Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Welsh Wednesday #27

Maes B by Y Blew

Most people, even in Wales, have probably never heard of Y Blew, but the truth is they have huge historical significance in Welsh rock music. Y Blew (trans: The Hair) are widely credited as being the first Welsh language rock band. During the 1960s, Wales was a bit behind other parts of the UK in terms of its music scene. OK, so we had Tom Jones, Shirley Bassey and Amen Corner blazing a trail internationally, but only the traditional male voice choirs and folk music were performed in the native tongue.

Y Blew formed and split in 1967, but during their short tenure, they became one of the most important bands in the nation's history. As attitudes towards the Welsh language changed with the younger generations, and Welsh political issues gaining more and more support, the climate was right for a band like Y Blew. They played three successful tours of South Wales and a show at that year's National Eisteddfod in the North Wales town of Bala. It was there they got the title for their only release.

Maes B (trans: Field B - the stage they played at the Eisteddfod) became the band's only recorded output, released as a single in November 1967. It and its b-side[1] were recorded in Swansea in just two hours as the band rushed to get it finished before travelling to Aberystwyth to play two gigs that same evening. Their last gig took place over the Christmas period that year and they split before the New Year.[2]

There wasn't a plethora of Welsh language rock bands that immediately followed in Y Blew's wake. In fact, it wasn't until the 1970s that Welsh language rock music began to take off, but even then it was considered something of a niche market. Yet today, Y Blew are considered trailblazers and an inspiration to Welsh-speaking musicians and performers alike. In fact, the rock music stage at the National Eisteddfod has retained the name Maes B in honour of the band.

[1] The B-side was Beth Sy'n Dod Rhyngom Ni (trans: What Comes Between Us), a version of Curtis Mayfield's You Must Believe Me.
[2] Trivia: Some years later, lead guitarist Richard Lloyd became a founder member of Socialist a capella outift the Flying Pickets, who had a number one hit in 1984 - at the height of the Miner's Strike - with a cover of Yazoo's Only You.

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