Angelic Upstarts

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Angelic Upstarts
Also known asThe Upstarts
OriginSouth Shields, England
GenresPunk rock, Oi!
Years active1977–present
LabelsWarner Bros., EMI, Anagram Records, Picasso Records, Link Records, Razor Records, Captain Oi!
MembersNeil 'Newts' Newton
John Woodward
Mick Robson
Andy Wilkinson
Past membersThomas 'Mensi' Mensforth[1]
'Mond' Cowie
Derek 'Decca' Wade
Steve Forsten
Ronnie Wooden
Glyn Warren
Tony Feedback
Ronnie Rocker
Max Splodge
Keith Sticks Warrington
Paul Thompson
Chris Wright
Brett Mulvaney
Dickie Hammond
Steve Straughan
Brian Hayes
Gaz 'Geordie' Stoker
Tony Van Frater

Angelic Upstarts are an English punk rock / Oi! band formed in South Shields in 1977. AllMusic calls them "one of the period's most politically charged and thought-provoking groups".[2] The band espouse an anti-fascist and socialist working class philosophy, and have been associated with the punk and skinhead subcultures.

The band released eight studio albums in their first decade.[3] After a brief split they reformed in 1988, and a number of times subsequently, with new albums appearing in 1992, 2002, 2011, and 2016.[4] More than two decades after its release, their debut single, "The Murder of Liddle Towers", was included in Mojo magazine's list of the best punk rock singles of all time.[5]


Inspired by The Clash, Angelic Upstarts formed in Brockley Whins, South Shields, South Tyneside in 1977.[6][7] The following year they self-released their debut single, "The Murder of Liddle Towers/Police Oppression", and recorded the first of three Peel Sessions.[8] In 1979, aided by Jimmy Pursey, they signed to major label Warner Bros Records for two albums: Teenage Warning (produced by Pursey)[2] and We Gotta Get Out of This Place; the first and its title track were both Top 30 hits. The same year, the band made tabloid headlines following a gig in HM Prison Acklington,[9] and also played on Rock Against Racism's 'Militant Entertainment' tour.[10]

Two Upstarts tracks including 1980 single "Last Night Another Soldier" were included on the same year's various artists compilation Oi! The Album, beginning the band's association with the Oi! subgenre, a label which singer Mensi later rejected.[11] In 1981 the band signed to EMI's revived Zonophone imprint for three further albums: 2,000,000 Voices and Angelic Upstarts Live in 1981 - top 40/Top 30 hits respectively - and Still from the Heart in 1982. According to Louder Than War, 2,000,000 Voices is "full of variety while giving up none of their energy, drive and honesty.. it was the perfect record for the Upstarts and the era. Still retaining the Punk might, but working in Reggae and Folk influences, presenting a band perfectly in tune with the turbulent times of 1981".[12] Still From The Heart saw the group embrace "a larger sonic palette. Tentative new wave influences, inflections of dub, and expressive horn sections are all over the album".[13]

In 1983 the band released the first in a series of independent albums, Reason Why?, "the strongest Angelic Upstarts record",[2] which included the "Woman in Disguise" single, described by Allmusic as "perfect pop".[14] Last Tango in Moscow followed in 1984, described by the Sunderland Echo as "another strong album",[15] by which time Mensi was the band's only original member. Angelic Upstarts' next album Power of the Press (1986) was re-released in the US the following year, renamed for the inclusion of 1985's Brighton Bomb single. The Blood on the Terraces album followed in 1987.

Due to their anti-fascist stance and subsequent support of Anti-Fascist Action,[6] the band were targeted by the neo-nazi Blood & Honour group, and their set at 1988 concert 'Oi! The Main Event' had to be abandoned due to crowd violence,[16] although songs were included on the eponymous tie-in live album on Link Records[17] as well as later Upstarts compilation Lost and Found. Despite far-right claims to the contrary, Angelic Upstarts were gigging in London again within a year.[18][19]

Bombed Out (1992) was the band's last album for a decade, featuring original guitarist Mond and hailed as a return to form.[20] Mensi formed a new Upstarts line-up for 2002's Sons of Spartacus with members of Red Alert, Red London and Leatherface. In 2006-7 Mensi briefly left the band, with Chris Wright of Crashed Out taking over vocal duties, although the return of Decca Wade on drums meant that the band retained an original member; in 2011 the band released a split album with Crashed Out, The Dirty Dozen. 2016 saw a new Angelic Upstarts line-up release what was to become their final studio album, Bullingdon Bastards.


The band's original members were Thomas Mensforth (Mensi)[21] on vocals, Ray Cowie (Mond) on guitar, Steve Forsten on bass guitar, and Derek "Decca" Wade on drums. Keith Bell was the manager until 1980, when he was jailed for four and a half years for arson.[22]

Other former members include guitarist Ronnie Rocker and bassists Ronnie Wooden, Glyn Warren and Tony 'Feedback' Morrison (Long Tall Shorty and Kiria's live band). Drummers have included Keith "Sticks" Warrington (who later joined Cockney Rejects), Paul Thompson (ex-Roxy Music), Chris Wright, Evoker (who has also played in The Blood, Major Accident and Warfare).

