The Men They Couldn’t Hang came together in 1984 to perform at the alternative music festival in Camden town alongside the legendary Pogues and the Boot Hill Foot-Tappers. Paul Simmonds, Philip ‘Swill’ Odgers and his brother Jon, veterans of the Southampton based pop-punk band ‘Catch 22’, met Pogues roadie Stefan Cush whilst busking in Shepherds Bush in London. Their early line up was Stefan Cush (Vocals, Guitar), Philip Odgers (Vocals, Guitar, Tin Whistle, and Melodica), Paul Simmonds (Guitar, Bouzouki, and Keyboards), Jon Odgers (Drums, Percussion) and Shanne Bradley (Bass). Championed by the late John Peel their first single, a cover of Eric Bogle’s ‘Green Fields of France’ (1984), became a big hit on the UK Indie charts and a staple of Peel’s festive 50. It then appeared on their first album, “Night of a Thousand Candles”, which was released in 1985. The album also includes the singles ‘Ironmasters’ and ‘Greenback Dollar”/’Night to Remember’. Signing for MCA the following year, they recorded their second album, “How Green Is the Valley”, produced by Mick Glossop. Included on this album are the singles ‘Gold Rush’, ‘Shirt of Blue’ and ‘Ghosts of Cable Street’.
In 1987 Shanne Bradley left the band and was replaced by Ricky McGuire, famous for touring with punk legends the UK Subs at the tender age of 17. With their third release in 1988, “Waiting for Bonaparte”, The Men They Couldn’t Hang were starting to achieve recognition across Europe for their political comment and raucous live shows.
One year later, they followed up the success of “Waiting for Bonaparte” with their fourth album, “Silvertown”. In 1989 they played to over 250,000 people in Estonia as communism started to crumble and followed this with an unforgettable Reading Festival appearance. At the height of their career, TMTCH recorded the brilliant “Domino Club” (1990) produced by Pat Collier however, this was to be their last studio album for a while as in early 1991, after a blistering farewell tour the band called it a day.
The split didn’t last long as the band were invited by Vince Power to appear at his 10th anniversary celebrations for the Mean Fiddler venue in London and the band performed occasional gigs including a fantastic 2 ½ hour 10th anniversary gig of their own in 1994.
By 1996 much to the delight of their fans, TMTCH reunited permanently. They returned with a new power and excitement to their music. “Never Born to Follow” is an excellent work which includes the single, ‘The Eye’. Shortly after this, they released the “Six Pack EP” (1997), followed by their ‘Best Of’ collections, “Majestic Grill” and “The Mud, The Blood And The Beer” (both 1998). In 2003 the band released the self-produced album “The Cherry Red Jukebox” to much critical acclaim and this was followed by the Pat Collier produced “Devil on the Wind” in 2009 featuring long-time associate Bobby Valentino on fiddle and introducing Tom Spencer of the YoYos and the Loyalties fame, son of musician and author the late John B Spencer on banjo. The band spent much of 2010 and 11 touring this across the U.K. and Europe including festival appearances alongside The Levellers and headlining a roots festival in Slovenia.
The year 2012 saw the release of an album from Stefan Cush’s new band, “the FeralFamily” and Paul Simmonds was recording and touring with roots singer Naomi Bedford as well as numerous live dates for TMTCH.
The latter including appearances at Mike Peter’s “The Gathering”, and festival appearance salongside Billy Bragg and Adam Ant to name but a few. They headlined the 10th anniversary commemoration of Joe Strummer’s Acton Town Hall show which also featured a special guest appearance by Hard Fi.
March 2013 saw the release of Phil (Swill) Odgers highly anticipated solo album produced by the legendary Mick Glossop, the album “The Godforsaken Voyage” includes guest appearances from Australian folkrockers Weddings, Parties Anything as well as home grown talent such as John Jones (Oysterband) and folk royalty Eliza Carthy. The album has received glowing reviews and has become an Amazon and iTunes hit. A Vinyl version with extra track is planned for the summer.
On the exact day of release of “The Godforsaken Voyage”, The Men They Couldn’t Hang joined Stiff Little Fingers for 3 weeks on their UK tour. Tom Spencer now switching to guitar duties, allowing Paul Simmonds the freedom to switch between Mandolin and Bouzouki. This combined with several Festivals appearances in UK and German act as which a great prelude to TMTCH’s 30th anniversary in 2014 for which the band are busy writing new material right now. Later in 2013 the band will launch a ‘Pledge’ campaign to enable fans to not only buy unique recordings in advance of the album but also to help shape the final end product.
2013 saw the release in March of Swill’s solo album – The Godforsaken Voyage – produced by the legendary Mick Glossop. As well as appearances by the band at several festivals, including the Folkpunkrock festival in Berlin in February, they were pleased to do a tour of the UK in the Spring supporting Stiff Little Fingers which included St Patrick’s Night at Glasgow Barrowlands.
2014 marked the band’s 30th anniversary and the band saw out their anniversary year with the release of their ninth album, ‘The Defiant’ which was funded via a successful Pledge campaign that raised over 200% of its target and was produced by Pat Collier. Recorded during savage bouts of drinking, mess, ribald reminiscence, raucous recreation and a week of bed and board at a South London flophouse, it features such traditional themes as piracy, fascism, fishing and a little touch of romance in Henry V’s invasion force of 1415. It undoubtedly reinforces the band’s reputation as both originators and unique pillar of the roots rock renaissance, as well as one of Britain’s finest ever bands.
Previewed with a sold out London show at Shepherds Bush Empire in April that won rave reviews in The Guardian and on The Arts Desk, the teaser ‘Night Ferry’ EP that saw significant specialist airplay on BBC Radio 2, 6 Music, BBC Scotland and BBC Wales, plus a number of summer festival appearances.
They closed their 30th anniversary year with another show at the Shepherds Bush Empire on Easter Saturday 2015 before launching into various festival appearances during the summer, finishing in December with 2 sell out shows at the Borderline and the return of Jon Odgers on drums.
Swill also launched his own successful Pledge campaign to make an 18 track album available to Pledgers only, these tracks will be whittled down to 10 for the commercially available release which is due September 2016.
2016 saw more shows and festival appearances including a return to Rebellion in August, and 2 more Christmas shows at the Borderline.
Then 2017 will see a return to our spiritual home of the Shepherds Bush Empire for an Easter Saturday show to mark the band’s 33rd anniversary as well as a new Pledge campaign to fund to the making of the band’s tenth studio album