Rory Gallagher

RORY’S STORIES

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Although like Michael D., Bertie, Miriam, Gay and Daniel he’s often referred to in Ireland by his first name only, the implied familiarity here is well out of line with the broader picture: little of substance is really known about the guitarist and songwriter, Rory Gallagher. By a distance the biggest and most influential figure in Cork’s cultural history – and unquestionably one of Ireland’s most interesting and ground-breaking arts exports – much of his story remains, if not entirely untold, then certainly under-cooked. Even back home in the valley of dead cars and squinting widows, where everybody knows your name and, invariably, your business too.

What we do know is well-worn, light on scope and generally easy on the ears. Rory, like another of Cork’s more introspective and quieter exports, the Togher-reared footballer, Denis Irwin, preferred to let his craft do his bidding and, by and large, tended to keep his iron fists out of public view. And its not as if there hasn’t been a sustained effort to commemorate his many remarkable achievements and creative legacies in the popular consciousness. Its just that, with Rory’s estate curated for the most part by his brother and manager, Donal Gallagher, much of that effort tends to centre on the surface only.

A plaza in the centre of Cork city bears his name. He’s been immortalized with a statue in Ballyshannon, County Donegal, where he was born, and he’s even been featured on commemorative stamps and coins. All under-pinned by an enduring dedication, almost exclusively among those of a particular age, to Gallagher’s music, his considerable body of recorded work and a slew of remarkable live shows. Many of which, in Dublin, Cork and particularly in Belfast during the darkest chapters of modern Irish history throughout the 1970s, might well have served as informal inter-state events.

Radio and television producers have bravely taken their chances with him over the years too. The RTÉ archives hold plenty of Gallagher-related material, assembled over the decades, but those documentaries and features are, with the odd exception, well-intentioned but soft and inconsequential affairs.

And there has of course been an amount of written biography and critical analysis, much of which tends to stay on the outer ring-roads, circling the circumference. Hagiography, for the most part. Easily the best of which are ‘Riding Shotgun’, co-written by Gallagher’s long-time bass-player, Gerry McAvoy, and published in 2005 on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the guitarist’s premature death and the relevant passages of Dan Muise’s ‘Gallagher, Marriott, Derringer and Trower’, [2002], a music equivalent of George Kimball’s magnificent boxing book, ‘Four Kings’.

Of the mountain of newspaper and magazine archive on Gallagher and his music, much of it Irish, the most enduring and incisive are still, to this mind, landmark pieces by the late Bill Graham in Hot Press and by the Dublin writer and journalist, Michael Ross, in a variety of publications, but especially The Sunday Times.

But the primary difficulty for any documentarian or biographer is with the subject himself, who was notoriously shy and self-effacing. As Donal Gallagher told Ross for a Sunday Times feature twenty years ago: ‘I can’t say that we [Rory and I] ever had an in-depth personal conversation’. And so little exists by way of genuine, close-quarter insight with which to compile a defined photo-fit. In the absence of first person testimony, the gaps have long been filled by rumour, innuendo and speculation.

I never saw Gallagher perform live but, like many others born just as his first rock band, Taste, was releasing its first album, still feel like I’ve sucked in every single note played at The City Hall in Cork, the scene of some of his most spectacular and incendiary live shows. Even if, by the time I’d been roused to the wonder of popular music, Rory was well past his creative and critical peak. There was a world of difference between 1975 – when he was arguably at his apex – and 1985, by which time he was struggling to write and was among the more traditional targets against which an emerging indie set could rail.

One of the great ironies here, of course, is that the shock of that new, led in the early 1980s by The Smiths and driven by Johnny Marr’s remarkable guitar lines, could ultimately be traced back to Gallagher himself who, among others, was a primary formative influence on the young buck of Irish extraction as he grew up in the Manchester suburb of Wythenshawe a decade earlier. Marr acknowledged as much in Ian Thuillier’s 2010 RTÉ television documentary, ‘Ghost Blues’ even if, one suspects, he was taken far more by Gallagher’s ability as a guitarist – and more specifically his use of the instrument as a weapon – and less so by Rory’s song-writing.

Like seemingly everyone else in Cork, I had my own direct connection to Rory. I attended The North Monastery school on the northside of the city during the mid-1970s from where, a decade earlier, Gallagher had been removed by his mother at a point in his fledgling career when he was playing regularly with the Fontana showband. And although his name features far more overtly now in the history of that fine school, I can’t recall him or his deeds being as wildly celebrated there at that time as those of his more academic or athletic-inclined peers.

We know now, though, that Rory Gallagher certainly was a topic of regular discussion inside the school’s staff-room, at least among some of the younger elements of the teaching team. My second class teacher, Herman Kemp, from Kilrush in County Clare, was the young photographer, film fan and Stoke City supporter who, in 1977, snapped a series of magnificent live shots of Gallagher on-stage at the Macroom Mountain Dew Festival in West Cork, and that surfaced recently on-line. That show was also attended, the internet tells us, by a fifteen year-old Rory fan from Dublin, David Evans, better known known now as The Edge, a guitarist.

At a period in Cork city’s history dominated by poverty, unemployment and social and moral bankruptcy – the centre of town’s pallor was, for fifteen years, deathlike – Gallagher’s international successes and eternal cross-continent touring gave the gawkers back home a rare glimpse, on the surface at least, of something moderately exotic. His was a real jet-set story and, as such, his exploits sat up there alongside that small handful of artisans, athletes and public figures that were distinguishing us beyond the county bounds.

Of course if you stood on Patrick Street long enough, you might have even bumped into him. Gallagher, up until the early 1980s at least, was an accessible figure: at the height of his popularity and, in a distinctive take on the concept of bringing it all back home, he would regularly accompany his mother, Monica, to mass in Douglas when he wasn’t abroad on one of his endless tours of duty.

Indeed there was something slightly disconcerting about how mundane he was, forever dressed down in plaid shirts and rubber dollies, handsome in his absolute ordinariness. Because although his records, his playing and especially his live shows often touched the sky, Gallagher’s feet rarely left the deck. To the loyal support back home, and especially in Cork, he made like he had no notions, and stressed as much routinely. Its almost as if he was afraid of the extraordinary.

Years after I left The North Mon, I fetched up in another classroom, far removed from the northside of Cork, alongside Julian Vignoles, and spent six months in and out of his company as a trainee television producer in RTÉ. I already knew Julian’s name, of course – it’s a distinctive one, hard to forget – and had seen it for years on the radio listings in The RTÉ Guide, where he was credited as a producer on some of the more interesting and lateral Radio 2FM shows. Pat Kenny’s excellent review series, ‘The Outside Track’, among them.

