The latest updates in our Welsh Mod blog
From Port Talbot to Mick Talbot
The Style Council are enjoying the limelight again what with a new documentary recently shown on Sky Arts called Long Hot Summers plus a forthcoming heavy-weight book entitled Soul Deep which promises to be packed full of unseen photographers and fresh interviews.
I was lucky enough to interview the band‘s other half and master of the keyboards, Mick Talbot, for the mod website Modculture the other week. Mick was of course a member, along with his brother, of Mod revival band, The Merton Parkas, hence the fact he is often referred to as Merton Mick. The full interview can be read here
During our chat I mentioned to Mick that I had written a book on Mod in Wales and asked if he would like me to send him a copy, which I did. I was more than thrilled to receive an email from Mick only a few days later, explaining that he had, in fact, received the book and read it from cover to cover. He also sent us this great pic of him with his copy. Someone on Instagram also pointed out that there are two Talbots in this photo as the cover of the book was shot in Port Talbot just under the M4! Anyhow – so here’s what he said about the book:
“Just finished reading your Welsh Mod book last night. I really enjoyed it. Congratulations, it covers so many bases. I imagine it took a great deal of passion, determination and hard work. Wonderful design and photography too. Great that you stuck with it after the knock back from the documentary idea. I can imagine the compromises that telly people would have imposed, so perhaps it was for the best that it became a book that kept it all pure and true.”
So to celebrate the fact that now two members of the Style Council have their copies (the other being Paul Weller), we are going to run a special offer on copies sold in the run up till Christmas. Just type in the code TALBOT40 to get 40% off. If you want your copy signed and dedicated as a gift to someone please let us know on purchase. The offer is available until December 23rd.
Great to be asked to be featured on Eddie Piller‘s Modcast which airs on the brilliant Totally Wired Radio (TWR). I was interviewed by designer extraordinaire and DJ, Steve Rowland who is currently at the helm doing a series of lockdown episodes where he talks to a range of special guests about their journey with music and mod.
We chatted about growing up in the early 80s and how I first became aware of mod and the great music associated with it, before moving on to discuss the golden era of guitar bands that followed from the late 80s and into the 90s, before Britpop and Cool Cymru.
Of course there was mention of the book which has been selling well during lockdown as people have found more time to read. I‘m hoping to post a few more pics and content that didn‘t make the book in the coming weeks and months, plus look out for a new range of T-shirts with a Welsh mod slant.
Also some of you may already know one of my next projects is the launch of a print magazine dedicated to all things mod. This has been funded via Kickstarter and will come off the printers at the end of August. It‘s called Detail and you can find out more about it at www.detailmaguk.com. I‘ve teamed up with the guys at Suit Yourself Modernist Culture to produce this and we have some fantastic contributors and interviews lined up.
In the meantime if you are still searching for a bit of holiday or summer reading we can help you out. We are running a flash sale of the book until the end of August. Just type in the offer code MODCAST at checkout and you'll get the book for £15 instead of £25 from our online shop. If you want the book signed and dedicated just let us know and we can sort that for you.
Detail: the magazine for modernists
We are pleased to announce the launch of Detail – the magazine for modernists.
Detail will be a new print publication dedicated to offering a more in-depth look at all things modernist. This twice yearly magazine aims to cut through today‘s digital noise with carefully curated content and long-form articles in an appealing but familiar format.
Featuring contributions from some of the most passionate exponents of the modernist ethos, Detail will bring you insights and exclusives on music, culture, style and design.
The first issue of Detail will be published at the Brighton Modernist Weekender on August Bank Holiday 2020 and will also be available to purchase online.
For more details please visit the Detail Facebook page.
Haydn Denman in conversation with Emyr Young
Haydn Denman who took the photographs for Welsh Mod: Out Story speaks to fellow photographer Emyr Young in a special interview for photography website Ffoton which was recorded at The Northern Eye Photography Festival in Colwyn Bay late last year. Among the topics of conversation are the different disciplines of camera work and photography and why Haydn found ‘mods’ a particularly great group of people to photograph.
His work from the book project has so far featured in two exhibition – at Penarth Pier Pavilion, South Wales and at the aforementioned The Northern Eye Photography Festival. Limited edition prints of the photographs taken for the book are available to buy from our online shop
Image © Brian Carroll
Welsh Music Podcast: Claire Mahoney
I was invited to record an item for the Welsh Music Podcast the other week and had the difficult task of choosing my favourite Welsh music album.
In the end I opted for ‘Round Amen Corner’ by Amen Corner. Recorded in 1968 on the Deram label the band had just taken the London gig circuit by storm even though they’d only been together for a couple of years. They had two hits already under their belts: ‘Gin House’ and the ‘World of Broken Hearts’. The album is a collection of superb cover versions including ‘(Our Love) is in the Pocket, ‘Love Me Tender’ and ‘Can’t Get Used to Losing You’.
