Rob Jones

The book ‘Chalkhills and Children’ by Chris Twomey is the tale of alternative rock icons, XTC. A Tonypandy Naval Club show (2/4/1977) is recorded thus: ‘What a night! Wales didn’t know what hit them!’ XTC then played Cymmer Pioneer (7/7/1977) before stardom loomed, and the band went on to score acclaimed hit singles and albums.

As punk peaked in 1977, ‘Eagle Records’ De Winton Street opened with an array of coloured discs/picture sleeves/and 7-12” records. Eagle manageress, Lynne Casey, had the top vinyl releases in stock (eons before the arrival of CD’s, personal PC players or downloading music!); and, just up the road the late Mal Rees also catered for a diverse group of pop fan as well as musicians who purchased equipment at ‘The Record Shop’.

These once vibrant retail options and the live lustre of the Naval Club (which attracted acts such as UK Subs, Tom Robinson Band, After the Fire, Sledgehammer, Man, Iron Maiden, Saxon and XTC) are now but distant history! There were also other venues in a valley of yesterday that have witnessed the likes of the pictured Screaming Lord Sutch (Jesters, 1994), Black Sabbath (Judges, 1970) and Status Quo, The Move and Marmalade also having graced Rhondda venues,in the late 60’s.

Further down the valley the halcyon days of ‘Diamond Discs’, Penygraig and in Hannah Street, Porth a brace of fine outlets in the form of ‘Pepper Records’ and ‘Hurleys’ have also disappeared from the local landscape. The pop punter can now access his sonic treats in a variety of different ways whether it is the Internet downloads, the city megastore (e.g. HMV), supermarkets or high street chains – and, the independent record store is rarely to be seen apart from the likes of the never say die ‘Spillers’ of Cardiff. There is also a Rhondda link there with the late valley legend Joe Gregory (who once had a music shop on De Winton Street) also playing a role in the Spillers story.

However, it is congratulations to Rhondda businessman Phil Evans who has run ‘Second Time Around’ in the Dunraven Arcade, Tonypandy since 2008. Phil has always been an ardent music fan and his love of the punk rock genre has led to this Pentre gent promoting many gigs and bringing the likes of the Manic Street Preachers and Dub War to play Ystrad venues such as The Star Hotel and the local rugby club!

‘Second Time Around’ (the only record store in the Rhondda) specialises in compact discs and vinyl whether it be old or new, classic or rare. Phil also caters for music of all styles in the DVD, book or cassette format in his Aladdin’s Cave of aural adventure; and, his shop proves that people still like the personal touch of sifting through racks of releases and turning up a joyous gem!

The revival of vinyl has been a tonic to Phil and his outlet which has been open on Fridays and Saturday mornings when pandemic regulations allow. A return for STA is imminent and we wish Phil well.

The local music scene has seen an abundance of performing talent that continues to blossom. Rhondda rock/pop history lists such names as: 70’s UK Top 30 hit makers Racing Cars plus a long list that includes: John Mouse, Matthew Frederick, Deadheads, Taffy Apple, Mad Dog, The Last Promise, Visions of Darkness, The Pleasure Principle, Twp, Talkshow, Blood Orange, Peruvian Hipsters, Roman Index, Scared of the Dark, Titch Gwilym, Public Demand, Soundjunkies, The Sugarhouse, The Donde Stars, When Snails Attack, Dead against the Rest, Matthew Hitt, Somewhere to Fit, Life’s A Riot, Counter Clockwork, Lucky Delucci, Myxalydia, Cutting the Beef, DTA, Mea, Blue Traffic, Rob Reed (in his Magenta guise) and many, many others.

In amongst the newer performers there is also a great deal of diversity ranging from folk to hip hop and on to rock! There is also Rhondda input in bands such as Climbing Trees, The Vega Bodegas and The Drowners to name but a few.

The once renowned Pop Factory welcomed many great names and in its guise as The Factory other famous faces have also appeared. Echo & the Bunnymen, Queens of the Stone Age, The Nightingales, Inspiral Carpets/Tom Hingley, Afrika Bambaataa, The Primitives, Suede, Ash, Elbow, Snow Patrol and many others have appeared in Porth since the turn of the millennium!

Venues such as The Rhondda Hotel, Cymmer with its regular rock shows and ad hoc indie/rock discos has brought in local talent and a host of tribute acts among other options. The Kick out the Jams DJ team have also offered a plethora of pop at other outlets e.g. The Miskin, Trealaw!

The Parc & Dare has also welcomed the likes of Gruff Rhys (Super Furry Animals), Ray Davies (The Kinks), Billy Bragg, Jools Holland, Marc Almond and Cerys Matthews; and just up the road The Parc Hall, Cwmparc has also welcomed bands such as The Beat, Vice Squad, Sham 69, Secret Affair and Y Peth (featuring Hollywood star Rhys Ifans)!

The Rheola, Porth has held open mic nights and David and Dawn Hoban are central to organising and performing at these evenings on the first Thursday of each month along with the likes of David Bayliss. The WAM nights at The Workers Art Gallery and Tonypandy Library have also seen a multitude of acoustic sets from solo artists and duos

There have also been a host of tribute bands doing the rounds – and Ystrad Rhondda RFC has housed such events in honour of David Bowie, The Jam, Stone Roses and Pink Floyd among countless other names. Also up and coming acts such as ska queen Mille Manders have been on stage (again thanks to Phil Evans).

Ystrad Sports centre has also welcomed alternative greats such as Half Man Half Biscuit plus Eddie & the Hotrods with Goldie Lookin’ Chain also doing a set locally.

There are indeed many more pubs and clubs that have played rocking roles over the years and a multitude of characters/performers to add to the above list – some are still here and others have gone e.g. Anhrefn at Pentre Legion and Bruce Foxton at The Library, Llwynypia. However, as an overview there is evidence to show that the valley is a haven for the sonic tonic.

Apologies to anyone not mentioned – for there are so many! However, when it comes to music the Rhondda rocks and long may this trend burgeon when it is allowed to spiral!!!