We had music in common from the off: we’d both served our time and cut our teeth, albeit a decade apart, at Hot Press magazine, and had similar views on the importance of quality music programming on radio and television. Music has always been a useful ice-breaker, especially to those of us who struggle to make small-talk in general company, and many of my most enduring friendships have originated in casual, impromptu conversations about albums, singles, live shows and general trivia.

And although Julian’s tastes and mine were varied and rarely in-synch, we could both work up a decent head of steam quickly and, I suspect, there was a quiet respect between us from the get-go.

Rory Gallagher : The Man Behind The Guitar’ is Vignoles’s third book and is formally launched next week on The Collins Press imprint. Gallagher’s music has long been one of Julian’s primary passions and we’ve discussed and de-constructed Rory and his work at length in the years since we were first thrown together on the grounds of RTÉ back in 1994.

And now, eventually, he’s managed to stand up much of what was once just ad hoc theory, in print, even if the trip to completion has been a long and, I suspect, often arduous one. He’ll get little by way of thanks for it either, of course, but to those of us who appreciate such piddling matters as historical accuracy, archiving and balanced critical analysis, he’s done the history of popular Irish music no little service.

He doesn’t hang around either and, typically, Vignoles is quickly down to business. In the introductory chapter, the singer-songwriter Christy Moore is quoted as follows: ‘He [Rory] was a beautiful man who, I think, died real lonely’. In those eleven words, Moore sets out the book’s primary ambitions. ‘The Man Behind The Guitar’ does what it says in the title: it’s a forensic trawl into Gallagher’s modus in an effort to define a fully-formed portrait of a complicated, difficult and still largely unknown artist.

In so doing, Vignoles uncovers an overly-anxious, perennially fearful, sleep deprived, bizarrely superstitious, religiously devout and subsequently alcohol dependent and ultimately lonely writer with a long-standing stubborn streak who, in respect of his music, could be obsessive, impulsive and spontaneous. He shines a considerable torch too onto one of the primary contradictions at the heart of Gallagher’s story: the manner in which he consistently kicked against one stereotype – that of the hell raising, boisterous rock star – while conforming to another, that of the musician who only really comes alive with a guitar in his hand.

‘The Man Behind The Guitar’ has already drawn predictable, and indeed understandable fire from Donal Gallagher. Neither he nor Tom O’Driscoll, Rory’s long-time roadie, or indeed Gerry McAvoy, contributed to the book even if, given the broad breadth of third-party archive material unearthed by the author, their voices are still prominent throughout, albeit from a distance.

Over which Vignoles spoons a fine, full-bodied critical over-view of the writer and performer that doesn’t hold back or pull its punches. Because whereas Gallagher was undoubtedly a gifted player and stage performer, he was never the most instinctive, creative or prodigious writer. And while his career can be parceled into three or four distinctive lyrical phases – for which, Vignoles and his critical right-hand, Dave McHugh, rightly assert he is never properly credited – he struggled manfully, or perhaps just blithely refused, to ever really move on musically.

[Its probably worth noting too that, in relative terms, Gallagher was never a huge seller: ‘Live in Europe’, his 1972 elpee, was his only ever Top Ten success in Britain].

And which is why one of the more recurring critical conclusions in respect of much of Gallagher’s output after his ‘Top Priority’ album [1978] – rightly or wrongly – is that his songs just eventually became vessels for his next long, and often far too-predictable solo.

Given the sensitivity with which Vignoles deals with much of the more speculative aspects of Gallagher’s personal life – he was alcohol dependent for much of his later life, may have been [undiagnosed] on the autism spectrum, certainly suffered from depression from as far back as his teens and endured a long-running series of medical ailments – you feel that Gallagher’s younger brother missed a real opportunity here to contribute to what is a vivid, insightful and important profile.

There’s plenty in ‘The Man Behind The Guitar’ too that’s strictly anorak and technical enough for the musos, even if Gallagher’s influence as a player on the generations that came directly after him – The Edge, Johnny Marr, Slash, Noel Gallagher – isn’t developed. Nor does the author fully attempt to place Rory in the creative pantheon, even in Irish terms: its just assumed, from the off, that he was, ergo he is.

But these are moot points. The author suppresses his fan’s instincts from the get-go and, as is invariably the case in documentary and biography, the most difficult passages are the most riveting. Describing the last decade of Rory’s life after the protracted release of his ‘Defender’ elpee in 1987 – which finally saw the light of day in the shadow of the global emergence of U2, who unveiled ‘The Joshua Tree’ in the same year – Vignoles, on an uncharacteristic bitterness that had started to emerge in some of Gallagher’s interviews, is at his most pointed and perceptive.

‘When the touring is less frequent, when the adulation is less apparent, when your fingers may no longer have the dexterity they had, what do you do if you’re not taken up with family or investments or golf ? How does the sensitive human being ‘come down’ from fame ? With difficulty, perhaps, is the answer’.

‘Rory Gallagher : The Man Behind The Guitar’ by Julian Vignoles is published by The Collins Press and is on sale now.  

THE ROLLING STONES VERSUS IRELAND’S SHOWBANDS, 1965

The Rolling Stones bring their ‘No Filter’ tour to Croke Park on May 17th next for what might well be the band’s final ever bumper pay day in Ireland. The group has been visiting this country in various iterations and to various effect for over fifty years and one can confidently claim that the nation has grown and developed socially in tandem with the band’s popularity. But there was a time when the notion that Jagger, Richards and Watts might one day set foot on the consecrated sod up in Dublin 3, with their feisty antics, swagger and unconventional hair-dos, was just inconceivable.

The Gaelic Athletic Association is, by a distance, Ireland’s most unique and progressive sports body. But while it’s made huge advances on the field and off since the centenary of its foundation in 1984, the entertainment bookings in Croke Park – popular cabaret for the most part – are a throw-back to those years, from 1958 until 1968, when Ireland’s showbands, another of the country’s more consistently mis-represented cultural curiousities, were in their pomp.

The Gaelic Games themselves and the structures that under-pin and enable them are unrecognisable now from when the Cork County Board first worked with the Banteer-born promoter, Oliver Barry, to bring ‘Siamsa Cois Laoi’ – an afternoon festival of live international folk and domestic traditional music that ran yearly for a decade – to what was then the new Páirc Ui Chaoimh stadium in 1976. But even during its current  period of profound existential uncertainty, it’s re-assuring to know that, when it comes to putting live music onto its playing fields, the Gaelic Athletic Association takes a similar approach to it’s scheduling of club fixtures. Rack them, pack them, stack them and send everybody home sweating.

