There were a few of them, back in the dark ages, that you’d think twice about looking crooked at. Declan Jones from Blue In Heaven, all seven foot odd of him in his leather keks and his Chelsea boots, was one. Half  of Whipping Boy, a couple of The Gorehounds, Dave Lavelle from The Honey Thieves. And maybe the gruffest of all of them, Dave Couse of A House, who’d skewer you with a look or a one-liner if you tried to blackguard him. Or even if you didn’t.

The first time I met Couse in person was on the concourse at Kent Station in Cork as he’d stepped off of an incoming train from Dublin. ‘So’, he asks. ‘What have you done for A House today ?’. He was never one who hung around to get his eye in.

And in truth, I’d done little for A House that day and I’d done little most other days too for the band that Couse formed with Fergal Bunbury,  Martin Healy and Dermot Wylie in West Dublin in the early 1980s. But  then they never struck me as either needing support or actively seeking assistance ;- from a remove, they looked like one of the most self-sufficient, durable and intense bands in the country and, to that end, were probably best left alone. And anyway, there were others, mostly on my own door-step in Cork, who were far more deserving of my first aid or, as history might record it, the hemlock kiss.

Maybe, alighted from a train ride from Dublin to Cork, Couse was just hungry and cranky ;- as one of those who regularly experienced the inter-city dining options during the 1980s and 1990s, its easy to appreciate how that may have been the case. Eitherway, once I’d fed and watered him, and after we’d completed a spiky exchange for an RTÉ youth television strand called ‘Scratch Saturday’, he certainly softened up a bit and I saw a hint of light beyond the blanket.

Over several subsequent years, I had a decent sideline view of A House while I worked with Keith Cullen at Setanta Records and, for a time, was close enough to see the meat on the bone. I never knew them particularly well  – nor they I – to go anywhere deeper than a clean cut on the finger but I was still privy enough to see just how driven and determined they were on so many levels. They rarely let up or let go and Couse was at the heart of it all, setting the tempo, consistency in a world slowly gazing at its shoes.

In his pomp he was a restless and forceful writer who saw merit in the malevolent vignette. Fronting a group whose considerable achievement was often taken for granted and who were never entirely a common currency, one aspect often fuelled the other. A House, like many others before them and after them, were at their best when Couse was at his most tart. They consistently demanded the final word and, with Couse on the mic, it was often a bitter one ;- when the good times came, they were forever fleeting.

A House issued five studio albums for three different labels, most of which are among the finest Irish releases of their generation and, all things considered, the band endured for far longer than many of its peers. But their recorded output apart, it was the line they walked – and often deliberately played with – between charm, arrogance, resilience and bloody-mindedness that tended to define them.

In as much as the parameters of their original, four-square guitar-fused line-up would allow, A House were as unique as any and better than most. And later, after they re-shuffled their pack in the aftermath of their second album – after which they were promptly dropped by their label – bolstering their line-up and adding finesse and steel in equal part, they refined their game and went for it again, baldly. But in both their iterations they were as difficult to pin down as their cover was difficult to penetrate ;- in an Irish context, the biggest issue many seemed to have with A House was that they weren’t Something Happens, with whom they were long associated and with whom they were consistently locked in a competitive, often truculent side-show.

Tony O’Donoghue, now RTÉ’s football correspondent, once pounded the footpaths around Cork city to the point of fracture. In the days before mobile phones, you could always locate him if you wandered Patrick Street long enough and, in his leather jacket and pointy suedes, he certainly looked the part of a hip, young gunslinger. In the best and worst traditions of the freelancing hack, he held down a slew of wide-ranging jobs, one of the most interesting of which was a short, weekly slot on Cork Local Radio, where he’d play snippets of a couple of new releases, draw our attention to upcoming concerts and live events around town and jolt the RTÉ sound recordists from their torpor, however briefly.

As a clueless fresher still navigating his way around most things, I’d often still be at home during lunchtimes and would regularly catch Tony’s finely-tuned political broadcasts on behalf of quality independent Irish music. During a period in which emerging, indigenous rock music was in rude good health, and when the standard of its recorded output was mirrored by the development of a regular, sustainable national live circuit, Tony was rarely short of decent material. Broadcasting in short form long before the term was hi-jacked by digital marketing consultants and social media influencers, and while the regions were often starved of relevant music media, his weekly sermons cherried the cake for many of us, putting a partisan frosting on the national proselytising of the likes of Dave Fanning’s Rock Show on Radio 2FM.

And it was during one of Tony’s local homilies in 1987 that I heard the first shimmer of ‘Snowball Down’, A House’s second single and, for me, one of the most pressing, urgent cuts in the history of Irish alternative music. Produced by Chris O’Brien and released on the band’s own, self-funded imprint, RIP Records, it clocked in at just over 150 seconds, with its shades of The Bunnymen, The Blue Aeroplanes and some of the more subtle aspects – prominent, nimble bass, prominent acoustic strum – of the paisley underground. As opening statements go, both ‘Snowball Down’ and the band’s debut issue that preceded it months earlier, ‘Kick Me Again, Jesus’, punched far beyond the national qualifying standard.



To a handful of local anoraks, hangers-on and indie spotters, though, this was just another rung on a curve steeping progressively upwards.

The Underground Bar on Dublin’s Dame Street was a much-loved dive and, for a number of years, a small and important cog in the local machine, very strictly off-Broadway. [The site on which it stood is now occupied by a racy shop called ‘Condom Power’, an irony not lost on former regulars who fondly remember the old bar’s sardonic drayman, Big Johnny]. Run by Jeff Brennan and his father, Noel, the downstairs parlour was where, to my mind, the first and last great domestic music movement really took root hosting, as it did, frenetic and often chaotic early shows by the likes of Rex And Dino, Something Happens, The Stars of Heaven, Power Of Dreams, The Slowest Clock, [Backwards] Into Paradise, Whipping Boy, The Dixons and A House themselves.

