Monday, July 30, 2012

Euros Childs: That's Better

For people like me who belong to a Mithraic sun-worshipping cult the summer thus far has been a bit of a disappointment. Fear not, though, that emissary of all things sunshine-related, Euros Childs, has an album due out next month entitled Summer Special. Current single, That's Better, is typically Childsian in its ice-cream melting melodiousness and deceptive simplicity. As you can see from the above video he is aided by Stephen Black (Sweet Baboo) and Meilyr Jones (Race Horses) who together comprise a kind of mini Welsh supergroup of unprecedented quirkiness. Further details can be found at Euros Childs' online HQ - the National Elf Library.

Friday, July 27, 2012

My Mummy was an Underwater Welder

The Riotous Brothers were a 3-piece post-punk outfit from south Wales featuring David Webb (vocals, guitar), Chris Davies (bass), and David Williams (drums). Their first vinyl appearance was on the 1979 Cardiff compilation Is the War Over? which came out on Z-Block Records. Their contribution consisted of two songs: No Justice, and the controversial Airey Neave (he was a Tory MP who got blown up by Irish republicans in 1979). In 1980 the band released an EP on their own Riotous Records: Vicki's Dancing, Operation Zero and Emotional Cripple were the tunes on offer. The EP had a punky, collage sleeve design and even made use of an 'It's Brains You Want' advert (as would the Super Furry Animals on their 1996 album Fuzzy Logic). In 1981 the Riotous Brothers pressed an LP on green vinyl, wonderfully titled: My Mummy Was An Underwater Welder. One side was recorded at Grassroots studio in Cardiff, the other consisted of a live performance at the Regal Cinema in Minehead. Included were cover versions of Lou Reed's Heroin and Neil Diamond's I'm a Believer. Naturally, the LP is now much sought after by collectors of DIY and is probably worth quite a few of your punk pounds.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Spanking Ray Milland

Here's Neath's Ray Milland giving an unruly young filly a damn good thrashing. If you're into spanking or dressing up in swashbuckling nineteenth century attire (and let's face it - who isn't) then enjoy the frisson. The picture is taken from the film Reap the Wild Wind (1942). The starlet whose rear end is being enthusiastically swatted is Paulette Goddard. And you know what - I bet she deserved it, too. Thwack!!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Tony Etoria

The shelf in your local independent record shop marked 'Welsh Disco' is not exactly groaning under a weight of shimmering vinyl. Here, though, is some vintage disco from Cardiff's Tony Etoria whose song I Can Prove It charted back in the summer of 1977. The self-penned ditty reached a heady number 21 in the hit parade. As you can see from this clip Etoria even appeared on Top of the Pops where he was introduced by David "Kid" Jensen. The song was successfully covered in 1986 by Phil Fearon who took it to number 8 in the charts. I have to say I prefer Tony's more soulful version. It was the Ely singer's only hit but it has stood the test of time remarkably well and would make a great cover version for some contemporary balladeer. Etoria eventually moved into radio broadcasting and still presents shows for BBC Radio Wales.

Chris Ofili's Welsh Etchings

Controversial Nigerian-British artist Chris Ofili is perhaps best known for incorporating elephant dung into his artworks. Less famed - and sans elephant poo - is his series of North Wales etchings completed in the autumn of 1996: Snowdon; Portmeirion; Portmadog; Castell Harlech; Llanbedr; Penrhydeudraeth; Twynitywod Morfa Harlech; Llanberis; Llwyn Hwlcyn; Blaenau Ffestiniog. You can view the complete set over at the Tate archive. The above etching on paper is Llanberis.

©Chris Ofili – Afroco and Victoria Miro Gallery.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Colin Wilson in Cardiff

In my youth if you hadn't read The Outsider (1956) by Colin Wilson you were considered hopelessly uncool and probably didn't even backcomb your hair. It was the kind of book one would ostentatiously read on the bus into town on Saturday afternoons. In 1978 Wilson published Mysteries, a non-fictional work which examined the relationship between paranormal phenomena (spoon bending, UFOs, demonic possession etc) and multiple personalities. A fan of the book was Dafydd Hughes, director of Cardiff's Red Light Theatre group. He approached Wilson about doing a collaboration. Wilson responded positively and came up with a script that was further developed by Red Light Theatre. The cast of Mysteries consisted of just four people: Juliette Mole, Alan Sanford, Pete Woolridge and Peter Neathey. The show was staged in 1979 at the Sherman Theatre (see ad) and Wilson came up to Cardiff to give an introductory talk. Apparently Mysteries was a psychodrama about a schizophrenic murderess caught in a sexual dilemma. Did anyone go? It sounds an absolute blast.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Big Mong in Caerphilly

Can there really be a secret, atavistic, gorilla-worshipping cult in the Rhymney Valley? This is a question I used to ponder whenever citizens of Caerphilly would inform me of a giant ape-like creature that had once appeared in their town. Eyes would light up and they'd start babbling on about the monster's enormity and the loudness of its roar. Furthermore, they’d add, it stood outside Carrefour hypermarket and was called Big Mong. Naturally, I just assumed that they were taking the piss or that the magic mushroom crop around Lansbury Park had been especially potent that year. Imagine my shock, then, when I discovered that it was all true.

In 1972 Carrefour opened a hypermarket in Caerphilly which was a big deal at the time as this YouTube demonstrates. Six years later in 1978 the French supermarket chain decided to celebrate the anniversary in style by bringing over from France the largest animated gorilla in the world. It was 40ft tall and weighed over three tons. It had a mechanical grab and was capable of lifting two people in one hand. It also had a roar that could be heard a full two miles away. Big Mong, as it was indeed shockingly called, was evidently modelled on that daddy of all cinematic monsters, King Kong.

Not everybody was happy. You'd have thought the politically incorrect moniker "Big Mong" might have upset a few people but no it was the absence of any planning permission that annoyed councillor Howard Edwards. He told local press: "I realise this monstrosity will have a lot of appeal for children, but I believe planning permission is needed to put it up. Big Mong is 40ft high and can be seen from a wide area of the town. The roar of the gorilla can be quite startling to someone with a nervous disposition." Despite Mr Edwards's grumblings the monster was erected outside Carrefour and for the five days that it was on show proved to be a popular attraction.

Big Mong lives on in Caerphilly's collective folk memory. Indeed on that modern-day equivalent of a cult gathering - the Facebook Group page - there is a site dedicated to the monster's Welsh appearance. In the above photograph the bikini-clad lady that you can see in Big Mong's left paw - the Fay Wray role, so to speak - is beauty queen Cheryl Perry of Bargoed who, in 1978, was the reigning Miss Caerphilly.

*Photograph is ©Newscom

Richard and Sybil

I've written elsewhere on this blog about Sybil Williams, spurned and humiliated first wife of Richard Burton, who went on to become a fixture on the New York club scene - a rather odd but redemptive journey. Legend has it that she has NEVER given a retrospective interview about the break-up of her relationship with Burton. This dignified silence has won her admiration in many quarters and helped cultivate around her a certain aura of mystique. There are plenty of photographs knocking about of Sybil and Burton as a couple arriving at various functions but it is rare to see a posed studio shot of them together. This double full-length portrait was completed in 1961 by the great Bert Stern who is perhaps best known for his pictures of Marilyn Monroe, taken shortly before her death. For some odd reason Burton is wearing his jacket back to front while Sybil is kitted out in a smart Burke-Amey suit.

*Photograph is ©Condé Nast Archive/Corbis