the cravats interviews

In the interest of keeping your eyesight these interviews have been transcribed from their original form.

panache issue 13

 

Pan:How did the album go?

Shend: pardon?

Pan: How did the album, go? In Torquay.

Shend: Well it was jolly good. We went there to record for the album, right, um ahh right, demo for the album and aah, it was really ‘orrible. We stayed in a hotel, really ‘orrible place and aah…

Pan: Did you wear a hat when you went I the hotel?

Shend: No, no, I went away, you know? I thought I’d give it up. The bloke at the studio, he has a nice white terylene tie, terylene flared trousers and aah, it was an eight track studio we did 14 tracks, in 3 days, mixing and everything. They came out very well.

Pan: Did you make the album fun? You said you wanted to make it fun.

Shend: Oh yes, tons of fun. Well, because…

Rob: Lots of bears.

Shend: Lots of beers.

Rob: Lots of beers.

Shend: Lots of bears, and ahh, we walked round Torquay for a bit you see. When we got there it was pissing with rain and you know, the one mod at the end if the high street and that was that, you know?

Rob: We went in the Chinese take away and got thrown out.

Shend: They wouldn’t serve us.

Rob: We all went in there and it was quite dark really at the entrance and The Shend had had his hair all yyooouuuuccck.

Shend: They didn’t like it.

Rob (imitating scared Chinese person): Go away, go away!

Pan: You didn’t meet the Bruce Lees of Torquay then?

Shend: No, no. Well, they were there, but they were sparing themselves, for the Summer.

Rob: Waiting for the summer.

Pan: in other words shitting themselves quietly in the corner.

Shend: Yes, that’s it, and the whole place was deserted. We didn’t even see the sea because that was black as well, that was turned off.

Rob: We had some raw Kentucky Friend Chicken though.

Shend: Yep, and three something or others with blood on them. Don’t know what they were.

Rob: Ah, spare ribs.

Shend: With blood on, they were great. Anyway, he felt a bit ill (pointing at Richard).

Rob: He collapsed outside the Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Shend: Richard, our sax player.

Rob: Ha ha ha.

Shend: And he was alright again after hat. Ah, we were all a bit depressed wandering around. The hotel was like one room partitioned into about eighteen. We had a bit about two foot.

Rob: Sort of a quarter of a room, y’know?

Shend: Then suddenly, a wall! Aar, it was horrible. Radio 2 and radio 4 on the radio, it was great.

Pan: Sounds like heaven.

Shend: It was. Well, you know, and after this we went down the studio and the bloke looked a dick as well but um, turned out to be a real nice man and you know, he was very helpful, had no pretensions at all, no sort of well, you know, I’ll show you how it’s done ha ha ha and ‘you can’t do that!’

Rob: A sort of steady fellow. Wife and two children.

Shend: A caretaker. Cooked us a meal in the evenings. Greens.

Pan: He (Richard) was sick again?

Shend: He was, him being a vegetarian, he only had a plate of greens. We had greens and meat, it was great. I’ll have to lower my level now (music has stopped) but we eat the meal, we had a good time and the studio was alright.

Rob: Little tiny mixing desk.

Pan: You weren’t overawed at all.

Shend: No, no, that was it.

Rob: The bloke had only had dance bands in previously so it was completely new to him, so we took over really and told him what sounds we wanted and he said if we could do em or not. If we’d gone to other studios where they think, pretend to be producers and things. They tend to put a fix on it even before you get to hear it first time round, on it which is really bad.

Pan: have you thought of something for the cover?

Shend: What, the cover of the album?

Rob: The name, it might be Stormtroopers In Toyland, could be.

Shend: At present that’s a possibility. It might be anything. It might be Trousers From Outer Space.

Rob: Trousers from out of space? It could be Dead Animals On The Road Sunning Their Insides. Twice.

Shend: Okay, you’ve said it once. I don’t know, it could be anything, but it might be Stormtroopers In Toyland.

Pan: What will the picture be on the cover though?

Shend: Well, it’ll be, you know…

Rob: Yes, wading through a room of toy soldiers and things.

Shend: You know, like in Noddy, in Noddy books. (Laughs.) I’ve got the whole set.

Rob: He’s got them all in the car.

Shend: Enid Blyton has ruined my life, really. But I’ve got all these books with Noddy in and they’ve got all these little pictures. Um, all the houses are yellow and there’s Noddy and Big Ears and Mr Plod, exciting stuff this, isn’t it. And um, all the bridges have one brick drawn in them to make them look realistic. Well, like, if you have us in there, you know, sort of kicking hell out of Noddy, setting fire to PC Plod or something.

Rob: Make bonfires out of the Woodentops, you know? Anything like that.

Shend: Yep, it’ll be jolly fun.

Pan: On the other side they get their revenge.

Shend: Yes, that’s it. Noddy Strikes Back, you know? It’ll be jolly good.

Pan: This is a concept you’re trying to make?

Shend: Oh yes.

Rob: Oh yes.

Shend: Without a doubt.

Rob: It’s the life of the frustrated artist, you know. Noddy, Noddy’s looking for his ego, his self. Its his search for America, or Britain. His search for Britain on his motorbike, through Toyland.
Pan: Do the song titles reflect this?

Shend: Er, some of them.

Rob: Yes.

Pan: Give us a few. We never hear them,.

Shend: Well, there is ‘Pressure Sellers’ about advertising. How Noddy’s, you know, the Selling Of Noddy.

Rob: Noddy is a product, rather than an individual, which he is. It’s hyping English Character for something he’s not. Enid Blyton’s guilty.

Pan: What influence do you think Big Ears and that lot have had on Noddy?

Shend/Rob: Crucial, crucial.

Rob: Big Ears has manipulated him all through.

Shend: He’s bee used, you know, well, you know, there’s PC Plod, right to the top…

Rob: I mean, would Noddy have worn that bloody silly hat with a bell on it, if Big Ears hadn’t put it there. I don’t think he would, myself.

Pan: I heard he simply turned it inside out.

Shend: No, no.

Rob: No, I don’t know about that. He might do, when he gets out.

Shend: It’s repression. He was forced, forced, to wear it.

Pan: Was he?

Rob: Yer, he was.

Pan: What about the little jacket was it his own?

Shend: That was his own, yer, there was a concession there.

Rob: He has grown out if it, but he still wears it.

Pan: Did you meet him in Torquay at all?

Shend: No, we couldn’t find him.

Rob: We looked.

Shend: He wasn’t in the Chinese. But you see the point is, well you tell them what the point is Robin.

Rob: What?

Shend: When will we fall?

Rob: When will we fall, ooh, it’s about getting old and you now, and that sort of thing.

Shend: Yer.

Pan: Don’t you think that concept albums are sort of old hat?

Shend: Well, nah, old hat good pun, ha ha ha.

Pan: Yer old hat.

Shend: I think we’ll call the album old hat. Noddy’s old hat.

Pan: But then you’ll get done for…

Shend: Yer, that’s true. Yer, no mention of Noddy’s you now. There might be just, just a stain on one of the walls where Noddy was. No, I mean, concept albums are just coming into their own reality. I mean this will start a whole sort of future. I mean you know, er….

Rob: There could be a new youth culture called The Concepts. I mean, mods today, you know, Concepts tomorrow.

Shend: Yeah, right well, I mean, you know. Sort of Alan Parsons Project, and you now…

Rob: Ooh big names, big names and that!

Shend: well, I mean, you know. I mean, you know. I mean that’s where the future of music is today, over-producing everything, y’know, millions of instruments.

Rob: No less than 64 tracks.

Shend: yep and Noddy will be there at the controls, at the helm, Yknow.

Rob: Noddy is our leader.

Pan: onstage?

Shend: Onstage? Well, Noddy slips onto the sidelines there I’m afraid.

Rob: He’s…he’s, he’s manipulating our image at the moment.

Pan: Will you have Action Men as roadies?

Shend/Rob: Ummmmm.

Rob: Well, we’re working on that at the moment y’know, but they just sit around and do nothing, unless you move them.

Pan: You can’t stop them talking

Rob: You can’t, you can’t!

Shend: Well I had one and put his feet in a shoebox and set fire to him and it was, it was a work of art.

Pan: Didn’t he fight back?

Shend: No, well, he was…

Pan: A pacifist was he?

Shend: Yer, yer, well his feet were embedded in the cardboard box so y’know, he couldn’t really move but he took a few vicious lunges with his plastic gun.

Pan: the last one, you can get a parka for it.

Rob: Yer, that’s, that’s, you know, that is that’s!

Pan: Enough of this. Who put the icecubes in your pockets

(referring to the Small Wonder Nashville gig, where Richard produced several ice cubes from his pockets)?

Rob: Come on, come on, say it.

Shend: Who put the, who put the…he’s very shy. He’s very very, he’s very shy.

Rob: He’s also got a very cold groin.

Pan: A very cold groin?

Shend: Yes, very cold.

Pan: And that makes it colder still.

Rob: Well, yer.

Pan: Are you sure he’s not lying and it’s red hot?

Rob: Oh yer.

Shend: well, I mean, like, if you noticed at the end of our performance at the Nashville I hurled an ice cube into the audience.

Rob: Symbolic.

Shend: That was symbolic.

Rob: Symbolic.

Pan: And you (Rob) dropped a plectrum. That was…

Rob/Shend: symbolic.

Shend: That was, yeah, symbolic as well.

Rob: Symbolic of Man’s Mistake.

Shend: Yeah.

Rob: Symbolic of the iceberg the Titanic struck. We are the iceberg in effect which, the Titanic, the great British public.

Pan: Ah, but they had a better band.

Rob/Shend: Yeah, that’s it.

Rob: We could call it ‘Titanic Revision?’

Shend: We could do, but…

Rob: I don’t think we will. No, no no.

Pan: What about ‘The Cravats’? There’s an album title.

Shend: Well, there is one.

Rob: Cravats One.

Shend: Cravats One?

Rob: Yeah.

Pan: Well, Cravats For Noddy.

Rob/Shend: Yeah, yeah.

Shend: Well, Cravats In Bodies, is a sort of attitude towards life y’know?

Pan: No-one wears a cravat though.

Shend: No.

Rob: No, no, no.

Shend: Yeah, that’s the whole point you know, we’re pretty grotesque. We, we believe in Grotesqueness. The more grotesque the people get, the more future there is, y’know?

Pan: Do you hope your audience will want to develop in this way?

Shend: Well I hope the audience will become more grotesque than they are already.

Pan: You know it’s the chainsaw in the foyer, inviting them to….

Rob: Well, mutilate themselves, really, yeah.

Shend: participate, yeah.

Rob: Just to look different..

Shend: Yes, because like we decided nobody ever dances to us so if they cut fof their limbs they’ve got a good excuse.

Rob: Hop around in pain.

Shend: Yes, hop around in pain, yes. Aah, that’s going back to the medieval approach of course, ‘cos Noddy er, was there then.

Rob: Deep in his quasi-twilight existence.

Pan: So there’ll be strings on the album as well will there?

Rob: Oh yeah, mellotrons, choirs, get the Welsh choir down as well.

Shend: Well, I mean, he’s got six and you know I’ve got four, so that’s ten strings.

Pan: You’re on Flugelhorn, do you realise this (to Richard)?

Shend: Yeah, flugel.

Rob: Oh yes, he knows.

Pan: And trombone.

Shend: Stylophones. Stylophones are on the album.

Rob: Stylophones feature on the album strongly, very strongly.

Shend: That is a true fact, yes. I mean Rolf Harris is another person.

Pan: Another cult figure?

Shend/Rob: He is.

Rob: He looms largely.

Pan: I can never spell it right.

Shend: As you would say ‘Rolf Harris, Rolf Harris is plaster of Paris’, you now and that just embodies everything.

Pan: Do you say this a lot?

Rob: Well…

Shend: Quite often. Well, in shops and things.

Pan: And does this go down…where’s your home town?

Shend: Redditch. Redditch Newtown.

Pan: Redditch Newtown?

Shend. Yeah. Um, it’s new.

Pan: Which is where?

Shend: Where? Well, it’s about forty miles from Birmingham.

Pan: North or South?

Rob/Shend: South.

Rob: Between Birmingham and Stratford.

