All Posts — Dan on July 16, 2007 at 5:41 pm


Was just forwarded this amazing Severed Heads clip that’s well worth watching. They (really, he) have (has) long been a favorite of mine, ever since that faithful day in my sophomore year of High School when I declared to my only college-radio listening peer that “I think Severed Heads have surpassed Joy Division as my favorite band”. Strong words, I know. I’m really not sure how discovered the Severed Heads but know I was entering my “industrial” phase. I was buying everything from the most intense old-school noisy stuff to, well, some really crappy records from bands with distorted vocals, bad drum programming and samples from movies I guess I thought were cool back then. But Severed Heads stood out immediately due to one thing, Tom Ellard’s pop sense. He just writes great songs with great melodies.

My first SevHeads CD was Come Visit the Big Bigot With Dead Eyes Opened. An LP and EP on one CD. Whenever I talk about post-punk bands I always talk about the combination of noise and pop, and in a genre like “industrial” where everyone was trying so hard to be scary and intense all the time, to hear material like this, really poppy new wave songs with a noisier production really, was just awesome. If you go further back in his career, these two directions split. The early tapes are filled with tape-loop experiments and all kinds of bizarre sounds, as well as some extremely beautiful synth-pop music. I suppose the synth-pop stuff usually had some weird noises and the way he worked with the more noisy stuff usually involved finding the melody within, something he talks about in the above video. The video also contains some great footage of Tom recording sounds by putting a microphone in a watermelon and dropping it out the window, as well as some explanation of Severed Heads video techniques. (at the time Severed Heads was considered two people, Tom Ellard, who made the music, and Stephen Jones who did the video.)

The record that came after Come Visit the Big Bigot, Rotund for Success, is seen by some as a move in a much poppier/dancier direction, which it is, but there’s still plenty of noise, or at least strange source materials. (actually, as pointed out in the comments, Bad Mood Guy came out between the two). But Come Visit the Big Bigot with Dead Eyes Opened contains my favorite stuff, the DJ Harvey fave We Have Come to Bless This House, Oscar’s House, Mambo Fist Miasma, Twenty Deadly Diseases, Phantasized Persecutory Breast. From the early LPs, I’m also partial to 4.W.D., Umbrella, Goodbye Tonsils and as discussed in my last post, Exploring the Secrets of Treating Deaf Mutes.

My favorite song however is Petrol, from the Dead Eyes Opened EP. (the second, not to confuse matters two much but Dead Eyes Opened was recorded twice, the first time it was analog and can be found on a great 12″ or the earlier Since the Accident LP, the second time it was done with FM digital synths, and that EP is the one tacked onto the Come Visit the Big Bigot CD). The best thing about the song Petrol is that it’s the song that keeps giving. There are several versions of it and it seems like every few years I discover a new one. One of the earliest versions is actually called Lambourgini and is much more minimal, noisy, and features female vocals. This early version can be found on Can’t Stop It! 2, the second in a series of Australian post-punk comps. A similar early version can be found in this video clip:


And while I’m here, here’s another video:


We Have Come To Bless This House was on the LP City Slab Horror before being remixed for the Dead Eyes Opened EP. I see here it’s “Remix Two”, while Dead Eyes Opened is on “Remix Three” (after the version from Since the Accident and…) while Petrol is up to “Remix Five” (collect them all!) Anyway, due to the rather slow tempo and strange vocal samples, it fit in perfectly with the italian Cosmic DJs who liked to play records at the wrong, slower speed anyway, DJ Loda certainly played it, and DJ Harvey took to it, so now Severed Heads are getting new exposure in the trendiest music circles. I hope people who are new to the sounds dig deeper, because Ellard has a huge catalog of amazing stuff.
Sevcom, official site

Severed Heads archive
More videos from Severed Heads
LTM records has begun reissuing Severed Heads material.


  1. and p.s., please let me know if you have any trouble with the above Youtube videos, or if the post looks weird. I had a lot of trouble getting this to work in Firefox. There seem to be a multitude of issues involving WordPress and it’s “visual editor”, how it deals with Youtube’s embed code, as well as issues with certain themes, and even getting past that there’s some general problems/conflicts simply using Flash with the latest Firefox involving plug-in problems. So if you’re using Firefox and this post didn’t work, there’s a 50% chance I screwed something up and 50% chance you did!

    Comment by Dan — July 16, 2007 @ 5:45 pm
  2. Dan, this blog is great and also very educational. i love it!

    Comment by sam — July 16, 2007 @ 6:39 pm
  3. Thanks. There’s more to come…

    Comment by Dan — July 16, 2007 @ 7:11 pm
  4. Hey Dan,

    Looks like you got everything up & running. Glad to see it.

