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Origin Kingston upon Thames, Greater London, England.
Genres Art Rock, Psychedelic Pop, Prog Rock, Punk Rock, Pronk
Years active 1976–present
Labels Alphabet Business Concern
Associated acts The Sea Nymphs
Spratleys Japs
Tim Smith
Jim Smith
Kavus Torabi
Bob Leith
Melanie Woods
Cathy Harabaras

Cardiacs are an English Alternative Rock and Psychedelic Pop band formed in 1976. The band's broad combination of styles is sometimes referred to as Pronk (progressive punk), although group leader Tim Smith prefers the description "Psychedelic" or simply "Pop".[1] Their music is underpinned by Smith's unique singing and songwriting styles, and his poetically cryptic, philosophical and abstract lyrics.[1] Fans and critics have described Cardiacs' sound as complex, varied, intense and entirely unique,[2] with the music magazine Organ commenting that "one Cardiacs song contains more ideas than most other musicians' entire careers".[3]



Cardiac Arrest (1976–1980)

You look at a road on an aerial photograph and you think, bloody hell, it's suburbia, all those little houses, all in a row, but all those houses have people in them – say there's four people in a house, that is four whole worlds... Yes, I mean we're part of it all, we're all in it, but it's strange that you have a house and it's all you ever wanted, you've worked all your life for it and you're keeping it in order for the eyes of others who probably couldn't give a toss anyway - or people who want to compete, to care, which is even weirder.

Tim Smith discussing suburbia (an early Cardiacs lyrical obsession) in Time Out Of Mind fanzine, circa 1987.[4]

The band which would later become Cardiacs began life in 1976 in Kingston upon Thames, Greater London, UK, originally featuring Michael Pugh (lead vocals), Tim Smith (guitar, backing vocals), Tim's older brother, Jim Smith (bass, backing vocals) and Peter Tagg (drums). During 1975, Tim Smith had played guitar in a nameless "punky-psychedelic" instrumental band with two other school friends, Mark Cawthra (on drums) and David Philpot (on keyboard). The sound of Philpot's Korg synthesiser was to have a strong impact on Tim Smith and the development of the Cardiacs’ sound.

The Smith brothers, Tagg and Pugh played their first live concert in 1978 under the name of The Filth, (sometimes incorrectly remembered as Philip Pilf & The Filth).[5]. By the time of their second concert (later in the same year) the band had changed their name to Cardiac Arrest. They went on to produce a seven-song demo at Elephant Studios in London. Following this they expanded to a sextet, adding Colvin Mayers (keyboards) and Ralph Cade (saxophone and dancing).

The band honed their craft playing a mixture of pubs, youth clubs, schools, hotels and free festivals. In these early years, the band's line-up was flexible according to availability and circumstances. Notably, Cardiac Arrest played the 1979 Stonehenge Free Festival as a three piece of Tagg, Mayers and Tim Smith (the latter swapping between guitar and bass, while Mayers alternated between guitar and keyboards). A subsequent concert at Surbiton on July 6, 1979 apparently featured "about eight to ten people on stage" (including both Peter Tagg and his brother Derek Tagg).[5]

The debut Cardiac Arrest release was a 7” single recorded at Elephant Studios called "A Bus for a Bus on the Bus", released in 1979 on Tortch Records. At some point in 1979, following the release of the single, both Peter Tagg and Ralph Cade left Cardiac Arrest to form The Trudy.

Dominic Luckman and I were sound/lights/roadies. I was reserve bass player, but not actually in the band - Jim (Smith)'s job at the time meant that he couldn't make every gig. Second reserve bass player, when I couldn't make it either, was Jon Bastable from The Trudy.

Future Cardiacs percussionist Tim Quy, recalling Cardiacs' early collective organisation.

Tim's old ally Mark Cawthra was drafted into Cardiac Arrest to play drums. A little later, Michael Pugh also left to follow other directions, and Tim Smith took over lead singer duties as well as guitar playing.[6]

By this time, the band was beginning to operate in a similar way to a jazz band or football side by keeping various musicians in reserve to cover absences. Many of these people had other roles as part of the technical crew. Future Cardiacs percussionist Tim Quy would first perform with the band (as a stand-in bass player) at Snoopies nightclub in Richmond at the start of 1980, a period which also saw the arrival of saxophonist Sarah Cutts.[7]

Later in 1980, Cardiac Arrest released a self-produced cassette album called The Obvious Identity. The album was produced with the punk/DIY ethic in mind, the band making copies of the recordings on any cassettes they could find (with varying levels of quality achieved as a result).

