Sir Henrys


Our latest guest post is from Kilian McCann. Kilian is a sociology and history undergrad from Cork city. This year, he finished a research project analysing the Cork music scene. One of the major aspects of the study was the disconnect that young people have with past artists in the scene.

The post below is adapted from his chapter on Sir Henrys contained within this research.

I recently did a study on Cork’s music identity. I wanted to find how linked the current Cork music scene was to the huge history of music in the city, and how much of an influence that the bands from the past are on the scene. The results varied a lot, but what was obvious was that the younger generation don’t care near as much about Sir Henry’s as the older generation. In the sixteen years since Henry’s closed and was demolished, young people seem to have forgotten about it and its legendary status.

Dr. Eileen Hogan, a researcher at UCC who has studied the Cork music scene, found that there is a sort of disdain amongst the younger generations regarding the harking towards Cork’s music past. Younger generations want those who look back in nostalgia to appreciate what is happening currently in Cork city. Stevie G wondered if when Sir Henry’s closed, it was actually getting less fun, or if it was just that his generation was getting older. As Aidan Lynch of The Slut Club stated, “what’s so great about Sir Henry’s is that there’s no Sir Henry’s, ironically”.

Hogan noted that younger musicians feel detached from the history. There’s a lack of cross-generational musical awareness in Cork. That said, local music journalist Mike McGrath-Bryan agreed that this break occurred, but that there is still some kind of continuity in sensibility, “I think the past is a ghost that constantly haunts Cork music…obviously, there was a break in the 1990s…there was a discontinuity alright, but also, more so than that, there’s a thematic continuity in Cork music in that since 1981-1982 with the Kaught at the Kampus Record.”

Caoilian Sherlock of Quarter Block Party describes growing up in a period between two cycles: “I think I witnessed the death of a cycle and the birth of a new one over the last 6 years. I mean, there’s a moment where both the waves crash in on each other, and that’s what the last couple of years have been, where artists see the route to their success being record labels, management based in London or Dublin, that whole thing kind of ended over the last couple of years.”

After the closure of Sir Henry’s, many people involved in it, most notably Stevie G, went on to guide emerging members of the Cork scene through opening the Pavilion. Eileen Hogan and Martin O’Connor, a librarian at UCC, state this to be the case: “There is, I would say, a big cohort of leaders in the Cork music scene who came through the Pav, like Caoilian Sherlock for example, who set up the Quarter Block Party. People like that were shaped by or influenced by people who themselves came through the Sir Henry’s scene…A lot of them are very active now in the music scene, the media scene, it’s not even if it’s not necessarily a case where they have the guitars and the drums except they might be working in the media and they promote the younger now”

Sound engineer Cormac Daly thinks this as well: “One thing I will say about Cork, and it’s probably not unique, but there is a strong sense of heritage and history there, even aside from the music itself, but just culturally, the way people talk about Sir Henry’s, massive nostalgia for the place. So there’s definitely a sense of connection with the past, from the people who have been in the scene longer than myself, they’re very open, they’re very approachable, they have like, speaking of Sir Henry’s, Stevie G, is very much about shedding light on the new talent, that’s what he does, so it goes both ways.” Though Sir Henry’s was lost, the legacy lived on and shed light on the new generation.

Abbey Blake, lead guitarist in Pretty Happy, does feel inspiration from Cork’s music past, especially the high standards: “Cos I remember listening to, my Dad has an LP that his band were on, and it was all Cork, Irish bands, and it’s cool to listen to and these bands disappeared now. There’s some fuckin class songs. Especially since there’s no social media presence for any of them, they’re just fuckin gone like. It’s so cool. I think that definitely influenced me like…I think, the only way I feel a connection is through hearing the stories, like, class, I want to gig like that, you know what I mean? I want to hold myself to that accord that they did. Like, they were constantly polished, constantly practising, hated having a shit gig, and I like that kind of standard.”

The Slut Club also had a similar experience, with bassist Aidan Lynch telling of how he heard stories of Sir Henry’s “My mother dated Niall from the Sultans of Ping, so I would have heard plenty of the stories from Henry’s. …There’s a precedent set like, there’s a lot of great music that’s come from Cork, and there’s an attitude, and you’ve got to uphold that kind of thing”

Alex O’Regan of Gilbert, or the Unfathomable Loneliness of the Deep Space Prospector also stated an awareness of Cork music, especially of Stump, and of Rory Gallagher: “My Dad was mad into them [Stump] as well, got a bunch of his stuff, laid around the house. I could probably recognise a bunch of their songs without even knowing the names of them to be fair. It’s that kind thing, it’s in the background. And then, at the same time, we’re all a little bit obsessed with Rory Gallagher”.

