Attack! It’s back

It’s the moment the 21st century musical world has been waiting for. My butty Mike Harris’s classic early 90s Cardiff dance ditties (he’ll hate me for using that word) are available again.

Go to iTunes and type in ‘Cardiff City’. Under albums you will see ‘Attack Bluebirds’

By SWK and the 1927 club. That’s it.

Four songs for 79p each. The lot for 2.49. Bargain of the millennium.

The songs are What’s His Name (Eddie May), Attack, Give Us a Goal and Blue Army.

Here’s what I wrote at the time for the Bobbing Along fanzine back in 1991:

It has to be one of the great musical moments.
She: You know the manager of Cardiff?
He: Yeah.
She: What’s his name?

Cue thumping beat etc before peaking in a roaring crescendo of Eddie May choruses.

Yes – it’s in with the great opening bars – up there alongside the Pistols’ Pretty Vacant and the first line of Mae Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau.

And if you were at Aldershot on November 8, 1991, YOU helped inspire it.

The man responsible for the two tracks on the cassette – Attack and Eddie May – was Muswell Hill-based fan Mike Harris. Versed in arts as diverse as the sax, guitar, keyboards and flute, he concocted the heady brew the following March.

It eased the pain in the car journey back from defeat at Rochdale. Roused the spirits before that all-important skirmish at Scunthorpe. And when funky Phil Suarez played it over the Ninian Park tannoy at the Cardiff v Maesteg Park Welsh semi-final, Mike knew he’d arrived.

It’s a damn good release and here’s why:

Mike: “The Aldershot game triggered it, I’d seen a few matches that season – Barnet, Gillingham and Maidstone away, but the atmosphere that night was something else. It was so alive, even though there were only about 300 or so City fans there. I thought I would try to capture that and blend it with the music I was making at the time.”

And to answer the question on everybody’s lips, you could be part of the crowd featured on the tape, if you were at one of the following games in 91/92 – Swansea (November 16), Walsall (January 18) or Mansfield (January 31). And no you can’t have any royalties.

Mike: “I took my tape recorder to about eight or nine games in the end but only those three gave me anything worth using. The quality was not great and the reason I never got a good Ayatollah was because people never synchronised it. You’d never get it right.

“I transferred the sound on to an Akai sampler and stretched it – extending the chant to fit in with the beats per minute, which probably something like 122 on the songs.

“Then I used a computerised drum loop, taken from another record – all dance records do that anyway. And I got an old girlfriend who used to live in Cardiff to do the voiceover in a Kay-ar-diff accent.

“She threw in a couple of lines about fancying Nathan Blake and Carl Dale – a bit of tongue-in-cheek stuff. Looking back on it I wanted it to be aggressive and to have the flavour of a football song and I think it works quite well.”

Mike made about 850 tapes – and what profit there was paid for a few trips. In London, every game is an away match.

And reaction was brilliant, even if Alan Walsh looked at it suspiciously when given a free copy outside a Rochdale fish and chip shop.

Mike: “A couple of people thought it was a pile of shit and told me so. But 99% of them liked it. I was pleased they played it before one of the matches. Up until then, the club hadn’t been particularly interested in it, even though Mike Lambert and the supporters’ club were keen.

“Then there was the pensioner going down Sloper Road in his car, rocking his head violently back and forth in time with the music. I couldn’t believe it – he had it on really loud! Another guy came out of the shop kissing it – that was a nice moment too.

“The worst was the trogg who came up to me and said: ‘Great tape mate but there’s not enough violence against the Jacks in it.’

“The media reaction has been good – it went in the Echo and Red Dragon played it. And it was on Radio 5’s Rave programme. That was strange – they couldn’t understand why I supported Cardiff when I lived in London, when there were so many other clubs to watch.

“And BBC2’s Standing Room Only programme played it on a feature they did in May with pictures from the match at Wrexham.”

Hail Cale

The grandaddy of Welsh rock showed age is no barrier to brilliance.

John Cale won’t be going gently into the good night on this evidence – he’s a peroxide blond at 70 (to fit in with the surfers in LA where he lives perhaps?) – and he’s a leading a testosterone-fuelled monster of band.

Manic Street Preacher James Dean Bradfield was among the audience at the Coal Exchange to witness what evolved into a startlingly good show.

With Cale on keyboards, the four-piece band – the rest of the group were half his age – started slowly with new numbers from the album Shifty Adventures in Nookie Wood being interesting rather than compelling.

It got a lot more exciting when he switched to guitar and a spellbinding rendition of Helen of Troy swirled us on to a different planet. It howled with fury, an absolute tour de force.

From that moment you forgot that this guy – the genius whose work with Lou Reed made the not-very-popular-at-the-time Velvet Underground in the 60s influenced thousands of bands – could be drawing a UK pension.

The band grew in confidence, the pace was relentless and tracks like Whaddya Mean By That and Perfection were perfectly pitched. Hard and loud, but melodic.

By the end Grandad John, who, let’s be honest, doesn’t smile too easily, was grinning. He was dripping in sweat – his cotton jacket was soaked through after a tough 90 minutes. There was no gasping for breath or concession to advancing years. I bet this uncompromising, peroxided pensioner even fancied a bit of crowd-surfing. It was an absolutely astounding performance and homecoming.

He may not have had a hit record you can name, or an easily recognisable public persona. But he is one of Wales’s national treasures.

The boy from Carmarthenshire, whose mother tongue was Welsh, signed off with – nice touch – ‘Nos da’.

‘Nos da’ wasn’t the half of it, this was very, very good night indeed.