For the last decade or so, Croke Park has hosted big-ticket, high-volume contemporary cabaret with the sort of instinctive majesty one usually associates with Austin Gleeson or Joe Canning, out wide, beneath the stands, over-the-shoulder, through the black-spot without looking. From Neil Diamond and One Direction to the U2’s ‘Joshua Tree’ anniversary reprise there last year and upcoming shows by the Persil-treated likes of Ed Sheeran and Michael Buble, the best equipped stadium in the country continues the association’s long connection to the be-suited, be-quiffed culture of the ballrooms.

Ireland’s showband history has generated a considerable industry for itself and about itself – a slew of largely myopic written histories, numerous television and radio documentaries, DVD compilations, cassette tapes and live concert tours – since the advent of discotheques and disc jockeys put a serious hole in it’s boat during the early 1970s. In the half century since, the showband story has been faithfully re-cycled through a diffused lens that has corrupted its focus, notwithstanding the odd rogue contribution from the likes of Derek Dean of The Freshmen and the late Northern Irish broadcaster, Gerry Anderson, formerly of The Chessmen [and once of the legendary American blues outfit, Ronnie Hawkins And The Hawks]. Anderson’s 2008 book ‘Heads : A Day in The Life’, is among the most insightful, interesting and funny chronicles of that period because it ignores much of the popular showband narrative and presents the era instead with a candid, clinical eye and not merely as a softly-lit, badly-written romantic romp.

Ireland’s leading showbands were at their peak – playing long sets on an almost nightly basis to packed ballrooms all over the country – during those years when the Second Vatican Council was in session between 1962 and 1965 and while the imposing figure of the long-serving Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, John Charles McQuaid, was casting a considerable shadow over many aspects of Irish society, the showband scene itself prominent among them. And so its understandable that much of it’s history is still presented with a quasi-religious fervour, almost as a national parable where the meek always inherited the family farm and no one ever coveted their neighbour’s wife.

What we know for sure is that many of the musicians who hacked out decent careers on the showband circuit were gifted players, earning good coin knocking out note-perfect, multi-layered arrangements of the big hits of the day, in a range of styles, to order. And like every other movement of note, it was dominated by a colourful cast of performers and a support crew of promoters, impresarios and would-be supremos, many of them larger-than-life, many more of them tragic figures in their own right.

But the personal testimonies of Dean and Anderson, and indeed the complicated life stories of stalwarts like Eileen Reid of The Cadets and Dickie Rock of The Miami – both of which have been drastically revised over the last twenty years – suggest that Ireland’s showband circuit was far edgier and much darker than one has traditionally been led to believe. In this respect it should be noted that two of Ireland’s most complex, successful and influential international rock musicians, Van Morrison from Belfast and the Derry-born Corkman, Rory Gallagher, began their professional careers on the showband circuit, on which they became quickly disaffected.

But back in January, 1965, the showbands still dominated the domestic music market and in Cork, the largest and busiest venues in the county were arguably The Arcadia Ballroom on The Lower Road and The Majorca, in Crosshaven. These were – on paper at least – booze-free zones that took off as the pubs were closing but, while the venues were dry for the most part, many of those on stage were routinely flutered. The level of alcohol abuse within the showband movement is just one of a number of aspects of it’s history that’s routinely air-brushed.

Located not too far from The Arcadia, but far less visible, were Cork’s first alternative music venues. It’s maybe pushing it to describe either the Crypt, by the old Thompson’s bakery on MacCurtain Street, and The Cavern Club, around the back of The Ashley Hotel on Leitrim Street, as venues or clubs – they were what we’d describe now as pop-up coffee shops, at best – but they did serve as genuine antidotes to the larger, more traditional facilities elsewhere.

Catering for those with more lateral, left-field tastes, both spaces were sound-tracked by the more interesting British and American sounds of the time and, in the case of The Crypt, also provided rehearsal space to some of those young locals who’d started to dabble with electric instruments. The Cavern Club expanded its horizons quickly enough and, as tends to still be the case today in venues that attract small but enthusiastic, like-minded audiences, eventually hosted its own live shows, among them early appearances by the likes of Taste and Gary Moore, as well as a landmark visit by the renowned English blues player, John Mayall.

The Cavern – which was later re-named The 006 Club – has long been regarded as Cork’s first alternative music venue and features routinely in the well-worn reminiscences of some of it’s best known graduates, Donal Gallagher – Rory’s brother, long-time manager and the erstwhile guardian of his reputation and estate – among them.

In Mark McAvoy’s 2009 book, ‘Cork Rock : From Rory Gallagher to The Sultans of Ping’ [Collins Press], Donal Gallagher, one of the first DJs at The Cavern, recalls how : ‘I was trying to fashion myself as the Cork John Peel and play music like that. The scene developed and the club, particularly at the weekends, would have bands like The Misfits from Belfast’. [For the sake of accuracy, it’s worth noting that John Peel, the influential British broadcaster, spent much of the 1960s living and working in the United States and didn’t present any radio in England until at least 1967. Among the primary outside influences on the Gallagher brothers – Donal and Rory – would have been American Forces Network radio, some BBC output and Radio Luxembourg’s English language service, Fab 208].

You’d imagine that many of the Cavern Club regulars also fetched up at at The Savoy Cinema on Patrick Street on January 5th, 1965, when The Rolling Stones played their first – and last – live show in Cork. That day has long featured prominently in the city’s popular cultural history and is redolent in its own way of the night, a year earlier, when The Beatles first played in Ireland, at Dublin’s Adelphi Theatre. The story has been well worn over time even if, as often happens, some of the personal testimonies of those who attended are conflicted.

What we know for certain is that The Rolling Stones, then a dynamic, blues-fused rock band, had just enjoyed their second British Number One single with ‘Little Red Rooster’ and, four months before the release of ‘[I Can’t Get No] Satisfaction’ were – alongside The Beatles, The Animals and The Yardbirds – leading a considerable U.K. assault on the American market.

But while the first Irish singles chart of 1965 was topped by The Beatles’ ‘I Feel Fine’, formidable showband royalty like Dickie Rock, Brendan Bowyer, Butch Moore, Tommy Drennan and Larry Cunningham all featured immediately behind it in the top ten. Indeed ‘I Feel Fine’ was about to be toppled by one of Ireland’s biggest selling records of the year, Brendan Bowyer’s ‘The Hucklebuck’.

During the first week of January, Ireland was gripped by a prolonged snap of cold weather and heavy snowfall that forced the closure of some of the country’s roads, especially in the south and the south-east. While politically, and all the more interesting in light of current political discourse, the then Taoiseach, Seán Lemass, was busy appeasing one of the country’s most powerful economic groups.

