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Attila The Stockbroker

Ranting punk-poet with a multi-instrumentalist side-line in melodic punk-folk, ATTILA THE STOCKBROKER (born John Baine, 21st October 1957) grew up and lives in Southwick, West Sussex. He’s flirted between the two genres (and more) from his halcyon days of the 80s to more recent times.
He started as a bass player in the early days of punk with brief stints in obscure Gravesend-based band English Disease and his home town based Brighton Riot Squad, then moved to Brussels and co-founded Belgian band, Contingent (back in the day in 1979 they released one single: `Police Control’, but reformed in 2006 to record an album, `Destinee Fragile’; they occasionally do gigs from time to time with Baine still on bass).
Inspired by the Sussex comic poet Hilaire Belloc, Baine had tried to write energetic, funny, socially aware verse from an early age and the “anything goes” DIY ethic of punk gave him the idea of jumping on stage between bands and performing solo as a poet. Upon his return from Brussels in ’79 he was determined to give it a go. He took a temporary job as a clerk in a stockbroking company and it was there that he came up with the stage name ATTILA THE STOCKBROKER. He did his first gig as Attila at Bush Fair Playbarn in Harlow, Essex on 8th September 1980, alongside three local punk bands, and was soon a regular fixture at punk gigs all over the place, especially with his friends, NEWTOWN NEUROTICS; he also continued to write songs and play fiddle and mandolin (later mandola, an octave lower).
Attila’s first EP, split with fellow ranting poet Seething Wells, was released by Radical Wallpaper Records in early ’82. Radio One DJ John Peel played it loads and, in turn, invited the bard to do a couple of sessions on his show. Attila secured a deal with independent label Cherry Red, who issued a belated debut album RANTING AT THE NATION {*7}, in 1983. Tracks included ditties from his earlier “ranting” EPs (including `A Bang & A Wimpy [burger]’) and if one was partial to songs about Russians, England, Albania and a variety of fish, this set would be your cup of char. Described, inaccurately, as the alternative Les Dawson, his ranting was a light refreshment to the “oi” music around him as he took up where JOHN COOPER CLARKE left off. Shot through with typically barbed humour, his state-of-the-nation commentaries were well observed if something of an acquired taste.
Moving on from the sparse mandolin backing which had accompanied his earlier work, the release of SAWDUST AND EMPIRE (1984) {*7} found the man moving in folkier circles alongside the likes of fellow erstwhile punk and general space cadet JOHN OTWAY; tracks such as the minstrel-like `March Of The Levellers’ (an instrumental!) pre-dated NEW MODEL ARMY’s brash take of other Roundheads’ historical times, while Baine and his motley crew of two female backers excelled on the title track. The fact that he collaborated with said OTWAY (wot no BARRETT) on CHERYL – A ROCK OPERA (1991) {*6} was of true “Headbutts & Halibuts” legend.
With other titles like LIBYAN STUDENTS FROM HELL (1987) {*5} and SCORNFLAKES (also a book! in 1988) {*6}, one knew what to expect from this decidedly un-PC performer. Combining punk-rock and maniacal medieval nights in mid-90s outfit Barnstormer, still performing today and with four albums to their credit, ATTILA’s now surpassed the 3,500 gig-a-mark, while he’s also celebrated 35 years in the trade. One just has to browse at his expanding discography to find where he’s at in today’s world; not many outsiders would’ve recognised (with respect!) the baldy bard in his one-off appearance for his football team (Brighton & Hove Albion as Seagulls Ska) in their greatest achievement of 2005: the Top 20 chartbuster `Tom Hark (We Want Falmer)’.
2012’s topical BANKERS & LOOTERS {*6} mini-set was the Stockbroker (and Barnstormer) railing against corporate Britain and all its follies and foibles; the `Bye Bye Banker!’ track hitting hard where it should hurt.
But it is as a poet that he does his best work. To date Attila has produced eight books, over 40 LPs/EPs/CDs and in 2015 his autobiography, Arguments Yard, was published by Cherry Red. In January 2017, a mini documentary of his life as a poet, featuring loads of archive material, was produced by Farouq Suleiman; you can find it on YouTube.
© MC Strong 1999-2011/GFD2 // rev-up MCS Oct2013-Mar2017
PS – Apologies to the man himself for using an old GRD series biography and the time its taken to rectify.

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