| The Eliffant Story
Part One | Sesiwn Sosban | Llef
|1983 | 1984 | Post Script |
During the weeks after the demise of Eliffant Geraint had been in
discussion with Euros, John and Clive. It was obvious to them that the patient had not
passed away, but was only in a coma, and there was hope for a recovery. The enthusiasm was
still there, albeit, somewhat weaker. It was decided to re-invent Eliffant, with a new
drummer! It could be argued that this was a mere slight of hand on the part of four of the
members to get rid of the fifth, but that would be an over simplification of a situation
that was far more complicated. During the autumn of 81 drummers were being
considered and auditioned. A young man from the Lampeter area whom Euros had known, came
along to the memorial hall in Felin Fach whilst on holiday from London, his name was
Gordon Jones. His drumming style was very different from Colin Owen. Colin was a rock
drummer who hit the skins hard, Gordon had a lighter touch, more in keeping with the
musical direction that Geraints songs were taking the band. Gordon agreed to join,
and immediately made plans to move back to Wales. At rehearsals in Felin Fach the band
sound was changing. Clive was now playing a Musicman bass instead of the Rickenbacker,
John was playing a Gibson 335 instead of the Strat, and Geraint not only had changed the
Gibson SG for a Fender Telecaster Deluxe but also had started playing a Wurlitzer electric
piano on some songs. It was going well, so well in fact that an Eliffant Christmas Party
was arranged for the 30th of January, and breaking with tradition, this one was
held in Pembrokeshire.
Although the new Eliffant had never played a gig the BBC invited them
to record some new material for the Sosban program that went out on Saturday
mornings. They recorded a total of four songs at Dafydd Pierces Studio 1-2-3 in Bute
Street, Cardiff, the
The BBC released Gwylio Arna i on the Sesiwn Sosban
LP, which included tracks by Angylion Stanli, Derec Brown Ar Racaracwyr, Maffia Mr.
Huws, Rocyn and Y Newyddion. The band was pleased with the results and planned to use the
songs as demos to negotiate a third album on the Sain label. But first the boys had to
start gigging again.
Although the band had practiced a little in the
Crymych area over the winter, Felin Fach became the centre of their activities in the
spring, mostly at the theatre there on Sundays. The social aspect of the band was still
important, if Eliffant was going to last it had to be fun. If it wasnt Theatr Felin
Fach then it was the village hall in Llanpumpsaint, this probably was the most central of
all. The first live gig with Gordon was on Monday April 12th at Blaendyffryn.
Its difficult to imagine as I write in 2000, the organising of gigs on Monday nights
with Welsh language bands in the heart of Carmarthenshire, but in those days gigs could be
arranged on any night of the week and people would come to have a good time. The second
gig was also on a Monday, on July19th at Ysgol Rhydfelen, Pontypridd. The others for
Thursday August 5th at the Leisure Centre, Swansea
for the Eisteddfod.
Saturday September 18th at Blaendyffryn. An all day gig
with many bands recorded for the radio by the BBC.
Friday September 24th for an HTV programme.
Tuesday October 5th for a BBC programme.
Monday October 11th for a HTV programme.
Thursday October 21st for a HTV programme.
Wednesday October 27th a
gig at Aberystwyth.
December 22nd at the Star Motel in Geirwen, Anglesey.
