(c’87-’96) Darren “Wiz” Brown (guitar / vocal), Danny Brown (rhythm guitar / vocal), Gerry Bryant (bass / vocal) and Chris Jones (drums).

Picture courtesy of Pete Cole

In 1987, out of the ashes of Capricorn came Mega City Four (MC4) once described by Uncut magazine as earning “a reputation across the globe as an exciting live band”. Live band they were, but they also released 14 singles/EPs and 8 LPs.

Sleeve of 4-Tracks demo cassette.

Their first gig was in January ’87, one of 15 around Farnborough in the first 6 months. However, you will find listings for MC4 playing The Old Schoolhouse, Woking on 21 December ’86. The night before the final gig at the venue featuring Cardiacs, Steel Bill and the Buffalos, The Body Politic and Five O’Clock High – but it is unclear if this is true, Capricorn, or just incorrect. During this time the demo cassette EP “4-tracks” was self-released, with “Silent Witness” and “Shattered” on the A-side. The B-side carried “Behind Closed Doors” and “Things I Never Said”. In May they ventured up to London to support The Gospel, Real to Reel, and Macavity’s Cat at the Mean Fiddler on 7 May, then the Marquee supporting The Grip on 17 July. Their debut single, with Vinyl Solutions, “Miles Apart” / “Running In Darkness” came out in March ’88 followed by gigs with Senseless Things (Mark had seen MC4 at The Boatman) and Snuff.

Tim Naylor’s signed copy of Mega City Four’s debut single “Miles Apart / Running In Darkness”; of which 1000 copies were pressed in 1988 on the Primitive label.

The band got busy in ’88. On 8 April they supported The Rosehips, The Popinjays and The Parachute Men at the Bull & Gate. Ten day later, on 18 April, along with Wayne Cregan, they supported Big Bang Theory at the Clarenden Hotel, Hammersmith. The next month, on 1 May, MC4 were pitched as one of the ‘less than able support’ for Brian at Dingwalls along with Fat Babies, Anonymes, The Ryecatchers, BladderBladderBladder and Twiglet. On the 12 May, they supported Weddings, Parties, Anything at the Mean Fiddler, Harlesdon with West Won and Doodaa Tzars and in early June they were at Clarendon Hotel supporting The Mistreaters. The band completed a total of 76 gigs, mostly in the second half, following their Peel Session on 19 July ’88; such as their support of Anhrefn with Sign On Valley Rangers at The Tunnel Club on 27 July; a slot supporting Celibate Rifles with Senseless Things at The Greyhound on 6 August; underpinning Wildlife Tree and The Contenders, along with The Things, Jon Fit Beast, Donkey Nun and Spam Bastard at the Bull & Gate on 9 September, and Birdland, with The Cannibals, at The Falcon, Camden Town on 10 September; supporting The Sect, with Red Letter Day, at The Hornpipe, Portsmouth on the 17 September; and Senseless Things, at the Sir George Robey with Flag of Convenience, and The Worry Dolls on 5 October.

MC4 Flyer from September ’88

Late ’88 saw the band’s “Alternative Arrangement” included in the “A Taste of…” compilation cassette, compiled by Basingstoke fanzine “Fraudian Black” creator Cal Graham. In November ’88 the band released their second single, the double-A sided “Clear Blue Sky / Distant Relatives” on Decoy. Produced and engineered by ex-Procol Harum keyboardist, Matthew Fisher, at his Old Barn Studios, near Croydon, it was NME’s ‘Single of the Week’ and described as ‘A classic seven inch single” and “blistering”. How’d they celebrate the singles release? With their 50th gig of the year since 1 January. On 17 December, a month when the band were still pushing the debut single hard, they played Oxford’s Nightclub, London supported by The Satelites. Wiz got sacked from his day job just before Christmas that year, with the rest of the band quitting by January ’89, including the three roadies.

