When you come to university, your education doesn’t start and stop at the lecture theatre door. For many of us, coming to Cardiff heralded a musical revolution – the soundtrack to our student years made up of whichever big name bands happened to be passing through the Students’ Union at the time.
As capital of Wales, a country steeped in song, it is no surprise that Cardiff was named the UK’s first ‘music city’ in 2017. If the breadth and variety of our alumni’s musical memories tell us anything, it’s of the passion for rock, pop and soul which still pervades our city today.
Big names from all eras
We were astonished by the roll call of iconic musicians that had visited the city through the years, often at the peak of their powers.
Stephen recalled seeing Led Zeppelin in 1972, the year after releasing Led Zeppelin IV. Richard told us about celebrating the end of his 2nd year finals in the company of David Bowie at the Arms Park during the Glass Spider tour of 1987 – a spectacle featuring “the largest touring set ever”.
And it wasn’t just rock stars; Peter told us of seeing Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Ella Fitzgerald circa 1960 – and Brecon resident George Melly performing at an end of term ball.
Sticking with the local theme, David recounted seeing Tom Jones in concert at the New Theatre in 1963/4, quite rightly noting that “gig” wasn’t in common usage at the time.
Musical diversity and exploration
Discovering new sonic landscapes is an essential part of the student experience, as is listening to the sort of loud music that may have been frowned upon in the family home.
Lots of people shared experiences of bands and artists who, whilst not in the celebrity stratosphere like Bowie or Jones (trivia break: Bowie’s real surname was also Jones), made us deeply envious.
Bonnie told us of seeing rapper NAS in the Students’ Union, Graham caught Ian Dury and the Blockheads and Shelley gave us a vivid description of the scene after carnival, when Kirsty McColl and Chumbawumba were amongst those playing outside City Hall.
Gigs as stories
Some stories were poignant: Luke told us about the ticket he had to see Amy Winehouse, only for her tour to be cancelled the night before. Karen and Abigail reminisced about catching Manic Street Preachers in 1993, the line-up featuring the late Richie Edwards.
Others, though, made us laugh. Peter and Jonathan debated whether Slade or Def Leppard had the loudest show in the Students’ Union (are we the only ones who take ear plugs?), whilst a different Peter was at The Kinks’ infamous three song set list – with the band then scuffling amongst themselves.
All that, and we’ve barely scratched the surface. It’s testament to Cardiff’s music scene that so many people have memorable experiences, and where better to share them and reconnect with old friends than on our Facebook and LinkedIn pages?