Radioactive Sparrow: Live! In the Heart of Ewenny (1980)
Radioactive Sparrow’s early recordings are largely lost – what remains of the pre-Fresians tapes can be heard on the later-released Absolute Bollocks: The Sparrow Archives (which will be available for download in due course). The first two albums in Sparrow’s official catalogue, Farewell To Fresians and this one, were recorded during the first three days of the May half-term holiday in 1980. Bargefoot set up the small ‘study’ room in his house for recording using the space-ship-like stereo system as an amp for the guitars (inputting into the right and left microphone sockets) and positioning the lead singer, Ozzy Oskins, in front of the Panasonic cassette-radio, fitted with in-built stereo condenser mics, with an acoustic guitar lying face-down on his lap to use as the impromptu drum-kit.
On Monday afternoon they recorded Memories of Roman Times. On Tuesday afternoon they recorded Machines. Bargefoot spent the whole of Wednesday morning editing together the crowd noise from Kiss Alive! to make a tape that would serve as the band’s audience for their highly anticipated, first live album. Being a naturally haphazard operator, Bargefoot made a pretty unimpressive job of this, the resulting crowd tape featuring many abrupt breaks and Paul Stanley shouting ‘Rock an’ roll!’ occasionally. These flaws, of course, now enhance the albums proto-avant-naïf credentials.
As the trio gathered in the afternoon to record the show, they were genuinely nervous and properly hyped for the gig. Consequently, the album is blessed with many of the classic characteristics of live albums, such as faster renditions, looser and more improvised-sounding solos and pre-song warm-ups for no apparent reason. The original tape suffered the same kind of fate as other early tapes (e.g. family members taping radio over them etc.) and so what survives as Sparrow’s second official album (presented here) is about half of what was recorded – it is in fact a watered-down, ‘commercial’ release made for popular distribution at school (Brynteg Comprehensive in Bridgend – look for it, it’s still there) copied onto a couple of Allez France! linguaphone course tapes.
Even though Radioactive Sparrow started out totally improvising everything, most the material for these first two albums was written the night before each session by Bargefoot and taught to Boyes in the morning, although songs like ‘Cornelius’, ‘Machines’, ‘Not The 9 O’ Clock News’ and ‘Appley Dappley’ were memorized reprises of earlier recordings originally made up on the spot. The disinclination to rehearse anything was maintained without exception.
1) War Child (lyrics written by Ozzy)
2) France (lyrics written by the band the night before)
3) John Thomas (lyrics written by the band the night before)
4) Not The 9 o’ Clock News (Bargefoot 3rd Year [Year 9] English essay)
5) Machines! (Bargefoot 3rd Year [Year 9] English essay)
6) Hard Grind (lyrics written by Dai Cox)
7) Cornelius (Bargefoot 3rd Year [Year 9] Latin translation)
8 Magnetic Cow (lyrics written by Bargefoot)
9) My Favourite Things (lyrics mostly written by Oscar Hammerstein)
Ozzy Oskins: Lead Vocals & Percussion (i.e. beating back of acoustic guitar with hands)
Bill Bargefoot: Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals & Crowd Tape Assembly
Brooce Boyes: Rhythm Guitar (Lead guitar on ‘Cornelius’)
Recorded in the Study, Ewenny, Bridgend, Wales, UK during Spring (May) half-term 1980
Sessions produced & engineered (set-up and switched on) by Bill Bargefoot