It’s an album that captures the excitement as the band were hitting the big time with Andy Fairweather-Low’s soulful vocals rising to the challenge of these big songs each time. Andy, of course is featured in the book where he talks in depth about those early days touring and being the Welsh boys in the big city.
The Welsh Music Podcast is a great initiative set up by friends and music aficionados Neil and James. It celebrates all Welsh music past and present and the people who have helped shape it. It is broadcast every week and has already featured Welsh music luminaries Rhys Mywn, David Owens and Patrick Jones.
50 Years of Music in Swansea Exhibition
It was great to see Welsh 60s mod group The Eyes of Blue who featured in the book, take pride of place as part of the 50 years of Music Exhibition currently running at Swansea Museum. The exhibition runs to mid February 2020 and was organised by Swansea Council’s Cultural Services team, as part of the 50th birthday celebrations of Swansea being granted city status with support from Swansea Music Hub and Welsh Connections and over 100 individual contributors.
A display cabinet houses the original suit worn by Ray Taff Williams during the 1966 Melody Maker Beat Contest which saw ‘The Eyes’ walk off with the top prize of a record contract with the Decca off-shoot label Deram. Also in the cabinet is a hand-painted drum skin from their Mustangs days, which featured three members of the Eyes of Blue’s line-up, including Wyndham Rees on vocals and Ritchie Francis on Bass. Rock & Roll was their first love and the blues and soul came later.
Like the Eyes of Blue, many of the top charting bands of the 60s played The Ritz in Skewen in Neath. Both ‘The Eyes’ and The Iveys (later to become Badfinger) supported The Who there in the mid 60s. In fact there is plenty of Who memorabilia on show as part of this exhibition from their various gigs in the Swansea area, including their seminal 1976 gig at Swansea City football stadium – the last major gig that Keith Moon played in the UK.
Two signings to The Beatles label Apple also feature – Mary Hopkin, whose most well known recording has to be the wistful ‘Those Were the Days’ and The Iveys who were the first band The Beatles signed to their Apple label.
The band took their name from Ivey Place in Swansea where they used to practice. Members of the band then went on to form Badfinger who hit the big time with another Paul McCartney penned number – ‘Come & Get it’ in 1969.
It seems that South Wales musicians never stray too far from home and this is illustrated in a series of fascinating musical family trees on display at the exhibition that trace the crossed paths of so many of the areas’ artists
Sadly the story of Badfinger didn’t end well with two of its members – Pete Ham and Tommy Evans taking their own lives. A blue plaque close to Swansea’s railway station bear’s Pete Ham’s name. He was only 27. He was a talented songwriter whose legacy includes ‘Without You’ – recorded by both Harry Nilsson and Mariah Carey. The problems started when Badfinger signed to Warner and a mixture of management failings and legal disputes left the band pretty much penniless. Theirs is a story that highlights the darker side of the music industry.
It seems that South Wales musicians never stray too far from home and this is illustrated in a series of fascinating musical family trees on display at the exhibition that trace the crossed paths of so many of the areas’ artists, many of who continued to forge a career in music either through playing, managing, producing and promoting music.
Take, for example, 70s progressive psyche rock group Man who formed in 1968 and were made up of a mixture earlier Welsh 60s bands including The Bystanders from Merthyr and The Eyes of Blue’s keyboard genius Phil Ryan from Port Talbot. Man’s drummer Terry Williams went on to have an incredible career working with Dire Straits and Dave Edmunds, Chuck Berry and Paul McCartney to name but a few.
Obviously this exhibition is not just focussed on the 60 and 70s. It also guides us through the punk scene, rave and the rise of the DJ right up to the present day and includes a great collection of memorabilia including some rather fabulous Beatles style boots from Swansea Indie pop outfit The Pooh Sticks.
All in all, for anyone with an interest in South Wales’ close-knit musical legacy, this exhibition is a must. It’s packed full of interesting personal artefacts from press cuttings, gig tickets and guitars, many of them donated by fans – highlighting the intimacy of the fans relationship with bands they followed in the days before the internet. A few hours well spent with a great soundtrack!
On the Mannay
Des Mannay was a familiar character on the South Wales mod scene in the 1980s, not least for his dance moves and his sharp sartorial choices. Here he looks back on the rapidly changing music scene during that decade and how this marked his move from mod to modernism, and Motown to modern jazz…
Martha and the Vandellas
“Martha and the Vandellas were one of my favourite Motown acts, so I was knocked out when my mate Irman Ali had spotted this gig advertised. She wasn’t doing much touring at the time and she was absolutely brilliant. I’m so glad I saw her when I did.”
