I grew up in a seaside town, although unlike the Morrissey song, not every day was like a Sunday – not exactly. I may have invested a portion of my formative years blockaded in my bedroom, listening to the Cure and reading Camus in the French original (weren’t we all embarrassing at that age?), but I wasn’t quite at the stage of prowling the promenade, yearning for nuclear war (or at least not all the time).
The place could certainly have done with some more live music, though. It wasn’t so much that a local gig scene didn’t exist, or that touring bands from bigger, better cities didn’t occasionally venture that far south (indeed, there’s a rather famous Joy Division bootleg recorded in the town’s now-demolished Winter Gardens); however, as a coastal resort that tended to attract a very specific demographic, you were far more likely to encounter the crag-end of the Variety era clogging up the town’s several venues. The cast of Hi-De-Hi at the pier – or in the ugly, new convention centre, a line up that featured a ventriloquist, a dancing troupe, and the cutting edge comedy of a Cannon & Ball or a Russ Abbot. Not exactly rich pickings for a would-be existentialist whose attitude – though not circumstance – was more attuned to the Soho coffee houses of 1957.
The local bands tended to resident in two or three dingy bars that ringed the town centre at a respectable distance, lest hints of patchouli or motor oil wafted over the well-to-do crones that took tea in the department stores closer to the sea. A sort of LA glam-rock was in vogue at the time, laughingly bad acts with some of the attitude and none of the talent; a haze of Skid Row covers, chiffon scarves and distorted Jimmy Page riffs that barked against the dark and sweaty walls of each hostelry, then wilted into the flat dregs of our snakebite-and-blacks.
The out-of-towners who came to play – at least the bands who wafted across my interest – had slightly more elevated surroundings (and less alarming toilets), although not always a bigger audience. The Darling Buds played the town’s barn-like alternative club to a crowd no bigger than twenty, and because I was drunk I made Andrea Darling Bud scribble all over my leg with a marker pen, as if this would make up for our town’s poor showing. Ned’s Atomic Dustbin’s agit-pop grebo stopped off at a nightclub in the run-down part of town, whilst Cud even played the convention centre (albeit a side room off from the main auditorium. Out-of-season. When Hi-De-Hi didn’t need it).
I haven’t played any Cud records for years and years – about the same length of time since my last evening out in that seaside town (its dingier establishments long ago usurped by trendy bars in which you’re far more likely to spot a Premiership footballer than someone into ‘80’s/’90’s indie musak). Cud were at the poppier end of the indie spectrum – not the type of band to float my flotilla these days – but I can see why I liked them at the time; their swagger was of the melodic, funky variety, a little light relief from Robert Smith and half-understood novels.
I am however quite pleased that the baked bean tin necklace concept didn’t quite catch on – at least with me.
Cud / Love Mandarin