The careless spirit of that period and the claustrophobic aspect of the tiny venue is captured naked on a short, six-song album, ‘Live At The Underground’, that was recorded there over two nights in 1985 and issued by Jeff on his own, one-off label, ‘Fear And Loathing Records’. Four years earlier, Elvera Butler’s ‘Kaught At The Kampus’ also cuffed six live tracks onto tape during shows recorded at the famed, UCC-hosted shows at The Arcadia Ballroom in Cork and, even if neither album was ever intended to trouble the chart compilers, both records served real purpose nonetheless. Over thirty years later, what were clearly just calling cards for two highly-regarded live venues have become, absolutely by default, curios that capture some of the more unique sights, sounds and perhaps even smells of the time, for posterity.

And A House are there on ‘Live At The Underground’, callow but recognisable, alongside The Stars Of Heaven, Something Happens and Hughie Purcell – contributing the shambling ‘On Your Bike, Wench, And Let’s Have The Back Of You’ to the party, before quickly moving on.

Indeed the band’s re-birth on the Setanta label between 1990 and 1992,during which they recorded and released the bridging [and aptly-titled, in my view] ‘Doodle’ EP and then the magnificent ‘I Am The Greatest’, is worth a long read in its own right. For a band down on it’s luck and back on the labour, the title of that record reflects A House’s constant, inerrant belief in it’s own ability. But then all five of their album titles can be read as sarcastic, sly references to the way the band saw itself, and especially it’s evolving relationship – good, mixed and mostly bad – with the music industry. From the shadowy optimism of the debut on a major label, ‘On Our Big Fat Merry Go-Round’ to the damning reality of a slow degeneration on it’s stubborn follow-up, ‘I Want Too Much’ through the life-affirming ‘I Am The Greatest’, the return to a major ‘Wide Eyed And Ignorant’ and the closing, sardonic chapter, ‘No More Apologies’, these were clear, political punch-lines that mashed a snotty face on the bay window of the industry that begot them. ‘The music business ?’, A House might have mused, summoning another dolefulstreet philosopher, Norm Peterson . ‘Can’t live with it. Pass the beer-nuts’.

The band played it’s last ever show on February 28th, 1997, in Dublin’s Olympia Theatre, a stone’s throw from The Underground Bar, aloof and diffident to the end. But although A House boasted a noisy and loyal support base all around the country, I long suspected they were far more comfortable outside of Ireland where, arguably, they were more critically valued and where they consistently had one up on Something Happens. But they were also clued in enough to know when to call time and, when the curtain fell, it was on the band’s own terms :- they scripted their own funeral in detail and organised the buffet afterwards.



In 2002, five years after A House packed up their tent, ‘Here Come The Good Times’, by a distance the band’s most contagious pop song, was selected as Ireland’s official World Cup anthem as the country’s international football team headed off to compete in that summer’s competition in Japan and Korea. Its beefed-up glam rock production and shiny pop veneer notwithstanding, the song is actually about a lifetime of personal disappointment [where good times occur ‘for a change’]  and, in hindsight, seemed like a perfectly prescient selection, given how Ireland’s World Cup campaign unfolded.

Remembered less for the team’s unfortunate and maybe unlucky exit from the tournament and far more for Roy Keane’s strop, after which he tore out of the team’s training camp on the island of Saipan and returned home, it was appropriate that the ghosts of A House were on hand to faithfully soundtrack the misfortunes of a nation.

Eight years and two World Cups previously, Parlophone Records, their second major label, had failed to crack ‘Here Come The Good Times’ into the mainstream. This achievement was at once so scarcely unbelievable and yet perfectly in keeping with the band’s long experiences in the middle ground ;- the writing was on the wall for that relationship and, one suspects, A House itself, thereafter.

A salvo from that stomping pop song had also featured briefly as part of a spectacular opening montage shot around Ireland for the opening of the 1995 Eurovision Song Contest, hosted by Mary Kennedy and broadcast live from The Point Depot in Dublin. And however fleetingly, it seemed as if A House had finally recovered some of the face they’d lost when Gay Byrne patronised them to within inches of their lives as he introduced them on The Late Late Show before they performed their excellent ‘I’ll Always Be Grateful’ single back on the floor of Studio One on October 14th, 1988.

The last time I saw Dave Couse was from a distance after a Frank And Walters show in Dublin city many years ago. I hear him, from time to time, on his infrequent radio show where, from his song selections alone, I suspect he still holds many of those same beliefs he did when, a quarter of a century ago, we first locked horns in Cork. His band remain one of the real enigmas – and genuine successes – of contemporary Irish rock music and while, in the twenty years since that last curtain call, you’d expect all parties to have moved on, you’d suspect that no one felt the band’s lack of a broader breakthrough more keenly than Couse himself.

And whenever I hear him on the radio now – and he’s still as captivatingas he’s ever been – it just hardens my view that all disc jockeys, like television producers and music writers – are, at heart, just frustrated musicians who, because of events and an absence of good fortune, are doing the next best and closest things instead.

And then there’s the standing Couse enjoys in the recent history of Cork popular music. In the long traditions of keeping the best secrets on the inside, he produced the first Frank And Walters E.P. for the Setanta label and, in hindsight, should have gone on and finished the job by doing the band’s debut album as well. By the time he was back behind the bench with them, far too late, on their second – and still easily their best album, ‘Grand Parade’, the moment, you’d think, was lost, the spirit having flown. But Couse’s whipsmart production only highlights how under-cooked ‘Trains, Boats And Planes’, The Franks’ nervous-sounding debut, was ;- in no way does the sound of that record do justice to many of it’s terrific cuts. ‘Trains’ has aged poorly and, twenty-five years on, sounds emaciated and tinny :- given the steroids Couse also infused into The Franks’ ‘Beauty Becomes More Than Life’ elpee in 2006, it’s difficult not to think now of what he could have done, years previously, with the debut.  And where that might have taken both parties.

Years later, several worlds collided and I was among the team tasked with producing RTÉ’s Late Late Show, immediately after Gay Byrne had stepped down as host and Pat Kenny moved up onto the crease. I felt it was only right, for several reasons, to move away from the show’s long-standing signature tune, an instrumental passage taken from Chris Andrews’ 1965 hit, ‘To Whom It Concerns’ and so I invited Dave, and a handful of others, to pitch any alternative suggestions they may have had. In my own mind, rightly or wrongly, I felt it was an opportunity to commission a contemporary Irish writer and to maybe sub-contract the work out to someone who may have had a fresh perspective on such matters. Which is what we did :- and it was Ray Harman of Something Happens who eventually composed a new theme for the programme. In the years since he’s carved out a terrific career for himself providing similar services to the feature film and documentary markets.