Explaining to Ireland’s agricultural representative associations his thinking on the recently formed European Economic Community, Lemass told the National Farming Association Congress during a keynote address on January 6th, 1965 that : ‘We do not regard it as vacillating to decide not to rush headlong into a fog. We are having discussions with the British Government on future trade arrangements between the two countries. In any intelligent order of priorities these discussions must take place before we consider the alternative courses which may be possible for us’.

The Rolling Stones played three dates in Ireland between January 6th and January 8th, 1965, – in Belfast, Dublin and Cork respectively – and during which they performed two eight-song sets at every venue, at 6.30 PM and 9PM, travelling by train and car from city to city during their stay here. The classic, five-piece line-up – Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, Brian Jones and Bill Wyman – was headlining a clustered tour, promoted by John Smith, that also included Checkmates, an American rhythm and blues outfit, The Gonks, a South African blues-flavoured band and Twinkle, a young London-born pop singer.

Twinkle’s name will be familiar to fans of The Smiths, who themselves played a brace of fabled live shows in The Savoy, in Cork city, in 1984. She came to popular attention in 1964 with her first hit single, ‘Terry’, released while she was still a teenager :- one of the kookier and more intriguing footnotes in the broader history of 60s British girl-pop, she was already retired from the music industry before she turned twenty-one. A later Twinkle release, ‘Golden Lights’, was covered by The Smiths and features as an additional track on their 1986 single, ‘Ask’.

The first Rolling Stones’ set at The Savoy half-filled the house but the later show sold out its allocation of 1,100 tickets at a venue better known then as one of the city’s busiest cinemas and the focal point of the yearly Cork Film Festival. The headliners took to the stage at 10.35 to begin the second of their short performances and a front-page story on the following morning’s Cork Examiner reported that Gardaí had been called to the show after ‘frenzied teenagers dashed from their seats and swarmed to the organ pit screaming and waving’. Later, a young man ‘climbed on the cinema organ but moved when Savoy manager, Jimmy Campbell, ordered him back’.

Describing the group as ‘long-haired and untidy and the bane of mums and dads of Britain because of this’, The Examiner’s account of events differs from that carried in a short review, on the same day, in The Irish Press. ‘There were no screams, no hysteria and no unmanageable crowds in The Savoy, Cork last night’, the Dublin-based newspaper claimed in a short uncredited piece, most likely filed by a full-time local stringer. ‘A large force of Gardaí was on duty in and around the cinema but an officer on duty said : ‘We were hardly needed’’.

The Cork leg seems to have been tame by comparison with the shows in Dublin and particularly in Belfast, where the front of the stage at the ABC Theatre was lined by R.U.C. men in an attempt to keep punters at an arm’s length from the band. The Rolling Stones’ first live appearance in Belfast the previous year had been abandoned after only twelve minutes and three songs when a full-scale riot broke out in the audience :- the show had been hugely over-subscribed and terrific film footage shot on the night captures some of the chaos that quickly developed inside The Ulster Hall.

Once bitten, The Irish Independent reported how, during the band’s return set at The ABC Theatre six months later, ‘dozens of girls fainted’ and that ‘outside the theatre, an ambulance waited to take the more hysterical ones to hospital’. And there was plenty of overtime for the local constabulary up north too ;- ‘dozens of extra police under a district inspector and two head constables patrolled inside and outside the theatre’, according to The Indo.

The Dublin daily papers – especially The Evening Herald – afforded the Stones short tour of Ireland a measured, mildly bemused degree of coverage and were present on the platform at the Amiens Street train station when the band arrived into the capital from Belfast as ‘a large force of Gardaí and C.I.E. public relations personnel guarded the barriers’. The Herald was there too on the morning after the show as the band departed for Cork in a fleet of cars from the Intercontinental Hotel in Ballsbridge [later known as Jury’s Hotel] where they’d been entertained after returning from The Adelphi Theatre, with a cocktail party hosted by the hotel manager.

‘As the cars pulled away, one young girl, a 14 year-old from Rathmines, waving to Bill Wyman, bass guitarist, cried out : ‘Write to me, Bill. Won’t you please ?’, according to the paper’s reporter on the hotel forecourt. ‘Then she and her companion, also from Rathmines, embraced each other and cried. They told me that they had given Bill stamped addressed envelopes and that he had promised to write to them’.

The Irish Independent’s uncredited review of the band’s Dublin shows referred, of course, to the group’s appearance and, like The Cork Examiner, described The Stones as a ‘long-haired, unconventionally attired quintet’. Clearly more concerned by the general fanfare outside of the venue than inside it, a front-page report head-lined ‘Screams and hysteria muffle the ‘beat’’, remarked how ‘The Adelphi staff, specially augmented by plainclothes Gardaí, did a wonderful job controlling the excited mob’. Adding that ‘even compere Billy Livingstone could not get two seconds piece to introduce them [the band]’.

And, concluding the piece, which just about mentioned the band, one of the more curious closing lines I’ve read in any piece on a live show ever :- ‘Normally Abbey Street is lined with cars on both sides at night. Last night, there were two parked cars, one on each side’.

In the great tradition of such events, the detail is once again provided by those who chose to attend the show as fans and who weren’t merely assigned there by their news editors. And at least one correspondent, from Dublin 6 and credited, perhaps slightly incorrectly as ‘Stone Fan’, took to the letters page in The Evening Herald to correct some of the factual inaccuracies that had pock-marked much of it’s coverage of the Adelphi shows. ‘The Rolling Stones played eight songs, not five’, the missive begins. ‘They were [in order] : ‘Not Fade Away’, ‘Off The Hook’, ‘If You Need Me’, ‘Around And Around’, ‘Little Red Rooster’, ‘It’s All Over Now’ and ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’. They were on stage for 31 minutes and 15 seconds’.

The band performed a slightly modified version of that set when they hit Cork the following night. And in a long feature by John Daly in The Daily Mail on October 13th, 2015, one of those who attended those Cork shows, Paddy Ryan, recalled to the writer the manner in which the show ended. ‘They played their hit, ‘This Could Be The Last Time’, as the curtain slowly descended in front of them on the stage. Then it raised up a second time and they played the final verse of the song, before coming down for the last time. And then the PA system announced, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, The Rolling Stones have left the building’.

Never to return to Cork again, as it happens. Although The Stones did re-visit Ireland later that year, playing dates in Belfast and Dublin on September 2nd and 3rd, on a short lay-over on which they were accompanied by a film crew, working with the director, Mick Gochanour. An observational documentary – ‘Charlie is My Darling’, the first such film about the band – captures them at work and at play during that brief tour but didn’t officially see the light of day until 2012.

