Protex formed in 1977 after the future band-members witnessed The Clash’s first show in Belfast. They originally called themselves “Protex Blue,” after The Clash song title. Perhaps to avoid comparisons with the very different band (or perhaps because they realized that song was about condoms?), they shortened it to “Protex” a little later.
Protex were one of those bands that just sort of hovered between obscurity and real commercial success, possibly because labels had no idea what to do with them. Dirtier, sexier punk like The Undertones had already emerged in Northern Ireland, and while Protex’s live shows were as had shambolic as any punk band’s, there was a pop sensibility to their songs that was much closer to The Nerves than to The Clash.
After a few successful singles on the Good Vibrations label (which also boasted The Undertones), they were reissued on Rough Trade Records to meet demand, and eventually signed to Polydor in 1979. From there Protex recorded an album, “Strange Obsessions,” that was shelved until a 2010 pressing on Sing Sing Records, well after they disbanded in 1981. Protex was among the front-runners of the Northern Irish punk sound, and I strongly suggest you give “Strange Obsessions” a listen. They were a really great, unique band, and their album was almost lost to history!
Recently the group reformed (with some new members). Last month, they played two gigs in Japan.
Below, the studio version of “Don’t Ring Me Up.” More sweetheart than snot, it could be an Everly Brothers tune:
A live performance of “Don’t Ring Me Up” in New York’s Hurrah nightclub in 1980: