Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Subterraneans in Cardiff

It was one of the earliest punk-related events to have occurred in Wales. In May, 1976, music scribe Nick Kent’s band The Subterraneans played two theatrical gigs at Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff. As you can see from the above advert the shows were billed as: ‘Songs of Random Passion’ and ‘the Dance of Romance’.

Kent had formed The Subterraneans after splitting from a very early version of the Sex Pistols. Included in his new band were Rat Scabies and Bryan James who would soon go on to form The Damned. On vocals for the Cardiff shows was Hermine Demoriane.

She was one of those interesting arty types on the fringes of the punk scene. She’d written stuff for counterculture rag International Times, including an interview with Jean-Luc Godard. She also had a career as a tightrope walker and performed with COUM Transmissions. She would later show up in Derek Jarman’s punk flick Jubilee in which she played Chaos. At the time she and Kent were an item.

In his ‘70s memoir Apathy For the Devil Kent stated that the Cardiff shows were in two parts. In the first they played “nasty misogynistic numbers” such as Under My Thumb by the Stones and The Crystals’ He Hit Me (and It Felt Like a Kiss); in the second they ran through some brand new songs, the most significant of which was, soon to be punk classic, New Rose. According to Kent this was the song’s first ever public airing and all to an audience of about 8 people! Punk history made at Chapter Arts Centre.

After the Cardiff gigs The Subterraneans split-up. A different line-up would reappear circa 1980 with Nick Kent on vocals. They would release just one (these days) much sought after single My Flamingo/Veiled Women before splitting for good. They sounded like a cross between The Only Ones and The Pretenders. In fact, Chrissie Hynde was briefly a member of The Subterraneans having also once been Nick Kent’s girlfriend.

The punk revolution would arrive in Wales in more recognisable form later in the year - September '76 - when the Sex Pistols played Cardiff (Top Rank), Newport (Stowaway) and Swansea (Circles) on successive nights. Despite his own failed career as a rock singer Nick Kent continued as a highly successful and much esteemed music critic.

I’ve mentioned before on this blog that Kent was a former denizen of Llandaf, Cardiff. I recently checked out his old gaff on Prospect Drive. His family clearly weren’t short of a few quid. With regards the current occupants, not sure if having Nick Kent as a former resident adds value to your property or knocks a few grand off.