Geraint Griffiths

 

Eliffant

The ELIFFANT Story

Part Two

| The Eliffant Story Part One | Sesiwn Sosban | Llef |1983 | 1984 | Post Script |

      

      1982

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 Geraint’s 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 Pierce’s Studio 1-2-3 in Bute Street, Cardiff, the songs were:

 

Gwylio Arna’ i.

Protea.

Diwedd Y Gaeaf.

Esger.

Sosban

Sesiwn Sosban

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The BBC released Gwylio Arna’ i on the Sesiwn Sosban LP, which included tracks by Angylion Stanli, Derec Brown A’r 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 wasn’t 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. It’s 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 ’82 were:

 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.

Wednesday December 22nd at the Star Motel in Geirwen, Anglesey.

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      1983

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 band’s 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 in Cardiff.

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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, Stiwdio’r 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 Yw’r 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.

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Llef

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 I’m 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 Brown’s Racarac music”, the later comparison Eliffant were more than happy to accept as a compliment, not least because of Derec Brown’s 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.

       

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        1984

 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 they’re separate ways. Eliffant was over, well, almost.

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Eliffant        

       Post Script

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 didn’t 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:

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1.      Gwin Y Gwan.

2.      Llosgi’r Pontydd.

3.      Merthyr.

4.      Magi.

5.      W Capten.

6.      Ffair Caerdydd.

7.      Nol I Gairo.

8.      Can Y Mynydd Du.

9.      Lisa Lan.

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 wouldn’t 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!!!”

 

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