THE NME INTERVIEW January 1985


Interviewed by Paul Du Noyer and X Moore .

"We want to see a caring socialist government in, the Tories out and to stop the rot within Britain and the western world as a whole, and we're going to do that with out next single, folks!" (mass hysterics)

Steve Drewett

What if Roy Hattersley was deputy leader of the Ramones instead of the Labour Party?

I expect that's a question you've often asked yourself. The answer, more or less, is The Newtown Neurotics. Self described as in "the musical branch of the labour movement", they are a Harlow three piece whose speedy and souped-up, stripped-down two-minute rock'n'roll rushes are anchored in solid English socialist sensible-ism. Rather reasonable rebels really.

Five years ago, for reasons that escape me, I went to Harlow to join a panel of local worthies (at least one of them had a hearing aid) as judge of a talent contest. The bands were dismally cheerful cabaret turns, except this one scruffy combo: punky spunky, funny and hard. They were the newly formed Neurotics. I voted them top of my list - they still came bottom.
Five years later, my scuzzy chum X Moore and I take the Harlow train to gauge how well the group surmounted that early disaster. They've done all right, in a quietly indie kind of way: a loyal live following, some sharp and no-nonsensical singles such as 'Licensing Hours' and 'Kick Out The Tories!' and an '83 album called ' Beggars Can Be Choosers'.
Harlow itself - a windy and rain-stained concrete newtown for transplanted Londoners - looks exactly the same.

"The kids in Harlow", says Steve Drewett, singer writer and guitarist spokesman of the group, "wear their apathy like a new fashion. You can see it from miles off" Simon Lomond (drums) and Colin Dredd(bass), nod glum assent.

Steve: "Most of Harlow is people moved out of the East End - the true Cockney Rejects, as Swells once put it, They followed the work to Harlow but the communities they'd built up in the East End got destroyed in the move.
"My parents was telling me that when we first moved here, they'd go down any pub and there'd be terrific Cockney singsongs. That was when it was a really new newtown. Now it's dead. There is nothing.
X-Moore: "Newtown's always seem so awesomely depressing - suburban Britain's answer to the American Midwest. Landscape without a view."
Steve: "The people have got the same negative attitude as well. The reason why a lot of bands and artists don't come out of Harlow is because it is culturally bankrupt. They just don't feel as if they can achieve anything because the town seems to swamp you."
Colin: "The biggest thing that's happened in Harlow in recent years is that there is now one shop in the town that sells ready made bondage trousers.

You get the general picture. For all their radical righteous fire, the Neurotics are very Newtown . The backdrop doesn't lend itself to the more dramatic postures of inner city/frontline protest style. How do you build barricades when you can't figure out the one way system?
The NN's songs are realistically limited in scope, gnawing boredom, mundane piss-offs. Life on the receiving end.
Steve Drewett, veteran of the punk wars, drew a few conclusions: Why did 1977 fail? "Because a lot of promises were made that were never lived up to".
"Even when it was happening I thought a lot of them were going too far. I just didn't think it related to real life. They were expecting the earth and they hadn't even got the local council."
Musically, you could say the Neurotics are punk-plus. It's where they begin, but not where they end.

Steve: "One thing about today's punk is that the people who play it only listen to punk and that's bad. Our influences stretch way back before we were born, we've caught up on 'em. It goes right across the board. We pillage the history of rock'n'roll." Colin: "The Ramones were a huge influence, cos they sounded like no other group in the world."
Steve: " They were the one group where if you had a guitar and you knew a few chords, you could listen to one of their songs and be able to play it straight off. I remember putting on 'Blitzkrieg Bop' and realising, for once , I could play a song all the way through. So I thought, why not play it live?
"But it'd be hypocritical for us to say how fighting between youth sub-cultures is stupid, and then play to just one type of people. We're hoping we're giving enough to please everyone.
However, back to the wider struggle.

Steve: "It's not even that people are fighting feebly, but that they're thinking so feebly that they're not fighting at all. The strength's still there, but Tories have convinced them not to use it."
X Moore: "And in the midst of all this the Neurotics provide what? Entertainment?" Steve: "Ah, but there's a really unique, brilliant form of entertainment - that's dancing and thinking. They compliment each other so well. The feet move and the mind responds.
"The most distressing thing is people's isolation, the lack of unity, the demoralisation and resignation everywhere. There's no communication. That's why records are important. Cos' they're like an aural paper for youth - the only thing is, there's only two pages to it. You can't waste it, it's precious .

"We want to see a caring socialist government in, the Tories out and to stop the rot within Britain and the western world as a whole, and we're going to do that with out next single, folks!" (mass hysterics).

As it happens, The Newtown Neurotics do have a new single out (on their own label) that depicts Steve Drewett in less political mode. 'Suzi is a Heartbreaker' (spot the influence!) amounts to a CB romance, while B-side'When I Need You' is a tragicomic tale of sexual under-performance ("I must have drunk more than I realised"). But coming at the end of a year spent largely doing miners' benefits, the songs don't mark any weakening of commitment, in fact.
"The general line is that rock'n'roll doesn't do anything, that it's politically redundant, it brings no change. But I say, if we didn't do anything, we'd just go downhill right away. Our main worth, where I think we hit home the most, is not that we're making Thatcher shake in Number Ten, but hopefully we reach people's minds and give them something that makes them feel a bit more like carrying on.
"I'd like to take up a challenge. I'd like to see a proper, humane socialist government, and see the National Health Service back on its feet, and see a lot of things righted that are wrong. And then everyone can turn around to me and say, now what are you going to write about?"

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image of Steve Drewett' shadow ,on stage in Blois, France -  Photo: John Mortimer

Steve Drewett's shadow on stage in Blois, France


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