Cathal Coughlan

MICRODISNEY : THE END

Photograph © Fanning Sessions

If anything, they’re probably the best accidental band of our time, a haphazard and unlikely collision – or collusion ? – of reference, diffidence and influence that in theory, and maybe every other way too, never stood a chance. Like the central character in their opening number on this week’s farewell dates, ‘Mrs. Simpson’, they made ‘like a head on legs and the rest of person’. And it’ll not be lost on Cathal, in particular, that at the very end, Microdisney finally sold out in Cork.

I’m sure that, on some sort of emotional level, it was appropriate they called it to a halt in the city where they started it off almost forty years previously. In as much as Microdisney – forever Cathal and Sean and in that order – ever followed formal process, last night’s show in Cork was as close as they got to the convention of completing a circle. But where it leaves them in the history of popular music – in Cork, Ireland or beyond – is irrelevant for now :- Microdisney were far too free-spirited, cranky and loose with their ambitions to ever sit comfortably in general company.

Buried somewhere in that line of thinking is, I think, the essence of their allure. They were so wrong and so utterly disconnected on every level and yet, whenever the sun broke through onto their palsied, malformed view of life in the drain, they could glisten with the best of them. They were defined to the very end by the endless pull-and-drag of the sweet against the sour, maybe best captured on ‘464’, one of their most potent songs, that opens in anger over a hail of shouting, spit and guitar noise but that quickly finds its feet in the mellow. And, this last nine months, by the peerless vocal interplay between Cathal’s full-bodied tenor – he has never, to these ears, been in better voice – and Eileen Gogan’s soft touch around the edges.

Photograph © Jim O’Mahony

Microdisney were never completely at ease in their hometown and I’ve written at length about that aspect of the band’s story here. And still they consistently represented, far better than many of Cork’s better known ambassadors, the city’s best, worst and most bizarre attributes, often for comic effect within their songs and often not. For many years, weird as it sounds now, they actually blazed a trail and led the way :- by taking the Innisfallen and upping sticks in the early 1980s, they gave Cork the middle finger and, for years afterwards, a fleeting glimpse of something more exotic and glamorous abroad. The ‘big fat matron with turquoise hair’ left behind so the band could dream more freely.

We now know, of course, that the reality of Microdisney’s life in London was far more chaotic, undercut like much of the largely untold Irish emigrant experience at that time by pills, hooch, squatting, general blackguarding and penury. But their story was, for many, the story of Cork city itself too, the boat at its core as an escape from the despair and torpor. Even if, once you reached Fishguard, you were almost certainly on your own.

Outwardly at least, that truth was just an inconvenient one, especially irrelevant on the old broadsheet pages of The Evening Echo where, in the odd dispatch from London, the local boys were clearly having a right old cruel-up, leading a charge, making hay.

Photograph © Siobhan Bardsley

What we can say with certainty is that there is no clear lineage between what came before Microdisney and what came afterwards ;- they literally fell from the sky, consistently out of reach and constantly out of time. It took them many years to finally grow into their bodies and, even then, I was never wholly convinced that they were built to accommodate the scale of their ambition, such as it was. And so, even when under the gun of a major label to crack the mainstream market, they just couldn’t help themselves. On the band’s best known song, the lavish ‘Town To Town’, with its shine, polish and spit, the lover is in the past, the winter is sick, the harvest has failed and, maybe as tellingly as anything, the singer’s name is still being mis-pronounced.

When Cathal, as he did on-stage in Vicar Street on Monday night, refers to the band’s later material – the Virgin years – as ‘joined up writing’, he’s talking about the well-upholstered gut of the likes of ‘Gale Force Wind’, ‘High And Dry’ and ‘Singer’s Hampstead Home’, ‘not cursive or grown-up but joined-up’ and over which he continued to sprinkle the petrol with a heavy hand. Only the really brave or the perennially diffident aspire to love songs where the moon is shapeless and dim but then that was Microdisney’s stock-in-trade until the very end, the closest they may have ever come to consistency.

From ‘Everybody Is Dead’, a stand-out from the band’s debut album, to ‘Loftholdingswood’, their best song and in which Dan McGrath’s liver just eventually gives out, the sweetness of the sound is counter-pointed and warped by the vicious malady of the grotesque. ‘Sulphates and slap bass’, one of Cathal’s off-the-cuff quips on Monday could, for years, have well been their mission statement.

