2016 will be The Men They Couldn't Hang's 32nd anniversary!
That's a long time since 'Green Fields of France', their epic debut recording, went to number 1 in the Independent Music Chart. It's also 30 years since the Miner's strike; encapsulated so poignantly in the band's elegy 'Shirt of Blue' a song the band still play today, its meaning always subtly shifting with the times
With the exception of a long list of drummers, the line-up has remained the same since 1986 Phil 'Swill' Odgers, Stefan Cush, Paul Simmonds and Ricky McGuire. With the addition of Tom Spencer on banjo/guitar and Nick Sputnik on drums and washboard, the current TMTCH is complete.
The Men They Couldn't Hang came together in 1984 to perform at the alternative music festival in Camden town alongside the legendary Pogues and the Boot Hill Foot-Tappers. Paul Simmonds, Philip 'Swill' Odgers and his brother Jon, veterans of the Southampton based pop-punk band 'Catch 22', met Pogues roadie Stefan Cush whilst busking in Shepherds Bush in London. Their early line up was Stefan Cush (Vocals, Guitar), Philip Odgers (Vocals, Guitar, Tin Whistle, and Melodica), Paul Simmonds (Guitar, Bouzouki, and Keyboards), Jon Odgers (Drums, Percussion) and Shanne Bradley (Bass). Championed by the late John Peel their first single, a cover of Eric Bogle's 'Green Fields of France' (1984), became a big hit on the UK Indie charts and a staple of Peel's festive 50. It then appeared on their first album, "Night of a Thousand Candles", which was released in 1985. The album also includes the singles 'Ironmasters' and 'Greenback Dollar''/'Night to Remember'. Signing for MCA the following year, they recorded their second album, "How Green Is the Valley", produced by Mick Glossop. Included on this album are the singles 'Gold Rush', 'Shirt of Blue' and 'Ghosts of Cable Street'.
In 1987 Shanne Bradley left the band and was replaced by Ricky McGuire, famous for touring with punk legends the UK Subs at the tender age of 17. With their third release in 1988, "Waiting for Bonaparte", The Men They Couldn't Hang were starting to achieve recognition across Europe for their political comment and raucous live shows.
One year later, they followed up the success of "Waiting for Bonaparte" with their fourth album, "Silvertown". In 1989 they played to over 250,000 people in Estonia as communism started to crumble and followed this with an unforgettable Reading Festival appearance. At the height of their career, TMTCH recorded the brilliant "Domino Club" (1990) produced by Pat Collier however, this was to be their last studio album for a while as in early 1991, after a blistering farewell tour the band called it a day.
The split didn't last long as the band were invited by Vince Power to appear at his 10th anniversary celebrations for the Mean Fiddler venue in London and the band performed occasional gigs including a fantastic 2 ½ hour 10th anniversary gig of their own in 1994.
By 1996 much to the delight of their fans, TMTCH reunited permanently. They returned with a new power and excitement to their music. "Never Born to Follow" is an excellent work which includes the single, 'The Eye'. Shortly after this, they released the "Six Pack EP" (1997), followed by their 'Best Of' collections, "Majestic Grill" and "The Mud, The Blood And The Beer" (both 1998). In 2003 the band released the self-produced album The Cherry Red Jukebox" to much critical acclaim and this was followed by the Pat Collier produced Devil on the Wind in 2009 featuring long-time associate Bobby Valentino on fiddle and introducing Tom Spencer of the YoYos and the Loyalties fame, son of musician and author the late John B Spencer on banjo. The band spent much of 2010 and 11 touring this across the U.K. and Europe including festival appearances alongside The Levellers and headlining a roots festival in Slovenia.
The year 2012 saw the release of an album from Stefan Cush's new band, the Feral Family and Paul Simmonds was recording and touring with roots singer Naomi Bedford as well as numerous live dates for TMTCH.At Lake Bled with Tom Spencer The latter including appearances at Mike Peter's The Gathering, and festival appearances alongside Billy Bragg and Adam Ant to name but a few. They headlined the 10th anniversary commemoration of Joe Strummer's Acton Town Hall show which also featured a special guest appearance by Hard Fi.
March 2013 saw the release of Phil (Swill) Odgers highly anticipated solo album produced by the legendary Mick Glossop, the album "The Godforsaken Voyage" includes guest appearances from Australian folkrockers SwillWeddings, Parties Anything as well as home grown talent such as John Jones (Oysterband) and folk royalty Eliza Carthy. The album has received glowing reviews and has become an Amazon and iTunes hit. A Vinyl version with extra track is planned for the summer.
On the exact day of release of "The Godforsaken Voyage", The Men They Couldn't Hang joined Stiff Little Fingers for 3 weeks on their UK tour. Tom Spencer now switching to guitar duties, allowing Paul Simmonds the freedom to switch between Mandolin and Bouzouki. This combined with several Festivals appearances in UK and German acted as which a great prelude to TMTCH's 30th anniversary in 2014.
Since then they have released an album in late 2014 called "The Defiant" and the band remain as popular as ever on the live circuit.