Wade rejoined the band for a few years before leaving again.[23] Brian Hayes (also of Blaggers ITA, Long Tall Shorty) originally joined the band as the second guitarist until Mond left, leaving Hayes as the only guitarist. Tony Van Frater (Red Alert) was Mensi's main songwriting partner for the Sons of Spartacus album in 2002.

In August 2006, Mensi announced he was resigning, but requested that the band continue with Chris Wright (of the band Crashed Out[24]) on vocals. The band's lineup became Wright on vocals, Dickie Hammond on guitar, Neil "Newts" Newton on guitar, Gaz "Geordie" Stoker on bass and Wade on drums. In the latter part of 2007, Mensi rejoined the band and the lineup became Mensi on vocals, Gaz "Geordie" Stoker on bass, Hammond on guitar, Newts on guitar and Brett Mulvaney (and later Jonnie Halling) on drums. In October 2018 Gaz "Geordie" Stoker left the band and was replaced by John Woodward (Long Tall Shorty, The Straps, The Gonads). In January 2020, after 14 years & two albums with the band, Neil "Newts" Newton, took time out to complete university & was replaced by Mick Robson. The lineup becoming Mensi on vocals, Mick Robson on guitar, John Woodward on bass and Andy Wilkinson on drums. Having completed his course, Newts rejoined the band to perform at a charity tribute show for Mensi, with Chris Wright standing in on vocal duties & the final Angelic Upstarts line-up of Andy Wilkinson on drums, John Woodward on bass, Mick Robson on guitar & Newts Newton on guitar.[25]

Former guitarist Tony Van Frater died on 29 October 2015.[26] Dickie Hammond died two days later. On 22 February 2021, former member Tony Morrison (aka Tony Feedback) died after contracting COVID-19.[27] Thomas Mensforth (aka Mensi or Mensi Marx)[6] died on 10 December 2021, aged 65, after also being infected with COVID-19.[28]


Angelic Upstarts are regarded as pioneers of the Oi! punk subgenre.[29] In 2001, Various Artists cover album We Are The People was released in tribute to the Upstarts, including tracks from bands such as Leatherface, The Oppressed, Red London and Red Alert.[30] In 2009, punk-influenced singer-songwriter Jamie T sampled vocals from the album Angelic Upstarts Live on his song "The Man's Machine".


Studio albums[edit]

Live albums[edit]

  • Angelic Upstarts Live (September 1981, Zonophone/EMI) - No. 27 UK
  • Live in Yugoslavia (1985, Picasso)
  • Live & Loud (1988, Link)
  • Greatest Hits Live (1991, Link)
  • Live in Lubeck 1989 (1994, Bay City)
  • Live from the Justice League (2001, TKO)
  • Anthems Against Scum (2001, Insurgence)

Compilation albums[edit]

  • Angel Dust - The Collected Highs (1983, Anagram/Cherry Red)
  • Bootlegs & Rarities (1985, Dojo)
  • Lost & Found (1991, Link)
  • Alternative Chartbusters (1991, AOK)
  • Kids on the Streets (1993, Cleopatra)
  • The Independent Punk Singles Collection (1995, Cherry Red)
  • Rarities (1997, Captain Oi)
  • The EMI Punk Years (1999, Captain Oi)
  • Who Killed Liddle (1999, Recall)
  • Punk Singles Collection (2004, Captain Oi)


  • "The Murder of Liddle Towers"/"Police Oppression" (1978, Dead Records, re-released on Rough Trade/Small Wonder Records, Repress)
  • "I'm an Upstart"/"Leave Me Alone" (1979, Warner Bros.) - No. 31 UK
  • "Teenage Warning"/"The Young Ones" (1979, Warner Bros.) - UK No. 29
  • "Never 'ad Nothin'"/"Nowhere Left to Hide" (1979, Warner Bros.) - UK No. 52
  • "Out of Control"/"Shotgun Solution" (1980, Warner Bros. Records) - UK No. 58
  • "We Gotta Get Out of this Place"/"Unsung Heroes" (1980, Warner Bros. Records) - UK No. 65
  • "Last Night Another Soldier"/"I Wish" (1980, Zonophone/EMI) - UK No. 51
  • "England"/"Stick's Diary" (1981, Zonophone/EMI)
  • "Kids on the Street"/"The Sun Never Shines" (1981, Zonophone/EMI) - UK No. 57
  • "I Understand"/"Never Come Back" (1981, Zonophone/EMI)
  • "Different Strokes"/"Different Dub" (1981, Zonophone/EMI)
  • "Never Say Die"/"We Defy You" (1982, Zonophone/EMI)
  • "Woman in Disguise"/"Lust for Glory" (1982, Anagram/Cherry Red) (Also released on 12" single)
  • "Solidarity"/"Five Flew Over..." (1983, Anagram/Cherry Red) (Also released on 12" single)
  • "Not Just a Name"/"The Leech" (1983, Anagram/Cherry Red) (Also released on 12" single?)
  • "Machinegun Kelly"/"There's a Drink in It" (1984, Picasso)
  • "Brighton Bomb" E.P (1985, Sparta Florida/Gas Music Ltd) (12" Single)
  • "Brighton Bomb" (1987, Chameleon)
  • "England's Alive" E.P. (1988, Skunx) (12" Single)
  • "Angelic Upstarts/The Prowlers" (2014, Insurgence)[33]