Dave Couse has stayed nicely busy too and, his radio work apart, has released a handful of records on several labels and under a variety of different band-names, in the years since. Among which the  ‘Batman And Robin’ single, released in September, 2005 under the band name Couse And The Impossible, is still easily the best of his solo material, some of which, his debut solo album ‘Genes’, in particular, is far more introspective and difficult than one might have expected.

For the last ten years or so I’ve spent far too much time in the shopping centre in Nutgrove, close to where I now life on the southside of Dublin. Where once I used it to do a regular family grocery shop and maybe pick  up an over-priced, over-caloried coffee on the hoof, its now one of my primary social outlets, somewhere to kill an hour during the insanity or whenever I want to lose my children. There’s a Credit Union office on the complex, an excellent off-licence and a couple of decent take-aways ;- a trip to Nutgrove is everything that a casual wander into the heart of Soho used to be.

The music piped into the centre and out over the tannoys must be among the most interesting and diverse anywhere in the country. Buried in among the sterile old standards you’ll hear, on a routine basis, selections from The Icicle Works, early New Order, The Lotus Eaters and The Fountains Of Wayne. And on a couple of occasions recently, I’ve heard ‘I’ll Always Be Grateful’, still one of A House’s most distinctive cuts, as I’ve dallied in the aisles among the detergents and the toilet rolls.

But while I know that Dave Couse lives on that side of the city, I don’t remember him being invited down to cut the ribbon when they opened the re-furbished Argos branch there a few years back.





Our latest post is another guest post. This is the second piece we have posted from Mick O’Dwyer. Mick lives in Brussels and works as a librarian in the European Council. His first guest post for The Blackpool Sentinel was a great, widely read, piece on The Sultans of Ping This time round he writes about seminal New Zealand label Flying Nun Records. Over to Mick now … 


It all started with a keyboard riff. Simple and raw and under produced.

I moved to New Zealand in early 2011. My knowledge of their music scene was only Crowded House, Bic Runga and the unquestionable classic, “How Bizarre”.

Not an overly inspiring list.

I had been living in Australia at the time, in Melbourne. I loved Melbourne; Sydney Road and Brunswick, all the dingy punk venues, The Nova, Lord of the Fries and the Tote. It killed me to leave.  I landed in Christchurch just after the earthquake and got out of there as fast as I could, taking the ferry across the Tasmin Sea.  The sea was so rough people fainted on the trip over. Finally we arrived in Wellington. In windy Wellington. I disembarked the boat in the midst of a gale, battered with that sideways rain that’s impossible to walk in.


My ambivalence was fleeting.

Wellington is the capital of New Zealand, and nicknamed the “coolest little capital in the world”. Its a pretty apt description. Its undoubtedly cool, bursting with hipster coffee shops and independent cinemas showing movies like ‘The Room’ on a regular basis. But its also definitely ‘little’. Its sorta half way between Cork and Galway in size. Its prettier than both, but devoid of Buckfast. Like Galway, when something happens in Wellington everyone knows about it. Walking down Cuba Mall on a Saturday is much like walking through Shop Street ; it takes forever as you’re constantly bumping into people every few yards.

I moved there to buzz around for a bit. I didn’t feel like going back to Ireland and had heard Wellington was like the Melbourne of Aotearoa. I moved into a hostel where I looked for a job and an apartment and had the craic with the other guests. Shortly after moving there, I awoke to find the city covered in posters for a monthly post-punk night called Atomic.  All of my hostel ended up going to it, everyone in good spirits, everyone drunk. ‘Echo Beach’ was belted out one minute, ‘Damaged Goods’ the next. At some ungodly hour I was shaken out of my senses by a keyboard riff.  It sounded like it was played on a child’s Casio and the only lyric I could make out was ‘Tally Ho, Tally Ho’. The reaction it got took me aback ; the dancefloor swamped with cool Kiwis shouting along. Everyone who knew it seemed to love it. It was almost like a badge of honour being able to dance to it, a NZ ‘Where’s Me Jumper’. I had no idea who it was, I just knew it was perfect in every way.

Later, as I was leaving, I remembered the flyers for the night had included a listing of all the bands featured in it. So my eyes scoured the room before honing in on a well-trodden one that I rescued, putting it in my pocket. As I didn’t have a laptop or smart phone, the next day I went to an internet café and played all the acts named on the flyer that I didn’t know, going through them one by one. Eventually I hit the jackpot.

I landed on The Clean, and opened a door to Flying Nun.

Flying Nun is more than just a record label, it’s a Kiwi institution.

Launched on a shoestring by record store employee Roger Shepherd, its renowned as the label of the much fabled ‘Dunedin sound’ ; the term used to describe the acts emerging from Dunedin for most of the 80s. The scene took the ethos of punk, post-punk, jangle, folk, garage and DIY culture, and used those influences to forge original, independent music that has had continuing reverberations internationally for over 30 years. Be it Sub Pop, Creation or Rough Trade, the early Flying Nun collection holds its own against any of them.



What was it about Dunedin that spawned this ‘sound’ ? I spent a weekend there once, during the 2011 Rugby World Cup, and it’s not a wholly remarkable place. Being a student town, it has plenty of bars and venues. It has a Cadburys factory and a beach. In my hostel I was told one of the main tourist attractions was the really, really steep hill.

Though in fairness, you should see this hill!

The town was founded by Scottish Presbyterian settlers, and I can see why they chose Dunedin.  It’s cold and green, like their homeland. The music coming out of Dunedin bore a similar vein to that which came out of Glasgow in the 80’s, a definite jangle twang is evident in both places [Glasgow even had its own iconic indie record label – Postcard].  The joke in Dunedin is that the reason there was so many bands there was because the weather was so cold that students formed bands just to keep warm. I’d say there is a degree of truth in that.



