Newport music in the 1970s

Joe Strummer on stage

Last updated: 16 September 2009

Back in the 1970s, Newport was buzzing with bands as Joe Strummer invigorated the town's music scene.

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Listen to a documentary from BBC Radio Wales entitled Art College Days, in which the main instigators of the town's music and art college scene at the time recall the decade.

Photo: Joe Strummer on stage with The Vultures

The Clash's iconic frontman Joe Strummer died back in 2002, leaving a legacy to punk and rock music of great importance and success, but back in his early career, his presence in Newport galvanised the music scene in the South Wales town.

Between 1973 and 1974, Strummer - nicknamed 'Woody' after Woody Guthrie - spent a year hanging around Newport Art College, working as a gravedigger and performing with his band The Vultures. They had existed before his arrival, but his presence gave the band and the local music scene more direction.

Strummer would tell different stories about how he arrived in Newport, some thinking that Woody followed a girlfriend to Cardiff, after being thrown out of London's Central School of Art for dabbling in LSD, some believing he simply hitch-hiked to the city.

The Gay Dogs
The Gay Dogs

Strummer hooked up with mutual friends in Newport, fronting The Vultures in return for his drumkit.

Regardless of how Strummer ended up in Newport, he hooked up with mutual friends in Newport, fronting The Vultures in return for use of his drumkit. Local resident and college friend Richard Frame says, "The Vultures were avant-garde jazz, I suppose. Obviously in terms of technique he wasn't that proficient - hence his name - but I think people don't give Newport as much credit as they should when looking at The Clash's influences.

"I used to have this tape of Joe just playing on his own. The style is nothing like the one he developed with The Clash; it's kind of country and western. He also went through this period of being nicknamed Woody for a while, after Woody Guthrie."

In addition, a fellow resident of his student digs in Newport, Mick Foote - studying fine art at the time - went on to produce The Clash's self-titled first album.


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