Signs (Cardiacs song)


Cardiacs are an English band formed in 1977. Their broad combination of styles is sometimes referred to as Pronk (progressive punk), although singer Tim Smith prefers the description Psychedelic or simply Pop. Fusing the excitement and 'raw energy' of punk rock with the intricacies and technical cleverness of early British progressive rock. They are often underpinned by Smith's unusually distinctive singing and songwriting styles, and intelligently cryptic lyrics. Their sound is entirely unique, varied, complex, and intense.

History so far

Cardiac Arrest (1977 – 1980)

Cardiacs started life as The Filth (but not Philip Pilf & The Filth) before changing their name to Cardiac Arrest in late 1977, and were formed by Tim Smith in Kingston upon Thames, Surrey. His brother, Jim, played bass guitar, and their school friends, Peter Tagg and Michael Pugh, played drums and sang backing vocals respectively. After producing a seven song demo in 1978 at Elephant Studios in London, they were joined by Colvin Mayers on keyboards, and Ralph Cade on saxophone. After a couple of years playing underground concerts, they released a 7” single called A Bus for a Bus on the Bus in 1979 on Tortch Records, also recorded at Elephant Studios. Peter Tagg and Ralph Cade left the band to form The Trudy , and Michael Pugh also left to follow other directions, although another school friend, Mark Cawthra, was drafted in to play drums.

In 1980, they self-released the cassette album, The Obvious Identity, with Tim Smith on lead vocals. The album was produced with the punk/DIY ethic in mind, the band making copies of the recordings on any cassettes they could find, with varying levels of quality achieved as a result. Another band called Cardiac Arrest existed at this time, and so, after a number of name changes, including The Alphabet and The Obvious Identity, the band decided on simply Cardiacs.

Cardiacs (1980 – present)

In 1981, Cardiacs self-released the cassette album, Toy World. The album had songs dating back to the Cardiac Arrest period (with Michael Pugh on vocals), along with some newer material. Keyboard player, Colvin Mayers, then left the band to join The Sound (Adrian Borland's group with whom Tim had previously collaborated), and was replaced, eventually, by William D. Drake, who Tim Smith had seen playing in a band called Honour Our Trumpet in 1982 . Dominic Luckman replaced Mark Cawthra on drums and Tim Quy and Sarah Cutts joined the band on percussion and saxophone respectively.

In July 1983, Tim Smith married Sarah Cutts and she took his surname.

In 1984, Cardiacs released their second album, The Seaside, on the record label, Alphabet (which became Alphabet Business Concern). The band was now Tim Smith on vocals, Jim Smith on bass, William D. Drake on keyboards, Dominic Luckman on drums, Sarah Smith on saxophone and Tim Quy on percussion. This was the line-up that would remain for the rest of the 80’s and is considered as the 'classic' line up by Cardiacs fans.

Also in 1984, Cardiacs were invited by Fish to support Marillion (5 November - 21 December). Whilst the tour afforded the band a new level of publicity, they were not well received generally by Marillion's fanbase . On most dates of the tour, the band was pelted with a variety of makeshift missiles, including bottles, batteries and lit cigarettes.. There was even an attempt to set fire to the safety curtain at the Manchester show. Fish came on at the show in Hammersmith to berate the audience about their behaviour.

On 1 April 1985, an attempt was made to film Cardiacs at a live concert at the Surbiton Assembly Rooms. When the band viewed the resultant footage, they decided against releasing it and instead concentrated on a new video project that would become Seaside Treats , named after the 12” that was released at the same time. As well as containing three music videos, it contained a 10 minute film known as The Consultant’s Flower Garden that featured the band and various people connected with them in bizarre, comedic situations. Both videos were shot for free by Mark Francombe and Nick Elborough (then students at Portsmouth College of Art and Design), who had approached the band with regard to filming them as part of their coursework project.

The Mini LP, Big Ship, was released in 1986. Cardiacs played the Reading Festival on 24 August and released the audio footage as Rude Bootleg.

