MARK FRANCOMBE Musician, Filmmaker, Game-designer & Kipple-monger

Tim Smith R.I.P.

If there was one band worthy of inclusion in the music magazine The Wires “Epiphanies” section, it should be Cardiacs.
Shunned by the music press for 30 years as being too clever, or quirky, and yet beloved by a huge range of fans across the world and lauded by big stars such as Radiohead, Blur and Faith no More.

There isn’t really any fan of Cardiacs that hasn’t come to them by way of some kind of Epiphany, you just dont/cant like Cardiacs… a bit. You either totally love them, love everything they do, from the stop/start time signatures, the prog yet punk yet ska sound, the virtuosity, perfectionism and professionality of the playing, the crazy, “just out of the asylum” shouty circus freak image and the weird unexplained, carefully created backstory of a sinister organisation that manages and controls them… or… you hate them and don’t get it at all.

My journey with Cardiacs started at a pub in Guildford (details like when or where or guildford, might be inaccurate here, its a bit hazy) when they were supporting the punky Hippy band “Here and Now”. Me and my friends had driven from Petersfield for Here and Now, only to find they had cancelled and the support band stepped up for the the full show.
Cardiacs.
We stood open mouthed at first, then we jiggled about a bit trying to keep in time with the off kilter rhythms and song structures (R.E S. remains a test of the noob Cardiacs dancer… do you get the extra beats in the chorus right? or look an idiot, stopping on starts and starting on stops?).
By the end, probably during the anthemic and perfectly crafted stadium rock of “Is this the Life?” we, my friends and I were swaying, hands in the air with tears streaming down our faces and grins from ear to ear.

A quick chat with Tim after the show and the last 9 months of me and Nicks video course at Portsmouth college of Art was sorted.
We turned up at a Surbiton Town hall, not a long time later with 2 U-matic video cameras and recorded the whole gig from 2 angles. We made a quick edit, simply synching up the 2 cameras with the desk recording and Tim came down to see.
He tutted and groaned and laughed and considered, and over the course of a month where he came down to supervise every change, every small edit, in a friendly, but firm way. He liked the final result. He was happy and it was deemed finished. But, something was not right, the quality of the cameras (not really good enough in low light) the camerawork (it’s hard to keep a steady shot in a mosh pit) and the audio recording (too dry through the desk but with Nick and me carefully mixing in some live atmos from the camera mikes)… something was amiss.

But we had passed his audition for bigger things as he revealed to us his ideas for “Seaside Treats”. And offered us the job of producing it.

Seaside Treats was to be a mix of performance based pop videos shot in an old Church Hall in Kingston and weird homemade VHS tapes. The details of making it are very hazy, we didn’t really “have a plan” just a location. We knew which tracks would be shot and scoured the hall for shots and angles. It had a stage, and Tim had thought that they would just set up like a band and we would kind of “re-shoot” the Surbiton gig.
But, we weren’t having any of that.
While “A little man and a house” was at least shot ON the stage, but not straight on and with no instruments, “To go off and things” was shot under the stage in cramped conditions along with old packing boxes and rolls of carpet and RES was shot in front of an old kitchen hatch where no doubt many cups of tea and biscuits had been served after weddings, funerals and AA meetings.

And with that, my journey ended rather quickly, with my friend and colleague Nick going on to make “Too many irons in the fire” and a few more things from the VHS outtakes, including the very odd Consultants Flower Garden. I got suddenly busy with my band Cranes and I all but forgot them, which sounds a little hard to do. I bumped into Tim once at that little club in Oxford Street where all the Camden Indie bands hung out, can’t remember the name, and we chatted a bit, but, I was not completely sure if he recognised me. Very shorty after that, after that fateful MBV concert that I might even have been at, Tim was struck down, and the rest is a very very sad history, that just ended a few days ago.
What a waste!

There was never any band quite like Cardiacs, and I doubt there ever will be again.


Rest in Peace Tim.

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