|Also known as||The Filth, Cardiac Arrest, The Obvious Identity, The Alphabet|
|Origin||Kingston upon Thames, Greater London, England.|
|Genres||Art rock, psychedelic pop, progressive rock, art punk, pronk, avant-garde, experimental rock|
|Labels||Alphabet Business Concern|
|Associated acts||The Sea Nymphs
|Past members||Tim Smith
William D. Drake
Cardiacs are an English rock band formed in 1977, originally as Cardiac Arrest, led by Tim Smith. Noted for their complex, varied and intense compositional style and for their eccentric, theatrical stage shows, they have been hailed as an influence by bands as diverse as Blur, Faith No More and Radiohead.
Cardiacs have released eight studio albums plus a number of live albums, compilation albums and singles between 1980 and 2007, and are best known for the 1988 minor hit single "Is This the Life?" They are also noted for attracting strongly diverse responses: they have remained one of Britain's leading cult rock bands during their four-decade-spanning career, but have also attracted virulent critical attack (including a lengthy editorial ban from the British music magazine New Musical Express).
The band has been on indefinite (and possibly permanent) hiatus following the 2008 hospitalisation of Tim Smith after a heart attack and series of strokes.
- 1 Musical & lyrical style
- 2 Performance style & mythology
- 3 History
- 3.1 Cardiac Arrest (1977–1980)
- 3.2 Early Cardiacs (1981–1983)
- 3.3 The "classic line-up" established: The Seaside and Seaside Treats (mid-1984–1985)
- 3.4 On the verge of success: Big Ship, A Little Man and a House & On Land and in the Sea (1986–1989)
- 3.5 The "classic line-up" fractures – Maresnest and multiple departures (1989–1991)
- 3.6 The power quartet established: Heaven Born and Ever Bright and the Rough Trade debacle (1991–1994)
- 3.7 The comeback: Sing to God & Guns (1995–1999)
- 3.8 Rare sightings, family gatherings and a lost album (2000–2002)
- 3.9 The Garage Concerts, lineup changes and reestablishment (2003–2008)
- 3.10 Tim Smith's heart attack and consequent band hiatus (2008–present)
- 4 Legacy
- 5 Members
- 6 Discography
- 7 Musical relations
- 8 Literature
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Musical & lyrical style
Cardiacs' music is noted for balancing the attack and 'raw energy' of punk rock with the intricacies and technical cleverness of early British progressive rock. The band also incorporates elements of other musical forms such as ska, mediaeval music, folk music, heavy metal, hymns and corporate anthems. The music magazine Organ once commented that "one Cardiacs song contains more ideas than most other musicians' entire careers."
The broad combination of styles in the band's music has sometimes been referred to as "progressive punk" – or "pronk" – and has led to Cardiacs being labelled the primary exponents of this musical style. Tim Smith rejects the term, and prefers the description "psychedelic" or simply "pop". Musicians which the band have cited as Cardiacs influences include XTC, Van der Graaf Generator, Gong, early Split Enz, Gentle Giant, Alberto Y Los Trios Paranoias, early Genesis, Deaf School and Wire. Smith has stated, "I don’t know what influences us really, I wouldn’t say that we are influenced by any actual bands in particular". Tim Smith has denied that Gentle Giant was an influence on the band, but Sarah Smith says that they were.
Earlier lineups of the band were sextets and octets employing extensive use of saxophones, percussion and live keyboards. From 1991 onwards, the band was a rock power quartet centred on two guitars (with the remaining keyboard and percussion parts sequenced on tape). Vocally, Cardiacs employ a distinctive singing style centred on Tim Smith's lead vocals (reedy and high-pitched, with a strong punk-styled Estuary English accent) and choral sections (varying from yelled to falsetto) involving most or all of the band. Smith's singing style has been described by music critics as 'skittish'; it has also been commented that his singing voice sounds very similar to his speaking one. The band's music is written almost entirely by Tim Smith, although contributions have been made by other group members.
Smith is also responsible for the majority of the band's lyrics, which are written in a cryptic fractured form of English alternately hailed as poetic or nonsensical. He has generally refused to discuss their content, preferring to keep the words and their inspirations shrouded in mystique and allowing for fan interpretations. Smith has also sometimes employed a cut-up lyrical approach drawing on the works of (among others), William Blake, Charles Kingsley, William Shakespeare and T.S. Eliot. Two favourite cut-and-paste sources are Pedro Carolino’s English As She Is Spoke (a failed Victorian English-Portuguese phrasebook once hailed by Mark Twain as a perfect example of absurdity) and the nineteenth-century Irish poet George Darley. Fans have also spotted references to the films The Night of the Hunter and Eraserhead in Smith's words and music videos.
Performance style & mythology
Cardiacs are also renowned for their startling performance style, which has been historically integrated (via video work, publicity, interviews and onstage presentation) with a vague and oppressive band mythology. The latter involves Cardiacs' record label and supposed management company, the Alphabet Business Concern, which shares some similarities with the "Cryptic Corporation" supposedly responsible for managing The Residents. As with the Cryptic Corporation, there is a strong possibility that the Alphabet mythology is entirely fictional and that the band – often hailed as archetypal independent musicians – control all aspects of their work themselves.
As presented, the Alphabet Business Concern is a repressive, controlling organisation with a vaguely Edwardian character, It supervises (and restricts) Cardiacs' recording work and live appearances (as well as communicating band news and statements to the band's mailing list in florid and archaic corporatese). Several early 1980s video releases by Cardiacs – in particular The Consultant's Flower Garden and the clip for To Go Off and Things – provided video "evidence" that Alphabet ran Cardiacs' internal affairs in the manner of an Edwardian children's home (complete with behavioural problems and bullying). The corporation's original representatives were Cardiac's "sordid, waxy" manager The Consultant (real name James Stevens) and his assistant and band advisor "Miss Swift", both of whom made in-character appearances onstage with Cardiacs during the 1980s. In the late 1980s both The Consultant and Miss Smith left both Cardiacs management and Alphabet. They were replaced by Mark Walmsley, who played a less public role but did appear for inserts in the Maresnest concert video, expressing contempt for his charges and their music.
