The Mekons are a British-American rock band. Formed in the late 1970s as an art collective, they are one of the longest-running and most prolific of the first-wave British punk rock bands. Through the years, the band's musical style has evolved, incorporating aspects of country music, folk music, alternative rock and occasional experiments with dub. They are known for their raucous live shows. The Mekons are often described as a post-punk or an alt-country band.
|Origin||Leeds, West Yorkshire, England, United Kingdom|
|Genres||Punk rock, post-punk, cowpunk, alternative rock|
|Associated acts||The Three Johns|
The Waco Brothers
The Mekons 77
Rico Bell (aka Eric Bellis)
|Past members||Sarah Corina|
Mark “Chalkie” White
The Mekons 77
|Origin||Leeds, West Yorkshire, England, United Kingdom|
|Associated acts||The Three Johns|
The Waco Brothers
Mark “Chalkie” White
The band was formed in 1976 by a group of University of Leeds art students: Jon Langford, Kevin Lycett, Mark White, Andy Corrigan and Tom Greenhalgh–the Gang of Four and Delta 5 formed from the same group of students. They took the band's name from the Mekon, an evil, super-intelligent Venusian featured in the British 1950s-1960s comic Dan Dare (printed in the Eagle). The Mekons were described as more chaotic version of the Gang of Four; Lycett stated the band operated on the principle that "anybody could do it...anybody could get up and join in and instruments could be swapped around; that there'd be no distance between the audience and the band."
By their second show–supporting the Rezillos at the F-Club–they were approached with a record deal by Bob Last of Fast Product. The Mekons would be the first band signed to the label. The band's first single was "Never Been in a Riot", a satirical take on the Clash's White Riot. The release was made Single of the Week in NME. Their second single, "Where Were You?" was released by the end of 1978 and sold out of its 27,500 copies. At this time, Last convinced the band to sign to a larger label–Virgin. The Mekons popularity peaked as they played on the same bill as other "new music" groups like Gang of Four, the Fall, the Human League, and Stiff Little Fingers.
For several years the loose-knit band played noisy, bare-bones post-punk, releasing singles on a variety of labels. The Mekons' first album, The Quality of Mercy Is Not Strnen, was recorded using the Gang of Four's instruments, and due to an error by the Virgin Records art department, featured pictures of the Gang of Four on the back cover.
After 1982's The Mekons Story, a compilation of old recordings, the band ceased activity for a while, with Langford forming The Three Johns. Corrigan became a tour manager for many years before founding a company that provides visa and immigration services specialising in the entertainment industry.
By the mid-1980s (revitalised by the 1984 coal miners' strike) the Mekons had returned as an active group. The band was now augmented by vocalist Sally Timms, violinist Susie Honeyman, ex-Damned member Lu Edmonds, accordionist/vocalist Rico Bell (a.k.a. Eric Bellis), and former The Rumour drummer Steve Goulding. They began to experiment with musical styles derived from traditional English folk (tentatively explored on the English Dancing Master EP prior to the hiatus), and American country music. Fear and Whiskey (1985), The Edge of the World (1986) and Honky Tonkin (1987) exemplified the band's new sound, which built on the innovations of Gram Parsons and blended punk ethos and left wing politics with the minimalist country of Hank Williams. Subsequent albums, such as The Mekons Rock 'n Roll, continued to experiment with diverse instrumentation (notably the fiddle, accordion, slide guitar, and saz).
The Mekons Rock and Roll was the band's first major label release. Issued by A&M Records in 1989, The Mekons Rock 'n Roll was not a commercial success, but it was met with critical acclaim.
Just as the Mekons began to grow in critical stature, their relationship with A&M Records became tense, and the Mekons were soon dropped by the label, unable to fulfill their commercial expectations. However, they continued to record at a prolific rate, releasing such notable albums as 1991's The Curse of the Mekons, 2000's Journey to the End of the Night, and 2002's OOOH! Natural moved the band to a more folk-flavoured sound. In April 2009 the Mekons returned to the studio to complete a new collection of songs, released in 2011 as Ancient and Modern on Bloodshot Records., and, in a September 2010 interview, Jon Langford revealed that the band would tour the United States in 2011.
In a February 2011 interview, Langford discussed the music documentary about the band, Revenge of the Mekons, directed by Joe Angio. The film premiered in 2013 at the DOC NYC festival with members of the band in attendance.
