Cranium Pie's Julian Leigh Smith


Julian Leigh Smith (AKA Peter Sundae) is a regular contributor to the VG+ music forum. 


A former fireplace salesman from Bushey and part-time drummer, his involvement in creating a cover version of The Beatles ‘Baby You’re A Rich Man’ for fun on the forum led directly to serious involvement in up-and-coming progressive psych band Cranium Pie.


The song was picked up by the discerning Fruits De Mer label, released as a single and became one of several

Cranium Pie

Cranium Pie tracks featured on the first two volumes of the sought after psych compilations by the Amorphous Androgynous entitled ‘A Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble Exploding In Your Mind.'


Cranium Pie's first lp entitled Mechanisms Part 1 was released in October 2011 and sold out immediately.


I had the pleasure of meeting the gentleman drummer in October 2010 for a chat in his listening room above his Grate Ideas fireplace shop in Bushey which he has recently converted into a new record shop called Second Scene.

My dad had quite an eclectic taste.  He had a few jazz records but was also into his heavy rock and bands like Santana, Osibisa and the Beatles. 


I started out with a case of 45s he gave me to play on a little Dansette and pretty soon the bug had bitten.  I’d come home from school and play records for hours on end.


My mum used to go to jumble sales where there’d be loads of 60s records for 5p a pop.  There was always this excitement for me like when you’re a child and you’re looking at your presents under a Christmas tree and you want to know what’s under the wrapping. ‘What am I going to find on here?  I’ve got one on a label like this already.  Is it going to be similar?  What kind of music is it?’


I was born in 1972 so I was listening to all this 60s stuff in the mid-to-late 70s aged about 5 or 6 and I couldn’t even read the labels properly. 



My family used to play a game where they would say to me ‘What’s on this one then Julian?’ and I’d be able to tell what was on it by the label, the date and the number of words. That was their game with ‘little Julian.’


I liked 60s pop the best. 


Obviously when you’re a kid you’re going to find some prog and psych records a little bit odd, disconcerting and long-winded. 


So I was into the more immediate sounding ones; Gerry & The Pacemakers, The Animals, Small Faces, Merseybeat and mod.  So my first love was mainly pop and mostly 45s.


You were ten years old in 1982.  Did the New Wave, New Romantics or anything else from that time figure in your record buying ?  


Not really.  I do remember hearing things on the radio and on television but I didn’t like that as much, there was just a certain sound that came from 60s stuff which really appealed to me. 

My dad worked in a hotel and on one occasion a CBS rep who stayed there left a bunch of records behind.  They went into the hotel lost property room and were never claimed so I got them.  One of them was The Clash lp. 


I remember playing that record and I had never heard anything like it in my life!  It was like it was from a different planet because it was so loud and angry and aggressive. 


I did get into that because it was such a frightening record.  I was about six and just remember thinking they sounded like really naughty boys.


I was very much on my own with the music I liked except for when a group of children at junior school saw Quadropheniaand asked me if I’d make them tapes of the music that was in that;, The Who, Booker T, Green Onions and so on.  I really was a very insular collector.  I didn’t really know of anyone else who was listening to the same stuff until the upper years.


At Sixth Form my group of friends were all listening to Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Steely Dan and The Doors. We were all constantly making tapes for each other and sharing our records and they’re all good friends to this day.


They’d all discovered some records their parents had at home and one particular friend who’s dad was a bit of a hippy had all the John McLaughlin, John Mayall, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and so forth and he gave them all to his son. 


What were your earliest experiences of buying records independently?


My uncle was an antiques dealer at Cheshire Street Market and Brick Lane and I used to go along with him at four in the morning. 


He’d go off in pursuit of antiques and I’d go and look at all the record stalls. 

At this time people were doing massive house clearances of vinyl; boxes and boxes of records but at this stage I was still looking for and buying the Beatles, the Animals and all that. 


I  vividly remember seeing the sleeves of all the rare Vertigo records, rare folk ones, Pink Island and all that sort of stuff.


I also remember thinking at the time ‘this all looks a bit weird and I probably wouldn’t enjoy any of it’ so I carried on doggedly searching for Hollies lps. (laughs)


Obviously, if I could go back again now I’d go with as much money as feasibly possible and load up a van!


Many collectors cite Hip Hop as being a major influence on their musical taste through seeking out the sources of samples and breaks. 


