Josef K were founded in Edinburgh in 1979, and were named after a character in a Franz Kafka novel (don't worry, I've never read any of them either).
After an early self-financed single, they were snapped up by Alan Horne to what would become the legendary Postcard Records label, for who they released four singles between August 1980 and May 1981. They also recorded the only LP released on the first incarnation of the label.
By early 1982, the band had broken up. Lead singer Paul Haig went on to a solo career with much critical but little commercial success, while guitarist Malcolm Ross would crack the charts with both Orange Juice and Aztec Camera (both of whom were also Postcard acts), as well as a solo career and bit-parts in all sorts of Scottish-based groups.
Josef K have never really had the proper recognition they deserve. At the outset, many expected them to be the biggest success for Postcard, but as history shows, of the four bands who ever recorded for the label (Go Betweens also had one single issued back in 1980), they are the least well-known and the only one never to have mainstream chart success.
Sound-wise, they mixed post-punk guitars with a disco beat, but most of the time they seemed a bit more edgier and serious than Orange Juice. But have a listen to this, their second single for Postcard and realise just how similar the bands could sound at times:-
Thinking back, I don't really think Josef K were all that bothered about success. At a period when their Postcard buddies were being courted by major labels, they turned their back on it all. Well, at least Paul Haig did, preferring to put out records by the band on an obscure Belgian-based label to whom he would later sign a solo deal. Malcolm Ross on the other hand, who along with Roddy Frame is probably the most influential Scottish-based guitarist of the era (and yes, I would put them above the late, great Stuart Adamson), was able to make significant contributions to great pop records.
The sleeves pictured above are two singles from 1981. One was released on Postcard, while the other on the afore-mentioned Les Disques Du Crepuscule.
mp3 : Josef K - Chance Meeting
mp3 : Josef K - Pictures (Of Cindy)
mp3 : Josef K - Sorry For Laughing
mp3 : Josef K - Revelation
Oh and given that I've not shoved up any cover versions in this recent nostalgia-fest, let me offer this from 1985:-
mp3 : Propaganda - Sorry For Laughing
I've been meaning to do a posting on Propaganda for a while now, but somehow haven't got round to it. Sometime this year I'll manage it.