Rod, Martin & Chris
Fran, Maggie, Rod, Danny
Ben, Gordon, Chris, Rod
Womad Ceilidh 2006
Big Chill Ceilidh 2006
Tiger Moth ripping it up in 1987
All photos by Jak Kilby except Moths 2006 by Angela Impey, Ian by Vic Smith, Womad Ceilidh by Judith Burrows and Big Chill Ceilidh by Pete Lawrence.
It wasn't just veteran West African and Cuban bands who re-formed in the 21st century! The English roots dance band world's answer to Bembeya Jazz or Buena Vista Social Club (well, maybe . . . !) were Tiger Moth, who knocked it on the head in the summer of 1989 on the "quit while you're ahead" principle. They got together to do a limited number of dates in summer 2004, marking the 20th anniversary of their first album, but these turned out to be so much fun that they did it again in 2006. Their 2004 gigs at the Womad and Sidmouth Festivals - the latter sampled on BBC 4 TV's Sidmouth documentary - drew large and surprisingly youthful crowds (average age barely over 20) so well attended that many were dancing outside the tents! They repeated the process in 2006 with a return to Womad, the Big Chill and other events. There are, however, no current plans for more.
Tiger Moth began just as an all-star recording unit, bringing together musicians who had played in many notable bands of the 'new wave of English country dance music' in the '70s and early '80s including the Old Swan Band, the New Victory Band, the English Country Blues Band, Cock & Bull, the Albion Band, Jumpleads and Oak. But their first single and debut album caused such a demand that they happily became a gigging entity and for the next five years roared around UK festival ceilidhs, revered or feared for their noisy, no-holds-barred, improvisational approach and influences from everywhere. Their 1988 second album Howling Moth was a mixture of tunes from England, Africa, North America and Southern Europe, and subsequent studio adventures under the name of Orchestre Super Moth included collaborations with Gambian kora masters Dembo Konte & Kausu Kuyateh, Tex-Mex accordeon wizard Flaco Jimenez, Sierra Leonian guitar king Abdul Tee-Jay and multi-instrumentalist Hijaz Mustapha from the 3 Mustaphas 3. Their influence is still widely heard on the latest wave of e-ceilidh bands.
Tiger Moth in 2006 included most of the original members. The line-up was Rod Stradling (melodeons), Jon Moore (guitars), Chris Coe (hammered dulcimer), Maggie Holland (bass), Ian Anderson (slide guitar) and Ben Mandelson (baritone bouzouki, electric kabosy and other stringed things), plus Fran Wade (fiddle - from Grand Union), drummer/percussionist Martin Brinsford (Brass Monkey, Old Swan Band, Grand Union), percussionist Danny Stradling (ex-Old Swan Band, Oak) and fiddle player Verity Sharp. Original drummer John Maxwell has sadly passed away. Their caller was the best in the new wave English ceilidh business - the renowned Gordon Potts.
Their compilation CD Mothballs, released some years back in the USA, got its first UK release in May 2004 as Mothballs Plus, with fresh packaging and extra tracks including a brand new remix by Simon Emmerson of Afro Celts. They were also included - along with tracks by many other bands featuring individual members - on a CD compilation that was released by Topic Records in March 2004, titled Stepping Up: A History Of The New Wave Of English Country Dance Bands. In autumn 2007 they were included in the Imagined Village project for Real World Records, duelling with their pals the Gloworms.
Music & Video:
Hear some tracks at Tiger Moth's Bandcamp page
Watch some dodgy video of Tiger Moth in 1989 on YouTube.
Watch some less dodgy video of Tiger Moth in 2004 on YouTube.
. . .
Moths @ Womad 2004:
"The re-constituted Moths played eceilidh at the country's premier world music festival and aptly proved that England is part of the world too. Head to head with David Byrne (ex-Talking Heads) on the main outdoor stage on a reasonably mild Friday night, they got the younger part of the audience . . . and made them dance. Energy coming out of the Little Blue Stage marquee was tangible - so tangible that there were almost as many dancing outside as inside. Gordon Potts got hold of the vibe and milked it skillfully, responding to the 'up-for-it', average age about 25 crowd and supplying them with dances which were accessible but met their intelligence level. And the band were magnificent - not only the nostalgia rush of seeing Stradling/ Coe/ Anderson/ Holland et al still as together as in 1989, but the newer parts of the line-up, particularly Ben Mandelson, getting right into it." (Roger Watson, eceilidh)
"David Byrne may have been the hero of the night, but across the site he was facing serious opposition from Tiger Moth, a reformed 1980s English Country Dance supergroup with strong world leanings. A caller in shorts the size of a kilt bellowed instructions, fiddles sawed, guitars played, hammered dulcimers chimed. Grown-ups formed right- and left-handed stars and bowed to their partners, and cool, puritanical teenagers too young to remember Talking Heads peered through the tent flaps in horror. English folk is often regarded with embarrassment, but "Speed the Plough" was unapologetic and sweaty: England claiming its place in the world." (David Honigman, FT)
Moths on CD:
"An explosion of ideas, irreverence and art school wit the likes of which English dance music had rarely seen before . . . Taken together, they're a blizzard of eclecticism; the result could have been an amorphous sludge, but in fact it all hangs together splendidly. A consistent delight . . . Tiger Moth were among the first to push the boat out, and on the evidence here they may well have been the best." (Raymond Greenoaken, Stirrings, 2004)
"The results are spectacular enough on record where they ration themselves to three minutes per track. On stage, where they were playing one tune for 10 minutes or more, they must have been mind-blowingly spectacular. It is impossible to get through this review without using the word 'essential'." (Alan Rose, Living Tradition, 2004)
Moths in the '80s:
"Saturday night in Buckinghamshire. In the main hall the monthly ceilidh looks more like a riot. When the home counties let their hair down, anything goes. Round the wooden floor a few couples and older folk are sitting this one out, while lines and squares of dancers are forming into simple manoeuvres marshalled by a caller from the stage and then crashing through the steps with yomping delight.
Onstage, Tiger Moth, the vanguard of the New Wave of English Country Dance Bands, are changing gears, driven forward by the seated figure of Rod Stradling, a melodeon clutched to his chest, fingers working overtime and a maniacal stare on his face. He has all the intensity of a Vietnam veteran in a wheelchair.
Behind Stradling, guitarist Jon Moore watches the tempo rise on the dance floor and then proceeds to throw in a few power chords, to the delight of the band, while drummer John Maxwell drives the polka onwards with frills and rolls that seem to spring more from Africa or the Caribbean than the English countryside.
Somehow the soukous beat and the polka merge like they were made for one another. The dancers have no time for such nice distinctions, only gathering themselves for another headlong rush as the beat picks up another notch." (Mark Cooper, The Guardian)
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