Popular Welsh music in the 1970s

70s performer Max Boyce

Last updated: 05 December 2008

Music gets diverse, as the hills and valleys are alive to the sound of folk, pop, acid rock, punk and much more...

While the world was obsessed with spangles, space hoppers and Raleigh Choppers, Wales was busying itself by becoming a hotbed of talent, reaching audiences both locally and internationally.

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Those twin behemoths of Welsh music, Tom Jones and Shirley Bassey, were enjoying continuing success at the start of the 1970s. Diamonds Are Forever, her second James Bond theme, was released in 1972.

Jones, meanwhile, had a string of hits including Daughter Of Darkness, I (Who Have Nothing), She's A Lady, Till and The Young New Mexican Puppeteer. He was also regularly collecting knickers from the stages of Las Vegas venues, but that's OK - they were thrown at him by overexcited tourists.

An enduring Welsh performer with roots in the 70s is Max Boyce. In November 1973 he recorded the album Live At Treorchy in the rugby club with a hastily assembled band. Although the audience was largely previously unaware of him, Boyce won them over with his charm and humour, and went on to become an internationally-renowned singer.

Away from the well-trodden light entertainment routes, there were exciting things happening with Welsh rock. Though they actually formed in 1968, Man hit their stride in the 70s, touring virtually non-stop yet still releasing an album a year, and gaining increasing fame and renown on the festival circuit at home and in Europe.

Burke Shelly of Budgie
Burke Shelly of Budgie

Another group with origins in the 60s was Cardiff group Budgie, who in the early 70s delivered three essential albums for any self-respecting fan of British heavy rock: the self-titled debut, follow-up Squawk and 1973's Never Turn Your Back On A Friend. Budgie influenced the sound of groups including Black Sabbath and Metallica, and went on to success throughout the decade and into the early 1980s.

Badfinger released their debut single, the Paul McCartney-penned Come And Get It, in 1968. But their best work came in the 70s, particularly with the timeless No Dice album in 1971, and guest spots on some of Lennon and Harrison's best solo work. However, the band were grossly mismanaged, and millions went missing from the their accounts. On 23 April 1975, in despair at the turmoil within and around the band, lead singer Pete Ham hanged himself. Although Badfinger were kickstarted again by founder members Joey Molland and Tom Evans in 1978, their best years were behind them.

In 1970 Dave Edmunds went solo after a tenure with psychedelic rockers Love Sculpture. He promptly scored a number one single I Hear You Knocking. He went on to remake the classic sounds of the 60s, and set up the hugely successful Rockfield studio in South Wales.

Meic Stevens also emerged as a significant talent in the 1970s. The "Welsh Bob Dylan" released his first single in 1972: the irresistibly catchy Y Brawd Houdini (The Brother Houdini), which later became a live staple for Super Furry Animals. A few months later, his second single included the old time favourite Diolch Yn Fawr. Many albums followed, mainly on Sain and its sister label Crai.

Other notable names in Welsh-language music were the Status Quo inspired rocker group Edward H Dafis, and the reggae influenced Geraint Jarman ar Cynganeddwyr. And, later on, Trwynau Coch brought a punk edge to Welsh music, and were also one of the first Welsh groups to run their own record label. Another notable Welsh punk name with roots in the 70s is Picture Frame Seduction, who formed in Haverfordwest in 1978 and later helped spread the new wave of British punk in the 80s.

John Cale
John Cale

Having changed the future of music with his tenure in The Velvet Underground, John Cale released his debut solo album, Vintage Violence, in 1970. Throughout the decade Cale explored numerous musical avenues, from abstract ambience to orchestral, rock and pop. He also produced records for Patti Smith, Squeeze, Sham 69 and Nico, and even found time to kill a chicken on stage. Phew.

Cale continued hell-raising well into the 1980s.


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