Swell Maps

The Swell Maps were an English art-punk band from Solihull that issued a three-song single on self-press Rather in 1978, followed by two albums and four shortplayers on Rough Trade during 1979 and 1980.

Members: Nikki Sudden (vocals, backing vocals, guitar, piano, saxophone, percussion, harmonica, handclaps, balloon), Epic Soundtracks (piano, drums, organ, bass, bass synth, backing vocals, violin, xylophone, saxophone, handclaps, bells, balloon), Phones Sportsman [David Barrington] (bass, guitar, cymbal, jew’s harp, vocals, backing vocals), Jowe Head (bass, guitar, backing vocals, vocals, harmonica, cymbal, saxophone, handclaps, vacuum cleaner, balloon), John “Golden” Cockrill (guitar, bass, backing vocals, 1974-80), Biggles Books [Richard Earl] (guitar, backing vocals, organ, xylophone, handclaps, vacuum cleaner, balloon, 1975-80)


Formation

The Swell Maps originated as a bedroom band formed in 1972 by Solihull brothers Adrian and Paul Godfrey, known by the respective pseudonyms Nikki Sudden and Epic Soundtracks. Nikki (b. 1956) and Epic (b. 1959) jammed on assorted instruments with Midlands peers Richard Earl (Dikki Mint), Phones Sportsman (David Barrington), Golden (John Cockrill), and Jowe Head (Stephen Bird). With the arrival of punk, they rose in the small local scene that also included The Prefects and The Television Personalities.


“Read About Seymour”

In January 1978, the Swell Maps debuted with the maxi-single “Read About Seymour” on self-press Rather Records. It features three songs by Nikki Sudden, who handled guitar, tambourine, and vocals; backed by Epic (drums, baking trays), Jowe (seven-string bass), and Phones (guitar).

A1. “Read About Seymour” (1:27)
B1. “Ripped And Torn” (1:45) Dikki Mint on vocals.
B2. “Black Velvet” (1:55)

The Swell Maps signed singer–guitarist Steve Treatment to Rather Records and backed him on the August 1978 EP 5A Sided 45. They perform under the pseudonyms Matilda Tank (Jowe), Amphibious Landing Craft (Epic), Edrun Kübelwagen (Nikki), and RJ Half-Track (Phones). It features five short songs, including the fast, fuzz-laden “Hooked On a Trend.”

On October 16, 1978, the Swell Maps recorded their first of three sessions for BBC Radio 1 DJ John Peel. They performed five songs for the 10/27 broadcast: “Read About Seymour,” “Harmony In Your Bathroom,” “Full Moon In My Pocket – Blam – Full Moon,” “International Rescue,” and “Another Song.”

The Swell Maps signed with the London indie label Rough Trade, which reissued the “Read About Seymour” maxi single in December 1978 (RT 010).


“Dresden Style”

In February 1979, the Swell Maps released their second three-song maxi single. It features two Nikki Sudden songs and the Jowe–Phones–Epic number “Full Moon (Dub).”

A1. “Dresden Style”
B1. “Ammunition Train”
B2. “Full Moon (Dub)”

On May 15, 1979, the Swell Maps recorded their second Peel session (aired 5/22), which featured “Bandits,” “Vertical Slum – Forest Fire,” “Armadillo,” and “Midget Submarines.”


A Trip to Marineville

The Swell Maps released their debut album, A Trip to Marineville, on June 27, 1979, on Rough Trade. It features six Nikki Sudden originals and one co-write (“Vertical Slum”) with Jowe Head, who submitted “Harmony in Your Bathroom” and co-wrote the two-part “Full Moon in My Pocket” with Epic Soundtracks, who wrote “Don’t Throw Ashtrays at Me!” Each side climaxes with a group-written number: “Bridge Head, Pt. 9” and “Adventuring into Basketry.”

Marineville also came with a bonus 7″ with two songs each by Sudden (“Doctor at Cake,” “Steven Does”) and Head (“Loin of the Surf,” “Bronze & Baby Shoes”).