Shortly afterwards, the band discovered that another band was using the name Cardiac Arrest. After a number of experiments with alternative names (including The Alphabet and The Obvious Identity), they finally decided to rename themselves Cardiacs and played their first concert under that name in April 1981.

Early Cardiacs (1981–1983)

In 1981, Cardiacs self-released the cassette album, Toy World, featuring both new material and recordings dating back to the Cardiac Arrest period. Consequently, some tracks featured Michael Pugh as lead singer.

During 1982, Colvin Mayers left the band to join The Sound (a group led by Adrian Borland and with whom Tim had previously collaborated). For live concerts, Sarah Cutts briefly played keyboards in addition to her saxophone. Shortly afterwards, Mark Cawthra moved over from drums to keyboards (relieving Sarah) and Dominic Luckman was recruited from the road crew as the new drummer. At around the same time Tim Quy became a full-time member (as percussionist).

In 1983, Mark Cawthra left Cardiacs. He was replaced on keyboards by William D. Drake, who had previously met Tim Smith in 1982 when both were involved in a band called Honour Our Trumpet.[8] Drake played his first concert with the band on August 31.

Later in the year, Cardiacs added Marguerite Johnson (alto saxophone) and Graham Simmonds (guitar – subsequently Cardiacs sound engineer) and the band became an octet.

In July 1983, Tim Smith married Sarah Cutts. Taking his surname, she was henceforward known as Sarah Smith.

The "classic" line-up (1984–1988)

Graham Simmonds and Marguerite Johnson both left Cardiacs in July and August 1984 consecutively. This left the band as the sextet generally referred to as "the classic line-up" – Tim Smith (lead vocals and guitar), Jim Smith (bass and vocals), William D. Drake (keyboards and vocals), Sarah Smith (saxophones and vocals), Tim Quy (percussion and bass synth) and Dominic Luckman (drums).

The first release featuring this new line up was Cardiacs' second album, The Seaside, with Simmonds and Johnson appearing on several tracks. The album was released on Cardiacs own record label, Alphabet (which later became Alphabet Business Concern).

By this time, the band had also evolved an elaborate and theatrical stage show, involving "bandsmen's uniforms, make-up, Sarah's music stand, (and) Tim's mile-wide grin"[7] plus a finale including an appearance by band manager, "The Consultant", and his assistant, "Miss Swift", complete with sprayed champagne and confetti.

A Cardiacs spin-off project – Mr and Mrs Smith and Mr Drake – emerged in 1984. As the name suggests, this featured Tim and Sarah Smith plus William D. Drake and consisted of a quieter, more acoustically-orientated take on Cardiacs' music. Mr and Mrs Smith and Mr Drake released a self-titled cassette album which was only available via the Cardiacs fan club, and would later rename themselves The Sea Nymphs).

A lot of people find our act disturbing because it brings out something in you that a lot of people won't admit to. It's the weirdness in everyone whether you like it or not. Some people think it's dead funny, wonderful, beautiful, genius, and others hate it. It's strange when people hate us - they really do hate us, it brings out something odd in people.

Tim Smith on Cardiacs' live show (and its effect on an audience) in Time Out Of Mind fanzine, circa 1987.[4]

Between November 5 and December 21, 1984, Cardiacs toured as a support act to Marillion at the personal invitation of Marillion’s vocalist, Fish. Whilst the tour afforded the band a new level of publicity, generally they were not well received by Marillion's fanbase.[8] On most dates of the tour, the band was pelted with a variety of makeshift missiles. During the December 13 show at the Hammersmith Apollo, Fish himself was moved enough to come onstage during Cardiacs' set to berate the audience about their hostile behaviour. Despite this, there was even an attempt by irate Marillion fans to set fire to the safety curtain during Cardiacs' performance at the Manchester Apollo show on December 17.

