Here's an interesting post-punk fanzine that was put out, circa 1979, by Andrew Tucker and esteemed Cardiff writer John Williams. It captured perfectly the local musical zeitgeist with features on Z Block Records, Young Marble Giants, and a compilation album of south Wales bands called Is the War Over? It also carried live reviews of The Door and the Window (who included Sniffin' Glue magazine's Mark Perry in their line-up) and Welsh band The Janet and Johns. Production-wise it was as DIY as you can get, consisting of stapled together, hand-written, xeroxed A4 pages. It came straight outta Riverside (Neville Street, to be precise) and was ideologically sound (note Rock Against Sexism logo on the cover). It cost just 10p.
Can you remember The Dead Zone, a horror thriller directed by David Cronenberg that hit our cinema screens back in 1983? It starred scary Christopher Walken as a man who awakens from a post-car crash coma to discover that he has psychic powers. Most of his visions seemed to involve people in horrific, potentially life-threatening situations. But that isn't the most shocking aspect of the movie. For me, the weirdest part of The Dead Zone is when a map of Wales suddenly hoves into view. When I first saw it I remember thinking: are my eyes deceiving me or did I just see a map of Wales on that wall? Over the years I began to suspect that I might just have experienced some kind of freak geographical hallucination but, as the above screen-grab confirms, the familiar contours of Wales do actually make an appearance in the movie. What I had totally forgotten, however, is that the Welsh map is in tea towel form. Which just goes to prove that when it comes to weirding people out Cronenberg is the undisputed master.
*Thanks to Nic Dafis for allowing me to use his pristine screen-grab which first made an appearance on his excellent Morfablog back in 2010.
There's a certain amount of internet speculation about a little-known band called David who released an outstanding single in 1969 on the Philips label called Light of Your Mind. The A-side was written by James Griffin and Rob Royer who would go on to form rock group Bread. Some people have assumed therefore that they were involved in David. They weren't. David was actually a four-piece from south Wales consisting of: Ian England (organ/vocals) of Cardiff; Phil Edwards (drums) from Newport; Sid Petherick (lead guitar) from Penarth; and Dave Martin (bass/vocals) from Cardiff. In 1969 they were offered a publishing deal with Chappell and soon recorded what has since become a much sought after single - good quality copies can fetch over £100 on ebay. I actually prefer the B-side, Please Mr Policeman, which was penned by Ian England and showcases his own nifty keyboard skills. You can see a correct group photo below. Their only other single (as far as I'm aware) came out in 1970 on the Fontana record label. The A-side I'm Going Back was co-written by Dave Dee who also produced the recording. For a while David were his backing band after he'd parted company with Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich. The B-side, Selppin, is 'nipples' backwards.
Norman Tudgay is a relatively obscure figure who deserves a bit more recognition for his experimental contributions to photography. Born in 1925 in the mining village of Nantyglo his family moved to Swansea during the Depression so that his father might find employment. Tudgay attended art school in Swansea before joining the RAF in 1943. He was one of the first photographers to enter Hiroshima after the war - an experience that deeply affected him. Upon returning to civvy street he decided to join Ifor Thomas's influential photography course at the Guildford School of Art. In the 1950s Tudgay began making experimental photographs using cliché-verre, a process that was first used in 1839. This involves a design being scratched onto a glass plate which is then applied to sensitive paper (see pic). This non-representational approach to photography is in keeping with the post-war taste for abstract art which was then conquering the world. Tudgay is often bracketed with English abstract photographer Raymond Moore who regularly visited the Welsh coast to take extreme close-ups of decayed houses and rock formations. In the 1960s Tudgay enjoyed a more conventional career as a fashion photographer (a retrospective of his fashion photographs was held at the Collyer-Bristow Gallery in 1999). In 1969 Tudgay entered the academic world, becoming principal of the Bournemouth College of Art. He also opened a French restaurant in the area which proved to be popular.
