Tim Smith (Cardiacs)

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Tim Smith
Tim Smith of Cardiacs (wider crop).jpg
Smith performing with Cardiacs in 2007
Timothy Charles Smith

(1961-07-03)3 July 1961
Carshalton, Surrey, England
Died21 July 2020(2020-07-21) (aged 59)
Other namesPhilip Pilf
  • Musician
  • singer
  • songwriter
  • producer
  • video director
Years active1975–2008
Sarah Cutts
(m. 1983;div. 1990)
Partner(s)Joanne Spratley [2]
Sarah Maher [3]
Relatives Jim Smith (brother)
Musical career
  • Vocals
  • guitar
  • keyboards
LabelsAlphabet Business Concern
Formerly of
Tim Smith's Signature.svg

Timothy Charles Smith (3 July 1961  21 July 2020) was an English musician, record producer and music video director. A singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Smith rose to prominence as the frontman of the rock band Cardiacs, [4] which he co-founded with his brother Jim. [5] In addition to Cardiacs, Smith led, co-led or contributed to The Sea Nymphs, Tim Smith's Extra Special OceanLandWorld and Spratleys Japs. Recognised for the particular complexity, skill and idiosyncrasies of his songs and music, Smith was honoured with the Doctor of Music degree from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in 2018, two years before his death in 2020.


Smith was also a producer of records or promotional videos for acts including Oceansize, Sepultura, Dark Star, The Frank and Walters, Sidi Bou Said, Eat, The Scaramanga Six and erstwhile Wildhearts frontman Ginger.

Early years: 1961–1977

A childhood photo of Smith Tim Smith Young.png
A childhood photo of Smith

Smith was born on 3 July 1961 in Carshalton, Surrey, England. [6] He and his older brother Jim acquired an interest in music around 1972 from their neighbourhood friend Geoff Shelton buying an electric guitar. [7] Jim Smith bought a bass guitar so that he and Geoff could play a blues riff together, while Smith owned a snare drum and would drum with them. The next year, Shelton lent Smith an LP on how to play the guitar, teaching him to play the G chord during a visit. Smith learnt the song "Frankie and Johnny", and played it whilst his mum sang. Around the same time, he heard a section on a record that "[made] his stomach go funny and [gave] him goosebumps". It changed his perception of music, [7] and may have inspired the sound of his compositions. After that, Jim stopped playing bass until 1977.

Some songs written by Smith at around age 13, notably "Interlude" from their debut album and "Billion" from Sing to God , would later be made into Cardiacs tracks. [8] In an interview, Smith commented about his songs written at a young age:

It depends on what year they were done, but we were really only youngsters then. A few songs have popped up on the later albums that I wrote when I was about thirteen. The one on [Sing to God] called "Billion", I did it when I was thirteen. Sometimes I put an old one on that I made when I was little, just for luck. "Interlude" on A Little Man and a House ... is another one. I just found it laying around on a bit of paper and thought "Ah, let's stick that one on it!" It's all for superstitious reasons, really. [8]

Smith attended Fleetwood Secondary School in Chessington with his friend Colvin Mayers. There, he met Mark Cawthra and Peter Tagg, who would later play in Cardiacs. In 1975, Smith and Cawthra formed an unnamed group with organist David Philpot. They played instrumentals inspired by Egg. The band never played live and Dave Philpot died a few years later. His miniKORG synthesiser was later inherited by Cardiacs. [7]

Cawthra was suspended from school and, after staying at the Kaleidoscope hotel in Kingston, moved to York. During that time, he and Smith would send each other tapes of unkind songs they had written for each other. [7] Smith played in another band at the age of 16 called Gazunder alongside the Sound frontman Adrian Borland and rock drummer Bruce Bizland, [7] [9] which sounded like the rock instrumentals on David Bowie's The Man Who Sold the World (1970). [10]

