Saturday, 13 September 2014

The Genius Of… Tim Smith #1

#1: She Is Hiding Behind The Shed
Contentious this one; you either think Tim Smith is a crazy-bonkers-madman touched by sheer genius, or you reckon his work is unlistenable codswallop that sounds like it was concocted by a group of toddlers let loose in an orchestra pit while high on fizzy drink additives. MrsRobster is one of the latter group. I, on the other hand, think the man is blessed with a gift of artistic ability far beyond that of mere mortals like myself. I’m joined in my love of him by none other than Steve Davis![1]

Only a warped mind could create music like Tim Smith’s. I’ve already waxed lyrical about two of his songs (Dirty Boy here and the song that gives this blog its name on the (new) vinyl villan as part of JC’s excellent Cult Classics series). Today I offer the first of a number of other wonderful, barmy tunes to emanate from this intriguing mind. Tim has been a part of a few bands in his time, but throughout he has remained a member of Cardiacs, so it’s only right we start there.

In 1992, Cardiacs released ‘Heaven Born and Ever Bright’, their 6th album. It was probably their most difficult and ill-fated. Following 1989’s ‘On Land And In The Sea’ album, Tim and his wife, saxophonist Sarah Smith, separated. Sarah ultimately made the decision to quit the band. A concert at Salisbury Arts Centre was filmed for the live video ‘All That Glitters Is A Mare’s Nest’, a show that Tim describes as a “nightmare”. A second guitarist was recruited, in the form of Christian Hayes, but within a year Hayes would join Levitation (alongside ex-House of Love guitarist Terry Bickers) and subsequently leave Cardiacs. Percussionist Tim Quy and idiosyncratic keyboard player William D. Drake also left before 1991 was out.

Recording had already begun on ‘Heaven Born…’ when Hayes was replaced by Jon Poole, another guitarist. The band, now a four-piece, was hugely affected by the swathe of personnel changes over the previous couple of years. However, they soldiered on, and the album boasted a rich, somewhat heavier sound than its predecessors, perhaps due to the new traditional rock band line-up. It opens with a bizarre anthem dedicated to the mythical Alphabet Business Concern, the band’s label and management company (who in all likelihood is actually Tim Smith himself). But track two showed off what the new Cardiacs really had in store.

She Is Hiding Behind The Shed is a mischievous little thing. Like most Cardiacs songs, it’s a bit all over the place and compellingly strange initially, but it was notably heavier, louder and (dare I say it…) punkier than previous offerings and the vocals were more shouty than normal. I can understand it would irritate the heck out of some listeners, but to me it’s a forgotten nugget that heralded a new dawn in the Cardiacs story.

Sadly, the album’s misfortunes weren’t over. Shortly after release, its distribution company Rough Trade went belly-up. The record disappeared from stores and could not be reordered. Unable to recoup recording costs, Cardiacs were landed with a sizable debt. And then, to top it off, longtime drummer Dominic Luckman quit the following summer. ‘Heaven Born…’ was to remain a very elusive record until it was reissued three years later. By then, work had started on its long-awaited follow-up, the dazzling epic that was ‘Sing To God’. But that’s a story for another day.

[1] Former multiple world snooker champion. Davis’ nickname ‘Interesting’ was ironic as he was often seen as being boring and dull. The very fact he’s a massive Cardiacs fan makes him more ‘Interesting’ than the vast majority of people on the planet.


  1. A troubled man, I believe. And their recordings are,generally, not available at sensible prices, last time I looked. Sometimes they can be absolutely awesome. I'm not sure they are terribly well-known. Pity, really.

  2. Hi George. Most of their albums are currently available through their website at very sensible prices -

    Thanks for flagging up this track Robster. I love Cardiacs but this is probably their least played album in my house. Having dug it out for another spin, I don't know why I neglected it for so long. I agree with every word you wrote about Tim and Cardiacs and am looking forward to further installments in this series.