On 1 April 1985, an attempt was made to film Cardiacs at a live concert at the Surbiton Assembly Rooms. The band had been approached by Mark Francombe and Nick Elborough (then students at Portsmouth College of Art and Design), who had offered to film the band for free as part of their coursework project. However, when the band viewed the resultant footage, they decided against releasing it. Instead, they retain Francombe and Elborough for a new video project which would become Seaside Treats,[9] named after the 12” single that was released at the same time. As well as containing three music videos, Seaside Treats contained a ten-minute film named The Consultant’s Flower Garden which featured the band and various people connected with them in bizarre, comedic situations. The video ensured that the shadowy “Alphabet Business Concern” began to develop a bizarre and sinister mythology of its own. The band would subsequently promote and add to this mythology at every opportunity.

In 1986, Cardiacs released the mini-album Big Ship (the title track would prove to be one of their most enduring anthems). The band played the Reading Festival on August 24 releasing the very rough audio footage as the Rude Bootleg album.

In March 1987, a British tabloid newspaper, The Sunday Sport, ran a story 'exposing' the supposedly incestuous relationship between Tim and Sarah Smith, in which the couple were portrayed as brother and sister. The headline ran, "In the bizarre world of music… anything goes - even INCEST."[10] This was shown to be nonsense, although the band's then-manager, "Spitty" Mark Walmesley, was thought to have started the whole rumour to gain some publicity for the band. (Tim and Sarah separated in 1989, although this was unrelated to The Sunday Sport 'scandal').

On April 17, the band's music video for "Tarred and Feathered" (from the Big Ship mini-album) was broadcast on Channel 4's groundbreaking music show, The Tube, giving Cardiacs their first exposure on national television. Later in the year, Cardiacs released a 12-inch single called "There's Too Many Irons In The Fire". In October, a live-in-the-studio session was recorded and broadcast by BBC Radio Leeds, followed in December by a similar session on BBC Radio One for Janice Long's Night Track show.

In 1988, Cardiacs released their third studio album, A Little Man and a House and the Whole World Window. The single from the album, "Is This The Life?", saw brief chart success due to exposure on mainstream radio, and garnered the attention of a wider audience when it entered the Independent Top 10 in the UK. The band followed up this burst of success with another single, a cover of The Kinks' "Susannah's Still Alive". Dir: Steve Payne. Strange Fruit Records also released a 12-inch vinyl EP of the band's BBC Radio One session from the previous year, under the title Night Tracks (The Janice Long Session).

By this time, Cardiacs concerts were drawing hundreds of audience members and they were well on their way to becoming a hit underground band. On May 15, the band played a concert at the Paradiso in Amsterdam, which was recorded for later release as Cardiacs Live. Later this year, Cardiacs recorded tracks for what would become their fourth studio album.

The "classic" line-up fractures (1989–1991)

On Land and in the Sea was released in 1989, but the stable line-up, which the band had enjoyed for four years was now beginning to weaken. The first sign of this was when Sarah Smith left the band suddenly in April. She was replaced not by another saxophonist, but by guitarist Christian 'Bic' Hayes (formerly of Ring and The Dave Howard Singers). Although Sarah would not rejoin the band, she would retain a long-term connection with Cardiacs by playing on future albums and very occasionally appearing as a special guest for live concerts.

The new line-up toured extensively around the UK and Europe for the rest of the year (with Sarah Smith making the first of her special guest appearances at a Brixton Fridge concert on September 17). During this period, the band also released Archive Cardiacs, a collection of material from the 1976–83 period (some of it previously unreleased).

It was horrible, really like one of those yellow panic nightmares where everything's going wrong and you can't stop it, but I kept thinking it was a nightmare, then about halfway through the evening I tried to wake up and I realised this was actually happening, right? (S)o I panicked, but nothing was going right and nobody could hear anything and Sarah's sax kept cutting out, and I think that's on the video, me shouting to myself that I can't stop it... but everyone else said it was a really good gig!

Tim Smith recalls the Salisbury Mares Nest concert.[5]

Cardiacs continued to tour and gig intermittently during 1990, culminating in a performance at a double-headed concert with Napalm Death at Salisbury Arts Centre on August 30. For this concert, the band performed as a seven-piece, with Sarah Smith making a one-day return as a band member.

