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A Witness

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A Witness were an alternative rock band formed in 1982 in Stockport, Cheshire, England, by Rick Aitken, Vince Hunt and a drum machine, in 1986 replaced by Alan Brown (ex Big Flame). Keith Curtis and Noel Kilbride joined the group in 1983.

Initially signing to the Ron Johnson label, debut EP Loudhailer Songs put them at the forefront of a wave of Beefheart-influenced bands that emerged in the mid-1980’s. They gained further attention due to the inclusion of the track “Sharpened Sticks” on the NME’s C86 cassette in the following year.

Debut album I Am John’s Pancreas followed later in 1986, with a further two 12” singles on the Ron Johnson label (Red Snake in 1987 and One Foot in the Groove in 1988) before its collapse. Communion issued the US-only Sacred Cow Heart compilation in 1988.

Guitarist Rick Aitken died in a climbing accident in Scotland in October 1989, just as the band’s sessions for John Peel were collected on an album (The Peel Sessions), and a single “I Love You Mr. Disposable Razors” due for release that month on the Vinyl Drip label was issued posthumously. The Through The Looking Glass compilations on Imaginary Records (1990) included for 1966 their cover of The Beatles’ Tomorrow Never Knows and for 1967 their cover of The Doors’ track “Break on Through (To the Other Side)”.

Keith Curtis went on to play guitar for John Robb’s Membranes and bass in Goldblade. Vince Hunt formed the trio Marshall Smith in 1997, with Alan Brown and former Pram drummer Daren Garratt, which recorded one excellent pop album, Colours, (released on the Euphonium label, 2007) which included some unfinished A Witness songs. The title track is a tribute to Aitken.

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