Photograph © Siobhan Bardsley

And because of that, it’s easy to forget just how intelligent they were with their sound. With seven players on stage for much of this week’s farewell – Cathal and Sean joined, for the occasion, by Rhodri Marsden on keyboards, the imperious John Bennett on lead guitars, most potently on twelve string acoustic and Eileen backing-up on vocals – they’re at their most fetching when they bring five harmonies to the mic. And become, maybe even in spite of themselves, an unflinching, all-out pop band.

Which won’t surprise those long familiar with the breadth of their primary references and source material, Sean’s, in particular. Microdisney borrowed liberally, and as freely from Steely Dan and The Beach Boys as they did from Lee Perry and Lee Hazelwood. And much of Sean’s body of work in the decades post-Microdisney, especially that formidable High Llamas canon, is testament to that.

It’s just as easy to be side-blinded too by the attention long-afforded the band’s second album, ‘The Clock Comes Down The Stairs’, ostensibly the trigger behind those four live shows over the last nine months. And for which they were garlanded, formally, on stage at Dublin’s National Concert Hall last summer.

Because far from being one of the greatest Irish albums of all time – and that’s a dark valley of a discussion in itself – ‘The Clock’ may not even be Microdisney’s best album, even if, given the circumstances that begot it, it’s the record about which the band feels most proud. As strong a case can be made for ‘Crooked Mile’ [1987], the band’s major label debut that saw the dinner-jacketed five-piece seamlessly master the dark art of the velveteen pop song wrapped in a knuckle-duster. While Andrew Mueller, one of the best and more perceptive music writers of his generation – and recently a member of The North Sea Scrolls alongside Cathal and Luke Haines – has long batted for Microdisney’s last album, ’39 Minutes’ [1988]. Which, if it is indeed the sound of a band on the precipice, certainly captures, in vivid colour, the full spread of a magnificent view across the valley of death.

So, why did they go back for afters and why now ? Time, of course, is as much of a cleanser as it is of a healer and those most recent Dublin shows saw an older, possibly wiser, certainly far fitter, sober and way less anxious band roll back the years without either the fuss or the general codology that pock-marks much of Microdisney’s story. And without saying as much, the band clearly believed it had unfinished business or an unpaid personal debt somewhere :- was there a sense that they never really did those terrific songs justice at the time ? Or, perhaps, that others – the market, the public, the industry – didn’t cut them an even break ? Or did they simply fancy taking the music out of its casing one last time just because they could ?

I’ve never had Microdisney pegged as old nostalgics, Cathal in particular. And so it was interesting to hear him, in Dublin on Monday, dip into the earliest chapters in the band’s history to reference Dave Clifford, their first manager and Elvera Butler, who committed their first track to vinyl and who ran many of their most formative shows in The Arcadia Ballroom in Cork. Indeed in prefacing their closer, Frankie Valli’s ‘The Night’, Cathal referred to a Lene Lovich live show in that same venue in January, 1980, where himself and his long-time writing partner and friend heard that song performed for the first time.

In introducing the band, there’s an unusually fuzzy outbreak of bonhomie as Cathal and Sean reference each other and their long, colourful and no doubt often bizarre and fractured friendship. Cathal – maybe half-jokingly and maybe not ? – cautions against too much good-will as if it might just sooth the edge a bit too much. And then they’re gone and it’s over.

On the walk back into town after the Vicar Street show on Monday night, I remembered an old yarn that Cathal once told Dave Fanning during one of their many memorable radio interviews. During the band’s early years, the singer would regularly take the mainline train – a battered, bone-shaking and deeply unpleasant experience at the best of times – from Cork to Dublin, during which he’d dress in priest’s garb and pickle himself with booze, effing and blinding at all-comers during what could often be a torturous four-hour journey.

Photograph © Jim O’Mahony

One of the more frustrating aspects of that long, long haul – and, believe me, there were many – invariably came at Limerick Junction, a desolate outpost that’s actually in Tipperary and where, as a regular passenger, I spent far too long stuck in the sidings, waiting in the worst possible kind of limbo for something, anything, to happen before we’d eventually stutter back into life and re-commence our journey onwards.

You’d see and hear all sort of mad stuff as you were trapped in Limerick Junction, caught quite literally between worlds, gazing listlessly out of the window at the spread of verdure and the thickets beyond. I spent far too many languid hours paralyzed there, listening to Cathal and Sean’s alchemy on a variety of different devices.

