Serendipity is crucial because it expands your horizons. You need that if you want to be free. – Cass R. Sunstein.
Not all those who wander are lost. – J. R. R. Tolkien.
I’m playing the album Send No Flowers by Psyco Daisies. It always sends me back there. The time, the place, the personal internal confusion and intense difficult feelings. I remember the day I bought the cassette in Acorn Records, Glovers Walk, Yeovil. It was a big deal on the local music scene at the time. Much had been made of the fact that there was a colour cardboard insert for the album. This golden and pure album of local unpretentious beauty, depth and charm was released on the 9th of June 1984. I have one of only 30 original copies released. Send No Flowers had a 2015 CDr limited edition re-issue by the still active label that originally released it The Golden Pathway, which continues to this day to lovingly and tastefully chronicle the Yeovil and the surrounding environs 1980’s music scene from live audience recorded cassette tapes and studio recordings.
Send No Flowers is a hidden gem, a stone-cold classic cassette-based album. The album is listed as psychedelic rock, though this fails for me in encompassing the full nature of this treasure; tight, crisp, cohesive musicianship, weird urban/rural field recordings garlanding the tracks, post-Falkland’s war dystopian cynicism, poverty on council estates intercut with the lush green surroundings of rural South West England, a peculiar lost Sid Vicious/Ian Curtis like vocalist stumbling and yet still dynamically encompassing the gorgeous, detailed, rich impeccably produced guitar, bass, drums and keyboards. When I play this album, I have an out of body experience. I am literally haunted and transformed back into the old self I was then. My memories return, an invisible photographic maze now a robust quilt on the hard drive of my human brain. This is not just some poignant remembrance of old then, it’s a living breathing capsule of existence. The album line up of Vocals: Bella (Wilf), Guitar, artwork and illustration: Graham Moores, Bass: Matt Cornish (Thatcher on Acid), Drums/Keyboards: Charlie Keen, Engineer: Bastie Beaumont, Sound F/X: Hind D is a confluence of serendipitous coincidences culminating in a convergence of sublime group magick.
The Pulsebeat Club at The Antelope Hotel, Sherborne was blessed by the steady hands and ears of the talented sound engineer and musician Martin ‘Bastie’ Beresford and masterminded by the stratagem of Simon Barber of The Chesterf!elds. The Chesterf!elds (1984–1989) Pop Anarchy! (B-side of Ask Johnny Dee, 1987, reaching No. 4 in the UK Indie Chart) is a perfect and exquisitely fecund 1 min 48 second blistering and jangling guitar fury mêlée produced by John Parish and was released onto The Subway Organization, an indie record label founded in 1985 in Bristol, by Martin Whitehead. The Pulsebeat Club was an important creative and explosive epicentre for bands and gigs that flourished during the mid 1980s, which birthed a scene that still endures today. The digital age of almost instantaneous global release was as very far away and at that point difficult to reach as a distant and obscure planetoid in the Kuiper Belt.
I had moved to Somerset from Ebbw Vale, South Wales in the early 1980’s. My mother’s second marriage and my black scorpion depression pressurised by the tidal wave of turgid, vile rhetoric coming from my appalling stepfather (a hardened and athletes footed to the point of dry retching Tory MP candidate) pushed and forced me regularly into the cool, sublime and calming vinyl world and racks of Acorn Records, Yeovil. It was a frontier of discovery, a second home, bliss space and deep inner contentment cloud base, all in the vicinity of the bus station, all now long gone. This vinyl womb room was a place I birthed my mind into the possibilities of music and the realms of sound as art. The names of local bands such as Static Activity, The Chesterf!elds, Jhavangelismo Relic, Psyco Daisies, Thatcher On Acid, Poo!, Wednesday Page, Number 4 Joystreet, Scarlet Downs and Automatic Dlamini regularly caught my eye, appearing on posters, flyers and zines.
Graham Moores on the liner notes of Pulsebeat! One (2021 The Golden Pathway CDr) puts it more succinctly; “In May 1984 Simon (The Chesterf!elds) Barber organised the Pulsebeat! at the Antelope Hotel in Sherborne. The sound PA was usually handled by Martin (Bastie/Static Activity) Beresford and it was very good. Entrance was a mere £1 – everyone was happy, and more gigs were planned but it was stopped because of noise complaints by locals. It lasted almost a year to the day. We are very lucky that Alan (Feeding the Fish fanzine) Flint took his tape recorder to most of the gigs, so there was a wealth of audio recordings of these events. Late in 1985 he got together with Steve (‘Screed’ fanzine) Ball and assembled a compilation tape of some of the best moments, this was called simply ‘Pulsebeat!’ and was wrapped in a sleeve illustrated by local (The Mob/All the Madmen) artist (Stephen) Wilf (Willmott). The drawing was actually nicked from a frame in one of his many ‘Feeding the Fish’ comic strips ‘Sgt. Furry and His Howling Kittens’. It was credited as a ‘Screeding the Fish Production’ – referencing the compliers fanzines.”
