Text from Ian Glasper's 'The Day The Country Died' book, Cherry Red books.
Not strictly an anarcho band as such, East Anglia's Reality
(apparently named after the Chron Gen song) did however gig
extensively with the likes of Flux Of Pink Indians, Subhumans and
Conflict., and eventually released their second single trough the
latter's own Mortarhate Records. They were formed during the
summer of 1981 by guitarist/vocalist Hedley 'Veng' Harnett
following the demise of his previous band, The Alternative
"Reality grew out of a few school friends with some
very dubious equipment" laughs Veng. "Such as a guitar plugged
into the ageing family stereo and the worse drum kit youíve ever
seen; we'd lie around at the weekend playing (Sex) Pistols and
(UK) Subs covers. I remember an early 'rehearsal' which consisted
of me (with my 'new' second-hand guitar and 30 watt practice amp)
and Gullet (AKA Steven Miller) on his first ever drum kit,
bashing away on the front lawn down on the farm - well, this was
Norfolk after all! Whilst Gullet's mum and aunts were all inside
watching the Royal Wedding on the TV - they came out to complain
about the racket and asked if we knew any Jim Reeves numbers...!
"Our equipment was always limited - my first guitar had a bridge
height of at least an inch! - but we did odd bits of part-time
work here and there, and eventually graduated to Marshall
amplification...but I never did get as far as owning a Gibson!"
Veng and Gullet were joined by vocalist Louise Gould, additional
guitarist Dick (AKA Kevin Mummery), and Chris 'Neut' Gee on bass,
and they quickly played their first show at - in time honoured
tradition - their local youth club. It was a shambolic, noisy
affair, but Reality struck a chord with the local punks, who
followed them enthusiastically as they graduated from
'headlining' village halls to supporting Chelsea in Kings Lynn in
"Neut blagged that first gig for us, and the
organisers weren't too pleased when they discovered that we'd
advertised it heavily around town and about 50 punks turned up.
We blasted through our set using a borrowed guitar amp and all
three of our small amps plugged in a row for the bass. I can't
remember what the vocals came out of, but it was still loud
enough for complaints around the village to cause the police to
turn up, join us onstage and cut the power. Luckily we were into
our encore by then!
"But punk rock was always about raw energy,
wasn't it? A complete absence of compromise," reckons Veng. "It
was angry but creative, and tapped into all the energy that rural
youth had little means of releasing. Dick liked the Subs and the
Damned; I liked the Ruts an even, later on, a bit of early U2.We
were influenced by all the early bands really, and a few of the
second wave; we did a couple of thrashier songs, but they were
never really where we were coming from. We were strongly
influenced politically though by the likes of Flux Of Pink
Indians and the attitude of the Dead Kennedys." Inspired by their
success on the live front, Reality entered Six Studio,
Peterborough on June 20th, 1982, to record 'Blind To the Truth'
EP with Dave Colton. It was released that November by Subversive
Records, a Kings Lynn label run by the Nuclear Socketts; as well
as Reality and themselves, they also did singles by Section A and
the European Toys, and although a small concern, got the band in
select shops and played on John Peel.
"The first studio we went
to was literally just someone's back room" recalls Veng. "We were
so excited just to be there, it was a big buzz, but it was only
really much later on that we developed enough to do some good
studio stuff. That first single, paid for with a loan from a
friend who'd had a work injury compensation pay-out, sounds
exactly what it was....a bunch of fourteen-year olds learning how
to play! But a year or so later, our sound really came on."
not before they had endured a brief hiatus and major lineup
overhaul, that robbed the single of any real momentum.
left, bless her, because she couldn't sing and the novelty had
worn off for her. Neut brought some dubious equipment from a
friend of my brother Steve (Harnett, the band's manager) and got
pissed off with us when he realised that it wasn't quite as he
had been led to believe. He left to make a point, but we thought
he meant it, and Sam (McCleary) had just left another local band
and asked to join, and we were off. It was only some years later
that I found out from Neut that he would have come back, if only
Flyer for 1983 mini tour.