Decoy band flyer from the same photo shoot that yielded the cover of Tranzophobia…

By this time the NME (Steve Lamacq was often seen at the bands gigs which led to MC4 fan and regular gig goer Nick? often sharing the non-league football scores) was predicting a top rate debut album and a number of major labels were courting, including Polydor. The Hype at Bull & Gate, London had MC4 headline on 20 January, with Jon Fit Beast, Bastard, Erick, Paris in the Fall, The Big Boat, and the Hungerford Hitmen in support. Then in late January saw their first two singles released in France. Around this time the musical wing of Anti-Fascist Action, Cable Street Beat, tried to recruit MC4 to support the Angelic Upstarts at the Robey; but with MC4 not wishing to be ‘political’ it went nowhere. Then in February ’89 the band headed to Scotland, gigging there and back. The first 3 singles were released as an EP in Spain in late February which followed in March by joining The Seers UK tour for 2 weeks, and hitting the studio to record the album after that.

Three of Mega City 4 with Tranzophobia transit. Picture courtesy of Pete Cole

The Moseley Dance Centre, Birmingham was the venue for an all day anti-vivisection “indie” festival on 30 April ’89. This was headlined by Gaye Bykers on Acid, with MC4, Anhrefn, Snuff, Senseless Things, Magnolia Siege, Voiceless, The Wasp Factory, Romeo Suspect, and Collapse. In May ’89 they release the album “Tranzophobia” with a supporting UK tour. MC4 supported Senseless Things, and vice versa, a number of times. In May ’89 they both played at the Sea Cadets Hall, Cambridge (6 May) and at The Greyhound, Fulham (13 May) – although MC4’s own Tranzophobia Tour flyer has them playing in Walsall that night. The Tranzophobia Tour continued with a booking at Aldershot’s Buzz Club on 24 June, supported by The Eclairs, and a support slot for The Price at Brunel University, Uxbridge (23 July). A soundboard captured recording of the 24 June, West End Centre performance was later distributed with an issue of the German Pogo Post Fanzine.

They continued to gig around the UK, across Europe and in North America through the second half of ’89, working with bands including Les Thugs, Manic Street Preachers, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine, Senseless Things and Doughboys. They also headlined many a gig, including a 9 August show at The Old Trout, Windsor supported by The Price and B-Movies in Black and White; and a 15 September appearance at the Marquee. London supported by The Cateran and Sink; although prior advertising listed The Cateran, Think, and Ned Pamphillon in support. Eleven days later they were at Exeter’s Timepiece with Fish Tank in support. The following month the band played The Duchess, supported by Rodney Allen, on 2 October and 4 days later the first 400 attendees of a Hard-Ons, MC4, Bomb Disneyland, and Les Thugs 6 October gig at the Astoria, London were presented with a 7″ promo EP of unreleased tracks by all four bands. Touring with Les Thugs continued and four days later, on 10 October, MC4 were supporting at Mandela Hall for Manchester Polytechnic Student Union. Another four days later and 225 miles further north MC4 headlined with The Cateran and Les Thugs in support at Calton Studios, Edinburgh on 14 October. The next month MC4 were in France, notably at Barbey Theater, Bordeaux supporting Les Thugs with Wet Furs and Thompson Rollets on 9 November and headlining Salle François, Le Harve on 11 November supported by Les Thugs and The Guttersnipes; however according to local press the headliners set didn’t last long as Wiz was on the verge of ‘malaise’. The band closed out ’89 on home turf with 15 gigs up and down England in December.

Mega City Four’s December 1989 gig list. Picture courtesy of Pete Cole

Seymour changed their name to Blur in early 1990 and the first gig under that name was with MC4 and The Cramps at Brixton Academy on the 27 February. A few day following MC4 and Neds Atomic Dustbin, supported by Blue Velvet were at The West End Centre, Aldershot on 2 March. 1990 also saw the MC4’s second album, “Who Cares Wins” on Decoy, with production by early Chicago punk era engineer Iain Burgess, and additional engineering by Marshall Jim Voxx and Peter Deimel, at Deimel’s Studio Black Box in Noyant la Gravoyere, France. The Duchess, Leeds had booked The Milltown Brothers, who’d just signed to A&M worldwide, to support MC4 on 21 May, but no support was there on the night. The Marquee saw Les Thugs and The Things supporting MC4 on 26 May and on 24 August the band opened the Main Stage at Reading ’90, followed by An Emotional Fish, Jane’s Addiction, Mudhoney, Gary Clail, Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, Faith No More,and The Cramps. On 10 October the Psykik Dancehall at The Old Trout, Windsor hosted the band, who undertook the first of alternating headline spots with Ned’s Atomic Dustbin the following night at The University of London – The Neds supported MC4 on the first night (11 Oct) and MC4 supported the Neds on the next (12 Oct). These were the last three gigs on the “Who Cares Wins” tour, the bands second album on the Decoy label.