In March 1987, a British tabloid newspaper, The Sunday Sport, ran a story 'exposing' the supposedly incestuous relationship between Tim and Sarah Smith, mistaking the couple for being brother and sister. The headline ran, "In the bizarre world of music… anything goes - even INCEST." Much of the misunderstanding was perpetuated by Tim himself as a way of publicising the band. This year also saw the release of the There's Too Many Irons In The Fire 12”.

A music video of Tarred and Feathered (from Big Ship) was filmed for Channel 4's groundbreaking music show, The Tube, and shown on 17 April 1987, which gave them their first exposure on national T.V.

The release of the "Is This The Life?" single in 1988, taken from the album, A Little Man and a House and the Whole World Window, saw brief chart success due to exposure on mainstream radio, and garnered the attention of a wider audience as it entered the Independent Top 10 in the UK. 15 May saw Cardiacs play a concert at the Paradiso in Amsterdam, which was later released as Cardiacs Live.

A new studio album was released in 1989 entitled On Land and in the Sea, which was toured extensively around the UK and Europe. In the Spring of this year, the "classic" line up came to an end. Sarah Smith left the band, leaving them without a saxophone player. She was, in part, replaced by ex-Ring guitarist, Christian 'Bic' Hayes, although he was a second guitar player. Next, Tim Quy left the band after his final performance at Salisbury Arts Centre. The concert was filmed and released in 1992 as the video, Maresnest. Quy's departure was honoured by a message at the end of the video stating, "This film is dedicated to Tim Quy who left our world 30/8/90". The world, in this instance, being the Cardiacs' group, not this worldly plane, as some fans mistakenly thought.

Everything Changes

By 1991, everything had changed within the Cardiacs' camp. The biggest departure was that of William D. Drake, one of the backbones of the band, who went off to pursue other musical ventures. The remaining members, Tim and Jim Smith and Dominic Luckman were joined by Jon Poole on guitar, replacing Christian Hayes (who went on to focus on Levitation). The keyboard and percussion parts were played at live performances courtesy of a backing tape. They released a new single, Day Is Gone this year.

The album, Heaven Born and Ever Bright, was released in the summer of 1992. The album was recorded prior to the departure of Christian Hayes and some of his guitar and voice, plus a track he co-wrote, "Goodbye Grace", features on the finished recording. Soon after the release of Heaven Born and Ever Bright, the distributor, Rough Trade, ceased trading, which left Cardiacs thousands of pounds in debt because the album could not be ordered by record shops. It took them nearly four years to get the finances together to release another album. Although Jon Poole did not play on the album, the current cover photograph shows the line up that was active when the album was re-released in 1995.

July 1993 saw another long term member (Dominic Luckman) leaving the band. In December of that year, new boy Bob Leith took over the drum stool.

1995 saw the release of Cardiacs’ most epic recorded effort to date, Sing to God . The album was released in two parts, either as a limited edition double CD or two separate CD’s, due to the amount of material that Tim had written over a number of years. This was Bob Leith's first recording session with Cardiacs. This year also saw Cardiacs playing with some bigger groups. Blur invited them to open up for them at their London Mile End Stadium concert on 17 June, and they performed a long support stint with Chumbawamba from 31 October to 18 November.

In 1999, Cardiacs released the Guns album, which was described by some of the music press as being their most accessible album to date.

During 1999 - 2000, Cardiacs began composing songs for a new album (including the Jon Poole composition Sparkly Silvery Sky, which is still occasionally played at concerts by both Cardiacs and Poole's current band, God Damn Whores). Unfortunately, the songs were lost after an accident in the recording studio and the album was never released. Fans refer to it as the 'lost' album.

