great band to play with.

Mike Smith – Bass – July 2009