As metaphors go in respect of Microdisney, Limerick Junction is as valid as any. Forever crippled and consistently failed by the machine, witnesses to the bizarre and the grotesque, waiting endlessly for another stuttering start and the next inevitable breakdown.

And yet for all of that they were consistently magnificent and leave behind a terrific body of work beyond the catalogue of carnage.

Photograph © Fanning Sessions

A SONG FOR MY MOTHER

Joan

 

On her birth cert and on her death cert, my mother is referred to by her actual name, Margaret, even though she was known all of her life as Joan. This kind of carry-on wasn’t entirely uncommon during the country’s formative years – she was born as the Irish Free State became The Republic of Ireland – but I often think she just felt one name marked her out a bit more than the other. Growing up on the northside of Cork city during the late 1930s and 1940s, many of the more popular women’s names – Statia, Hannah, Josie, Bridie and Molly – just sounded as old as they were widespread. And the thought of ever being among the old just never sat well with my mother.

 

She was clear about the funeral she wanted ;- no gawkers, no eulogies and no mementos. Joan didn’t need anyone to take the pulpit to remind those mourning her about how great she was or to list her many achievements, and neither did we. And she was still earning kudos even as she laid in repose at home ;- an elderly woman who’d come to pay her respects shook my hand and told me that my mother was one of the best looking corpses she’d seen in Cork all year. I’m not convinced its an accolade you’d ever really want, and you’d presumably require a proxy to pick up the gong for you, but I appreciated the sentiment nonetheless.

 

Joan was a devout woman who loved many things ;- her family, style, show-business, flowers, music and the arts. During the last few days of her life, when we thought she was rallying her way out of intensive care, she asked us to fetch a couple of her favourite things to the hospital :- a prayer book and the latest issue of ‘Hello’ magazine. She had a broad frame of reference and was as comfortable discussing Lot’s wife – the biblical character from the Old Testament who turned into a pillar of salt after she looked back at the city of Sodom – as she was Pixie Lott, the British pop singer and actress who clearly suffered the same fate thousands of years later.

 

But she absolutely loved Cork. Born and reared over a bakery up on Old Market Place, off of the Shandon Street end of Blarney Street, Joan viewed everything, consciously or otherwise, through the prism of where she came from and the people who made her. But she saw the joins on that canvas too – the warts, the squinting windows, the clear class division and the spare hands – and wasn’t slow to pull if she believed she had a case.

 

‘Desperate’ was one of her favourite words and she used it to describe everything from funerals to restaurants to priest’s sermons to local theatre shows to much of the work I’ve done over the years. And although the Cork in her would come out as she rolled her tongue around the first syllable, deliberately holding it flat for a couple of beats just for emphasis, there was never once a hint of malice in her voice or in the views she expressed. Her body might have failed her in the end but she checked out with her humanity in fine working nick :- and of course she was usually right about everything.

 

I’ve written previously about my mother’s love of music and about the suspicion with which she regarded those unfortunate enough to be born without a note in their heads. And that love of music was at its most lethal when compounded with her devotion to Cork.

 

Colm's dad...

Daniel Dunlea, Colm”s Grandfather [Courtesy of Colm]

 

Her father was a first cousin of the well-known local tenor, William Dunlea – known as Walloo – who emerged from the back lanes to become a prominent fixture on the international singing circuit during the 1940s and 1950s.

 

We’d often see Walloo – long-retired and living off of unlikely tales of old nights of glory – during his later years as he shuffled around the northside. With his carefully pruned moustache, slicked-back hair, crisp white shirts and leather daps, he was a distinguished operator who cut a real dash, even in his dotage. A point not lost on Theo Dorgan, who name-checked him alongside another of my mother’s peers, Puzzle The Judge, in his mighty 1991 poem, ‘A Nocturne For Blackpool’ :-

 

Walloo Dullea, homeward bound on the Commons Road, belts out airs from Travatore,the recipe as before, nobody stirs from sleep and ‘Puzzle The Judge’, contented, pokes at ashes –‘There’s many a lawyer here today could learn from this man’.

 

Jack Lynch etc

Jack Lynch, Máirín Lynch and Walloo Dunlea. [Courtesy of Colm]

 

I heard many stories over the years about William Dunlea’s performances abroad, many of which sounded hugely over-pumped. But what we do know is that he gigged in front of Presidents, public figures and the smart set – to what extent and to what end, who knows ? – and his achievements, the biggest of which was his escape from Blackpool, showed my mother both the power of dreams and the magic of song.