Its an isolated city, but geographic isolation did not mean cultural isolation. NME was sold there, record stores imported vinyl from the UK, US and Europe. Punk and post-punk had an impact. This geographical isolation manifested itself in a yearning, a recognition of what was happening in the rest of the world and a yearning to be part of something bigger. If anything I think it is more accurate to describe a shared Dunedin feeling than a common sound. Many of the songs have a magical jangle, but the range of music released is too broad to be lumped in together under the one heading.

After listening to ‘Tally Ho’ on repeat, I watched the video for The Clean’s ‘Anything Could Happen’.  I loved everything about it.  I’m not sure whether it was the perfect pop-sing-along chorus or the jangly melody or the fact that the video looks like something Bob Dylan made during his 1966 London press conferences, it’s amazing! After listening to it on repeat I was desperate to discover more!

YouTube is great and all, but if you want a real understanding, you go to the library, and Wellington has the one of the most marvellous public libraries I’ve stepped foot in. Wedged in the bosom of Wellington harbour, its warm with high ceilings and ample natural light. It has a zine collection, a really nice coffee shop and, most importantly for this story, an extensive CD collection with loads of Flying Nun.  I spent hours in there, immersing myself in Flying Nun Records, educating myself about Kiwi culture.

I first attacked the heavyweights of the label: The Clean, The Chills and The Bats.

No band embodies the ‘Dunedin Sound’ quite like The Clean. They are the cornerstone of Flying Nun and it’s most influential act. And they’re just so effortlessly cool.  From the release of their iconic debut EP, ‘Boodle Boodle Boodle’, right throughout their career, they have never conformed. Most of their early stuff was released as EPs rather than full length albums [as was the Flying Nun policy at the time]. Just as they were beginning to make waves, they split up, only to reform and release albums sporadically, whenever they feel like it. It was on the back of The Clean’s early commercial success that Flying Nun was able to provide a platform for countless independent Kiwi acts. Their influence is apparent in and referenced across the spectrum, from indie royalty like Sonic Youth and Pavement to Irish garage punks Sissy and the #1s [who even have a savage cover of Oddity].  I don’t know how there’s not statues of the band built all over the Land of the Long White Cloud.  There should at least be a statue placed at the top of the really, really steep hill.



Out of all the Flying Nun bands the Chills came closest to making it internationally. They almost did with their song ‘Heavenly Pop Hit’, which had a good stab at the US charts. Their song ‘Pink Frost’ is a masterpiece. It has a timeless quality to it. It could have been made 20 years ago – or 20 years from now – and it always sounds fresh.  They wrote perfect pop songs and it’s good to see that in Europe they seem to finally be getting the recognition they deserve, having toured here several times over the past few years, including a gig in The Button Factory.

I saw The Bats play the San Francisco Bathhouse during the Flying Nun 30th anniversary celebrations. Kinda looking like a bunch of cool teachers in your school who formed a band, they were wonderful. Although I love the Orange Juice-esque strum of their early stuff, like ‘Claudine’ or ‘Made Up in Blue’, 2011’s ‘Free All Monsters’ album is up there with anything they have made.

Arguably there is no one more important to the Flying Nun label than Chris Knox. A legendary figure on the Kiwi punk scene, it was after watching Chris’s punk band, The Enemy, that members of early Flying Nun bands decided to form their own groups, much in the same way The Sex Pistols’ Manchester gigs spawned a million bands. There’s something about him ; an underlying air of a troublemaker, a shroud of menace of a man who would be wild after a few beers. Knox had a bad experience recording in a studio in Australia early on in his career, which he never shook. When he returned to New Zealand, he purchased a 4 track. It was the best decision he ever made. It was on this 4 track that he would produce most of the early Flying Nun output, and become synonymous with DIY recording with his band, The Tall Dwarfs.

While Flying Nun’s output is not necessarily punk, it’s a punk label – DIY in its purest sense! Roger Shepherd formed the label because he recognised something was happening that needed to be recorded and no major labels would touch the acts. Most of the bands didn’t have contracts. It was run out of a tiny little office in Christchurch, with the work done by a handful of friends. The artwork had a fanzine, cut and paste feel to it. No one made much money at the time, though they released sheer gold.

This DIY element is even apparent in their videos. The early Flying Nun videos are great. You can clearly tell there wasn’t much money put into them. Despite looking endearingly amateurish, they’ve stood the test of time, and look far superior to most big budget videos being made today. I think my favourite is ‘Death and the Maiden’ by The Verlaines. The concept is just the band playing in a house, as their mates drink while a few rabbits hop around. It’s perfect.



Delving through the Flying Nun catalogue, you constantly seem to unearth hidden gems, like ‘Coat’ by The Pin Group. Though having the honour of being the premier release of the label when it was launched, The Pin Group are often written off as a Joy Division covers band. To me this is just too obvious a criticism. Do they sound like Joy Division – yes. But are their songs incredible in their own right? Fucking sure !

Sounding like a Garage punk warp spasm, The Stones are criminally overlooked. Their compilation album, ‘Three Blind Mice’, is magnificent, in particular the song ‘Down and around’. It’s easily one of the greatest pieces of music in the whole Flying Nun catalogue. Vocals are spat out with a sneering contempt for the listener. Vibrant, aggressive and exciting, The Gordons are the same. One listen to ‘Coalminer’s song’ shows they were making grunge music over 10 years before it became popular in Seattle.



Of all the Flying Nun acts, no one holds as much mystery to me as Dunedin’s tragic, unsung hero, Peter Gutteridge. Gutteridge’s story is heart-breaking. He was a founding member of The Clean and The Chills but left early on in both their careers. He battled through years of addictions and substance abuse before finally killing himself just after he played his first ever gigs in America. He was a raw talent that got lost, though he burned ever so brightly on numerous occasions. At just 17, he co-wrote The Clean’s motorik classic ‘Point that thing somewhere else’. His post-Clean band with the Kilgour brothers – The Great Unwashed – moved the dial even further for what was acceptable in New Zealand as experimental, commercial pop-music. But it’s his work with Snapper that really stands out.

Snapper were years ahead of their time. Though released in 1988, their debut EP was built on the blueprint laid by Krautrock to form the repetitive, heavy drone sound bands like Moon Duo and Folkazoid became renowned for, 25 years later. Listening to it is like being hit repeatedly by waves of noise, every song a classic. My favourite story I heard about him is how during gigs he would bark things like “SEND OUT THE SNAKES” to his band-mates. They would then have to try and work out what the hell type of a sound he was on about!

