The Three Johns Atom Drum Bop was playing on a Sony Walkman FX 423 on the bus to work via Bluetooth transmitter to Sony WF C500’s.
I have liked the Three Johns a lot ever since I heard and saw the video and music for Sold Down the River on the Chart Show on some televisions roundabout 1986. I bought the single in the seven-inch style picture cover so I could listen to it often whenever I was proximate to a record player which I could operate with clarity.
I then decided to buy the World by Storm album on the cassette tape version as I was keen to listen to more of the Three Johns output and I happened to own a Hitachi Walkman at the time with some nectar Fontopid earphones in a little case which you could wind them up into for tidiness.
I was enamoured with the World by Storm album and played it almost constantly. Only periodically taking a breather and swapping it out for some Cabaret Voltaire. The track listing on the J card cassette inlay was a little bit incorrect but I did not mind. I became aware of the existence of the first Three Johns album called Atom Drum Bop and elected to not buy it at the time because I thought that nothing could be as good as The World by Storm and that I would be wasting my money with disappointment.
I did not forget about that album all through the years between then and now and especially when I bought the other Death of Everything and Eat Your Sons albums that came later. I just thought about it but only in the way that I would picture its existence in my mind’s eye. I don’t ever recall even thinking abut buying it. Sometimes I looked at the physical record item in shops and looked at the song titles and there were some that I recognised and most that I didn’t. The impact of the immense brilliance of the World by Storm album had seemingly dissolved any curiosity and purchase desire for the Atom Drum Bop product. Even today I am struggling to accurately explain the near thirty five year period of non-buying.
John Hyatt the singer died recently which was sadness and because of this I started to listen to Three Johns music for prolonged periods on a portable CD player and cassette Walkman loudly. I then realised that with the dual benefits of adult thought and massive hindsight that I should now buy the first Three Johns album Atom Drum Bop straightaway. I found the cassette release on the Discogs and owned it soon after because I am able to purchase easily with the internet.
When it arrived through the postal system I opened it and was pleased at the considerable lack of wear and tear on the item. There wasn’t even a vague smell of musty age which you sometimes get from older records and tapes when you inhale them. There was a couple of little tears on the J card where the plastic spindles of the case had abraded against it but I was not made disappointed by these.
So I played it as it was a reasonable course of action. I went to the local gym and did some exercises and things while listening to it on a Sony Walkman WM-FX453 with amazing Sony bluetooth earbuds and a 3.5mm minijack bluetooth transmitter. I have many Walkmans of varying brands and they are all great and capable. As the evening progressed and my gym exercises became increasingly engrossing I kept listening to the album and turned it over from side one to side two to side one to side two and again and again. I cannot recollect but I would estimate four complete playthrough times. Then I also listened to it the next day early morning while sitting on the bus doing the commute as previously outlined in the first paragraph. So that’s like what? About five times of full complete listening? I became increasingly swamped with regret about not having bought this album thirty-five years ago or even downloaded it illegally and tried to relate my thirty-five year Atom Drum Bop no buy stupidity to my wife but she was not interested at all.
The songs on the album are just as enjoyable as the songs on the other albums that were to follow. In effect I was listening to a new Three Johns album even though it was their first. I gained comfort from this listening angle and used it to negate my non-buying guilt. John Hyatt’s voice and lyrics are as remarkable as ever. Funny, political and abstract. It is the abstract angle that I like the most. His voice was mainly responsible for my interest in Captain Beefheart that started in the 1990’s. They can often sound pretty similar to my ears, with their guttural growls and nonsensical meanderings. Nonsense spewing from their song machines.
I met John Hyatt once. He played a solo set at the same event that I played at for one of my first ever live gigs, in Manchester. I was cripplingly shy and frightened of meeting him as he was a total hero that I adored but my wife went and spoke to him like a normal person would and asked him to come and speak to me as I was a massive fan and had lost the ability to speak coherently. I was trembling and timid as we shook hands and he said hello, again like a normal person would. He asked me what my favourite Three Johns song was and I replied that it was Downhearted Blues. He said that he played that song at his wedding. I gave him a badge of mine which said The Slate Pipe Banjo Draggers on it and he pinned it on himself and patted it and I nearly passed out with joy.
That’s it really. John Hyatt died the other week and I am a bit sad about that but I feel privileged to have met him briefly and to have been able to hear his voice and music for about sixty five percent of my life and I think that percentage figure will increase as my age does. Some bands come and go during your life but The Three Johns are a band that I have loved constantly since I first heard them back in the approximate 1986 year all through the other years up to now and probably until I die or become deaf and can’t hear them anymore.