The Salisbury Arts Centre concert was filmed and released as the video Maresnest (produced by Steve Mallet and directed by Steve Payne). It was also released as the live album All that Glitters is a Mares Nest, although the latter was not released until 1995. Although the concert has achieved legendary status amongst Cardiacs fans, it was also an occasion on which everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. Among other things, Tim Smith's guitar fell apart, keys fell off Sarah Smith's saxophone, and at one point power to the mobile studio was cut off by a disgruntled homeless person.[citation needed]

After the Salisbury concert, Tim Quy left the band. This was commemorated by a message at the end of the Maresnest video stating "this film is dedicated to Tim Quy who left our world 30/8/90", which was widely misinterpreted at the time as an announcement of Quy's death (Quy remains alive and well).

The band was quiet for the first four months of 1991, during which time two more members made the decision to leave. Having been with the band for eight years, William D. Drake played his final concert with the band on May 2 at The Venue in New Cross, London. Although (like Sarah Smith) he would continue his connection with Cardiacs in general, he would move on to join the bands Nervous and Wood and would embark on a solo career in 2001.

In the same month, Christian Hayes also decided to leave Cardiacs. By now, he had joined up-and-coming psychedelic indie-prog band, Levitation, and found it impossible to balance the demands of both bands. Hayes played his own final gig as a Cardiac in Oxford on May 16.

The power quartet emerges (1991–1994)

Although the band had historically been well-used to line-up changes, Cardiacs were profoundly affected by the multiple departures of 1989 to 1990. A particular blow had been the departure of William D. Drake, whose virtuoso keyboard skills and compositional input had made him one of the backbones of the band. Although Christian Hayes was replaced as second guitarist by Jon Poole (who had previously played with the Cardiacs-inspired Milton Keynes band Ad Nauseam), Drake was considered irreplaceable and Cardiacs opted not to look for a new keyboard player.

For reasons of practicality and economy, Cardiacs then changed from being a fully live band to become a partially live band, with all keyboard and percussion parts recorded onto a backing tape. Without full-time keyboards and saxophone in the band anymore, Cardiacs music also shifted away from the wider instrumentation of the past and moved towards a more guitar-heavy, power-rock sound, although their music remained very complex.

Before 1991 was over, the revitalised band had released a new single, called Day Is Gone, and played several concerts from October to December. This year also saw the release of Songs for Ships and Irons.

Also making an appearance in 1991 was the debut release by the Cardiacs spin-off, The Sea Nymphs. Their debut single, "Appealing To Venus", was a free bonus item with the first 500 copies of Day Is Gone and was subsequently sold through the fan club. The debut Sea Nymphs album, The Sea Nymphs, was released in 1992.

Cardiacs remained active during 1992, touring frequently within the UK, including a double-headed tour with Levitation. On one notable occasion, at a June 4 gig at the London Astoria, Cardiacs were supported by future British rock megastars Radiohead, then at the start of their career.[5]

Prior to the departure of Christian Hayes, Cardiacs had recorded an album called Heaven Born and Ever Bright (which featured several of Hayes' guitar and vocal parts, plus a track he had co-written called "Goodbye Grace"). This was released as the new Cardiacs album in the summer of 1992, the first fruit of a new distribution deal with Rough Trade Records. However, disaster struck when Rough Trade ceased trading shortly after the release of the album. This ensured that Heaven Born and Ever Bright could neither be stocked nor ordered by record shops, with the result that Cardiacs were left thousands of pounds in debt and unable to recoup their recording expenses. The album was eventually reissued on a revived Alphabet Business Concern in 1995, although it featured a picture of Jon Poole on the cover, who had not actually played on the album when it was recorded.

The band soldiered on, but by July 1993 yet another long-term member – drummer Dominic Luckman – had decided to quit. He played his last concert as a Cardiac member on 20 July at Camden Palace, London (and would later join The Shrubbies). In December 1993, Cardiacs revealed their new drummer, Jon Poole's former Ad Nauseam bandmate, Bob Leith.

1994 proved to be Cardiacs' quietest year for a long time, with only four concerts played in total.[5]

The comeback albums (1995–1999)

After three years without any new releases, 1995 saw the release of the Bellyeye single on Org Records (the record-releasing wing of long-term Cardiacs’ supporters Organ Magazine). This was a taster for Cardiacs’ most epic recorded effort to date. Sing to God[11] was a double album, due to the sheer amount of material that Tim had written over a number of years. Both Jon Poole and Bob Leith had also made significant writing contribution, the former in particular contributing several songs of his own. Sing to God was released in two forms, either as a limited edition double CD or two separate CDs.