In performance, Cardiacs generally reject (or occasionally parody) standard rock band posturing. In keeping with the Alphabet mythology, the band's shows have instead featured behaviour which has been described as "therapeutic, surrealist pantomime", compared to absurdist theatre, and labelled "not so much theatrically eccentric as completely fucking neurotic". During any given performance, Tim Smith rants between and during numbers, acting out bizarre childlike ideas and emotions. During the 1980s the band perfected a detailed stage act involving shabby lift attendant costumes, badly-applied clown make-up, Tim Smith's bullying of other band members (predominantly his hapless brother and bass player Jim Smith), and a final formal presentation of champagne and flowers by The Consultant and Miss Smith complete with confetti, taking place to "a euphoric sweep of saxophone and keyboards that wouldn’t seem out of place in a '70s cigar advert." During the 1990s, the theatrical elements of the live show were toned down and the uniforms replaced by formal suits, although certain rituals (including the childlike mannerisms and Smith's ranting style) were retained.
Cardiac Arrest (1977–1980)
Brothers Jim and Tim Smith grew up in Chessington, Surrey, UK and formed their first musical groups in neighbouring Kingston upon Thames, Greater London. In 1975, a teenaged Tim was playing guitar in a nameless "punky-psychedelic" instrumental band with two of his schoolfriends – Mark Cawthra (on drums) and David Philpot (on keyboard). The sound of Philpot's Korg synthesizer was to have a strong impact on Smith and the development of the Cardiacs’ sound.
The band which would eventually become Cardiacs began life in 1977. The initial lineup was Michael Pugh on lead vocals, Tim Smith on guitar and backing vocals, and Peter Tagg on drums. The lineup was completed by Jim Smith, who joined on bass guitar and backing vocals. The Smith brothers, Tagg and Pugh played their first live concert in 1978 at The Kaleidoscope in Kingston upon Thames, under the name of The Filth (sometimes incorrectly remembered as Philip Pilf & The Filth). By the time of their second concert (later in the same year) the band had changed their name to Cardiac Arrest.
Cardiac Arrest produced a seven-song demo at Elephant Studios in London and subsequently expanded to a sextet, adding Colvin Mayers (keyboards) and Ralph Cade (whose contribution was mainly theatrical, involving manic dancing and posturing with a saxophone which he didn't know how to play). The band honed their craft playing a mixture of pubs, youth clubs, schools, hotels and free festivals. In the early years, the band's line-up was flexible according to availability and circumstances – for example, Cardiac Arrest played the 1979 Stonehenge Free Festival as a three piece of Tagg, Mayers and Tim Smith (Smith played both guitar and bass while Mayers alternated between guitar and keyboards). A subsequent concert at Surbiton on 6 July 1979 apparently featured "about eight to ten people on stage" (including both Peter Tagg and his brother Derek Tagg).
The debut Cardiac Arrest release was a 7" single recorded at Elephant Studios called "A Bus for a Bus on the Bus", released in 1979 on Tortch Records. Later in the year both Peter Tagg and Ralph Cade left the band (going on to form The Trudy) and the multi-instrumental Mark Cawthra was drafted into Cardiac Arrest to play drums. Michael Pugh also left the band shortly afterwards, and Tim Smith took over lead singer duties as well as guitar playing. By this time Cardiac Arrest operated like a jazz band or football side, keeping various musicians in reserve to cover absences. Many of these people had other roles as part of the technical crew. Future Cardiacs percussionist Tim Quy first performed with the band (as a stand-in bass player) at Snoopies nightclub in Richmond at the start of 1980: this period also saw the arrival of saxophonist Sarah Cutts.
Later in 1980, Cardiac Arrest released a self-produced cassette album called The Obvious Identity. The album was produced by Tim Smith with the punk/DIY ethic in mind: as he had little cash to invest in the project, it was recorded onto as many old cassette tapes as he could find. An anonymous member of the band has been quoted as commenting that "the recordings were so shit it wouldn’t matter if they were copied onto washing up sponges". Eventually, 1000 cassettes were recorded, but only sold at concerts to save on expenditure. Shortly afterwards, the band discovered that another band was using the name Cardiac Arrest. After a number of experiments with alternative names (including The Alphabet and The Obvious Identity), they finally decided to rename themselves Cardiacs and played their first concert under that name in April 1981.
Early Cardiacs (1981–1983)
In 1981, Cardiacs self-released the cassette album, Toy World, featuring both new material and recordings dating back to the Cardiac Arrest period. (Consequently, some tracks featured Michael Pugh as lead singer rather than Tim Smith).
During 1982, Colvin Mayers left the band to join The Sound (a group led by Adrian Borland and with whom Tim had previously collaborated). Sarah Cutts briefly covered live keyboards as well as saxophone, before Mark Cawthra swapped drums for keyboards and Dominic Luckman was recruited from the road crew as the new drummer. At around the same time percussionist Tim Quy became a full-time member (also doubling on bass synthesizer). In July 1983, Tim Smith married Sarah Cutts – taking his surname, she was henceforward known as Sarah Smith.
In mid-1983 Mark Cawthra left the band, to be replaced on keyboards by William D. Drake. Tim Smith had previously met Drake in 1982 at the debut performance of Drake's band Honour Our Trumpet (who promptly invited him to join as bass guitarist.) Following Cawthra's departure, Smith returned Drake's favour by inviting him to join Cardiacs. Drake played his first concert with the band on 31 August 1983. Later in the year, Cardiacs added Marguerite Johnson (alto saxophone) and Graham Simmonds (guitar), and for about a year the band worked as an octet. Both Johnson and Simmonds left during the following summer (in July and August respectively), although Simmonds stayed on as Cardiacs' sound engineer.