Drew Linehan of Hausu believes that there is a lack of awareness of Cork’s music history in the city overall: “I was kind of interested to know and find out, and that’s how I found out about Microdisney, and Nun Attax, and all those kind of weird ones…I think it could be more important, but I don’t know, you don’t hear about those bands a lot. People don’t talk about them, you know”. Donagh Sugrue of Teletext Records thinks that music should be celebrated more in Cork, much in the same way as it is done in Glasgow. This would respect the position music should have in Cork city.

The tangible link between the present and the past in Cork city is largely severed, broken, but many bands and collectives are still aware of the history. That is mainly because of their parents being involved before, transmitting their stories onwards. But for those not from Cork, it’s harder to come across the stories. They’re only told in certain circles who don’t communicate with the younger generation.

The reason for the break in the link is interesting to explore, since every interviewee has a different opinion on why it happened. Mike McGrath-Bryan believes the economic boom caused the break, but John Dwyer of Bunker Vinyl on Camden Quay believes that emigration was a major factor: “I think years ago it was really cheap to have rehearsal spaces, and everyone was on dole in the 80s and 90s, there was no work in Ireland, everyone emigrated and stuff. So…in the 80s, everyone seemed to move to London and stuff, with people moving and emigration, probably a lot of talent left the city as well, and the kind of city, people just needed work and to get out of Ireland. So, we lost a lot of good musicians and we lost a lot of people who were involved in the scene in those days.”

Jack Corrigan of Hausu cites the lack of Sir Henry’s being a reason for the break: If you were to go to Sir Henry’s you could look at the wall and see a poster of this band played here and x and y, you see all the names and stuff. Like, when I was in Galway, I was in Róisín Dubh, and I was looking at the posters and it was like Brian Wilson played here, fuckin like, you can see the history. It’s there in front of you.”

Many of the interviewees believed that the internet and accessibility to music played a role. Caoilian Sherlock of Quarter Block Party illustrated living how the change occurred during his coming-of-age, between the old and new periods, in which Hot Press died, and Napster and LimeWire were emerging. The Internet hadn’t begun to be important yet, and there was still the influence of the older generation. But as the internet got more important, the voices of the older generation began to get lost on Cork’s youth.

What is clear, though, is that the cultural touchpoint Henry’s was and the commonness it gave to the generations beforehand was lost with its closure. Every musical generation before the 2000s had it as a frame of reference in their minds and knew the legendary status it held within the country. Even the physical presence of the building can create that sense of heritage, rather than the empty plot of land that holds the ghost of where Henry’s once stood. Though the EPs lived on and were transmitted to the some of younger generation through their parents, they’re an endangered species. But time moves on. This generation’s Henry’s needs to be somewhere else.



I worked for a couple of years with my friend, Jeff Brennan, in The Rock Garden, the live music venue and sometime restaurant that opened in Crown Alley, in Temple Bar, Dublin, almost 25 years ago. It was the late Aiden Lambert, Blink’s manager, who brokered that job for me and I’ve written about our relationship here. Officially, I was charged with publicising the wide disparity of acts booked into the old cellar but, in reality, I was hired to play a straight bat to Jeff’s jokes and routines. And there were many.


He’d moved the short distance to The Rock Garden from The Underground Bar on Dame Street where, working with his father, Noel and Johnny, the weary drayman, he held court and booked bands for most of the 1980s, during a period of terrific optimism and no little quality for alternative Irish music. Bands like A House, Something Happens, The Stars of Heaven, The Slowest Clock, Rex And Dino, Power Of Dreams and [Backwards] Into Paradise took root in The Underground and, for years, were regulars on the tiny stage that often defied the laws of, if not physics, then certainly health and safety. Paul Page, Whipping Boy’s guitarist, was also one of that number – onstage and off – during The Underground’s heyday and has written about the peculiar sense of purpose that characterised the place in an excellent post on his own blog. That piece is available here


live at the underground


The Underground Bar features prominently in any credible history of the live music circus that pitched up around Dublin in the wake of U2’s initial breakthroughs in Europe and America. The venue hosted many fine emerging bands between 1984 and 1989, helping several of them to add muscle, over time, to what were often callow bodies at source. And to this end, Jeff’s role in the real affairs of state shouldn’t be under-estimated. Although he took his music very seriously, and while he was a generous support to any number of dreamers who landed in on top of him from all sides, he treated the more helium-filled aspects of ‘the industry’ with a healthy suspicion.