At the same time, the band reissued almost their entire back catalogue on CD. This constituted all of the albums from The Seaside onwards, CD issues of live album All that Glitters is a Mares Nest and the Archive Cardiacs compilation, and a new compilation, the Cardiacs Sampler.

In April 1995, Cardiacs performed a BBC Manchester radio session on Mark Radcliffe's show. During May, they toured with Pura Vida and Sidi Bou Said and recorded a live acoustic session for GLR Radio. On 17 June, they appeared as special guests of (and concert openers for) Blur at their triumphant London Mile End Stadium concert. From 31 October to 18 November, Cardiacs performed a long support stint on Chumbawamba's UK tour.[5]

In June and November, 1996, Cardiacs embarked on two UK tours of their own, most significantly filling the London Astoria 2 on 2 November. The June tour was promoted by a second BBC Manchester radio session with Mark Radcliffe, aired on 11 June.[5]

1998 saw no new music but did provide three more London concerts, at one of which, the Garage concert on 4 December, the band was joined for an encore by William D. Drake. Cardiacs also played several performances in Germany and Holland, made appearances in Brighton, and at a festival in St Austell in Cornwall.[5]

This year also saw renewed activity by The Sea Nymphs, with the "Appealing To Venus" single reissued with extra tracks by Org Records, and a rare concert at the Camden Falcon in north London.

At the start of 1999, Cardiacs played three nights in a row at the Camden Falcon, London between 29 and 31 January: on the final date, Sarah Smith and William D. Drake joined in for the encore. On 20 and 21 March the band played two concerts at the Garage with support from Dark Star (a new band featuring ex-Cardiac Christian Hayes) and Camp Blackfoot.

Cardiacs toured the UK in June 1999 to support the release of their new album, Guns, described by some of the music press as being their most accessible album to date. The band performed another radio session on 13 June for "Inside Tracks" (on BBC Choice digital radio). Three more concerts followed in October.[5]

Rare sightings (2000–2003)

During 1999–2000, Cardiacs began composing songs for a new album (including the Jon Poole composition Sparkly Silvery Sky, which is still occasionally played at concerts by both Cardiacs and Poole's current band, God Damn Whores). Unfortunately, the songs were lost after an accident in the recording studio and the album was never released.[12] Fans refer to it as the 'lost' album.

Cardiacs concerts were rare over the next few years, although the band played the Glastonbury Festival in on 23 June, 2000 and two subsequent Whitchurch Festivals on 5 August, 2000 and 3 August, 2001. The band consoled their fans by setting up an ongoing annual tradition of one-off, large-scale London concerts, usually taking place in November at the London Astoria.

These concerts, the first of which took place on 11 November, 2000, have acted as Cardiacs’ family gatherings for which the current band is joined by various guests, including former members and newer Cardiacs-inspired supported bands. Sarah Smith, William D. Drake, Christian Hayes and Dominic Luckman have all appeared onstage with the band on various occasions during these concerts, as have The Consultant and Miss Smith. Support bands have included Oceansize, The Monsoon Bassoon, The Scaramanga Six, Stars In Battledressand Jon Poole's hard-rock band GodDamnWhores.

Cardiacs recorded three special concerts at Highbury Garage in London, 17–19 October, 2003. These concerts exclusively featured songs that had been performed prior to 1983, taken mostly from the cassette albums, but also including songs such as An Ant, Hopeless, Gloomy News and Hello Mr Minnow, which had never been officially recorded before and had only ever been played at concerts in the late '70s/early '80s. The concert also marked the first appearance in the band of ex-Monsoon Bassoon guitarist Kavus Torabi, a long-standing Cardiacs’ associate and guitar technician. Torabi was covering for Jon Poole who, while still a Cardiacs member, had also joined The Wildhearts as bass player (and was busy rehearsing for the latter band's upcoming tour).

A two-volume CD set of recordings from the three shows, The Special Garage Concerts Vol I and The Special Garage Concerts Vol II, were eventually released in 2005. There was a rumour that members of Org Records[13] videoed the entire three nights. However, this was debunked by Torabi in 2009 – "[The rumour] that the Cardiacs Garage Shows were filmed for a DVD. Fuck knows where this started. The fans keep clucking on about 'when will it be released?'... It doesn't exist.")During that concert professional video camera equipment was being used to record the band.[14]

Cardiacs today (2004–present)

In the autumn of 2004, Kavus Torabi officially replaced Jon Poole as Cardiacs' second guitarist, with the latter going on to concentrate on GodDamnWhores, various Wildhearts-related projects, Crayola Lectern and others. Torabi would make his formal debut as a full group member at the annual London Astoria concert on 12 November.