 

And this might explain why she was so taken with the many bands, artists, dancers, singers and hams who took the same road – in one unexpected turn of events, a hardy sham from Gerald Griffin Street defied all expectation and went off with an international ballet company – from the improvised rehearsal spaces around Cork and onwards to places that, in those soft profile pieces in The Evening Echo, sounded far more exotic.

 

For thirty years, Joan saved those articles for me, dated them and mailed them onwards in the post. It was just another of her ways, I suppose, of ensuring I wasn’t losing the run of myself, away from home and out of her sight. Wherever I was and whatever it was I was doing, others were doing it too – often far better – flying the flag, belting out an aria for Cork.

 

Examiner pic

 

She had a particular soft spot for The Frank And Walters, brand leaders for local appeal and a band that’s never lost its common touch. Years ago, she met Ashley, the drummer, in an optometrist’s waiting room and forged a life-long connection with him during the short wait for a routine glaucoma test. And once that association had been soldered, she
followed his band’s progress intently, as if he’d sold her a serious stake in it. In an age of uncertainty, anxiety, distortion and scripted reality, there was always something quietly re-assuring about her phone-calls – and, in later years, the texts she’d ask my father to send from an otherwise dormant mobile – that kept me up to speed with what The Franks were up to and with whom.

 

But there were plenty of others too. Our conversations over the years were dotted with references to The Sultans of Ping, Mick Flannery, Cara O’Sullivan, John Spillane, The Montforts, James N. Healy, Joan Denise Moriarty, Miss Kavanagh, Paul Buckley’s cousin who changed his name and landed a couple of acting gigs in London, Handsome Tony and any one of a number of would-be local thesps who first togged out in local am-dram and who later graduated to walk-ons on ‘Fair City’. And most of whom, given the long-running global conspiracy against all of Cork, particularly its creative wing, have heroically kept the city up where it belongs. On the national and often international stages and firmly in the public eye.

 

Those of us who grew up during the 1970s will remember Cork city as a long-running horror-serial and anyone who’s seen Danny Boyle’s post-apocalyptic London in his zombie film, ’28 Days Later’, will be reminded of what Patrick Street and McCurtain Street looked like forty years ago.

 

The place smelt too, and it smelt badly. If it wasn’t some noxious odour carried up the river from the harbour on a strong wind and into the heart of the city, it was the enduring linger of cheap, damp coal – called ‘slack’ – that most families used to make domestic fires burn longer. My parents were obsessed with the stuff and no self-respecting home fire was ever constructed in Cork – and believe me, the creation of a small fire was a serious affair that also required the channelling of a decent draft down the open flue using double broad-sheet pages from The Echo – without a decent coating of slack.

 

Against the backdrop of such physical and economic deprivation – and no little cultural austerity too – our career options were limited enough :- emigration, unemployment or an entry-point position into the civil service for those who either came through formal examinations or, as was all too common, could avail of a bit of pull. Needless to say, to be even moderately different or mildly lateral in aspect or ambition wasn’t easy.

 

Microdisney – like Theo Dorgan – emerged from beneath that mire and, as you’d expect, much of their work is rooted in it. Fans and critics often refer to the grotesque under-belly that dominates much of Cathal Coughlan’s work – it’s a mandatory requirement, I think – and the source of which can be traced easily enough back onto Cork’s own doorstep.

 

But most of the band’s earliest, tinnier and more fumbling material, like ‘Michael Murphy’ and ‘Pink Skinned Man’ – both of which featured in their recent live sets – would have been lost on my mother as its long been on wider audiences. Those older numbers are critical cogs in any considered tracking of the group’s long and peculiar history but, beyond that, much of the early material is strictly for loyalists, collectors and anoraks only ;- its just far too obtuse and not grabby enough.

 

And yet during that six month period in 1987, as the band was enjoying a broader, however fleeting popularity around the release of ‘Crooked Mile’, its first album on a major label, and when ‘Town To Town’ featured on day-time national radio and the band even fetched up on children’s television, they became surly majorettes in that marching panoply of Corkness. And in my mother’s eyes – and maybe even in her prayers ? – Microdisney joined the litany of saints, from Christy Ring to Seán Condon to Walloo to Danny La Rue and that would later feature the likes of Pixie McKenna [who she knew as Bernadette], Graham Norton, Cara O’Sullivan, Alan Foley and the many points in between on her own Via Dolorosa.