The band has toured and recorded with a mostly unaltered lineup (Langford, Greenhalgh, Timms, Goulding, Bell, Edmonds, Honeyman, and bassist Sarah Corina) throughout the 1990s and early 21st century, and has a highly devoted following. Sarah Corina left in 2015, and Dave Trumfio, of Chicago and Southern California, replaced Corina on bass.
Their second single, "Where Were You?" was featured in 2016 in an Acura commercial.
The Mekons celebrated their 40th anniversary with the "Mekonville" festival near Ipswich, UK, with both the current 2017 line-up and the re-united original 1977 lineup performing. At that festival, Mekonville, a 12-inch "split single" was released, with one new song from each of the two lineups. A 1977 line-up, as "The Mekons 77", also performed several days later at Blackpool's Rebellion 2017, with more gigs in 2018 in the UK. In early 2018, Mekons 77 released the LP "It Is Twice Blessed", which had been recorded in early 2017. The "current" line-up, still as "The Mekons", also performed several concerts in the UK and elsewhere in Europe in July and August, 2017. Jon Langford and Tom Greenhalgh are the only members common to both line-ups.
The Mekons recorded their 2019 album Deserted in a studio near to Joshua Tree National Park. In an interview, they described how "the rugged landscape informed the highly diverse collection of songs they wrote".
Most past and present members of the Mekons have also released other solo and/or collaborative recordings. Many of these recordings, including by Rico Bell, Sally Timms, Jon Langford, and by some of Langford's other bands such as Pine Valley Cosmonauts and The Waco Brothers, have been released by Bloodshot Records, a Chicago, Illinois, record label. Rico Bell and Jon Langford are also visual artists.
Langford has worked as the founder and member of several solo and band projects including the The Three Johns, the Waco Brothers, a punk-meets-Johnny Cash-like ensemble, and the Pine Valley Cosmonauts, a project that explores the music of Bob Wills, Johnny Cash and others. Besides his solo albums Langford has released CDs with Richard Buckner, Kevin Coyne, Kat Ex (Katherina Bornefeld) of The Ex, Roger Knox, and The Sadies, in some cases using the Pine Valley Cosmonauts name.
In 2014, some of The Mekons, dubbing themselves the "mini-Mekons", along with Robbie Fulks, went to northern Scotland to perform, sample the local whisky, and write and record an album on the island of Jura, in the studio of world and roots producer Giles Perring, a long term collaborator with Mekon Susie Honeyman in the band Echo City. The record, named Jura, was released in November 2015 on Black Friday and is made up of original songs written on the trip, traditional songs, and a new recording of one Mekons song.
In 2013, and again in September 2017, Jon Langford and Sally Timms of the Mekons joined together with Janet Bean and Catherine Irwin of Freakwater to be the Freakons, performing original and cover songs about coal mining in Appalachia, England and Wales, to support the non-profit organization Kentuckians for the Commonwealth. The Freakons performed at the Hideout in Chicago, and elsewhere in Wisconsin, and planned to release an album. In 2017, they were accompanied by violinists Jean Cook of New York City and Anna Krippenstapel of Louisville, and, only in Chicago, by British-expat Chicago guitarist James Elkington. 
- 1979: The Quality of Mercy Is Not Strnen (Virgin Records / Blue Plate-Caroline Records)
- 1980: The Mekons aka Devils Rats and Piggies a Special Message from Godzilla (Red Rhino Records, Cherry Red Records, Quarterstick Records) – re-released in 1997
- 1982: The Mekons Story (CNT Productions, Sin Record Company/Feel Good All Over, Buried Treasures Records) – re-released in 1986
- 1985: Fear and Whiskey (Sin Record Company) – re-released in 2002
- 1986: The Edge of the World (Sin Record Company) – re-released in 1996
- 1987: The Mekons: Honky Tonkin' (Sin Record Company, Twin/Tone Records)
- 1988: So Good It Hurts (Sin Record Company/Cooking Vinyl, Rough Trade Records Germany)
