New Model Army formed in Bradford, Yorkshire, in 1980 and immediately outlined their manifesto by naming themselves after the Sir Thomas Fairfax/Oliver Cromwell revolutionary army.
The band was formed by Justin ‘Slade the Leveller’ Sullivan (guitar and vocals) – a former platform sweeper and Mars bar production line worker – with the help of Jason ‘Moose’ Harris (bass and guitar), and Robb Heaton (drums and guitar).
Their brand of punk-folk/rock attracted a loyal cult following, much of which shared the band’s grievances towards the Tory government policies of the 80s. This was exemplified on their debut album, which combined militant themes such as Spirit Of The Falklands and Vengeance (a vitriolic anthem about getting even with one’s trespassers) with the haunting lament for childhood A Liberal Education.
New Model Army made their first public appearance at Scamps Disco in Bradford in October 1980.
After releasing singles on Abstract Records and enjoying a #2 UK independent chart hit with The Price in 1984, they formed an unlikely alliance with the multinational EMI, which saw the band acquire a higher profile and a significantly increased recording budget.
They eventually broke through to a wider audience with the album No Rest For The Wicked (1985). The single No Rest peaked at #28 on the UK singles chart – a position they were never to beat in an impressive run of 12 UK chart singles between 1985 and 1991.
With often-inflammatory lyrics, the band never compromised their beliefs for commercial gain. They ran into trouble with Top Of The Pops for donning T-shirts with the (albeit laudable) slogan ‘Only Stupid Bastards Use Heroin’.
The band were famously refused entry to the US in the 1980s because they were deemed to have “no artistic merit”.
In December 1991, New Model Army left EMI, eventually finding a new home on Epic Records. Their first single for the label revealed few concessions to the mainstream: Here Comes The War featured a picture of a charred body, and a pull-out poster instructing the user in how to prepare a nuclear bomb.
In 1994, a dance remix of Vengeance was released as a protest against the Criminal Justice Bill.
After a lengthy absence, the band reconvened in 1998 for the Strange Brotherhood album. Drummer Robb Heaton was diagnosed with a brain tumour shortly after and suggested that his drum technician Michael Dean take over from him.
Heaton died from pancreatic cancer on 4 November 2004.
The band continue to tour, with Justin Sullivan the only remaining original member.
Justin ‘Slade the Leveller’ Sullivan
Jason ‘Moose’ Harris