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Attila The Stockbroker

After graduating from the University of Kent with a degree in French, this performance poet (born John Baine on 21 October 1957) really was a stockbroker, or on the way to becoming one, before he set out on the live music circuit.

Accompanied on occasion by his own mandolin backing, he regaled his audience with good-humoured invective on the state of the world.

Viewed as one of the new ‘ranting poets’ (a term he disliked) his influences were poets Roger McCoughlan and Brian Patton, alongside Monty Python and the energy of punk.

After playing in forgotten punk bands English Disease and Brighton Riot Squad, he joined Brussels-based punk band Contingent. His usual early environment, indeed, was supporting punk bands.

He played frequently enough to earn himself a session for BBC disc jockey John Peel, which in turn led to a deal with Cherry Red Records and his debut, Ranting At The Nation, was a highly colourful selection of verse and spoken word highlighting the absurdity of British life.

Nightmare visions of Soviets running the social security system and his affection for obscure European soccer clubs were among the targets: “So go to your Job Centre – I’ll bet you’ll see/Albanian students get handouts for free/ and drug-crazed punk rockers cavort and caress/ in the interview booths of the DHSS”.

The Cocktails EP (October 1982) boasted some of his finest pieces to date, from the serious (Contributory Negligence) to the absurd (The Night I Slept With Seething Wells). Sawdust and Empire (1984) saw a greater emphasis on music.

Seething Wells (Steven Wells) and Attila.

Increasingly, Attila was seeing himself as a folk artist, and in-between releases was becoming a near-permanent fixture at various festivals, working alongside John Otway and TV Smith (ex-The Adverts).

He was involved in the staging of Cheryl The Rock Opera alongside Otway and Blyth Power, for whom he occasionally plucked a fiddle, and contributed to the pages of the Guardian with essays on social change in eastern Europe while on tour in the region.

Attila formed the band Barnstormer in 1994, combining punk rock and medieval music.

The band performed regularly across Europe and released the albums The Siege of Shoreham (1996),  Just One Life (2000),  Zero Tolerance (2004) and Bankers and Looters (2012).