- 1989: The Mekons Rock 'n Roll (A&M Records, Blast First, Rough Trade Records Germany); re-released circa 2001 (Collectors' Choice Music)
- 1991: The Curse of the Mekons (A&M Records, Blast First, Rough Trade Records Germany); re-released circa 2001 (Collectors' Choice Music)
- 1993: I ♥ Mekons (Quarterstick Records/Touch and Go Records, Rough Trade Records Germany)
- 1994: Retreat from Memphis (Quarterstick Records, Rough Trade Records Germany)
- 1996: Pussy, King of the Pirates with Kathy Acker (Touch and Go Records)
- 1998: Me (Quarterstick Records)
- 2000: Journey to the End of the Night (Quarterstick Records)
- 2002: OOOH! (Out of Our Heads) (Quarterstick Records)
- 2004: Punk Rock (Quarterstick Records)
- 2007: Natural (Quarterstick Records)
- 2011: Ancient and Modern 1911–2011 (Bloodshot Records)
- 2015: Jura, by the mini-Mekons with Robbie Fulks (Bloodshot Records)
- 2016: Existentialism (Bloodshot Records)
- 2018: It Is Twice Blessed, by the Mekons 77 (Slow Things)
- 2019: Deserted (Bloodshot Records)
- 1983: The English Dancing Master (CNT Records, Rough Trade Records)
- 1986: Crime and Punishment (Sin Record Company)
- 1986: Slightly South of the Border (Sin Record Company)
- 1987: Hole In The Ground / Sin City / Prince Of Darkness (Sin Record Company, Cooking Vinyl, Twin/Tone Records)
- 1989: The Dream and Lie of... (A&M Records, Blast First)
- 1990: F.U.N. '90 (A&M Records, Blast First)
- 1990: Greetings Eight (Materiali Sonori, Italy)
- 1992: Wicked Midnite/All I Want (Loud Music)
- 1993: Millionaire (Quarterstick Records)
- 2007: The Brackenrigg EP (download only)
- 1978: "Never Been In A Riot" b/w "32 Weeks" and "Heart & Soul" − FAST 1 (Fast Product)
- 1978: "Where Were You?" b/w "I'll Have To Dance Then (On My Own)" − FAST 7 (Fast Product)
- 1979: "Work All Week" b/w "Unknown Wrecks" − VS300 (Virgin Records)
- 1980: "Teeth" b/w "Guardian" and "Kill" b/w "Stay Cool" (Virgin Records) – double 7"
- 1980: "Snow" b/w "Another One" (Red Rhino Records)
- 1981: "This Sporting Life" b/w "Frustration" − CNT1 (CNT Records)
- 1982: "This Sporting Life" b/w "Fight the Cuts" − CNT8 (CNT Records)
- 1986: "Hello Cruel World" b/w "Alone & Forsaken" − Sin004 (Sin Record Company)
- 1988: "Ghosts of American Astronauts" (Sin Record Company, Cooking Vinyl, Twin/Tone Records)
- 1990: "Claw" b/w "Crap Rap" with The Ex (Clawfist)
- 1990: "Sheffield Park" b/w "Having a Party" (Blast First)
- 1990: "Makes No Difference" b/w "Having A Party" (Blast First)
- 1995: "Untitled 1" b/w "Untitled 2" − QS31 (Quarterstick Records)
- 2017: Mekonville: "How Many Stars Are Out Tonight" b/w "Still Waiting" − (Sin/Slow)
- 1980: Mutant Pop (PVC/Jem), a US reissue of various early Fast Product singles, including the Mekons first 7", Never Been in a Riot b/w 32 Weeks, as well as Where Were You?, both first released in 1978.
- 1985: "They Shall Not Pass" CNT Miner's Strike compilation includes "Fight The Cuts" and "This Sporting Life"
- 1986: The Mekons Story—re-released in 1993/2008
- 1987: Mekons New York (ROIR) – re-released in 1990/2001 as New York: On the Road 86–87
- 1989: Original Sin (Rough Trade Records) – Collects together Fear and Whiskey, parts of The English Dancing Master, Crime and Punishment EP, and Slightly South of the Border EPs
- 1999: I Have Been to Heaven and Back: Hen's Teeth and other lost fragments of unpopular culture, Vol. 1 (Quarterstick Records)
- 1999: Where Were You? Hen's Teeth and other lost fragments of unpopular culture, Vol. 2 (Quarterstick Records)
- 2001: The Curse of the Mekons/Fun '90—combined reissue
- 2004: Heaven & Hell: The Very Best of the Mekons (Cooking Vinyl)
- 1996: Mekons United book with CD (Quarterstick Records)
- 2002: Hello Cruel World: Selected Lyrics [of 125 songs] book, written & illustrated by The Mekons (Verse Chorus Press; ISBN 978-1891241147)
- 2016: Existentialism book, including Existentialism CD (Sin Publications/Verse Chorus Press, distributed by Bloodshot Records)
- 2013: Revenge of the Mekons directed by Joe Angio
- Terrell, Steve (11 August 2017). "I was at Mekonville. Where were you?". Santa Fe New Mexican. Retrieved 13 August 2017.
