In early 1978, 42 British fans ventured into their local shops where major label punk singles from the Clash and the Pistols sat side by side with the first wave of independent records from the Buzzcocks, the Fall, and others. There they found a record with a picture of a broken bicycle on the front and their own names written on the back following this descriptive text:
The Desperate Bicycles were formed in March 1977 specifically for the purpose of recording and releasing a single on their own label. They booked a studio in Dalston for three hours and with a lot of courage and a little rehearsal they recorded “Smokescreen” and “Handlebars”. It subsequently leapt at the throat. Three months later The Desperate Bicycles were back in the studio to record their second single and this is the result. ‘No more time for spectating’ they sing and who knows? They may be right. They’d really like to know why you haven’t made your single yet. “It was easy, it was cheap, go and do it” (the complete cost of “Smokescreen” was 153 pounds). The medium may very well have been tedium but it’s changing fast. So if you can understand, go and join a band. Now it’s your turn….
The call had gone out at the end of that first single released on their own Refill Records (RR1): “It was easy, it was cheap, go and do it!” The aforementioned 42 were the names of people who had written the band or written John Peel after hearing “Smokescreen” on the radio. “I’m sick of telling people that they’re capable too / they don’t want to believe me and there ain’t just a few / all are insecure,” sang vocalist/lyricist Danny Wigley on the follow up single “The Medium Was Tedium” (RR2), which featured that commanding chorus mantra again, “It was easy, it was cheap, go and do it!” Flip the record to its B-side, “Don’t Back the Front,” with its chorus, “No more time for spectating / Tune it, count it, let it blast / Cut it, press it, distribute it / Xerox music’s here at last!” and DIY is born. It may have been The Sex Pistols and The Ramones that taught a generation that anyone could be in a band, but it was The Desperate Bicycles that taught them they could put out their own records.