The Cravats were thrown together in 1977, the day after The Shend & Robin Dallaway had seen The Stranglers in Birmingham. Once back home in Redditch, tooled up with only a pair of bongo's and acoustic guitar, the boys got drunk and started work on The Cravats.
After recruiting Martin Seys to play guitar, and Ethos Yapp to oblige on the drums the band took their set of songs into the studio to record a demo tape.
This line up didn't last too long losing Martin Seys along the way, but gaining a sax player by the name of Richard London, they could now leg it down to Outlaw Studios in Birmingham to embark on what would eventually turn out to be their first single 'Gordon'.
The band didn't have a clue what to do once inside the studio so an in-house engineer took charge.When he handed them the finished tape they didn't know to what to do with it.
In July of 1978 armed with the results of the 6 hours in the studio, the band managed to borrow £400 from The Shend's Mum and got a thousand 7" singles pressed up.
By this time Ethos had decided being in a band just wasn't his cup of tea, so he literally upsticks and left. The Cravats now had to perform a cunning raid on another Redditch called The Remoulds and steal their drummer Dave Bennett.
John Peel Wingdings are now a thing of yore, I only remember hearing about them as a youth when Peel would announce on his show that he'd managed to play Teenage Kicks three times the previous night in Barnstable, or wherever the roadshow had landed.
But it was on one of Peel's Wingdings in Stratford Upon Avon that The Shend gave Peel a copy of the 'Gordon' single resulting in the record getting played that night, and securing a session for his radio show.
In July 79' The Cravats loaded up the van and traveled down to Maida Vale Studios in London and recorded five tracks for their first Peel session.
Pete Stennet was quietly trying to get along running his record shop/label Small Wonder, when one day a suspect package came through his door. The contents were one white label pressing of the 'Gordon' single, Pete liked the record so much that he picked up the remaining copies for his Small Wonder label, he then booked the band into the studio with producer Bob Sargeant to lay down tracks for their first proper Small Wonder release.
I Hate The Universe
The record didn't set the world alight, but with steady plays on Peel's radio show the band managed to build up a small following at gigs in the capital and around Birmingham.
Sadly I never got to see The Cravats live, talk of the band using coffee percolators, theremins and tape loops all sounds ahead of its time, not to mention some guy who would sit facing the audience in a chair pretending to watch television.
As you may have gathered by now The Cravats were not the most prolific band going, but in August 1980 the band released another single this time milking the A side from their first Peel session, coupled with a track recorded in a barn they used to rehearse in.
Precinct/Who's In Here With Me?
Why The Cravats chose a hotel in Torquay to record an album is anyone's guess, but for one week the eight track studio located in the basement became the launchpad for Cravats In Toytown.
October 1980 saw Cravats In Toytown released gaining healthy reviews from the music press, and a top twenty placing in the indie chart.
The band also found time to record another Peel session.
The Cravats next release was the result of them hooking up with Penny Rimbaud the drummer with Crass. Penny managed to capture a darker sound for the band culminating in the two tracks.
You're Driving Me/I Am The Dreg
Which became The Cravats fourth single to tentatively stick its head above the parapet. Although it didn't fare very well on release in March 81' it was the start of a more cohesive sound for the band that seemed to be finding it's feet in the studio.
It's not quite as extensive as say The Fall's tally of Peel sessions, but by now The Cravats recording a third session in the Autumn was a major thing. The Shend candidly admitted that P.R.S payments for radio plays were the main income for the band.
Small Wonder had promised the next single would feature 800 blonde cuties and a 1000 trombone players... although this never came about, which leads me to think it may have been the reason that lay behind the release
Off The Beach/And The Sun Shone
being the last for the label. The tracks were recorded with Pete Stennet donning the producers cap down at Southern Studios. The blow of missing out on the trombone players and blonde cuties was softened slightly when the band were afforded a full colour sleeve. The warped rockabilly mutant strains of Off The Beach came wrapped in a cheeky little yellow and black number when it hit the streets in November.
The Cravats were now left to ponder life without Small Wonder and crack on with fixing a label for the next single. Help came in the form of Glass Record's who in February 82' released the next single.
Terminus/Little Yellow Froggy
Despite good reviews the single received no promotion and therefore just hobbled off into the distance to die alone.The Cravats were made of stronger stuff to let that bother them though and came flying out of the blocks five months later with the mighty behemoth that was.
Rub Me Out/When Will We Fall
A one-off single deal with Crass Record's looks odd on paper but with Penny Rimbaud onboard and a label identity that helped to sell records, The Cravats produced probably their best single it reached #15 in the indie charts in July of 1982.
The Crass records deal was always going to be a one-off as that was the labels policy, but an extension was offered to The Cravats to make an album via Corpus Christi. The label allowed greater autonomy to bands, set up as a form of halfway house between Crass Records and bands creating their own thing.
An oddity of an album as it compiled tracks from varied sources recorded at different times but still managed to fit well in the record's groove like they were all rekindled lovers who were always meant to be together. The album was released in February 1982 and sold well, gaining a top thirty placing in the Indie chart. When I got my copy home I remember something flying out of the sleeve, at first I thought it was a leaflet but on further inspection it turned out to be a flexi disc. This was to be the first glimpse into the wild carnageous world of
An umbrella group of sorts D.c.L were not limiting themselves to being one group like The Cravats but a myriad of bands such as..The Babymen, D.c.L Locomotive, and The Very Things who all released stuff. And Mourning Dobermen, Piston Smash who didn't
There was even talk of an as yet unthought of band called Gritty Foreskin
D.c.L, The Babymen, The Very Things, D.C.L Locomotive, have their own MySpace Pages (Check Links Page).
Dada manifested not only in the name but also in actions, as a series of happenings were beginning to take shape. One involved standing at regular intervals along the A34 road in florescent workmen's coats where each person would adopt a shape as a car would go past, the last person in the line was afforded the task of photographing the driver for inclusion in a book.
A further happening called 'Acoustic Rock Cricket' consisted of someone bowling rocks at a batsman armed with only an acoustic guitar standing up to their knees in Coughton Ford .The game continued until the guitar was demolished, again this was all photographed to go into the book.
But probably the best one involved a businessman, a vicar, plus seven naked men wrapped in binliners converging on The Shend's parents driveway, and on the front gate hung a sign reading
'Beware Of The Dogma'
Some Gypsies approached during this happening but only to ask if the drive wanted Tarmacking. In total, three books of photo's were collated on the happenings. These were given a Viking cremation on a small boat off the coast of Wales whilst Shend and Robin recited the D.c.L manifesto in unison.
The Cravats made one final gasp of air?, when in 1986 they released
'The Land Of The Giants'
A twelve inch single which was released on Reflex Records. The Cravats now featured Robin 'Disneytime' Holland, as Dave Bennett had decamped to join Poison Girls. And alas for the first time The Cravats featured no sax as Richard London had joined Pig Bros.
Recent mutterings have led me to believe that The Cravats have not split up as The Shend stated, indeed, they will exist forever and will just record new material whenever they feel the need.
We felt the need for 'The Land Of The Giants' and may feel the need anyday.
And now that day is upon us yet again, as The Cravats foist upon you new offerings in the form of
a chance meeting with Paul Hartnoll from Orbital got their creative juices flowing again. Paul acted as a conduit summoning up Cravats tracks of old, whilst The Cravats came up with a new script from which to sing.
The results will be with us shortly.
So there you have it - a potted history,
a lot of it made up, maybe all of it.
Dale Jowett 19/5/2002
From The Cravats web page www.thecravats.com
Punk Rock Punk Post-punk