I first met John Parish through his sister Sarah while I studied drama, music and art alongside her at Yeovil College. His band Automatic Dlamini was a remarkable and sublime act to behold. I guess I willingly became something of an Automatic Dlamini groupie, buying their Crazy Supper EP and devotedly following them to gigs where I could muster, of which one was at the Thekla in Bristol. John’s sister Sarah’s enthusiasm and excitement was infectious and made it all the more easier to indulge in the thrill of it all. Sarah was great fun to be with while I studied in college. She always had a large laugh and charm that were to take her to where she is today. The Thekla had been bought and run by Ki Longfellow-Stanshall and her husband Vivian Stanshall (Bonzo Dog Do Da Band founding member). The Thekla was known as the Old Profanity Showboat which hosted hundreds of theatre, cabaret, comedy and live music shows during its short two-year existence, including Stinkfoot, a three-hour musical comedy opera co-written by Kiand Vivian. Automatic Dlamini, named after an actual person who lived in Africa, played their Wall of Voodoo, Beach Boy vocal enthused junkyard garage band power pop in the Yeovil College theatre during a lunch hour once, which was to say the least a mind-blowing and extraordinary experience. The line-up was John Parish, Rob Ellis and Jamie Anderson. The group would go through many changes over the years and eventually ended up having PJ Harvey as a member in the mix. John Parish was and still is a kind, friendly and mellow soul.
John introduced me to the pleasures of The Cleaners from Venus on a mixtape which also included some of his production work with The Chesterf!elds and his band Automatic Dlamini. I once saw copies of his album ‘D is for Drum’ stacked high at the front of Tower Records in Piccadilly Circus, London while I was on a day trip in the late 1980’s. This was the last time that I personally heard or saw anything about Automatic Dlamini, though now I’m extremely aware of the ensuing dénouement of that story. John and I tried at one point to actually work on a music idea together. I recall handing him a drawing with some form of surreal stage-based idea that involved a cube and a man interacting within it (no change there then). Sadly, my brain and central nervous system were in such a place at that time that made it almost impossible for me to form any linear thinking and sensible communication to occur. I regret not being able to persist or overcome my crushing shyness and then undiagnosed autism. This talented man has been much underappreciated in my humble opinion, despite his fine releases on the label Thrill Jockey, the American independent record label established in 1992 in New York City by former Atlantic Records A&R representative Bettina Richards and currently based in Chicago.
My industrial electronic album ‘Electro Punk ‘86’ was produced on a Scotch cassette tape. It’s the product of a wild, feral imagination with a blank cheque access to Yeovil College’s music department studio equipment at the time, namely a tape machine, a Yamaha DX7 keyboard and a 70s beatbox/drum machine that kicked out a series of pre-set beats and rhythms. I would often spend early evenings looking down onto a streetlight spangled Yeovil town working on tracks during down time. I pushed the equipment to its ultimate limits and ended blowing the amp up. Back in 1986 Rob Lepley and Kim Baston were the heads of the music department at the time and even though I was officially attached to the drama department on the same floor, they encouraged and supported anyone showing an interest in music and allowed me to experiment in the small studio space that was there. They were both kind, generous and nurturing. Rob’s Electro Acoustic Music class was a revelation for me; Philip Glass, Stockhausen, the BBC Radiophonic Workshop (though my genetic coding had already been sufficiently mutated by the sounds of Sci-fi/Fantasy/Horror films/TV, Doctor Who and numerous school’s programmes with their otherworldly audio constructions) were discussed.
