Express & Star

Ned's frontman Jonn set to wow Stourbridge once more as he relives glory days but also looks to the future.

'It was a safe haven and a pot boiler of artistic people.'


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'Hard times make people super creative'

'People enjoy belonging to a tribe – they are a tribal species.'

Just three memorable quotes from a whirlwind 40 minute chat with Jon Penney, the creative force lyrically and the frontman of Neds Atomic Dustbin, who are performing next month in Stourbridge as part of a day of events to – as he says – 'give the town a shot in the arm.'

Easy to see why he wrote all the lyrics for the band, which formed on the back of the 'Stourbridge scene,' centring around legendary music venue in the town The Mitre and featured for their big parts, The Wonderstuff and Pop Will Eat Itself – both of whom inspired Ned's and gave them a start with supporting berths at gigs.

Neds would go on to tour with the two bands and play at festivals and their careers and recordings would become indelibly linked. Last month Penney and Adam Mole from the Poppies hosted an event at The Wollaston Studio of the town hall called Neds & Poppies featuring special screenings of two long form videos from the bands.

Jonn Penney, of Ned's Atomic Dustbin andAdam Mole, of Pop Will Eat Itself held an intimate event for fans in Stourbridge last month. Ned's first gig was as support to the Poppies.

Next month's event – on Saturday May 25 – will feature a number of talks, live gigs and a record fairs to be held around the town centre at venues like Claptrap and The Duke William as well as at Record Culture in Market Street. The Mitre, which is still going strong as a gig venue will have three bands playing as well – Jonn calls it his 'spiritual home.'

It will culminate with an expected sell out gig at Stourbridge Town Hall in the evening where they last played two dates in 2021 – Ned's also supported The Levellers at The Halls in December last year.

Ned's Atomic Dustbin perform at Stourbridge Town Hall in December 2020. Photo: Dave Cox
Ned's Atomic Dustbin last time they were at Stourbridge Town Hall. Photo: Dave Cox

So a busy time curating the whole event for Jonn, who is also writing a book for publication later this year - Self-Ish – based on stories behind the 56 songs he provided the lyrics for,

And I did say earlier a whirlwind chat, but Penney is as unassuming a rock star as you could meet, talking quietly over a convivial coffee at a new cafe on Coventry Street in the town. He spoke of how the aspiring music student who didn't get good enough A level resutls for drama school formed the band at Halesowen College after placing an advert on the noticeboard.

As college students they became part of the 'Stourbridge scene' which centred largely around town centre pubs The Mitre and The Swan.

He said: "We went there a lot because they were just great places to meet and drink and then when The Wonderstuff and The Poppies hit it big and were on Top of the Pops and things like that it encouraged us. We were always serious about our music which is why I placed the advert when a previous band had broke up

"I remember things like when we needed a piece of equipment I think it was a lighting rig or something and one of the Poppies drove us from the Mitre to go and get it, we became friends with Clint (Mansell) and all of them very quickly, there was no pretensions, everybody tried to help each other and I think that is how the scene snowballed as well as the music.

"We did our first gig upstairs in the Mitre as support to the Poppies so you could say we were hanging on their coat tails to an extent, they certainly gave us a boost and a start if you like.

Make no mistake, Penney 'comes alive' on stage, by his own admission, saying: "It has never actually felt natural to be on stage for me although the original intention was to go to drama school, but right from the start I have always been aware of winning over the crowd by being a showman if you like.

"Perhaps it's because I didn't get into drama school and the fact I wasn't trained to be on the stage that has always made me try and work that bit harder. All I know is I come alive at a gig."

And these days, Ned's, who still have the original line up but are nearly all parents and have 'other' jobs which pay the bills, pick and choose their gigs. As Penney says, typically waxing lyrical - they 'keep themselves rare.'

The father of two said: "We are in our 50s now, not to be labelled grumpy old men because we are all far from that but we all have full time jobs, responsibilities, things like that so we are a bit picky what we take on because we have to be but when we do come together it is generally very special

The result of their sporadic appearances is a massive response whenever they do play. Last time at Stourbridge Town Hall fans came from all over the world to see the two gigs at the 1,200 capacity venue and when they supported The Levellers at The Halls in December last year the response was 'incredible' said Penney.

He said: "That was special because we have known those guys for year and played at their Beautiful Days festival but to play with them at what was their gig was absolutely electric and also attracted the young fans, no doubt brough there by their parents but it was a nice mix of people."

"The same at Stourbridge Town Hall last time it was an incredible atmosphere, again people came from all over, many from America to see us and it is a great venue just big enough really so we are looking forward to it next month and tickets are selling fast.

Back to that word, whirlwind, and it was certainly that in the early 1990s from the release of the first album God Fodder which made number four in the UK and sent Neds on a roller coaster of touring, festivals including Glastonbury and media appearances. They toured Europe three times, Japan twice, Australia and the USA along with appearances on Top of the Pops and other shows worldwide – heady days.

"It was heady days indeed," said Jonn, whose influences include Ian Mculloch and Julian Cope. "It was non stop going from city to city, but there was little time for the tourism bit it was sleep, get up, breakfast, promotional events, gig, eat, sleep on the bus and on to another city.

DUDLEY COPYRIGHT NATIONAL WORLD PLC TIM THURSFIELD 09/02/24.Ned's Atomic Dustbin star Jonn Penney pictured in Record Culture, Stourbridge, as he prepares for the forthcoming event in the town to celebrate the golden era of indie music. He is pictured with Imogen Baker from the shop..

" It was very regimented, we were signed to a big label in Sony and enjoyed there backing and all that came with it.

"We were never shy of drinking and we had great time but we were also permanently tired from all the travelling, gigs and appearances but what a time."

But Penney says the success they had and with the follow up album Are you Normal and in total five top 40 singles all stems from the meetings or drinking sessions they had in Stourbridge with like minded contemporaries and the gigs in the upstairs room of The Mitre.

Nearly 30 years later, he and the band want to try and 'wake the town up' with the one day festival and open the doors to the realisation that live music is still in vogue and it is possible to be creative and successful right on your doorstep.

He said: "There are still some great venues in Stourbridge including The Mitre, Duke William and Claptrap which is in itself a specific live music venue. There is a lot of creativity out there and we aim to highlight and encourage that throughout the day and it will culminate in the gig in the evening which we are very much looking forward too as people still seem to love seeing Ned's

To book tickets for Ned’s Atomic Dustbin on Saturday May 25 or for details on all events, go online to, call the box office on 01384 812 812, go to or visit Record Culture in Market Street, Stourbridge

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