The "classic line-up" established: The Seaside and Seaside Treats (mid-1984–1985)
By autumn 1984, the band lineup had settled as the sextet generally referred to as "the classic line-up" – Tim Smith (lead vocals and guitar), Jim Smith (bass and vocals), William D. Drake (keyboards and vocals), Sarah Smith (saxophones and vocals), Tim Quy (percussion and bass synth) and Dominic Luckman (drums).
The first Cardiacs release featuring the "classic" line up was their third album, The Seaside (although Cawthra featured throughout on drums, keyboards and voice; and Simmonds and Johnson also appeared on several tracks). The album was released on Cardiacs own record label, Alphabet (which later became Alphabet Business Concern). The bizarre and sinister "Alphabet Business Concern" mythology now began to become a significant part of Cardiacs' artistic presentation, and the band members would promote and add to it at every opportunity. The band evolved an elaborate and theatrical stage show, involving "bandsmen's uniforms, make-up, Sarah's music stand, (and) Tim's mile-wide grin". The finale included sprayed champagne, confetti cannons, appearances by The Consultant and Miss Swift (on behalf of the Alphabet Business Concern) and a mock-heroic/distressed exit for Tim Smith.
Between 5 November – 21 December 1984, Cardiacs performed their first major British support tour, supporting Marillion at the personal invitation of Marillion’s vocalist, Fish. Whilst the tour afforded the band a new level of publicity, generally they were not well received by Marillion's fanbase. On most dates of the tour, the band was pelted with a variety of makeshift missiles and irate Marillion fans even set fire to the safety curtain during Cardiacs' performance at the Manchester Apollo show on 17 December. During the 13 December show at the Hammersmith Apollo, Fish himself was indignant enough about the Marillion fans and their hostile behaviour to come onstage during Cardiacs' set and berate the audience about it. The band eventually ducked out of the last three days of the Marillion tour.
A Cardiacs spin-off project – Mr and Mrs Smith and Mr Drake – emerged in 1984. As the name suggests, this featured Tim and Sarah Smith plus William D. Drake and consisted of a quieter, more acoustically-orientated take on Cardiacs' music. The project released a self-titled cassette album which was only available via the Cardiacs fan club. Later on, the project would be renamed The Sea Nymphs.
On 1 April 1985, an attempt was made to film Cardiacs at a live concert at the Surbiton Assembly Rooms. The band had been approached by film-maker Mark Francombe (later a member of Cranes) and his colleague Nick Elborough, both of whom were at that time students at Portsmouth College of Art and Design. Francombe and Elborough offered to film the band for free as part of their coursework project. However, when the band viewed the resultant footage, they decided against releasing it. Instead, they retained Francombe and Elborough for a new video project which would become Seaside Treats, named after the 12" single that was released at the same time. As well as containing three music videos, Seaside Treats contained a ten-minute film named The Consultant’s Flower Garden. The latter featured Cardiacs (and various people connected with them) in bizarre, comedic situations which continued to propagate the absurdist Alphabet Business Concern mythology which surrounded the band.
On the verge of success: Big Ship, A Little Man and a House & On Land and in the Sea (1986–1989)
In 1986, Cardiacs released the mini-album Big Ship (the title track would prove to be one of their most enduring anthems). The band played the Reading Festival on 24 August, releasing the very rough audio footage as the Rude Bootleg album.
In March 1987, a British tabloid newspaper, The Sunday Sport, ran a story claiming to be an exposé and revealing the supposedly incestuous relationship between Tim and Sarah Smith, in which the couple were portrayed as brother and sister. The headline ran, "In the bizarre world of music... anything goes – even incest." (The article ultimately debunked the story by including a corrective quote from Tim Smith's mother). Band manager Mark Walmesley is thought to have started the whole rumour to gain some publicity for the band, predating the superficially similar strategy later employed by The White Stripes twelve years later. (Tim and Sarah Smith eventually separated in 1989, although this was entirely unrelated to The Sunday Sport "scandal").
On 17 April, the band's music video for "Tarred and Feathered" (from the Big Ship mini-album) was broadcast on Channel 4's groundbreaking music show, The Tube, giving Cardiacs their first exposure on national television. Later in the year, Cardiacs released a 12-inch single called "There's Too Many Irons In The Fire". In October, a live-in-the-studio session was recorded and broadcast by BBC Radio Leeds, followed in December by a similar session on BBC Radio 1 for Janice Long's Night Track show.
In 1988, Cardiacs released their fourth studio album, A Little Man and a House and the Whole World Window. The single from the album, "Is This The Life?", saw brief chart success due to exposure on mainstream radio, and garnered the attention of a wider audience when it entered the Independent Top 10 in the UK. The band followed up this burst of success with another single, a cover of The Kinks' "Susannah's Still Alive" with a video directed by Steve Payne. Strange Fruit Records also released a 12-inch vinyl EP of the band's BBC Radio 1 session from the previous year, under the title Night Tracks (The Janice Long Session). By this time, Cardiacs concerts were drawing hundreds of audience members and they were well on their way to becoming a hit underground band. On 15 May, the band played a concert at the Paradiso in Amsterdam, which was recorded for later release as Cardiacs Live.
Later in the year, Cardiacs recorded tracks for what would become their fifth studio album, On Land and in the Sea which was released in 1989. The album successfully consolidated the intricate style and unusual songwriting vision of A Little Man and a House..., but the stable line-up which the band had enjoyed for four years was now beginning to weaken.
The "classic line-up" fractures – Maresnest and multiple departures (1989–1991)
Over the following two years, the Cardiacs lineup began to disintegrate. Sarah Smith left the band suddenly in April 1989 and was not replaced, removing saxophone from the standard Cardiacs sound. Although Sarah would not rejoin the band, she would retain a long-term connection with Cardiacs by playing on future albums and would very occasionally appear as a special guest for live concerts. Tim Smith brought in a second guitarist – Christian 'Bic' Hayes, formerly of Ring and The Dave Howard Singers – and the new two-guitar line-up toured extensively around the UK and Europe for the rest of the year (with Sarah Smith making the first of her special guest appearances at a Brixton Fridge concert on 17 September). During this period, the band also released Archive Cardiacs, a collection of material from the 1976–83 period (some of it previously unreleased).
