Cowboys International: The Post-Punk Era’s Forgotten Supergroup

No matter how you look at it, 1979 was a landmark year in popular music. Boasting releases like Public Image Limited’s Metal Box, The Clash’s London Calling, and Talking Heads’ Fear of Music, 1979 marked a watershed moment when the finest acts from the once revolutionary punk movement shed the genre’s rapidly stifling influence and pushed their creativity to dizzying new heights. Often lost in that conversation is Cowboys International, whose debut album The Original Sin, while admired upon its 1979 release, quickly faded into obscurity. Led by vocalist and composer Ken Lockie, Cowboys International attracted an impressive range of talent during their brief run, including former Clash drummer Terry Chimes, future Adam Ant collaborator Marco Pirroni, and ex-Ultravox! guitarist Stevie Shears. To call them the post-punk era’s original supergroup is no understatement, but of course that says nothing of the music, which was just as compelling as that of their peers. Anchored by Lockie’s moody crooning and the band’s futuristic keyboard-driven pop, The Original Sin serves as a bridge between the work of David Bowie and New Romantic icons from Duran Duran to Spandau Ballet. The LP enjoyed critical acclaim in its heyday, reaching number 11 on Melody Maker’s Best Albums of 1979 list alongside the year’s output from Michael Jackson, Elvis Costello, The Clash, and Talking Heads. However, the group’s subsequent breakup in 1980 kept Cowboys International from capitalizing on such rave reviews and becoming a household name, although that thankfully didn’t stop Lockie from continuing to perform. In 1981 he released The Impossible, his lone solo album, before briefly joining Public Image Limited and later enjoying massive club success with the single “The Dominatrix Sleeps Tonight”. After quietly retiring a few years later, in 2003 Lockie finally revisited his earlier work by reissuing The Original Sin and releasing an entirely new record under the Cowboys International moniker, The Backwards Life of Romeo, a respectable throwback to the 80s synth-pop sound he helped cultivate. You can still find The Original Sin and the band’s handful of singles online or in plenty of record store bargain bins. Just don’t be surprised if you’re left wanting more – much more.

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