Nineteen eighty-three started
with Eliffant moving in to uncharted waters. HTV wanted to make a video of the band, not a
conventional video of the band performing one of their songs but a dramatic interpretation
of Gwin Y Gwan! This involved Geraint,
Gordon and John acting the part of down and outs in the back streets of Cardiff. John and
Gordon threw themselves enthusiastically in to their rolls, John did so literarily. They
were portrayed as alcoholics, sitting around an open fire on a deserted building site near
Cardiff docks. The video shows John menacingly brandishing a knife, and also falling in to
the flames of the fire, he managed several takes before accepting the advice
of those around him that it was getting dangerous. Geraint did his best to look soulful,
and Gordon came across as a harmless character, down on his luck. It was fun to make, but
did little for the image of the band. Euros and Clive perhaps wisely stayed away from the
shoot! This was the bands only forage in to this kind of venture, thankfully. On
Saturday the 26th of February they played a gig at the Tan y Bont club in
Caernarfon, which was to be the last time that they played there. Like so many other
places that once were popular for Welsh gigs in the eighties, it no longer exists as a
venue. On April 18th they were
back at the HTV studios in Cardiff to record three new numbers for television, they were Emyn
Y Tād, Cān Y Crwydryn, and Gole Gwyn. Only Gole Gwyn found its
way on to record ( Gwin Y Gwan ). Saturday April 30th saw them at Lampeter,
Saturday May 21st at Trinity College, Carmarthen and Saturday June 4th
The negotiations with Sain for the third album had not gone well. The
band was keen to go in to the studio again, but the record company were less enthusiastic.
Hefin Elis, the co-producer of Gwin Y Gwan was particularly reticent to cooperate. He was
also a director of Sain and made it quite clear that the company was not prepared to
invest any more studio time in the band, not until record sales were healthier. This was a
time when Welsh language record sales had past their peak, to sell 2000 LPs was amazing,
and most bands would have been happy to sell a 1000 records. To expect Eliffant to sell
more than other bands was optimistic, and in reality the band was suffering from a general
decline in record buying which was eventually to affect the world wide record industry.
This was the cross over period between vinyl and compact discs. The debate between Sain and Eliffant became a
little acrimonious, and negotiations had reached stalemate, and so the only answer seemed
to be for the band to go it on their own, and start their own record label. The boys were
far from unanimous as to the choice of material for the new record. Geraint was still the
only songwriter and much of his recent material was going in a direction that some of the
band members were less comfortable with. The songs were becoming less rocky, there were
more ballads, and the material called for a greater degree of musicianship. In spite of
this, plans went ahead to record at Richard Morris studio, Stiwdior Bwthyn in
Cwm Twrch, in the Swansea Valley. It was decided to make a single initially, and see how
it sold before recording an album. The A side was to be a new song Ti Ywr Unig Un I Mi, this was a simple pop-rock
number with Euros playing a prominent part on Hammond organ. The
B side was the re-recording of an acoustic number that Geraint had written
some years before, Tywyllwch. This was a rocky number
with a jazz-funk feel in the intro and bridges, but it was also essentially a pop song.
The two backing tracks were recorded over the weekend of the 11th and 12th
of June, and the vocals and lead guitar were recorded on June 19th. Geraint and
Gordon mixed it on Thursday June 23rd. The artwork for the record sleeve was done by
Douglas Williams. It was printed in black and white to keep costs to a minimum, and 500 records
were pressed. The new record label was called LLEF, an acronym that stood for Llais
Ei Feistr, which is Welsh for his masters voice. The logo shows an
elephant listening to an old fashioned gramophone, a clever parody on the well-known HMV
logo. The idea was born in the smoky depths of the public bar at Fishers pub in Cellan, near Lampeter, and was beautifully drawn by Doug again.
The sleeves were printed locally in the Lampeter area, but they
needed folding and gluing. This was done mainly by Euros and Gordon; they also had to put
the singles in to the sleeves. A labour of love Im sure. The idea was to sell the
single at live gigs, the price was £1.30. The Eliffant aide-de-camp of the day, Haydn
Talgrwn, was happy to do the selling. Mail order was also an option that was used; this
was probably the first time that a Welsh language record was sold by mail order. The music
press of the day in the main welcomed the new single, but by this time the magazine Sgrech
and its in-house writers had decided that Eliffant's time had come. I believe that the
Sgrech people were surprised and a little miffed that Eliffant had won the first
competition for best band back in 1979, for their own reasons of course, and now was pay
back time! Sgrech certainly slated the single, commenting that it was too little
too late. They compared the A side with the dreadful Mouldy Old Dough
by Lieutenant Pigeon and Derec Browns Racarac music, the later
comparison Eliffant were more than happy to accept as a compliment, not least because of
Derec Browns popularity at the time. The single found its way on to the radio and
jukeboxes, and now are sought after by collectors. The rest of the year saw gigs at
Pontypridd (July 22), the Eisteddfod in Bangor (August 2), Pontrhydyfendigaid (September
3) and Bangor (October 8). On September 16th Eliffant were at the HTV studios
in Cardiff to record Seren I Seren, Diwedd Y Gaeaf, and both tracks from the new
single. On Sunday December 4th they were at the BBC in Cardiff to record Dilyn
Fi and Ffair Caerdydd.
