Aug 19 2011: Silver Coin by The Spasms (from Preseli Folk LP, Preseli Records 1979)
There’s a lot of talk these days about the overwhelming range of music available online, as pretty much anyone – from the 80 year old former professional musician to the 12 year old bedroom chancer – takes advantage of their new ability to record a few songs on a computer, convert them to mp3 format and upload them, perhaps with a home-made film shot on a mobile to accompany each song.
Sometimes the talk concerns the loss of quality control, or the lack of reliable curation that makes it hard to find the scarce needles of quality in the endless barns full of derivative mediocrity and plain terrible material that crashes around cyberspace like some kind of tidal wave of half-thwarted artistic aspiration. In a way, though, the chaotic situation online is nothing new, except that it’s now carried by a different technology: once, vinyl (and later cassettes) created exactly the same kind of chaos.
The record pictured here, an LP compiled and privately pressed by Reg Dyer on behalf of a folk club based at the Trewern Arms, Preseli, designed to sell a couple of tracks each by some of its regulars to those attending its nights in the late 1970s, is a perfect example of the way that those long lost needles continue to surface.
Among the comedy songs, fairly standard versions of traditional numbers like Matty Groves, Johnny Sands, Ye Jacobites by Name and the like, we find two songs by The Spasms, presumably a local outfit whose line up is listed on the back of the record sleeve by first names only (for the record: Lead vocal: Mike, Backing vocals: Andrea & Tony, Guitars: Mike & Tony, Autoharp: Andrea; Fiddle: Tony) and three of whose surnames (Rawlinson, Wrench and Walker) seem to have survived in the songwriting credits on this and the other Spasms song, 1980s Man.
Which is fortunate, as Silver Coin is a rather wonderful thing, though it’s admittedly one that seems somewhat at odds with the moment in which it was recorded, in July 1979, and sounds more like it might have been written at the height of the hippy folk scene of the later sixties and early seventies than during the long, slow-motion fall-out of punk, disco and New Wave.