*The above picture is Cliché-Verre (1955) by Norman Tudgay.
You would have to have a heart of reinforced concrete not to smirk at Not Long to Live. Released in 1965 by Cardiff singer-songwriter, Tony Miles, it is a 'teenage tragedy song' or 'splatter platter'. He actually wrote the ditty in 1960 but at that time struggled to find any label interest. An outcry over the song Tell Laura I Love Her meant that labels were wary of releasing morbid records, fearing the commercial deterrent of a BBC ban (this was back in the days when a BBC ban was actually a commercial deterrent).
Tony, a one-time ladies' hairdresser, got the idea for the song after suffering a near death experience. He crashed his car into the wall of Thornhill Crematorium on the outskirts of Cardiff while driving at a speed of 70mph. Or so he claimed. As you can hear from the lyrics the song is a warning against the perils of joyriding rather than a celebration of a live fast, die young attitude.
In the mid-sixties 'doom songs' like Twinkle's Terry and Leader of the Pack by the fabulous Shangi-Las meant that morbid melodrama was back in vogue. Miles decided to resurrect Not Long to Live and this time he managed to persuade EMI to cut the disc for Columbia Records. Miles paid £300 for the recording session which was overseen by arranger Monty Babson. Kenny Clive played drums; Cedric West was on guitar duty; and Alan Haven on keyboards.
Maybe it was Tony's fraudulent American accent or the finger-wagging tone of the lyrics but his single just didn't have the charm, sexiness, or the necessary level of tragedy to be a first rank splatter platter. Not Long to Live sounded more like it was part of some public service campaign against drink-driving. Tony Miles actually had a stint as a writer for Beatles' publishers Dick James Music and also worked as a promoter in uptown Cardiff.
Barry Norman? Jonathan Ross? Pah! The best film reviewers ever were the aforementioned Nigel Buckland of Treorchy and Scots personage Stefan Gardiner, as seen in Channel 4's Vids. Broadcast circa 2001 the duo reviewed dubious flicks from their scuzzy, mock-video rental shop (remember them?) in downtown Glasgow. The show was great not only for the culty choice of movie up for review but for the often foul-mouthed yet always witty analyses of those films. I mean, where else on British television would you have found Coonskin and Anthea Turner - Tone, Lift and Condition being so expertly deconstructed? This was back in the days when Channel 4 had quite an adventurous programming policy. Fortunately somebody has put the entire series up on YouTube, thus enabling us to enjoy again the mayhem. Fill your celluloid boots.
In 1988 Treorchy combo the Peruvian Hipsters released a single which had the jaw-dropping title of Tony Hadley. If a more surreal record emerged from Wales during the 1980s I am yet to hear it. The song as you may have guessed is all about the lead singer of Spandau Ballet and how he failed to live up to the high expectations of the Peruvian Hipsters. It has a dangerously catchy chorus which includes the lyric: "wishing that I could be like you... Tony Hadley". Don't be surprised if - after hearing the song - you find yourself singing those words aloud at inopportune moments. For what it's worth my advice to any band seeking to idealise a pop star is: don't make the object of your idealism the lead singer of Spandau Ballet and you won't end up disappointed. Nigel Buckland - guitarist in the Peruvian Hipsters - would later go on to co-host Vids, an utterly brilliant film review TV programme aired by Channel 4 in (I think) 2001. In fact so anarchic was that particular show that I'm beginning to suspect that Tony Hadley might just have been some kind of Situationist prank. Or was it? Put on your irony-detectors and judge for yourselves.
A signed pair of pink, unworn knickers formerly belonging to Sophie Dee are up for auction on ebay (see pic). Who wouldn't want to own a pair of the Llanelli porn star's unwanted drawers? I'm no expert on underwear fetishism but surely if they have been worn at least once they would be of more interest to your average undergarment connoisseur? Whatever, methinks they must be worth a bid just for the anecdotal value.