Cardiacs toured and gigged intermittently during 1990, culminating in a shared concert with Napalm Death at Salisbury Arts Centre on 30 August. The Cardiacs half of the concert was filmed and released as the video Maresnest (produced by Steve Mallet and directed by Steve Payne, and eventually also released as the 1995 live album All that Glitters is a Mares Nest). The band performed as a seven-piece, with Sarah Smith making a one-day return as a band member. Although the concert has achieved legendary status amongst Cardiacs fans, it was also an occasion on which everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. Among other things, Tim Smith's guitar fell apart and keys fell off Sarah Smith's saxophone.
After the Salisbury concert, Tim Quy left the band to pursue other projects. Like Sarah Smith, he was not replaced: the removal of live tuned and untuned percussion from the lineup further altered the established Cardiacs sound. Quy's departure was commemorated by a message at the end of the Maresnest video stating "this film is dedicated to Tim Quy who left our world 30/8/90". (At the time, this was widely misinterpreted as an announcement of Quy's death).
The band was quiet for the first four months of 1991, during which time both William D. Drake and Christian Hayes also left. Drake played his final concert with the band on 2 May at The Venue in New Cross, London and Hayes played his own final gig as a Cardiac in Oxford on 16 May. By now, Hayes had joined up-and-coming psychedelic indie-prog band, Levitation: although the bands were friendly with each other, and had even toured together, Hayes finally found it impossible to balance the demands of both Levitation and Cardiacs. (Drake, meanwhile, would join the band Nervous but continue his connection with Cardiacs. In 2001, he embarked on a long-delayed solo career.)
The power quartet established: Heaven Born and Ever Bright and the Rough Trade debacle (1991–1994)
Although the band had historically been well-used to line-up changes, Cardiacs were profoundly affected by the multiple departures taking place between 1989 and 1991. A particular blow had been the departure of William D. Drake, whose virtuoso keyboard skills and compositional input had made him one of the backbones of the band. Christian Hayes was replaced as second guitarist by Jon Poole (who had previously played with the Cardiacs-inspired Milton Keynes band Ad Nauseam). Drake was considered irreplaceable and Cardiacs opted not to look for a new keyboard player, remaining as a quartet of two guitars, bass and drums. While Cardiacs was still able to record more fully orchestrated music in the studio, a lack of suitable personnel (or the budget to keep them in place) meant that the live band had to change drastically. Abandoning several signature musical features (saxophone, assorted percussion and virtuoso keyboards), Cardiacs' live music shifted away from the wider instrumentation of the past and moved towards a more guitar-heavy, power-rock sound in line with the remaining quartet lineup. However, the music remained complex, if narrower in focus, and Smith recorded additional keyboard and percussion parts onto backing tapes for the band to play over.
Before 1991 was over, the revitalised band had released a new single, called Day Is Gone, and played several concerts from October to December. This year also saw the release of Songs for Ships and Irons, which compiled material from the Big Ship mini-album plus various singles and EPs. Also making an appearance in 1991 was the debut release by the Cardiacs spin-off, The Sea Nymphs. Their debut single, "Appealing To Venus", was a free bonus item with the first 500 copies of Day Is Gone and was subsequently sold through the fan club. The debut Sea Nymphs album, The Sea Nymphs, was released in 1992. Cardiacs remained active during 1992, touring frequently within the UK, including a double-headed tour with Levitation. On one notable occasion, at a 4 June gig at the London Astoria, Cardiacs were supported by future British rock megastars Radiohead, then at the start of their career.
Prior to the departure of Christian Hayes, Cardiacs had recorded an album called Heaven Born and Ever Bright (which featured several of Hayes' guitar and vocal parts, plus a track he had co-written called "Goodbye Grace"). This was released as the new Cardiacs album in the summer of 1992, the first fruit of a new distribution deal with Rough Trade Records. However, disaster struck when Rough Trade ceased trading shortly after the release of the album. This ensured that Heaven Born and Ever Bright could neither be stocked nor ordered by record shops, with the result that Cardiacs were left thousands of pounds in debt and unable to recoup their recording expenses. (The album was eventually reissued on a revived Alphabet Business Concern in 1995 – it featured a picture of Jon Poole on the cover, although he had not actually played on the album when it was recorded.)
Despite this crippling blow, the band soldiered on, but by July 1993 yet another long-term member – drummer Dominic Luckman – had decided to quit. He played his last concert as a Cardiac member on 20 July at Camden Palace, London (and would later join The Shrubbies). In December 1993, Cardiacs revealed their new drummer, Jon Poole's former Ad Nauseam bandmate, Bob Leith. However, the following year proved to be Cardiacs' quietest year for a long time, with only four concerts played in total.
The comeback: Sing to God & Guns (1995–1999)
After three years without any new releases, 1995 saw the release of the Bellyeye single on Org Records (the record-releasing wing of long-term Cardiacs’ supporters Organ Magazine). This was a taster for Cardiacs’ most epic recorded effort to date. Sing to God was a double album, due to the sheer amount of material that Tim had written over a number of years. The album was notable for a change in Cardiacs' working methods – whereas most previous material had been written and arranged by Smith, the Sing to God sessions saw extensive contributions from Jon Poole who played a strong role in orchestrating Smith's basic material with detailed riffs and keyboard parts (and contributed several songs entirely written by himself). Drummer Bob Leith also made significant contributions to the album's lyrics.
Sing to God was released in two formats – as a limited edition double CD, and as two separate CDs. At the same time, the band reissued almost their entire back catalogue on CD. This constituted all of the albums from The Seaside onwards, CD issues of live album All that Glitters is a Mares Nest and the Archive Cardiacs compilation, and a new compilation, the Cardiacs Sampler.