Many other composer’s and artists were studied on a regular basis with the occasional field trip to the Arnolfini in Bristol for the odd concert. Kim’s enthusiasm and energy inspired me to continue my interest and investigations in music. Despite all this heady and nourishing input, I recorded an album’s worth of rabidly experimental electronic industrial music, to the horror of my then girlfriend. My heart and ears were firmly with Cabaret Voltaire, The Human League, Heaven 17, Throbbing Gristle and John Foxx. The album is currently available on steaming platforms and to this day has not had a physical release, some decades after its creation. One track from the album Take a Walk Down the Street has surfaced and is featured on the fascinating book & 2 CD release Cassette Culture – Homemade Music and the Creative Spirit in the Pre-Internet-Age by Jerry Kranitz from Vinyl On Demand Records. “This is an intensive 320-page book including a double CD loaded with almost 160 minutes of Cassette-Culture/DIY Artists. The book takes a social history/analytical approach to the growth of the global cassette culture/homemade music network that sprouted and flourished from the post-punk era through the early 1990s.” An expanded 35th anniversary re-issue of Electro Punk ’86 with bonus tracks is currently on my Bandcamp account.
I contributed art to the Yeovil based music fanzine called Feeding the Fish in the mid 80s which was run by Alan Flint. I used to see Alan regularly working at Acorn Records. Alan always had a strong and otherworldly presence. I own an ultra-rare cassette tape copy of ‘i sit in my hole and i try to believe in it’ which has a magnificent cardboard slip-on cover precisely impersonating a box of Persil Automatic in full colour from Alan’s remarkable and intensely amusing band Poo! on the Void Jazz label. My cartoon strip ‘Weirdtown’ appeared in two issues of Feeding the Fish. Alan was always open minded, generous and inclusive. He has never ceased with these golden virtues that ultimately make the world a far better place. It was however one single mixtape that has had an enduring and still feeling it today gravity and pungency that only a finely crafted mixtape can give. It’s All Down in Black & White is a mixtape that changed my life. It’s an exquisite hand-made mixtape that was given to me by Wilf. It has never left my side.
During the 1980’s I studied art, art history, drama (officially) and music (regularly utilizing the department’s newly kitted studio while attending some module classes) at Yeovil College. The college refectory was always a heady place of roll-up smoke and copious amounts of tea drinking combined with the consumption of the lunchtime staple chips with melted cheese. One day through the windowed sheets of condensation in the refectory I saw a curly Mohicaned, tall and thin chap walking towards the college over the grass with an art folder under his arm away in the distance. This was Stephen Wilmott (or Wilf as he was affectionately known to everyone). Wilf dressed like a hippy punk/post-punk Gothic anarchist, erring ever so slightly to the crusty side of fashion. His gentle, soft demeanour was often framed by an old dirty army raincoat and knee-high Doc Martin boots, the scent of sandalwood gently wafting from him. As soon as I met Wilf, Psyco Daisies enigmatic vocalist, I instantly liked him. Wilf was an important and vital part of the Yeovil music and art scene. I looked up to him, both literally and figuratively. He was inspirational and always generous with his time. His water colours are extremely beautiful, as much as the goddess muses that often sat for him. He was often seen (as I was too) in Acorn Records looking at and flicking through the endless vinyl stacks. I played him tracks on my Walkman from my album Electro Punk ’86. He loved what he heard and encouraged me to continue.
I remember and clearly recall visiting Wilf’s home in Grass Royal in Yeovil one day after he invited me to come over for some tea and toast. It was a massive and seemingly vast, inordinate and considerable encyclopaedic collection dedicated to vinyl. His collection of albums, 45’s and cassette tapes ran up the stairs, into the kitchen, down the hall, into the living room and the bedroom. Graham Moores of Psycho Daisies and The Golden Pathway label discussed with me the mixtape’s creation and the recording of the album Send No Flowers; “Wilf used to come to my place to use my hi-fi equipment to make some of his tapes – It’s how I got to hear some great music. He might have used my copies of Colourbox and ACR’s Flight – possibly Wire 12XU from my copy of Wire – Live at the Roxy and the Joy Division and soundtracks too. Consumed lots of coffee and chocolate biscuits during these sessions…Send No Flowers was recorded on my Portastudio at Sutton Montis in the barn of Matt Cornish. Vox and Sound F/X added in my front room at Castle Cary – It was finally mixed down at Monitor in Milborne Port by Martin ‘Bastie’ Beresford.” For me Graham Moores is the Harry Smith of the Yeovil music scene. His doggedly persistent and caring devotion to the music and recordings personified by The Golden Pathway label (fuelled with audience recorded tapes often supplied by Alan Flint amongst many others) shows more rugged and disciplined heroism than an athlete guarding the Olympic flame. For the first time since its 1984 release onto cassette Send No Flowers now includes the gorgeous instrumental ‘Readymix’ B-side, which was recently unearthed by Graham in form of previously digitised 4-track portastudio files, all now meticulously reworked and restored to their former glory. Graham Moores goes on to talk about Wilf’s remarkable appetite for music and meeting new and undiscovered talent via email; “Wilf could have written some great stories – he was really a freelance A&R man – involved in lots of music ventures. Of course he brought Helen Tuck to Castle Cary to record a session and the two buskers who did the Real Crazy Apartment tape. Helen Tuck and Psyco Daisies supported Bone Orchard in East Coker August 9th 1985, and we almost got an album deal with the Bam Caruso label in October. About the same time (’85/’86) Wilf intended to bring another singer he discovered to Castle Cary to add vocals to some Psyco Daisies things and record some of her own songs. Unfortunately it didn’t happen for one reason or another – that was PJ Harvey.”