 

My mother was of a generation of remarkable, largely unheralded Irish women who grew up in the 1940s and 1950s with nothing. But who determined that, through education initially, their own children were going to have some sort of a chance. And who, with little by way of formal supports or state recognition, and working on gut instinct and raw cop-on only, consistently drove us on and succeeded, eventually, in making us moderately functioning citizens. So when she saw anyone from Cork – and especially from the northside of the city – being regarded either on a stage, a public platform or a playing field, her instinctive response was to bring it all back home.

 

Consciously or otherwise, she never lost sight of that broader social and cultural struggle and the scale of those routine sacrifices made by many families like our own – and by mothers, especially – to just keep us all on the bright side of the road and to protect us from the despair and torpor. And particularly those who, against every prejudice imaginable – much of it locally rooted – dared to be different because they just dared to dream.

 

Joan would have preferred, of course, had I stayed in teaching and followed the script, settled locally and been much easier to reach. There were numerous occasions over the years when, before mobile technology and even long after it, she had no idea where I was, never mind know how I was. But she never once questioned why I sloped off  up the path I did because, knowing I could read and write – and with the love of music and sport she both instilled and enabled in me – she knew I had at least a few of the fundamentals in place and that I wasn’t entirely without hope.

 

I turned fifty years old on the week of my mother’s funeral, the week that Microdisney recently played The National Concert Hall in Dublin. Thirty-six years previously they were the first band I ever saw play live when, as callow and nervous as I was myself, they supported Depeche Mode in The City Hall in Cork in 1982. It’s been an eventful and colourful few decades for all of us since, during which the band has very obviously bulked up both its sound and its reputation. And in direct proportion, it should be said, to the waistlines of many of those once poetic young swains – myself as prominently as any – who fetched up to see them on Earlsfort Terrace.

 

I left the house reluctantly enough, between worlds. Our sideboard a spread of mass cards and birthday cards, a testament once again to that which we often take for granted ;- the kindness of friends and the kindness of complete strangers. And like most of those who made the journey – and I recognised many faces from Cork in the 1980s, a feat in itself – I really had no idea what to expect.

 

Microdisney aren’t exactly a comfortable listen or a barrel of laughs at the best of times, either. Death is all around us, of course, but its especially prominent in their formidable body of work, in case I needed reminding. Much of ‘The Clock Comes Down The Stairs’, the album the band was re-visiting and the whole purpose of its two recent, unlikely live appearances, deals with an extreme emotional collapse where ‘the clock’ in the title is clearly a metaphor for death.

 

And yet in the company of another powerful, eminent woman – my wife – I found real comfort in even the band’s most unsettling material, of which there’s plenty. Even if the thought struck me throughout the night that I should probably have been anywhere else, working something or other through my system. And I suspect there was plenty of detail and nuance going on around the fringes that simply passed me by.

 

But as a release – temporary or otherwise – it was as effective a healing as any. The power of song and the redemptive appeal of music, like my mother, never growing old. And never to be forgotten.

 

SEAN O’HAGAN LIVE AT THE CORK COUNTY CRICKET CLUB, JULY 2nd, 2017

Sean O Hagan 1

Picture Courtesy of Dominic Moore

 

The last time I got beyond the gates of The Cork County Cricket Club, on that magnificent, tree-lined stretch out in the west of the city, a small group of us were making an unofficial, no-budget video for ‘The Summerhouse’ by The Divine Comedy. And the last shot in that clip, which was for the fledgling No Disco series, features my late friend, Philip Kennedy, on a hired old bicycle, shakily making his way up the narrow pathway, being hunted off of the premises by an official – was he a night watchman ? – who threatened to call the guards on us.

 

In keeping with the general spirit of that series, and the cavalier mood of the time, we had no permissions in place, no facilities and were pretty much making it all up as we went along. And so we’d spent the early part of that quiet Sunday lunchtime rambling around by The Shaky Bridge, absolutely on the fly and with the minimum of film stock. But once we spotted the small pavilion inside the hedged surround of The Richard Beamish Grounds, it felt like we’d made it home. And off we went ;- the closest any of us had ever been to a summerhouse.

 

Many years later and Sean O’Hagan, once of Microdisney and Stereolab, now of The High Llamas, once of Luton, briefly of Cork and now resident in Peckham in South London, wanders into that same, small premises and casts a fond eye across what, on every level, are lush surroundings for any engagement. It’s a long way from the room in Bennigan’s Bar in Derry where, a couple of nights previously, he began his short, four-date acoustic tour and, back in Cork, an appropriate place in which to conclude it.

