Tuesday 10 April 2012

The Hywel Bebb Whoopee Band - I Want To Be a Quasar (1976)

This is the oldest recording to date that we've found in our archive, originating from sometime early in 1976, and providing a rare insight into the origins of a particular strand of the north Wales music scene. The Hywel Bebb Whoopee Band was in fact an expanded version of The Thin Yoghurts, a loose association of young musicians based in Friars School, Bangor. The group used to convene daily in a small room behind the school's assembly hall during lunch breaks in order to avoid the inevitable bullying that they would attract had they ventured into the playground. Hywel Bebb was not actually a member of the group, but was in fact the school's Welsh teacher, after who the ensemble affectionately (or otherwise) took their name.

The exact line-up for this session can't be absolutely certain after 36 years, but it almost certainly includes Maeyc Hewitt, Wil Jones, Geraint Griffiths, Celyn Davies, Alan Holmes, Mike Haslam, Robin Stamper and Ken Thompson. Other members may have been present, and certainly the synthesizer heard on the recordings was custom built for the group by the school boffin David Sunderland, who tragically met with a premature end when his RAF Harrier was involved in a mid air collision
in 1987.

The cutting edge free-improv approach of the music was inspired by the participants' love of the more adventurous 'prog' groups of the time (Henry Cow, Quiet Sun etc) and the Krautrock groups whose mysterious records would occasionally turn up in Bangor's magical Unit 21 - a second hand record exchange and 'head shop' that was situated in the long-demolished Welfield Centre, providing a top notch musical education for the turned-on youth of the city in the mid 70s. Hints of the abrasive sonic exploration heard here can be traced through many of the participants' later musical projects, notably groups like The Pinecones and Ectogram.

The Hywel Bebb Whoopee Band - I Want To Be a Quasar (13:53)

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Monday 9 April 2012

Overloaded and We're Running (1980)

"Overloaded and We're Running" appeared in 1980 as the first in an annual series of compilations that aimed to round up some of the music that had been going on in the Bangor/Bethesda/Anglesey area over the preceding year.

At the time, popular weekly live music nights were held at Plas Coch, a slightly down at heels stately home in Llanedwen, Anglesey, and the groups on this compilation drew heavily from the regulars who played there. Indeed, the launch night for the compilation took place at that venue in June 1980.

1 Fay Ray & the Rubbermen - Zodiac Sign (Lovering)
The first appearance of the group who were to soon shorten their name and record an album for Warner Brothers as Fay Ray. This song however, did not appear on their album.
line up: Sheila Macartney - vocals, John Lovering - guitar, Jeff Taylor - sax, accordion, Owen Hughes - drums, Tony Travis - bass

2 Maggs - Echoes (Thomas/Jones)
Maggs formed out of legendary Welsh language group Brân when their lead singer John Gwyn left to pursue a career in television.
line up: Len Jones - guitar, Louis Thomas - bass, vocals, Bryan Griffiths - drums

3 Inverted Commas - The Coat I Wear (Wilce/Stroud)
Like Fay Ray, this group had recently emerged from the split of popular Bangor group Hot Water. Similarly, another quick name change saw the Inverted Commas morph into The Pumps by the time the compilation was released. They continued playing under that name until 1982.
line-up: Paul Stroud - bass, vocals, Annie Williams - organ, John Wilce - guitar, Bryan Griffiths - drums

4 Brenda & the Hot Dicks - Only the Devil (Lovering)
Yet another Hot Water offshoot - not so much a real group as singer Brenda Prescott backed by the members of Fay Ray. She was signed to Active Records and has been heard in many groups around the area ever since, including Over There and Brenda & the Box it Came in.
5 Some Noise - In Transit (Saunders)
The only studio recording of Scott Saunders' post-Inadequates post-punk trio. Two live recordings can be found elsewhere on this site.
line-up: Scott Saunders - guitar, vocals, Martin Parry - bass, Mark Creathorn - drums

6 Dav & the Green Girls - Eat (Devalle/Saunders)
A pre-Ghostriders appearance from Dav Devalle, who can also be heard in The Verbs, his duo with Scott Saunders, later on the compilation. Dav Devalle - vocals, guitar, Jeff Hill - bass, guitar, backing vox, Dave Wood - backing vox.
7 Dick Dick & the Dicks - No. 9 in Sri Lanka (live in Plas Coch) (d'Aboville)
One of the oldest groups here, Dick Dick & the Dicks had been playing no nonsense rock 'n' roll / r'n'b around the area for three or four years, but by this time had incorporated Brenda Prescott into the line up, resulting in an inevitable change of sound.
line-up: Brenda Prescott - vocals, Owen Hughes - drums, Tony Travis - bass, Roy Smith - percussion, Marc d'Aboville - guitar

8 The Modernaires - The Urge (Modernaires)
9 The Modernaires - A Disco Vamp (Modernaires)
Hailing from Holyhead, The Modernaires played an urgent post-punk style reminiscent of a more jazzy Pere Ubu. They soon relocated to Chester, releasing a couple of singles and an LP before turning to the Welsh language and becoming Brodyr Y Ffin. Drummer Dave Baynton-Power also went on to play for James.
line-up: Phil Bradley - guitar, Hugh Hughes - bass, Brian Roberts - vocals, Dave Baynton-Power - drums