Were there any other influences on your taste in music and record buying apart from just listening to sixties 45s ?  Were you reading anything ?



Hip Hop and House completely passed me by.  When I started senior school around 1983 aged 12 people were listening to The Beastie Boys but I’d got heavily into collecting the Beatles by then. 


I guess that was the first time I became a kind of collector because I was looking to complete the run of Beatles singles in good condition.   


Record Collector magazine was a revelation for me.  My father saw it at a newsagent and bought it for me.  This would have been around 1983. 


I used the ‘For Sale’ lists at the back as a reference guide to find out what other lps groups like the Animals or Hollies had done.  The magazine also introduced me to the idea of records having a value because before that time I didn’t realise they were collectable to anybody.

It also made me realise there were a lot of lps I’d have to spend more money on but luckily I was still OK with just buying records second hand from the market.


I didn’t have a part-time job to provide funds for my habit so around fourth year of senior school I started to doing my own Record Collector ads instead of doing a paper round. 


I started selling by listing up about twenty lps, typing them all out on a typewriter and it funded my habit to buy the 50p and a £1 lps from markets and the boot sales that had started appearing.


You mentioned your father had a jazz collection and only a few years ago you managed to persuade Michael Garrick to do a Jazz recital at a local folk club in Watford.  When did Jazz enter your life?


In 1990 I worked as a wine cellar man at London's Regent Palace Hotel. I used to go to Gilles Peterson’s


club called Bar Rumba and remember him playing British jazz like Neil Ardley’s ‘Will You Walk A Little Faster’ with Norma Winstone, as well as a lot of other stuff he later put out on his Impressed series. 


He’d mix a lot of music I didn’t know in with stuff I did, like John Martyn for example.   I felt his taste was very similar to mine and before that I wasn’t too interested in jazz but then I became pretty much obsessed by it for a while. 


I was living in Soho around the corner from Cheapo Cheapo records and they used to have a bargain bin selling records for three pounds a pop. I got Lps like Marc Brierly’s ‘Welcome to the Citadel' from there.


It was a good time for me as I’d been reading Record Collector for years absorbing all their articles on folk and singer-songwriters and via the Cheapo bargain bins got into Pentangle and a lot of British jazz stuff.

I liked prog too. Before this time I’d found prog and jazz to be a little too full-on as my tastes had evolved from music that was a little more simplified.   


When did you develop a taste for Easy Listening music?


A friend called Ben Thompson started up an after-hours  club in Watford playing  Sound Gallery type tunes; Ananda Shankar, Jumpin Jack Flash type stuff. 

He introduced me to the Sound Gallery compilation lp


I started belatedly paying proper attention to the Studio Two and Easy Listening Lps which in previous years had annoyed me when I had to wade through them in the charity shops. 


I loved the stuff!   Lots of really well-recorded, excellent tunes which bring back memories of being a child. The lush strings and arrangements reminded me of the radio playing on car journeys with my parents and


sounds from the television like the Milk Tray advert


Ben was one of the first people I knew who had a shelf full of library lps and at the time I didn’t even know what they were. 


He got into that scene very quickly and was very lucky because he hoovered up loads of them from libraries, colleges and radio stations before other people were on to them.


How did you find the Vinyl Vulture music forum?


That was a direct result of getting into Easy.  Via another friend I met a chap called Andy Lewis who attended the same local Bushey Record Fairs that I did.  He ran a club in London called ‘Blow-Up’ which I went down to a couple of times.  Like Ben he was very into the Easy Listening and Library Music scene.


I caught up with the whole Easy scene well after it had unfolded.  Before that time if I ever saw a Studio Two Lp I automatically thought it would be something my grand dad would listen to. 

That’s how I ended up on the Vinyl Vulture message forum (now VG+).  I’d got into the Sound Gallery, Pye Quad Studio Two’s and then a friend called Oliver Lomax introduced me to the site.  I immediately loved the ‘Labels of Love’ section, using it for reference along the lines of ‘Right I’ve got this one, haven’t got that one.’


It was the beginning of real involvement in the internet for me as well. Before this time I only ever used the internet for my business website, emails, Ebay and so forth and it sounds really silly now but I didn’t ever think of Googling for information about lps.


I was a very late social internet user.