Shend: Stratford Upon Avon, now there’s a place.

Pan: Have you seen that woman’s bed in Shakespeare’s house?

Shend: Yeah.

Rob: No, no.

Pan: He gave her hell.

Shend: Yeah, they were a weird bunch.

Rob: We’ve got this song about Stratford.

Shend: We have.

Pan: Song about?

Shend: We’ve got a song about Stratford.

Rob: ‘One In A Thousand’

Shend: ‘One In A Thousand’ it’s called. It’s about pretending to be individuals and you know (drowned by noise).

Pan: I think a band came on. I think they have.

Shend: Ah, shall we go into the toilet?

Pan: No.

Shend: No, no, no.

Rob: In To The Toilet! (Skids version.)

Shend: Are we’re now in the toilet and it’s very black. Right, continue. Ho, ho, ho, it’s a camera. Back! You know me, me hair’s not right yet you know. I’ll have to do it better, y’know.

Rob: Ow, ow (as camera snaps away at Shend).

Shend: The shame! Ash, there you are, he’s snapped away. Bet it’s no good.

Pan: Whether they come out or not….

Shend: Well who cares, who cares?

Rob: We’re having longer on Torquay.

Pan: What?

Rob: We’re having longer in Torquay. I think we’re going for a couple of weeks.

Shend: Yeah.

Pan: You mean you didn’t finish it?

Rob/Shend: Oh yeah.

Rob: But we did 4 tracks. But I think some are a bit rough, as we did fourteen tracks in three days.

Shend: Can you hold it cos I want to piss.

(Cassette, I think he means)

Pan: I think it would be better if we went in there because it’s good a door.

Shend: Oh all right then.

Rob: Here we are, in the cubicle.

Pan: Close the door. Right.

Rob: Ah, it’s just like home. It’s just like where I live.

Pan: Is it this big?

Rob: Yes, yes it’s as big as this.

Pan: My God.

Rob: Yes, cos we had to do fourteen tracks in three days it was really rough so we wanna go back down there and mess about and go out and play on the beach cos we didn’t see the sea.

Pan: What did it cost?

Rob: Ah it was really cheap but I don’t know how much it was because we had meals. Aah, aah, we had food and things. Clint knows all about ah, The Shend knows all about the money.

Pan: What is the Shend’s real name this?

Rob: Ah, Clint Eastwood.

Pan: Oh, he’s changed it. I had suspicions about Clint Eastwood.

Rob: I don’t know what his real name is cos he’s got hundreds of names.

Shend: ‘undreds.

Rob: Omar McClintock.

Shend: Omar, The Shend. The Shed.

Rob: Clint Eastwood, but usually it’s The Shend.

Pan: Shit.

Shend: Shit?

Rob: It’s usually The Shend, or The Shed, though.

Pan: How did you choose The Shend. What’s it mean?

Rob: Ah! Eons ago it used to be Chris Shendo you see.

Shend: Gave it all up though.

Rob: Well he spelt it wrong on his book, on his book, on his…

Shend: Well, this is for my forthcoming album, you see, Songs From The Shed…

Rob: Songs From The Shed? He missed the ‘n’ out.

Shend: Or Songs From The Shend Palace you know, but we haven’t decided yet.

Rob: Yeah, or it might be Magic Vibes From Sticksville.

Shend: Might be, might be.

Rob: People treat us like idiots down here. We are.

Shend: We are idiots. British idiots. Well, nearly.

Rob: ‘Cos we’re not in the London groove, ya know? We’re not mean cats.

Pan: What about the Birmingham groove?

Shend: What?

Pan: Birmingham, do they think you’re idiots up there?

Rob: Birmingham? Oh yeah.

Shend: Well Birmingham is, isn’t a groove at all, it’s horrible.

Rob: There’s about six bands playing the same venues every night of the week, all the residences.

Pan: Do you prefer playing in London?

Shend: Yeah.

Rob: Yes, it really honestly, it’s gangsters in Birmingham. It’s no joke.

Shend: Yeah.

Rob: There’s two blokes who run all the clubs and that’s it. If you don’t get on with them you don’t get to play anywhere.

Shend: Kicked to bits.

Rob: So you have to play ridiculous places like oh er oh er, er soul clubs. Grantham Soul Club.

Shend: Grantham Soul Club.

Rob: Played there, played Grantham Soul Club, it was brilliant, full of baggy boys. That’s right we launched into it , got to ‘Universe (I Hate The)’, at the end this bloke said, ‘do you know any rock’n’roll?’ No, no, but we’re going home in a minute though so we ploughed on through it, didn’t we?

Shend: It was great, they were all standing, ad woo ad wooah wah.

Rob: Ah Mick, Mick, ah who is this lot ay Mick Mick Mick

Shend: It was great.

Rob: Time. Shall we go home Mick?

Shend: We, we believe you know, people alter to be um sort of taught to speak properly. Like, like, like, like…

Rob: Like elocution important I think.

Pan: Did you mention that to the guy at the Nashville?

Rob: Oh yeah.

Shend: Yeah.

Rob: We did afterwards, didn’t we?

Shend: Yeah.

Shend: Cos he told is that he’d written a lot of poems.

Rob: Rude ones as well. We’re against filth as well.

Rob: Oh, we deplore filth.

Shend: Well, unless there’s pictures, y’know…

Pan: Pictures come your way?

Shend: Yeah.

Rob: Yeah.

Shend: vegetables are alright you know. Mint, one of our roadies, he’s very keen on vegetables. Er, it used to be pigs, but now it’s vegetables.

Rob: Yes, he used to be keen on pigs.

Shend: He used to have all these stickers with, er, pork scratchings.

Rob: ‘Makin’ Bacon’ on his t-shirt you know, he’s very keen.

Shend: Enough about roadies, enough about roadies.

Pan: Yeah, keep them out.

Shend: We’re the, we’re, we’re the stars of this, er, thing.

Pan: Well, I thought one of the stars of the Nashville was that bloke. No?

Shend: Oh yes.

Rob: We admired him, it’s cos one of our songs is called ‘All Around The Corner’ you see, and he was making up his own lyrics.

Pan: His own poems! Oh.

Rob: there and then. I thought, how inventive, but I still didn’t like him.

Shend: they were good though.

Rob: Cos he wasn’t listening to what I was saying, when I was speaking to him.

Shend: They were Filth Incorporated.

Rob: They was, he was talking about vibrators and things like that.

Shend: And Robin immediately shut his ears.

Rob: I did.

Shend: I held them for him as well, cos we don’t like filth, do we?

Rob: No.

Shend: Cleanliness is one of my strong points.

Rob: Yeah, friendliness. Friendliness, that’s a very, very, very, very strong point.

Shend: Yes. Yes.

Rob: The Shend is keen on flashing lights as well.

Shend: I was. I used to flash lights all the time but, er, I got bored.

Pan: It gets a bit passé.

Rob: Well, that’s it, you now? You start flashing lights and before you know it everyone’s flashing lights.

Pan: Yes.

Shend: Another thing that’s annoying me is this, like. People tend to say, er, reference to the fact that I resemble this ‘Rubber Head’

Pan: Oh yes.

Rob: Oh yeah.

Pan: No Raisin Head.

Rob: Raisin Head!

Shend: Raisin Head. That’s it. Well, I’d just like to make this clear now, you know? I was doing it before him, wasn’t I?

Rob: Well he was. I mean, the film was based around the band. It’s, it’s…it’s well known where we live. I mean, lights flash all the while, it’s dark, it’s gloomy, it’s damp and there’s piles of Earth, soil all over his bedroom.

Shend: It’s true.

Rob: And the film is based around The Shend.

Pan: And they wrote for permission and spelt it wrong?

Rob: No, no! They just did not ask at all. I mean, I suspect strongly that during one of his soirees The Shend entertained this David Lynch fellow and erm, he got the idea from The Shend.

Shend: He probably slipped some narcotic into my cokey cola.

Rob: Yeah, yeah, I bet he did, while The Shend wasn’t there he took some photos. I mean wasn’t looking: took some photos and taped The Shend’s, taped The Shend’s image and that was it.

Shend: And went to Renanio, Switzerland, and got his hair done like it.

Rob: Yeah, that’s just…y’know?

Pan: Have you seen the guy in Pere Ubu trying to copy you?

Rob. Yeah. Is he?

Shend: Yeah. Oh, it’s, it’s just…you know, you come along with an original idea and what happens - people start putting on weight and they start spiking their hair up…

Rob: Deliberately gorging themselves and sticking their hair up on end.

Pan: It’s mostly prevalent in America though, isn’t it?

Shend: Yeah. Oh well.

Pan: Apparently Studio 54 only get 5 people in.,

Rob: And they all look like The Shend?

Pan: Yes.

Shend: Well I would like to say that I’m not, I’m not really overweight. It’s just that I’ve inflated bones.

Rob: It’s true.

Pan: Hoo.

Shend: But ah, you know, people do like to think they can play these little games. Let them.

Rob: The Shend will be there when it’s all died down, when the furore died down the Shend will still be there.

Shend: I mean, ah…

Rob: Looking as he always do.

Shend: Yeah. I shall just read on their heads.

Pan: because friendliness is…

Shend: Oh. Oh!

Rob: Is basic to The Shend’s character, friendliness and fear. This is the sort of thing he generates.

Shend: I think you ought to give this away as a free cassette with your next edition myself, you know?

Pan: We thought about that but tape duplicating is pretty expensive.

Shend: Well, well, yer.

Pan: Well we could do our tape and then cut it into little pieces so everybody gets a tiny bit of the interview.

Rob: Oh yer, that’s it, and sellotape it to the front cover.

Shend: That’s true. Very good!

Rob: Then if they all get together they can have a Cravats conference and all glue the bits together and play the whole lot at once, and be ecstatic. And watch slides of The Shend in action.

Shend: Yeah and I’ll send them some and aah, they can send me any obscene literature that I can, er, burn?

Rob: Or soil anywhere and piles of Earth, anything like that.

Pan: Reptilian offspring?

Rob: Yer, anything like that really would be greatly appreciated. We’re short of furniture.

Shend: Or bits from road accidents, anything. Anything.

Pan: Why do you play your guitar as though you’re riding the bucking bronco?

Rob: Ah well, The Shend can answer this better than any of us.

Shend: Ah well, I’ll tell you. My thumb hurts, you see. I suffer great pain in my thumb when I’m playing and the only way to get relief is to gyrate madly around the stage and thus relieving…

Pan: By diffusing pain through your body?

Shend: Yer, yer, er, what’s the word? Steve Hillage says it a lot.

Pan: Cabbage?

Rob: Leylines?

Shend: Leylines will do, the Leylines are slipping out of my thumb.

Pan: Do you wonder how he gets t gigs?

Rob: That’s it!

Pan: Yes.

Rob: This is it. I think he probably goes to, you know, Glastonbury or somewhere like that, and beams in. Beams in, like torch beams, into his dressing room.

Pan: Ringstone Round.

Rob: Ringstone Round, ah wohoo.

Shend: I grow cabbages and this has never happened.

Pan: Do they talk?

Shend: Ah, well, sometimes.

Rob: Rubbish. Come on!

Shend: They’re a bit shy though aren’t they?

Rob: Yeah, well they’ve never spoken when I’m there. He tells me that.

Pan: You probably create bad vibes.

Rob: Well that’s it, it’s a point.

Shend: They try hard, they tend to speak Russian now, I’m afraid, you know, which I think is a drect, you know…

Pan: One of your songs mentions something called ‘The Hole’?

Rob: ‘The Hole’ mentions about a house. Noddy’s house in fact. Noddy’s house, with a hole underneath it.

Shend: Yes, which is very, very big an bottomless and somebody tells him, Noddy. Well, asks him, well tells him in fact, that, er…the Russkies are invading this land. By coming up through this hole into his home. Well, of course he’s very perturbed.

Rob: And he tries to tell people about it but they won’t believe him.

Shend: Which is the trouble with society today, nobody cares two hoots unless it happens to them, you know? This was found out when we had our van stolen.

Rob: Stolen not two weeks ago.

Shend: Not two weeks ago.

Rob: Probably about four years ago.

