Biography All Music Guide
All Music Guide:
A side group started in 1982 by Mekons co-founder Jon Langford, the Three Johns, originally made up of Langford, John Hyatt, Phillip "John" Brennan, and a drum machine, specialized in abrasive, politically charged, danceable rock. Sounding almost nothing like Langford's main band, the Johns were a silly-serious bunch of political and cultural provocateurs. Recording during the height of Margaret Thatcher's ill-conceived Tory rebellion, the Johns were openly antagonistic to this new, conservative vision of Britain's future. And while their elliptical and epigrammatic lyrics might not offer the sloganeering that would easily identify them as lefties, certainly there were enough hints dropped along the way to remove any doubt. Unlike other rock agit-prop, the Johns played a fairly accessible version of polemical post-punk anti-pop that embraced big, messy arena-rock-sounding guitars and hard, repetitive, quasi-hip-hop dance beats. Perhaps the most subversive thing about the Johns is that, despite Langford's and Hyatt's goofy vocals, they were, in their own weird way, pure pop for now people, especially those who hated Thatcher. With collective tongue planted firmly in cheek, the Johns took on British and American obsession with materialism, the diabolical Reagan-Thatcher lovefest, the machinations of the pop music industry, all of it done with a great sense of humor mixed in with genuine fear and horror. Frequently hard to pin down, the Johns reveled in being slippery, exhibiting a love and loathing for pop music. In some respects, the Johns resembled friends and fellow Leeds, England mates the Gang of Four, but where the Gang of Four was dour and serious (bordering on academic), the Johns were loutish and boisterous, which when combining politics and rock & roll can, ultimately, be a good thing. After the release of Eat Your Sons in 1990, Jon Langford turned his attention full-time to the Mekons, putting the Three Johns on what has turned out to be an indefinite sabbatical.