Cardiacs recorded three very special concerts at Highbury Garage in London on 17, 18 and 19 October 2003, which was the first appearance in the band of long standing Cardiacs associate and guitar technician, Kavus Torabi, who replaced Jon Poole (who left to join The Wildhearts) on guitar. They only played material that had been performed prior to 1983. This included material such as An Ant, Hopeless, Gloomy News and Hello Mr Minnow, which have never been recorded officially before, only ever seeing light at concerts in the late 70’s/early 80’s. A two volume CD set of recordings from the three shows was released in 2005. Members of ORG Records videoed the entire three nights, but this has not yet been released.

In 2004, a number of new members were drafted into the Cardiacs line-up. Claire Lemmon, Melanie Woods and Sharron Sadington on vocals, and Cathy Harabaras and Dawn Staple on percussion. The official status of most of these additional members is unclear, although Sharron Sadington is known to have left the band. Also this year, from 8 to 15 December, Cardiacs supported The Wildhearts.

The last official release of new Cardiacs material was in 2007 with the single Ditzy Scene. The single was released on ORG Records in a limited edition of 1000 copies. The line up included Claire, Melanie, Cathy and Dawn, but the 2007 winter tour featured only Melanie and Cathy, who both played percussion and sang vocals.

At the end of June 2008, Tim Smith collapsed from what is now known to be a heart attack. All releases, including the new album, provisionally entitled LSD, have been shelved until further notice.

21st century revival

The band has enjoyed a quiet renaissance lately, thanks to YouTube, where the 1986 video forTarred and Feathered, shot for Channel 4's music show The Tube, has become a popular attraction along with other past Cardiacs and their various side projects' clips.



Influences the band have cited include XTC, Gong, Gentle Giant, early Genesis, and Frank Zappa.

Present line-up

  • Tim Smith - Lead Vocals, Guitar and Keyboards.
  • Jim Smith - Bass, Backing Vocals.
  • Kavus Torabi - Guitar, Backing Vocals.
  • Bob Leith - Drums, Backing vocals.
  • Melanie Woods - Percussion, Backing Vocals
  • Cathy Harabaras - Percussion, Backing Vocals

Members past and present A-Z by surname

  • Ralph Cade aka Raphel Cadd - saxophone (1978-1979)
  • Mark Cawthra aka Little Bobby Shattocks - drums then Mini Korg (1979-1983)
  • William D. Drake - keyboards(1983-1990) (after Bill left it was decided not to replace him and at all subsequent gigs the keyboard parts have been pre-recorded)
  • Sharron Fortnam aka Sophie (née Saddington) - vocals (1999-present, only appears when "Will Bleed Amen" is performed)
  • Stephen Gilchrist - Drummer for one tour supporting The Wildhearts (December 2004)
  • Cathy Harabaras - percussion (2000-present)
  • Christian Hayes aka Bic - guitar, vocals (1989-1990)
  • Marguerite Johnson - saxophone (1982- 1983)
  • Clare Lemmon - backing vocals, and lead vocal on "Dog Like Sparky" (1999-present)
  • Dominic Luckman - drums (1983-1994)
  • Colvin Mayers aka Max Cat (1978-1981)
  • Jon Poole - guitar, keyboards, vocals (1991-2004)
  • Bob Leith - drums (1994-present)
  • Michael Pugh aka Peter Boker - vocals (1977-?)
  • Tim Quy - percussion (1980-1990)
  • Graham Simmonds - guitar (1982-1983)
  • Tim Smith aka Philip Pilf - lead vocals, guitar, keyboards (1977-present)
  • Jim Smith aka Patty Pilf - bass, vocals (1977-present)
  • Sarah Smith - saxophone (1980-1989)
  • Jo Spratley (guest vocals - Guns)
  • Dawn Staple - percussion (2000-present)
  • Peter Tagg aka Mr Richard Targett - drums (1977-1979)
  • Kavus Torabi - guitar, vocals (2003-present)
  • Melanie Woods - backing vocals (2000-present)



  • Demo Cassette (1979) (as Cardiac Arrest)

