The Three Johns

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The Three Johns
Origin Leeds, England
Genres Post-punk, indie rock, dance-rock, new wave
Years active 1981–1990
Labels CNT, Abstract Records
Associated acts The Mekons
Past members Jon Langford
John Hyatt
Phillip "John" Brennan

The Three Johns were a post-punk/indie rock band formed in 1981 in Leeds originally consisting of The Mekons co-founder, Jon Langford (guitar) as well as John Hyatt (vocals) and Phillip "John" Brennan (bass), augmented by a drum machine.[1]


The band initially formed just before the wedding of Prince Charles and Diana Spencer, and their first gig was to be part of 'Funk The Wedding' event, but they were refused permission to play because they were drunk.[1] They signed to CNT Records in 1982, which Langford jointly founded, releasing two singles and an EP for the label, including a re-working of the Mekons' "English White Boy Engineer", which attacked hypocritical attitudes towards South Africa and apartheid, the band being labelled as left-wing rockers.[1] The band explained

"We're not a socialist band. We're a group of socialists who are in a band. It's a fine distinction but an important one"[1]

The mid-1980s saw the band regularly in the UK Indie Chart with singles such as "A.W.O.L.", "Death of the European" (an NME 'Single of the Week'), and "Brainbox".[1] During the band's career, the members maintained their day jobs - Langford as a graphic designer and Hyatt a teacher of Fine Art at Leeds Polytechnic.[1] The band's left wing leanings were further evidenced by the Atom Drum Bop album, the sleeve carrying the words "Rock 'n' Roll Versus Thaatchiism", a reference to then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.[1]

The band split up in late 1988 after a disastrous US tour, but reformed in 1990, releasing Eat Your Sons, a concept album about cannibalism, before splitting again.[1][2] Langford continued with The Mekons, later releasing a solo album, while Hyatt concentrated on his academic career.[2] They reformed again in 2012, playing five shows.[3]

The band recorded six sessions for John Peel's BBC Radio 1 show, and reached number 14 in the 1985 Festive Fifty with "Death of the European".[4]


Chart placings shown are from the UK Indie Chart.[5]


  • "English White Boy Engineer" (1982) CNT

b-side: "Secret Agent"

  • "Pink Headed Bug" (1983) CNT No. 44

b-side: "Lucy In The Rain"

  • Men Like Monkeys EP (1983) CNT

Track listing:

Men Like Monkeys
Two Minute Ape
Marx's Wife
Paris Forty-One
  • A.W.O.L. [EP] (1983) Abstract No. 14

Track listing:

Rooster Blue
Image Or An Animal
Kick The Dog Right Out
  • Some History EP (1983) Abstract No. 17

Track listing:

English White Boy Engineer
Secret Agent
Pink Headed Bug
Lucy in the Rain
  • "Do The Square Thing" (1984) Abstract No. 6

b-side: Zowee 12" +

The World of the Workers
  • "Death Of The European" (1985) Abstract No. 3

b-side: Heads Like Convicts 12" +

Death of the European (extended version)

20th Century Boy

  • "Brainbox (He's A Brainbox)" (1985) Abstract No. 3

b-side: Watch It Go 12" +

Men Without Bones
  • "Sold Down The River" (1986) Abstract No. 10

b-side: Rose of Yorkshire 12" +

  • "Never And Always" (1987) Abstract

b-side: Turn Up Those Downhearted Blues

  • "Torches Of Liberty" (1988) Abstract

b-side: Big Whale (Never Live)