In April 1995, Cardiacs performed a BBC Manchester radio session on Mark Radcliffe's show. During May, they toured with Pura Vida and Sidi Bou Said and recorded a live acoustic session for GLR Radio. On 17 June, they appeared as special guests of (and concert openers for) Blur at their triumphant London Mile End Stadium concert. From 31 October to 18 November, Cardiacs performed a long support stint on Chumbawamba's UK tour.
In June and November 1996, Cardiacs embarked on two UK tours of their own, most significantly filling the London Astoria 2 on 2 November. The June tour was promoted by a second BBC Manchester radio session with Mark Radcliffe, aired on 11 June.
The next two years saw no new music from Cardiacs and reduced live activity. However, there were three more London concerts in 1998 – at one of these (the Garage concert on 4 December) the band was joined for an encore by William D. Drake. During the same year Cardiacs also played several performances in Germany and Holland, and made appearances in Brighton and at a festival in St Austell in Cornwall. 1998 also saw renewed activity by The Sea Nymphs, with the "Appealing To Venus" single reissued with extra tracks by Org Records, and a rare concert at the Camden Falcon in north London.
At the start of 1999, Cardiacs played three nights in a row at the Camden Falcon, London between 29 and 31 January: on the final date, Sarah Smith and William D. Drake joined in for the encore. On 20 and 21 March the band played two concerts at the Garage with support from Dark Star (a new band featuring ex-Cardiac Christian Hayes) and Camp Blackfoot. Cardiacs toured the UK in June 1999 to support the release of their new album, Guns, described by some of the music press as being their most accessible album to date. The band performed another radio session on 13 June for "Inside Tracks" (on BBC Choice digital radio). Three more concerts followed in October.
Rare sightings, family gatherings and a lost album (2000–2002)
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. Cardiacs concerts were also rare over the next few years, although the band played the Glastonbury Festival on 23 June 2000 and played two subsequent Whitchurch Festivals on 5 August 2000 and 3 August 2001.
Counterbalancing the lack of tours, the band set up an annual tradition of one-off large-scale London concerts (the first of which took place on 11 November 2000 and the last in 2007). These usually took place in November at the London Astoria, and soon became a kind of Cardiacs family gathering in which the band was joined by various guests including former members and newer Cardiacs-inspired supported bands. During these concerts, Sarah Smith, William D. Drake, Christian Hayes and Dominic Luckman all appeared onstage with the band on various occasions, as did The Consultant and Miss Smith. Support bands were always musicians with a professed Cardiacs connection or influence, and included Oceansize, The Monsoon Bassoon, The Scaramanga Six, Stars In Battledress and Jon Poole's hard-rock band GodDamnWhores.
The Garage Concerts, lineup changes and reestablishment (2003–2008)
Between 17–19 October 2003, Cardiacs recorded three special concerts at the Highbury Garage venue in London. As Jon Poole was by now also the bass player for The Wildhearts (and busy rehearsing for the upcoming Wildhearts tour) he was replaced for the concert by Kavus Torabi (formerly guitarist and singer for Monsoon Bassoon, Torabi was also a long-standing Cardiacs’ associate who'd served as their guitar technician since the mid-1990s.)
For these concerts, the band delved back into their distant past, abandoning virtually all of their available back catalogue in favour of exclusively playing songs that had been performed prior to 1983. These were taken mostly from the cassette albums (The Obvious Identity and Toy World, but also included songs such as An Ant, Hopeless, Gloomy News and Hello Mr Minnow (which had never been officially recorded before and had only ever been played at concerts in the late '70s/early '80s). A two-volume CD set of recordings from the three shows – The Special Garage Concerts Vol I and The Special Garage Concerts Vol II – was eventually released in 2005. Professional video camera equipment was apparently seen being used to record the band during the concerts, leading to a rumour that members of Org Records had filmed the entire three nights for later video release. This was debunked by Torabi in a 2009 interview, in which he stated that no such recordings existed.
In the autumn of 2004, Torabi officially replaced Poole as Cardiacs' second guitarist, and made his formal debut as a full group member at the annual London Astoria concert on 12 November (Poole would go on to concentrate on GodDamnWhores, various Wildhearts-related projects, Crayola Lectern and others). A number of other new members were drafted into the Cardiacs line-up at the same time – three backing singers (Claire Lemmon and Melanie Woods of Sidi Bou Said, plus former Shrubbies and current North Sea Radio Orchestra singer Sharron Fortnam) and two percussionists – Cathy Harabaras and Dawn Staple – playing mostly bass drums. (The official status of most of these additional members remains unclear, although Sharron Fortnam is known to have left the band.)
After several years of limited live activity in front of established fans, Cardiacs made another attempt to recapture their momentum and play to fresh audiences by supporting long-terms fans The Wildhearts for the latter's tour between 8–15 December 2004. This tour saw another substitution – drummer Stephen Gilchrist (Graham Coxon, The Scaramanga Six, Stuffy/The Fuses) stood in for Bob Leith, who had previous tour commitments with art-punk band Blurt. Three more years of relative quietness (bar the yearly concerts) ended in 2007 when Cardiacs released their first new material for eight years: the Ditzy Scene single. Released on Org Records as a limited edition of 1,000 copies, 'Ditzy Scene was also the first release by the new lineup: on record this included Claire, Melanie, Cathy and Dawn, but the 2007 winter tour featured only Melanie and Cathy, both of whom were now playing percussion and singing.