 

The walls inside the pavilion remind us of some of the great merchant princes of Cork sport, former captains and international players who, with their first names captured in double and triple initials on mounted wood panels, graced the crease and the outfield beyond the wide bay-windows. And there, among them, a familiar name I recognise from our old school, the former Cork county captain and Ireland all-rounder opening bat, generally, and military medium bowler as required – Ted Williamson. From a staunch, well-known Northside family steeped in hurling and football, I wonder, in the worst Cork traditions of social stereotyping, when Ted became T.E.J. Williamson and how he ever ended up here ?

 

Which is a question that Sean O’Hagan too, from behind his acoustic guitar and hired-for-the-night keyboard, might well have asked himself at various points throughout his sparkling, soft and magnificent set in front of a packed house in the small, fancy function room inside the clubhouse. Organised, he tells us, through friends and like-minds using social media and, for a change, plugging nothing, tonight’s show has all the hallmarks of an over-due visit back to see family and to catch up with old friends and a smattering of anoraks. And, to this end, feels like a civil ceremony that’s been gate-crashed by a handful of well-wishers, many of them lavishly bearded.

 

Sean O hagan 2

Picture courtesy of Dominic Moore

 

Half-way through the supple, sixteen song set, and with the doors and the windows open out onto the verdure and with the low, late-evening light clinging on for life, he reminds us who he is and mentions his band, the excellent High Llamas, with whom he’s now compiled a formidable back catalogue. Lest anyone in the room – and it’s nicely full – think that he might pull an old Microdisney oddity from the pack and bring it up for air. And he doesn’t, thankfully. The closest we get is the dead air when someone in the front row mentions ‘Horse Overboard’ after Sean tells a soft yarn about a rural scene he saw out of the window of a speeding train on the journey down from Dublin earlier.

 

It’s been thirty years, more or less, since the fabled Cork band he back-boned with Cathal Coughlan pulled the shutters down on their premises one last time and, in the decades since, he’s made number of fine, fine records ;- more than enough to draw a wide-ranging set from. And he does, scattering the evening with dreamy personal testimonies and under-stated vignettes as he explains away the background to some of his material. Culled from a solo career that began in earnest with 1992’s ‘Santa Barbara’ but that’s dominated tonight by cuts from the three High Llamas albums issued immediately thereafter, the wonderful ‘Gideon Gaye’, ‘Cold And Bouncy’ and the formidable and defining 1998 monster, ‘Hawaii’.

 

Stripped back to skeletal form, and without the multiple layers of brass, strings and chintzy keyboards, Sean is kept nicely busy all evening working the frets as he reaches his head back, stretching his soft voice to tip the high end of his register, and often beyond, just about making His playing style is as gorgeous and gracious as it’s ever been and, without the blankets – The High Llamas boast more a temporary partition than a wall of sound – the source of the magic at the heart of much of that solo work is clear. Often as redolent of the fresh, balmy bossa nova that dominated Everything But The Girl’s fine debut, ‘Eden’, other times sprinkled with soft jazz shapes, I’m reminded, fleetingly, of the delicate core of Microdisney’s early releases and opt, correctly as it happens, to keep it to myself.

 

A dedication to the late Mary Hansen, the Australian guitarist who played with Sean in Stereolab, prefaces ‘The Dutchman’, again from ‘Gideon Gaye’ before Jerome Kern’s ‘Ol Man River’ closes the innings for the night, tenderly political and prescient, soft and telling. And then he’s done, gone, and back into the arms of friends and well-wishers beyond in the bar.

 

On the walk up to the show hours earlier, I passed the small building that, years ago, housed the old Elmtree studios and that faces almost directly onto the flower-lined pedestrian gate at the County. The small plaque that identified that bunker for years, in among the back garages, has been painted over in beige. But it was here that, in the company of the likes of Peter West, Dennis Herlihy and Ger O’Leary, many an aspiring local outfit laid their first, tentative shapes onto tape. Any roll of honour on the walls here would capture honourable statesmen like Cypress, Mine !, Belsonic Sound, Burning Embers and The Frank And Walters, among a host of others :- Elmtree was, indeed, where another strata of Cork society sported and played.

 

And at the end of a warm, classy night in the company of one of the great, unheralded names in the history of music in Cork city, you’d be thinking that, if you can’t put your arms around your memories, you need to capture these kinds of moments while you can.