Overall, the reporting of the emergence of The Rolling Stones, and of the growing influence of British pop music in general, was even more condescending – and clearly politically-charged – in some of Ireland’s regional newspapers. Many of which were hard-wired to the showband scene and who regarded the emergence of the likes of The Beatles and The Animals as a genuine threat, not just to aspects of Irish cultural life and a comfortable older order but, judging from the tone of much of the editorial output, a real threat to the security of the Irish state itself.

‘The Rolling Stones came to Ireland last week’, stated one of the closing paragraphs of a weekly entertainment column in The Western People on January 16th, 1965. ‘Yes, these are the stones who gather a lot of mossy cash on their continuous travels. One of the group does not think very much of our showbands. In fact he says they are dreadful’.

LLOYD COLE

cole pic

One of the most complete and impressive live guitar performances I’ve seen during my decades spent going slowly deaf in large rooms was on the wide stage at The City Hall in Cork on November 2nd, 1987. Neil Clark lined-up to Lloyd Cole’s right that night, stage left as I looked on from half-way down the long hall on Anglesea Street and, using a full range of styles, buttressed The Commotions sound like he did for the seven years the band endured. During which he routinely played with his fists bound in velvet.

Lloyd Cole and The Commotions were touring ‘Mainstream’, their third album and, during that short stop-over in Ireland, where they were always well received, also played a clutch of dates in Limerick, Dublin and Belfast. There was a time when this sort of carry-on was more rule than exception, even for the bigger bands on the circuit. And in November, 1987, The Commotions were a serious draw.

Some of the more potent live shows played here over the last forty years have gone off, if not completely under the radar, then certainly far from the traditional seat of cool and in less obvious, smaller venues outside of Dublin. Nirvana with Sonic Youth in Cork, famously. The Smiths in Letterkenny and Dundalk, Radiohead in Galway and Prefab Sprout with Paul Brady in Belfast foremost among them too. And to which I would certainly add any one of a number of Commotions shows.

That ‘Mainstream’ tour was back-dropped by the sort of mixed signals that often define a band or artist up a critical and creative junction. The album’s excellent lead single, ‘My Bag’ – ‘excuse me one moment while I powder my nose’ – had been a more difficult sell than it should have been and struggled to recapture commercial formlines. Discommoding some of the day-trippers who’d latterly come on board with the group, ‘Mainstream’ would be the last of the band’s three studio albums.

In the two years since those radio and chart hits – ‘Brand New Friend’ and ‘Lost Weekend’ – and the patchy second album on which they featured, ‘Easy Pieces’, the band’s ambitions had been pulled between the soft edges of ‘Smash Hits’, the market’s influential pop weekly on which Lloyd had featured as brooding pop totty and the noisier, more unforgiving pages of what was then regarded as the more serious music press, New Music Express and Melody Maker especially. And where Lloyd and the band had enjoyed a strong critical footing since the release of ‘Forest Fire’ in 1984.

‘My Bag’ – a terrific, full-bodied, guitar led pop song narrated by a cocaine addict who was walking his bag ‘through a twenty-storey non-stop snow-storm’ – captured that tension in four minutes flat.

One of the Commotions, keyboard player Blair Cowan, had already left the fray, with his accordion under his arm, presumably. But while the ‘Mainstream’ sessions had been laboured, as was much of the tour, it’s not that you’d have guessed that from either the record or the live dates that accompanied it. ‘My Bag’ is indicative of an album that’s meatier and more ambitious than what went previously ;- the songs are stronger and Lloyd has grown into his voice, developing apace as a lyricist as he did so.

But the cross-over, popular market successes delivered by ‘Easy Pieces’ had come at a price. I’m not convinced that The Commotions were ever designed to hold the sort of weight that goes with success in the middle-ground – they wouldn’t be the first, either – and I’ve long felt that much of their subtlety and lyrical magic was just lost in the unpredictable wind of the mainstream. And if the band itself was uncertain about the record, then what about us ?

Lloyd himself re-visited ‘Lost Weekend’ and ‘Brand New Friend’ several years later on a song called ‘Past Imperfect’, the opening cut on an excellent, eponymously-titled album he made in 2000 as part of a New York-based group, featuring Jill Sobule, called The Negatives. ‘I can’t unwrite the tune or discount the cost’ he sings on an album that also features the mighty ‘That Boy’, co-written by Lloyd with Gary Clark of Danny Wilson and King L [and, latterly, the writer of the ‘Sing Street’ soundtrack]. Fifteen years later and he was still seeing the writing on the wall.

And yet all that notwithstanding, Neil Clark gave a real masterclass that night in Cork back in 1987. I just couldn’t believe how effortless his playing was or how central he was to every single one of The Commotions’ key plays. And I remember it in detail.

Thirteen years previously, the influential British film-maker, Tony Palmer, had captured another guitarist at work and play in the same venue. ‘Rory Gallagher : Irish Tour, 1974’ is still, at least on my count, the most rounded and insightful documentary portrait of the gifted but troubled Ballyshannon-born, Cork-shaped guitarist who died, aged 47, in 1995. Completed without voice-over or commentary, Palmer’s highly-charged but skilfully stitched tour film allows the music and the cinematography to link the narrative. And the director’s style clearly suited his subject, who was notoriously shy and who, once again on this film, is at his most animated when talking about strings, tunings and his guitar’s battered body.

But ‘Irish Tour, 1974’ is far more than just a live performance piece. In the scenes shot with Rory around Cork city and Cobh, and especially the material gathered around Belfast at the height of ‘the troubles’, the film becomes a formidable social history document as it goes. Whether that be in those shots of keyboard player Lou Martin uncapping a beer bottle using his belt buckle in a spartan, barely functional dressing room, the smog-filtered general views of Cork’s heavily-industrialised harbour, the Leeds United scarf held aloft proudly in the audience at the City Hall show or the exterior shots of some of Cork’s best known pubs during this time, The Sextant and The Swan And Cygnet among them.

Presumably a director’s in-joke, the only white powder seen in any of the backstage material is that from a branded Scholl can :- drummer Rod D’Ath is captured by Palmer on 16mm film applying foot talc in the dressing room before he laces up his rubber dollies and takes his opening position behind the traps ahead of one of the live concerts. ‘Not chasing anything, just jogging’, as Lloyd Cole would later sing on ‘My Bag’.

