Emerging from the same art/design cauldron that produced fellow Leeds legends Soft Cell, Scritti Politti, The Mekons and Kaiser Chiefs, CUD were the pre-Britpop answer to doleful shoegazing bands – fun-loving, light-hearted, romantic and downright catchy.
Alternatively loved or loathed like a yeast extract, CUD are indie rock for the unpretentious pleasure seeker, boasting as they do the rich deep-lunged voice of Carl Puttnam, edgy guitars of Mike Dunphy and tight, funky rhythm section of William Potter on bass and Stephen Goodwin on drums.
CUD were initially lauded for their quirky Peel session cover of ‘You Sexy Thing’ in 1987. They soon built up a huge live following and buffed up their repertoire with a string of unstraight pop beauties, best exemplified by the 1990 album ‘Leggy Mambo’. This led to a major-label deal with A&M in 1991, an NME cover, massive sellout gigs and proper Top 30 hits, ‘Rich and Strange’ and ‘Purple Love Balloon’.
Misunderstood by record companies and press, CUD packed away their guitars and sticks in 1995 but, bolstered by a greatest hits anthology (‘Rich and Strange’) in 2006, they agreed to tread the boards again and found an army of ‘Space CUDets’ still eager to sing along, dance like fruitcakes and invade their stage.
So it is here, in 2012, that CUD are back once more to celebrate a silver jubilee with new collections of rare gems and a full-blown tour. There is much to be grateful for.
“I don’t sound like Mick Hucknall, I’ve just got the same colour hair. I’ve been compared to Tom Jones occasionally, which I like, and Elvis… I’d like the body of Tom Jones and the haircut of Elton John.”
William Potter met Carl Puttnam on their first day as Fine Art students at Leeds Polytechnic; their names having been listed alphabetically next to each other on the course roster.
The intrepid duo took to each other immediately and formed a band, initially with Carl on bass and William on drums, along with Dave Read (a.k.a Elvis Belt) (vocals/guitar), Alan Thomas (guitar), Nicola Hill (salad spoons) and Susan Johnstone (recorder).
This first incarnation of CUD trod the boards for the first time in June 1985 at an alternative club night at Leeds Poly, their name having been chosen over a game of Scrabble between Carl and their manager Reverend Zed Baker; the logical construction being that ‘the shorter the name the bigger it appeared on the poster’.
After a handful of shambolic performances by an ever-revolving line-up, CUD finally settled upon a core four-piece structure with Steve Goodwin, the boyfriend of a fellow Fine Art student joining as drummer and Mike Dunphy, a graphics student and bassist with prog-rock band The Children singing up as guitarist.
The audition process for these new recruits was exhaustive. Mike as allowed to join only after having purchased an instrument from the Kays catalogue and Steve was snapped up having declared ownership of a full drum set, this was later discovered to comprise of bits and pieces that had been thrown in the street when a squat had been evicted. With no bass drum and no stands early gigs of the new line-up, the first of which being a Leeds Poly’s ‘Art Day Of Action’ attended by Dennis Healey in April 1986, saw Steve playing drums lodged on top of plastic chairs
In March 1987 William, wearing a self-printed CUD shirt, was stopped in the street in Leeds by The Wedding Present’s drummer Shaun Charman. After initial introductions it transpired that during their recent German tour The Weddoes had forgotten to pack any music and a tatty cassette of a CUD demo recorded at Lion Studios in the possession of the sound engineer had been played to destruction. The result of this chance meeting was an invitation to make a record for The Wedding Present’s new label Reception Records.
In May ‘87 John Peel announced that he was throwing out all his collection of demo tapes to make way for new submissions and Carl pounced. Within two weeks, John Walters (Peel’s producer) was on the phone offering the band a session. This recording of ‘Mind The Gap’, ‘You’re The Boss’, ‘Don’t Bank On It’ and ‘You Sexy Thing’ was broadcast a couple of times and the PRS money earned financed the recording of the band’s first single 'Mind The Gap', released on Reception Records in September 1987. The CUD Band were on their way it seemed!
