Public Foot the Roman

Public Foot the Roman was an English symphonic/funk-rock band that released a 1973 self-titled album on Sovereign. Three-fifths of the band launched The Movies, which made five albums between 1975 and 1981.

Members: Sean Byrne (vocals, guitar), Greg Knowles (guitar), Jamie Lane (drums), Dag Small (keyboards), Ward [Howard Tweddle] (bass)


Public Foot the Roman emerged on the Cambridge college scene during the early 1970s. They consisted of guitarist Greg Knowles, bassist Howard “Word” Tweddle, drummer Jamie Lane, keyboardist Dag Small, and singer, guitarist, and songwriter Sean Byrne. (Some sources on the internet claim that this is the same Sean Byrne as the Irish-born singer/guitarist of US garage rockers the Count Five, responsible for the 1966 hit “Psychotic Reaction.”)

The band was part of a select coterie of acts (Flash, Mouse, Renaissance) signed to Sovereign, the short-lived progressive division of EMI.

The Album

Public Foot the Roman released their singular album on Sovereign in 1973. It features seven songs, primarily attributed to Byrne but co-credited to the band. Side A has two shorter cuts (“Landowner,” “King for a Day”) and two lengthier numbers (“When You Lay It Down,” “Judas Returns”). Side B features two five-minute pieces (“Don’t Bite the Hand,” “One (On My Mind)”) and the eight-minute epic “Decline and Fall.”

On the cover photo, a group of people point upward at tower lights in an empty football stadium after dark. US copies sport the orange Sovereign/Capitol label. The album was produced by Derek Lawrence (Deep Purple, Wishbone Ash, Gordon Giltrap, Strange Days) and engineered by George Sloan (Horslips, Leo Sayer, Roger Glover).

Three additional tracks by Public Foot the Roman — “The Loser,” “Remember When,” and a slightly longer “One” — appear on the 1973 Spaceward Studios comp The First Lame Bunny Album, which also features cuts by the unsigned acts Gigymen, The Junction Band, Simon Boswell (later in Advertising, Data), and Puzzle (with future Soft Boys guitarist Kimberley Rew).

Later Activity

Knowles formed The Movies, which started as the backing band of Joan Armatrading on her 1975 tour. Between 1975 and 1981, they released five albums. Their first album features Small and the first three (The Movies, Double “A”, and Bullets Through the Barrier) feature Lane, who then joined Sniff ‘n’ the Tears and played on their 1981/82 albums Love / Action and Ride Blue Divide.

Lane played on ’80s albums by Diamond Head, Chaz Jankel (Chazablanca), Tina Turner, Murray Head, and B-Movie. Knowles plays cymbal on one track (“Bolivia ’95”) on Tilt, the 1995 release by Scott Walker.

Byrne surfaced in the rock quartet Legover, which issued the album Wait Til Nighttime on Smack! in 1978.

Public Foot the Roman got an unofficial CD release in 2011 by Swedish bootleggers Flawed Jems. In 2015, a green vinyl reissue appeared on the Liechtenstein specialty label Hifly Sound Anstalt.



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