If Snapper had been around today they would be headlining psychfests around the globe.  Unfortunately they are not, though they did leave us with ‘Gentle Hour’. ‘Gentle Hour’ is a wonder. It’s got none of the heavy drone of their later albums or the sonic DIY ambiance of some of Gutteridge’s solo stuff. It’s crafted from beautiful, lo-fi distortion and hushed noise, like early Jesus and Mary Chain. Simple, powerful lyrics showcase his understated genius.  Lines like ‘you’re in my mind all the time’, ‘its such a pleasure to touch your heart, I can hardly breath’ or ‘I couldn’t have done anything else’, have never felt so desperate or so pure.



The first time I heard the song was as a cover version by Yo La Tengo on the charity album ‘Dark was the night’. On an otherwise utterly forgettable compilation, ‘Gentle Hour’ stuck out like a sore thumb. Gone was Snapper’s beautiful fuzz, replaced by an ethereal, haunting yearn.  It sounds almost otherworldly!

If I was on Desert Island Discs, The Clean’s cover of ‘Gentle Hour’ would be one of my picks. They completely reinvent the song again, upping the tempo, morphing it into a jangle guitar record that has attached itself to my very core. It never leaves me, just lays there dormant, waiting to be summoned when a certain mood moves me.

Since leaving New Zealand, I’ve preached the Flying Nuns gospel to anyone who will listen. It’s become easier to do so with Spotify, having ample full albums by most of the bands. In 2009, Rodger Shepherd was able to buy back the label and began re-mastering and re-releasing it’s eclectic back catalogue and unleashing a whole new wave of acts. Fazerdaze is particularly exciting ;- sounding a bit like a shoegaze Cat Power, her debut EP is sublime.

But when I think of Flying Nun Records, I am always reminded of the year I spent in Wellington. To me it’s as synonymous with New Zealand as Jonah Lomu or The Lord of the Rings. Whenever I listen to The Chills or The Stones it takes me back to the hours I spent in Wellington public library, digging through treasure. Or the time I convinced a big, Mauri bouncer to let me into a sold-out show by The Clean, just so I could buy a t-shirt for my brother, and then asking the bouncer for fashion advice on which t-shirt to buy [‘that one looks sweet-as, mate’].

But mostly I think of a keyboard riff.

Simple and raw and under produced.

Tally ho tally ho!


Mick will have a fanzine about Peter Gutteridge – “Turning to the Grave”, released in the near future.

[Want more of the music? Check out this Mick-compiled playlist on YouTube]



Morrissey Hayfield Manor

Denis and Morrissey at Hayfield Manor


This, our latest guest post came about on the back of a Twitter exchange after Colm’s most recent post, The Smiths in Cork, 1984  That exchange included contributions from Denis Carroll, a massive fan of The Smiths and Morrissey, who posted some great pictures and told a great story in the form of a number of tweets.

We asked him if he’d like to expand on his tweets and tell the story in long form. He did. And here is the result. Thanks Denis!

My name is Denis Carroll, I am aged 55 and from Cork. I got into music in the early 70s, my favourites being T. Rex, Marc Bolan and David Bowie. I was obsessed with T. Rex and Marc Bolan, buying all their records and any magazines within which they featured.

In late 1983, after seeing The Smiths on Top of the Pops, I became a massive fan of the band, and in particular Morrissey. The Smiths have become the band of my life! I have seen The Smiths live twelve times and Morrissey over 100 times across the world.

I first saw The Smiths live in May 1984 in the SFX Concert Hall, Dublin and two days later at The Savoy Theatre, Cork (see ticket – Image 1 – not mine!). Later that year, in November 1984, I saw The Smiths live again at The Savoy Theatre, Corkand this is where I had my first encounter with Morrissey. I was working in a night-club called CoCos, which was attached to The Victoria Hotel, Cork, in which the band were staying (see room layout – Image 2)

That Sunday afternoon [18th November], I went into the hotel with the first two albums – ‘The Smiths’ and ‘Hatful of Hollow’ – under my arm, hoping for them both to be signed. I waited for an hour or so while listening to the chants of 40/50 Smiths fans outside the main entrance. Word got to the manager of the hotel that the band did not want to enter the hotel through the main entrance and asked was there another entrance that could be used? The manager informed them that yes, there was a back entrance on the street behind the hotel and instructed them where to go. He also informed them that someone would be there to meet them to bring them through the hotel…..and that someone was me!

I arrived at the back entrance to find the band and one or two other people waiting to be left in. I introduced myself to all four members of The Smiths and en route to their rooms, chatted with them about the two albums and that night’s concert. They signed the first two albums for me, in full (Image 3).

That night’s concert was one of the best Smiths shows I saw, only slightly marred by some idiot spitting at Morrissey while on stage. After the show finished I went back to the hotel, where I met with all four Smiths members and Morrissey, who was really upset by the spitting incident. The band all signed the ‘Hatful of Hollow’ promo poster for me (Image 4). Morrissey proceeded to go to bed while the rest of the band went on to party in the nightclub of the hotel.

My next encounter with Morrissey was on the afternoon of The Smiths’ final Dublin show in the National Stadium on 10th February, 1986. While walking along Grafton Street, my three friends and I bumped into Morrissey and one other person. Morrissey stopped to talk to all four of us for about 10/15 minutes about that night’s Dublin show and mentioned that they were eager to have a Cork show also but could not secure a venue for that particular tour. Morrissey asked us if we were going to that night’s show in the National Stadium and of course we told him ‘yes’, that three of us had tickets but that we were short one ticket for my, friend Tony.

We then said our goodbyes. When we got to the show that night Tony went to the box office counter only to be told Morrissey had put his name on the guest list and was escorted to a great side-of-stage seat, while the rest of us proceeded back to the seated area in the main auditorium.

My final encounter with Morrissey was on 27th July, 2011 in the Hayfield Manor hotel in Cork city. just before his show that night in The Savoy Theatre. I hung around the reception area of the hotel for a number of hours that afternoon in the hope of meeting Morrissey ;- when finally he appeared, he was being escorted to his waiting car to take him to the concert venue. As he was just about to sit into his car, I approached him for an autograph and picture; he got back out of the car and signed a number of CDs and also posed for some pictures with me (Images – top of post).

