EVER since it gave the world Diana Dors in the 1950s, Swindon has punched well above its weight in the entertainment industry.

Much of that talent has been in music, and the 1970s were a case in point.

In the early and middle years of the decade, a casual observer might have been forgiven for thinking that pop stardom on this side of the Atlantic depended on having six-inch platform soles and a tailor able to sew suits from aluminium foil. Even if the music was good, image was all, and everybody from The Sweet to Slade and from Marc Bolan to Alvin Stardust knew it.

Bucking the glam rock trend was a certain Raymond O'Sullivan, Irish-born but raised mostly in Swindon, who took the distinctly unglamorous stage name of Gilbert. His talent as a songwriter was enough to sell millions of records. singles such as Clair and Alone Again (Naturally) are part of the collective consciousness of anybody who heard them during those years.

He is still a regular visitor to family members who remain in Swindon.

While at art college here in the 1960s, he was a friend of famous artist-to-be Ken White and a certain Rick Davies, who was born and raised in Eastcott Hill. Davies would go on to found Supertramp, another band forever to be thought of as a defining musical force of the decade.

For their most famous album, Breakfast in America, they hit on the idea of showing each musician reading his hometown newspaper.

That is how an issue of the Swindon Advertiser came to be seen on the back of an album.

Another famous Swindonian, Justin Hayward, had already staked his claim to rock immortality by writing much of the oeuvre of the Moody Blues. His songs included Nights In White Satin, a high water mark of sophisticated, experimental music in the 1960s.

As if this were not enough, he helped to sculpt the musical landscape again in 1978 when he agreed to provide vocals for Jeff Wayne's concept album based on HG Wells's The War of the Worlds.

Forever Autumn reached the top five in the singles chart and the album that spawned it remained popular enough for a multi-CD collector's edition to sell out as recently as 2005.

When XTC came along at the end of the 1970s, they seemed to fit no pigeonhole.

Headed up by Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding, they were neither self-indulgent progressive rock student types, nor snarling punks.

The only thing that could be said for sure was that they were among the most talented songwriters and musicians ever to set foot in a studio.

They enjoyed stints in the upper reaches of music charts all over the world, and retain a large and loyal international following to this day.