Nineteen eighty-four started
in the usual fashion with the band rehearsing every week at Felin Fach. This was the year
that would see them celebrate seven years together, at least the founder members. True to
the quirky Eliffantine ethos, the band decided to celebrate six and a half years instead.
A gig was arranged at the theatre in Felin Fach.
A concert really, a sit-down affair at the two hundred seat venue. It
was well advertised, the band was well rehearsed, and they all dressed for the occasion in
dinner jackets and jeans! It was well attended, and a video still exists of the
performance. The place was full of friends, family, admirers and supporters. This was not
to be the final gig, but it should have been. On Friday February 3rd the band
played the last live gig at Clwb Ifor Bach, the Welsh club in Cardiff. The last supper was
the Eliffant Christmas Party on Saturday February 18th. There were two more
commitments to fulfil. HTV recorded a performance of Nol Ar Y Stryd, Dilyn, Fi Emyn Y
Tad and Protea again at the theatre in Felin Fach. Eurof Williams directed it,
to be used as an insert in the SER television series. The final Eliffant performance was
for the BBC in Cardiff, a recording of Capten Idole for the Bilidowcar youth
programme. The details of the break-up are no longer important, but the end had come; the
boys quietly went theyre separate ways. Eliffant was over, well, almost.
In the years following the end of Eliffant the band members followed
very different routes. Euros worked at the theatre in Felin Fach as a lecturer and
eventually managing the place. He developed the annual pantomime in to a nationally
renowned institution, got deeply involved in the local radio station, Radio Ceredigion,
and facilitated the artistic development of the whole of the Aeron Valley community.
He now works in television, as a producer and is still involved
with the artistic and cultural activities of Ceredigion. Clive
followed his career in the Pembrokeshire library service whilst regularly gigging with a
local band doing mainly country covers. Gordon followed his career in the building trade
in the West Wales area and became a buildings manager in the health
service. He is also playing drums for several local bands, covering obscure but
tasty album tracks and original blues. John left the bank and went in to the recording
business running a commercial recording studio in Cardiff. Geraint went on to pursue
his solo career turning professional in 1985. They had made many friends over the years,
one in particular, Haydn Talgrwn, who was a kind of roadie and aide de camp, became a
helicopter pilot, flying between the oil rigs in the North Sea. In 1994, his fortieth
birthday was looming, and Gordon was asked to try to get Eliffant to reform for the event.
All were keen to do it, a full ten years after the split. The boys met to discuss the
preparations and the set list. Rehearsals were held in Felin Fach, but as it turned out,
John Davies didnt play, a friend of Gordon, Terry Dixon, was recruited to play flash
guitar in his place. The gig happened on Friday August 26th at the Gogina Arms
in Llanarth, near New Quay, Cardiganshire. Eliffant played a short set of nine songs and
one encore. The set list was:
7. Nol I
8. Can Y
The gig went very well, and all the boys enjoyed playing
together again. So much so that when Euros asked Eliffant to play a gig at the theatre in
Felin Fach as part of the Aerwyl Arts Festival, they agreed. This time the guitarist on
flash guitar was Geraint Williams from Llanddarog, near Carmarthen. As Gordon was
unavailable due to other musical commitments, the band's original drummer Colin Owen was
invited to play; he accepted. So on Friday May12th 1995 Eliffant took the stage one more
time in their spiritual home of Felin Fach, and in front of an appreciative audience of
friends, family, admirers, old roadies and assorted familiar faces, they played the nine
song set again, this time the encore went on for nine numbers, the audience wouldnt
let the band go until they had played all the songs twice! Was it a case of :
Play it again, play it again, play it
again till you get it right!!!