I spoke to him about that night’s show in the Savoy and the two Vicar Street [Dublin] shows that I was also attending later in the week. He was extremely polite and friendly and gave me a grand wave from the back seat of his Mercedes as he sped off to the show.


Smiths Savoy

Image 1



Smiths Hotel Room

Image 2


Smiths and Hatful of Hollow

Image 3 – Signed Albums


Hatful of Hollow poster

Image 4


Smiths Tour Dates

Image 5



Smiths MCD

Image 6



Morrissey signed pic frame

Image 7






It was shortly after midnight, early on Wednesday morning, July 29th, 1987, and it was Mark Cagney, host of ‘The Night Train’ on RTÉ Radio 2FM who, as serenely as ever, broke the news.

Home alone, and with the rest of my family off on holidays, I’d been in the habit of keeping the radio on longer and louder than usual ;- long enough, as it happened, to hear Cagney tell the nation’s more urbane taxi drivers, shift workers and anoraks that Johnny Marr had left The Smiths. And he more or less left it at that, light on detail, didn’t cite his sources and segued as seamlessly as he always did into his next track, which was more than likely a moderately left field, highly styled album cut, to which he was forever drawn. And, if I slept at all that night, I slept with my mouth open and my jaw hanging.

Cagney had one up on us. He’d either heard soundings of or had sight of that week’s issue of the London-based music magazine, New Musical Express, in which one of its senior writers, Danny Kelly, citing reliable sources in Manchester, revealed that Morrissey, The Smiths’ singer and Marr, the group’s guitarist and co-writer, had fallen out and hadn’t spoken in months. But while it was a terrific flyer, the story was vague enough on the future of the band and Kelly later admitted he may have ‘augmented’ his story with lines pulled from the back of his own head. The gut of the scoop was clear, though :- on the cusp of the release of their fifth album, all was not well with The Smiths. And this time it was serious.

Although the influential British music weeklies – NME, Melody Maker and Sounds – all regularly hit the streets around central London by lunchtime on Tuesdays, it was usually Thursday morning or later before those titles were available on the shelves in Easons, on Patrick Street in Cork, where I routinely picked up mine. And so I had an anxious wait before I finally got my hands on NME’s speculative exclusive, headlined ‘Smiths to split’.

History – and Johnny Rogan, the band’s forensic biographer – now tells us that, although The Smiths weren’t formally taken off of life-support by Morrissey until mid-September, 1987, Marr confirmed directly to Kelly within days of his initial splash that yes, he’d left the group he founded in Manchester barely five years previously. And so, in its issue dated August 8th, 1987, Kelly had his second back-to-back Smiths scoop, this time flush with quotes from inside the band.

For six weeks that summer, my first as a university student, would-be music writer, part-time laundry worker and full-time dreamer, there was really only one story. One which, under sustained scrutiny, was scarcely believable in the first instance and which was always likely to end badly ;- few groups have, I think, fallen asunder as carelessly and as needlessly as The Smiths, undone in the end by the lack of clear decision-making and delegation that had, since the group’s inception, characterised much of its off-stage activity.

I’ve written at length about The Smiths over the years, with varying degrees of success but with no little confidence, simply because they were the first band I so obsessively lived through and the first band I ever felt like I had shares in. I certainly spent enough on them and, because I’d invested so heavily in them in other respects as well, I  tended to defer to Max Boyce’s stock punchline when it came to analysing them :- I know because I was there.

And I certainly was there, if not at the very start, then certainly close enough to it, having had my head turned as soon as I heard The Smiths on both Dave Fanning’s Rock Show on RTÉ Radio 2, John Peel’s BBC equivalent and, bizarrely, having caught sight of them on late night television performing ‘This Charming Man’ on a one-off European music initiative featuring emerging music from across the continent. Captured alongside a feeble, long-lost British outfit, The Immaculate Fools, and a number of freakish cross-continental acts trying, as can often be the case, just a tad too hard, The Smiths stood out as a distinctive star turn simply because, in the abject normality that defined every single aspect of them, they were clearly anything but normal.

I was there too in the old Savoy on Patrick Street when The Smiths played in Cork twice, on May 20th and November 18th, 1984 and when, within actual touching distance of them, they sealed the deal, almost face-to-face, as the most important and influential band of my generation.

Both of those shows took place as I was gearing up to leave secondary school and, with half an eye and two working ears on what was around the corner, fancied myself as a veteran of the local music circuit, having already been to all of one indoor live show and a couple of random outdoor events. But although I’d been squirreling and collecting for a number of years, back-filling the gaps in my developing ELO library, acquiring and swapping new material as regularly as I could and rowing in squarely behind Sindikat, a band from our school who’d done the unthinkable and formed under our noses, The Smiths were the first group whose releases, always flagged well in advance in the music press, I regarded as genuine events and to which I counted down.

And in this respect, the radio was another vital spoke :- Peel, and his long-time producer, John Walters, memorably hosted four separate Smiths radio sessions between 1983 and 1986 and, like Fanning, would play all of the group’s releases well in advance of their availability in the shops. For which you’d have a second or third-hand cassette on eternal stand-by in the old three-in-one in case either of them dropped an unexpected pre-issue, without warning.



It was Fanning, of course, who alerted us to those first Smiths shows in Ireland – I still consider this sort of carry-on to define the term ‘public service broadcasting’ – when he announced that they were on their way to play dates in Belfast, Dublin and Cork in support of their debut album. And yet for all of the urgency that under-pinned the band’s recorded material, myself and my friend, Philip, didn’t really know what to expect when we fetched up outside The Savoy on a Sunday evening in May, 1984, in our long rain-coats, tickets in hand and mad for road.

But from early – and we were there very, very early – it was clear that The Smiths were much more than a little-known secret shared by a handful of us up on the northside. One of the more interesting aspects of the band’s history was how, throughout its career, it attracted fans from right across the social strata, much of it male-skewing and with a prominent contingent of hard shams in among the more introspective, centrally-cast indie-kids. Among whom was another friend of mine, Marc Buckley, another acolyte who arrived at The Savoy, as did numerous others, clutching a bunch of freshly cut flowers and wearing a considerable quiff.