“Squire were one of the revival bands I really rated, and they appeared to have disintegrated after being involved in the ‘March of the Mods’ tour. I’d bought all the records including My Mind Goes Around in Circles – then there was a comeback single in 1982 and a couple of gigs. When me and Irman spotted ‘em playing in Swindon, we sorted out transport. The gig itself was excellent and saved for posterity on ‘Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed…’.”
“The Alljacks gig was a real turning point for me, for all sorts of reasons. It was one of the 1984 Phoenix Society runs commemorating the 1960s Mods ‘n’ Rockers battles. It came just after one of the other runs had a huge write up in The Face magazine and it marked a coming together of some of the London Mods who’d been holding the scene together and their contemporaries from around the country.
“Yeah, we may all have written to each other at some point. Yeah, we may have read the odd piece we’d written in some obscure fanzine or whatever – but we’d never knowingly been under the same roof together. The regular Sneakers crew, Paul Hallam and Richard ‘Shirley’ Early were DJing, and I wandered up and demanded that they play ‘Watch Your Step’ by Bobby Parker on Sue Records. It was a ‘Blues Brothers’ moment, with one tapping the other on the back and saying, ‘He’s just asked for… So what other stuff are you listening to?’ Contact details and blank tapes were exchanged and within months I was making my first pilgrimage to the club that would become my spiritual home. The gig itself was great, with The Alljacks playing a raucous blend of R‘n’B.”
“Courtney Pine was another seminal gig. What I didn’t realise was that this kind of became the first step out of Mod into Modernism. Let me explain, those of us who in ‘83 were beginning to listen to R‘n’B rather than Northern Soul, were now speaking fluent Jean Paul Sartre and Colin MacInnes. We were gobsmacked when we discovered ‘Absolute Beginners’ was being turned into a blockbuster bloody movie – it was ‘ours’ for fuck’s sake. (Despite my apprehension, I still went to see the film. I was smitten by the film set – but hated some of the cod characters inserted into the script for ‘entertainment’.)
“There was also a mini revolution going on in the Jazz scene with great new acts coming through. For us Courtney Pine was our own home grown John Coltrane. This was all OK on the Mod scene – not controversial. What was probably controversial, was my take on sartorial and musical changes in some of the clubs sometime around 1987. End to end platters of Mongo Santamaria and other Latin stuff – but nothing else. It was like a Northern Soul night but with a slightly different rhythm. And the kids had started wearing Chinos…
“Now to me, a Mod night out was like a three-course meal – you had your light danceable soul starter, then your main course of R‘n’B with a salsa sauce and for pudding you had full cream Ska drizzled over chocolate fuzz chords of Freakbeat. If that wasn’t on offer anymore, then I wanted to be in the audience at a John Coltrane gig. Ok, you might be one of the few people who bothered to dress up that night, but you get to choose whether to be or not to be (and that isn’t the question). So I immersed myself in the local jazz scene for a couple of years, but still went to Mod stuff. But they weren’t ‘a tribe’ anymore. They were just my friends (and I had other friends too).”
Read more of Des’s story in the book…
Dedicated follower of fashion
I bumped into guitarist Ray Taff Williams from the Eyes of Blue at the Love gig at the Globe in Cardiff over the summer. Of course, Eyes of Blue covered Love’s famous ‘7 and 7 is’ which is featured on the their first album ‘Crossroads of Time.’
We got chatting about me meeting Paul Weller for the first time earlier in the summer and Ray went on to tell me about his own meeting with him at the Jim Cabaldi memorial concert at the Roundhouse in London in 2007. The story is very typical of those you hear about Weller and his sartorial obsessions.
“I remember chatting to John Lord, as I’d done a bit of work with him in the past, Paul came over to chat and asked where I got my jacket from, I replied: ‘from Cork in Ireland’ ”, says Ray.
“He asked if I would get one for him when next in Ireland… which I did, but haven’t seen him since. The boutique in Cork is called ‘Tony’s’. The clothes were quite unique and they would only stock about three or four of each item in different sizes. I managed to find another like mine when I was over in the winter time, there was one sitting there in the sale, so I do have a spare!
“Don’t forget, us guys in Eyes of Blue were first generation Mods, it was Pete Stringfellow who turned us on to the soul music and the clothes when we used to play at his ‘King Mojo’ in Sheffield. I suppose Paul is a sort of post punk second generation Mod… but still he has created some super music. ”
Ten of the best
We asked Paul Macnamara (Mac) to give us his top 10 most memorable mod-related gigs from the 80s in South Wales. Mac from Cardiff used to edit the 80s fanzine, One Way World, with David Owens (journalist at Media Wales). More recently he has been working with Bryn Gregory (Beggar/Co-Stars) on a new Co-Stars release – a double album out later this summer which will include some live tracks and previously unreleased material.
