Satan’s Rats hailed from Evesham, a quiet Worcestershire market town, bounded on three sides by the majestic River Avon, not your expected jump-off point for a hardcore punk band of the late 1970s. Their lack of street cred eventually extended to their record label DJM – run by tinkly piano man and pop diva Elton John – and their first single was produced by notable New Wave flop and arch Poseur Rikki Sylvan.
The band actually formed in January/February 1977 by college kids Paul Rencher (vocals) and Steve Eagles (guitar/vocals), who were joined by Sharpie (bass) and Clint Driftwood (drums). They made their live debut at Bretforton Village Hall on March 4, shortly after which Sharpie quit, to be replaced by Roy Wilkes.
This reconfigured lineup taped its first six-song demo in early 1977. The next day, Driftwood quit, apparently at the insistence of his father, who didn’t want his son playing in a punk band. He want on to “settle for a job in the pork pie industry”, while his place was filled Olly Harrison.
The big time beckoned, with the Rats showcasing their new lineup at the Pershore College of Horticulture on June 17, and playing at Birmingham’s first punk festival in Barbarella’s, along with The Killjoys and Suburban Studs.
DJM Records signed them up for £6,000, and they released their debut single, In My Love For You, that November, after a fractious recording session with producer Sylvan – lead vocalist with label-mates Rikki & The Last Says of Earth – who they hated. A flawed publicity campaign (“Never Mind The Sex Pistols, Here’s Satan’s Rats”) didn’t help and the release went on to obscurity. Later, the Rats would support the Sex Pistols at Lafayette’s in Wolfram, and win an encore for their troubles.
But the excellent Year Of The Rats 7″ followed in February 1978, and by the time of the Vic Maile-produced, You Make Me Sick, the band was very tight. That didn’t stop the sacking of Wilkes at the insistence of Eagles and Harrison, and Dave Sparrow was conscripted to take his position. Things went from bad to worse when they embarked on a disastrous tour with their nemesis, Rikki & The Last Says of Earth.
Following a show at Long Lartin Prison in May 1978, and two more studio demos (the first later that year, the second in September 1979), Rencher was ousted in favour of a Wendy Wu (nee Cruise), with the former having tired of Rencher’s punk rock japery,. The band changed its name to The Photos, signed to Epic, and embarked on a moderately successful though short-lived career as a new wave band.