Last night one of my school friends (Hello Dave Morgan) tweeted me and made me feel really old. Apparently it is twenty five years ago this month since we went to see The Darling Buds in The Hanging Gardens in Cardiff University’s students’ union. Now some of you will be saying “Who are The Darling Buds?!?” and some of you will be saying “Ah, The Darling Buds!” I’m in the latter camp and will stand up now and say that I loved The Darling Buds.
I had the t-shirt, I still have the vinyl and I still have happy memories of not only seeing them in concerts in South Wales but I also met them and interviewed them in a pub over in Caerleon with my mate Dominic where they broke our little indie music hearts by telling is that they (and also The Wedding Present) used a drum machine on their debut albums which listening now to both of them is pretty bloody obvious. I’d bump into them at gigs in TJ’s* in Newport afterwards and Harley and Andrea much to my amazement would say “Hello.” to me and ask how things were going. I got threatened by the bloke in front of me** at a Darling Buds gig in TJ’s where Dave was standing next to me in a suit having come from his Duke of Edinburgh Award’s er….award night and do you know what? The Darling Buds were a bloody great pop band.
At the time they released their first few singles coverage of Welsh bands (be they Welsh or non-Welsh speaking) was virtually non-existent in the British media save for John Peel playing stuff like Datblygu and so when Peel started playing The Darling Buds and we found out that a) they made cool guitar pop music and b) were from down the road then we had to like them. I got those first few singles on 7” and 12” in Spillers Records and played them over and over again. I ignored the lazy comparisons to The Primitives and then they sort of went big – not big as in a stella career that lasted decades and made them household names. No big as in they signed to a major label, got on Top of the Pops, and they played a gig for Radio 1 live from Whitchurch High School in Cardiff!***
It didn’t last long, there were more albums after their debut Pop Said but people seemed to lose interest and a few years down the line they split up but for me they were a really important band. They showed other Welsh kids that you could do it; you could form a band in Wales, play gigs, make a record, get a deal (for better for worse) on a major label and achieve the Holy Grail – get on Top of the Pops.
I’ll say it again, The Darling Buds were a great band, they made me very happy, gave me some lovely memories and I’ll be playing them loudly over the weekend.
*I was in a ‘riot’ once at TJ’s – it was the night Huggy Bear played and at one point they asked all the men to move back from the front to let the women through and it all kicked off. Punches were thrown, beer cans went flying, less enlightened men argued with the liberals in the crowd and John who owned the place had to get on stage and calm things down reminding everybody that they were there to listen to the music and have a good night out. John was obeyed and the gig resumed.
** I was singing and he was drunk – it wasn’t a good mix.
***The headmaster there at the time was called Robin Hood. This won’t sound like much but the South Wales Echo wrote an article about the gig and this was a big deal because at the time they tended to ignore popular cultural stuff like that so to see The Darling Buds in the paper was indeed a big deal for “the kids.”