EMF: Live on the 30th Anniversary Tour

Alan Dearling gets trampled in the EMF mosh-pit!

I arrived at the Golden Lion with a rather dim memory of the catchy ear-worm track, ‘Unbelievable’, a 1990 hit, written by EMF guitarist, Ian Dench. My mental image was of a lively, jump-up-and-down style boys’ band, punkier than Madness. Plus, the vague sense that EMF were a part of the messy Madchester Party Scene.

Here’s what it says in Wikipedia:

“From Cinderford in the Forest of Dean.

The name EMF is an initialism of Epsom Mad Funkers, a name taken from a fan club of the band New Order in 1989.”

The atmosphere amongst the crammed, buzzing EMF crowd was ‘heady’, ‘expectant’, ‘tribal’. A bit like a passionate football crowd before an important Cup Match.

Dj Glenn Evans provided a panoply of dj-bass beats, sounds to get the crowd charged up to bursting point. It was a heaving, bonkers, ‘unbelievable’ crew, raving mad, frolicsome and noisy, as EMF fans bounced around the Golden Lion in Todmorden. It was very low lighting in which to take pics, but I did the best I could. Mid-evening, Leon the Pig Farmer did his poetry thing. Political, a wordsmith of the streets, punk poetry, of, and for the masses. Leon tells ‘stories’ of the underclass, and spices it up with his personal struggles against ‘devils’ – authorities, mental health and unfair treatment. Leon says, “I am the man in the mirror, the master of self-flagellation…” and, “I’m a Manchester-dwelling Yorkshireman Beat Poet with a little more than a lot to say.”

Here is Leon in full-flow: https://www.facebook.com/watch?ref=search&v=261008822623204&external_log_id=2e24a88c-0317-4f57-8998-433de34a7af5&q=leon%20the%20pig%20farmer

The lights dimmed, the ecstatic, rammed crowd parted to let the EMF lads strut their stuff. They appeared as a slightly shambling, eccentric crew from some sort of psyched-up fancy dress ball. Immediately it was a cauldron of chanting, near hysterical, screaming fandom, strangely reminiscent of ‘Oi’ bands such as Sham 69. 

Early in the set I clutched my cameras and dived into the base of the mosh-pit. A somewhat dodgy, rabid place, but this is where the audience and band were in the heart of the frantic action. Melodic, to be honest, it wasn’t, but this was more of a devotional, crowd-experience. This was the Sound of a 1990s Party People – going for it – at full tilt.

Again from Wikipedia, I have discovered that that the EMF song, ” ‘Head the Ball’, which featured on the remix single release of ‘Lies’, featured the repeating lines “electromotive force” and “ecstasy mother fucker”. On the reissue of the band’s 1991 album ‘Schubert Dip’, after the song ‘Longtime’, there is a hidden track titled ‘EMF’. In this, the chorus lyrics start off with “E for Ecstasy, M for my mind’s in my feet, F from us to you” and then move on to “E for Ecstasy, M for mother fucker mother fucker, F from us to you”.”

James Atkin, singer with EMF posted after the gig:

“Todmorden you have destroyed me. Thank you all for coming, everyone said it was the greatest venue in the UK, I honestly can’t argue, we had a ball.”

James Atkin has also been pursuing a successful solo career, most recently under the banner of his 2021 album, ‘Songs of Resistance’:


Ian Dench has been busy as a song-writer. Wikipedia tells us that: “In 2007, Dench wrote the duet Beautiful Liar for Beyoncé and Shakira, and ‘Tattoo’ for American Idol winner Jordin Sparks with Amanda Ghost….

Dench co-wrote Colours on the Prodigy’s 2009 album, Invaders Must Die, and ‘Red’ a top 5 hit for Daniel Merriweather in the UK in May 2009. Gypsy, another collaboration with Amanda Ghost, was the third single from the album, She Wolf by Shakira. The singer-songwriter Jamie Cullum sang two Dench-penned songs in the ITV series The Halcyon in 2016.”

Here’s Ian on ‘The Weekly’ video in 2021 about the Forest of Dean, EMF and song-writing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0iY9zD_evTY

Check out a collection of live clips from Todmorden: ‘It’s You’, ‘They’re Here’, ‘Unbelievable’ and ‘EMF’. I think they are from Sarah B on the EMF Facebook page:


And, finally, here’s a couple of links to the original EMF in action:

‘Unbelievable’ (1990) video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sfCLt0kTd5E

‘I’m a believer’, EMF with Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer (1995): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MY9hvn42WqU

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