Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Ty Gwydr

One youthful attendee of Nero’s (see previous post) was Welsh-language thesp and musical person Gareth Potter. I can distinctly recall him chicken-dancing to The Cramps. In this YouTube he has seemingly forsaken his punky roots and embraced hip-hop and dance music. During his Ty Gwydr incarnation (along with Mark Lugg) he turned out some cracking stuff. My favourite is Rhyw Ddydd which features a sample from a famous Saunders Lewis speech. The video contains some great footage, too – in particular I like the way Welsh-language activism is visually linked to the ANC and other freedom movements. And I’m still trying to work out which roof it was all filmed on.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Demented Are Go

Back in the early ‘80s alternative nightclubs in Cardiff were a bit thin on the ground. HQ for the funny haircut brigade was undoubtedly Nero’s which hosted the full gamut of post-punk tribes. Anarcho-punks mingled with flat-tops, first generation Goths, residual Bowie and Roxy fans, raincoated miserablists, synth-poppers, and even New Romantics. A colourful mix of south Wales’s culturally non-conformist youth could be found gathered there on any given Saturday night. They say you could smell the Boots firm-hold hairspray from as far away as Port Talbot. Nero’s’ clientele was drawn mostly from the estates and suburbs of Cardiff but also further afield. A regular trickle of 'weirdos' from the Valleys also turned up. Aside from the occasional fashion victim from the art college surprisingly few students ventured there. It was very much a Welsh scene. Together - in relative harmony - we all bopped the night away to Bauhaus, The Cramps, Sex Gang Children, Iggy Pop, Kraftwerk, Gina X, Magazine, the Velvet Underground, Virgin Prunes et al. At Christmas one would occasionally bump into Steve Strange in the toilets. More usually though it would be a member of local psychobilly band Demented Are Go who are featured in the above YouTube singing Pervy In The Park.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Helter Skelter Dylan Thomas

Recently I was flicking through a copy of Jess Bravin’s, Squeaky: The Life and Times Of Lynette Alice Fromme, a fascinating biography of the Manson Family stalwart and cheerleader in-chief. As well as hooking up with the Manson Family she would also later attempt to assassinate US President Gerald Ford. What a girl. Turns out that Squeaky Fromme is a big fan of our very own Dylan Thomas. He was her favourite poet during her schooldays and even inspired her to begin penning her own verses, one of which appeared in her school’s literary magazine. Academi, or somebody, really should fly her over here for a reading - it would be quite cool.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Abertoir 2010

Billed as the National Horror Film Festival of Wales, Abertoir is back for its fifth chilling year. You can expect blood-curdling premieres; screenings of cult horror flicks; music from The Damned; and much more. Dark side luminaries making an appearance in Aberystwyth will include Robin Hardy (director of The Wicker Man) and Gavin Baddeley author of such books as Lucifer Rising and Dissecting Marilyn Manson. For more information visit the excellent Abertoir 2010 website. Or investigate their zombie-themed YouTube-age here - Welsh-language subtitles included.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Elwyn Jones

When it comes to True Crime writing Wales has produced two classics of the genre: Beyond Belief by Emlyn Williams (a study of the Moors Murders); and Bloody Valentine, A Killing in Cardiff by John Williams (an examination of the death of prostitute Lynette White). Another Welsh writer who contributed to the genre is Elwyn Jones (1923-82).

Jones, from Cwmaman, began his career writing documentaries and dramas for TV, such as Softly, Softly and Z-Cars. Later he became a full-time author. In his book The Last Two to Hang (1966) he retold the story of Peter Anthony Allen and Gwynne Owen Evans, the last men to be hanged in Britain. Bizarrely, for reasons best known only to himself, Evans (real name John Welby) pretended to be Welsh throughout his trial, even affecting a Welsh accent. It didn't save him from the hangman's noose, though.

Other True Crime books penned by Jones are The Ripper File (1975), and Death Trials (1981) (see pic). Elwyn Jones also translated Saunders Lewis’s play Brad which he adapted for television.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Aleister Crowley in North Wales

Although he was a notorious occultist - infamous for incorporating sex into ritual magic, ingesting huge amounts of drugs, and glorying in the name of the Great Beast - Aleister Crowley was also a keen mountaineer. During April and May of 1893 the 18-year-old Crowley, accompanied by a tutor, scaled a large number of Welsh peaks. Whether he had a Romantic interest in the Sublime or just wanted to conquer nature is unclear but he certainly took on the north Wales landscape with relish.

If you want to follow in his perilous bootsteps and do a kind of Aleister Crowley Welsh mountaineering challenge, then these are the peaks you need to climb: Tryfan (915m), Glyder Fach (994m), Glyder Fawr (999m), Y Garn (947m), Foel Grach (976m), Craig Yr Ysfa, Carnedd Dafydd (1044m), Carnedd Llewelyn (1064m), Yr Elen (962m), Pen yr Helgi Du (833m), Snowdon (1085m), Y Lliwedd (898m). He also ascended the daemonic-sounding Twll Ddu (Black Hole) cliff on Clogwyn y Geifr (Cliff of Goats) at Cwm Idwal.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Subversive Stamps

It’s a shame Wales doesn’t issue its own postage stamps. We could have, say, John Cale (1st class), Arthur Machen (2nd class), and maybe Isabel Ice (large letter). How about a Super Furry Animals Christmas set? Actually, subversive philately has a distinguished underground tradition. Down the years everybody from the anti-nuclear movement to Sinn Fein have been tampering with the queen’s mail. Wales is no exception. The usual method is overprinting, where images are defaced or messages (often political) superimposed. During the 1960s Welsh-language activists were overprinting British stamps with ‘STATWS I'R GYMRAEG,’ ‘CYMRU,’ and ‘CYMRU AM BYTH’ (see pic). Even in the 1920s there was a group called ‘Trigolion y Ddraig Goch’ (Natives of the Red Dragon) who were busy defacing images of king George V with pairs of red dragons.

You can read more about this sort of thing here.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Welshed-up Katy Perry

Anybody buy the September issue of Glamour magazine? Or was it just me? The Conde Nast-owned fashion journal had ubiquitous Californian singing person, Katy Perry, on its front cover wearing a Cymru T-shirt. I nearly choked on my Greggs’ sausage roll when I first set eyes on this in WH Smith. Turns out, though, that Glamour – in cahoots with Converse – put out 8 regional editions of their mag, of which the Welsh version is but one. So it was just a cunning ploy to tap into a local market all along. Oh well, she still looks pretty good all Welshed-up.

You can learn more about the Katy Perry Glamour shoot here. And if you want to buy one of those Cymru T-shirts you can do so here.