- Pareles, Jon (30 April 1987). "Rock: Britain's Mekons". The New York Times. Retrieved 21 November 2015.
- Roberts, Randall (23 June 2015). "Unsung Mekons are a musical beacon of persistence and creativity". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 21 November 2015.
- Pareles, Jon (17 December 1989). "Recordings; The Mekons Take Aim at Rock-and-Roll". The New York Times. Retrieved 21 November 2015.
- Watrous, Peter (30 August 1993). "Review/Rock; A Sound With a Sense Of History, and Humor". The New York Times. Retrieved 21 November 2015.
- Pareles, Jon (5 July 1991). "Pop/Jazz; The Mekons Shed a Label For a Curse That Works". The New York Times. Retrieved 21 November 2015.
- "The 10 Best Mekons Songs". stereogum.com. 15 October 2014.
- Reynolds, Simon (2006). "Militant Entertainment: Gang of Four, the Mekons, and the Leeds Scene". Rip it Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978–1984. New York: Penguin Books.
- "Top 100 Albums of the 1980s". Pitchfork. 20 November 2002. Retrieved 5 November 2011.
- "Blender's 100 Greatest Indie-Rock Albums Ever". Retrieved 22 July 2018.
- Christgau, Robert (24 April 2001). "The Mekons: Rock 'n' Roll". Retrieved 1 December 2019.
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- Kenigsberg, Ben (28 October 2014). "Critic's Pick: Far-Flung, Long-Lasting and Still Punk at the Core". The New York Times. Retrieved 21 November 2015.
- Zimmerman, Lee (25 April 2014). "A Fat Welsh Bastard: Jon Langford". Blurt Magazine. Retrieved 21 November 2015.
Originally published in 2010
- Martens, Todd (24 September 2010). "A Mekon reflects: 'We've always been stupid enough to keep doing this,' says punk survivor Jon Langford". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 21 November 2015.
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- Tannenbaum, Rob (24 October 2014). "The Cult Band That Keeps on Chugging: A Documentary Celebrates the Mekons". The New York Times. Retrieved 21 November 2015.
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- Marchman, Tim (21 April 2015). "A Skeptic's Guide To The Mekons". Deadspin. Retrieved 1 December 2019.
- Kirsch, Steve (18 July 2015). ""It looks like an accident...." Live review: The Mekons, Harrisburg, PA, July 17, 2015". Kirsch, Steve. Retrieved 6 August 2018.
- Acura (25 April 2016), Acura – Brand – 30 Years Young, retrieved 3 June 2016
- "Mekonville (12" single)". Bloodshot Records. Retrieved 29 January 2018.
- "The Mekons 77". The Mekons 77. Retrieved 29 January 2018.
- "It Is Twice Blessed – Vinyl LP". The Mekons 77. Retrieved 5 August 2018.
- Tucker, Ken (16 April 2019). "The Mekons Celebrate Restlessness And Exploration On 'Deserted'". Fresh Air. NPR. Transcript.
- "Jon Langford". Yard Dog. Retrieved 21 November 2015.
- Allen, Jim (11 November 2015). "Songs We Love: The Mekons, 'Go From My Window'". NPR. Retrieved 21 November 2015.
- Moss, Marissa R. (5 November 2015). "Hear Robbie Fulks and Cowpunkers the Mekons' Wild 'Beaten and Broken'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 21 November 2015.
- Rami (4 September 2013). "Bloodshot News: Mekons + Freakwater = Freakons!". Bloodshot Records. Retrieved 5 August 2018.
- Kendrick, Monica (31 August 2017). "Alt-country heroes Freakwater and postpunk lifers the Mekons come together to get their Freakons". Chicago Reader. Retrieved 5 August 2018.
- Loerzel, Robert (19 September 2017). "Freakons at the Hideout and the Shitty Barn". Loerzel, Robert. Retrieved 5 August 2018.
- Breihan, Tom (21 June 2011). "Mekons Announce New Album". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 21 November 2015.
- "Mekons & Robbie Fulks: Jura". Record Store Day. Retrieved 21 November 2015.
"EXISTENTIALISM Mekons". Bloodshot Records. Retrieved 13 August 2017.
Limited edition Book is SOLD OUT
- Information on the website of Bloodshot Records
- Anders, Pat; Spott (16 November 2000). "We (heart) Mekons". Stay Free!. Archived from the original on 20 November 2000. Retrieved 21 November 2015.
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