  • Atom Drum Bop (1984) Abstract No. 2
    track listing
    1. Teenage nightingales to wax
    2. do not cross the line
    3. 3 junk
    4. Firepits
    5. No Place
    6. Dr. freedom
    7. Missing
    8. Sun of mud
    9. The devil's music
    10. Class War
    11. The World of The Workers Is Wild
  • The World By Storm (1986) Abstract No. 4
    track listing
    1. Sold Down The River
    2. King Car
    3. Demon Drink
    4. Johnny, The Perfect Son
    5. Torches Of Liberty
    6. Atum Drum Bop
    7. Death Of The European
    8. Coals To Newcastle
    9. The Ship That Died Of Shame
    10. The World By Storm
    11. Never And Always
  • Crime Pays - Rock 'n' Roll In The ... Demonocracy - The Singles 82-86 (1986) Abstract
    track listing
    1. English White Boy Engineer
    2. Pinkheaded Bug
    3. Men Like Monkeys
    4. Windolene
    5. Rooster Blue
    6. A.W.O.L.
    7. Do The Square Thing
    8. Zowee
    9. Death Of The European [Full Version]
    10. Brainbox (He's A Brainbox)
    11. Sold Down The River
  • Live In Chicago (1987) Last Time Around
    track listing
    1. Teenage Nightingales To Wax
    2. The Day Industry Decided To Stop
    3. A.W.O.L.
    4. The Devil's Music
    5. 3 Junk
    6. Death of The European
    7. McDonna
    8. English White Boy Engineer
    9. Do Not Cross The Line
    10. 20th Century Boy
    11. The World of The Workers Is Wild
    12. Windolene
    13. Kick The Dog
  • The Death Of Everything (1988) T.I.M No. 19
    track listing
    1. The King is Dead (Four Words Too Long)
    2. Bullshitiaco
    3. Moonlight On Vermont
    4. Go Ahead Bikini
    5. Spin Me Round
    6. Nonsense Spews From My Song Machine
    7. Humbug
    8. Fast Fish
    9. Downhearted Blues
    10. Never and Always
  • Eat Your Sons (1990) Tupelo
    track listing
    1. Black Heart
    2. Skeleton Man
    3. Eat Your Sons
    4. Key Largo
    5. Smashtime
    6. Sometime
    7. Toleration
    8. Book of The Dead
    9. Jason's Dream
    10. Thunder and Rain
    11. Desire For Chaos
    12. Beat It on a Rock
    13. In The Hell And High
    14. A Very Modern Relationship
  • Deathrocker Scrapbook (1992) R.O.I.R.
    track listing
    1. The Incredible Wendy Frith
    2. Nightmare
    3. Snitch
    4. Burn While You Learn
    5. Hello Dickie
    6. Conversation With Freud
    7. Is Your Brain Your Own?
    8. Mouths To Feed
    9. You're Not Like Manson are You?
    10. Mountain Man
    11. Buzz
    12. Be Goode
    13. Machinery Seeds
    14. Cheap Computer
    15. We Won't Wobble
    16. Peter's Advertising Agency
    17. One Fine Day
    18. High Standards
    19. The Press is a Toad
    20. The Ballad of Colin Buggers
    21. Compensation
    22. Fill Me Up
    23. Spider Spaceship
  • The Best Of... (1996) Dojo
    track listing
    1. A.W.O.L.
    2. Brainbox (He's a Brainbox)
    3. Firepits
    4. Dr Freedom
    5. No Place
    6. Sun of Mud
    7. King Car
    8. Sold Down The River
    9. Atom Drum Bop
    10. Death of The European (LP version)
    11. World By Storm
    12. The King is Dead (Four Words Too Long)
    13. Bullshitiaco
    14. Go Ahead Bikini
    15. Fast Fish
    16. Never and Always (LP version)


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Larkin, Colin (1992) "The Guinness Who's Who of Indie & New Wave Music", Guinness Publishing, ISBN 0-85112-579-4
  2. ^ a b Strong, Martin C. (1999) "The Great Alternative & Indie Discography", Canongate, ISBN 0-86241-913-1
  3. ^ The Three Johns - unofficial website
  4. ^ The Three Johns at the BBC's Keeping It Peel site
  5. ^ Lazell, Barry (1997) "Indie Hits 1980-1989", Cherry Red Books, ISBN 0-9517206-9-4

External links[edit]