The Piranhas were a punk ska group from Brighton. Formed in 1977, the original line-up comprised "Boring" Bob Grover (guitar, vocals), John Helmer (guitar, vocals), Zoot Alors (sax), Reginald Frederick Hornsbury (bass) and Dick Adland (aka Dick Slexia) (drums).

Three tracks by the group were included on the Attrix compilation album "Vaultage 78 - Two Sides of Brighton". Debut single "Coloured Music" followed on the same label in early 1979, before an unhappily brief association with Virgin Records that yielded just one single release ("Space Invaders") before the band were dropped in early 1980. A third single, "Yap Yap Yap" followed back on Attrix before an association with record producer Pete Waterman (later of Stock, Aitken and Waterman fame) led to a hook up with Sire Records and provided the band with a Top 10 hit in the shape of "Tom Hark" in August 1980 [1].

An eponymously-titled LP followed in September 1980, along with a single release comprising a re-recording of "I Don't Want My Body". The group recorded a final BBC session for Mike Read in September 1980 before splitting the following year. A reconstituted Piranhas, minus Helder but including Gary Turner, formerly of the Dodgems, went on to have a top 20 hit in November 1982 with a cover of Lou Busch's "Zambezi" [2] before splitting again.

In 2010 Bob Grover and John Helmer reunited in a line-up calling themselves Piranhas 3D. This composition of the group gigged regularly, mostly on the south coast, until a split in February 2014. A new formation, minus Helmer, emerged by the end of the year under the name Piranhas Four.

Links To Peel

Peel discovered the Piranhas when he heard the Attrix compilation "Vaultage 78" [3]. The group's rough and ready ska contribution "I Don't Want My Body" became a favourite of the DJ and he continued to support them over the next two years.

Peel saw the band play live on at least two occasions. In his review of the "Vaultage 78" LP in the issue of Sounds dated 3 February 1979 [3], he mentions having seen the group "last weekend" in Brighton [4]. On the evening of the first broadcast of the group's second session, 26 July 1979, John additionally mentions having seen the group earlier in the year in a pub in Stowmarket. Fifteen years on, he would recall that there had been "a big scrap in the lavvy" at the gig [4].

On 21 February 1979 Peel dedicated the debut broadcast of their first session to the band's tour manager Dave Bullock, who had tragically died in a recent road accident involving the band's entourage, which had also hospitalised some band members. The second session was repeated on 18 August 1980 to coincide with "Tom Hark" being a hit in the current singles chart.

Interviewed for the BBC Four documentary "Top Of The Pops - The Story Of 1980" (first screened on 2nd January 2015), guitarist John Helmer ruefully opined that the band's appearance on Top Of The Pops blew their credibility (the drummer appeared bare-chested and used a pair of plastic fish as drumsticks), and that they had "sold-out", with the result that Peel stopped playing them. Track listing evidence below suggests that this was not quite the case.

Festive Fifty Entries

  • None.


1. Recorded: 1979-02-07. First broadcast: 21 February 1979. Repeated: 13 March 1979.

  • Coloured Music / Jilly / Saxophone / Cheap And Nasty

2. Recorded: 1979-07-07. First broadcast: 26 July 1979. Repeated: 21 August 1979, 18 August 1980.

  • Boyfriend / Getting Beaten Up / Yap Yap Yap / Happy Families

3. Recorded: 1980-01-16. First broadcast: 28 January 1980. Repeated: 05 March 1980.

  • Anything / Final Straw / Something / Green Don't Suit Me

Other Shows Played

The list below was researched only from the database of this site and Lorcan's Tracklistings Archive and is certainly incomplete. Please add further information if known.


External Links

  1. This was a cover of an instrumental by Elias and his Zig Zig Jive Flutes, with added lyrics by Bob Grover. The track was an example of the Kwela genre from South Africa, which had become popular in Europe in the late Fifties and early Sixties. The original had been a #2 hit in the singles chart in summer 1958 [1]. The Piranhas version peaked at #6 in the Top 40 in August 1980 [2]. The upbeat music was in contrast to the rather grim lyrics, which mused on the looming threat of nuclear Armageddon. The tune was soon appropriated by football supporters and used as a terrace chant.
  2. The single featured the talents of female vocal duo The Fabulous Wealthy Tarts, shortly to figure prominently in the early solo career of Paul Young.
  3. The same LP was also his introduction to the Dodgems "Lord Lucan Is Missing".
  4. On Tuesday 09 January 1979, Peel commented that if the band had a gig that Friday (12th January), he would go and see them. Later in the show he discovered that they were due to play in Southampton that night. "If I can get the petrol, damn me if I shan't go to that." He later learned that there was another gig scheduled in Brighton on Sunday night (14th), which gave him an extra option. It would appear that the band had a Sunday night residency at the Alhambra in Brighton at the time, so it is possible that Peel may have seen them there later in the month, if not on that date. However, it is perhaps significant that the DJ played "I Don't Want My Body" again on the next show following the weekend, Monday 15 January 1979. Sadly, no recording of this programme is currently available to confirm whether he did see the band, and if so, where.
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