(by neil crud / pics snared off paul)
I bumped into Duncan Black in Bangor a few weeks ago and, typically, being the guitar whore that he is he said he was doing some stuff locally with the original drummer from The Ruts. We discussed the North Wales connection with that seminal punk band as I knew that some, or all of the members had lived on a commune on Anglesey and had a celtic band called Aslan.
As a kid growing up in Denbigh and only being 13 when The Ruts front man Malcolm Owen died, I remember hearing rumours that he was from North Wales. Rumours become chinese whispers, and before you know it, his mum came from Denbigh! This is probably not true and that rumour now obviously stems from the fact The Ruts roots began in Anglesey.
Armed with the info from Duncan I hunted down ex-NME photographer and original Ruts drummer, Paul Mattock and told him this was all the info I had on Aslan…
Celtic-folk rock band formed at an Anglesey commune in 1975 (anyone know where?) by Malcolm Owen, Paul Fox and Paul Mattock who returned to their native Hayes, Middlesex once the commune collapsed (in ’75) and went onto form The Ruts. More info req’d
Paul was kind enough to share this info with us…
Forget the celtic – folk bit, it was out and out heavy rock ‘n’ roll, mainly self-penned stuff from the bass player Dennis Laing and Paul Fox. Although I did some drumming in the band, the main drummer was a guy called Laurie Jellyman (who went on to do a lot of top session work in London) with Malcolm Owen playing a little rhythm guitar. We were all hippies doing what hippies do. We put on our own gigs usually at the Beach Hotel in Trearddur Bay. (Now a block of flats).
How we got here was that some friends of mine, including Malcolm, had done a road trip across India at the start of the 1970’s and when they got back to London decided to move to the country and live the hippy dream.
They ended up on Anglesey, not realising that it was an island until they got to Holyhead, decided to stay and I joined them a year later, which was the beginning of my love affair with Anglesey, and North Wales.
We once decided to set up and play on the cliffs at Sandy Beach one sunny afternoon. (There’s a house on the cliffs which Dennis and I rented for about a year).
We must have been playing for about an hour when we had a visit from a very friendly local policeman who very politely waited until we’d had finished the song we were playing, and then came wandering over to inform us that there were some people in Holyhead town centre, which is about 2 to 3 miles away across Holyhead Bay, complaining about the music and would we please turn it down a bit. Just goes to show how loud a band we were.
Moving back to London, I went about forming a soul band, called Melting Pot with Dennis, who moved on to lead guitar and vocals. It was only when Dennis left to go and live in America that Paul Fox took over from Dennis and the band developed into a 9 piece soul band with Dave Ruffy playing drums and me on rhythm guitar, the band was now called Hit & Run. We gigged all the main venues around London, The Marquee, Speakeasy, The 100 club, even got to play Ronnie Scotts. Made most of our money doing the American Air bases all over the country. But it was hard graft and almost impossible to get a record deal. Then punk happened. Malcolm really got into it and started writing punk songs with Paul Fox. It started out as a bit of a laugh. Dave Ruffy fancied himself as a bass player and I played the drums. We got some cheap studio time and went in and recorded some of the songs, Lobotomy, H Eyes and In A Rut. As soon as we played In A Rut we knew it could be a hit. It was from this track that we got the name ‘The Ruts’. Somehow the tapes found their way to John Peel and he offered the band a live session on his show. I never really liked the punk thing and was happy to bow out. Ruffy went back onto the drums and our roadie, John (Segs) Jennings, who had been with Hit & Run for all the years we were together, picked up the bass and joined the band. (He couldn’t play the instrument and Paul Fox had to teach him where to put his fingers). All this just a few days before the John Peel Session. It wasn’t long after they appeared on the show that EMI and Virgin were falling over themselves to sign them. The rest is history. Sadly Malcolm died from a drugs overdose aged 28. Paul Fox died just a few years ago from lung cancer. Dave Ruffy is still making a living from drumming and the last I heard was that John the bass player was living in Paris.
I stayed in London, playing in an assortment of bands that got me travelling all over Europe as well as getting to play at Glastonbury a couple of times, (support stage, but still a lot of fun.)
Took up photography when the band I was in for almost 3 years was offered a deal but the record company didn’t want the rhythm section. It turned out to be a good move, as I started to earn more money taking pictures of other bands for the NME and Melody Maker then I ever did working as a musician. Moved back to Anglesey 2001 and in 2011 stumbled across a vintage Pearl kit for £125.00 at Mona car boot sale. Bargain! Now enjoying myself playing stuff with The Silverback Band (pic below) that I was playing when I was 14 years old. I think it’s called, completing the circle.
(neil crud) – Segs and Ruffy have reformed Ruts DC taking their brand of reggae-punk back onto the boards and into the halls, who I had the honour of seeing at Rebellion Festival last summer (review)
Silverback Band can be found lurking in dimly lit back street pubs in North Wales (website)