“Trying to whittle down my top 10 was never going to be easy. Local bands like The Colours and The Co Stars I saw dozens of times. I have tried not to duplicate the artist (although there are a couple of exceptions) and have completed them in year order.”
Afan Lido, Port Talbot, 1982
“Aged 15, parka-clad and Jam shoes on, ready for my first gig, and what a gig . Although personally I thought they peaked around the All Mod Cons/Setting Sons period they were still a fabulous live act.”
The New Ocean Club, Cardiff, 1983
“A fantastic venue which The Truth played a couple of times. I have chosen this, their first outing as the band were riding a crest of the wave with chart hits Confusion and Steppin In The Right Direction. Me and life long friend Dave Owens would interview the band for our fanzine at a later show there.”
The Kinks/The Truth
St David’s Hall, Cardiff, 1984
“Old met new for the new generation of mods and what a great line up. The Kinks appeared off the back of one of their last big hits, Come Dancing. Great memories.”
Small World/Sound Reaction/The Colours
The New Ocean Club, Cardiff, 1984
“Another visit to The New Ocean Club. London modsters Small World were joined by local faves The Colours and Sound Reaction.”
Big Sound Authority
The New Ocean Club, Cardiff, 1985
“This fantastic soul outfit had a big gig with This House and me and Dave (Owens) interviewed the band at the gig. I am still in touch with bass player Martin Wilson and drummer Steve Martinez. Smashing fellas.”
Makin Time/The Moment/The Limit
The Newport Centre, Newport, 1985
“Two of the most popular bands on the mod circuit were joined by local band The Limit, in front of a big crowd who had travelled from all over South Wales. There were particularly healthy scenes in Cardiff , Newport and Pontypridd and they were all well represented that day.”
The Laverne Brown Band/The Co Stars
The New Casablanca, Cardiff, 1986
“It would be hard to find many better vocalists in South Wales than Laverne Brown and Bryn Gregory so to have them both on the same bill was a delight.”
The Central Hotel, Cardiff, 1986
“An early promotion by local mod legend Ritchie McCarthy saw mod supergroup The Rage visit this popular venue. The band consisted of members of mod revival faves The Purple Hearts, The Chords and Long Tall Shorty.”
The Jetset/The Moment/The Reaction
The Channel View Leisure Centre, Cardiff, 1987
“Another Ritchie McCarthy promotion, this time on his own doorstep in Grangetown. A fabulous all-dayer. A video still exists to this day where 50 of us had passed around the video recorder to record the event.”
Radcliffe’s, Cardiff, 1988
“A group of us had travelled to London earlier that year to see the second mod aid event (Steve Marriott headlined). Also on the bill that day were Boys Wonder. It was fantastic to see them again shortly after when they travelled to Cardiff to play the often forgotten Radcliffe’s.”
“So there we have it, a small selection of gigs. I could have quite easily doubled it with memorable events but that’s for another day.” Paul Macnamara (Mac).
Being the cover
A year ago we chose the image for the front cover for the book. So we thought it would be a nice idea to ask Peter Jachimiak – who features on it – how it feels to be the face of Welsh Mod that greets everyone who first picks up the book…
“Being told that I was going to be on the cover of Welsh Mod: Our Story was – to say the least – a surprise. I mean, a jaw-dropping kind of surprise. However, as soon as I saw the mock-up of the cover, I got it. There I was, in a mac, with my brolly, dwarfed overhead by the reinforced concrete mass of the M4 motorway as it scythes through Port Talbot. Then, with the image – slowly-but-surely – being spread across social media, other people got it as well.
“There’s Dr. Pete rocking a Style Council look” one post went. “Looks like it should be the cover of a gangster’s autobiography” went another. Others name-dropped such Cool Cymru films as Twin Town, whilst others drew Get Carter and The Long Good Friday comparisons. Of course, as a university lecturer who, amongst other things, teaches media and British cultural studies, this praise was praise indeed.
There I was, in a mac, with my brolly, dwarfed overhead by the reinforced concrete mass of the M4 motorway as it scythes through Port Talbot
“In fact, it’s been quite a peculiar six months since the book has been in print, as a number of fellow academics have made comment (by text, and in person), following their stumbling across this hardback version of myself that can be found amid the glass cabinet at Paul Reeves’ Mojo King clothing outlet at Cardiff’s city-centre indoor market. “Great shot! Great cover!” said one, a graphic design specialist. Of course, it’s hard for me to gaze at the cover objectively. Yet, I get it, totally, from an artistic point of view.
“It’s kitchen-sink (or, should I say, back-lane) realism. The pin-point perspective of it all. The use of shadows. But, yes, I also get it from a Modernist’s point of view. The vintage Tootal scarf. The polished ox-blood brogues. The moody stare… It’s just I now have to erase from my memory the amount of dog shit that was there, on the pavements, under that motorway that links South Wales to London.”