In terms of style, influence, tone and substance, Rory Gallagher and Neil Clark stood oceans apart. Gallagher’s primary influences were in the improvised skiffle riffs of Lonnie Donegan and the bluesy American rock sounds of Leadbelly, Fats Domino and Chuck Berry ;- he was a magnetic virtuoso guitarist, on electric and acoustic, who at one stage was invited to replace Mick Taylor in The Rolling Stones.

His impact stretches far and wide. He was regarded as much for how he played as for what he played and, as such, has been name-checked by the likes of Johnny Marr, The Edge, Tim Wheeler of Ash, Noel Gallagher and all points between. And in the great traditions of critical cliché, there were times routinely during his career when his guitar appeared as if it were simply an extension of his body.

Neil Clark might well have been aware of Gallagher’s standing – in Cork, especially – but was far more determined, one suspects, by the grittier can-do of Steve Jones of The Sex Pistols and the delicate flowers of Scotland that sprung into life on the Postcard label in the post-punk era. Like Rory, he too was a nimble and flexible player – if far less showy – and was comfortable in a myriad of styles, often within the same verse-chorus-verse structure. And I was lucky enough to see him at the peak of his powers that night in The City Hall as The Commotions exploded in front of me.

As someone who missed Gallagher’s legendary live performances in Cork by a decade, but who had heard the many tall tales and general mythology that surrounded those shows, this must have been how he sounded, ten years previously, to the duffle-coated, Innisfallen-bound generation that went before me.

I’d seen Johnny Marr at close quarters three years previously in The Savoy on Patrick Street when The Smiths played two shows there in 1984, but those performances were dominated from top to tail by Morrissey, the band’s singer from whom you diverted your attention at your peril, and by a series of fractious side-shows that were going on deep in the belly of the audience. So while I’d been captivated by magnetic lead singers at live shows previously – a young Cathal Coughlan set the bar far too high – this was the first time I’d felt the raw clout of a live guitar and the possibilities it brought with it.

Neil was Lloyd Cole’s guitar side-kick from the early 1980s onwards and it was his fluent and wide-ranging guitar sound that shaped much of the band’s material and reputation. His humble jangle alongside Cole’s arch lyrics and melody lines and Cowan’s soft keyboard fills made The Commotions one of the more interesting and powerful bands of the British indie-pop set during a magical period from 1984 until 1987.

I adored ‘Rattlesnakes’, the band’s imperial 1984 debut album. Apart entirely from the magic underpinning it’s smart pop chops, and Lloyd’s outrageous name-dropping – Simone de Beauvoir, Arthur Lee, Eve Marie Saint, Greta Garbo – he had also delivered one of the greatest lines I’d heard. On ‘Four Flights Up’, over a skittish, country-flavoured Long Ryders-style rattling riff, Lloyd posed the question – ‘Must you tell me all your secrets when its hard enough to love you knowing nothing ?’. And, by so doing, whipped the rug out from under anyone serious about pulling with confidence at U.C.C.’s English Literature Society outings to The Rockview Bar.

Lloyd and Neil share a couple of memorable co-writes on that record – to my mind the album’s best cuts, ‘Forest Fire’ and ‘Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken’ – but our hero contributes widely and wildly across the full deck of ten cuts, numerous acoustic signatures, thundering lead riffs, passive fills and gorgeous foundation lines. But he reserved his most sterling work for ‘Mainstream’.

Lloyd Cole will be forever best remembered, unfairly so and in the worst traditions of his trade, for ‘Rattlesnakes’ and for the snappy pop market singles from its follow up.  But ‘Mainstream’ is by far the band’s best record.

Apart from the strength of the material – ‘From The Hip’, ‘Mister Malcontent’, ‘Sean Penn Blues’ and ‘Hey Rusty’ are ace by any standards – the record is underpinned at every turn by Neil’s magnificent contributions. The record drips with layers of guitar, much of which is un-obtrusive. And that night in The City Hall just sealed the deal for me, no moreso than on the grandiose ‘Hey Rusty’, which he coaxed lovingly over the middle-distance before making for home with the sort of champion kick seen earlier than year in Indianapolis when a remarkable local athlete, Marcus O’Sullivan, one Cork’s finest ever sportsmen or women, took the first of his three World Indoor 1500m championships.

Earlier that year, a friend of mine produced a copy of ‘The Joshua Tree’ out of a Golden Discs carrier bag up on the third floor of The Boole Library in U.C.C. and, on the back of an intensive morning he’d spent with it, was already proclaiming U2’s fifth studio album as the most essential and important record of our generation. By the end of that summer, The Smiths had broken up, R.E.M. released ‘Document’ and The Jesus And Mary Chain released ‘Darklands’. And that – and Marcus O’Sullivan – was pretty much how 1987 was for me.

The night after The Commotions played in Cork, I watched Lloyd do an interview with Shay Healy on a pre-watershed RTÉ magazine programme called ‘Evening Extra’. Unshaven, clearly well-read, studied and bored, Lloyd sported one of his signature black polo-necks during that encounter and, en homage, I wore a selection of similar sweaters for many years thereafter myself. Hoping, forlornly as it happened, that some of his allure might rub off on me.

And I revealed as much to the man himself on May 13th, 1999, when we had the pleasure of hosting Lloyd Cole on an RTÉ light entertainment series I produced called ‘Kenny Live’ and for which he travelled over specially from New York. He played an acoustic Negatives number for us by way of promoting an upcoming live date in Dublin and was as gracious, smart, witty and swarthy as I’d long imagined he might be. Once I’d finished mortifying the pair of us after the show, he dropped a pre-release copy of The Negatives’ album into my lap and signed my copy of ‘Love Story’, his terrific 1995 solo elpee.

Curiously, he wasn’t the last member of The Commotions I encountered on that circuit either. The band’s bass-player, Lawrence Donegan, began a career in journalism immediately after the curtain came down for the group in 1989 and went on to become one of the most perceptive and insightful golf writers on the planet. During the mid-1990s, he spent twelve months in Creeslough in County Donegal – where he has family connections – and captured that experience, which included a stretch spent working the newsdesk at a local paper, in a terrific book, ‘No News At Throat Lake’. We welcomed Lawrence onto an episode of ‘The Late Late Show’ in October, 1999, during which he plugged his book and discussed Daniel O’Donnell at length with the presenter, Pat Kenny.

And after which, having embarrassed myself so spectacularly with his former colleague in the same green room six months earlier, I opted to leave well enough alone and made a point of not discussing the past. Perfect, imperfect or otherwise.

SINDIKAT: THE GREATEST CORK BAND NEVER TO HAVE PLAYED SIR HENRY’S ?

