Stuart Cable: Extrovert drummer and broadcaster who powered the Stereophonics to global acclaim
Wednesday 09 June 2010
Stuart Cable was an unabashed extrovert who put so much passion and physical effort into his drumming it had a charm of its own and seemed an extension of the man. With his abundant curls, broad grin, gravelly voice, raucous laugh and boisterous personality, he was a huge presence on the rock scene, and for a few years enjoyed fame as the drummer who played with the Stereophonics, one of the most successful British bands of recent times. Five out of their nine albums topped the UK charts and they were asked to perform at all the major venues. But Cable's career was marked by acrimony, and alcohol and drugs took their toll.
As his rock'n'roll lifestyle began to have adverse effects, and to everyone's surprise, he made a new career as a broadcaster with BBC Wales: in 2002 he was given his own television chat show, Cable TV, which was followed by Cable Connects and then his own radio show, Cable Rock. Ever the joker in the pack, he also appeared as a guest on umpteen shows in Wales, enjoying a reputation as a larger-than-life character who could make audiences laugh.
It was his burgeoning career as a broadcaster that was to cause the bitter split with the Stereophonics in September 2003 when they sacked the percussionist on the grounds that he often missed rehearsals because he had commitments elsewhere. Full details of his fraught relationship with his erstwhile bandmates are given in his autobiography (written with the help of Anthony Bunko), Demons & Cocktails: My Life with Stereophonics (2009), an updated paperback version of which appeared in the same week as his death. Even so, his differences with Kelly Jones, with whom he had fallen out so spectacularly, were eventually patched up, for Cable had a sunny personality that didn't bear grudges for long.
Stuart Cable grew up in the former mining village of Cwmaman in the Cynon Valley and retained a strong commitment to his community. Even after fame and fortune came his way he steadfastly resisted the temptation to move to more fashionable places so that he could be near his family and the friends with whom he had grown up, and for this he was admired as one of Wales's favourite sons. He learned a little Welsh as part of BBC Wales's Big Welsh Challenge and this seemed to connect him with his roots, in which he took great pride and from which he drew strength.
On the day of his death the affection in which he was held by local people was attested by the flowers left at the gates of his house in Llwydcoed, near Aberdare, which he called Castle Cable, and heaped on his car parked outside the Welsh Harp pub in nearby Trecynon. Among the many tributes that came up on the internet from all over the world was one referring to him as "a diamond geezer, a top dude".
Determined to be a rock star from an early age, having been given a drum kit by his widowed mother, he practised drumming with two friends, namely Richard Jones on bass guitar and Kelly Jones, the singer-songwriter and guitarist who lived in the same street. In 1992 they began performing in workmen's clubs in south Wales under the name Tragic Love Company (from three of their favourite bands, The Tragically Hip, Mother Love Bone and Bad Company) but changed to Stereophonics after Cable spotted the word on an old record-player belonging to his father. At first he was also playing drums with such combos as Nail Bombs and Ritch Bitch, the gigs supplementing his wages as a double glazing salesman. The only setback to the lads' early success was when their instruments were stolen, but this was soon put right with financial help from the Prince's Trust.
It was not long before they were encouraged by their agent John Brand to set their sights on higher things, especially after he had made sure they became the first group to sign up with the newly-formed record label V2, created by Richard Branson, in a deal worth £265,000. Their first recording, Word Gets Around, sold 800,000 copies in 1996. They also recorded the EP Raw Sex for Breakfast at Sound Space's studios in Cardiff on which Cable sang the vocals. Among the group's many hits were "Traffic", "Have a Nice Day", "'Local Boy in the Photograph", "Just Looking" and "The Bartender and the Thief", all of which were performed before an audience of 30,000 at the Cardiff City Stadium the weekend of Cable's death.
The band won more than its share of awards. They were voted Best New British Band by Kerrang! in 1998 and the same year won the Brit Award for Best Newcomer and were named Best Live Act of the Year by Q. They were twice voted No 2 in the Top Ten "Sexiest Lads" by readers of Melody Maker and in May 2000 Kelly Jones was voted No 6 in Company magazine's Top One Hundred Men. In 2000 the Stereophonics were named Band of the Year by Loaded. They revelled in such accolades as "the bastard sons of rock'n'roll, possessed with the demon swagger of Dylan, Hendrix and Angus Young". In the late 1990s, together with Super Furry Animals, Manic Street Preachers and Catatonia, they were riding high as part of the scene known as "Cool Cymru".
So began the rollercoaster years in which Cable experienced all the highs and lows of a rock star's career. The 'Phonics played with some of the most famous bands in the world, including the Rolling Stones, U2 and Oasis, and were household names for more than a decade. Their second album, Performances and Cocktails, reached the top of the UK charts, selling 600,000 copies, and world tours followed.
After the split with his old butties, followed by "dark and difficult" days for Cable, he formed a new band, Killing for Company, which was due to play at the Download Festival, heavy rock's annual shindig in Donington Park, Leicestershire, a few days after his death. He had said he never expected to live beyond the age of 40, and now his demons began to close in.
Confessing in his autobiography to being a hard drinker and drug user, especially of cocaine, he described himself at the height of the Stereophonics' fame as "a coke-taking zombie". He had moved back to his home area, he said, '"because if I hadn't I'd have probably ended up dead or round the bend – or both." Although he had recently settled to a calmer way of life and was a devoted father, the percipience of this remark was borne out when his body was found in his home in the early hours of 7 June after what was said to have been a heavy drinking session.
He had nevertheless managed to keep up his broadcasting, interviewing such stars as Cerys Mathews and Tom Jones with his usual cheery manner and winning a Bafta award for his voice part in the BBC animation series Colin and Cumberland. In 2002 he also lent his active support to a BBC Wales campaign to encourage men to look out for warning signs of testicular cancer. Three years later he hosted the Kerrang! awards and in November 2007 joined XFM South Wales, hosting a weekend show until the station was sold a year later. He then returned to BBC Radio Wales as presenter of Saturday Night Cable, playing old and new rock music which he introduced with infectious enthusiasm. He used his star status in the interests of child safety, notably in Stuart's Campaign, after the death of a schoolboy, Stuart Cunningham-Jones, who had died aboard a bus.
Stuart Cable, drummer and broadcaster: born Aberdare, Glamorgan 19 May 1970; married 1999 Nicola Damon (marriage dissolved; one son); died Llwydcoed, near Aberdare, Rhondda Cynon Taf 7 June 2010.
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