Celebrating the life of Welwyn Garden City punk rock icon Mark Astronaut

Mark Astronaut

Mark Astronaut passed away on July 7. - Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Welwyn Garden City musician Mark Astronaut - who died on July 7 - was, despite never achieving mainstream acclaim, an icon of the punk rock scene whose career endured for more than 40 years.

Born Mark Wilkins, he formed The Astronauts in 1977, although they were not a band in the true sense of the word, with Mark instead recording and gigging with a host of musicians in and around his hometown.

The antithesis of The Astronauts was in their sound too, emerging as part of the anarcho-punk scene thanks Mark’s political lyrics, all while sounding rather ‘unpunk’.

It was this charged songwriting that gave The Astronauts outspoken anthems such as ‘Protest Song’ and ‘Baby Sings Folk Songs’ following the release of their folk and psychedelic influenced debut album, ‘Peter Pan Hits The Suburbs’ in 1981, a cult classic among punk fans.

A second Astronauts album followed in 1983 with the release of ‘It’s All Done By Mirrors’ on All The Madmen records, with the highlight being the apocalyptic love song ‘Typically English Day’.

The Astronauts didn’t slow down as the 80s continued, churning out three albums and joining Acid Stings records for the release of ‘In Defence Of Compassion’, which saw Mark experiment with a house sound way ahead of its time.

Mark Astronaut

Mark Astronaut on stage. - Credit: Archant

The band self-released albums into the 1990s, before Mark started on a new project, The Otters, at the turn of the millennium, continuing to maintain a loyal and devoted fanbase.

Most Read

Described by Focus as ‘one of the greatest British bands you’ve never heard of’, Mark was never phased by The Astronauts’ lack of mainstream commercial success, preferring to let his music do the talking.

Summing up Mark, poet Frank Bangay said: “His songwriting and singing gifts continue to shine brightly. Mark Astronaut is a national treasure.”

Mark’s passing was confirmed in a short statement from The Astronauts, reading: “It is with immense shock and sadness that we announce the passing of Mark Astronaut. We have lost a remarkable talent and an incredibly dear friend.

The Astronauts

The Astronauts on stage at the Welwyn Garden City Kite Festival in July 1981. - Credit: The Astronauts

“Thank you for the kindness you’ve shown to Mark and the support you’ve given to his music. Today we will play his songs loudly and remember the amazing legacy Mark leaves behind.”

Fellow Welwyn Garden City rockers, The Subways, also paid tribute, tweeting: “We are utterly devastated to hear of the passing of the legendary Mark Astronaut.

“We can’t believe we won’t be bumping into each other ever again as we always did on one street or another in Welwyn Garden City for a good natter. A true legend. Irrepressible. RIP, mate.”