Pan: You write in the letter it had been taxed, is that short for being stolen?

Shend: Ah yes, it is. Actually it’s code from where we come from. We have a language unto ourselves in Redditch New Town. Well, there’s only four of us in Redditch.

Pan: is the much talked about cabbage Talk?

Shend/Rob: Yeah, yeah.

Pan: A sort of grass roots movement.

Rob: This is it.

Pan (indicating tape recorder): Make sure that’s recording, it’s just that sometimes it’s a bit particular about who it talks with.

Shend: Yer.

Rob: I jolly well hope so, it shouldn’t talk with anybody, any rabble at all.

Pan: Did you see the way it stopped as the Plain Characters singer passed.

Rob: Did it? I’m not surprised.

Shend: I hate the Plain Characters.

Rob: And me.

Pan: What about The Subtitles?

Rob: They’re great, a good bunch of lads.

Shend: We stayed at their place, they fed us, helped us and made us feel relaxed (emphasise laugh on ‘feel’) and things, made us genuinely welcome, you know? And their music is spot-on, all of it.

Rob: Yer, it’s good.

Shend: One of me fave bands of the moment, I hasten to add. Other fave bands include Alan Parsons Project, Alan Parson’s Second Project, his wife’s project, yes, they’re all good.

Rob: Yer, yer, I’ll go along with that.

Pan: Have you seen the early tapes, of his school project?

Rob: Er, don’t think we have, no.

Shend: No, no.

Rob: We saw his eleven-plus papers and they were bloody good.

Pan: His what?

Rob: Eleven-plus papers.

Shend: He’s psychedelic.

Rob: He’s psychedelic and he’s swimming the width. Swimming the width, that’s on video, that. I’ve seen nothing like it.

Shend: That’s a classic, a classic.

Rob: Tis, ain’t it?

Shend: Alan Parsons is like a God to us.

Rob: Along with Rolf Harris and Noddy, yer. Figureheads, figureheads of a new movement, I think.

Pan (sceptical): Oh yeah?

Rob: No, I think The Shend is actually a figurehead of a new movement.

Shend: Yeah.

Rob: He is to me. I follow him, I follow him everywhere, you know. I follow him to the toilet, all over the place.

Shend: I don’t go all over the place!!!

Pan: Well there’s five of us today.

Rob: Well, all over Redditch anyway.

Shend: I try to get you in a trough most of the time.

Rob (dejected): Yer, I know you do.

Pan: Do you?

Shend: Well it’s a little way I have, cos of the seaside down in Torquay you see?

Rob: Lots of jokes in the evening.

Pan: Rolling in the kennel?

Rob: Yer.

Shend: Yer, that’s right. Oh, it’s great.

Pan: Has anyone ever compared you with another band?

Shend: Oh yes, we’ve been compared to The Stranglers for some reason.

Rob: Well, early days, early days!

Shend: It could be because you know, we beat other people up and tread on their nuts and things.

Pan: It wasn’t in toilets, was it?

Rob: No, no!

Shend: Oh no, nonononono.

Rob: Nonononono.

Pan: I was going to impress you with my height.

Shend: We’re impressed.

Rob: It’s impressive.

Pan: I was going to make a comparison. A - sort of - musical Damned.

Shend: That’s very fair. That’s very nice of you.

Rob: Ah, I think that’s quite fair, yes. The music’s better. I think it’s better. I think it’s, er, better.

Shend: Better it is.

Rob: More to it, more to it.

Richard: More?

Shend: Richard said something! He’s coming out of his shell.

Rob: Almost spoke. Almost let the cat out of the bag.

Pan: You see, I was going to ask him (groping wildly in the dark at saxman Richard), in that corner there.

Rob: Yeah.

Pan: About the weird sounds that come with the saxophone.

Shend: Ah, weird.

Rob: They came free. We thought he was a rodent.

Shend: Yes.

Rob: He looks like a rodent. He came along to where we were practising and started playing. We didn’t ask him to and then that was it. He’s turned up everywhere we’ve played since and that’s it. He even comes in the van. And, I mean, nobody ever speaks to him and well, look at him now, he won’t even speak to us. I mean, he just turns up and plays and that’s it, goes home. He lives somewhere in Redditch, doesn’t he?

Pan: That’s a small world, as he lives in the same town as you.

Rob: I know, it’s jolly useful, because sometimes I see him walking round the town.

Shend: Yer.

Rob: I’ve seen him buying our single.

Shend: I don’t think he likes the Alan Parsons Project.

Rob: I don’t think so.

Shend: No, I don’t think so at all really.

Pan: Rachmaninov?

Rob: Well yes, yes. No.

Shend: There has been some talk, you know, some of the bands. I have heard he’s bought the Buggles single.

Rob: I think he’s bought the Bugles single. I think he’s well into Rolf Harris.

Shend: He’s Rolf Harris’s single.

Rob: I know him after sun arise. And him trying to get war canoe. That’s a very rare single by Rolf Harris and he’s trying to get it.

Shend: I’ve got it.

Rob: Have you?

Shend: Yer.

Rob: Well, this is it! Everybody’s after it. I mean, he’s been influenced by the flexi disc that’s given away with the stylophone, which is also quite rare.

Pan: Is that the ‘Two Little Boys’ version?

Rob: Yer, yer, that’s it, the dub – the stylophone dub. It’s got that on it, yer, and it’s got ‘Amazing Grace’ on it as well.

Shend: There’s a brilliant version, piece on this single by printed Circuit, they’re a bunch of little children and they get together with lots of stylophones and play, er, silent night.

Rob: They do.

Shend: It’s unbelievable it’s so good.

Rob: It’s moved Richard to tears, I’ve seen him moved to tears. And that’s what’s influenced his stylophone playing on the album.

Pan: Is tears some hamlet on the outskirts of Redditch?

Rob: We try and paint the picture accurately, so you under stand what sort of background we come from.

Shend: The basics of Redditch is Black.

Rob: It’s black, most of it is black.

Shend: Not black in Culture, not Culture Black.

Rob: Just colours, ambience.

Pan: Ambience is…

Rob: Ambience. Ambience is black. The ambulance is red and white, and the ambience is black.

Shend: I hasten to add that there are no reggae bands and if there was I’d be over the moon, cos I love reggae but none of them appear.

Rob: Precious few black people. Those who are just get into fights in the precinct – not through their own fault, I may say.

Pan: it could be the first Shend on the moon.

Rob: Yer, could be. Could be a new project.

Pan: Oh, but seriously though!

Shend: Seriously? Next, go on…

Pan: Well you see it’s go to be – have to be a really hackneyed question, and I’m used to them.

Shend: Go on then. He’s quite, what’s he do? He stands there, smiles and falls about, he’s great.

Pan: He works me quite well, yes,
(They’re talking about Eric standing behind me.)

Shend: He’s a technician. You’re a technician, aren’t you?

Pan: This is ‘Surly Yout’’

Shend: Pardon?

Pan: Surly Yout.

Rob: Ah, surly yout.

Pan: Surly Yout, only during the day.

Shend: Well ask a serious question. Go on, go on.

Pan: Singles. (they try to repress me) NO, no, no, shut up! Is this your first big trip down here?

Rob: Ah, ah, yes.

Shend: No. First what?

Rob: First big?

Pan: Trip.

Rob: Outing to London?

Shend: Well, we did a big outing to London University.

Rob: Oh yer, that was a big outing, we and the Only Ones. Oh they were great, they were wonderful. They all wore fur coats and said, ;oh, you’re not hip are you?’ Cos we’d got water pistols ands were throwing things about in the corridor. We made such a mess it wasn’t true.

Shend: You’ll like this, wait for it. We were called Ethos Trap.

Pan: We interview in toilets all the time.

Rob: What happened was, you see, when we first came down…

(The door opens.) “Splint!”

Splint (?): Gotta move the van.

Shend: Er, can you?

Rob: Yer, alright, I’ll move it.

Pan: I mean, on your first trip down you don’t get too many people at your gigs, but the more you come down, because you’re not a London band.

Shend: The less people you get, a well known fact is it not?

Pan: Well I was gonna say the more they get?

Surly: After the masses read…

Shend: Panache!

Surly: Noddy, Alan Parsons Project, Rolf Harris – they’ll be flocking in.

Shend: Flocking?

Surly: Andy Pandy outfits the lot.

Shend: Good, well that’s what…I mean, our basic function in life, right, is to play the gig, watch people up around and enjoy themselves and have fun.

Pan: And you’re hoping for this in the future?

Shend: Yes, very much so.

Pan: And once you’ve realised this dream?

Shend: When we’ve realised that I suppose what we’ll do, we’ll get married, settle down, three children and work hard. Marina 2 door, house in suburbs. Mumble, mumble.

Pan: When you actually get people following en masse what way are you gonna build yourself up, are you going to plump for the really easy ones?

Shend: Well, we’ve found that never have we had an easy one, never ever ever ever. I mean, we always seem to play to people who o the whole don’t wanna know, aren’t particularly interested, but if there was an all mass following they we’d play as many as possible, no matter how big, how small.

Pan: No, I mean what type: you won’t go for Hammersmith Odeon?

Shend: No, bollocks, man. It’d be dancey ones, gotta be able to dance. But I mean, the Music Machine…I’ve never been there, the Electric Ballroom, I’ve never been there, but I hear they’re big. And I mean, if they’re big and they hold a lot of people who want to see us then mean, great, we’ll play em. Ha ha! We’re playing there in fact.
(Odious sections of Plain Characters songs start drifting into the bog from upstairs.)

Shend: Ah, I like this track!

Pan: We’ll erase that bit.

Shend: Yer. Very similar to Alan.

Pan: What about records. Are you gonna put them out as fast?

Shend: Willy nilly.

Pan: as you can?

Shend: Willy nilly.

Pan: Are you putting singles on the album

Shend: No.

Pan: Ah, good.

Shend: Yeah, well (gurgles) ‘Gordon’, our first ever single, which we did on our own label years ago, very rare, only a thousand of ‘em, well we’ve redone it, you see, a lot faster cos we couldn’t play then, even less than we can now and it’ll, that’ll probably be on the album, but it won’t be ‘a single’ cos nobody else’d buy it. But, er nothing else will be.

Pan: As long as you keep this going throughout your career.

Shend: Oh we will no doubt. I mean, there’s nothing worse than buying three singles then the album comes out and they’re all on that!

Pan: And then the band said, ‘ah, but they waited for the album!’

Shend: Yer, it’s bollocks, man, cos there’s no need. I mean we’ve got material flooding out of our armpits.

Pan: That’s what I can feel!

Shend: Richard appears and there’s piles of it. I’m sure he probably rips them out of books. I dunno.

Pan: The drummer’s not here is he?

Shend: The drummer came down and, er…went away again.

Pan: What can you tell us about The Drummer?

Shend: Well, The Drummer…he’s old, he’s getting on.

Pan: Father figure?

Shend: Father figure to many, not to us I’m afraid. You see he is a father to probably seven, eight, nine. He doesn’t….he denies it of course but him and…he’s been playing a long time.

Pan: What sort of bands?

Shend: Well, I wouldn’t like to say, ahahahahahaha!

Pan: I think you could.

Shend: Oh, alright then. Took a lot of persuasion! Well he used to play in all sorts of bands that were renound for their musical capabilities as opposed to their dancing capabilities, let me put it like that.

Pan: You mean when he first joined you he was in a boring rut?

Shend: Yes, you see he was in a boring rut and then he listened to XTC of all people and thought, ‘Gosh, this is rubbish!’

Pan: They don’t often talk to people and yet they found the time to

Shend: sort of stop, yeah, and he sort of thought like, Gosh,. And picked up his cassettes of The Eagles and Joan Armatrading, and Alan Parsons Project…

Pan: And gave them to you?

Shend: Yer, and I’ve got them ever since and I think they’re great.

Pan: Prop tables up good.

Shend: But he joined us and hasn’t looked back since, y’know. His arms a re a bit thinner, face is more drawn, like you said in Record Mirror about ‘life’s seedier characters’. I’ll definitely go along wit that. Y’now he’s…

Pan: A gardener as well.

Shend: Gardener?

Surly: Root Boy?

Shend: Root Boy?

Pan: Root boy, Root boy!