A number of other new members were drafted into the Cardiacs line-up at the same time – three backing singers (Claire Lemmon and Melanie Woods of Sidi Bou Said, plus former Shrubbies and current North Sea Radio Orchestra singer Sharron Fortnam) and two percussionists – Cathy Harabaras and Dawn Staple – playing mostly bass drums. (The official status of most of these additional members remains unclear, although Sharron Fortnam is known to have left the band.)

Cardiacs supported The Wildhearts for their tour 8–15 December, 2004. This tour saw another substitution – drummer Stephen Gilchrist (Graham Coxon, The Scaramanga Six, Stuffy/The Fuses) stood in in for Bob Leith, who had previous tour commitments with art-punk band Blurt.

The most recent official release of new Cardiacs material was in 2007 with the single Ditzy Scene. This was released on Org Records as a limited edition of 1,000 copies. The Cardiacs line-up on record included Claire, Melanie, Cathy and Dawn, but the 2007 winter tour featured only Melanie and Cathy, both of whom were now playing percussion and singing.

Tim Smith's heart attack (2008)

At the end of June 2008, all activity concerning Cardiacs was brought to an indefinite halt when Tim Smith collapsed from what is now known to be a cardiac arrest[15] at a My Bloody Valentine concert[16]. All releases, including the new album, provisionally entitled LSD, have been shelved until further notice. Tim is making a slow recovery and it is unclear if and when Cardiacs will return.

In June 2009 a new announcement appeared on the official Cardiacs website,[15] letting readers know that, after a year of rehabilitation, Tim's mind had returned to full functionality and that "no part of YOUR favourite pop star’s intellect or personality has been found to be absent WHATSOEVER". It thanked fans for their kind thoughts and made clear Tim's interest in returning to playing music with Cardiacs at such time as his physical rehabilitation allows.

Musical style

Cardiacs' music fuses the excitement, attack and 'raw energy' of punk rock with the intricacies and technical cleverness of early British progressive rock. The band has also been known to incorporate elements of other musical forms such as ska, mediaeval music, folk music, heavy metal and corporate anthems, and employs a distinctive singing style. The latter varies between a lone, reedy, punk-esque, high pitched (often falsetto) singing style, with a strong Estuary English accent (courtesy of group leader Tim Smith) and choral vocal sections involving most or all of the band. Tim Smith's singing style has been described by music critics as 'skittish'; it has also been commented that his singing voice sounds very similar to his speaking one.

We are not a progressive rock band, progressive rock bands usually tend to have a particular style to them, however individual the bands sound is, there is usually a flavour there which is the prog flavour. We are a pop group...We are as punky as nothing. God forbid if anyone thought that we were a crazy ‘fusion’ of punk and prog. If a word is needed then I would use “psychedelic” if anything.

Tim Smith[1]

The broad combination of styles in the band's music is sometimes referred to as "progressive punk" or "pronk" (a term coined by music critics of the late 1970s, baffled by Cardiacs' unique sound and in need of a genre label to used to describe them. However, the term was only used by music critics when trying to describe Cardiacs very early work). This has led to Cardiacs being labelled the primary exponents of this musical style, and Tim Smith as its inventor. Smith himself, however, has refuted the label.

Cardiacs' music and songs are written almost entirely by Tim Smith, with occasional contributions made by other group members (most notably Kavus Torabi, William D. Drake, Jon Poole, Jim Smith, Bob Leith and Christian Hayes).

Lyrical style

Tim Smith also writes the band's famously cryptic, abstract, philosophical and poetic lyrics, which are written in a fractured form of English sometimes compared to the work of Pedro Carolino’s ‘’English As She Is Spoke’’.

