The Russians were a punk band from the Northampton area consisting of John Brassett (bass), Julie Rebelowitchz (vocals), Dusty Miller (guitar) and John Lucibello (drums). They did a session for John Peel as well as two gigs with him and also released a single.
They formed in early 1979 when Brassett and original guitarist, Jack Swann (RIP) recruited 18-year-old vocalist Julie Woolmore and drummer John Lucibello. They chose the band name as an ironic statement on their deliberate apolitical stance, in direct contrast to many of their punk heroes. Julie felt her name was boring by contrast to the rest of the band who created a professional name by jokingly combining Rebel and witch to make the Sovietesque Rebel-o-witch-z.
Early in 1980, Russians released a single, No Title b/w Anything She Wants on Laser records (LAS35). To promote the single, a custard pie fight was staged between Russians and Acme Punk Clothing outside the latter’s shop on the busy Wellingborough Road in Northampton bringing traffic to a standstill. The event made the front page of the local newspaper under the title Russian invasion starts a war. Unfortunately, the distributors refused to release the single and the band fought a long relentless battle and in the end had to settle for getting a few released for themselves, which they had to drive to London to get, so they could sell this small amount to their fans. The b-side of the single, is included on 2 compilations on lastfm.com-Bad Teeth #1&A Reference Of Female Fronted Punk Rock 1977-89.
Two cassettes were also released. The first, Cellar Tapes (because they rehearsed in the cellar of the Navigation Inn), released in 1979, included ¾ of the Peel Session but omitted Meet Me After School Tonight which was a Jack Swann composition. Its place on side 1 was taken by Crazy Mixed Up Kid and side 2 comprised 2 reggae songs, Don’t You Lie No More and Number 1 plus Space City.
A few months before the release of the 2nd cassette, entitled Sorry! (Scorpio Records UK RUSK1, distributed by Spartan 1981), Dusty Miller left the band and Bob Spence (ex Zeros & Neat Neat Neat) took over guitar duties. The cassette contained Stalag / From Russia With Love (a long time live favourite) / Walk That Walk / I Doubt It / You’re Just Impossible // Stop, Look & Listen / I Don’t Want You / Ice Cream Van / Mannequins & Sorry! Dusty was the sound engineer.
Russians also contributed a track, Shoplifter, to a cassette of Northampton music called Northampton Under Glass (White Elephant Records, 1980) which was re-released on CD in 2012.
As well as regular gigs around Northamptonshire at The Paddock, Navigation Inn, Black Lion, Racecourse Pavilion, MFM Club, Nags Head at Wollaston (a regular haunt of John Peel) etc., Russians also played the Oranges and Lemons in Oxford (including their first ever gig), did a surfing tour, round the coast, which included Capone’s and several other venues in Bournemouth and Bude in Devon as well as venues in London. After the Peel session, they were offered the Uni circuit, playing to much larger crowds, many of whom were already fans, and headlined the Willen Lake protest festival in Milton Keynes before a 2,000 plus crowd. After a couple more line up changes, the band finally split in 1982.
As well as the Who’s Can’t Explain, Russians’ live set variously included covers of another Who song, Substitute, Last Train to Clarksville by the Monkees, Let’s Spend The Night Together (Rolling Stones) and We’re Going Wrong (Cream).
Links to Peel
The band had one Peel session, recorded on July 9 1979. Two days before the recording, Jack Swann left the band and was replaced by Dusty Miller who hurriedly learned the repertoire.
At the end of the 16 August 1979 show, Peel announced that he has a gig with the band in Harpole, Northampton, at the weekend (August 18th).
Russians also played another gig with Peel, probably at the Nags Head, Wollaston where Peel was a regular DJ and close friend of the landlord Big Bob Knight whom he often mentioned on his show (e.g. Bauhaus session, 3 Jan 1980).
Julie Rebelowitchz's memories of the session and the gigs to follow shortly.
PHOTOS FROM THE PADDOCK, HARPOLE 18 AUGUST 1979
Festive Fifty Entries
- One session. No known commercial release but three of the songs were included on the Russians’ first cassette, Cellar Tapes (see above).
- Can't Explain / Meet Me After School Tonight / Manic Depression / Stop You're Killing Me
Other Shows Played
- No information available.
- My Life Is A Jigsaw (blog)
- Facebook: Northampton (England) 70s and 80s music scene (Peel related material includes poster from November 1970 for his DJ'ing gigs at the Nags Head, Wollaston, and Blisworth Hotel - month/year confirmed by Hawkwind gig also documented here.)