Where can I find a copy of Colossal Youth?
The Colossal Youth and Collected Works CD on Domino, released summer 2007, is by far the easiest (and most complete) release. If you are looking for an original vinyl pressing or one of the earlier CD reissues, check eBay; you can usually find copies of each for less than $25.
Why is this site named “Cardiffians?”
It is the name of an album by Devine & Statton, and the native city of almost everyone profiled on this site.
Who were Young Marble Giants?
They were a three-piece from Cardiff, Wales consisting of Stuart Moxham (guitars, keyboards), his brother Phil (bass), and Alison Statton (voice). They existed for about two years between 1979 and 1981.
How did the band form?
Stuart Moxham learned guitar at a young age and convinced his younger brother Phil to do the same. After a stint in the Royal Navy and time spent living in Germany, Stuart came back to Cardiff with the intent of forming a band. He and his brother Phil spent time in cover bands, eventually ending up a band called True Wheel. Alison was a backing vocalist in True Wheel; she and Phil were also dating at the time. When Stuart decided to try his hand at an all-original band, he enlisted Phil and Alison as members.
Where does their name come from?
From a book on Greek architecture. The description of the Kouros statue (a “colossal statue of a youth”) read: “…Young marble giants greeted the sailor as he entered the home stretch to Athens. Two basic intuitions of Greek art — tensed vitality and geometric structuring — are as yet disunited; the sculptor partly carves, partly maps an abstract concept of human form onto the rectangular block.“
How did they get signed to Rough Trade?
Young Marble Giants contributed two tracks (“Ode To Booker T” and an early version of “Searching For Mr. Right”) to a Cardiff compilation album, Is The War Over? The band Reptile Ranch organized the compilation as a way to spotlight the local music scene. Rough Trade heard the album and offered YMG a deal. Despite the band’s trepidation, they agreed to record an album.
How many records did they release for Rough Trade?
One 15-song album, Colossal Youth. Two singles, “Final Day” (four songs) and Testcard EP (six brief instrumentals).
Do any other recordings exist?
The band recorded a demo tape in 1979, prior to their Rough Trade deal. It included rough versions of almost all the Colossal Youth tracks, and a few instrumentals that are far more jagged and dissonant than their later material. Both Is The War Over? tracks come from these sessions, and you can hear a snippet of “Colossal Youth” at the end of the “Final Day” 7″. In 2000, Vinyl Japan released most of this demo tape as a CD, Salad Days.
Where can I find the Live At The Hurrah videotape?
In 2004, Cherry Red re-released it as a DVD. You can order it here.
How frequently did they perform live?
Not very often, from all accounts. They had only played four shows in Cardiff by the time they signed to Rough Trade. In 1980, they performed several shows in England and did short tours of Western Europe and the United States.
What is Noddemix (as referenced in the song “Eating Noddemix”)?
According to Stuart Moxham, noddemix is a Swiss cereal bar. A friend of mine actually found one in Sweden; they look like this. However, after finally figuring out to do a proper Google search for the term (the secret is in the letter “ø“), it now appears that “nøddemix” is actually a generic term for “mixed nuts.”
Why did Young Marble Giants break up?
Basically, creative differences and intergroup tension. Conflicts came to a head during their American tour in late 1980, and the trio broke up upon their return to Britain. The reasons are still murky. At the time, Stuart claimed that he and Alison weren’t getting on very well; his attitude was that he had formed the band to sing his songs, and he didn’t deal very well with another vocalist. Time has softened opinions on both sides; Stuart and Alison even recorded a duet on Stuart’s Signal Path CD.
What did they do afterward?
All three members continued making music through the mid-1980s. After YMG’s demise, Alison formed Weekend with Cardiff compadres Simon Booth and Spike. They recorded three singles, an album (La Variete), and a live 12″ – all of which spotlighted light, jazzy textures. Vinyl Japan has reissued La Variete with four demo tracks from 1981. Booth later joined the similarly-minded band Working Week.
Meanwhile, Stuart formed The Gist, a loose conglomerate of friends and like-minded musical associates. The Gist recorded four singles and an album, Embrace The Herd. Both Phil and Alison appeared on Gist recordings, as did members of the Swell Maps and Essential Logic. Phil played on Weekend recordings as well, and spent short stints with David Thomas & The Pedestrians (appearing on The Sound of the Sand LP on Rough Trade) and Everything But The Girl.
It seems like all three YMGs vanished from the music scene in the early-mid 1980s. What did they do?
Weekend and The Gist both fizzled out around 1984. Alison returned to Cardiff and became a chiropractor and tai-chi instructor. Alison and Phil were both in an early version of Bomb and Dagger, a “Bolshevik dance band” headed by Weekend/Reptile Ranch guitarist Spike. Stuart and his wife, Cindy, had a baby and lived on a houseboat off the coast of England. Stuart worked as an animator on several productions, most notably Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Shortly after finishing the film, he had a motorcycle accident and found himself holed up for awhile. He passed the time by borrowing an eight-track deck and recording some of the songs he’d written over the years. The only recorded appearance of his during this period was on a 7″ by British reggae toaster Jah Scouse. (Phil and Andrew Moxham appeared on this 7″ as well.)
