I was first introduced to THE CRAVATS by Pete Stennet of Small Wonder Records. He wanted me to produce their next single, which sounded a nice idea even if I'd never heard of them or their music. It all seemed a bit 'mod' to me; The Cravats were 'de rigueur' in the days of scooters, paisley shirts and nifty flared hipsters, so I guessed these guys must have some kind of a connection. Other than that, there was my father's type of cravat-paisley in an earlier incarnation, Tootal manufactured and positively essential for those Sunday afternoon outings in the MG (which he never had) or on trips down to the golf club (which he never belonged), but all the same, he liked his cravats. I think he saw them as some sort of a status symbol, like smoking Players Navy Cut rather than Woodbines.
"What the hell do you call that?" he asked when I first sported the mod version: a natty parachute yellow number. Bought with pride from Brent & Collins, right next to the billiard hall where Shorty the Ted hung out with his mates waiting to see what my next sartorial blunder might be. "Wanker," they'd croon as I sidled by. At least they didn't beat the holy shit out of me or work one of those horrific razor smiles onto my youthful and, it has to be said,rather pretty face. Despite the wisdom of age, Dad never did quite understand what, for lack of a more damming term, he called 'youth'. Contradictorily, he did however occasionally resort to what I considered a rather infantile form of poetry when referring to my good self as an 'uncouth youth' It was a label I wore with a certain amount of pride, it me in the same class as Shorty the Ted.
When I was young, Dad was always asking me why I didn't grow up. It was a question that he continued to ask throughout my adult years, in fact he went on asking until Alzheimer's changed his tune. After that he didn't know who the hell I was anyway, I could have worn a parachute yellow cravat with impunity, but by then I didn't want to, I'd become a sort of punk (with about as much conviction as in the earlier day's when I'd become a sort of a mod).
Just as Dad had never owned an MG, I never owned a Vespa. So what kind of a mod was that? Easy, the kind who owned NSU Quicklys and hoped they wouldn't be asked to give a mod bird a lift home. That left snogging to telephone booths, but that's another story.
So what's all this got to do with the subject in hand - not just any old cravats, but THE CRAVATS? In short, probably very little, but I've got time to spare and memories to juggle with, and if it takes this amount of space to get around to writing something coherent, so be it.
Okay, so when Pete of Small Wonder asked me to produce a single of a band who I imagined might sound a bit like the Small Faces
(they had rather pretty faces too),
I was only too glad to say yes:it would be a nice change from producing ear-destroying tracks by the likes of 'Cunt UK' and 'Smash The Cistern'. Several days after our first recording session, and with my ears well burned, if not ready for surgical intervention, I had to admit to myself how wrong I had been in my assumptions.Who else could I have admitted it to?
Shorty the Ted had last been seen at the end of Southend Pier preparing for a great leap into the unknown, and Dad had already taken the one way journey, so I was on my own, almost.
"What the fuck was that?"
I asked Pete of Small Wonder.
"THE CRAVATS" he replied, pulling his bobble hat over his ears
and ears became an endangered species during the punk era
My first exposure to THE CRAVATS was an aural assault which, although showing some kinship with the then current punk modes, was closer in its intelligence to experimental freeform jazz, which I have always loved, and German 'industrialist' avant garde.
This melange always put me in mind of the hubbub of Cologne Railway Station which I travelled through with my father in 1948. It wasn't a very happy memory.I hadn't much cared for the high-rise peaked caps and the shiny boots, and that was only the porters!
My next escapade with THE CRAVATS was a single for Crass Records - every bit as intense and even more disturbing. 'Rub Me Out'? I should say so.
What was it about these guys?
Was it that they were from Redditch, that place which is somewhere near Birmingham, but which always seems the same distance away however close to it you are on whatever motorway you've been forced onto?
J G Ballard's 'Crash' comes to mind, but why?
"Oi, Shendy, what's going on?"
"Dunno, I'll check me road atlas."
"Wood Green, mate."
So Shend and the crew smash into the garage of Southern Studios, totally demolishing the ancient analogue 24 track mixing desk.
"Some gear that," mutters the driver, brushing away shimmering shards of windscreen from his velvet-collared drape.
"Nice flute, kid," bubbles Shorty the Ted from the oily depths of the Thames Estuary.
"D'you get that on tape." barks Shend, the earphones wrapped tight around his head like a paraplegic' crash hat.
"Guess so," I hiss down the monitors, "but if it's okay with you, I'd like to try another take."
"Go fuck yourself," comes the reply.
"Okay then," I responded, somewhat miffed, "it's in the can."
Which is I suppose as good an end as I'm likely to come up with.
THE CRAVATS had an uncanny (pun not intended) way of coming up with the goods, and if the goods defied definition that was no-one's business but their own.
It wasn't so much a matter of da-di-da as of dada, and that's the wrap. Their's wasn't a matter of 'what can't'; if it was improbable, in their philosophy it was all the more desirable. Their's was a matter of 'what can?, the answer being as simple to give as it was difficult to instrument-
So, anything goes, and in the case of THE CRAVATS,anything went.
Nice one guys, thanks for the memory, thanks for the privilege of allowing me to work with you, and may the spirit of Redditch be forever with you.
PENNY RIMBAUD. 22/02/02