Tag Archives: Cardiff

The night The Kinks exploded

After The Yardbirds had finished their set, we all waited expectantly for The Kinks to appear on stage.

It was May 19th, 1965, and, along with around 2,500 other screaming teenagers, I was at the Capitol theatre in Cardiff with one of my school chums, Willy Stonehouse. (This was where, six months later, I was to see The Beatles give one of their last live shows in Britain).

It would turn out to be a highly memorable evening …

mojo

Credit: Mojo, March 2017

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The lady from Bavaria, with her family, turned up on time. It was a sunny afternoon in summer and the terrace at the back of The Boathouse pub in Cambridge was a picture of social serenity, with people engaged in relaxed conversation or maybe watching the punts go by, boathousewith others on the grassy bank opposite, layin’ ‘cross the river.

I brought some drinks and snacks. It was good of them to break away from their long trip up to the Lake District; but after some initial pleasantries we started discussing the advertising launch of the new German yoghurt, plans for which we were in the process of finalising.

It was then that my eye was drawn to a couple carrying drinks down the steps leading to the terrace. They were particularly noticeable to me as I could see that the man was a Kinks fan. “Thinks he’s Ray Davies“, was my immediate thought, as he wore the classic velvet jacket, with similarly-styled long hair – and he even looked somewhat like the leader of The Kinks, someone I revered as a master songwriter.

raydavies

“Actually, he looks just like him”, I thought.

“Hang on a minute …”

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I do remember that the stage setting was all white. A white background and white drum kit.

The first song they played, fans going wild, was the original big hit that shot them to fame, “You Really Got Me“.

Then there was a kind of awkward pause, and some chit-chat, as though they weren’t sure what to do next. They looked around at each other. But then, Dave Davies, brother of Ray, standing on the right of the stage, took a kick at Mick Avory‘s drum kit. Looking back at it, my guess is that his intention was simply to give the big bass drum a playful prod, rather than the great thump that he actually delivered.

Avory’s bass drum suddenly began rolling across the stage – I mean, right across the stage, from right to left a distance of maybe fifteen feet. This was weird, but some might have thought it was part of the act. It soon became apparent that it wasn’t.

Mick Avory stood up, picked up his hi-hat and advanced towards Dave. He moved behind him, still on the far right of the stage. Holding the hi-hat half way down the metal post, with the two cymbals to the top and pedal beneath, he raised the whole thing above his head and brought the cymbals crashing down on the back of Davies’ neck. My recollection of this part of the proceedings is crystal clear.

hihat1

Dave Davies’ knees buckled and he collapsed to the floor. What happened next is a bit hazy in my memory. I think Davies was pulled off the stage. The crowd became suddenly quieter as hysterical screams were replaced by gasps and more of a general hubbub.

“My God, he’s killed him!” I said to Willy, who nodded in agreement. The curtain was pulled across and the audience just stood in astonishment. People were dumbfounded. Some girls began crying. There was an announcement saying that the show would recommence shortly. There followed a twenty minute gap, before the announcer said “Ladies and gentlemen, The Yardbirds!” On came The Yardbirds again, lead singer Keith Relf half changed into his “civvies”, and the whole group looking very uncomfortable and playing badly …

Willy and I decided that it might be worth nipping round to the back of the theatre to see what was going on there. There was quite a big gathering of fans at the stage door … as well as an ambulance. We saw someone being carried out on a stretcher. After a while, the word went round that Mick Avory had fled the scene and the police were looking for him.

The whole thing was just so surreal.

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I couldn’t concentrate on what the lady was saying. I’ve never been a shrinking violet and I thought “This is my chance”. I made my apologies and explained that Ray Davies was one of my heroes. I took the bull by the horns and strolled over to the table where (the) Ray Davies was sitting with a female companion.

“Excuse me, Ray”, I stuttered, suddenly starstruck to be addressing a pop music god. “I was there at the Capitol on the night of the fight”.

“Oh, okay, how did you see it?”, he asked. I was so nervous that at first I didn’t entirely understand what he meant. “Ah, what did I think happened?”, I thought.

keithrelf“It looked to me as though Mick was trying to kill him”, I said. Ray didn’t respond to that, but told me that he was writing a book about the group. He took my details and said that he might be in touch if he needed comments by a witness. He also reminded me that Keith Relf (right) met a very tragic end, electrocuted whilst playing a guitar which hadn’t been grounded correctly.

I’ve often wished I had plucked up the nerve to try to find out more from Ray. But, I confess, my awe in meeting such a songwriting legend overcame my ability to think straight. Maybe next time …

I returned to the table. Lady from Bavaria not impressed. Who are The Kinks? I’m afraid we must be making our way now. I’ll be in touch, etc., etc.

Oh dear.

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To this day, controversy continues to bubble under about what exactly happened that night in Cardiff. An initial explanation was that the kick was deliberate and Avory was supposed to say “You nearly got me”. He’s also tried to make out that he hit Dave with the foot pedal of the hi-hat.

Nope, it was definitely the cymbals. Given the force with which the blow was delivered, I’m amazed that it didn’t decapitate Dave. I can only assume that his neck was partially protected by his jacket.