Fellow musicians appreciated by Tim Smith include XTC, Gong, Gentle Giant, early Genesis, and Frank Zappa.[17] Some of Tim Smith's lyrics are claimed to have been inspired by the works of William Blake, Charles Kingsley, William Shakespeare and T.S. Eliot; with Smith's lyrics enjoying comparisons to the latter's poetry in the music press. A particularly strong apparent influence of Smith's is the nineteenth-century Irish poet George Darley (whose poems Nepenthe, The Mermaidens Vesper Hymn and The Sea-Ritual (both from Syren Songs) are heavily quoted/paraphrased in the Cardiacs songs Blind In Safety And Leafy In Love, Arnald and Mare’s Nest respectively). Fans have also spotted references to the films of Charles Laughton (The Night of the Hunter) and David Lynch (Eraserhead) in Smith's words and music videos.[18] However, Smith has always refused to discuss his lyrics, keeping them, him, and his music shrouded in mystique, so that his fans may enjoy their own personal interpretations of his words.


Cardiacs are renowned for their unique performing and songwriting styles, [19] as well as their poetically cryptic, philosophical and abstract lyrics, and for their profound influence on over three decades of musicians (including the pioneers of the Nu Metal, Avant-Garde Metal and Math Rock genres). [20] Tim Smith (singer, songwriter and lyricist) has been described by the music press as "the Mozart or Beethoven of rock and pop music" for his complex and innovative compositional skills. [21]

Cardiacs are credited as being the inventors of the Pronk (progressive punk) music genre; a name actually coined in the late 90s, but attributed to music critics of the late 70s "who were baffled by Cardiacs' unique sound, in order to try to place a genre label on their music". The term Pronk was said to have only been used by these music critics when trying to describe Cardiacs' very early work of the late 1970s, and that "However, Smith 'rejected' the term from the off - stating that Cardiacs are a Pop or Psychedelic act if anything".

Smith and Cardiacs have also had a profound influence on the nu-metal and avant-garde metal genres and its pioneers - most notably on Mike Patton's Mr. Bungle and Faith No More, as well as Korn and Tool. Smith has also had a profound influence on math rock, including acts such as The Monsoon Bassoon and Battles. [22] Smith was described in a 2004 Cardiacs concert review as "the genius behind the Cardiacs".[23] Tim Smith was described in a review of Cardiacs album Guns as "a deranged genius". [24]

As a result of Smith's and Cardiacs' ability to produce a unique, complex and innovative sound with all their musical ventures over and over again throughout their long career, their fans and many critics believe Smith to be a musical genius;[25] often dubbing Smith as the Mozart or Beethoven of rock and pop music.[26]

Cardiacs have influenced over three decades of musicians (including the pioneers of the Nu Metal, Avant-Garde Metal and Math Rock genres), such as Mike Vennart of Oceansize, Mike Patton of Faith No More and Mr Bungle, Damon Albarn of Blur and Gorillaz, Thom Yorke of Radiohead as well as such acts as Dog Fashion Disco, System of a Down, They Might Be Giants, The Adicts, Marillion, Tool, Estradasphere, Sikth, The Wildhearts, The Blood Brothers, The Darkness, The Scaramanga Six, Bus Station Loonies, Toy Dolls, Kaiser Chiefs, Nomeansno, Ring, Uz Jsme Doma, The Monsoon Bassoon, Battles, Jellyfish, Melvins, Hella, This Heat, Primus, Kino, The Mars Volta, Pixies, The Young Knives, It Bites, Korn, Clor, Clearlake, Talking Heads, Ott, Oingo Boingo, Flipron, The Smashing Pumpkins, Super Furry Animals, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, Little Trophy, The Display Team, Silvery and many others have cited Tim Smith's work as a major influence. [27]

The Wildhearts paid tribute to him in their track "Tim Smith" on 2009's Chutzpah!.


Present line-up

  • Tim Smith – lead vocals, guitar, keyboards, organ, production, etc. (1976–present) (a.k.a. “Philip Pilf” on early Cardiac Arrest recordings)
  • Jim Smith – bass, vocals (1976–present) (a.k.a. “Patty Pilf” on early Cardiac Arrest recordings)
  • Kavus Torabi – guitar, vocals (2003–present)
  • Bob Leith – drums (1994–present)
  • Melanie Woods – percussion and backing vocals (2004–present)
  • Cathy Harabaras – percussion and backing vocals (2004–present)

