You may have seen the BBC recently reporting on legendary rock originating from Wales. No, not that programme about Stonehenge; I’m referring to Tudur’s TV Flashback, the show where comedian Tudur Owen looks back through the BBC Wales archive in search of long-lost televisual gold. A recent half-hour spectacular devoted several wonderful minutes to a name not heard in a long time… Ivor Beynon, Lord of Steel.
For those not familiar with the name (have a long, hard look at yourselves, seriously) Ivor Beynon was the nearest Wales got to a superhero after SuperTed’s skirmishes with Texas Pete. Armed with just a CD player, DIY music releases (the best coming complete with a free Ivor mask), and a wizard stage prop, Ivor Beynon quickly strode from oft-kilter heavy metal curio to bona fide Welsh television star. The Biz, a partnership between BBC Wales and the Welsh Development Agency, found Ivor as one of six finalists on a televised quest for success, before an appearance on The X-Factor saw even Sharon Osbourne raise an eyebrow (the Lord of Steel could have saved her a fortune in plastic surgery bills). Also, I once gave the actor who played Mr. Muscle in the television commercials an Ivor Beynon album and he was thrilled. It seems apt, then, that the rebirth of this Welsh legend should come, at least partly, by way of a television show. But reborn it appears the Lord of Steel is.
‘Those Who Offend Beware’ is an epic comeback: a 32-track, double-disc album that is part reboot, part sequel; like that 2011 version of The Thing… but without the dodgy CGI. Split into two distinct halves, ‘Those Who Offend Beware’ will, from the first vocal spat out of the Lord of Steel’s warpaint-smeared mouth, caress the auditory canals like a long-lost friend. Fear not, though, those unfamiliar with the Ivor legend for the first half of the album is a rollicking history lesson.
That first half – ‘Born in Ebbw Vale (The Story of Ivor Beynon)’ – is a sprawling 17-track fever dream of a life story that revolves around a masterful reworking of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born in the USA’. With screaming metal mayhem (“we’re a runaway heavy metal freight train; we’ll give you a frigging heart attack!”) riding shoulder to shoulder with more thought-provoking hard rock (take my hand, together we’ll fly; not even death can stop us, we’re gonna carry on…”), this is a history lesson like no other, with Ivor’s inimitable vocals like siren song to those semi-retired members of Team Steel; their sleeveless shirts and copycat make-up kits itching to get dusted down and reintroduced to an unsuspecting new decade. Those who never fell under the Lord of Steel’s spell first time around –and, remarkably, there were a few – will find this heaving half o’ heaviness a crash course in all things Ivor and fall now they will. Spattered with a dash of timeless cover versions and audio from Ivor’s X-Factor audition amongst the rocking original tracks, ‘Born in Ebbw Vale’ is a real-life rock opera, closed out by the iconic theme tune par excellence, ‘Lord of Steel’. “You want rock? I rock.”
How could a local legend who even had his own comic strip in a local newspaper possibly follow that? By recreating those legendary Ivor Beynon live shows from the Noughties that saw gig goers openly weep such was the aural pleasure on offer, that’s how. From ‘Bark at the Moon’ to ‘Turbo Lover’, ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’ to ‘Tainted Love’, ‘Ivor Party 2021’ is more than just the second half of a typically ambitious project from the Lord of Steel – it will quite possibly be the most entertaining thing that anyone will hear all year.
Wrapped in suitably grandiose artwork by Adam Llewellyn (the artist behind Valleys animated series, ‘The Vale’), with a fold-out inner sleeve capturing Ivor with all manner of miscreants from his chequered musical past – from Ben Shephard to Bob Catley to the Butcher of Bethcar Street – ‘Those Who Offend Beware’ might just be your first essential purchase of 2021.
“We’ve been apart, but this is our time,” Ivor wails on ‘Friendship Songs’ and, be honest, we could all do with a friend, a superhero, in these troubled times. Now we just have to find a phone box for him to get changed in…
Author: Gaz Tidey