Tim Cooper has written for most national newspapers and many magazines on every subject from politics to pop culture. His first published work was in his own punk fanzine, Cliché. He lives in East London indulging his passions of writing, reading, cinema, music, football, cricket, and vegetable gardening.
Johnny & The Self-Abusers had the perfect punk trajectory, releasing one single in their eight-month career. Then they became Simple Minds.
Song of the Day
One night in early 1977, two Scottish teenagers called Jim and Charlie were drinking in a pub called the Doune Castle in Glasgow when a local punk called Alan asked them what they thought of his band – Johnny & The Self Abusers.
It turned out there was no such band; he had made it up. But over a few drinks the three of them decided to make it a reality. After all, they already had a band name, and Alan had already persuaded the pub to book them before they even existed.
The next day Alan introduced them to his friend John, who had a saxophone and a microphone, and they had their first rehearsal. I’m sure it sounded terrible but they already had the band name – Alan’s sole contribution to the band he claimed to have started.
Now they needed ‘punk’ names – Jim became Pripton Weird and the other two became Johnnie Plague and Charlie Argue. With the addition of two old school pals to play bass and drums, Johnny & The Self Abusers were almost complete – even though their new rhythm section wouldn’t change their names from Tony Donald and Brian McGee. They became a sextet with the addition of a third guitarist, ‘Sid Syphilis.’
After one week’s practice, on Easter Monday 1977, they were playing their first gig back at the Doune Castle, with only one original song to their name. Two weeks later they supported Generation X in Edinburgh.
This was their first – and last – single, Saints And Sinners. Funded by John/Johnnie’s parents, its title came from the name of the venue where they played their second gig before it, too, changed its name to become King Tut’s.
Somehow, the “amateur and atrocious” demo (Jim’s own words) reached Ted Carroll at Chiswick Records and was released as a single in November. On the very same day the group split up. It was eight months since they had formed.
Bored by the limitations of punk, they turfed Johnnie out along with his songwriting efforts (example: Toss Yourself Off) and the others shed their punk personas and decided on new names all round.
Pripton went back to his birth name of Jim Kerr, Charlie took back his surname Burchill, Sid reverted to Allan McNeill. The new group, which was essentially the same as the old group without Johnnie (aka John Milarkey), became Simple Minds.
When I saw them in 1978 they still had this song in their set. When it came out as a single it was dismissed by Melody Maker as “rank and file” while NME called it “A drab parade of New Wave that jerks off endlessly into the void.”