The Filth to Cardiacs: 1977–2008

Formation, demos and line-up changes: 1977–1984

At the age of 16, Smith formed a rock group, the Filth. Often misremembered as "Philip Pilf and the Filth", the group was established by Smith in 1977. [7] The same year, the Filth wrote the song "Icky Qualms" and played their first gig the Kaleidoscope hotel, "a hostel for misfits and that". [7] Smith arranged the group with Peter Tagg on drums, Jim on bass, himself on guitar and Michael Pugh on vocals. Mick Pugh, a friend of Jim's, was chosen due to his shouty voice.[ citation needed ]

In 1979, Smith helped record a 7", "A Bus for a Bus on the Bus", at Elephant Studios in London. [11] 1980 saw Smith recording the first and only Cardiac Arrest album, The Obvious Identity . [6] Eventually, 1000 cassettes were recorded, but only sold at concerts to save on expenditure. [12]

Smith decided to change the name of the band to Cardiacs in 1981. He helped record the band's first album, Toy World , in the same manner as the Cardiac Arrest album – on cassette tape – at a small basement studio known as Crow Studios. [7] After another line up change, Smith recruited Tim Quy (percussion), Sarah Cutts (saxophone) and Dominic Luckman (drums). [13]

Studio years, side projects and solo work: 1984–2008

The label Alphabet Business Concern was created in 1984. [7] Smith was asked by vocalist Fish to support his band Marillion on their forthcoming tour near the end of the year. Smith agreed but was not prepared for the hostile audience that awaited them on all legs of the tour (forcing them off the final three days of the tour). [14] From then until 1999, Cardiacs released six studio albums, as well as a number of singles, EPs and live albums. [13]

During the 1990s, Smith took a break from Cardiacs to work on various other projects. During 1989 and 1991, he wrote songs for a solo album, Tim Smith's Extra Special OceanLandWorld , eventually released in 1995. [15] Smith, his ex-wife Sarah Smith, and William D. Drake were reunited as The Sea Nymphs, a "gentler" version of Cardiacs; they had recorded before in 1984 and released a cassette album, Mr and Mrs Smith and Mr Drake . [16] Smith also performed with Jo Spratley in Spratleys Japs, who released their album Pony in 1999. [17]

In March 2006, Smith toured with Ginger & The Sonic Circus as their support act, performing acoustic versions of Cardiacs' songs, along with his own material. [18] Cardiacs released their only single of the 2000s, "Ditzy Scene", in 2007. [19]

Illness: 2008–2020

On 25 June 2008, [20] Smith had a heart attack after attending a gig by My Bloody Valentine. Bandmate Kavus Torabi remembers "making up the spare room and going to bed, expecting [Smith] to arrive in a taxi, but he never came." [21]

Smith's heart attack had triggered a major stroke and an episode of cerebral anoxia [22] [2] which was treated in intensive care at University College Hospital. Although there was some initial optimism [23] [21] - according to Craig Fortnam, "he was sat up in bed and smiling", [21] - Smith was thought to have had had a second stroke in hospital a few days later while he recuperated. This in turn caused brain damage through hypoxia, which left him paralysed down one side of the body and unable to speak. [23] He was eventually diagnosed with the rare neurological condition dystonia, which causes muscles to contract uncontrollably. [24] [25] [26] [27] [23] [22]

As an outcome of his injuries and subsequent condition, Smith was denied movement and speech, prompting him to retire from live performances. [28] [29] Cardiacs went on an indefinite hiatus following his hospitalisation, leaving the "LSD" album unfinished. [30] [31]

In 2013, 2015 and 2017, events dubbed The Alphabet Business Convention were held in celebration of and with all proceeds funding Smith and his ongoing recovery. Among other things, they featured live music from bands within the Cardiacs' circle. [32] [33] [34]

In July 2016, a special one-day concert took place in Preston, called The Whole World Window with all the funds going towards helping Smith get better. A cassette and CD album of the same name were also released via Hyena Inc containing performances by the same bands. [35] In January 2018 an appeal was launched on the crowdfunding website JustGiving with the aim of raising £40,000 to fund Smith's ongoing care. The target amount was exceeded in the first day and a new target of £100,000 was set to provide for a year's care. [36] [37]

On 25 October 2018, Smith received the honorary degree of Doctor of Music from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. His brother Jim accepted the honour on his behalf. [38]

Death: 21 July 2020

Smith died on the evening of 21 July 2020 at the age of 59, following another heart attack. [9] His death was announced by his brother and bandmate Jim Smith and bandmate Kavus Torabi. [39] Musicians including Steven Wilson, [40] Mike Patton, [41] Graham Coxon [42] and Dave Rowntree [43] of Blur paid tribute to Smith.