Studio albums

Singles and EPs


Live albums


Related releases

Musical relations A-Z by band name

  • Ablemesh (Jon Poole and Bob Leith)
  • Admirals Hard (Kavus Torabi)
  • Ad Nauseum (Jon Poole and Bob Leith – prior to joining Cardiacs)
  • Authority (Kavus Torabi, with Craig Fortnam, also Jamie Keddie and Dan Chudley from The Monsoon Bassoon)
  • Blurt (Bob Leith)
  • Dark Star (Christian Hayes - after leaving Cardiacs and Levitation)
  • The God Damn Whores (Jon Poole - after leaving Cardiacs)
  • Guapo (Kavus Torabi)
  • Katherine in a Cupboard (Bob Leith, Jim Smith)
  • Lake of Puppies (William D. Drake - after leaving Cardiacs, and Sharron Fortnam)
  • Levitation (Christian Hayes - after leaving Cardiacs)
  • Mice (Dominic Luckman and Christian Hayes - after leaving Cardiacs)
  • Mikrokosmos (Christian Hayes solo project)
  • Nervous (William D. Drake - after leaving Cardiacs)
  • The Monsoon Bassoon (Kavus Torabi - prior to joining Cardiacs)
  • Mr and Mrs Smith and Mr Drake (Tim Smith, Sarah Smith, and William D. Drake)
  • North Sea Radio Orchestra - (Sharron Fortnam, with Kavus Torabi, William D Drake, Melanie Woods; album produced by Mark Cawthra)
  • Panixphere Mk1 1982-1984 (Christian Hayes, Flat Hat, Little Hicky (became Cardiacs roadie))
  • Panixphere Mk2 1991-1993 (Christian Hayes, Tim Smith, Jon Poole, Dave Francolini)
  • Ponce (Jim Smith and Melanie Woods)
  • Ring (Christian Hayes - prior to joining Cardiacs)
  • Sidi Bou Said (Clare Lemmon and Melanie Woods, who toured extensively with Cardiacs in the early 1990s, before Tim asked the girls to do backing vocals on the Sing to God and Guns albums)
  • SilverGinger 5 (Jon Poole)
  • Spratley's Japs (Tim Smith, Jo Spratley)
  • Stuntdog (Dominic Luckman's current band. Also features Steve Wattison - former Cardiacs merchandise man - on guitar and vocals)
  • The Sea Nymphs (Tim Smith, Sarah Smith and William D. Drake)
  • The Shrubbies (Dominic Luckman - after leaving Cardiacs)
  • The Sound (Colvin Mayers - after leaving Cardiacs)
  • Tim Smith's OceanLandWorld (Tim Smith's solo project)
  • The Trudy (Peter Tagg and Ralph Cade - after leaving Cardiacs)
  • Ungodly Racket (Dawn Staple)
  • The Wildhearts (Jon Poole - after leaving Cardiacs)

Albums produced by band members A-Z by band name

Produced by Tim Smith

  • Eat - Epicure (Fiction, 1993)
  • Oceansize - Relapse EP (Beggar's Banquet 2002)
  • Sidi Bou Said - Bodies (Ultimate, 1995)
  • SilverGinger 5 - Black Leather Mojo (Sanctuary, 2008)
  • Stars In Battledress - Secrets and Signals (House of Stairs, 2003)
  • The Monsoon Bassoon - In Bold Gardens EP (Unreleased, 1996)
  • The Monsoon Bassoon - I Dig Your Voodoo (Weird Neighbourhood, 1999)
  • William D. Drake - Self Titled (All My Eye And Betty Martin Music, 2003)

Produced by Jon Poole

  • Sidi Bou Said - Obsessive (Ultimate, 1996)



A black and white A5 booklet of lyrics, drawings and band photographs, created by Tim Smith, was available at Cardiacs gigs for a few years from 1984, appropriately titled 'Cardiacs Book'. No official Cardiacs histories or biographies have been published. The ORGAN fanzine produced a Cardiacs anthology of interviews and reviews in 1993. In November 2006 The Organ announced that they would be putting together a book incorporating the previous anthology, interviews and features that been in Organ since that anthology was published and contributions from fans.

External links

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