Tim Smith's heart attack and consequent band hiatus (2008–present)
At the end of June 2008, Tim Smith collapsed from a heart attack and major stroke after leaving a My Bloody Valentine concert. While in hospital, he suffered a second stroke which left him in a severely debilitated condition. All Cardiacs-related releases and activity (including the unfinished work-in-progress album, provisionally entitled LSD) were immediately shelved until further notice. A year of silence followed during which Smith recuperated in private. In June 2009 a new announcement appeared on the official Cardiacs website, letting readers know that, after a year of rehabilitation, Tim Smith's mind had returned to full functionality and that "no part of your favourite pop star’s intellect or personality has been found to be absent whatsoever." It thanked fans for their kind thoughts and made clear Smith's interest in returning to playing music with Cardiacs at such time as his physical rehabilitation allowed. However, it became clear that such rehabilitation would be a long process; and in August 2010, Kavus Torabi stated in an interview podcast that Cardiacs would never play live again. At time of writing, Smith remains hospitalised in a neurological rehabilitation centre in Wiltshire. However, occasional updates are available on his Facebook page, which readily accepts friend requests of fans.
In December 2010, two tribute CDs, Leader Of The Starry Skies: A Tribute To Tim Smith, Songbook 1 and its limited edition companion Leader of the Starry Skies - A Loyal Companion, were compiled by former Cardiac Christian Hayes and former Spratleys Japs singer Jo Spratley. These were released on Kavus Torabi's record label Believers Roast, with all proceeds going directly to the continuing care of Tim Smith. The albums featured cover versions of Smith-penned material (originally for Cardiacs, The Sea Nymphs, Spratleys Japs and Smith's solo album OceanLandWorld) by musicians including The Magic Numbers, Steven Wilson, Oceansize, Robert White/Andy Partridge, Sidi Bou Said and North Sea Radio Orchestra as well as former Cardiacs including Hayes himself (as Mikrokosmos), Torabi (as Knifeworld), William D. Drake, Mark Cawthra and Peter Tagg (with The Trudy).
While the critical status of Cardiacs is wildly mixed (the band tends to attract extreme responses with some critics hailing them while others violently condemn them to the point of pariahhood), Cardiacs are renowned for their unique performing and songwriting styles and their poetically cryptic, philosophical and abstract lyrics, as well as for their ability to produce a unique, complex and innovative sound with all their musical ventures over and over again throughout their long career. Tim Smith regularly attracts fulsome praise: he has been described in the music press as the "Mozart" or "Beethoven" of rock and pop music for his complex and innovative compositional skills, as well as being hailed as a genius (albeit sometimes a "deranged" one). The snooker player Steve Davis is also a big fan of the band and attended many of their live gigs.
Cardiacs have had a profound underground influence on over three decades of musicians, including the pioneers of the nu-metal and avant-garde metal genres. The band has also influenced math rock artists such as The Monsoon Bassoon and Battles. The band are sometimes credited as having been the inventors of the "pronk" (progressive punk) music genre; Tim Smith has rejected the term from the off, stating that Cardiacs are better described as a pop group or a psychedelic rock band.
Musicians who have cited Tim Smith's work as a major influence include Mike Vennart of Oceansize, Mike Patton of Faith No More and Mr. Bungle, Tool, Korn and Thom Yorke of Radiohead. During the 1980s, Cardiacs were a professed influence or inspiration for Marillion, It Bites and British psychedelic acts such as Ring; during the 1990s, emerging bands and musicians who were Cardiacs fans included Blur, Radiohead, Supergrass Shane Embury of Napalm Death, Porcupine Tree's Steven Wilson, The Scaramanga Six, The Monsoon Bassoon and The Wildhearts (who would later pay direct tribute via their track "Tim Smith" on 2009's Chutzpah!). In recent years Cardiacs has been influencing a new generation of underground bands such as Rocketgoldstar, Little Trophy, The Display Team, Liberty Ships and Silvery.
- Tim Smith – lead vocals, guitar, keyboards, organ, production, etc. (1977–present) (a.k.a. "Philip Pilf" on early Cardiac Arrest recordings)
- Jim Smith – bass, vocals (1977–present) (a.k.a. "Patty Pilf" on early Cardiac Arrest recordings)
- Kavus Torabi – guitar, vocals (2003–present)
- Bob Leith – drums (1994–present)
- Melanie Woods – percussion and backing vocals (2004–present)
- Cathy Harabaras – percussion and backing vocals (2004–present)
- Ralph Cade – dancing and saxophone (1978–1979) (a.k.a. "Raphel Cadd" on early Cardiac Arrest recordings)
- Mark Cawthra – drums and vocals (1980–1982), keyboards and vocals (1982–1983) (a.k.a. "Little Bobby Shattocks" on early Cardiac Arrest recordings)
- William D. Drake – keyboards and vocals (1983–1990) (not replaced – all live keyboard parts since June 1991 have been pre-recorded)
- Sharron Fortnam (née Saddington) – vocals (1999–present – only appears at concerts when "Will Bleed Amen" is performed) (a.k.a. "Sophie")
- Stephen Gilchrist – drums (December 2004 – one tour supporting The Wildhearts)
- Christian Hayes aka "Bic" – guitar, vocals (1989–1990)
- Marguerite Johnson – saxophone (1983–1984)
- Clare Lemmon – backing vocals, and lead vocal on "Dog Like Sparky" (2004–present)
- Dominic Luckman – drums (1983–1993)
- Colvin Mayers – keyboards (1978–1982) (a.k.a. "Max Cat" on early Cardiac Arrest recordings)
- Jon Poole – guitar, keyboards, vocals (1991–2003)
- Michael Pugh – lead vocals (1977–1980) (a.k.a. "Peter Boker" on early Cardiac Arrest recordings)
- Tim Quy – percussion and bass synthesizer (1980–1990)
- Graham Simmonds – guitar (1983–1984)
- Sarah Smith – saxophone and vocals (1980–1989) (also briefly played keyboards in 1982 – continues as guest performer on albums)
- Jo Spratley – guest vocals (1999) (on Guns album only)
- Dawn Staple – percussion (2004–2007)
- Peter Tagg – drums (1977–1979) (a.k.a. "Mr Richard Targett" on early Cardiac Arrest recordings)
- Demo demo cassette (1978) (as Cardiac Arrest)
- The Obvious Identity cassette album (1980) (as Cardiac Arrest)
- Toy World Cassette (1981)
- The Seaside (1st Version) Cassette (1984) ALPH 001
- Big Ship Mini LP (1986) ALPH 004
- A Little Man and a House and the Whole World Window LP/CD (1988) ALPH 007/TORSO CD060
- On Land and in the Sea LP/CD (1989) ALPH 012/TORSO CD120
- The Seaside (2nd Version) LP/CD (1990) ALPH 013
- Heaven Born and Ever Bright CD (1991) ALPH 017
- Sing to God CD (1996) ALPH 022 (limited edition DOUBLE CD), ALPH 023 (CD One), ALPH 024 (CD Two).
