During the last 6 months of the Sedgemorons, guitarist Brian Smedley had been performing political folk music with singer Lianne Bruce to raise money for various socialist causes. As the Sedgemorons faded he formed his own band-an uneasy mixture of serious political songs and self deprecating satire.
The purpose of the band was to raise money for campaigns against International Capitalism and to encourage a less po-faced alternative to the Red Wedge Campaign group of Leftist musicians.
Such songs as ‘Leon Trotsky-a man with a Beard and Glasses’ ,‘Brothers and Sisters, support the Sandinistas’ and ‘The Day we Met the Fascists in Bridgwater’ alongside Cliff Richard re-writes (In ‘Dancing Shoes’ the line goes ‘do you remember Salvador Allende-People said he was round the bend he, wanted the Chilean people, to live in a country that was reasonable-and so on’).
The band regularly supported Attilla the Stockbroker-who became a devotee and covered ‘Trotsky’ in his own set.
The Hot Trots ended up raising several thousand pounds over the years for such causes as ‘Nicaragua’, ‘Anti Apartheid’, ‘CND’, ‘Justice for Mineworkers’,and various workers on strike.
By the time of their 1987 cassette album ‘Songs for Swinging Communists’ the line up included Smedley (lead vocals/guitar/accordion), Dave Hanna (bass/vocals), Andy Napthine (bouzouki), Kevin Freeman (drums) & Jenny Booth (backing vocals). Though the main stay of the line up remained the same additional musicians dropped in and out-at one disastrous gig for some anarchistic type cause held at Unity House the bass was played by 2 note wonder Adrian ‘West Quay records’ Fraser with drums by Gareth ‘First time I’ve played the drums’ Beasley.
Highlights of the groups rather predictable career included being booked to play a gig at Cheltenham College by Martin ‘Not Daft’ Peters on the wrong night-and instead ending up playing songs about overthrowing capitalism to the Christian Society-who politely clapped., and being blown off stage at the Western Star Domino Club in Bristol by a 30 piece South African Choir who knew how to sing.
At a gig at Bristol Poly the band lost their bodhran. Which was actually good news as no-one knew how to play one.
Of the groups nearer the knuckle material was ‘Loughgall’ –a poem by Hanna about Irish politics-which was the only low spot in an otherwise excellent review in ‘An Phoblacht’.
The band was troubled by long time activist Hanna’s persistent doubts about the dubious nature of the material coupled with his own uneasiness as a musician (in the Stu Sutcliffe mould)-at a Taunton Miners Benefit he tried to flee the building minutes before the set in a fit of pre-gig nerves and dissapearing credibility. Although persuaded to go on for several more months he failed to learn any more notes or to take politics any less seriously.
By 1990 with the demise of Thatcher the political upturn looked rosy and the band looked elsewhere.
On the Political front they were wrong, but music lovers everywhere breathed a sigh of relief.
But the bad news for capitalists and people with perfect pitch everywhere is that the Hot Trot Smash the System Boogie band reformed in 1999 for a one off gig at the Bridgwater Town Hall supporting Atilla the Stockbroker and ended up recording 2 CDs of their outrageous Revolutionary songs (‘Parretgrad UK’ and ‘Do The Washing Up’ ). The new-line up is Brian Smedley-guitar/accordion/vocals, Matt Bartlett (the Visitors)-bass, Elaine di Campo (Funbunnies) vocals, Dave Newton (aka Dangerous Brothers Jim Rude) on mandolin, Jo Cox on flute , Heidi Powell (vocals) and Kevin Freeman on drums.
Undettered they kept forming and reforming bringing in Nick Tuckwell on bass, then Stuart Croskell, then Cathy Smedley on vocals and Alan Gadd on drums and then Dean Skilton.
In 2010 the Red Smed band supported Fred Wedlock at the Tacchi Morris Centre and he died shortly afterwards.
The most recent performance of the band in 2016 was captured live on stage at the Bridgwater Arts Centre where the line up was Red Smed (vocals, guitar,piano) Jo Cox (vocals,flute) Nick Tuckwell (bass) Dave Newton (mandolin) Dean Skilton (drums)