10 Mars Bars - Fundamental Vision (Hill)
Not really a 'real' group as such, Mars Bars was a one off recording put together for this compilation by Paul Hill, using various ex-members of Hot Water.
line-up: Paul Hill, Brenda Prescott, Owen Hughes, John Lovering, Jeff Taylor, Tim Macartney, Bob Stenegna

11 Menai Straits - Rice Pudding (Trad)
Menai Straits were an 8 piece jazz based outfit made up of:
Roy Smith - drums, Keith Woods - keyboards, Andy Baron - tenor, Peter McDonald - keyboards, Ondré Nowakowski - alto, Nick Parker - flute, Mick Pearson - bass, Alan Williams - guitar

12 The Verbs - Nervous (Devalle/Saunders)
The Verbs were a duo of Dav Devalle and Scott Saunders, although on occasions they would augment the line-up with various other musicians for live performances. Their first gig was at Bangor Students Union Jazz Room on April 20th 1979, where they supported the final appearance by Scott's previous group, The Inadequates.
13 Distant Cousins - Local/International (Distant Cousins)
Another short lived group featuring ex-Inadequates rhythm section Mark Thomas and Alan Wilkinson, together with guitarist Martin Wilson and Fay Ray/Hot Water singer Sheila Macartney. This is possibly the only recorded evidence of them.
14 9½ - Overloaded & You're Running (Hill/Walker)
9½ was put together by singer songwriter Chris Walker and displayed the influence of contemporary post punk groups like Joy Division, mixed in with more traditional song based rock. The group also featured the late legendary Les Morrison and future Ghostrider Rob Parry.
line-up: Chris Walker - vocals, Rob Parry - guitar, Alan Williams - guitar, Les Morrison - bass, 'Ley'
- drums

A 'Family Tree' of the bands was included with the compilation, drawn in the style of Pete Frame by Fay Ray bass player Tony Travis:

Various Artists - Overloaded and We're Running (1980)
Blabber 'n' Smoke BS2

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Sunday 1 April 2012

Rheinallt H. Rowlands - Tair Blynedd ar Ddeg (1993)

Between 1991 and 2001, Rheinallt H. Rowlands released three full length albums (one appearing in two different forms) and an EP as well as appearing on various compilations. The rarest Rheinallt release however (and one of the rarest releases by anybody!) was Tair Blynedd ar Ddeg, a unique one-off release made specially for BBC Radio Cymru's cult late night programme Heno Bydd yr Adar yn Canu, hosted by the DJ Nia Mellville. The recordings were broadcast on the show, but the sole copy of the release presumably still lies in Nia Mellville's private collection. We do however have the actual recordings, together with a photographic record of the packaging and a copy of the original accompanying press release, which is reproduced below. Also included in the post is a bonus track - a rare and radically different alternative version of the track Pethau which was to appear on Rheinallt's debut album Hendaid Brân a Straeon Eraill.

27/01/93 SLATE 13
Rheinallt H Rowlands - Tair Blynedd ar Ddeg

A Limited edition (one copy only) DAT in special presentation box with exclusive inserts. Comprises three exclusive songs specially recorded for the popular radio programme "Heno Bydd yr Adar yn Canu". These songs will not subsequently appear on Rheinallt's forthc
oming LP, provisionally scheduled for May release.

A word from the chairman:

It gives me great pleasure to be able to bring you this very special release. I have very much enjoyed working with Rheinallt H. Rowlands over the past months on the eleven songs that are to make up his debut LP and at a recent label-artist meeting, I put it to Mr Rowlands that it might be quite fun to record something special for the radio programme "Heno Bydd yr Adar yn Canu", on which he received his first airplay. Upon throwing the meeting open to suggestions, Rheinallt told me a very moving story that eventually led to the idea for this project.

On May the 17th 1980, the quarry where Rheinallt had been working for the previous thirteen years was forced to close, making all the workers redundant. Despondent almost to the point of suicide, Rheinallt walked the thirteen miles back to his isolated cottage for the final time and sat down in his old wooden chair with a bowl of broth. Finding the silence unbearable, he turned on the old valve radio and, fumbling to tune it to the Home Service, he inadverten
tly came across the John Peel programme on Radio One. Rheinallt would not normally have paused for more than a second on such new-fangled nonsense, but on this occasion the voice that came from his crackly speaker was so deeply mournful it seemed to have a special resonance with his current state of mind. When the record finished, Rheinallt heard that the voice was that of Ian Curtis of the then popular group Joy Division and that he had committed suicide that very day. Far from deepening Rheinallt's depression, this news brought a profound inspiration to him, and he decided that moment that he would forge a new career as a popular singer. The rest, as they say, is history.

We realised at once that this year was the thirteenth anniversary of those events - the same length of time as Rheinallt worked in the quarry - and it seemed appropriate to record some kind of tribute to the man who provided the original inspiration for Rheinallt's career. The three interpretations on this release are just that, and take on a new resonance due to th
e recent demise of Factory Records, who released the original recordings. A further coincidence appeared when I came to assign a serial number to the project and realised we had now got up to SLATE 13! I hope these unique recordings touch you as deeply as they did me.

Rheinallt H Rowlands - Tair Blynedd ar Ddeg

1 Degawdau (Decades)
2 Awyrgylch (Atmosphere)
3 Gwawr Newydd Yn Cilio (New Dawn Fades)
bonus track:
4 Pethau (Alternative Version)

1-3 by Curtis/Hook/Morris/Sumner, 4 by Rowlands

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