Back of the MC4 “Who Cares Wins” tour t-shirt.

The band were in France again to play the 3rd Fontenay-Le-Comte Rock Festival, appearing with Real Cool Killers, Miners of Muzo and Bruce Joyner on 28 October ’90. The band stayed in France performing for more nights, consecutively, at L’Arceau, Angers (29 Oct); Ker Opus Bar, Langolen (30 Oct) performing to around 160 French fans; Espace Ornano, Paris (31 Oct); and Le Sax, Acheres (1 Nov).

MC4 toured France again in early ’91 and were in Bordeaux on 13 February at Salle Gouffrand supported by Cartoons. A memorial concert for Gab at The Lemon Tree, Exeter on 30 May ’91 saw MC4 headlining with Jamdown, The Love Children, Blenderhead, and T.C.C in support. Decoy’s next LP release for MC4 was a compilation album of their early 7″ singles, called “Terribly Sorry Bob” in ’91. Appearances on the UK college circuit continued including a 3 October ’91 gig at University of London and back supporting The Seers on 13 December ’91, along with Suntribe, at the Anson Rooms, Bristol University. It had been rumored that PJ Harvey was to appear at the Town & Country Club, London for a charity gig in aid of the MacMillan Fund a few days prior on 6 December. A few disappointed punters got to see Midway Still instead along with MC4, Senseless Things, and The Frank and Walters. The day after their Bristol University support slot the band headlined at Basingstoke’s Sports Centre with Pretty Green, and E.B. and The Systems supporting. It was off to Germany for MC4 in late December ’91 and a supporting slot for New Model Army at Philipshalle, Dusseldorf on the 21st.

Mega City Four’s “Sebastopol Rd”; their third studio album, was released in 1992.

Moving to major record label, Big Life Records, they released two further studio albums; the first being “Sebastopol Rd” in ’92, named for a street in Aldershot, upon which the band’s rehearsal space The Workhouse Rehearsal Studios stood. Produced by Jessica Corcoran, it was recorded at Greenhouse Studios. This was the band’s only album to be released in the United States; which predicated a release supporting North American tour while “Sebastopol Rd” peaked at No. 41 on the UK Album Chart.

The University of Surrey, Guildford hosted a local band night on 15 February ’92 which MC4 headlined supported by Phobia, Pretty Green and Big Boy Tomato. In early ’92 MC4 toured with Midway Still. On 28 February, MC4 supported by Midway Still, played the Woughton Centre – aka “The Pitz” – Milton Keynes. The next month the Astoria, London hosted the bands on 20 March ’92 and five days later the pair were at McGonagles, Dublin, traveling north and across the border to appear at The University of Ulster the next day. Two months later the MC4 undertook the ir first and only North American tour, from 20 May to 3 June supporting the US release of “Sebastopol Rd”. This included Les Foufounes Électriques, Montreal, QC (May 27); Slim’s, San Francisco, CA (June 2); and finally Whisky A Go Go, West Hollywood, CA (June 3), supported by The Black Watch. Shortly after returning to the UK the band, along with The Cult, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, Pearl Jam, Nitzer Ebb, Mercury Rev, L7 and Therapy? were on the main stage at In The Park ’92, Finsbury Park, London on 6 June.

July 1992: Record Collector had a feature on Mega City Four.

In July ’92 they were featured in Record Collector magazine and played NME’s Gimme Shelter Party at Town & Country, Kentish Town on the 23rd with Blur, Suede, and 3 1/2 Minutes. They were back at Reading Festival’s main stage on opening day, 28 August, but not up first this time. Redd Kross, Fatima Mansions, and The Milltown Brothers opened with MC4 warming up the crowd further for PJ Harvey, Public Image Limited, The Charlatans and The Wonderstuff. On 25 September they headlined The MTV “120 Minutes” Music Festival 1992 at The Dome, London. A couple of months later the band were on the continent appearing at Salle Louis Jouvet, Rouen on 10 November with Dickybird, and Les Thugs. But the band could always be found in and around their Farnborough birthplace, with gigs at the likes of Farnborough Recreation Centre where they played on 12 December ’92.