Shend: How’d you now he was a gardener?

Pan: I think you can tell this in people.

Shend: Yer.

Pan: We have a natural affinity with gardeners.

Shend: Yeah.

Pan: I mean, Jack Hargreaves is to us what Noddy is to you.

Shend: Oh well, that’s alright then. I just found our saxophone player here, here in the gloom.

Pan: Is he trying to get out?

Shend: I don’t think so.

Surly: He’s in there somewhere.

Shend: Yer, he likes being there. You’ll probably turn around ands he’s vanished y’know, but…

Pan: Where?

Shend: What?!!

Pan: Where does Holland come into it?

Shend: Holland? Well at the moment it doesn’t come into it much at all because we’re still waiting for the person who set it up to er…

Surly: Pull his finger out?

Shend: Yer, and to pay his phone bill so he can have his phone reconnected. OH, so he sounds a dubious character all in all really. We definitely wanna go abroad because, get away from this smelly dump. Huh, no, we really love Britain, really love it. No, em, but you know we’d like to go toe Costa Del Sol, Iceland, all the havens. Y’know, meet Abba, Alan Parsons.

Pan: Where does he hang out?

Shend: Alan?

Pan: Oh, it’s ‘Alan’ is it? Oh Alan…

Shend: First name terms. Alan, I mean Al, y’know, but you got to call him Alan, er…well he used to be in Tibet but I think he’s moved now.

Pan: Did Bette split up with him? (Obscure one that.)

Knock, knock, knock on the door.

Shend: Well, who is this?

Voice: Is that you in there?

Shend: Yes, this is us.

The Voice Again: Are you having a smoke?

Shend: No.

Surly: We’re doing an interview.

Spontaneous laughter.

Voice (turns out to be an English Subtitle): Sorry about that. Missing out on something?

Shend: No.

Pan and Surly: You are!

Subtitle leaves the scene as hastily as he appeared.

Shend: Decadence! Thinking we were taking drugs! Perish the thought. I mean, you know drugs to us are like er, well, like, er…well our drug is griminess and happiness. Those are our drugs. We smoke dirt and things, mainly because we can’t get anything else.

Pan: Compost.

Shend: Yer.

Pan: Roll your own.

Shend: Rob the guitarist has been know to inject compost into the retina of his eye.

Surly: Has he?

Shend: He said the hit was very smelly. But you know, he’s struggled through. He struggled on. Don’t think it affected him. Don’t think he’s an addict at all. But who can tell? What he does in his private life is none of my business.

Pan: It might come out in his songs?

Shend: Well I think some of his songs contain his dreams and fantasies about the future y’know. He tends to look towards the future rather in a depressing way. He sees it as war, famine and over-population, whereas myself, I tend to look towards the future as a glowing light, y’know? Where God re-emerges on the Earth and gives plenty to everyone, and I hope he gives it to me first cos I need it, you know, to keep up me size. And…and laugh in dirt toilets all me life and miss great bands like Plain Characters. Tragic really. Good synth though, eh?

(Noise drifts in again.)

Shend: Good synth. We were gonna use a synth. Well, we weren’t. We thought ‘what makes a good noise?’ and we thought a synth does.

Surly: A saxophone player?

Shend: Well the saxophone player does.

Pan: Well the saxophone does, the saxophone player seems to make…

Shend: well he doesn’t make any noise at all. Moves his feet about. He used to kick a bucket but y’know he gave that up cos he couldn’t really amplify it really but we were gonna fade him out, get rid of him. So we were looking to new devices and came across the Law Of Rolf Harris and there it was, he gave it unto uth, so we used it.

Pan: Is there anything on your mind you particularly wanted to say before the interview began. Was there anything really on your mind?

Shend: Really on my mind? Well…

Surly: Money?

Shend: Money? Well, money doesn’t enter int it as we never have any. We didn’t get paid for the Nashville, anything at all.

Pan: How did that happen?

Shend: Well there was only supposed to be 78 people in there. (Panache attended the gig and reckon at least 100, maybe 120), very dubious. We got ten pound something for the Hope & Anchor and considering our petrol down here in our Noddymobile was £30, twenty or thirty depending on how many sweeties we ate, then y’know…we don’t make a lot of money at all.

Pan: I’m going to the bog and I’m not going in here because I’m quite a shy, retiring character.

Surly: Carry on, this is my big break.

Shend: Is it?

Surly: Yes.

Shend: Where you enter the realm of superstardom?

Robin appears, breathless.

Surly: You parked it somewhere else?

Robin: Yeah. God I’m knackered, I ran all the way back.

Shend: Where’d you park it?

Rob: That road opposite, halfway down. There’s nowhere, it’s really packed.

Shend: Well this is the interview, where we parked the van.

Surly: So you say you’ve got another gig, at the Music Machine?

Shend: One at the Music Machine, one at the Bridge House for this month, and then God knows.

Surly: Are you going to embark on a world tour for the album release?

Shend: Well, we have.

Surly: Epping, Epsom, the downs?

Shend: No, it was big, big places. Grantham…

Rob: Grantham Soul Club,. The Crown, Leamington Spa.

Shend: Yeah, where The Shapes come from. Remember The Shapes? Whatever happened to them?

Rob: Yeah, whatever happened o them?

Shend: Oh we’ve played all the places on our world tour, but we got bored with touring the world.

Rob: Yep.

Shend: Because…

Rob: Seen too much.

Shend: Yeah. I mean, Al (to Rob)…I told ‘em we call him Al.

Rob: Yeah.

Shend: He was a bit disillusioned with what we were doing.

Rob: He was.

Pan: (Back from bog): I just found out who’s on tonight. The Cravats, or something.

Rob: Cravats? Bloody…they’re wonderful! Something new, bet you’ve never heard anything like ‘em before.

Shend: Oh yeah, by the way, I’ve got flu tonight, right?

Rob: Oh yeah, so we’ll all have the flu.

Shend: You’ll all have flu.

Rob: We’re supposed to be playing Hull tomorrow with fatal Microbes, but....

Shend: We might not.

Rob: We might not cos The Shend…

Shend: I’m feeling ill.

Rob: Besides which no-one will have heard of us.

Shend: And no-one will give us any money to get up there so looks like it’s of at present.

Surly: Mugging?

Shend: Yeah!

Rob: Yer.

Shend: Yer.

Surly: Don’t look at us though.

Rob: We might go and look round the floor after the Subtitles have been on, see if anyone dropped money.

Shend: Y’know, as people say ‘Come Hull or high water’ and, hopefully…

Rob: the album will be wonderful, nothing like you’ve heard before.

Shend: Never ever ever.

Surly: When will the LP be out?

Shend: It’ll materialise approximately around March.

Pan: Right.

Rob: No, definitely 80 because ’80 we’ve decided going by the oracle of Rolf, and Noddy of course, seems to be the Year Of The Cravat. Cravats will make a huge comeback in the summer and there’ll be a massive resurgence of Cravats walking about, people will be wearing Apache scarves in the open, and cravats of all sorts. Noel Coward, look at Noel Coward. He was wearing a cravat. It’s only cos of our music, it’s our influence. We sent him a tape. He’s gonna’s write a play about us called, I dunno, it was the original screenplay for Eraserhead, but…

Shend: It was.

Rob: Yeah but it didn’t work. That’s where it came from. Another piece of the jigsaw, he said.

Pan: Basil Rathbone.

Rob: What?

Pan: What about Basil Rathbone?

Rob: What about Basil Rathbone? He was wearing…Basil Fawlty as well.

Surly: Basil Brush.

Rob: Basil Brush!

Shend: They all wear them. It tends to be Basils.

Rob: Does dunnit? Good name Basil.

Pan: Remember TheHerbs?

Shend: The Herbes?

Pan: Yeah.

Shend: Who can forget them?

Rob: Parsley The Lion, Dill The Dog.

Shend: Hector The House.

Rob: laughs.

Pan: Chives.

Rob: Pogle’s Wood.

Surly: The Riverside.

Rob: Tales From The Riverbank.

Surly: Knockout.

Pan: Paulus. That’s going back a bit.

Shend: It is.

Rob: What about (mumble) The Battery Boy, Fireball XL5?

Pan: I’ve got a record of that.

Rob (without prompting): “I wish I was a spaceman, the fastest guy alive, I’d fly around the universe, in Fireball XL5”. We do that.

Pan: OK Venus, OK Steve.

Rob impersonates Robert The Robot.

Surly: Stingray.

Shend: Classic stuff.

Pan: What about Aquamarina (Stingray b-side)?

Rob (sings): “Maaaaaaarrrrreeeeeeeeennnnaaaa, Arrrrrrrrrqqqqqquuuuaaaa Mareeeeeeeeeeeena.” We’re covering that.

Shend: well she was one of my fantasies and as been for y’know, since I was about eight. Marina!” (Sighs.)

Rob: He’s even tried painting little stripes by the end of his mouth to make him look like a puppet, and walking around with strings dangling, bit I told him, it’s no good, this woman is a fantasy.

Shend: She’s lovely.

Rob: She couldn’t love The Shend.

Shend: She couldn’t,.

Rob: Cos he is a mortal and she is a mere puppet.

Shend: Oh no, she’s not a puppet!” (Chokes back the emotion.)

Rob: Sorry!

All: Oh no! Is this The End for The Shend?)

Rob: No, no, she’s not a puppet.

Shend: She’s a Goddess.

Rob: She’s flesh and blood, kid, but she lives with Gerry Anderson though.

Pan: How would her father take it though, cops he was a bit of a wet fish, wasn’t he?

Shend: He takes it quite a lot actually.

Rob: Oh, Titan? Yeah.

Shend: I’ve heard, y’know, he’s a bit of an old rascal.

Rob: But who could complain about having The Shend as a son-in-law?

Shend: true.

Rob: Who could complain? A fine specimen of a man.

Shend: Think of the marital suite. What would it look like after three days!

Rob: Yeah.

Shend: Being honest, being totally truthful, the last time I washed my hair was when he told me to, the last time was a long time before the Hope &Anchor really.

Rob: As long As that?!!

Shend: As long as that, yeah.

Rob: I cut it as well.

Shend: He did.

Rob: I cut his hair. He didn’t know.

Pan: As long as that?

Rob: Yeah, it was as long as that.

Shend: I was having a bath at the time and Al was shocked.

Pan: How often does he come along?

Shend: Often. He’s probably here tonight. He’s on the guest list of course, every week. Al, Al, Al, they shout. Dave, Mick, all the …mumble, mumble… our roadie, he couldn’t come cos it was raining.

Pan: Lieutenant Green.

Rob: Yep, yep.

Pan: Harmony, Destiny.

Rob: They’re all there. Captain Magenta, Captain Black.

Pan: Captain Black?!!

Surly: He’s onstage with the Plain Characters at the moment.

Rob: That’s right. I like the bit where the lights go in the two circles. “We are the voice of the Mysterons, we know you can hear us earthmen”, it’s good that is. (Looks in the dark towards Shenandoah) I was just telling em, y’know.

Shend: Go on, say a few words Richard.

Surly: say a big hello to panache.

Shend: Go on, that’s all you’ve got to say. Hello.

Surly: Mime it.

Rob: He won’t even speak to us,. I can’t see him speaking to you.

Shend: Hello Panache. I could always pretend it was him (he adopts high pitch screech) Hello Panache!

Rob: Dunno how he speaks, it might be something like that.

Surly: Anyway, how do you want us to portray you?

Shend: As fun-loving. We gotta be, we don’t make any fucking money. Got to be fun-loving. We love it. FUN.

Rob: Yeah. An air of mystery? Romance…

Shend: Ascerbic, y’know?

Rob: Yeah, sort of.

Shend: Turkish delight.

Pan: Hopeless, swarthy romantics.

Shend: Yeah.

Rob: Well this is it, y’know, devil-may-care, cavalier attitudes.

Shend: Wellies.

Rob: Yeah.

Shend is mumbling hysterically - but quietly - in the dark.

Rob: Playing violins round the gypsy campfire, y’know, all that. Swashbuckling into pubs and…

Shend: Half a pint of lager.

Rob: Yeah.

Pan: but a devil-may-care attitude.

Rob: Yeah, anything like that.

