THE TUNNELRUNNERS

A Neath trio formed by Madoc Roberts and Graham Jones in 1977 and who played around the Swansea area between 1978 and 1982. "We started the band because we were young!" Roberts told me. "Punk came at just the right time for our rebellious teens. The main thing was the attitude - music had become stale and self indulgent. Even we could play punk. The reason we only lasted a few years is because we all went off to college. We played a few gigs when we all came home from holidays but our gigs were once described as "rare as manners in Penclawdd' "

"The top venue in Swansea was the Circles Club. The changing room walls were signed by all the bands and the carpet in the club was sticky. In later years they found a dead body there! This was the first place we played. We had been practicing for weeks with a drummer who pulled out on the night. We told our last-minute replacement that we would hold the first note of the song until he got the beat. The PA was set up so that all the vocals were on one side and the guitars on the other. At the start of the night a bloke at the bar was shouting for us to get off and booing. By the end he was pleading with us to get off, claiming we were ruining his night out! When we got off stage our one fan told us not to worry and to go back on and do 'Do You Wanna Dance', (our one and only cover). We told him we had just done it - it was so bad he didn't even recognise it. Next gig was at The Heathcliffe (a local community centre) . Gary Glitter was playing in town so they weren't expecting many people. We were due to be on first but due to the lack of audience, the other bands pulled rank to get it out of the way. By the time we got on Glitter had finished and the place had filled up. I finished the gig with one string - still forming the full chords or I wouldn't know where to put my fingers - the place was in uproar and after that things took off."

They issued an EP for Steve Mitchell's Sonic International Records in 1980, but to little impact. A follow-up EP shared its fate. Mitchell narrated the story thus: "I had the tapes and had released the 'Plastic Land' EP . The band told me I could do whatever I wanted with the extra tracks so, when I decided I wanted to press up a second 7-inch, I went ahead despite not being able to contact the band members who had by then moved away. I thought I'd find them at some point. I only pressed 100 copies - all white labels, no sleeve - just for sale locally. However, just at this time, our local Virgin shop closed. The singer of the Pseudo Sadists allowed his goat to piss in the shop during a visit from the area manager, who was already contemplating closing the shop as it barely made any money. I then had nowhere to sell the record. I estimate that maybe 20 copies were actually sold. The remaining copies were destroyed by accident sometime in the 80's when I was throwing out some other white label single I'd made but had too many of (the Crash Action Winners single). Now I dont have one, though my mother does! I have never been able to find anyone in Swansea who actually has the record"

I asked Roberts about his impressions of the punk scene at that time, particularly in relation to Wales. "When punk first started there was very little in the press or on the radio so there wasn't a uniform like the Sid Vicious clones all in black that came along a bit later. This meant that everyone wore what they wanted and interpreted it as it suited them. This led to what was actually a very colourful scene both in terms of the look and the music. I went to see bands nearly every week including The Clash, The Damned, the Buzzcocks etc., also lesser-known bands like the Lurkers who I loved and saw many times. I also saw a very early Adam & The Ants in their tartan gear and The Coventry Specials. My favourite band were The Ramones."

from "No More Heroes" by Alex Ogg- (Cherry Red Books)