- Guns CD (1999) ALPH 027
Singles and EPs
- A Bus for a Bus on the Bus 7" (1979) TOR 002 (as Cardiac Arrest)
- Seaside Treats 12" EP (1985) ALPH 002
- There's Too Many Irons in the Fire 12" (1987) ALPH 006
- Is This the Life? 7" and 12" (1988) ALPH 008/TORSO 70060
- Susannah's Still Alive 7" and 12" (1988) ALPH 009
- Night Tracks (The Janice Long Session) 12" EP (1988) SFNT 013
- Baby Heart Dirt 7" and 12" (1989) ALPH 011
- Day Is Gone 12" and CD Single (1991) ALPH 015
- Bellyeye CD Single (1995) ORGAN011
- Manhoo CD Single (1995) ALPH 025
- Odd Even CD Single (1995) ALPH 026
- Cardiacs/Camp Blackfoot CD Single (1998) ORG056
- Signs CD Single (1999) ALPH 028
- Ditzy Scene CD Single (2007) ORG419
- Archive Cardiacs Cassette/CD (1989) ALPH 000
- Songs for Ships and Irons LP/Cassette/CD (1991) ALPH 014
- Sampler CD (1995) ALPH 019
- Greatest Hits CD (2002) ALPH 029
- Rude Bootleg LP/Cassette/CD (1986) ALPH 005
- Cardiacs Live LP/CD (1988) ALPH 010
- All that Glitters is a Mares Nest CD (1995) ALPH 018
- The Special Garage Concerts Vol I CD (2005) ALPH CD030
- The Special Garage Concerts Vol II CD (2005) ALPH CD031
- Maresnest (August 2013)
- Mr and Mrs Smith and Mr Drake Cassette (1984) ALPH 003/CD Reissue (2004) AME CD004
- Appealing To Venus 7" (1991) ALPH 016
- The Sea Nymphs Cassette/CD (1992) ALPH 021
- Tim Smith's Extra Special OceanLandWorld CD (1995) ALPH 020
- Appealing To Venus CD Reissue (1998) ORGAN044
- Cardiacs and Affectionate Friends CD (2001) ORG228
- Leader Of The Starry Skies: A Tribute To Tim Smith, Songbook 1 CD (2010) BR003
- Leader of the Starry Skies - A Loyal Companion CD (2010) BR003
- Ablemesh (Jon Poole and Bob Leith)
- Admirals Hard (Kavus Torabi sings and plays mandolin and guitar in this "psychedelic sea-shanty" band)
- Ad Nauseam (Jon Poole and Bob Leith – prior to joining Cardiacs)
- Authority (Kavus Torabi with Jamie Keddie and Dan Chudley from The Monsoon Bassoon and Craig Fortnam from Lake Of Puppies/North Sea Radio Orchestra)
- Blurt (Bob Leith drums for this long-established jazz/punk/art-rock band)
- Circulus (Progressive Folk/Rock band featuring Cardiacs Percussionist/Backing Vocalist, Cathy Harabaras)
- Dark Star (band) (Christian Hayes sang lead vocals and played guitar in this band after leaving Cardiacs and Levitation)
- GodDamnWhores (Jon Poole’s hard rock band, formed after leaving Cardiacs)
- Guapo (Kavus Torabi plays guitar for this progressive rock band)
- Katherine In A Cupboard (progressive rock band fronted by Bob Leith on vocals and with Jim Smith on bass)
- Knifeworld (Kavus Torabi's current band. Complex, dense psychedelic songs also featuring Melanie Woods on Vocals and Craig Fortnam on bass)
- Lake Of Puppies (William D. Drake’s mid-‘90s "psychedelic acoustic" band, also featuring Sharron Fortnam)
- Levitation (Christian Hayes played guitar and sang in this band after leaving Cardiacs)
- Mice (short-lived band led by former All About Eve singer Julianne Regan, with post-Cardiacs contributions from Dominic Luckman and Christian Hayes )
- Mikrokosmos (Christian Hayes solo project)
- Nervous (William D. Drake played keyboards and sang backing vocals for this folk/roots/rock band after leaving Cardiacs)
- The Monsoon Bassoon (Kavus Torabi co-led this psychedelic indie/math rock band prior to joining Cardiacs. Tim Smith produced their album I Dig Your Voodoo.)
- Mr and Mrs Smith and Mr Drake (Tim Smith, Sarah Smith, and William D. Drake – an early version of The Sea Nymphs)
- North Sea Radio Orchestra – (contemporary chamber ensemble featuring Sharron Fortnam, Kavus Torabi, William D. Drake, Melanie Woods among others; albums produced by Mark Cawthra)
- Panixphere (band featuring various Cardiacs at different times – the 1982–1984 lineup featured (Christian Hayes, "Flat Hat" and future Cardiacs roadie "Little Hicky"; the 1991–1993 lineup featured Christian Hayes, Tim Smith, Jon Poole and Dave Francolini)
- Ponce (band featuring Jim Smith and Melanie Woods)
- Ring (psychedelic band featuring Christian Hayes – prior to joining Cardiacs – also featured future members of The Milk And Honey Band and Zag And The Coloured Beads)
- Scalp (Mark Cawthra's solo recording projects)
- Sidi Bou Said (band led by Clare Lemmon and Melanie Woods, touring extensively with Cardiacs in the early 1990s, before Tim asked Clare and Melanie to do backing vocals on the Sing to God and Guns albums. Tim Smith produced their second album Bodies and John Poole their third album Obsessive.)