Vinyl Vulture opened up a whole new other world for me.  I was drawn in by the articles on the site like the Lords of Lounge, Library and Krautrock and was equally fascinated by the discussion on the forum itself. 


Before finding Vinyl Vulture I always thought there were not very many people listening to Pentangle, Prog, Psych and so forth.


How did Cranium Pie evolve?
The main man in Cranium Pie is a friend of mine called Robin who is a keyboard player. He used to live in and around Watford and we used to be in bands together. He moved to Bath, invested in recording equipment and I’d go down there and we’d mess around creating music.


We did a soundtrack to an imaginary psychic detective series called " Charlie Why" which actually never existed, but we made a soundtrack for it anyway


We made about six tracks in two days in a box room before Rob had the proper studio, It was great fun making this stuff up and we had a lot of laughs whilst doing it.


I wanted to do more but living so far away in Watford it was difficult. Rob still has the music kicking about somewhere and was saying he might stick it up on the Cranium Pie website one day.

Effi Deep on the VG+ forum posted up the fun idea of forum members doing cover versions of easy listening tunes to create a unique VG+ Cd.


I thought it was a great idea so we did a simple keyboards and drums cover of ‘Baby You’re A Rich Man’ with bass added later.


We got genuine interest in the track from Fruits De Mer records who happened to be looking for cover versions and they liked it so much they put it out as a single.


Robin had already worked up a cover version of ‘Madman Running Though The Fields’ with another friend of his called Tim which I later added a drum track onto so the two tracks became the first Cranium Pie single.


Robin had been creating music with Tim as Cranium Pie and I already knew Tim from when he played drums in "The Zen Hussies" and we got on very well.



My involvement definitely stepped up a gear from doing the Baby You’re a Rich Man single which had originally been created purely for the VG+covers game.

From there on in we all started working more seriously together, enough for me to start travelling regularly up the M4 to Bath for rehearsals, then we gradually drafted in other people to become a fuller band. Steve the bass player and Dan on Guitar.


And what about 'A Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble?'


Cranium Pie tracks were featured on the first two Psychedelic Monstrous Bubble compilations. The tracks they used on the first compilation were more to do with music Robin and Tim had created before I joined.


All the exposure led to us performing at the Green Man festival and we also performed on one of the smaller stages at Glastonbury.

We’ve finished an album now (Mechanisms - Part 1) and we’re waiting for it to be mixed.

The Monstrous Bubble comps sold really well and went on to get some award or other in Mojo magazine at the end of the year.


It’s funny really because many regular VG+ music forum members would be very familiar with a lot of the tracks that made up the compilations but for younger people and the public in general, they’d probably be hearing all those psychedelic Prog bands for the first time.


The Monstrous compilers are doing a great job taking this kind of music to the masses.


I can see your vinyl habit is still very apparent... 


To me there’s a kind of ritual for listening to music.  It’s something I like to do in front of a record player, relaxed rather than in front of a screen or jogging with headphones on. 


I like to absorb it and that’s always been the way since I was a kid.  It’s something I’ve been doing for so long it’s a habit.


I still love getting home with a pile of records like an archaeologist who’s just dug up something covered in mud and wants to clean it up, have a look and see what it is. 


I’m still intrigued by the whole process of finding, discovering and listening.  There’s always this rush when you play through your finds and drop the needle on something which sounds great and you just don’t get the same feeling clicking away on the internet.


There’s an excitement, a ‘wow, that’s a really great track!  I didn’t expect that!’ that made that journey out to the charity shop worth it.  There’s fun involved.


Julian Leigh Smith interviewed by Ian Townsend:

Wednesday October 13th 2010



Visiting Julian's shop at a later date I chanced upon him very happy at having found a box of 45s from his childhood.


All of them were signed in pencil (see left) and several had bite marks on the edges.


Julian explained that his former five-year old self was convinced that warps could be removed in this way and was more than happy to re-enact his earlier efforts the camera.



Second Scene Record Shop

- Vinyl Bought and Sold -

125 Pinner Road

Oxhey, Watford

WD19 4EJ


Telephone: 01923 800635




Forumusic Copyright: All aspects of this web site – design, text, graphics, applications, software, underlying source code and all other aspects – are copyright and of its affiliates, members and content providers. In accessing these web pages, you agree that any downloading of content is for personal, non-commercial reference only. No part of this web site may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior permission of the Website Owner