Work as producer and video director

Smith owned and operated his own recording studio Apollo 8 (at various locations, with the final one being near Salisbury, Wiltshire) and had a long list of production credits to his name. [44] Since the early 1990s, Smith produced recordings for a variety of musicians and musical groups, many of whom belong to the so-called "Cardiacs family". These include Levitation, Sidi Bou Said, Eat, The Monsoon Bassoon, Wildhearts frontman Ginger (including his Silver Ginger 5 and Howling Willie Cunt projects), Stars in Battledress, Oceansize, William D. Drake, the Shrubbies, The Scaramanga Six and The Trudy. [45]

Smith created and/or edited pop videos for various bands including Sepultura, Dark Star, Zu and The Frank and Walters, as well as Cardiacs. [46] In 2008, Smith created a film called The Wildhearts Live in the Studio: A Film By Tim Smith, featuring The Wildhearts playing their self-titled album along with surreal interludes. [47]



With Joanne Spratley


1985Pirates of the PanasoniksHimselfMusic video compilation, segment Little Man and A House
1985 Seaside Treats HimselfShort film, producer, director
1992 All That Glitters Is a Mare's Nest Himself
2015I Can See A MurderHimselfMusic video for The Scaramanga Six, studio footage
2017Some Fairytales From the Rotten ShedHimselfEditor, director

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cardiacs</span> English rock band

Cardiacs are an English rock band formed in Kingston upon Thames by Tim Smith and his brother Jim in 1977 under the name Cardiac Arrest. The band's sound fused circus, baroque pop and medieval music with progressive rock and post-punk, adding other elements like nursery rhymes and sea shanties. Tim Smith was the primary lyricist, noted for his complex and innovative compositional style. He and his brother were the only constant members in the band's regularly changing lineup.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jon Poole</span> Musical artist

Jonathan Charles Poole, also known by his stage name Random Jon Poole, is an English musician and songwriter. A multi-instrumentalist, singer and producer, he is best known for his work as guitarist for Cardiacs and as bass player for the Wildhearts and Lifesigns.

<i>On Land and in the Sea</i> 1989 studio album by Cardiacs

On Land and in the Sea is the second studio album proper by the English rock band Cardiacs. Produced by band leader Tim Smith, it was recorded and mixed in 1988 at The Slaughterhouse studios in Yorkshire and released in May 1989 by the band's label Alphabet Business Concern. The record features a complex sound, with songs moving through rapid shifts in tempo and key, as well as more experimentation with song structures than the group's previous album. Critics have described the record as art rock and pop in style. It was their final album with their "classic" six-piece line-up.

<i>Guns</i> (Cardiacs album) 1999 studio album by Cardiacs

Guns is the fifth and most recent studio album by English rock band Cardiacs. It was recorded and mixed at Apollo 8 in London and released in 1999. After a brief period of unavailability, the album was re-pressed in August 2007.

<i>The Seaside</i> (album)

The Seaside is the third demo album from English rock group Cardiacs. The album originally featured the second recording of what would become the band's only hit single, "Is This the Life?". It is the last of the band's releases to feature keyboard player/drummer/singer Mark Cawthra and the first to feature keyboard player William D. Drake.

<i>All That Glitters Is a Mares Nest</i> 1992 video / Live album by Cardiacs

All That Glitters Is a Mares Nest is a live album and concert film by the English rock band Cardiacs. It is their third live album, and was originally recorded in the afternoon in the Salisbury Arts Centre on 30 June 1990 with Napalm Death. It is the only Cardiacs album to feature guitarist Christian Hayes throughout. The album was released on VHS in 1992 and as a live album on 1 June 1995.