Pan: Resilient?

Rob: Yeah, resilience, we need it. I mean the times no-one has liked us! I mean…that’s true.

Shend: that’s true.

Rob: I mean, they can’t put us in pigeonhole. They can’t say “aha-hahahahahah (knowingly)”

Shend: Thing is,. Can we get a copy of panache from Redditch?

Pan: Well, we’ll leave you our editorial address.

Rob: How much?

Rob: Nothing, just let us know where to send it.

Shend: Something for nowt!

Pan: No, cos you have to write to us first, unless you don’t put a stamp on the envelope, but I bet you’d already considered that.

Shend: Well, yeah, I was planning…
KNOCK!

Shend: Who’s this?

Rob: Dunno, I think Plain Characters have come to an end.

Pan: They’re not coming in here to change are they?

Shend: they’re coming in for their interview. We told them that you wanted to.

Rob: hanging up the glittery jackets for another night, and back to the same old grind.

Pan: Do you lot work?

Both: No!!!!!

Rob (reeling): Work?!!!

Shend (rocking): Well, sometimes. Moving tellies.

Rob: Oh yeah.

Shend: We’ve got this huge van, The Noddymobile and we tend to well, y’know, these people who somehow manage to get those television sets, we go round there, we go round an fill up the van with televisions, about 60 colour or 120 black and white…

Rob: Cos colour are heavier

Shend: Then off round the globe and we collect a handsome reward, which…

Surly: Goes on petrol?

Rob: Yeah.

Pan: Takes me back to my days at Bendy Toys but sadly, there’s not enough time….

Shend: To pursue it. Well, we hope you’re very happy in your other interviews with people forever more and that your magazine will grow in stature, y’know…and become renound throughout the free world.

Pan: oh, not everyone gets it free.

Shend: No, how much is it?

Rob: just as long as we induce fear and fun in people. The magic mixture.

Pan: You have fun in inducing fear in people.

Rob: Yes we have fun inducing fear in people.

Shend: Hence…hence Stormtroopers In Toyland.

Pan: Love and Loathing.

Rob: Love and Loathing, this is it. This is the bywords.

Surly: Just a quickie. Is there another single out with the album?

Shend: Definitely.

Rob: Yeah.

Shend: Definitely. The point is, the Musicians Union have pout the mockers on it for the time being. Representing ‘our interests’ as they do, they decided we’re not to do our own material.

Rob: We recorded a session for the BBC and there was a track on it we really liked, called ‘Precinct’ and we wanted to bring it out on the single.

Pan: And they won’t let you?

Rob: No.

Surly: Typical.

Shend: At the moment they won’t. The bloke said, who…

Rob:…runs the Musicians Union. ‘if you phone me up anymore I definitely won’t release it again, at all, ever.’ That’s if you phone him.

Shend: This is perfectly true.

Rob: I think me and The Shend might go and see him personally.

Shend: Have a pugilative…

Pan: Fear and fun?

Rob: Yeah, that’s it.

Shend: Impress upon him how big Noddy is.

Rob: How big this thing is.

HISS ( A curious noise!)

Pan: Where is that NOISE coming from?

Shend: I dunno.

Surly: The chain.

Rob: I dunno.

Pan: Do you think they’ve pressed the red button?

Shend: Arrrgggghhhhhh!”
(Door has opened and whacked him. The person intending to crap is discouraged by a Shendian grin.)

Pan: What do these people think?

Shend: I dunno. I dread to think.

Pan: Does this go on in your local pub? What’s it called?

Shend: The Washford Mill.

Rob: Oh, the Washford Mill. Oh-ho!

Pan: The Redditch Roxy?

Shend: Errrr…

Rob: Oh, I should say so! All the stars go in there in their flares and stacked heels and we go and have fun and leer at the bar staff. It’s great.

Shend: Leer we do. They never leer back though.

Rob: No.

Shend: Can’t blame them I spose.

Rob: Nerrrr.

Shend: Look pretty silly in stripey woolly hats and togas.

Rob: We have fun though.

Shend: It’s great though. Richard wears a toga sometimes.

Rob: All the managers take their secretaries there.

Shend: They do.

Robb: They try and impress them. The Shend leers at them.

Pan: What, ‘This is my friend, The Shend’ they say?

Rob: Or ‘he is The Shend’ and they say ‘Ahahahahaha, that’s a funny name’

Shend: I’ll go to the toilet now.
(He doesn’t, unless wetting himself.) Or they spit chewing gum at me and generally behave disgustingly!

Rob: But The Shend retains his sense of humour through it all.

Shend: I do.

Rob: Through it all.

Pan: What about down here. Haven’t people been coming up to you?

Shend: No.

Rob: No.

Shend: No.

Rob: Never.

Surly: Crossing over?

Rob: oh they cross, and walk round him.

Shend: Throw dog excrements from the other side of the pavements.

Rob: Well, he’s not a legend down here like he is in Redditch.

Shend: I don’t wish to be. I mean, I have enough trouble patrolling the flock back home.

Rob: I mean, the Eraserhead thing…people will understand.

Pan: You think that’s a great responsibility.

Rob: Oh yes.

Shend: it is.

Pan: Even when you’re more popular.

Shend: Home is where the heart is, we’ll never move down here y’know, not cos we dislike it, just because we…gate it, y’know?

Rob: It’s just that all the bands we’ve met in London have been so boring, they’re just churning out stuff.Dunno, there doesn’t see, to be a spark of originality at all.

Pan: the English Subtitles?

Rob: Ah, they’re not from London though, from Norwich and Oxford, so they’ve gt that bit of originality. I like things like Absurd Records (speaking of which, the DJ was playing Blondie,, Blah Blah and Gerry & The Holograms) but no band is going out an doing that live and having fun. We don’t. We get depressed a lot!.

Surly: I think cabaret Voltaire think they’re having fun.

Rob: I don’t think they are. I think they tae it far too seriously. Pere Ubu they’re quite good. Smashing bottle, flinging it and all that.

Pan: And a hammer. If you had a hammer?

Rob: If I had a hammer, oh we do that as well, and ‘Spanish Eyes’ by Al Martino.
(At this age Richard leaves the bog.)

Rob: he’s gone, gone to do it! He ‘s gone to play it.,

Pan: Do you think he’ll be back?

Shend: I dunno, he may think the gig’s over.

Pan: At the end of the gig do you usually gather and discuss it?

Rob: Well sometimes but we all say ‘Oh I thought we were great live, the bit where you said…’ You’ll have to give us a bit of time to put on the gold lame suits.

Pan: Lame suits?

Rob: Lame suits. Gold lame suits. We can’t play without em. Confederate flags. We sew em on the back, Shend is getting a double bass with a confederate flag in it.

Shend: I’ll try hard.
(A noise.)

Pan : What’s he doing?
(It may be Richard.)

Rob: He likes it. He may take up residence there.

Surly: Good echoes.

Rob: He’ll just be squeaking and making noises and seeing what happens.

Pan: The expression whilst playing on his face is one of being bemused.

Rob: Bemused. I think that’s it. I mean, I’ve seen him buy records. I mean, the things he buys! Rolf Harris, ‘The Rolf Harris Hits’, Cliff Richard, Dionne Warwick.

Pan: Cliff Richard? Now he’s hot anal syphilis.

Shend: has he? I’m shocked. Richard won’t buy anymore of his albums.

Pan: And to make matters worse so’s Petula Clark.

Rob: Really?

Pan: Also the Queen Mum, but she gave up recording a long time ago.,

Rob: Well, yeah. How do you come by information of this calibre? I mean, my auntie loves him.

Pan: Has she ever seen him stripped to the waist?

Rob: well, no.

Pan: All since ;’Summer Holiday’.

Rob: This is it, this is it, a bus! I mean t stretches the imagination.

Shend: At this point in time I think I’d better go and speak to the people who…

Pan: Is it that late?

Surly: It’s near enough the end of the tape. Fifteen seconds.

Shend: Well, we’ve had a lot of fun and…any last words from Richard?
(Silence.)

Rob: Richard, I thin you could sum all this up.

Shend: Richard?

Pan: Does he speak through his saxophone? Put his saxophone on.

Surly: Almost frightening in one sense.

Rob: We tried.

Pan: Almost like a séance.

Shend: It s, he’s just an aurora.

Rob: He’s just a kit.

Shend: Suet pudding, He drifts about…

Rob: He stays in places, then turns and plays.

Shend: He is the One-ness.

Rob: He is the one. Ommmm

Shend: Blingy Blingy.

Pan: Bene Gesserit.

Rob: Yeah.

Shend: Bglingy Blingy.

Rob: Blingy Blingy Blingy, that’s the mantra and everyone’s got the same one. Richard gives everyone the same mantra.

Shend: Which is Blingy Blingy Blingy and, er…sometimes he breaks of into Daidaido di di.

Rob: Yeah, not that I know it. We’ve still not head him use his vocal chords. We’ve still not heard him use any chords.
(Hoots.)

Rob: That’s a Torquay joke.

Shend: That just about wraps it up.

Pan: Talking about wrapping it up, I’ve lost my plastic bag.

Shend: Well yeah.

Rob: Well…

Pan: It’s alright, I’ve found it.

Rob: It’s in his pocket!

 

 

wotzine, circa1980'S

It was 1977 and all of those born in 1976 were one year old, or thereabouts. Chris Shendo tore his battered Stranglers album from his deck and hurled it at the wall, dislodging his ‘New Wave Vol.2’ poster. It was then that he thundered the immortal (though at the time quite incomprehensible line, “There must be more!” After all, Elvis Presley was dead. Someone had to take his place. Savvy? Robin Raymond was only a matter of miles away, doing his bread round. He was a familiar figure in the neighbourhood and much loved by the brooding housewives into whose dreary, drab ruts he brought instant sunshine. Riding jauntily (how else?), virtually side-saddle, for those rakishly debonair step-downs at relevant gates; pencil behind ear, a whistle upon lips and a spotless hankie in overall top pocket. Every bit the provincial entrepreneur. “Well Mrs. Jarvis, I’ve got something extra-crusty for you today,” he said craftily, beaming at the old bat who’d just removed her curlers for this doorstep encounter. “Ooooh, and what would that be chuck?” she said with one of those disgusting cackles middle aged women find so appealing. “Mountbatten’s arse.” And he quickly rode away.

Gordon Disneytime, celebrating his eleventh birthday stared in a crestfallen manner at the swiftly denuded action man in his hands. “Muuuuum! He’s got no cock!”

“There must be something more, thought Mrs Disney time, alert to the possibilities – and limitations - of cyclical introductions . There must be more!”

The skies grew dark overhead. You could smell the lunacy in the wind. From the folds or his mother’s green dressing gown Shend (as he was soon to be known) produced a dog-eared key-ring. ‘This way, my merry men, he said, walking briskly to the garage and opening the door. Nobody actually followed him in because the earliest line-up of The Cravats had yet to be found, but Shend had his dreams. He scoured the paint shops of local town Redditch, and scratched the neck of the Mayor with one reckless practice golf shot too many; the resulting fracas bringing front page headlines in The Redditch Courier and a man called Nibbs to his front door. A guitar to match Shend’s intended bass playing! Two ready to go, two to hunt down.

Ethos Yapp, their eventual drummer was fished out of the Thames three months later, the message ‘CRAP’ pinned to his left ear. Saxophonist Rick London was in the right. Once an outspoken margarine salesmen, ready to take on anybody who criticised his choice in pantaloons, he was now as tame and timid as a shrew. He became The Legendary Cravats Saxophonist. These four men managed to scrape together enough of other people’s money to finance a single. A SINGLE.