Big Life Records, which had been formed by Jazz Summers, who’d previously been involved with Wham!, and Blue Zoo guitarist Tim Parry, put out their second MC4 studio album, titled “Magic Bullets”, in ’93. MC4 were at The Astoria, London on 3 June ’93 – a gig that was recorded for future release – with the single “Wildflower”, taken from the recently released “Magic Bullets”, released on 28 June. The 7″ was a limited release of 2,000 copies and carried “Wilderness” and a number of unreleased tracks on the flip-side. The aforementioned Astoria gig recordings were released as a ‘live’ CD and included “Wallflower” along with “Iron Sky” and “Afraid of Cats”. After a quick release tour and a trip to European venues the band return for Glastonbury. On 19 September the band were back with Peel, recording another session. A support slot for Rosa Mota followed a few days later a The Garage, London on 25 September. The following month, on 4 October, Strange Fruit issued “Mega City Four ‎– Peel Sessions” [SFRCD124] a promo cassette of their 1988 Peel session. The Feet First Christmas Party was held on 21 December ’93 at The Camden Palace at which MC4 were the live band.

13 August 1994: Wiz and Gerry, photographed by Jenny Carruthers, of Mega City Four at the Abbey Park Festival. Source: Abbey Park Festival Archive

On 8 April ’94 the band were once again at Hype, Bull & Gate and on 26 May they played The Old Trout, Windsor supported by Euphoria.. ‘Scene’ cohorts Senseless Things were booked to headline the Abbey Park Festival, Leicester on 13 August ’94, but a guitarist’s broken arm saw them pull out to be replaced by Mega City Four. Jumping to ’95, Wiz filled in for guitarist Gareth “Rat” Pring of Ned’s Atomic Dustbin for a tour and promo events in the US. Busby’s, Charing Cross hosted MC4, The Rosehips, and The Sect on 13 June. Local promoter Barney Jeavons had MC4 as special guests for Splatch at the Civic Hall, Guildford on 24 November ’95 which also saw Redwood, Doo the Moog, Bennet, and Who Moved the Ground? take to the stage. A move to Fire Records saw them record and the release their final studio album, “Soulscraper” in ’96.

In early 1996, after almost a decade, they broke up. Wiz moved to Montreal and joined Canadian alternative rock band, Doughboys, replacing guitarist Jonathan Cummins. Meanwhile, Wiz and Bryant continued playing together in Serpico after the demise of MC4. In September ’96 Paul Talling compiled a further 24 tracks from 24 bands as Snakebite City Five. which retained some local flair in the form of Inter, Twister, Who Moved The Ground? and MC4, who were making their first and last appearance on Snakebite. The Mother Stoat Recording Co. label put out “The Best Of Splatch!” CD compilation [STOAT 006] in ’97 which featured MC4’s “Take Me Alive” as track ten. Then out of the ashes of Serpico, Wiz went on to form Ipanema, who were still playing and recording until late 2006. It was shortly after returning from a US tour that Wiz collapsed at a band rehearsal in late 2006 and died at St George’s Hospital, Tooting from a blood clot on the brain on 6 December, and announced the following day.

Mega City Four’s Wiz Brown on the cover of Extremities and beyond… Picture courtesy of Pete Cole

Muse released a cover of “Praque” on the B-side of “Resistance’ in February 2010, dedicating it to Wiz. Then 21 years after the original release, “Sebastopol Rd” was reissued in 2013 with a Peel Session, among other bonus tracks with Record Collector deeming it “an indie-pop gem with punk overtones.” and The Rough Guide to Rock “one of the 90s catchiest (pre-Britpop) discs.”

Bassist Gerry Bryant currently owns and runs The Rooms Rehearsal Studios in Farnborough, Hampshire; he has also been the sound engineer for Suzi Quattro, Shaky Stevens, StillMarillion, Nothing But Thieves and many others. Jones, married Dawn P Cannon and took his wife’s name, and is currently a member of West Country rockers Richard Davies & The Dissidents. Wiz’s life and inspirational approach to music is celebrated by the charity organization The Forward 4 Wiz Trust which has taken Wiz’s attitude and applied it to what he loved most: new music.