The Afterbirths

Andrew Watson ‘PH’ – vocals
Duncan Todhunter – drums/plastic buckets
Peter Smith ‘Smiddy’ – guitar
Trever Wall ‘Pug’ – bass
Trotsky – lead guitar

The Afterbirths were one of those bands that did not do very much in its musical life, but seemed to project people into different projects afterwards.
PH and I started the band for something to do. We agreed to do something musically on the 11/5/84 and we had our first practise on the 6/6/84. If George Orwell could foresee what the result I guess he would have changed the topic of his book “1984”.

I wanted to give myself and PH a musical outlet and we were both into Crass at the time, PH was also into a lot of similar type of punk bands, as well as a few semi-acoustic bands such as The Men You Could Not Hang. We had gone to a few gigs together to see Crass at Cleator Moor (3/5/84), Peter and the Test Tube Babies at Newcastle (8/4/84), and Serious Drinking in Carlisle (22/6/84), I nearly got to see Conflict (24/2/84) but I never went and lots of others too many to mention. But these influences contributed to the band.

The unique thing about PH was that he had his own rhythm, he was not in rhythm with anyone else. This is not to knock him, I have got to know many people over the years who have their own rhythms, not the standard 4/4, 6/8, 3/4 rhythms, but they feel music differently. This causes a problems when you need them to fit into standard music rhythms. We got around this in the practices by “nodding him in” that’s the only way I can describe it. When it was his time to sing, I nodded my head and off he went, he stopped when the lyrics ran out for the verse, and I nodded him in again for the chorus. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it did not.

I wrote a couple of songs for him to sing “I hate every thing about you” was the main song and the music was a rip-off of a rock ‘n’ roll riff, standard 12 bar blues in A, but this did not mean much to PH I still had to nod him in.
PH got round to writing his own songs which were loosely based on vegetarianism and Crass politics. His style was like “auto-suggestion” I think he wrote not rhyming lines but more of a paragraph and semi-sung it. It was his style, more experimental, which was fine by me.

Some song titles were:
I hate Everything About you (Trots)
The Corn Beef Sarny Song (PH)
Graveyeard Rock (Trots/PH)
Sweet 16 (Smiddy)
Men in Black (Smiddy)
Youth Explosion (Trots)
Selfish Rat (PH/Trots)

Duncan Todhunter was the drummer. a young lad then, came up to my house for practices either by getting the bus or hitch-hiking or occasionally walking. He had drum sticks, but he did not have a drum kit, but so what? He brought up (or loaned from my mother) plastic buckets and arranged them like a kit on the floor. His rhythm was excellent, he was a natural drummer, imaginative and creative. I am pleased he was the first band he played with, he went on to play with The Beguiled, Nightmares in a Damaged Brain and Havana Affair.

Smiddy was also new to bands I think, he played guitar and later started playing bass. He had good rhythm too and turned out to be an excellent guitarist and bassist. He later played bass in Masters of Middle Earth.

Pug was also new to playing in bands, he played bass and also drums. He did some camera work for various gigs later on.

We did not do many gigs, a few at Stars and Stripes, and a gig supporting ‘D.O.S.’ at The King’s Head, in Ferryhill, in the North East (Newcastle area). Andrew Watson (PH) me this listing:

Afterbirths at Ferryhill
This picture is of a Jam Session at Stars and Stripes (left – right: Pug, PH, Duncan, Trotsky, Smiddy)
afterbirths
There is some Mp3s of a practice, but the most we played was Stars and Stripes on a Wednesday night at the Jam Sessions and we supported “Descent” which I have no recollection of at all.

Here is the only recording I have of a rehearsal at my house. We are playing 4 songs:
The Cornbeef Sarny Song, written by PH.
I Only Care About Me (I wrote this song, notice the Chuck Berry aborted rip-off intro!)
Selfish Rat (I am not sure of the title, but it is the only thing I can make out… it was written by PH)
Youth Explosion, My Song, which was also played with Kate, Susan (see Musical Chairs page):

I forgot to mention the gig we played at Palnackie, in the Scottish Borders. I think the gig was organized by Johnny (bass player from Nightmares), he organized the bus through there. There was a bus load of band members and audience. The bands had to contribute some equipment, I chipped in a mic stand and microphone (which disappeared at the end of the night). I do not remember the gig very much, but I remember the bus ride home as I was drunk, loud and full of spirit. Brads reminded me of it:
Brads: “Hi Kev , i have been reading the Carlisle punk bands stuff and i noticed That you didn’t mention The Afterbirths gig at Palnackie. I only mention it as it was on my 16th birthday and the song Sweet sixteen was dedicated to me . There was a bus load of us went up to it . A great and memorable 16th birthday indeed . Take care fella ,TTFN !”

A poster with the Afterbirths supporting Descent
afterbirths poster

I am not sure what happened to us? It would be nice to know what happened next?

Here is an excellent contribution from Smiddy, he has a better memory than myself…I am not really amazed by this!
“Hi Kev.
I have been reading these pages with interest, as well as a smile on my face & a song in my heart! Great idea. I’m sure you will get many great contributions from all of us that dipped our youthful toes into the world of rock & roll in the 80s.
Afterbirths was indeed my first “proper band” I think, but Duncan, Pug, (Trevor) and I along with another lad called Boako had originally hooked up at the “centre for the unemployed” for jam sessions. I think this was before Afterbirths. We would bump into Pod now and again, members of “D.O.S. and I’m sure back then we probably felt a bit intimidated by them as we were just that bit younger (14/15) Brads was around too, but I’m not sure if he was playing anything at that time.
I have memories of rehearsing at “Radical Records” on South Henry st off Botchergate on Sunday afternoons! Pan head having to be counted in ! Duncan’s bass drum being from a marching band!
What a racket we made. “Corned beef sarnies song” had completely forgotten about that one. Happy days.
I also have no recollection of “The Descent” gig, but remember loads about Palnackie.
We ended up playing last, NMIADB played first followed by the heavy metal band who were supposed to top the bill, but as the locals were getting restless they went on second leaving us to cause mayhem ! I remember Dung (whom I barely knew) but always thought was an ok bloke, if a little intense, singing the words (not sure if this is word for word) “I was never much of a man but you could see in me what no-one else could see” whilst looking directly at his girlfriend (some red head lass who’s name escapes me) I think she had just dumped him! Why this has stuck in my memory is a mystery. I remained relatively sober, as I was keen to protect my £200.00 investment in my recently bought Yamaha guitar. (Life savings at the time, & I still have it. ) it stands toe to toe with any Fender or Gibson I have ever played.
It would be interesting to hear other people’s recollection of this gig. Things have been exaggerated over the years, & I believe we may have been chased out of town by a biker gang??? Do you remember this? Journey home was a long one! I’d be 16 at the time. I’m amazed you have posters and photos from this time. John Fergusson has much MME memorabilia, all my stuff has been lost, bar a photo of MMEs younger better looking brother “White House Blue”
This era 83 to 90 was a defining period for me and I foolishly gave up playing in around 90/91 (as you know I have rekindled my interest in he last few years. I think it gets in your blood & you shouldn’t give up what you love)
Good luck with this venture. Ill post up some more memories when I get the chance”.

1 thought on “The Afterbirths”

  1. First of all a big thanks to Kevin and pod for shining a torch on Cumbria’s heritage and now realise why they built the Roman wall to try and stop us getting back from planarckie … Keep up the good work , interesting reading.

    Like

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