Sunday, August 30, 2020

Obituary - Tim Smith

On Tuesday 21 July 2020, Tim Smith, best known as vocalist, front man and main writer of CARDIACS passed away. He was aged 59. The cause of death was a heart attack. 
Born Timothy Charles Smith on 3 July 1961 in Carshalton, Surrey, England, he had formed his first band by 1975 with some school friends while 1977 saw the formation of THE FILTH with his brother Jim. 
By 1979, he had formed CARDIAC ARREST releasing its first single, ‘A Bus For A Bus On A Bus’, before taking over vocals the following year for the ‘The Obvious Identity’ cassette album. In 1981, the band had morphed into CARDIACS for the release of the cassette album, ‘Toy World’.
In 1983, Smith married Sarah Cutts, who had joined the band three years prior. 
Smith created the Alphabet Business Concern in 1984, a carefully constructed myth of an exploitative organisation that dictated CARDIACS activities and held them to account. It debuted with ‘Archive Cardiacs’ that compiled the two previous cassette only releases. All future CARDIACS material, bar a rare exception or two, was released on Alphabet Business Concern. 
CARDIACS was a unique band and virtually unparalleled in a live setting. Fusing the abrasiveness of Punk and the musical exploration of Prog Rock, the band created a truly original sound be it on the minor hit single, ‘Is This The Life’ (minor as in reaching #80), through the majestic ‘Heaven Born And Ever Bright’ album (which opened with symphonic ‘The Alphabet Business Concern {Home Of Fadeless Splendour}’) through to the epic double album ‘Sing To God’.
Smith had a few side projects also, including the solo album ‘Tim Smith’s Extra Special OceanLandWorld’ which was recorded between 1989 and 1991 and saw release in 1995, while THE SEA NYMPHS was a side project that featured his ex-wife Sarah and William D. Drake (both of whom had been in CARDIACS), and played a gentler, lighter sound featuring greater emphasis on keyboards, vocal rhythms and brass. 
Two lesser known roles included performing with Jo Spratley in SPRATLEY’S JAPS in 1995, playing on and producing the band’s 1999 album ‘Pony’, and touring solo in support of GINGER AND THE SONIC CIRCUS in March 2006.
Outside performing, he also owned the recording studio, Apollo 8 in Wiltshire, producing several artists including LEVITATION, EAT, OCEANSIZE, SIDI BOU SAID and former WILDHEARTS frontman Ginger. 
He was also recognised as a video editor, working with bands as disparate as SEPULTURA and THE FRANK AND WALTERS, along with CARDIACS. 2008 saw the film, ‘The Wildhearts Live In The Studio: A Film By Tim Smith’ which featured THE WILDHEARTS performing their self-titled album along with some surreal intervals.   
A final CARDIACS album, ‘LSD’, remains unfinished. 
Tragedy struck on 25 June 2008 when Smith suffered a heart attack and stroke (after a MY BLOODY VALENTINE concert) and underwent a long period of rehabilitation, which included a second stroke in hospital. He experienced a lack of oxygen to the brain during cardiac arrest and was diagnosed with dystonia, which causes muscles to contract uncontrollably. To aid his on-going recovery, three events named The Alphabet Business Convention were staged in 2013, 2015 and 2017 while in 2016 a one-off gig in Preston named The Whole World Window was staged. 
A fundraiser set up for his care in 2018 read: “This condition has affected Tim’s movement, his dexterity, his ability to speak, and it has added painful muscle tone and spasms that are a permanent feature of his life these days.” Just the year before, Smith is quoted as saying of his condition, “Imagine if you were wearing a skintight bodysuit made of fishnet all around you, with electrical pulses going all the time. This is what my body feels like unless I fall asleep.”
On 25 October 2018, Smith received the degree Doctor Of Music from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, which brother Jim accepted on his behalf. 
Smith’s passing was announced by his brother Jim and bandmate Kavus Torabi stating Smith had “passed away peacefully at around 10.30pm”. 

My memories of CARDIACS go back to seeing them on Channel Four’s The Tube in 1987, when the programme aired the ‘Tarred And Feathered’ video. I didn’t have a clue what it was, whether I liked it or hated it. The Tube, from memory, played more CARDIACS stuff - and I got a taste for them. 
I finally got to see the band when they played Ipswich Caribbean Club in March 1992. The Caribbean had a reputation for bad sound but CARDIACS made the place sound awesome - the only band I ever saw that managed it.  I caught them again at Colchester Arts Centre around 1996 on the ‘Sing To God’ tour and a final time at the, I think Highbury Garage (although it might’ve been the Camden Falcon - I know it was cold though!) in early 1999.  
CARDIACS gigs were joyous, distinctly British (as in fusing hymns and music hall into their sound), chaotic, celebratory and frequently laden with make-believe cruelty (witness Tim’s goading and near bullying of his bassist brother, Jim). But never once was I not impressed, or even amazed that such complex songs could be played so efficiently and when the jarring, fractured sounds exploded into a joyous, heavenly symphony of sound, it was a truly beautiful thing.  
Where Smith’s muse came from, I cannot begin to imagine but I feel intensely fortunate that it touched me deeply and I got to experience The Leader Of The Starry Skies in all of his fadeless splendour.

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