Philip and myself soon found ourselves chatting to a pair of friendly girls we’d met on the tiled stairs and, for whatever reason, we told them we were supporting The Smiths a little later. And there were, of course, numerous similarities between ourselves and The Frank Chickens, the gobby Japanese lesbians who were actually due to open proceedings.

The Chickens, as with many of Peel’s more random curios over the decades, sounded far better in theory that they did in practice and, with their unsteady backing tracks, loops and high-octane, skittish twin vocals, failed to convince the locals, who’d started to assemble in numbers by the time they’d finished a quite bizarre set. They left the stage to the usual heckles and, responding to a not unreasonable suggestion from half-way back that they were, perhaps, not up to championship standard, replied – ‘We think you’re shit too’ – before beating a hasty retreat under a hail of gob, never to be seen in Cork again. A scene we’d witness again, in the same venue and in much the same circumstances, before the year was out.

But once The Smiths took the stage to the jagged, slash-cut opening bars of ‘Still Ill’, and Morrissey emerged from the shadows, his outsized shirt already opened to the navel, The Frank Chickens had been consigned to the footnotes of what was to become a spectacular history. Over the course of a sharp, frenetic and powerful sixteen song set, The Smiths just burned the house down :- in the long and diverse history of live shows in Cork, it is easily among one of the most lethal.

Because while that show has remained vivid in the memories of most of those who attended it, many of them left there that night intent on starting their own bands immediately afterwards, boldly going for it and  just taking their chances. And those among the audience that were already involved in fledging groups around the city, and there were many, left with plenty of food for thought :- if this was where the bar was now set, then what, really, was the point ?

The set-list for that first Cork show is widely available on all of the usual on-line resources and, of course, Johnny Rogan’s exhaustive ‘The Severed Alliance’ is incomparable in terms of context and background. But although Morrissey so physically dominated that Cork show – and I couldn’t believe how imposing he was, and how he so used his body for emphasis – neither could I get my head around how small and slight Johnny Marr was. And, of course, how his nimble hands made one guitar sound like three.

The songs were already well-known to anyone who’d bought the band’s unconvincing debut album, ‘The Smiths’, and who was familiar with the terrific additional content on their singles. But they also introduced one new number, a protracted, funked-up, bass-prominent beauty called ‘Barbarism Begins At Home’, during which Morrissey baited the audience with flowers throughout the long instrumental passages and Andy Rourke stepped into the spotlight to reveal just how important his industry and frame of reference was to the band’s sound. And we were just learning all of the time.



The Smiths returned to The Savoy six months later, during which time they’d been sucked slowly in from the margins. But although the group would go on to regularly feature at the business end of the album charts, they never really enjoyed the consistent successes they craved with the shorter form, which was one of Morrissey and Marr’s primary ambitions for their group from the get-go.

Even so, the singer had already been rumbled by the tabloids who, picking up on the platinum-plated copy he routinely provided in interviews, had become as regular a freak feature in The Sun as he was on the hit parade, portrayed variously as a dangerous, anti-royal traitor, a sexual deviant and a macabre, terrorist-loving, tree-hugging weirdo. Or, if you like, the Jeremy Corbyn of his time.

The Denis Desmond/MCD-promoted, nine-date, eight-town tour of Ireland during November, 1984, took place less than one month after the IRA bombing of the Grand Hotel in Brighton, where the British Conservative Party was holding its annual conference, and during a particularly dark period in modern Irish history when loyalist and republican terrorism across the island routinely dominated the news agenda. And at a time too when many formidable contemporary bands just simply wouldn’t – or were advised not to – play in the north of Ireland.

With The Smiths on the road in support of their stop-gap, compilation album, ‘Hatful Of Hollow’, Morrissey gave the London press a series of typically headline-grabbing quotes during the media campaign to promote it, one of the most notable of which referred to Margaret Thatcher, then Britain’s Prime Minister, and who had survived the Brighton bombing, which killed three people and injured thirty more.

‘The sorrow of the Brighton bombing’, Morrissey claimed, ‘is that Thatcher escaped unscathed. I think that, for once, the IRA were accurate in selecting their targets’.

And it was against this backdrop, six weeks after U2 released ‘The Unforgettable Fire’ and five months after Bob Dylan’s show at Slane Castle was marred by riots around the County Meath town, that The Smiths returned to Ireland. During which they played shows in Letterkenny, Belfast and Coleraine, as well as the usual stop-offs, fetching up in Cork for the second and last time on Sunday, November 18th, 1984, one week before Midge Ure and Bob Geldof recorded the Band Aid single, ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’ and a week after Madonna released her remarkable breakthrough album, ‘Like A Virgin’.

The mood inside The Savoy, second time around, was just as frenzied and excitable as it had been earlier that year, and maybe overly-so. The crowd itself was far bigger, as you’d expect, and the promoters had put an extra 50p on the price of the tickets [from memory, and I stand corrected on this, up from £6 to £6.50]. And, once again, myself and Philip were there, close enough to see the magicians work the stage, far enough away to avoid the on-going bash-ball inside the moshing zone. The support this time was provided by James, yet another fledgling and already highly regarded Manchester band [is there ever any other kind ?], who’d released a fine first record, the ‘Jimone’ EP, on the Factory label and who, during their formative years, enjoyed Morrissey’s very public patronage. For better and, possibly, for worse.

The Smiths’ set had changed quite drastically in the interim. And although they were ostensibly promoting ‘Hatful Of Hollow’, the band was also road-testing several of the tracks that would buttress its second studio album, ‘Meat Is Murder’. Taking their opening positions to the foreboding sounds of Prokofiev’s dramatic overture, ‘Romeo And Juliet’, they opened bravely with one of their more introspective cuts, ‘Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want’, which had featured as a quality b-side on their ‘William, It Was Really Nothing’ single earlier that summer, and into which they quickly segued.

Foremost among the clatter of new material was a frantic take on ‘What She Said’ and, close to the end, a bionic, souped-up ‘I Want The One I Can’t Have’, by which time the atmosphere inside the hall had turned sharply. Marr had become the unwitting target of a hail of spit half-way through, an unfortunate knuckle-walker’s pastime that many of us suspected, wrongly, had died after The Sex Pistols signed to a major label.



