Formed in 1979 by Fritz Catlin, Johnny Turnbull and Sam Mills, and later augmented by Alex Turnbull and Tom Heslop, 23 Skidoo had interests in martial arts, Burundi and Kodo drumming, Fela Kuti, The Last Poets, William S. Burroughs, as well as the emerging confluence of industrial, post-punk and funk, heard in artists such as A Certain Ratio, Throbbing Gristle, Cabaret Voltaire, The Pop Group and This Heat.
Their first 7", "Ethics" was released in 1980, followed by the "Last Words" 7", produced by Stephen Mallinder and Richard H. Kirk from Cabaret Voltaire. A Peel Session was recorded on September 16, 1981 that included Richard. Their debut album, Seven Songs, was released in 1982 and is said to evoke the claustrophobic humidity of an African forest. An experimental EP Tearing Up The Plans was produced without the Turnbull brothers, who were traveling in Indonesia. Guitarist Sam Mills and vocalist Tom Heslop left the band soon after, and with the arrival of slap-bassist David "Sketch" Martin following the break-up of Linx, the lineup remained the same until their disintegration in 2003.