Here purely for history and public record is the tracklist of Wilf’s mixtape It’s All Down in Black & White. Some of you may see the inclusion of a certain track as possibly somewhat politically inflammatory. In hindsight certain groups and their output may take on a darker, more ideologically unsavoury and for my mind repugnant tone. Back then however, music was just music and really nothing else. If Wilf liked the sounds, they went onto the turntable, irrespective of where they were at or where they came from and were included into the mix. In respect to Wilf the list remains unchanged.
Light Side: Colourbox – Edit the Dragon, The Fink Brothers – Mutants in Mega City One, Play Dead – Conspiracy, Modern English – 16 Days, Colourbox – Just Give ’em Whiskey, A Certain Ratio – Flight, The Blue Aeroplanes – Action Painting (Sir John Gielgud sample version), Wire – 12XU, The Wasps – Waiting For My Man, The Kamikaze Pilots – Sharon Signs to Cherry Red (End of Side One).
Dark Side: The Sound – Golden Soldiers, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry – Talk About the Weather, The Comsat Angels – Dark Parade, The Waterboys – Bury My Heart, The Snake Corps – Science Kills, Death in June – Come Before Christ and Murder Love, The Rose of Avalanche – L.A. Rain, The Mighty Wah – Body and Soul, Joy Division – Warsaw, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry – Spinning Around, The Sound – Brute Force (End of Side Two).
Here and there throughout the mixtape Alan Bennett reads from Winnie the Pooh with assorted effects and vocal soundbites throughout.
Since Wilf’s passing there has been a growing appreciation and celebration of his life and work. He died from a heart attack at his home in Roping Road in 2002 at the age of 44, just days before he was due to launch a multimedia art project. He was well-known in Yeovil for decorating buildings including the Reckleford underpass and Yeovil District Hospital with vibrant colourful murals and produced artwork for local rock bands, music fanzines, youth organisations and the Wyndham Action Group. He also worked with schools, colleges and youth groups. The Grotty Hand of Wilf art exhibition in October 2011 at The Octagon Theatre in Yeovil went some way to show what a beloved and much respected artist Wilf truly was. Wilf created the artwork that was used on Yeovil anarcho-punk band The Mob’s vinyl sleeves and some other early All the Madmen record releases, including the stunning red and black album art for the seminal album ‘Let the Tribe Increase’.
Forming in Yeovil, Somerset in the late 1970s, The Mob released the single “No Doves Fly Here”/”I Hear You Laughing” on Crass Records in 1981 which was recorded and mixed at Southern Studios, London. This seminal single features illustrations including the poster inside by Wilf.
The Mob have been an important influence on the anarcho, traveller and free festival scenes, playing gigs with counterculture bands Here & Now and Androids of Mu as well as being involved in the Persons Unknown and Centro Iberico anarchist centres and the Black Sheep Housing Co-operative. A subsequent electrically eschatonic gig, The Wilf Memorial Concert featuring The Mob, Idiot Strength, Psyco Daisies (who played a fine set according to the zine Kill Your Pet Puppy of “backwards psychedelia…with a slight Durutti Column vibe” while showing video and artwork from Wilf) and Try Not To, took place on the 14th of October 2011 at Quicksilver Mail, Hendford Hill, Yeovil, which was a heavily attended and highly successful evening.
The mixtape It’s All Down in Black & White has been a constant source of pleasure and inspiration to me over the decades and was recently lovingly transferred and migrated (with the essential analogue patina of rumble, hiss and the occasional clicks) by Adrian Finn at The Great Bear in Bristol. Wilf had written on the fly leaf of the mixtape cover these words; “When we’re born with nothing, then we die with nothing. Least we say we’ve said we’ve tried instead of giving up the fight.” I haven’t given up the fight Wilf and since your cosmic spirit has touched and tattooed my life, I never will.
A version of this article appears in TQ 46/47 music zine double issue with download codes of Electro Punk ’86 and Psyco Daisies Send No Flowers.