Epileptics

The Epileptics (Colin Latter – vocals, Clive Griffiths – guitar, Derek Birkett – bass and Richard Coveney – drums) were originally going to be called The Epileptic Fits, a name suggested by Colin’s mum, but the band decided that The Epileptics sounded better. Early in 1978, the fledgling band practised in Clive’s bedroom. Self-penned songs such as “Dear Deirdre”, “I Wanna Give You A ‘69” and “Who’s Chasing Who” were soon put together, and the foursome announced their presence in their home town of Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire that summer with spray-painted graffiti . Together with their name, they had a logo and a slogan – ‘Smash Guitar Solos‘ – which attracted my interest in a big way. I’d previously been guitarist with the band The Darlex, but as soon as I saw the Epileptics’ DIY publicity campaign I was impressed and wanted a part of their action. First, I had to find out who they were…

The Triad Centre was a great place to see bands and just hang around with other punks from Harlow, including members of the Sods and Newtown Neurotics, and surrounding areas. I asked around and was pointed in Col and Rich’s direction; I went over and said “If you ever need a guitarist, let me know.” Coincidentally, Clive was about to leave and go to college, so they told me to come along the following Saturday to one of their rehearsals. I did, and I was in! They had already played two gigs – one at Triad in August, and one at London’s Covent Garden with Crass – but needed new material. Col and I reworked some of the older songs and changed the lyrics and titles, and collaborated on some new material too, such as “Tube Disaster”, and our first gig together was at the beginning of November.

In January 1979 we got the chance to support Crass and the Poison Girls in Bradford, but the van we’d hired broke down on the way, and we reached the gig just as Crass were finishing their set. In March we recorded our first demo tape and started to attract a small following; thereafter we regularly played at Triad, as well as doing gigs in London’s Conway Hall with Crass. For a while we changed our name to Epi-X, but then reverted to the Epileptics; our line-up also changed briefly in summer, when Stan Stammers replaced Derek on bass. (Stan would later go on to Theatre of Hate and Spear of Destiny.) After playing one gig under the pseudonym Acid Experience, with Derek back in, the Epileptics decided to take a break as personality clashes had been surfacing. In August, we were approached by Stortbeat Records to record a single, and – with a dubious change of name to The Licks – did just that in September.

Having played just one gig as The Licks, the name reverted to the Epileptics again, but by November differences in how we thought the band should go led to Richard deciding to leave; Col and Derek decided to get Sid (from Rubella Ballet) to replace him, and within a week of their decision, I made up my mind to leave too. Two guitarists were brought in, Andy Smith and Neil Puncher (previously of the U. Samples), and the band continued to play local, London and other gigs – including Stonehenge Festival where they were bottled offstage – until mid-1980 when they changed their name to Flux Of Pink Indians.

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