In good punk tradition, the Anti-Nowhere League formed in Kent, England, in 1980 out of sheer boredom. The band members were old friends, congenital troublemakers and occasional bikers who discovered the joy of ineptly played guitars. While any self-respecting punk band had to be called ‘Anti’ something, they became The Anti-Nowhere League .
Their first gig saw them playing uninvited during a local fair at Tunbridge Wells (which for the ignorant, is a very genteel town in the south of England), where, if nothing else, they proved they could get arrested by . . . getting arrested.
By the autumn of 1981 the boys had secured a deal with John Curd’s WXYZ Records and were touring as support to The Damned. Their first single, released in January 1982, was a cover of buskers’ fave, Ralph McTell’s Streets Of London, recorded, the band said, because they “wanted to fuck up something nice”‘.
The accompanying video portrayed the League doing their utmost to look menacing, while Animal, clad in leather, chains, studs and wraparound shades, swung an axe around for no apparent reason.
However, it was the single’s B-side, So What, that gained the band notoriety, as Animal detailed graphic experiences with sex, drugs, alcohol, bestiality, paedophilia and VD and made the curious boast, “I’ve spewed up on a pint of piss”.
Animal’s philosophical musings were lost on the Obscene Publications Squad, who, as the record appeared in the lower reaches of the chart, raided WXYZ’s offices on Friday 12 February, 1982, seized all the copies they could find and destroyed them.
The record was promptly banned, greatly enhancing the League’s following amongst the hardcore punk fraternity. So What was eventually covered by Metallica.
Over the next year another three singles – I Hate…People, Woman and For You – were unleashed. The latter was supposedly an attempt at commerciality and, ironically, the only one not to chart. There was an album, too, We Are … The League (1982), which contained all the singles bar For You and So What.
The band went quiet after that, as the punk scene lost momentum. The dreadful Live In Yugoslavia (1983), featuring a truly painful cover of The Rolling Stones‘ Paint It Black, and a version of So What with the lyrics buried deep in the mix, did little to demand attention.
Then in 1985, the boys re-emerged as an ‘epic-rock’ band, renamed The League. They had, it seemed, grown up, and wanted to be taken seriously. To this end, P. J. was replaced on drums by Michael Bettell, and the band set off on tour, even supporting Big Country at one point.
This would have been very embarrassing for their original audience but few people seemed to notice, and a single, Out On The Wasteland, and album, The Perfect Crime (1987), slipped into the void.
The band reverted to their original name, and persist today on the punk cabaret circuit, having long ago fallen into the rut they always professed to despise.
Nick “Animal” Culmer
Chris “Magoo” Exall