AFTER The Sunday Times named Abergavenny the best place to live in Wales, Chronicle reporter Tim Butters thought he’d ask Marty Wilde, who immortalised the town in song way back in 1969, what he thought about the honour.  

“It’s well deserved!” Explained the rock n’ roll legend who celebrates his 85th birthday in April with a new single ‘Two Eyes Streaming.’ “The town deserves every accolade that comes its way. It’s a fantastic place.”

Marty’s love affair with Abergavenny, began like so many memorable things in life do, on the way to a pantomime.

“My wife and I were driving to Swansea to perform in a panto. She was Maid Marion and I was Robin Hood, and while on the road, I noticed a sign for a place called Abergavenny. To my English ears, the very name felt bewitching. We don’t have place names like that and almost immediately I said the word aloud and was captivated by its rhythm. Abergavenny lends itself to a natural beat really well, and as a songwriter and musician I thought not only would it be a great title for a song but a great word to sing.” 

In between panto performances, Marty began to scribble down a few lyrics, and then feeling the need to see the town behind this strange name he jumped in the car and headed to Monmouthshire. 

“The first thing I noticed was the hills. They were beautiful and had poetic names like the Sugar Loaf,” explained Marty. “There was also a sense of freshness and freedom to the place. I’ve always had a soft spot for market towns but Abergavenny had something else!” 

Throughout the years, the lyric from the song ‘Abergavenny’ -  “If you should see a red dog running free”  has been subject to any number of interpretations and heated discussions in local pubs. Yet according to Marty, the meaning is quite simple. 

“I always imagined if I lived in Abergavenny I’d have a red setter and spend my time walking in the mountains, and that’s where the line comes from,” he explained.  

Marty also revealed that originally there were plans to write “Abergavenny - The Musical,” featuring a whole repertoire of songs. 

He told the Chronicle, “We had a piece about the Sugar Loaf mountain and so forth, but the single ‘Abergavenny’ really took off in Europe and the idea for a musical was put on the back burner and soon forgotten about.” 

Over half a century later Marty still has a deep attachment to the song. He revealed, “Do you know, it’s quite funny. A few days before you got in touch, my pianist on my current tour, said, ‘Marty, let’s put ‘Abergavenny’ on the setlist. It’s a great song and always gets a fantastic reaction.’ Lo and behold the next thing I know, the Abergavenny Chronicle are calling me!” 

Marty said, “I’ve been writing songs since I was 11. Some are good, some are terrible, and some stand the test of time. ‘Abergavenny’ is one of those! Peter Knight deserves a lot of credit for the arrangement of the song. It’s not complicated but it’s just right and gives the tune its swagger.”

Marty added, “Wales is famous for its brass bands and I’d love for someone to do a brass arrangement of ‘Abergavenny’. I’d come down to Wales like a shot to help. Peter Knight’s provided the blueprint and I’d love for the song to become a standard in a brass band’s repertoire. It has that marching, feel-good factor. It would be great to know that when I’m gone, brass bands everywhere are still blowing the roofs off with ‘Abergavenny!’”