<i>Greatest Hits</i> (Cardiacs album) 2002 compilation album by Cardiacs

Greatest Hits is a compilation album by the English rock band Cardiacs, released on 22 February 2002.

<i>Cardiacs and Affectionate Friends</i> 2001 compilation album by Cardiacs and various artists

Cardiacs and Affectionate Friends is a compilation album published by Org Records, the record label associated with the Organ fanzine, and All My Eye and Betty Martin Music. It collects recent songs by Cardiacs and associated projects featuring Tim Smith, including Spratleys Japs, the Sea Nymphs and OceanLandWorld (1995). Other acts include Mikrokosmos, Catherine in a Cupboard, Lake of Puppies and solo tracks by Drake, Mark Cawthra and Jon Poole.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kavus Torabi</span> Iranian guitarist

Kavus Torabi is a British-Iranian musician, composer, record label owner and radio broadcaster. A multi-instrumentalist, he is known for his work in the psychedelic, avant-garde rock field. Torabi was one of the founding members of the Monsoon Bassoon, was a member of cult progressive rock group Cardiacs, and fronts and plays guitar for the current lineup of legendary psychedelic band Gong.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Spratleys Japs</span> English psychedelic rock band

Spratleys Japs are an English psychedelic rock band formed by Cardiacs leader Tim Smith and Joanne Spratley in 1998. The band changed their name to Tim Smith's Spratleys Rats in 2021 to distance themselves from the negative connotations of the derogatory term Jap.

<i>Leader of the Starry Skies: A Tribute to Tim Smith, Songbook 1</i> 2010 compilation album by various artists

Leader of the Starry Skies: A Tribute to Tim Smith, Songbook 1 is a compilation album featuring cover versions of songs by Tim Smith, the songwriter behind Cardiacs, The Sea Nymphs, Spratleys Japs and his solo project OceanLandWorld. It was released on CD on 13 December 2010 on the Believers Roast label. The release date for download, via iTunes, was 20 December 2010.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ditzy Scene</span> 2007 single by Cardiacs

"Ditzy Scene" is a song by English rock band Cardiacs. It was planned as the opening track and lead single from the band's unfinished sixth album, LSD. It was released on Org Records, and was the band's last single to be released in frontman Tim Smith's lifetime, as well as their most recent to be composed of entirely new material.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cardiacs discography</span> Band discography

The English rock band Cardiacs have released five studio albums and two extended plays along with a number of singles, compilations, live albums and demos. The group was formed by brothers Tim and Jim Smith in 1977 under the name Cardiac Arrest, releasing their debut single "A Bus for a Bus on the Bus" in 1979 and the demo album The Obvious Identity the following year. After being renamed to Cardiacs, the band released two more cassettes, Toy World (1981) and The Seaside (1984).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Day Is Gone</span> 1991 single by Cardiacs

"Day Is Gone" is a song by English rock band Cardiacs from their third studio album, Heaven Born and Ever Bright (1992). It was released as a twelve-inch single preceding the album on 28 October 1991 alongside a free 7-inch titled "Appealing to Venus" by side project the Sea Nymphs from their eponymous debut studio album (1992). Both tracks were written by Tim Smith who solely produced the former, while the Sea Nymphs produced the latter. Musicially, "Day Is Gone" has been described as a power pop song with a 5
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LSD is the unfinished seventh and final studio album by the English rock band Cardiacs. Recording began in 2005 following several lineup changes, with the lead single "Ditzy Scene" released by Org Records in 2007 to tease the upcoming double album. It was due to be released in October 2008, promoted by singles in August and November as well as a reissue of the concert film All That Glitters Is a Mares Nest (1992). Production was indefinitely postponed after frontman Tim Smith had a cardiac arrest and stroke on 25 June 2008 leaving him unable to play or provide vocals.

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Vermin Mangle</span> 2020 single by Cardiacs

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