“Sunday mornings in the 70s: bird song, the bells ringing from the hill calling the flock, Ed Stewart’s Junior Choice on the radio; dressed in my suit, bright yellow shirt and paisley tie, we trundled down to the Methodist hall. The mighty organ pipes bellowing out English hymns, earnest choirs in exaltation, and the family and congregation singing together. The church, on my dad’s side and the chapel my mother’s, kindled my early musical flame. I didn’t quite get the religion, but the impact and emotion of the sound and acoustics stayed with me.
“And after the Sunday roast, the radiogram which lived in the corner of the room at home, sparked up its orange light; the needled arm placed on the vinyl, and above the crackled sound came the crazy beat and voice of Helen Shapiro singing Walking Back To Happiness. Something happened. I would play it over and over; we didn’t have many records then. Both sides got a hammering.
“It happened again, a few years later, another Sunday afternoon hiding by the coal bunker in the garden, via Fluff’s Pick Of The Pops; the white noise of my transistor radio cast out Hey! Rock n Roll by Showaddywaddy. I know! I was eight. I’d already bought T.Rex and Melanie singles. But there was something about this sound, and the band were local.
“When I was 14, on possibly the same radio, under the bed clothes late at night John Peel spun Gangsters by The Special AKA, from Coventry, a little further down the road. Fresh and vibrant sounds. At school the next day, we swapped our punk threads for stylish pegs and fancy mod shoes.
“I learnt to play guitar in my teens, playing along to the first Dylan and Donovan albums, and the picking of John Pearse. That epiphany came again listening to Syd Barrett. Lyrics, or the music it seemed, didn’t have to make sense. He captured something I could relate to and understand. It was twisted and beautiful. I wrote down my own weird words, played along and recorded them on to cassette tape. Llama Psen became the first of my many pseudonyms; Sproatly the latest.
“In the last few years I‘ve been inspired again by a similar vibe to that early Floyd sound, 60s and 70s folk that ain’t quite folk: Clive Palmer, Stone Angel, Comus and numerous others who have added brilliance to a jaded genre.”
Catch Sproatly Smith performing as part of the Weirdlore day at Bristol’s Folk House (10th June); as well as Folk On The Lawn, Tintern (14th/ 15th July); Cecil Sharp House, London (19th July); Sheep Music festival, Presteigne (21st July 2012).