Donnie & the Smokes were a post-punk inspired rock band that formed and quickly disbanded in the late 1980s. While they never achieved commercial success, their ’89 tour of the UK, against the backdrop of cold war politics, rise in conservatism, Middle East turmoil, and American consumerism, was seen as a lynchpin in the counter-cultural zeitgeist of the youth and anti-capitalist ilk.
Donne & The Smokes’ seminal anthem, “Revolt” was recorded at the height of the group’s popularity at the end of their infamous ’89 tour of the UK.
But what about their humble beginnings?
Donnie grew up near a landfill on the coastal end of a town called Blackpool in the UK. There, he formed The Smokes. He and 3 friends from primary school dropped to pursue music full time and completely reject authority. They all moved into a dilapidated trolley at the age of 12 and began writing and recording demos for what would end up being their first LP, “A Pound’s Worth o’ Parliament’s Lies”.
Let’s listen to one of their earlier tracks, “God Given Right”
In 1988, blurry-eyed Englishmen and women rubbed their collective eyes. It was evening, the sun had gone down, and the city was beginning to start its fade into night. Much to their surprise, a grand image emerged, projected on the halls of Parliament from a pirate river boat in the Thames.
Donnie and the Smokes had created scathing video of the political elite of the time, blood streaming down their eyes and slowly filling the screen. It’s said that Donnie used his own blood in the process and passed out several times during the filming process.
After their initial success as a much loved, booze slinging rabble of youngsters, Donnie and the Smokes turned decidedly darker in their subject matter, opting to take on those at the very top, and this is one example.
Many of their fans said it was simply a reflection of the time. The late 80s were rife with political corruption, corporate greed, and a rise in self-interest that reared its ugly head not in individualism, but austerity and ruthless objectivism.
Lyrically, “It Isn’t Right” is a take down of all authority figures and their policies that touted themselves as being in the interest of the public, but vainglorious.
Below, you can see a video installment Donnie debuted via projection on the walls of Parliament.
After their political standoff, the band slowly fizzled out of the memory of the UK. With the dawn of the 90s, stability and optimism took hold and the appeal of anti-establishment timbre of the Smokes was replaced with something called “Britpop.”
Donnie and the Smokes were falling out of the zeitgeist in the 90s. Fewer shows, fewer in attendance, and no obvious ruling class to rebel again, Donnie and his Smokes were dropped from their label and went on hiatus. That didn’t, however, stop the band for continuing to put out music independently.
“Be More Beautiful” is a take from the bootleg cassette called “Donnie Does Devonshire” which circled around the bands’ most avid fans in their hometown of Blackpool. While not going after political figures, they do set their gaze upon the commercial and material class and their unhealthy and destructive obsession with outward beauty.
Proceed to genleath.com