High Hopes: Ming City Rockers – rock'n'roll misfits vs the world

Ming City Rockers don’t belong in their home town of Immingham. Young, gritty, reeking of cheap cider and vintage rock’n’roll, the foursome – two guys, two girls – are a weird fit for a Lincolnshire town known, if at all, for its oil refineries and child murderer Ian Huntley. And the locals agree.

“This one time, there were about twenty people chucking glass bottles at us and chasing us,” drawls singer/guitarist Clancey Jones, in a languid, Yorkshire-via-Soho accent that, even at 2pm, makes him sound slightly pissed. “I’m pretty sure they’d have killed us, but we got away. We had a crate of beer on us at the time, so it was more like ‘Save the beer!’”

“Immingham’s full of chavs and they’re all pretty mad,” adds guitarist/backing vocalist Morley Adams, seriously. “So it’s kind of scary even walking to school. You’ll see people chasing other people with knives in broad daylight. And everyone’s on the dole.”

It’s easy to imagine Ming City Rockers getting grief, not least because they look like chimney sweeps let loose in a hairspray factory. Seeking escape from their bleak surroundings, Jones and Adams (already into Led Zeppelin through Adams’ dad) bonded over the likes of Little Richard before discovering punk. “Me and my friend would get stoned and listen to the Ramones all day,” Jones remembers.

Music ingested, he grew his hair and hit the guyliner. It didn’t sit well in Poundstretcher, where he worked briefly, but by 2013 the pair had formed Ming City Rockers, and their self-titled debut came out in 2014. But it’s second album Lemon (produced by US underground rock lynchpin Steve Albini) that finds them stepping up a gear. Their original punk sneer remains, but now the songs are stronger – full-throttle fistfuls of fuzzy urgency and nostalgic rock’n’roll. “These days a lot of bands are quite dull – they don’t really have an image, they just wear T-shirts and jeans,” says Adams. “You can’t aspire to be like that. That’s why we look to the older guys: Iggy Pop, Johnny Thunders, Keith Richards.”

Early gigs were tough. In fact, they’re now banned from every venue in Immingham. “To be completely honest, we sucked back then,” Jones admits. “We had absolutely no fuckin’ idea what we were doing. Most places have some sort of music scene, so you can look at other bands and see what they’re doing, but we’re the only band from here pretty much.”

Fortunately they got better. Better gigs and the aforementioned records followed, and now they live above a flower shop – in a cloud of smoke, drink and distortion, while the neighbours play “horrible dance music”. “We’re so poor it’s not like we even make it work,” Jones says. “But you can’t do a gig and have a hundred people going: ‘You guys are really cool,’ then work in Tesco. It’d be soul-destroying. So we put up with the poorness.”

FOR FANS OF: L.A.M.F by The Heartbreakers

“It seems like a punk record on the face of it,” Jones, says of the Heatbreakers’ L.A.M.F., “but if you listen, it’s really old-school rock’n’roll. The instrumental bit especially was a big influence on our band. We met Walter Lure, one of the guitarists on the album, and he said he liked our band. That was fuckin’ cool!”

Polly Glass
Deputy Editor, Classic Rock

Polly is deputy editor at Classic Rock magazine, where she writes and commissions regular pieces and longer reads (including new band coverage), and has interviewed rock's biggest and newest names. She also contributes to Louder, Prog and Metal Hammer and talks about songs on the 20 Minute Club podcast. Elsewhere she's had work published in The Musician, delicious. magazine and others, and written biographies for various album campaigns. In a previous life as a women's magazine junior she interviewed Tracey Emin and Lily James – and wangled Rival Sons into the arts pages. In her spare time she writes fiction and cooks.