- Silver Ginger 5 (band led by Ginger from The Wildhearts with Jon Poole produced by Tim Smith)
- Spratleys Japs (short-lived band featuring Tim Smith and Jo Spratley)
- Stuntdog (Dominic Luckman's current band, featuring former Cardiacs merchandise man Steve Wattison on guitar and vocals)
- The Sea Nymphs (semi-acoustic psychedelic folk spin-off from Cardiacs featuring Tim Smith, Sarah Smith and William D. Drake)
- The Shrubbies (mid-‘90s "psychedelic acoustic" band led by Craig and Sharron Fortnam and featuring a post-Cardiacs Sarah Smith and Dominic Luckman)
- The Sound (Colvin Mayers – after leaving Cardiacs)
- Tim Smith's OceanLandWorld (Tim Smith's solo project)
- The Trudy (band formed by Peter Tagg and Ralph Cade after leaving Cardiacs)
- Ungodly Racket (project featuring Dawn Staple)
- The Wildhearts (celebrated British hard rock band, which Jon Poole joined on bass during/after his time in Cardiacs)
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.
- 1987 live review of Cardiacs at The Marquee Club, London, UK by Christopher "Push" Dawes in Melody Maker (copy of text hosted on Cardiacs homepage)
- 1987 live review of Cardiacs at Dingwalls, London, UK by Andy Hurt in Sounds (copy of text hosted on Cardiacs homepage)
- December 1988 live review of Cardiacs at Town and Country Club, London, UK by Stephen Dalton in New Musical Express (copy of text hosted on Cardiacs homepage)
- Live review: Cardiacs – The Wedgewood Rooms, 22 November 2007 from The Dreaded Press
- "Ginger’s Secret History of Rock’n’Roll (pt. 7)" in Classic Rock magazine (Ginger from The Wildhearts describing Cardiacs and retrospectively reviewing On Land and in the Sea)
- "Cardiacs at the Garage: it's history", article in ‘Perfect Sound Forever’ by Martijn Voorvelt (April 2004)
- "Meet the most influential band you've never heard of" (Cardiacs article by Tom Goodhand in The Yorkshire Post, 9 November 2007
- Buckley, Peter (1999). The Rough Guide to Rock (3rd Edition). Rough Guides. Rough Guides Ltd. ISBN 978-1-85828-457-6.
- Cardiacs tribute album to raise money for paralysed singer Tim Smith – article in The Guardian by Ian Gittins, Thursday 3 February 2011
- "Interview with Tim Smith in Harmonie Magazine, May 2000, by Jean-Luc Putaux (archived on Cardiacs homepage)". Retrieved 2008-12-09.
- Biography of Cardiacs @ Organ Magazine homepage
- "Why A Heart Attack Must Not Arrest The Cardiacs" – article by Graham Bendel in The Quietus, 4 May 2010
- Reviews of Cardiacs' 2003 concerts at the Garage, London (archived on Cardiacs homepage)
- "Interview with Tim Smith in Margen Magazine, April 2001, by Luis Gonzalez (archived on Cardiacs homepage)". Retrieved 2008-12-09.
- Mark Twain, "English as she is taught: Being genuine answers to examination questions in our public schools", 1887
- Notes on poetry quoted/paraphrased in Cardiacs lyrics on Cardiacs fansite. Retrieved 13 November 2008.
- 1987 live review of Cardiacs at The Bunker Club, Rotterdam, Netherlands by Christopher "Push" Dawes in Melody Maker (copy of text hosted on Cardiacs homepage)
- January 1988 live review of Cardiacs at The Marquee Club, London, UK by Cathi Unsworth in Sounds (copy of text hosted on Cardiacs homepage)
- March 1988 live review of Cardiacs at Town and Country Club, London, UK by Jane Solanas in New Musical Express (copy of text hosted on Cardiacs homepage)
- December 1988 live review of Cardiacs at Town and Country Club, London, UK by Andrew Smith in Melody Maker (copy of text hosted on Cardiacs homepage)
- "Cardiacs". Time Out Of Mind fanzine (reproduced on Cardiacs Museum website. circa 1987. Retrieved 2009-10-06.
- Cardiacs: The Ultimate Cardiacs Gig List
- "Band biography at Cardiacs homepage". Retrieved 2008-12-09.
- Cardiacs History on Cardiacs fanpage. Retrieved 10 November 2008.
- William D. Drake biography on William D. Drake homepage>
- "We're Brother and Sister" – article in The Sunday Sport 1 March 1987 (archived @ Cardiacs Museum website)
- Reviews of Sing to God album (archived on Cardiacs homepage)
- "July 2009 interview with Jon Poole on Cardiacs homepage, page 2". Cardiacs homepage. July 2009. Retrieved 2009-09-11.
- Cardiacs Official Website » Your Vexed Questions October 2005
- ORG Records Website
- Kavus Torabi – Guitar & Singing (interview with Kavus Torabi in Subbacultcha webzine, August 2009) – accessed 18 August 2009
- Official Cardiacs website
- Reviews of Guns albums (archived on Cardiacs homepage)
- Reviews of Cardiacs’ 2004 concert at the Astoria, London (archived on Cardiacs homepage)
- Cardiacs biography on Mandiapple’s Cardiacs fansite
- GodDamnWhores Myspace site
- The God Damn Whores Tribe.net site
- All My Eye And Betty Martin Music
- The Trudy website
- The Trudy fansite
- The Trudy FaceBook site
- The Trudy MySpace site
- Official Site
- Pete's Cardiacs site – contains a wealth of information from 1976–present
- The first and only online Cardiacs Museum!
- Cardiacs discography at MusicBrainz
- Cardiacs Lyrics Organ (searchable lyrics database)