Compilation appearances[edit]

  • Oi! The Album (EMI, 1980) - inc. "Last Night Another Soldier" & "Guns for the Afghan Rebels"
  • Punk and Disorderly III - The Final Solution (Abstract, 1983) - inc. "Woman in Disguise"


  • Holidays In The Sun (1997) (VHS)
  • Angelic Upstarts Live: Solidarity (2005) (DVD)


  1. ^ "In Memoriam: Mensi of Angelic Upstarts has passed away". 12 December 2021.
  2. ^ a b c Angelic Upstarts Biography. AllMusic. accessed 3 July 2006
  3. ^ "Angelic Upstarts". Retrieved 19 October 2019.
  4. ^ "Angelic Upstarts | Discography". Retrieved 31 May 2020.
  5. ^ Mojo (October 2001) - 100 Punk Scorchers , Issue 95, London;
  6. ^ a b c "Thomas 'Mensi' Mensforth obituary". 16 December 2021.
  7. ^ Glasper, Ian "Burning Britain: The History of UK Punk 1980–1984," Cherry Red Books, 2004, p132
  8. ^ "BBC - Radio 1 - Keeping It Peel - Angelic Upstarts".
  9. ^ "Angelic Upstarts - in Prison".
  10. ^ Renton, David Never Again: Rock Against Racism and the Anti-Nazi League 1976-1982 routledge, 2018
  11. ^ Glasper, Ian "Burning Britain: The History of UK Punk 1980–1984," Cherry Red Books, 2004, p133
  12. ^ "Angelic Upstarts - the Albums 1979-82 - Album Review". 23 April 2018.
  13. ^ "Still from the Heart - Angelic Upstarts | Songs, Reviews, Credits | AllMusic". AllMusic.
  14. ^ "Reason Why? - Angelic Upstarts | Songs, Reviews, Credits | AllMusic". AllMusic.
  15. ^ "There's a Reason Why the Angelic Upstarts' 1980s albums are worth checking out". 8 February 2019.
  16. ^ Robert Forbes, Eddie Stampton The White Nationalist Skinhead Movement: UK & USA 1979-1993, Feral House, 2015, p289
  17. ^ "Oi The Main Event (1988, Vinyl) - Discogs". Discogs. 18 September 1988.
  18. ^ "The Beat Goes on: A History of Cable Street Beat - Kate Wesprin".
  19. ^ "Attila the Stockbroker Diary". 17 December 2021.
  20. ^ "Angelic Upstarts the Albums 1983-91 - Album Review". 5 January 2019.
  21. ^ Mason, Peter (16 December 2021). "Thomas 'Mensi' Mensforth obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 December 2021.
  22. ^ Bradbury, Jennifer (23 March 2006). "Still crazy after all these years". ChronicleLive. Archived from the original on 30 April 2012. Retrieved 1 April 2012.
  23. ^ I'm An Upstart: The Decca Wade Story - Kindle edition by Fitzsimons, Ronan. Arts & Photography Kindle eBooks @. Urbane Publications Limited. April 2014. Retrieved 31 May 2020 – via
  24. ^ "Crashed out - Home". Retrieved 31 May 2020.
  25. ^ "Official Angelic Upstarts". Archived from the original on 19 October 2019. Retrieved 19 October 2019.
  26. ^ Gary Welford. "Sunderland musician Tony Van Frater dies at 51". Hartlepool Mail. Retrieved 31 October 2015.
  27. ^ "RIP Mensi, Angelic Upstarts". Punktuation! Magazine. 11 December 2021. Retrieved 11 December 2021.
  28. ^ "Mensi (Angelic Upstarts) RIP". 10 December 2021.
  29. ^ "Punk Singles Collection - Angelic Upstarts | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 19 October 2019.
  30. ^ "We're the People: Tribute to Angelic Upstarts - Various Artists | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 19 October 2019.
  31. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 585. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  32. ^ "Bullingdon Bastards, by Angelic Upstarts".
  33. ^ "ANGELIC UPSTARTS / THE PROWLERS - Split EP". Archived from the original on 30 September 2015. Retrieved 19 October 2015.

External links[edit]