    As far as SH’s go – I love ’em. Whats strange is…I guess I’m just surprised how they slipped by me for so long. I never knew about them until Rotund For Success came out, but as I then discovered, they already had several albums out. Also, for some reason & as much as I loved Rotund (and continue to), I never followed up and looked for more.

    So its been recently, as I mentioned in an email to you, that I’ve been looking for more of their albums & seeking it out. I love about them exactly what you talk about – that balance of weirdness, noise, industrial, and pop and clean production. His voice is great too.


    Comment by Tim B. — July 17, 2007 @ 8:57 am
  5. Forgive the splitting of the hairs, but “Bad Mood Guy” followed “Come Visit The Big Bigot”, not “Rotund For Success”.

    Thank you for the piece on Sev, though! I was just having a listen at the new “ComMerz” 2-CD comp, since it had a few odds and ends that never made it to CD before.

    Comment by mackro — July 18, 2007 @ 4:33 am
  6. I always forget Bad Mood Guy because I got it on vinyl a while after I already had Bigot and Rotund on CD, and never really took to it in the same way as I did those other two. Whoops.

    Comment by Dan — July 18, 2007 @ 10:51 am
  7. Hey, dan ! Blog looks good. Cool to see this Severed Heads video. I saw them play a couple of times back in the day — first band (duo) I remember using a video backdrop “synched” to their music. They played in No. Newark (The Pipeline nee DJ Freak’s). Good times.

    Comment by Jorge — July 19, 2007 @ 5:30 pm
  8. Holy crap. I was at that Pipeline show in the 80s. I remember I just got my license, was underage for the show and it was in Newark (though not as dangerous an area as it could have been, considering most of Ne’rk was kind of dangerous then)…but I hopped in the car and drove there and was in heaven. At the end of the show I was waiting in line to talk to Tom Ellard, totally popping a boner in anticipation, and some older, wasted punk chick started flirting with me and kissing me. I know, sounds good, but I was 17 and freaked out and was worried her boyfriend was going to kill me so I busted out. Never got to meet Ellard, even though he was a big penpal and is to blame for my music career (made me send out my first demo).

    Comment by Morgan McWayne NJ — August 8, 2007 @ 1:18 am
  9. Hi I interviewed Tom Ellard just after Dead Eyes Opne came out. He was friendly, but professional. But he kept sideways referring to his partner negatively. Would that mean the maker of his video clips. What happenned there? Sorry to sound so commercial TV about it all, but I was interested in the bad blood between them.

    Comment by sally h — September 21, 2007 @ 9:53 pm
  10. Can’t say I know any gossip or sordid details. A bit of web research mentions various other early “members” of Severed Heads, most notably Gary Bradbury and Paul Deering, so perhaps he was referring to them. Dead Eyes Open was around the time it became just Ellard, and Stephan Jones would continue to do video stuff for some time yet.

    Comment by Dan — September 22, 2007 @ 12:56 am
  11. Where can I find “Oscar’s Grind”
    In the mid 80’s this track was a club classic in what was to become the Belgian New Beat era a few years later.

    Comment by Gert Schevernels — October 15, 2007 @ 4:37 pm
  12. Oscar’s Grind is on the Nettwerk CD “Come Visit the Big Bigot with Dead Eyes Open”. Shouldn’t be too hard to find! Great song. Great vocals.

    Comment by Dan — October 15, 2007 @ 4:45 pm
  13. Hi there- at various times Mr Ellard has hosted on-line communities (and shut them down when they got out of hand). There’s not one at the moment, but there is an unofficial bulletin-board, see the website with this comment if interested. (You have to register to see most of it, hopefully that will change soon).

    Comment by yary h — April 14, 2008 @ 6:47 pm
  14. Hi Dan, I got your link off Google when I searched for “words to goodbye tonsils song” as I had been loading all my old cds into itunes. It occured to me that I had never noticed the words in that song and so many others of Severed Heads, Shows how well written the melodies are. My SH story is in the early 90’s when I was working at a Hock shop (Pawnbrokers) in Bondi Junction in Sydney, Tom’s home town. A strange guy comes in 1 day and demands to see every CD we have in the store. I calm him down and ask whats the problem and he tells me his recording studio was robbed and all his CDs were taken. So I take details and relise that it is Tom Ellard all wired up in my shop looking for his CDs, blaming some poor guy, cant remember the name. Never saw them though, pity, would have done anything for his whole back cataogue. He comes across as a person torn between fits of Genius and control freakiness. I still love SH’s music, wish they would bring out more though.
    Thanks Dan.

    Comment by Martin — August 6, 2008 @ 7:50 pm

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