Avory ran from the theatre and went into hiding. The story hit the headlines and there were updates on the search for him – it was a major news item on ITV‘s News At Ten and was all over the national press. The police wanted to charge Avory with attempted murder. Eventually he re-surfaced, Dave having recovered after a spell in hospital, deciding not to press charges, despite having had to have fifteen stitches in his wound.

Ray was much more forthcoming about what actually happened in an interview with Wales Online not so long ago.

His recent knighthood was so well-deserved, a songwriting genius awarded for services to the arts. He was already a CBE.

*            *            *            *            *
The yoghurt launch was a flop, no doubt due to the appalling creative work produced by the ad agency that I was working with.

But I often think back to the time I met a personal hero, one memorable Sunny Afternoon in Cambridge.

 

 

 

Image credit: Ray Davies – By Jean-Luc (originally posted to Flickr as Kinks) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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The marketing own goal that is Vincent Tan’s re-branding of Cardiff City

Revising the packaging of a brand is a sure-fire way of rekindling interest in a product that has flagging sales.

Having earned a living in marketing all my working life, I’ve often been involved in ad. campaigns that have been not so much about launching a product, as about “old product development”. Perhaps the most memorable for me was Lucozade, where in 1982 I was part of the team at the Leo Burnett ad. agency which re-positioned that (sugar-and-water) drink so that it would no longer be seen only as an “in sickness” tonic. Before the relaunch, Lucozade itself was in very poor health. But the bottles were re-designed, cans began to appear, the labelling changed, the price went up to pay for our TV adverts. – and the rest has been history …

Campaign letterWhen Vincent Tan bought Cardiff City (the “Bluebirds”) in May 2010, there was very little wrong with the product. Tan promised £100 million investment in the football club, to include a new stadium and a new training ground. All that has come to pass, Cardiff spent last season in the Premier League and, despite the fact that they were relegated back to the Championship after just one campaign, of late Tan has been prepared to take out his cheque book whenever necessary to bring in new players.

Now clearly this billionaire didn’t become so financially successful by being over-sensitive about people’s feelings. One of his more outrageous actions, in December last year, was to sack the coach who had guided Cardiff into the top flight, Malky Mackay being generally acknowledged to be the best manager the club has ever had. The pretext was that Mackay was promising to bring in new players, without consulting the owner, shortly after his own assistant had been sacked for an apparent overspend. It all sounded like financial mismanagement and poor communication systems within the higher echelons of the club. An inspiring leader of men, with more than a touch of genius when it came to the nitty-gritty of football strategy and tactics, Mackay and his talents were wasted on the bonfire of Tan’s vanities.

But Tan had infuriated the supporters even more by striking a blow at the very essence of the club – its colours. Under what has proven to be a quite erroneous impression that changing the kit colour to red would make the Bluebirds more attractive to potential new supporters in the Far East, Tan insisted that the club kit be changed from blue to red.

The fans’ fury was manifest in all sorts of ways, including marches in the city centre, letters to the press and a storm of anger on social media. But strangely the most effective and visible show of discontent has been a kind of Ghandian passive resistance. Supporters have simply refused to wear the new colours. Each home match is surrounded by a sea of blue.

cardiffcrowd

What Mr. Tan doesn’t seem to get is that the fans are investors too. Aside from their purchase of season tickets, theirs is an emotional investment, a burning passion mostly founded in a very strong sense of identification with the city where they live, were born or in some other way identify with. In Cardiff, a capital city into which all aspects of Welsh culture are continuously funnelled from the surrounding valleys, that passion is more intense than is found at most sporting grounds.

This is what occurred to me last night, as I sat listening to the commentary of the first match of the 2014/15 season, an away game at Blackburn Rovers, which ended in a 1-1 draw. So many new names to get used to – new players signed during the summer. Little do the new boys realise, I thought, that there’s a secret weapon waiting for them when they play their first match at the Cardiff City Stadium, against Huddersfield on August 16th.

The roar of support from the Cardiff fans takes everyone by surprise; it’s often referred to by radio commentators visiting the ground for the first time. It’s intimidating for visiting teams and must be worth at least a one goal advantage to the home side. It’s what the Cardiff City brand is really all about. Players, managers and owners will come and go – it’s passion and heritage that makes this product what it is. Each fan is caught by a different set of emotional ties in supporting Cardiff City. The passion has an ugly side, I suppose, in that Cardiff supporters en masse have got a reputation for being prone to violence at away games. But even politicians aren’t immune from it – it’s what got ex-Labour party leader Neil Kinnock forcibly removed from his seat at the Fulham ground last season.

Defacing this cultural icon by changing the colour of the team kit may appear a deranged act; but in reality it’s probably just a marketing own goal. Longer term it won’t affect the club. No new owner in his right mind would decide to stick with the colour red in the face of the tide of blue that floods into the Cardiff City stadium for every home match. Indeed, fiddling about with the shirts and shorts just makes the supporters even more determined to protect their heritage: the more Tan says red, the more the fans say blue.

There never was anything wrong with this particular old product. It’s nice to have all that money spent on the stadium; it would be good to be back in the “Prem”; but ironically none of that really matters to Cardiff City’s main consumers.

If you really want to see whether Cardiff City is in need of some old product development, just go to a home match, stand in the crowd – and look around.

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