Reality Biography

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 Imbeciles.
"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 early 1982.

"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."
But not before they had endured a brief hiatus and major lineup overhaul, that robbed the single of any real momentum.

"Louise 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 we'd asked."

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.
"And 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..."
As 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 mean."

Select discography:

'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