The Business - Biography
At the height of the UK punk scene in the late 1970s, The Business emerged from South London to help canalize a new street-level sound that would become popularly known as Oi!, an anthemic disenfranchised movement that was perpetuated by bands like The 4-Skins and Blitz. As one of the spearheads of the rampant street-punk scene, The Business—comprised in its earliest iteration of Micky Fitz (vocals), Steven Kent (guitar), Nick Cunningham (drums) and Martin Smith (bass)—built a head of steam in the early going with their raucous, crowd-invigorating London shows, as well as their first single “Harry May,” which spent three months on the UK indie chart and lunged to #13 in 1982. With the insistent baiting by Fitz and a trademark sing-along chorus, it became the first big anthem for the group—one of many over the next couple decades. Since forming in 1979, The Business has released nine full-length albums, numerous EPs and splits, as well as toured everywhere from Europe to North America and Australia to the Far East. They hold the distinction of being the first Oi! band to play the famed Marquee in London and the last to play CBGBs in New York. Though the roster has changed considerably over the years, the one constant has been the charismatic singer Fitz, who continues to galvanize audiences with his fist-pumping, hooligan-inspiring performances.
As schoolmates in Lewisham, South London, the quartet of Fitz, Kent, Cunningham and Smith brought youthful piss and vinegar together for the first time in 1979, playing their debut gig for a small group of chums the following year, under the management of Lol Pryor. With a blue-collar state of mind rummaged over with hijinks, the band released the song “Out in the Cold” in the A Sudden Surge of Sound compilation (1980 VU), which featured bands like the Two-Tone Pinks and Rye & the Quarter Boys. In 1981, while opening for The 4-Skins in London, the band staked its identity forever more to the working class Oi! movement. The genre would have its fair share of far right/racist practitioners and extremist skinheads, but The Business was never one—a fact proven when they embarked on the “Oi! Against Racism and Political Extremism . . . But Still Against the System” tour.
In the winter of 1981, they released “Harry May” and became a UK staple for the proletariat bands from suburban dots on the map. Even with the newfound success, the band split up at the end of 1981, with Kent, Cunningham and Smith forming Q-Bow. After some line-up juggling, by mid-1982 Fitz was joined by Pryor, with Steve Whale, Mark Brennan and former Blackout drummer Kev Boyce. This was the roster that recorded their first EP, the iconic Smash the Discos.
The Business toured the UK before recording and re-recording their first proper LP, initially called Loud, Proud and Punk, and later—after the original masters went missing forcing them to re-record the whole album—renamed Suburban Rebels (1983 Secret). With the label struggling to stay alive, there was very little push behind the record, and, discouraged, The Business broke up to form other bands (such as the short-lived Sabre Dance and Chapter).
Ever iconoclastic, when Pryor brought out a bootleg album on his homegrown Syndicate label of The Business’s live performances and demos, the band reformed with renewed energy and set about releasing a “live” album using the jettisoned title from the first, Loud, Proud and Punk (1984 Syndicate). The album was a fabrication, as it was recorded in a studio using dubbed-in crowd noise for the effect. Pryor would release subsequent albums in 1985 to set up the controversial Driving and Driving tour—spawned by the underground hit single of the same name—which prompted many critics to bemoan the implications.
The Business would again break up in the late-1980s, before returning again in the mid-1990s when a benefit concert was thrown for the renowned footballer, Bobby Moore, who’d recently died of cancer. They put out the robust Keep the Faith (1994 Century Media), which featured an ornery, not very wholesome take on Kurt Cobain’s suicide (“Holiday in Seattle”), and later that year toured the United States for the first time. They followed Faith up with Saturday’s Heroes (1996) on Brennan’s Captain Oi! Records, and The Truth, the Whole Truth and Nothing But the Truth (1997, Taang!), which stayed consistent to the band’s earliest chest-thumping Oi! roots.
The Business would put out No Mercy For You (2001 Epitaph) before re-emerging with Hardcore Hooligan, which featured the track “England 5, Germany 1,” a face-rubber based on the World Cup Qualifying match from a couple of years previous, which to this day ignites with England’s football fans.
The Business continue to tour and record—their Mean Girl EP (Bad Dog Records) came out in 2008, followed by a full length called Doing The Business in 2010- and will always be known for helping deliver working class Oi! to the masses, and anticipated the American hardcore scene of the early 1980s.