This post – minus image and music – originally appeared on Sir Henrys 2014

‘They Didn’t Teach Music In My School’ is an old Toasted Heretic song that first appeared on ‘The Smug’ E.P., released on the band’s own Bananafish label in 1990. And anyone who, like myself, attended The North Monastery school on the Northside of Cork city during  the 1970s and 1980s, will appreciate the song’s title, if not its memorable chorus, which runs as follows:

‘But we got out alive, We’re rich, We’re famous. And you’re inside for sliding up Seamus’

The dominant extra-curricular focus up on Our Lady’s Mount was sport, and the school’s legacy on  tracks and fields all over Ireland and beyond has been well chronicled. The Mon has produced  numerous All-Ireland winners and has excelled in a variety of disciplines outside of the classroom.  But has the school ever actually crashed the pop charts ?

Rory Gallagher briefly attended primary school there after his family moved to Cork from Donegal  [via Derry] in the late 1950s but, as Marcus Connaughton puts it in his book ‘Rory Gallagher – His Life  And Times’, it was only once Rory moved to St Kieran’s College on Camden Quay that ‘he prospered after the more repressed regime of The North Mon’.

A school choir – The North Monastery Boys Choir – flourished briefly during the late 1970s and early  80s. Led by musical director, Andrew Padmore, the forty boys famously did a brief tour of Rome,  performed in the school on grand occasions and actually released an album. Beyond that, the school’s support for music was generally very limited and the subject didn’t feature as part of the formal  curriculum.

But every now and again a cluster of like-minds would gel-up around the darker corners of the school, often including those you’d least expect to find messing around with pedals, plugboards and multi-core leads. Billeted in the heart of a staunchly working-class part of town, Monboys were more likely to throw slaps than rock star shapes.

Alan Whitehouse and Noel O’Flaherty from Dublin Hill led an angsty, punk-pop combo called Blunt  [who were anything but], that generated ripples and snagged a couple of nice supports around town. Michael Dwyer from Gerald Griffin Street fronted The Electric Hedgehogs and, further up the school, Jim O’Mahony was known to be hanging around rehearsal rooms with trendy types from across the river.

But these were rare exceptions. The Mon may have churned out many sportsmen of calibre – and a few well regarded poets – between 1976 and 1985 but, back then, we lagged well behind schools like Coláiste Chriost Ri, Deerpark and Coláiste An Spioraid Naoimh, when it came to producing rock bands.

Very few of you will remember Sindikat. They hardly feature within the broader pages of Cork music history but, thirty years on, I remember them and their songs in ultra-fine detail and, to a handful of us in our mid-teens, they were the closest we got to real erotica. Because although we’d already been mainlining on the likes of REM, The Smiths and Prefab Sprout, Sindikat were different and, in many ways, more important. They were our secret crush, the first and only band in the village.

Sindikat were a surly five-piece and, among their number counted three lads from the class immediately above us and another from a different part of the school. Not only that, but they’d just committed their stuff to tape and had recorded a demo. And they were playing live. The original line-up comprised of Pat Lyons [vocals], Brendan Smith [bass], Kieran O’Sullivan [guitar], Paul O’Reilly [Hammond] and Paul Sheppard [drums] and here they were, in their black tops and out-size shades, badly photocopied on the front of their five-song cassette.

I’d always had Lyons pinged as a new-wave sort, cut in the likeness of Vince Clarke. But he stared me out now from the front of the demo’s sleeve with a single strand of blond hair wrapped around his ear – which was multi- pierced, of course – on what was an otherwise standard issue punk cut. It wasn’t just the wonders of an Arts course he’d discovered since he left The Mon for U.C.C.

Vocally he strained to hit the top of his register and wasn’t a natural singer. Behind him, Sindikat borrowed liberally from Joy Division, The Doors, The Velvets and some of the mellower post-punks. Their best songs [‘Jezebel’, ‘Indecision’, ‘Beyond The Purple Mountain’] were wrapped up in Kieran’s delicate guitar licks and his easy way with middle-eights, breaks and the more complicated end of the tutorial books. A shrill Hammond would routinely parp its way in and out of the mix and, bubbling underneath, a tinny drum sound and basic bass rumble. And it was a beautiful racket.

It was just before we sat The Leaving Certificate in the summer of 1985 that Sindikat really started to register. They’d formed nine months previously as first year university students and had already caused a bit of live rumble in the College Bar. Their demo earned them a nice billing, with a photograph, in Brian O’Brien’s weekly rock column in The Echo, and our interest was piqued. The fact that the core of a fully-formed band had been shaped in the classroom next door, beyond the partition, caused no little wonder. The world was indeed filled with possibilities and, for a couple of years, I chronicled and checked this band’s every move.

I recognised the rhythm section from around Gerald Griffin Street and had never remotely thought of either of them as likely rock stars. The keyboard player looked like he was on leave of absence from the Housing Department in Cork Corporation and Pat looked like a dog’s dinner, but it didn’t matter. Sindikat were local, accessible, visible and were making waves. And I wanted a piece.

They only ever played half a dozen live shows during their two year history, and The Underground, off Patrick Street, was their live venue of choice. A couple of their gigs there were captured on pretty decent recordings by another former pupil of the school, Paul Daly, who was one of my neighbours and friends on Seminary Road. Those tapes snapshot sweaty, mildly chaotic live affairs, with the band frequently re-starting some of their songs and Lyons being roundly baited from the floor.

In the best traditions of punk rock, the band – Kieran apart – seemed to struggle with their instruments, but this too was irrelevant. They’d routinely lash through fifteen or sixteen songs and end in fury with an angry take on Joy Division’s ‘Transmission’. It was perfect and we lapped it up.

On a memorably hot Sunday afternoon during the summer of 1985, Sindikat performed as part of the celebration marking the granting of city status to Cork, 800 years previously. On the back of a truck parked in a tarmaced car-park beside what was then the Graffiti Theatre Company, they appeared third on a bill that also included Porcelyn Tears and the day’s headliners, Flex And The Fastweather. It could have been our own private Glastonbury.

But Sindikat weren’t suited to the out of doors and the day didn’t go well for them. Brendan broke a string on his bass early on and, after what seemed like an eternity spent trying to replace it, the band lost momentum as the crowd of fifty lost interest. In the white heat of the summer, Sindikat’s post-punk schtick was lost and out of place. I shouted at them to play ‘Factory Fodder’, a live favourite, but Lyons sneered back at me from the truck. ‘We haven’t rehearsed that one’. Sindikat were an intensive live experience but, removed from their natural habitat – the low ceilings at The Underground and the warmth of The College Bar – their impact was lost.

