The Three Johns

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The Three Johns
OriginLeeds, England
GenresPost-punk, indie rock
Years active1981–1990, 2012-2017
LabelsCNT, Abstract, T.I.M., Caroline Records, ROIR, Low Noise, Tupelo Recording Company
Past membersJon Langford
John Hyatt
Phillip "John" Brennan

The Three Johns were an English post-punk/indie rock band formed in 1981 in Leeds, England, originally consisting of guitarist Jon Langford (co-founder of the Mekons), vocalist John Hyatt and bassist Phillip "John" Brennan, augmented by a drum machine.[1]


The band initially formed just before the 1981 wedding of Prince Charles and Diana Spencer, and their first gig was to be part of a "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. A reworking of the Mekons' "English White Boy Engineer", which attacked hypocritical attitudes towards South Africa and apartheid, led to 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] Their left-wing leanings were further evidenced by the sleeve of their 1984 Atom Drum Bop album, which carried the words "Rock 'n' Roll Versus Thaatchiism", a reference to then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her marketing by Saatchi & Saatchi.[1] On 7 July 1985, The Three Johns played at the GLC's Jobs for a Change festival in London's Battersea Park.[2]

The band regularly appeared in the UK Indie Chart during the mid-1980s, with singles such as "A.W.O.L.", "Death of the European" (an NME "Single of the Week"), and "Brainbox (He's a 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 recorded six sessions for John Peel's BBC Radio 1 show, and reached No. 14 in the 1985 Festive Fifty with "Death of the European".[3]

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][4] Langford continued with the Mekons, later releasing a solo album, while Hyatt concentrated on his academic career.[4] They reformed again in 2012, playing five shows,[5] and continued to perform intermittently through 2017 in the UK, mostly in the Manchester and Leeds-Bradford areas.[6]


Chart placings shown are from the UK Indie Chart.[7]

Studio albums[edit]

  • Atom Drum Bop (1984, Abstract) No. 2
  • The World by Storm (1986, Abstract) No. 4
  • The Death of Everything (1988, T.I.M/Caroline Records) No. 19
  • Deathrocker Scrapbook (1988, ROIR)
  • Eat Your Sons (1990, Low Noise/Tupelo Recording Company)

Singles and EPs[edit]

  • "English White Boy Engineer" (1982, CNT)
  • "Pink Headed Bug" (1983, CNT) No. 44
  • Men Like Monkeys EP (1983, CNT)
  • A.W.O.L. EP (1983, Abstract) No. 14
  • Some History EP (1983, Abstract) No. 17
  • "Do the Square Thing" (1984, Abstract) No. 6
  • "Death of the European" (1985, Abstract) No. 3
  • "Brainbox (He's a Brainbox)" (1985, Abstract) No. 3
  • "Sold Down the River" (1986, Abstract) No. 10
  • "Never and Always" (1987, Abstract) No. 5
  • "Torches of Liberty" (1988, Abstract)

Live albums[edit]

  • Live in Chicago (1987, Last Time Round Records)

Compilation albums[edit]

  • (Crime Pays...Rock and Roll in the) Demonocracy - The Singles 1982-1986 (1986, Abstract)
  • The Best of The Three Johns (1996, Dojo)
  • Volume (2015, Buried Treasure)


  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, p. 288/9
  2. ^ "Jobs for a Change 1985 London Line-up, Photos & Videos Jul 1985 – Songkick". 7 July 1985. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  3. ^ The Three Johns at the BBC's Keeping It Peel site
  4. ^ a b Strong, Martin C. (1999) "The Great Alternative & Indie Discography", Canongate, ISBN 0-86241-913-1
  5. ^ The Three Johns - unofficial website,
  6. ^ "Three Johns - Past concerts". Songkick. Retrieved 14 May 2017.
  7. ^ Lazell, Barry (1997) "Indie Hits 1980-1989", Cherry Red Books, ISBN 0-9517206-9-4

External links[edit]