“Gordon” and “Situations Vacant” appeared on their own, technically unnamed, label during the burning body-stocking of punk, sometime around 1977/78 (I can’t be bothered remembering which) and made no impression on virtually anything, which was more of an achievement than you might think in those days, despite the Tony Bennett vocal touches and Dankworth sax making it one of rock’s finest outcasts. Faint-hearted but far from deterred they murdered Ethos and moved to London, squatting happily in a small shop in Walthamstow, having seen a small hippy character preparing tea in the gloom. Much to the latter’s annoyence they stayed put for some time. This was Small Wonder Records, one of the finest Indie labels of the pre-80 period and more by desperation than anything Pierre, the man in the wobble hat, offered them a contract. This gave him the chance to change the locks when they trotted off to the recording studio, dragging with them a man named Dave Bennett, away from a local park where he had the starring role in an all girl netball match. The results of this recording session, hosted by the great Fire of London “Burning Bridges” (a shark amongst pop), “The End” (a stairway to heathens) and “I Hate The Universe” (Libya’s entry for the Eurovision Song Contest in 1979). It made them a few friends, most of which peed up their legs. Small fonder was a visionary label. It made them cover the Stingray theme tune, with saxual harassment, and the band named this “Precinct”, a throbbing nun of a song. “Who’s In Here With Me?’, their spirally varicosey b-side revealed for the first time (other than ‘The End’) the way in which a drowsy idea could be washed relentlessly and purged. All copies of this record were destroyed in a flood down Luton way. Reports filtered slowly in of a man leaving the scene very quickly, in a trench coat and plastic spaniel headgear. He was never found again. Spurred on by the sales of this mega-monster The Cravats, as they were still called, began mass-aerobics, somewhat ahead of (and out of) their time, slipping down to fog-bound studios to record the mesmeric and essential (to be serious for a few lines) “You’re Driving Me” which was pressed in the shape Gravel Gertie, female co-star of the Dick Tracy radio series. “I Am The Dreg” (written by the irrepressible Cheggers) made the b-side there, and so to the albums which probably came before that egg, but who’s counting. Saved mainly by some sensational sleeve notes “The Cravats In Toytown” boasted (given the chance) some startling and provocative letraset. Svor Naan had appeared on saxaphone for this one, the small and perfectly formed Rick London turning out to be from Scotland Yard after all.
The album created a whirlpool of interest, which the band have still to pay off.
It was shortly before all this that I happened to catch them live and it was a night I’ll never forget. My gun jammed.

Ah, but still greater glories awaited the band, before they were to become The Very Things were determined blighters if nothing else and they agreed to make one last record; the dizzy, one-legged “Off The Beach”, a tale about Shend’s tree climbing habits that ended abruptly one day in his back garden (aged eight). Said mother to Shend ‘Off The Beach’ (You realise you’ve paid to read this:). Now dead, and without a record label the band could see problems ahead. They changed their name to Prince and had a small hit with “When Doves Cry”, finally accepting an offer from Glass to enter the history books for the most patently tosh-ridden b-side of all time; “Little Yellow Froggy”, wisely tucked away underneath the craggy, hubritic “Terminus” which was an awesome record. When asked if they’d heard it, people would say, “Awww, some” that spurred them on. If jokes like that could result from further work, who knows when they might enjoy themselves again? It was called “Rub Me Out” and it appeared on Crass Records, a label of devout well intentioned, shortsighted prunes with a boostered back-beat, some chintz curtains and a reputation for banana sandwiches. It hit the India charts like a small boy catapaulted at Ian Botham. There was no going back, so they agreed to support The Birthday Party at the salubrious Zigzag Club. The Cravats were not at their best (though a woeful Shend later insisted this was crackerjack pencil time all round) but then The Birthday Party didn’t even know the meaning of the phrase, scratching themselves in full view of everyone for almost an hour and got seven hundred quid for it! A brisk calculation revealed that The Cravats, who had been ten times better, had received one fourteenth of the B.P. share index, so they promptly went off in a huff to smoke. There were no more gigs. Caput. Capishe.

Regular guests in John Peel’s sleeping bag they soared in front of the nation’s consciousness late at night, until one day they sprawled into Small Wonder to receive the bad news. They were dead. Some would have gone to seed after such information but The Cravats

The story so far.

It was whilst mincing round downtown in a pair of the vicar’s wife’s drawers that Shend came to the notice of a beliggerent little bastinado called Gordon Disneytime, a betting man of that (Redditch) parish. “I’ll bet you five bob,” he said to his pal Bob (Raymond-guitar and latin-type hairstyles) “that he’s just the man we’re looking for.”
Bob, well known in the midlands for his elongated stride pattern, looked up from wittling the wooden leg of the man beside him, and surveyed the giant Amazonian creature borne on the winds of misfortune, (those knickers had a vast acreage of silk involved). “You think so?” asked Bob, his trust in Gordon even lower than before. “You really think we want that in our band? Won’t that disrupt the flow of our -success?” “Who said anything about joining the band. We’re going to mug him”.

Three minutes, a pair of knickers and a playful jostle later, the Very Things line-up was complete. Shend, it turned out, had more than enough pear drops to go round.
‘Mr. H.’, the bearded bulky minder saw something in Shend that met with his approval.

Disneytime was sold to them for a song. The line-up for The Very Things at this lime was mainly one of young women, They ate cakes by the ton but retained the names of their predecessors, they even once attended an all star gala at: the London Palladium where the royal family were performing, and later presented the brown-trousered Windsors with a plague, stopping to exchange the time of day ( ‘And how long have you been a queen then?’)

Incidentally, when I say Crass Records I don’t actually mean crass records, I mean the crass Corpustular Christies Records. Hey hey hey with a Donny Osmond and away we go.

The Very Things, as they are known still release Cravatian material now, on the newly formed Vacuous Vatican Record Label, with sleeve notes in Polish. “Colossal Tunes Out”, on a consortium of Corpus DCL, is one or the finest post-baby-boom releases. An epic encounter with refreshing skindiving and sprucely invigorating hung gilder pilots. They called for the surf and it came running. A summer record if ever there was one (catch the squeaking ‘Firemen’). Shortly before this was released 30th Snendy-bendy and Rob Roy appeared briefly at the tribe Club attempting to get their mugs on TV, and successfully cadging fags off me, something they have managed admirably ever since, and there’s more my scalded tomcats, there’s more for you bile-hungry raffia-work refugees. They called them “King Midas In Reverse” (an old Bing Crosby song) which was a pretty frisky twelve inch then slung out by DCL Locomotive (short for Dadacravats Laboratory Steamengine Going Licketysplit) thing and their master-minded Very Things bash ‘proppeure’, all proceeds of which went to the Paul McCartney rescue fund – ‘The Bushes Scream While My Daddy Prunes’, and ‘the kids’ dance whenever they appear, because you rancid field mice, The Very Things are a very hot live proposition indeed.
Their wild dementia live is somewhat softened on truly spinal vinyl with explanatory flexis, which describe in detail what the purpose or their umbrella company is. Future plans include telling us what Britt Ekland actually does for a living.

There has been scurrilous rumours of late that a fresh tentacle from the Redditch observatory and hit-factory exists called “For King Willie” by a band they call The Babymen, but so far this appears to be just so many lies. What there is however is “Land Of The Giants”, a soon to be sought-out single and various tracks a gob-gob on the new Reflex Records (their current home) compilation albumen. The Very Things, who no longer bear scars called Richard or Dave (though both chaps poke their noses inquisitively into the hatband of Shend’s titfer and applaud vigorously), having slimmed to a three piece, or a four piece, or a five piece At an ICA performance Shend had forsaken four strings and placed them in the hands of some ebullient swine who could then find no time to be with them at Dingwalls. so a man named Budge. from And Also This Oakhampton Wick, filled in. Filling all of them in after each and every show is Mister H, the burly bearded minder. Rumoured to be Shend’s father, he sits before a tv screen on stage, changing channel now and again, reading his paper and exuding an air of melancholic turbulence. Gordon DisneyTime, now back in his country after shaving Joan Collins’s nose, makes a bestial host on drums, whilst Rum and Commotion are from Dr. Robin. Raymond (Geetar Signorita). Shend is left alone under the spotlight to oil his hair, shake a mean tape recorder and upset the globe. Never say 1 didn’t warn you. Leg warmers in position (the nearest drainpipe)? Then what are you waiting for?

LET’S WRECK THE SHOW RIGHT HERE.

 

 

sounds, 6th december 1980

 

PUT DOWN THAT HATCHET,GORDON

The Cravats in Toytown.

SIMON DWYER plays Bigears

 

After only one hearing,I didn't much like the Cravats album.Although i hadn't really listened to it,it'd seemed disappointing,and after all,they're such a good live band and As usual,when people are met in the flesh their motivations and strengths are made apparent.Toy soldiers lie in films of watery beer on the gooey pub table,ash floats in my drink,and three out of four people expect some questions.The barman peers at our corner,which isn't too surprising - the Cravats' party must look pretty weird and earnest from the bar.

'Inept' saxophonist Svor Naan picks at his mohair and stares mousily into the vacant fireplace.Rob,of sneering northern vocals and guitar,leans over a lot to emphasise a point.The drummer's stool is empty 'he couldn't afford the trip',which only leaves The Shend (bass, silly name),the down-to-earth centrepiece who distributes his bulk between chair and ornate walking stick,hair protruding uncontrolled from his eraserhead - altogether more strange than pathetique.

"Hair seems to play an important part in music nowadays," he muses "Just a quiff and you've made it",adds Rob mockingly into his bitter.So much relies on geography,contacts and trends,it would be easy to understand if The Cravats despised all things Bauhaus and Ballet.Having none of these factors in their favour they've plodded for three years now without recognition,but they've decided to plug a bit rather than wasting away in the wings.

The Cravats are still only approaching the marketplace cautiously,half-heartedly even,making themselves available, but not forcing themselves down anybody's already gagging throat.

Shend:"Now we're on Small Wonder at least a few more people will hear about us,and hopefully like our stuff and buy it, but it's still more important to us to do it rather than sell it".A fact which probably suits the label's owner Peter Stennet down to the ground. Rob:"Pete's shown great faith in us.He financed the album and everything ane we've only got a verbal agreement with him.He knows we'd never write a blatantly commercial song,and he'd never want us to".Running down Small Wonder from what was threatening to become a big, and in his view therefore intrinsically 'evil' and certainly useless independent label(and what 'alternative' is that?) back to a small,helpful and useful hobby,Stennet was taken by the band's attitudes sounds and apparently dinky aspects,and it was he,some months ago who introduced me to the fairly bizarre delights of The Cravats.Mumbling something about "watching the eleven year olds" he handed me a copy of the bands third single 'Precinct',a breakneck jazz/punk fusion about local government waste,abuse of power,consumer problems, isolation,de-humanisation (and just about anything else you'd like to read into it) on a very personal scale.It outlined the Cravat statement more than adequately,and served as tantalising bait for the more expansive rants of the debut album 'Cravats In Toytown'.

As i said, 'Toytown' has duff moments when it veers closer to the Oi! Oi! chart than anything else,but there are eerie snatches of interest more reminiscent of Pere Ubus,Pop Groups, Falls than the obvious strains of Rolf Harris,Noddy and The Wall.The Shend expands,"I suppose we are experimental but we're not obviously so as the experimantation is done before we record.There are stylophones and guitars with bits of cork under the strings and stuff like that on there,but you can still dance to it."

Not being musicians' musicians,The Cravats are almost forced to experiment in search of a sound.Have they acheived it?

Svoor:"Not exactly,but we're free to try new things out.At least we don't sound too much like anyone else.We're not easily classified either." Which may be healthy,but not always desirable for bands who want some attention and once into Toytown,it's clear some aspects of the band are worthy of that attention, despite the cliches, and there are several interesting (if already explored) worldviews on offer.Not least 'Tears On My Machine' about household drudgery, 'Pressure Sellers' about advertising,and the re-vamped diy debut single'Gordon'.A violent Morrison-like tale of a boy suffocating in motherly love and society's direction,who dreams of cracking (her/it) up with a hatchet.Not advocating violence,it exposes the everyday emotions behind the front-page act,and as is typical of the band's ironic humor,the final lines of 'Gordon' manage to raise a knowing smile even as the axe is about to fall: "Put down that hatchet Gordon / Or at least draw the blinds so the neighbours can't see."