How did they return to music? What are they doing now?
Alison Statton was the first to return to music on a large scale. She recorded two albums with Ian Devine (ex-Ludus), 1989’s The Prince of Wales and 1990’s Cardiffians. In the mid-1990s, she hooked up with her old friend Spike. Under the name Alison Statton & Spike, the two of them have recorded several albums for Vinyl Japan, including 1994’s Weekend in Wales EP and Tidal Blues, 1995’s Maple Snow (recorded live in Japan), and 1998’s The Shady Tree.
In 1991, Stuart Moxham compiled the best of his home recordings on an LP called Choice. He pressed up 50 acetates and gave them away to friends, relatives and record company contacts. Your webmaster heard a copy of this acetate and passed a tape along to John Henderson, a huge YMG fan and head of Chicago label Feel Good All Over. John offered to release the Choice tracks on CD. After a few additions and deletions, a CD ultimately came out in 1992 under the name Signal Path. Stuart released four additional albums between 1992 and 1995 (Random Rules, Cars in the Grass, Barbara Manning Sings with the Original Artists, and Fine Tuning). He produced tracks for Lois, Beat Happening and The Coctails, and made three trips to America to play live (in 1992, 1993 and 1999). He has also appeared on the 6ths Wasps’ Nests album and collaborated with Louis Phillippe and Etienne Daho. The latter had a French hit with “Paris Le Flore,” a cover of the Gist’s “Love At First Sight.” Most recently, Stuart has been writing and recording children’s music, including a session at Abbey Road Studios in London, and is planning additional solo releases. He lives in the suburbs outside of London.
Phil Moxham has performed and recorded with both Alison and Stuart in recent years, but has not returned to music as a full-time career.
Is it true that Young Marble Giants recorded a reunion single in 1987?
No. This is perhaps the biggest YMG urban myth. Stuart Moxham dispelled this rumor in an interview with author Richie Unterberger:
RU: Did you do a reunion single in 1987, as one book says you did?
SM: No, there wasn’t. I don’t know where that came up. I’ve seen that in books and things. It must have been a misunderstanding somewhere or other. What happened is they’ve looked in other books, and just taken the information out without checking. From what I remember reading somewhere about it, it said–something to do with the French? There was a time–it was a complete misunderstanding. I was going to do a track called “It Took You,” which is something I did myself. It’s on an album I did in 1992.
Have there been any other attempts at a YMG reunion?
Stuart has, over the years, informally tried to reassemble all three members in the studio — if not as YMG, then for one-off projects. The Gist’s “Clean Bridges” features Alison on vocals, Phil on bass and Stuart on guitar. They have attempted two live reunions – the first in March 2001, the second in September 2003 – but neither panned out. In early 2004, the three members (plus drummer Andrew Moxham) actually reconvened at BBC Radio Wales for a group interview and one new song, “Alright.” The three original members finally reconvened for a live show at The Hay Festival in Hay-on-Wye, Wales, on May 27, 2007 – their first public performance since the NYC shows captured on Live At The Hurrah!
Have there been any YMG cover songs?
About a dozen artists have covered YMG or Stuart Moxham songs. Hole covered “Credit In The Straight World” on 1994’s Live Through This, Lush recorded “Love At First Sight” for a 12″ B-side, and Galaxie 500’s retrospective box set includes a previously-unreleased version of “Final Day.” Indie favorites such as The Magnetic Fields, Versus and the Mekons’ Sally Timms have released cover versions as well.
I heard about a Young Marble Giants tribute album a few years back. Whatever happened to it?
Your guess is as good as mine. It was supposed to come out in 1992 on the North Carolina label Land Speed. The label and its founder, Chris Albee, have long since vanished from the music scene. Many of its proposed tracks (including Versus’ “N.I.T.A.,” the Magnetic Fields’ “The Man Amplifier,” Barbara Manning’s “Cakewalking” and Linda Smith’s “Salad Days”) have turned up elsewhere.
Who is Wendy Smith?
She took the cover photos for Colossal Youth, and designed most of the Weekend and Gist covers. Her colorful still-life paintings perfectly complemented the music. In the early 1990s, she designed the sleeves for the Magnetic Fields’ Distant Plastic Trees and The Wayward Bus CDs.
Who are you, Mike, and why did you create this website?
I occasionally publish a fanzine and make music. I’ve been a Young Marble Giants fan since age 15. I’d heard “Final Day” on the local college station and found Colossal Youth a few months later in a record store. Suffice it to say Colossal Youth blew my head open. Up until that point, my “alternative” listening had been restricted to hardcore and commercial new wave. I was amazed how strange and unique, yet how quiet, the album sounded. It remains my all-time favorite album, and it really opened me up to the possibilities that independent music offered. It also kicked off a fetish for early-80s British artsy postpunk that continues to this day. I’ve written articles about the band and interviewed Stuart Moxham at length. I’d been meaning to put a Web page together for some time, and finally decided to do it in 1998. My intention with this site is not to merely gush endlessly (though I’ll happily do that upon request), but to provide a source of information for anyone who might have had the same questions I did when I first stumbled across Colossal Youth. In that spirit, I hope visitors will feel free to contribute any materials, memorabilia or thoughts that aren’t here already.