The Desperate Bicycles

“Bring your good news on a fast train…..”

Back in the 1970s I used to listen to John Peel’s radio programme a lot. He embraced all sorts of new music, notably the punk scene. One night he played a track called ‘Smokescreen’ by the Desperate Bicycles.


This was recorded by them, completely independently, as a 45 rpm single, which perhaps needs a bit of explaining for younger readers. It was a vinyl record: the most popular medium of the time. However, it was virtually unheard of for a band to produce one without a record company. The Desperate Bicycles did this, apparently for £153.

The music was basic, urgent; the lyrics were inspiring. I ordered a copy by post; it arrived with a message saying “send us a copy of your single when you produce it”.

The Desperate Bicycles were the forerunners, perhaps the prophets, of a wave of independent, do-it-yourself creative forces. Some groups produced their music on cassettes. The punk movement was notable for its proliferation of self-made magazines, such as ‘Spitting Blood’ and many more. The message was you CAN make things for yourself. Your voice CAN be heard.

“If you can understand, go and join a band.”

Nowadays this is taken for granted. We can all record music on computers, even phones, and put it on the internet; we can all produce sophisticated art; heaven help us, we can all put our writing out there on blogs and the like. Perhaps it’s all too easy. Discuss.

It took me many years and a complete change in recording technology to do it, but I made two CDs (as’Oblique’) with a very limited production. I may even do more. Thank you, the Desperate Bicycles. Sorry I didn’t send you a single. You are the one of the guiding spirits behind this blog and anything else I produce. (We will ignore their lyrics about teachers…. and they’d probably be at huge odds with much of what I have to say or play… but the point is surely that all sorts of voices and opinions can be heard. Don’t take it for granted. Do it for yourself.)

“It was easy it was cheap, go and do it!”


2 thoughts on “The Desperate Bicycles

  1. I, too, used to listen to John Peel on the radio. Can’t say I’ve come across Desperate Bicycles and I’m no fan of punk but that’s a great name for a band. Oh, I see they have a page on Wikipedia. Well I’m blowed! OK, I watched the Smokescreen video on YouTube. As I suspected it’s not really my kind of music but I do applaud the “just do it” attitude.

    More importantly, you obviously took to heart the DIY philosophy and made your own recordings. What sort of music is it? And are there any samples we can hear? (Googling for ‘oblique CD’ throws up a jazz vibraphonist called Bobby Hutcherson. Doesn’t sound like you.)


    • I appreciate the comment…. Thanks very much. I will have to investigate ways of posting tracks. I think Soundcloud is a possibility. I’m pleased to say my nephews use it to publish their music….. which I don’t like.


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