The Shend explains "Our songs are typically English black humour,laughing in the face of adversity.You've got to laugh ay anything,and we usually do.A lot of people don't pick up on it though." Well a lot of people don't want to know about humour in songs,or songs written by humans for humans,or about the seemingly childish imagery of the Cravats - po-faced sods. I ask about the apparent fascination for the banal.Rob's eager to answer,pulling together the threads,sort of taking the piss out of conceptual images and at the same time proud of the clever connections."Toytown is just a personal view of Redditch (the band's home town) or i suppose any New town. It's just like a big Lego set to the planners,they can just drop these schemes on people and watch them run around it,see if it works or not." The Shend: There's no contact with the people it's built for,it's just a case of you either like it or you don't."They have to teach people how to use it. "Yeah, they build a new bit and nobody goes near it for months.All these new schemes are totally deserted for ages,it's weird, daft." " They should stick up signs saying 'sunken coffee bars are fun'."

Once people are used to the impositions and insults and brave new devices, they accept them and use them.Like graffiti,they don't see it anymore,like humming fridges and junk mail evrything dissolves into routine,until someone possibly in a rock band bothers to point them out.But rather than examining any socio political aspects of the situations,the Cravats simply express personal opinions on them.I wonder what's the point.

"Well music can have an effect,not so much by changing peoples views on things,as communicating with them and bringing them together.Letting them know they're not alone.If you make a personal statement on a record,perhaps someone hearing it will agree with it and just identify with it,and know that there are other people who think that way."

The Shend:"Unless you try to communicate your'e just wanking. Rod Stewart 'Passion',y'know it's not communication,it's just ego tripping for money."

After the bad production of the album - it was recorded in a tiny studio in Torquay with a producer who'd only worked with dancebands before (thus avoiding high costs and high tech wideboy interference from the desk) - Crass' Penny Rimabaud (an obvious connection) will be producing the next Cravats single 'You're Driving Me'.He seems an ideal choice,and i hope he can extract something substantial out of The Cravats.It'd be a joy to see a group that makes (important) points in such a manner oblivious to fashion get a hit records and perhaps some money for their endeavours,while remaining on their own terms without having to prostitute whatever identity and idealism they may have in the process.

The Cravats can be faulted,As Rob admits "People say we're samey. or that they hate the music,or even the muscianship or production...."

"Or the haircuts,offers The Shend"..But we're just having fun and being ourselves,and at least we're being honest about it."

 

zig zag, december 1981

 

If you never listen to John Peel,explore the less distinguished clubs around or buy records by bands you've never heard before then you will be as yet unaquainted with The Cravats.

Many haven't.Many will.

The legions are growing, and the public eye will soon be upon them. They have had enough of languishing in obscurity (Latin for Redditch, Worcestershire).Total lack of financial resources to date have left them with little access to mass coverage.Their live gigs have literally been few and far between.Their records other than their first independently produced single 'Gordon' have been tentative releases from Small Wonder.'Off The Beach' their latest single is the last Small Wonder single of all time and the band now have no record label.

Rob,(arch impressario of the guitar),Dave,(lechery through drumming,Richard,(saxophone and no interest in speech at all) and Shend (bass guitar) have endured much hardship that imbues them with unified strength.Their refusal to lay down and die does them credit,and the wait may prove fruitful as a single shall soon be appearing on Crass Records,decidedly a step in the promotional way forward.

Shend has spread his net a bit wider lately by setting up his personal investment bank with interest repaid at 400% an unbeatable offer that Louisa has already taken him up on. They came to London we allowed them in and interview commenced.

ZZ: (To Richard perched attentively on a stool).Are you going to speak in this one? (No responce).

ZZ: Do you understand why you're here?.

Rob: There's no point telling him.We have to give instructions to his parents.They get him dressed and leave him on the doorstep.

ZZ: Does he have to be back by a certain time?

Rob: No.We just knock on the door leave him on the doorstep and sit in the car and watch.If they take him in we drive off.

Dave: Also when we've finished we hand you this piece of paper from the dole office which says,'Have i got the job?' and you write 'No' and he takes it back to the dole office. That's his reason for coming.

Shend: I'll just nod.

ZZ: You'll answer when your'e spoken to.

Shend: I'll leave it all to my friends.

ZZ: You usually dominate.

Shend: All the time.

Rob: We let him think he does.

Shend: Ah!,but i let you think that you think you do.They poke fun not knowing it's all totally serious.All the time i have them in my power.

ZZ: Yet they know that.They're poking fun seriously.

Shend: I know, but i know that they know that i know,so it's all a case of treble bluff.

Enquiring as to the nature of the trip down i was informed that Shend's father had brought them down in return for them working in his bunkers.Shend realises such news might make fans question their mentality but think that the truth should out.

Rob: Course what we really do is take lots of drugs and act like rock stars.Nothing to do with bunkers,or digging holes in the ground that might be of use in times of nuclear war.

Shend: We've never built a crows nest in our life.

Rob: We've invited Bob Monkhouse to the opening of our bunker... which we're not opening.

Shend: So he can take lots of drugs aswell.He smuggles films.He was prosecuted.

Dave: He was also found not guilty.

Shend: I got him off. Bob said: "I've brought the films Shend",...Which weren't about entrenching tools or bunkers...and i said "Don't worry about the court case"..and he got off.The Q.C was a mate of mine,i buy his wine.

I mentioned the rumours that had circulated,before the news of the Crass single,that The Cravats had intended splitting. The Shend elaborated.

Shend: Well you know the fact that i was six people. (As revealed in ZZ # 110),well since then it has escalated to nine,because Rob was incompatible and couldn't join.So there's me and eight others.The tape's not going round!!!

We rush to inspect the machine and find it recording.

ZZ: It is.

Shend: A good joke.Very jolly.Next question.

ZZ: The plans for Cravats world domination this year fizzled out didn't it???

Dave: We're taking the subtle approach now where no-one notices it happening till it actually occurs.

Shend: The phrase is "When you're least expecting it"

Shend bounces emphatically in his seat and breaks a nearby stool by waggling his feet excitedly.

ZZ: I wasn't expecting that.

Shend: It's all these other people in me they dont know my own strength

ZZ: Hmm. when did John Peel first become infatuated?

Dave: 'Gordon'

Shend: We sent him a letter.

Rob: From the start.

Shend: He played in Stratford.

ZZ: Keep it short.

Shend: And we went to see him,it wasn't a very good night.

ZZ: It never is for him.

Shend: I'm trying to keep it short.We said "Hello" and he said "Hello" and it was all very "Hello".I wrote to him and said "Sorry if we came across as goats",and he said "Ha Ha that's very funny" read it out on the air and played our record.Since then he says we're great.Here... we get banned from parties.Used to get people ringing up saying "We've got a party tonight don't come!" Another thing.This damn Kevin Turvey mentioning Redditch all the time.Everyone goes "Wa-hoooooo!!!" we've been mentioning it for years.

Rob: He thinks he's stumbled on this paradise and we had it earmarked years ago.When we were living in Argyle,we looked on the map and it took years of research to work out the best way.Moved down to the "promised land".The Shend showed us the way.Wrote all these songs. Kevin Turvey,young upstart,comes along and say's he's discovered the place.

Shend: That's it.

ZZ: (Mishearing him) Did you say "Tit"???

Shend: Certainly not.That's one thing you'll never hear The Cravats do...swearing.We believe in the English language as it is written.

Rob: It's only been the case since Richard's influence.

Shend: He got very upset when we used word's that were Americanised.He didn't like it because he's an English don

ZZ: (A little while later).Not many people know you've got something coming out on Crass.

Dave: Crass dont.

Shend: Some of them think they do,but they'll be suprised by the enormity of it.

Rob: It's all in hand,you see Richard is the twelth person in The Shend,it'll be so powerfull nothing can stand in it's way.

ZZ: He's a substitute for another guy??

Rob: Reserve goalkeeper,you've heard "Jesus saves"...

ZZ: The tape's not going round!!!

Shend: (experiencing heart attack) isn't it ???!!!??

ZZ: Yes.

Shend: (Laffter in the brain).The b-side of our new single will be called 'I'm standing in the middle of an empty room and it's a bit of a labrynth',cos were changing direction,it all harks back to The Alan Parson's Project.

Ritchard: (Stunning everybody by a blurted five second exclamation).We've been trying for this musical perfection, but it's only now we can completely equate this kind of realism.

Shend: (Clearly stunned).That's the first time in months he's uttered a word

Rob: He usually writes to us.

Dave: Have you heard about the salon he's opened?

Shend: He pretends to give people weird hairstyles.In actual fact when the people are asleep he implants ideas into their minds.

Dave: He (Shend) was talking about his banking operations earlier,well he sinks all his money into his bunkers!!

Rob: (About Richard,who is busy buying drinks for everyone).He gathers a tithe every week,ten percent of our earnings.

ZZ: How are you lot going to handle the pressures of showbiz??

Shend: That's why his (Rob's) head is pushed in on one side.One side is flatter.The pressures of the rock biz have moulded his face.What other rock star could say that other than Freddie Mercury?

ZZ: Some people expand with it.

Shend: (Taking it as a personal offensive remark).If eight other people joined you,you'd be bigger than you are,you little squirt.I get this every interview about my hugeness.

ZZ: If i wanted to say fat...

An uneasy silence settles over the bar room.

Shend: (Eyes blazing furiously) He shouldn't have said that should he Rob??

ZZ: I said if i wanted to say fat...

Shend: You've said it.

ZZ: Back to showbiz,with no reference to size.

Shend: F.A.T.,Is this the way an editor works??

Rob: It's obviously the way this one does.

ZZ: What about the album Cravats??

Shend: What about it??!!

Dave: Were leaving this country,Pissed off with it.

ZZ: Is this the moribund section??

Shend: No were back up again.

Rob: World domination starts in Belgium,Hopefully we'll set up another new town... another base.

Shend: Another bass????

Rob: We've had enough of you Shend.

Shend: From Belgium to Germany,back to Holland,not that we've been there before.

Then back here,after the next single,because the Crass thing will be done before the end of the year.

We'll probably do our own discs.

Rob: We've got a package sorted out of old Cravats material,cassette releases of unreleased material.

Lavishly packaged.

Louisa,Tippers,Fiona,...the entire zigzag staff arrive in the pub..

disruption occurs as Shend cries "Our friends",The bar staff get stroppy.Interview ends.

To love music and the surreal is to love The Cravats.

Take a Cravat home for Christmas.

Make a Cravat happy this year.

The slogans are endless.

 

punk lives, 1980's

 

LABORATORY TESTED

STAN WELL INJECTS A BIT OF LIFE INTO THE CRAVATS

 

IF THERE'S one thing you can't do it's please everybody.The Punk Lives readership is fortunately split between different musical areas as the letters and penpals sections reveal with The Cravats of main interest (at present) to those who bear wild thoughts at the mention of Sex Gang and Xmal.They are enigmatic by comparison to the vast majority in that strictly no-strict rules grouping of bands.They are to most people either a total mystery or they've never heard of them and yet The Cravats hail from the day's of '77.When the adrenalin of punk began to take on less traditional values and all manner of deviant forces of differentations occurred bands began to get Indie infatuations(most of the early name punk bands being on major labels).Wildly disperate bands(degenerates mostly)rose from the bowels dusted themselves off and took the music on a natural course.Their music reflected them and not the fashion aspects.It's a musical generation that most of the punks today cannot imagine or identify with because at the time they weren't there.They entered punk a few years ago when,what was termed punk,looked virtually identical,one dimensional.The Cravats came from long ago when thought was freer.And yet with eight singles to their name and one album there are not that many vaguely aware of their pot boiling sound.Uncle John Peel(surely never so boring as he is these day's) has stuck by them,press interest has been purely minimal and gigs even more so.Whether intentionally or not,The Cravats reputation is a small one.Their last two singles have been on Crass Records,one of their own singles 'Rub Me Out' and one 'nether outfit',The Very Things released 'The Gong Man'. It is part of the major Cravats plan to lauch different outfits under an umbrella attack which may feature them and may not. No-one will ever be sure.

In fact The Cravats are no longer a band but a laboratory. Wearing white coats to create a streamlined doctor like image.Just the kind of thind that will have the more lobotomised spikey tops yelling,'They're Not Punk' but then the newest punk generation is the most narrow minded of them all.I can't say i expected such a look. I expected nothing and anything.

Whilst they were in London for this interview the band were prancing around on a shop's fire exit and Rob changed the doctors tack to one of a surveyor and horrified office workers,who were looking out of their windows watching the procedure,by calmly announcing to Shend,'This wall will have to come down!'