There was another show in The Buckingham, which later became Mojos, during which O’Reilly’s Hammond took up half of the stage and where punters had to actually walk across him and his gear to access the toilets, such as they were. But when Denis Desmond – a local impresario and not to be confused with the international mogul of the same name – took over The Cork Opera House for a week-long showcase and put every young band in Cork into a serious, serious venue, it looked as if Sindikat were ready to spring. Finally the band was set to perform in a venue that matched the scale of ambition I’d set for them in my head.

Sindikat’s set aside, that suite of gigs is still memorable for a terrific set from Ballincollig band The Outside, and for an appearance by a Bishopstown band called Echoes In A Shallow Bay, fronted by Brendan O’Connor and featuring Niall Linehan from The Frank And Walters on guitar. The highlight of their set was a shocking cover of ‘Stairway To Heaven’, where the singer read the words from a sheet of paper as he swayed around the vast stage like Quasimodo chasing Esmerelda around Sidetrax just before last orders.

Sindikat had undergone radical surgery. The curtain went up and revealed that Kieran – the band’s callow guitarist and key writer– was absent, presumed gone. In his place a new member, Eddie, and a scatter of terrific new songs. But they found their old habits hard to shake too and, as ever, had to re-start the opener, a sturdy new number ,‘The Light’, that featured far more lead guitar runs than previously.

Eddie was very clearly an honours student at the Knopfler school and, as with the aforementioned Toasted Heretic, their songs now rolled with added licks. The band’s name may have suggested a group sharing common interests but, from our velvet seats in the stalls, Eddie was rocking to his own beat.

A listing on the excellent http://www.irishrock.org website claims that Sindikat were active from 1984 until 1986 when, I imagine, the original gang dissipated and the band just ran out of puff. But not before I crossed the floor and very nearly joined them.

A friend of mine from Blackpool, Ray O’Callaghan, is a fine guitarist whose form line extends back to Poles Apart, a Police/Rory/muso-conscious three-piece led by singing bass-player, John Drinan. They were a decent live draw, Sir Henry’s regulars during the early 1980s alongside the likes of Sabre and recorded a ballsy three-song session for Dave Fanning’s Rock Show on the then Radio 2. Ray responded to a newspaper advert placed by a Northside-based rock band seeking a guitarist and keyboard player. That band was Sindikat, who had obviously come apart at the seams and were looking to re-fuel the jet.

Ray and myself fetched up on a cold, cold night at a breeze-block rehearsal room at the bottom of Fair Hill that, appropriately enough, touched onto the playing fields at the back of The North Mon. I’d passed the gates to this building regularly often over the years and had often wondered what went on behind the metal doors. Now I knew. It was here, against slabbed walls deadened by old rugs and dimly lit with naked bulbs that we jammed with what remained of the old Sindikat line-up for the guts of an hour.

Ray was – and remains – a beautiful, old-school musician. Another graduate from the school of serious players, he boosted the body of every number with no little power and using an impressive artillery of pedals and effects. Loud to boot, Sindikat would have been lucky to snare him.

In the opposite corner, I hunched over a primitive Casio, awe-struck in such company, and barely managed to get a full chord away. Like a desperate psychotic on a blind date, I also knew Sindikat’s canon of material better than the band itself, or what was left of the band by then. Pat Lyons looked mortified and, although the long-standing rhythm section were courteous and kind, there was an elephant in the room. Even then, we all knew. Sindikat were blowing hard, drowning not waving.

Nothing ever materialised from our one-night stand and I never heard of the band again. Even more curiously, I never subsequently saw any of them around either, although I’ve since heard many tall tales about them – Pat especially – over the years.

Sindikat, to the best of my knowledge, never played Sir Henry’s. But then this band comprised a core of Northsiders with bottle and, you know, maybe they just wanted to trade on their own terms and stubbornly do things their own way ? Their short biography on http://www.irishrock.org claims that Sindikat ‘were considered a ‘northside band’, local parlance for outside the mainstream’ which, although clearly tongue in cheek, may help to explain why they steered clear of Cork’s most vaunted live music venue, preferring the smaller, more delapidated and far drearier atmosphere at The Underground instead.

But to these ears at least, they are the first, the last and the always. For two years they were the band I obsessed most about, quite possibly the greatest Cork band never to have darkened the door of Sir Henry’s. And that, in the pages of my own limited and deficient history of Cork rock music, only sets them further apart from the pack.

Brendan Smith subsequently posted two great comments on the original piece – we include those here…

Hello Colm, Brendan here. Really enjoyed reading this and how you remember that time. Forgot many of those details myself. Have some recordings from back then also. Respond by email and I’ll get in touch. Cheers.

Great piece Colm. Just like being there. I (Brendan) had forgotten many of the details myself, but reading this jogged my memory. Thought I would fill in some of the gaps.

I laughed at your comment about us regularly restarting songs. Had forgotten that. Honestly it was not a subversive attempt to create chaos. We had cheap crappy gear for the most part and equipment manfunctions were the norm. Would start off and the mike would not work, or the keyboard amp. Twenty seconds in we would mess around with the equipment and restart the song. Must have seemed a strange quirk to you on the floor.

Shortly after making the demo in April 1985, Sully (Kieren) left to take a job in Germany for the Summer. Eddie came in for a few months. Not all the original set worked well with his Knopfler-esque style so we wrote some new material that went in a totall different direction. The Light and Flying Colours were the pick of them. Sully came back briefly but quickly became disilusioned. The first gig we did with Eddie was at The Underground in September. Was an excellent gig I recall. We had not played in months and had a huge raucous crowd. I think someone out there has a recording of it. As you pointed out, the Cork 800 show had us out of our element and did not go well.

I recall only two more gigs after that, in early 86. The Buckingham and Opera House. Shortly thereafter things began to unravel. Paul O’Reilly started thinking he was a rock star already. Started missing practice a lot. Showed up late for the Opera House gig, arriving just as we were about to go on, so drunk we had to prop him up on his stool. Final straw was when he approached Paul and I to insist we replace Pat with a female singer. He had to go.

Then Eddie left. Wanted to join his buddies in a New Romantic band. They also played the Opera House then, do not recall the name though
.
Worked with a blues guitarist, Mick, for a while. Some good songs came out of that but were never recorded or played live.

Ended shortly thereafter and we all went our seperate ways. Sully went on to become a psychiatrist or something, Pat joined the army and lives in Carlow I think. Reilly got married and moved to Spain, have not heard from since. Paul Sheppard still lives in the Cork area. Opened a head shop in Barack Street called Utopianation. Still there I think. I moved to the States in 1988. Try to get back to Cork every couple of years.
Good times. “A beautiful chaos” sums it up well.