“McCarthy – the great lost band of the ’80s they redesigned my idea of politics and pop, it could be intelligent, it could be beautiful. They were frail, tragic, romantic idealists. The songs soothed your body but exercised your brain. They were my education, my information and they are partly to blame for the realisation of the Manic Street Preachers. I still fall in love with this album every six months, it makes me feel guilty because it’s so good” – Nicky Wire

Formed in 1984 by four school mates who had all attended the same comprehensive in Barking as Billy Bragg, this lot released nine singles, one EP and three albums of rather excellent left-leaning indie-pop before calling it a day in 1990.

Malcolm Eden (vocals and guitar), Tim Gane (lead guitar), John Williamson (bass) and Gary Baker (drums) named themselves McCarthy as a tongue-in-cheek reference to the notoriously right-wing Republican senator of the 50s and following a self-financed debut single they were signed to Pink Records in early 1986 for whom two singles followed.

It was no real surprise given the band’s political leanings that the NME included them on the original C86 tape with this Smiths-esque number:-

mp3 : McCarthy – Celestial City

The band was on September Records by the time of the release of debut LP I Am A Wallet in October 1987 which, given its tracks contained very direct attacks on capitalism, mainstream politics, the British monarchy, the right-wing press (particularly on its coverage of AIDS) and the organised religion, was unsurprisingly ignored by most publications and broadcasters….but not John Peel.

The album didn’t contain the earlier singles as they had been recorded for Pink Records, and it is one such single that was included on CD86 – it also made #35 in the 1987 Festive Forty:-

mp3 : McCarthy – Frans Hal

This is your wonderfully poppy b-side whose title alone must have tickled Peelie:-

mp3 : McCarthy – The Fall

The band specialised in angry song titles such as Should The Bible Be Banned, The New Left Review, We Are All Bourgeois Now and The Drinking Song Of The Merchant Bankers but they never ever got beyond cult status.

When they called it a day in 1990, guitarist Gane and his French girlfriend, who herself had sung on a number of McCarthy records, decided to form a new band with said girlfriend – Laetitia Sadler – taking on vocal duties. That band was called Stereolab whose own efforts in left-leaning pop music would find a bit more success. And I just can’t leave today’s posting without including these two classics:-

mp3 : Stereolab – Ping Pong
mp3 : Stereolab – French Disko


5 thoughts on “NEXT YEAR’S NOSTALGIA FEST (Part 21 of 48)

  1. Good post, great band. ‘Keep An Open Mind, Or Else’ is one of my favourite singles of the 80s. I had no idea of the Stereolab connection.

  2. I hardly like to mention it, but in the final paragraph, you appear to have confused agit-pop guitarist Tim Gane with churchgoing quickie gag merchant Tim Vine…!

  3. “The Well of Loneliness”, “Red Sleeping Beauty”, “Boy Meets Girl”, the list of memories goes on. Never got to see them, but I saw Stereolab in Dublin in mid 90s (or was it early 90s?)

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