A subsequent move to the Imaginary label allowed CUD to develop a funkier, 'indie' sound. Singles 'Only (A Prawn in Whitby)' and 'Hey!Wire' were minor indie hits and became firm favourites with their ever-increasing audience, matched by the likes of 'Bibi Couldn't See', 'Push & Shove' and 'Strange Kind of Love'.
At a time when most bands came from Manchester and sounded exactly like The Stone Roses or The Charlatans, CUD were seen as being at odds with fashion, but with Carl's ‘spectacular’ dress sense and kitschy, hopelessly romantic lyrics they were, in fact, just different.
The band’s later material for Imaginary is seen as more polished than their early efforts and on their final record with the label 'Showbiz' they wandered more towards the mainstream but always retained that quirky edge.
Chart success for CUD still proved elusive however, not least because tracks such as 'Robinson Crusoe' and 'Magic' were hampered by public demand outstripping supply; at the time Imaginary had no other bankable acts on their roster and were struggling to stay afloat (the only Imaginary act to register with the public consciousness being Manchester band The Mock Turtles of ‘Can You Dig It?’ fame).
In 1991 Imaginary finally folded, after CUD had already secured a new berth with A&M but before paying them a substantial amount of outstanding royalties. By way of settlement Imaginary returned to the band the rights to their back catalogue. Minor chart success with A&M came via a more accessible sound. 'Rich & Strange' and 'Purple Love Balloon' were both top thirty hits, and 'Neurotica' scraped into the top forty. Despite these sparks of limited success the band failed to maintain any kind of momentum and album sales were disappointing.
The relationship between the band and A&M had, in fact, proved fractious from the get go but disintegrated entirely when the executive responsible for engineering the deal left the label. The band felt under pressure to deliver an album with "international potential" which they felt they had already done with the 'Showbiz' record. A&M disagreed and chose not to release the record in the USA.
With the band having begun working on the requested replacement sixth album, and with around 80 songs written and demoed, A&M dug in their heels and demanded "mid-paced, lyrically simple pop songs".
Seemingly unable to please their masters CUD became aware of the label’s plans for a 'best of' compilation. The band recorded a new version of 'Strange Kind Of Love' for the release and two songs for b-sides. The artwork was to be based on a William Potter’s t-shirt design, the now famous CUD 'U' or udder motif in the style of pop-artist Roy Lichtenstein.
Tensions now spread to the band itself with William opting to leave to be replaced by Mickey Dale, one-time bassist with The Poppy Factory and later keyboardist for Cleckheaton-based rock-outfit Embrace.
Despite their best efforts and commitment to A&M the band were dropped before the ‘best of' project saw the light of day; the reason quoted being an “attitude problem’. With this further setback amplified by Carl breaking his leg around the same time the band finally decide to call time on their un-fulfilled promise and CUD were no more.
Following the split Carl returned to the stage for a solo show at the 12Bar in London in November 2001. A year later he performed a similar show, this time with Steve Goodwin providing percussion. In 2006 William returned and with Felix Frey standing in for Mike Dunphy, the CUD Band played 10 shows to support the release of 'Rich & Strange: The Anthology'. With regular festival slots and gigs over the next couple of years, the back-catalogue was re-issued and an emotional farewell tour was rolled out in 2008.
Farewell perhaps, but not goodbye! The start of the year brought exciting news, Mike Dunphy was back on guitar and CUD would once more be treading the boards in June 2012.
When In Rome, Kill Me (2007)
Bootlegs & 'Home-made's
Hey Bootleg, Not Exactly L.E.G.I.T., BB Cudn't C, Donkey With A Fez On (2001)
Chateau De Carles (Carl Puttnam & Friends, 2002)
When In Rome, Kill Me Again (2003)
Cudstock... Naked (Carl Puttnam & Friends, 2003)
EPs & Singles
Mind The Gap (1987)
The Peel Sessions (1988)
Under My Hat (1988)
Slack Time (1988)
Only (A Prawn In Whitby) (1989)
Hey! Wire (1990)
Remember What It Is That You Love (1990)
Robinson Crusoe (1990)
Oh No Won't Do (1991)
Through The Roof (1992)
Rich And Strange (1992)
Purple Love Balloon (1992)
Once Again (1992)
Sticks And Stones (1994)
One Giant Love (1994)
Video / DVD
When At Home, Film Me (1990)