"Dick had trouble getting the long nights and general
disruption past his family and he had to pack it in. A shame
really because it was him and me who started it all originally,
and he wrote some great stuff. So then it was just me on guitar
for a few years after that, until Jon (Waugh) joined as (in
1984)." Sam was fired after a short UK tour (Veng cites the
inevitable 'personality clashes'), and was replaced by Peter
McGregor, who made his live debut supporting The Toy Dolls in
Leeds. With Veng taking over the role of the main vocalist as
well as handling guitar duties, the new, improved Reality
recorded the 'Who Killed The Golden Goose?' 7" (b/w 'Lonely
Shadow') at Elephant Studios, Wapping, for Mortarhate on New
Years Eve 1983. Frustratingly for all concerned, it didn't appear
until July '84, but highlighted the considerably more melodic
direction the band were keen to pursue.
"We never believed in
noise for noise's sake, we liked 999, X-Ray Specs and
Penetration, and we were also, I guess, influenced by some of the
non-punk bands of the Eighties, as as our sound developed, it was
becoming more sophisticated. When we reached the point where we
were really progressing, the scene, which had shrunk at that
stage, was turning more towards thrash metal and crossover, so
the audiences weren't getting into us so much. Which was
frustrating really, as only a few years later, I think we would
have gone down a treat. I'd like to think that if we'd carried
on, we might have ended up making an album like 'Youth And Young
Manhood' by the Kings Of Leon, or maybe '1234' by The Jeeves.
Ian Glasper's book "The Day The Country Died".
Diminishing interest in Reality never stopped the band enjoying
themselves whilst on the road though, as manager Steve recalls.
"There were loads of stories," he chuckles. "I remember them all
going for a paddle in the fountains of Peterborough shopping
precinct, to pick out the pennies at the bottom for extra beer
money; the security guard went mad and kicked them out, and lots
of colourful language was exchanged between both parties.
when Gullet the drummer went out, he always made sure he ended up
vomiting, his favourite one was leaving a pavement pizza on the
bonnet of people's expensive sports cars...or urinating on pub
seats in front of people. And when supporting Flux Of Pink
Indians once, in a venue above a disco, the band got their dicks
out to show all the disco girls. They even played a gig in
Ipswich in their underpants once, for some reason..."
mentioned earlier, Johnny Vaugh joined as second guitarist during
autumn 1984 (he would later audition for the Wildhearts, and
after a brief stint working for Ash is now sound man for Aswad),
and although he barely lasted the year out, he played on the
August '84 demo (recorded at Blumberg Studios, Cambridge, with
Tony Leonard, who played drums for the Glitter band). All three
of the tracks from that session appeared on various compilation
albums, 'Sign Of The Times' on Mortarhate's 'We Don't Want Your
Fucking Law', 'To Know Her' and 'Balld Of Mad Harry' on Rot
Records' 'A Kick Up The Arse, Volume One'.
Back to a three-piece
again, Reality soldiered on in the face of increasing
disillusionment, even beginning tentative work on their debut LP
(with a working title of 'Swimming Against The Tide'). But they
threw in the towel once and for all following a local 'village
extravaganza' where they supported Lene Lovich on the same day as
Live Aid during summer of 1985.
"The village me and Veng lived in
at the time was Crimplesham," explains Steve. "And, yes, Lene
Lovich was our next door neighbour! I think that gig was to raise
money for children's climbing frames or something? Anyway we kept
seeing this strange woman around the village...we couldn't
believe it when we found out who she was. Veng blasted 'Lucky
Number' out down the village, but it kept slowing down because he
would keep putting his dick on the record...!"
"But the best show
might have been one of our Ipswich gigs where there was always a
good atmosphere and we were always well received," adds Veng, now
a clinical psychologist, in closing, remembering his time with
the band philosophically. "Or maybe supporting the UK Subs at the
Gala Ballroom in Norwich? The worst one was in Portsmouth, where
we'd driven for hours to play, only to have half the audience
leave a soon as the local bands had finished, without bothering
to see what the East Anglians had to offer. Parochialism at its
worse but also, or so it seemed to me, symptomatic that the
energy (at that stage) was fast draining out of the punk scene.
"I'd like to be remembered though, as a moderately successful
young punk band from the rural back of beyond where nothing ever
got going normally, but also for the political voice we
articulated...oh, and the fact that we didn't take ourselves that
seriously! Sometimes I tell people that I'm still a punk...mostly
they just laugh, but the people in the know understand what I
'Blind ToThe Truth' (Subversive, 1982)
'Who Killed The Golden Goose?' (Mortarhate, 1984)
At a glance:
Overground's excellent 'Young Drunk Punks' discography CD complies
virtually everything the band recorded (bar 'To Know Her' from the
'84 demo), plus various live tracks and informative liner notes,
making it the definitive Reality overview.
Last update: 7 June 2009