And after two audible warnings – at one point he arched his callow body back and looked like he was going to lash out – he eventually walked off just shy of the hour mark, taking the rest of the band with him. The Smiths returned, reluctantly enough it seemed to me, to do a two song encore, finishing on a high with ‘What Difference Does It Make’, but Marr had the last word :- he leaned into a vocal mic on the way off and told the crowd, not incongruously, how he’d ‘come to play and not to be spat at’, before leaving again, this time for good.

As the house lights came up around The Savoy, a section of the crowd, some checking their watches, began to vent, boo-ing initially – more, I suspect, in the direction of those who’d caused the walk-off than at the band itself – and then, once it was obvious that the show was over and that The Smiths weren’t returning, broke into a ridiculous chorus of ‘We want James’.

So while the Cork crowd was given an early flavour of some of the more sinewy cuts from ‘Meat Is Murder’, it also experienced the shortest Smiths set, by at least three songs, of that leg of the tour. But not before Morrissey, as the band set up for its encore, returned to the stage with a small sapling, which he wielded like a bicycle chain during ‘Hand In Glove’, and then deposited with gusto into the audience.

The Smiths certainly knew how to make an exit like they knew how to make an entrance. And they never returned to Cork again.





Our latest guest post comes courtesy of Irish Rock legend, BP Fallon. It’s a lovely heartfelt piece about Henry McCullough, another Irish rock legend and close, close friend of BP.

A little background as to where this post actually came from. I had a recommendation to check out a track. It was a track by BP Fallon and David Holmes called ‘Henry McCullough’. On first listen, I fell in love with it. It doesn’t happen to me so often nowadays and I’m learning to embrace and treasure the feeling of being caught by the magic of exceptional new music when it does. I thought the music from David Holmes was excellent. But it was the lyrics and the utter heartfelt rendering of these lyrics that really caught me. It was a story I had never heard before, and I felt that we had to tell this story on TBS. So I asked BP would he like to write a piece for us. And he kindly said ‘yes’

So we decided that the best thing to do would be to present the lyrics as they are on the song, lyrics that he composed on the spot, off of the top of his head whilst recording the track. Thank you, BP, for an amazing song and thanks for doing the post.

And one final note ;- these words have never been written down before. BP has transcribed his own words from the record.

Martin O’Connor




HENRY McCULLOUGH’ – words by BP Fallon/music by David Holmes

“I received a phone call from BP Fallon the day before Henry McCullough’s funeral. He was heart-broken having lost his dear friend and asked could he stay at mine after he returned from the funeral. After I picked him up from the train station, he asked me if he returned early enough could we record something. I started working on the music that day and then I had an idea, which was to record something about Henry and their relationship. When BP returned that evening I sat him down in front of the microphone and this happened in one take! We both knew we captured a very special moment that couldn’t have been created at any other moment – magic”.

David Holmes’ sleevenotes on the ‘Henry McCullough’ 12″ AndrewWeatherall Remix.

“I played him [BP] the music, he put the headphones on and that all just came out. He didn’t write anything, it was just all off the top of the head, one take … People who don’t even know who Henry McCullough is are moved by it because you can feel the intention. It’s really natural, he’s not reading off a piece of paper. It was just really beautiful.”- David Holmes talking to Joe Roberts, The Ran$om Note.


Photo courtesy of BP Fallon



“I remember it was 1966 in Dublin

An’ I met you in a beat cellar

The People had come over from Blackpool

Henry McCullough you were the lead guitar player… even then you were amazing

And The People became Eire Apparent

And you toured America supporting Jimi Hendrix and Eric Burdon & The New Animals

and The Soft Machine

Four men from Northern Ireland thrown into the full open mouth of psychedelia

And then Henry you got busted for bit of Jazz Woodbine

and were put on a one way ticket to Ireland

Already you were the Irish rock’n’roll outlaw

unsung hero

You’d been in a showband, The Skyrockets from Enniskillen

you’d been in another showband, Gene & The Gents

and now you’re in the Eire Apparent except you’d been busted and put

on a one way plane ticket to Ireland

There you met up with Johnny Moynihan, Terry Woods… Sweeney’s Men

You had Johnny Moynihan’s eccentricities as a folk musician and you

had Terry Woods Appalachian vibe and you had Henry’s rock’n’roll and

blues and rhythm’n’blues and country and shades of Hank and shades of



And then Henry, Henry joined the band led by this singer from Sheffield…

Joe Cocker…

Joe Cocker & The Grease Band

Henry became their guitar player

they played at Woodstock

Henry McCullough was the only Irish musician to play at Woodstock…

with a little help from my friends, magnificent & beyond

The road was shiny but there were also shadows… it wasn’t that simple…….

And then this chappie came along……..

he’d been the bass player and co-writer, co-singer, in a popular

skiffabilly, rockabilly chooglebilly combo from Liverpool…

The Beatles…

Paul McCartney

So Paul gets on the phone and he says Henry will you join my

rockabilly chooglebilly, vibeabilly combo Wings… it’s beautiful…

And since then Henry played with the apex of rock’n’rollers……….

Eric Burdon, Marianne Faithfull, Roy Harper, Ronnie Lane, Frankie

Miller – and we hear Henry’s voice on Dark Side Of The Moon by Pink

Floyd (Dr Feelgood)

And he came to Ireland and he did his own gigs and it wasn’t

necessarily with the flash and the glitter and the flash bulbs and the

roar of the grease paint

that had been at times but none the less it was always magnificent

I’m very blessed that Henry was my friend since 1966

We’re very lucky to travel a path and meet… magical people along the

way and Henry I salute you, I love you, I miss you already and I know

you’ll always be here …your music and your vibe and…

I’ll see you when the time comes…

I love you, God bless

My friend, the end

I know you’re not coming back again

My friend, the end

I know you’re not coming back again

My friend, the end

I know you’re not coming back again

My friend, the end

I know you’re not coming back again”

– BP Fallon

Henry McCullough’ by BP Fallon & David Holmes is on the David Holmes

album ‘Late Night Tales’ (Double LP/CD/Download)


Photo courtesy of BP Fallon