The Doctors of Madness are the great outsiders of rock history. They are the missing link between Prog-rock and Punk Rock. In the words of Def Leppard’s frontman Joe Elliot, they were “Mosntrously brilliant”.
The band had been together for three and a half years and had a loyal, committed following when they decided to call it a day. They were finally floored by the killer punch of punk rock, which, like a raw, swaggering, bare-knuckle fighter, saw off many established bands in the period between 1976 and 1978. The fact that the Doctors of Madness were one of the few British bands who could credibly have claimed to have been ‘proto-punk’, with their frantic delivery, their preoccupation with urban neurosis and systems of control, their appetite for fast drugs and their exotic stage names, was not enough to earn them a reprieve. Nor was the fact that their fans included The Damned, The Skids, The Adverts, Simple Minds, Julian Cope and Spiritualized. Even the fact that they gave The Sex Pistols their first out-of-London gig didn’t save them from the punk juggernaut, which flattened everything in its path.
Pop loves novelty. It is the blood on which the pop-vampire feeds. The Doctors just werenÕt new enough and they had to die.
Richard ‘Kid’ Strange, Stoner and Peter di Lemma played their final concert at the Music Machine, in LondonÕs Camden Town, on 26th October 1978, by which time Urban Blitz, their violin player, had already left the band.
In his autobiographical book, ‘Strange- Punks and Drunks and Flicks and Kicks’ Richard ‘Kid’ Strange describes The Doctors of Madness recording their first album, Late Night Movies, All Night Brainstorms.He writes: ‘With the early technical problems overcome, we set about our task of recording a great first album with a genuine relish and a manic intensity. I wanted to make an album that would contain, reflect and mutate everything I had ever felt, ever experienced, in my 24 years. I wanted it to reflect every joy, every disappointment, every grudge, and every resentment. I wanted it to be full of bitterness, desolation, alienation, bile and fury. Such tenderness as there was would be tempered with cynicism and distance. Such romance as there was would be doomed to painful breakdown. I wanted the record to be dark, cinematic and colossal. My subject matter was urban decay, neurosis and corruption. I had the anarchist’s loathing for all systems of control. Lyrically my roots were in the singer/songwriter tradition of Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Jacques Brel and David Bowie, but my songs were seasoned with a sour edge and a rotten middle, courtesy of William Burroughs. Musically I loved the energy, directness and gonzo avant-gardism of the Velvet Underground at their most uncompromising. Walls of white noise and feedback laid over speed-fuelled, dumb-ass rhythm. The harmonic equivalent of bare-knuckle fighting. Sonic porn. We set ourselves into a circle in the studio, turned down the lights and attempted to blow each other off the face of the earth.’
Richard Strange has just completed a hugely successful tour of Japan. Billed as The Doctors of Madness Live in Japan, Strange was accompanied by his longtime collaborator and soul-brother, David Coulter, and the Japanese three-piece band Sister Paul. The hour and a quarter long programme featured songs from all of the Doctors of Madness albums, and there are now plans to release a live album of the concerts.