Assorted scribblings of a dog-eared music journalist

Melody Maker | Sidelines | 19 November 1988 | Photo: Dave Guttridge


"I can't understand why everybody thinks I'm a pisshead. Ninety per cent of the daylight hours I'm completely sober."

Tom Smith, sore throated vocalist with the Cas Carnaby Five, is quick to add that winter is his favourite time of the year. He also agrees that the Carnabys'debut LP, "Mr Morris' Funeral", is a collection of drinking songs, from the melancholic "Sad Wine" and "After You've Gone" to the lopsided logic of "Put It In A Glass And Let Me Drink It, Padre" and "My Baby Is A Daffodil".

Musically, the band say that it's oompah jazz. Which, when stripped down, comprises of a brushed snare, a wobbling double bass, rinky-dinky piano runs, spits of saxophone and wild trumpet solos. It's sleazy with a dash of beauty, quirky with a dollop of misery.

There is, of course, no Cas Carnaby in the Five. The name was originally that of a fictional band featured in an episode of "Thunderbirds", a TV programme that has long held a fascination for Tom. He used to be one half of Gee Mr Tracy. But who is Mr Morris?

"That's Owen Morris, who produced the LP. He likes a bit of a drink himself and one night, following a spree in Tesco's with the studio's credit card, he collapsed. We put him on a couch in the next room and carried on working, jamming away, then recording this instrumental on our own. We decided to call it 'Mr Morris' Funeral' because we honestly thought Owen was dead."

And Tom Smith? Surely with such unhealthy habits – in the course of our evening together he's never without a cigarette and always has another pint of something called Willie Warmer lined up – he's heading for an early grave himself?

"Oh, I dunno," he sighs, his chin resting upon the table. "I'm actually equal proportions of fat and fit. Anyway, I'm going to be leaving the band soon. I want to be the first ever 60-a-day, beer-bellied Ninja with broken spectacles."

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