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Lost Welsh classics: The Table - Do The Standing Still

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James McLaren James McLaren | 09:53 UK time, Thursday, 8 December 2011

The other day I was introduced to a 1977 song by Welsh band The Table, called Do The Standing Still. Not quite punk, not quite new wave and not quite anything else, it had a brilliant effervescent charm and energy that had all the hallmarks of late-70s punk but with added musicality. Add the fact that the lyrics were nothing but a list of comic book titles and straplines, and I was hooked.

Russ, Tony, Micky and Len of The Table (1977)

Russell Young, Tony Barnes, Micky O'Connor and Len Lewis of The Table (1977)

Wanting to find out more, I located one of the core duo, Tony Barnes, who now runs an animation company in the Channel Islands.

Hi Tony. There's some information about The Table out there on the web, but could you tell us a little about how The Table got together?

"Basically The Table was me and my school-mate Russ Young. We hooked up in good old Cathays High School Cardiff and started writing songs and recording them, largely at home on domestic tape recorders. We'd send them off to various record companies in London and get the subsequent rejection letters.

"Influences around then were The Beatles, Beach Boys and classic power-pop (Who, Move, Kinks etcetera), Iggy Pop, Velvet Underground and various 'out there' stuff like Van Der Graaf Generator, Soft Machine, Gong, Bonzo Dog Band, Krautrock, Wild Man Fischer, Beefheart, Roxy Music.

"I was more into the standard cheesy poppy chart stuff, Motown and Dr Feelgood, whereas Russ was into the more avant garde and way out - he bought Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music for instance. And most likely listened to it. Still does, probably."

One of those record companies was Richard Branson's Virgin Records. What became of that deal? And is it true you owned no instruments?

"Standing Still was on a bunch of songs we recorded around 1975 and we got a nibble from Virgin soon thereafter at the start of the 'punk' thing. That was when folks were tiring of the overblown Yes/ELP prog-rock schtick and craved more basic material to listen to. So we got signed up to a one-single deal with Virgin.

"We had done the odd gig, like the Windsor Free Festival, but between getting a deal and the single coming out, punk had mutated from the quaint (Jonathan Richman's Roadrunner) to the extreme (Clash, Ramones, Pistols, Sham 69). So we found ourselves in the middle of that stylistic fashion pose. Not Punks, not hippies, just too arty-probably-for-our-own-good writers primarily. And certainly not disco either.

"We picked up a drummer, Len Lewis, and guitarist Micky O'Connor to get more of a 'band' sound that Virgin required, and when the single came out to good reception got offers for a few gigs and tours. Trouble was the sheer cost of paying for the PA equipment and crew and all that.

"We were offered tours but Virgin wouldn't back us which we felt aggrieved by as it would've promoted our material on their label so we were kind of stuck in a Catch-22. There wasn't exactly pressure from Virgin to tour but they had signed the Sex Pistols and XTC so probably lost what little interest they had. I don't know.

"That's where the legend of us having no gear must have come about. Basically we had our instruments and attendant amps, but nothing else, so when we played we were in the hands of whoever was running the PA and who of curse wouldn't know our songs. That said, we made a good fist of it despite essentially not being showbiz types. There were memorably good gigs with XTC and us swapping top spot and using their PA. Others, not so good, with The Police heckling us! Getting management was a problem too, and as we didn't connect with anyone we deemed legitimate that became a hassle too."

Do The Standing Still became NME's Single of the Week on its release - didn't that help?

"Despite Single of the Week, and John Peel playing it, we hardly got any exposure - not least Radio Wales not playing us as it 'wasn't their sort of thing'. Anyway, we soldiered on. Virgin wanted another single from us but we didn't like the thought of taking on all that with no backing so impolitely declined. We had another single out on Chiswick called Sex Cellsbut again no promotion meant limbo was beckoning."

So what happened after Sex Cells?

"We soldiered on a while, with some personnel changes, and I got sidelined to be a 'Brian Wilson' type figure supplying songs and The Table gradually petered out due to being ignored, lack of interest or perceived commercial viability, just plain being crap or whatever. We were essentially ourselves, unique but sadly totally ignored.

"Russ and I have continued our separate ways and occasionally have dialogue. I'm putting out a few tracks under The Table name which maybe I can tempt him to do the vocals on sometime."

Did you make anything out Do The Standing Still?

"No, we made no cash, but have some kind of legendary status I guess!"

Watch the video for Do The Standing Still:

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