The new line The Cravats plan to take was described by Rob in the twinkling of an eye before he chased the bus all the way back to their hometown of Redditch,by day he is (and this is true) a chimney sweep's apprentice.Shend on the other hand is a man of many parts,none of them repeatable here.

Did the Crass deal coincide with the new plan?

Rob: It did.We decided we had to branch out.The Shend and i were interested in different directions.We're building up a library of sound cassettes,speeches bits of films(all of this concerns their secret laboratory).The Cravats will continue in the vein that they've existed in but it will also allow us to do other work aswell.The intent will be the same,to explore different areas of music.It's occurred to us now that you have to be blatantly obvious about things or people dont pick up on them.

This new Cravats energised field of events is strongly linked with an examination of the Dada principles and hence the operation becomes The Dada Cravats Laboratorie.These Dadaists from a long time ago had beliefs which Ths Cravats discovered to be very similar to their own,anarchistic in terms of art.Rob's head,perched upon his shoulders, explains.

"The overall spirit used to be that of punk.I think the ideals and the ideas and the spirit soon became divorced from the fashion.So we wanted to disassociate ourselves from that."

But the people in this area that The Cravats now lounge, like Cabaret Volitaire (not a comparison in sound at all, just the kind of area) have always seemed so po-faced.They lack any form of humour of humanity almost.

"Another element of Dada that we like...the humour...and the bizarre events.Undermining reality.There are other types of reality...it can only be a good thing.We're organising events,whether with a purpose or not and if people are co-operative that can only be a good thing...people acting towards a common aim"

The music that The D.C.L are to produce remains at present a mystery apparently so that no other band goes ripperty-ripperty-off,although Rob suggests a rockabilly base.The sound being a shade,or a lot commercial for one reason,people will be drawn in and their investigation of the preceeding records or their exploration of subsequent releases will hopefully confuse,enervate and finally titilate the mind to such an extent that the arc of vision widens.In some cases we can but hope it confiscates the mind.(Dave Lee Travis lays growing his beard,strapped to the couch by strong leather straps.The single whirs on a tape loop through his capacious ears...but that's another story).

"The new image,such as it is,should also help raise peoples appreciation of things.I think so.It's more accessible,more overt.It was far too subtle before.Those who did pick up on it were passionate,passionately interested in what we were doing.To reach a wider audience it's got to be more overt.This will be the image for Dada Cravat Laboratories but the other bands may appear in different garb alltogether".

Rob tears off,his coat and Shend slumps down upon the nearest pub seat bemoaning the heat.

"We want to make music which is fun but has a serious message at the same time which is why we chose the D.C.L thing.Under that we can put out lots of different types of music but with the same slant as all The Cravats stuff has been for instance.If you only have one band you can only do one sort of music really.Everybody accepts that you're gonna sound like this,so by having different bands we can put all we've got into different bands doing different sorts of music,which doesn't make any sense at all. Woffle,woffle,woffle.

"Baldness is a problem for us all".

But why have you done this,it's not a normal idea

"Just doing The Cravats stuff took up a lot of time and we kept thinking up more and more ideas which took up even more and more time.So by having it as the most important thing in your existence to do it all with one band...well you'd get bored for a start,so by bringing in different muscians,rather than the same people all the time,we could em...whatever we were talking about!! i dunno,we're not going to get very far i see."

Push,probe.

You know people get a kick out of the traditional punk gear,do you get it out of the white coats?

"Yeah it's very relevant to what we do...it is enjoyable,because i enjoy dressing up in white,shoes how pure we are,everyone loves dressing up,there's nothing wrong in that.What we've done for the cover of the next single for instance...we went to Waldos Of Worcester,famous place... theatrical costumers,and hired this reverend uniform.Well we had to make it up out of two,a nineteenth century parson and a twentieth century vicar.I mean, why dress like everybody else? You don't have to dress up,it's not obligatory.There's a lot of people where if you don't wear studs and leather you're not a PUNK".

The fact that you and Rob go round in it does it continue the more child like streek?

"Yeah and by wearing the same it shows the unit of it. Belief in the same ideas.In a way i suppose like Devo do.It adds weight behind what you're saying.Our stuff is very unified really.It's two voices as one...La la laaa! You should call the interview that! "TWO VOICES AS ONE! We're highly critical of religions,that's one of our pet hates".

This is interupted by the site of a Sex Gang type collecting glasses in what basically is a pretty upmarket poncey pub. Shend is impressed.

"You should interview him.'What's it like collecting glasses?' 'It's great',' I'm releasing a record',it's really hard in this head.Where are we?"

I think you were about to sink into a rather weighty religious debate.

The Cravats(changing the subject) always remind me of those gangs of schoolkids you see in old films.

"It's rather like that because in Redditch with it being such a garish place anyway there are probably,at the most, fifteen like minded souls so therefore you gaggle together.You can't help it. You get to know somebody so ultimately...this is gonna be taken complete the wrong way,'Oh yeah we're all a right buch of..',that they say 'How the wrong way,and you can finish the sentence"

THE CRASS DEAL

"So much has been written about Crass but i really think a lot of the stuff i've read in the music press is woffle, it's bollocks. They dont understand it and what they're tring to do."

Did they take you as you wanted.Did they understand it all?

"That's the good thing.Crass reckoned what we were doing was very valid,and didn't fit into categories.But they saw it was very very important.They literally said,'Bugger it,if it dont sell it doesn't matter,Were going to release them because we think they deserve to be released".

(Release The Cravats!)

"There's a lot of stuff which is valid which isn't stuck,in fact you have to wonder whether there's Indie labels sticking stuff out.They (Crass) are the only people in the music biz...that's wrong, 'outside the music biz...that we've ever met who we agree with wholeheartedly.They're so misuderstood it's incredible,not that we want to ramble on about Crass."

So we don't. Well we do but it's not going in here.In fact, like the ancient mariner,my tale is nearly done.

The Cravats themselves ( I as yet no nowt about The D.c.L, that is something for the future) are a rare band,one of those bands which stick to their own interpretations of Punk's initial spirit,which (BELIEVE IT OR NOT) was supposed to be about individualism and produce records that are wholly unique.They should be appraised and recognised as such.You'll certainly be hearing a lot more from them in the future.

The last sight i had of Shend as i veer off to the tube was his questioning brow as he wondered how he could paint the town a delicate shade of lavender in the hours that remained for his pleasure before he followed that dusty trail back to Redditch.

A man with a hidden cause but a veritable causeway of inspiration.

As is Rob. Two Vibratos as one.

 

melody maker, march 3rd 1984

 

Mick Mercer tries on THE CRAVATS for size...

Or was it the other way round

"We are now going in the totally wrong direction," announces The Shend bass playing behemoth with Dada Cravats Laboratory.This wholly authoritative manner leaves guitarist Robin Raymond cowering in the passenger seat,possibly foreseeing disaster."I'll just do another'U Turn',one of my most popular moves"

CRUNNNCCCHHHHH!

The lime green Mini Metro,designed to medieval specifications,all wooden components and sand,connects rudely with some slumbering brickwork."That's the problem",he laughs."You never see the Hadrian's Wall behind you!" "No problem at all Shend," grunts a despairing Robin."It's only a material object."

Thus unconcerned the deadly duo speed off into the night after a busy day in the city promoting their latest album,the almighty "The Colossal Tunes Out" on the Godforsaken Corpus label.Your's truly is taking it easy,bored with incessant interviews,Robin graciously,consents to do the questions and I literally take a backseat role.

The Cravats have just done their own "U Turn" dislodging drummer Uncle Dave and stripping saxophonist Little Richard of his medals,(although using him as a session person when needs be) with only Gordon Disneytime,their new drummer,to take their place in the violet vortex.The Cravats,their original band,have splintered severely into offshoots as divergent as the psychedelic The Very Things and the medieval Babymen(who record on Dictaphones!)...Then there's Piston Smash and The Morning Dobermen who no one has heard yet.All this from the band who have been going the longest in this country with more records than any other unknown band,who have had the continual support from Mother Peel and yet still have a share in a few hearts.

The Very Things are the first band to feature the new drummer,the wild youth named Gordon.In that time honoured manner of reckless drummers the duo found him one night in a pub where Country and Western bands played.Disgusted by the muck peddled on-stage young Gord leapt into the spotlight,stole the sticks and thrashed the kit into submission,even following it as it rolled across the floor,still beating hell out of it.He was in! Pronto.

Rob:"So really all these different bands have a different attitude? Wearing a different hat?"

Shend:"I have a vast collection of hats and walking sticks,because we walk differently from different bands.

The band recording at the time totally takes over everything until its over and then you are,as it were released from this attitude and can select another at will".

Rob:"A lot of people who have done this say working in a band is a bad idea,like a family?

Shend:"Team spirit,the old school tie and getting married.It's too cosy,and there's so many.em..,whats the word im looking for?"

Rob:"Chocolate?"

Shend:"No.Not chocolate,Compromise!That's the word.Began with a 'c',similar to chocolate and cravats.The big 'C".

Perhaps I should interrupt at this point and let you know where Cravation rhythms lay within our Westworld.Well imagine a Fall with musical skills,humour,imagination,character...need I go on?

Basically they're one of the best.Comforting thoughts as the band speeds on in the early morning dark past St.Neats.

Rob:"I believe you've had a few problems with the P.R.S?

Shend:"Now there's an organisation I do not like.They have known to be 'unforthcoming with money'.They collect all the money from commercial radio,jukeboxes,discos,BBC,television...which must amount to a 'pretty penny',every three months.Then PURPOSELY.not paying this out to the publishing companies they have to store it somewhere and when they finally come to pay the money to the publishing companies the interest is not included I'm afraid."

Rob:"Now Shend you're known as a friend to the famous."

Shend:"Yes,yes?"

Rob:"Mingling with the stars.I believe you actually know Mick Mercer.What's he like?"

Shend:"Very misunderstood.People think he's nice.I'd compare him to Jimmy Saville,except his hair's different"

Rob:"With the success of Paul Young and all these sort of people I expect you're seriously thinking of a solo project,I've heard there's going to be a solo single,'Wherever I lay my hat,It's my head?"

Shend:"Ahaaa haa hee,I don't want to talk about that."

Rob:"Earlier on I was rummaging through the pockets of your jacket and I found a copy of the Rolf Harris biography."

Shend:"You might have seen his swimming adverts on the telly? People watched them and actually thought they were about swimming! So it worked,of course a few of us saw otherwise."

Rob:(Laughing Smugly):"Of course,A few of us...are your plans coming to fruition?"

Shend:"Imminent is The Very Things 12 inch,out in February.domestic release as they say which probably means it'll be released in the kitchen.Theres The Very Things LP.The Babymen single,'For King Willie',a pre-Coronation festive song for Prince William who'll be King in 20 or 30 years time.We'll all be standing in the courtyard,looking up at the balcony,shouting "We're all for King Willie!'"

Rob:"What about the dear old Cravats?"

Shend:"People have heard rumours that we no longer exist,but this is an absolute myth.There is a new LP out,5o minutes of music plus a flexi disc for £3.25! Amazing value."

Rob:"It's twenty past six and it's utterly dark and we're just outside Daventree,SHEND!

Shend:(Gasping):"Sorry I was just concentrating on the road there,as is important when driving."

Rob:"Some people might say the D.C.L,name is pretentious."

Shend:"They can say this of course.I've said things that are pretentious myself,When we were The Cravats no one said that was pretentious.Nobody caught up on the absurdity of it.They just thought it was stupid.We haven't played for a while.The last time was with The Birthday Party em...two years ago! It was a conscious decision.It certainly wasn't subconscious! So many of the gigs we were doing were...frustrating,depressing... these words leap into one's head.Nobody knew who we were,People would turn up expecting God knows what.

Rob:"We're in 1984,the much mooted year Shend..."

Shend:"Nineteen eighty four will be a big year."

Rob:"More than 365 days?"

Shend:"I think so.BIG.I think most people are aware of this,although whether it will be good or bad I dont know.If you're an arms dealer it'll be pretty damn good.If you're not its's probably not going to be a very good year but then it's all relative isn't it.