1. “H. S. Art” (2:21)
2. “Another Song” (1:43)
3. “Vertical Slum” (1:12) Jowe–Sudden
4. “Spitfire Parade” (3:10)
5. “Harmony in Your Bathroom” (5:24)
6. “Don’t Throw Ashtrays at Me!” (1:16)
7. “Midget Submarines” (4:33)
8. “Bridge Head, Pt. 9” (1:58)

9. “Full Moon in My Pocket” (1:30)
10. “Blam!!” (3:31)
11. “Full Moon (Reprise)” (1:21)
12. “Gunboats” (8:25)
13. “Adventuring into Basketry” (7:28)
14. “My Lil’ Shoppes ‘Round the Corner” (0:44)

C1. “Loin of the Surf” (2:14)
C2. “Doctor at Cake” (2:05)

D1. “Steven Does” (1:45)
D2. “Bronze & Baby Shoes” (3:45)

Sessions took place at the Woodbine Mobile Recording Studio at Warwickshire’s Leamington Spa in three increments between December 1978 and April 1979. “Vertical Slum” dates from a September 1977 session at Spaceward Sound in Cambridge. “My Lil’ Shoppes ‘Round The Corner” and “Steven Does” both stem from bedroom sessions at Phones’ house.

John Rivers – engineering
Mike Kemp – engineering (“Vertical Slum”)


“Real Shocks”

In September 1979, the Swell Maps released Nikki’s “Real Shocks,” a recent Leamington Spa recording backed with two Sudden–Sportsman cuts, “Monologues” and “English Verse,” recorded in 1977 in Phones’ bedroom.

A1. “Real Shocks”
B1. “Monologues”
B2. “English Verse”


“Let’s Build a Car”

On February 15, 1980, the Swell Maps released “Let’s Build a Car,” a Nikki number backed with two group-writes.

A1. “Let’s Build a Car”
B1. “Big Maz In the Country”
B2. “Then Poland”

On March 3, 1980, the Swell Maps recorded their third Peel session for the April 1 broadcast, which aired “Big Empty Field,” “Bleep and Booster Come Round for Tea – Secret Island,” “(Let’s) Buy a Bridge,” and “The Helicopter Spies – A Raincoat’s Room” (repeated 5/8).


…In “Jane From Occupied Europe”

The Swell Maps released their second album, …In “Jane From Occupied Europe”, on August 16, 1980, on Rough Trade.

1. “Robot Factory” (Epic Soundtracks, Biggles Books) – 2:27
2. “Let’s Buy a Bridge” (Nikki Sudden) – 1:55
3. “Border Country” (Sudden) – 2:12
4. “Cake Shop” (retitled “Cake Shop Girl” on reissue) (Jowe Head) – 2:25
5. “The Helicopter Spies” (Nikki Sudden) – 4:20
6. “Big Maz in “The Desert from the Trolley”” (Swell Maps) – 5:11
7. “Big Empty Field” (Epic Soundtracks, Biggles Books) – 3:44
8. “Mining Villages” (Epic Soundtracks, Phones B. Sportsman) – 1:01

9. “Collision with a Frogman vs. The Mangrove Delta Plan” (Swell Maps) – 8:06
10. “Secret Island” (Nikki Sudden) – 4:34
11. “Whatever Happens Next….” (Nikki Sudden) – 2:58
12. “Blenheim Shots” (Nikki Sudden) – 3:42
13. “A Raincoat’s Room” (retitled “Raining in My Room” on reissue) (Epic Soundtracks) – 1:42

Sessions occurred between June 1979 and May 1980 at Leamington Spa. “Mining Villages” stems from a July 1977 home session.


The Phones Sportsman Band EP

The Swell Maps masquerade as the Phones Sportsman Band on a 1980 maxi-single, released in a luminous lime sleeve on Rather Records.

A1. “I Really Love You”
B1. “I Woke Up This Morning”
B2. “Get Down And Get With It”
B3. “Wah Wah Track”
B4. “The Olton”


Whatever Happens Next…

In 1981, Rough Trade issued Whatever Happens Next…, a double album comprised of Swell Maps demos, outtakes, and one Peel session.


Discography:

  • “Read About Seymour” / “Ripped & Torn” / “Black Velvet” (1978)
  • A Trip to Marineville (1979)
  • At Home With Jowe Head (EP, 1979)
  • “Dresden Style” / “Ammunition Train” / “Full Moon” (1979)
  • “Real Shocks” / “English Verse” / “Monologues” (1979)
  • “Let’s Build a Car” / “Big Maz in the Country” / “…Then Poland” (1980)
  • …In “Jane From Occupied Europe” (1980)

Sources:

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