Past members


  • Ralph Cade – dancing and saxophone (1978–1979) (a.k.a. “Raphel Cadd” on early Cardiac Arrest recordings)
  • Mark Cawthra – drums (1980–1982), keyboards (1982–1983) (a.k.a. “Little Bobby Shattocks” on early Cardiac Arrest recordings)
  • William D. Drake – keyboards (1983–1990) (not replaced – all live keyboard parts since June 1991 have been pre-recorded)
  • Sharron Fortnam (née Saddington) – vocals (1999–present – only appears at concerts when "Will Bleed Amen" is performed) (a.k.a. “Sophie”)’’
  • Stephen Gilchrist – drums (December 2004 – one tour supporting The Wildhearts)
  • Christian Hayes aka Bic – guitar, vocals (1989–1990)
  • Marguerite Johnson – saxophone (1983–1984)
  • Clare Lemmon – backing vocals, and lead vocal on "Dog Like Sparky" (2004–present)
  • Dominic Luckman – drums (1983–1993)
  • Colvin Mayers – keyboards (1978–1982) (a.k.a. "Max Cat" on early Cardiac Arrest recordings)
  • Jon Poole – guitar, keyboards, vocals (1991–2003)
  • Michael Pugh – lead vocals (1977–1980) (a.k.a. "Peter Boker" on early Cardiac Arrest recordings)
  • Tim Quy – percussion and bass synthesizer (1980–1990)
  • Graham Simmonds – guitar (1983–1984)
  • Sarah Smith – saxophone and vocals (1980–1989) (also briefly played keyboards in 1982 – continues as guest performer on albums)
  • Jo Spratley – guest vocals (1999) (on Guns album only)
  • Dawn Staple – percussion (2004–2007)
  • Peter Tagg – drums (1977–1979) (a.k.a "Mr Richard Targett" on early Cardiac Arrest recordings)


  • Demo demo cassette (1978) (as Cardiac Arrest)

Studio albums

Singles and EPs


Live albums


Related releases

Musical relations



  1. ^ a b c "Cardiacs Official Website: Interview; Harmonie Magazine. France. May 2000..". Retrieved 2008-12-09. 
  2. ^ Organ Music Magazine's overall review/description of Cardiacs
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ a b "Cardiacs". Time Out Of Mind fanzine (reproduced on Cardiacs Museum website. circa 1987. Retrieved 2009-10-06. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i Cardiacs: The Ultimate Cardiacs Gig List
  6. ^ "Cardiacs Official Website: History". Retrieved 2008-12-09. 
  7. ^ a b Cardiacs History on Cardiacs fanpage, retrieved November 10, 2008
  8. ^ a b William D. Drake Biography
  9. ^ Seaside Treats
  10. ^ Sunday Sport
  11. ^ Cardiacs Official Website » Album Reviews - SING TO GOD
  12. ^ Cardiacs Official Website » Your Vexed Questions October 2005
  13. ^ ORG Records Website
  14. ^ Kavus Torabi - Guitar & Singing (interview with Kavus Torabi in Subbacultcha webzine, August 2009) - accessed August 18 2009
  15. ^ a b Official Cardiacs website
  16. ^
  17. ^ "Cardiacs Official Website: Interviews: Margen Magazine -Spain- April 2001.". Retrieved 2008-12-09. 
  18. ^ Notes on poetry quoted/paraphrased in Cardiacs lyrics on Cardiacs fansite, retrieved November 13, 2008
  19. ^ Demon Internet
  20. ^ The Cardiacs
  21. ^ The Cardiacs
  22. ^ The Cardiacs
  23. ^ The Cardiacs
  24. ^ The Cardiacs
  25. ^ The Cardiacs
  26. ^ The Cardiacs
  27. ^
  28. ^ GodDamnWhores Myspace site
  29. ^ The God Damn Whores site
  30. ^ All My Eye And Betty Martin Music
  31. ^ The Trudy website
  32. ^ The Trudy fansite
  33. ^ The Trudy MySpace site


A black and white A5 booklet of lyrics, drawings and band photographs, created by Tim Smith, was available at Cardiacs gigs for a few years from 1984, appropriately titled 'Cardiacs Book'. No official Cardiacs histories or biographies have been published. The ORGAN fanzine produced a Cardiacs anthology of interviews and reviews in 1993. In November 2006 The Organ announced that they would be putting together a book incorporating the previous anthology, interviews and features that been in Organ since that anthology was published and contributions from fans.

External links

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