From behind the small bar, he traduced many reputations over the years while running a decent and honest shop founded on the principles of fair play and good spirits. What was once The Underground – ‘don’t look for it, it’s not there anymore’ – is now a lap dancing club and, tellingly, the old venue isn’t commemorated by either a plaque on the wall or by Jeff’s hand-prints on the pavement outside.


During his first couple of years at The Rock Garden, Jeff certainly had the place fizzing. The step up in scale, size and budget – if not necessarily class – gave him a bit more leeway and he snagged memorable live shows from the likes of The Frames, Radiohead, The Afghan Whigs, Pavement, Swervedriver, The Young Gods, The Sultans, The Frank And Walters, The Senseless Things, Adorable and countless others, all of whom lugged their back-lines in around the back of Crown Alley and down the concrete and iron stairs to set up.


New Year’s Eve was always a real highlight at The Rock Garden and I’d make sure I was back up from Cork in good time to see out the old and to ring in the new there. Maintaining a long-standing tradition started back in The Underground, Jeff would opt for heft, clout and loud guitars to headline the last night of the year. Sack, Blink and The Brilliant Trees in their pomp regularly stuffed the place and, playing to fans, friends and families, they’d always blister through mighty sets. And then, as the night wore on, Tony St. James and The Las Vegas Sound would take the late-shift and carry us over the threshold and out into the open promise of the twelve months ahead.


Along one whole side of the venue, meanwhile, the bar staff would be royally lashed and the punters at the taps would often stand six, seven or eight deep, all of them roaring for porter. Jeff and myself would mingle readily around the place, annoying the door-staff, insulting the easily insulted and roll out what was a well-honed double act. And, once the doors were eventually locked behind us, well into the tiny hours, we’d kick back with a handful of regulars, stretch the New Year out in front of us and begin to unpick the world and many of those – saps, twits and dibbicks among them – who sailed in her.


I formed some wonderful friendships down in The Rock Garden and I fell out with as many people there again. But never once did I feel like I was actually working. In the early evenings I’d often drop whatever I was doing and slip down into the belly of the beast to eavesdrop during a sound-check. From deep in the shadows I heard Sack repeatedly do ‘What Did The Christians Ever Do For Us’, ‘How The Stars Became Stars’ and ‘Omnilust’ one afternoon as they were fine-tuning their shapes. And those, indeed, were the days.


We answered to a bearded, heavy-set American boss called Mark Furst, who fronted the venue. Jeff was tasked with booking decent live music into the place on a nightly basis and, given the vagaries of live music, we had some right old disasters over time, some of which defied all odds. Pulp and The Cranberries both died spectacularly in The Rock Garden ;- The Cranberries attracted eighteen paying punters and, at one point, the band and it’s handlers out-numbered the crowd.


Pulp pulled into Crown Alley one lazy Saturday afternoon and, although the band was on the cusp of a real commercial cross-over in Britain, they attracted less than one hundred die-hards on the night. Half of the band’s backline had been stolen after a show in London the previous evening and, compounding their humour, Pulp’s dowdy tour manager wasn’t overly pleased to find that Jeff had billeted them in what was then proudly slugged as ‘Dublin’s cheapest hotel’ – a ten-buck-a-night bed-and-breakfast up on Gardiner Street. ‘Sorry to hear about the gear’, Jeff told the group. ‘But I’m sure the rest of it will be robbed on ye tonight’.


I had a real soft spot for The Dadas, a Northside combo led by Andy Fitzpatrick, who later went on to buttress William Merriman’s excellent Harvest Ministers ;- I honestly thought that The Dadas’ honey-coated canon had a real sparkle to it. After they attracted less than a score of paying punters into what could often be an unforgiving old cavern, Fursty took off on one in the offices upstairs. Like Brian Blessed in leather biker’s keks, he upped the ante and the volume ;- ‘The Dodos [sic]’, he drawled, ‘will never be booked here again’. An arrangement that, I suspect, suited the band as much as it suited the venue.


But we had our nights of glory too. The Rock Garden was accessible, available and well-equipped and, during the time I spent there, we hosted a wide range of artistes, musos, pissheads, chancers, thieves and poets – the full travelling circus. Indeed one of the most memorable performances there was actually by  a circus ;- The Jim Rose Circus Sideshow fetched up with bearded ladies and a bloke who hung breeze blocks off of his nipples and his penis. The queue outside wasn’t the only thing that stretched far and long around The Rock Garden that night.


We’ve lost a fair few of our own stellar performers in the years since and, when Jeff and myself meet each other these days, it’s more likely to be at a removal or a funeral than it is at a venue. We met twice last year ;- at our friend Aiden Lambert’s funeral last month and back last April when we waved off George Byrne, the writer and collector. I always doubted whether George actually liked The Rock Garden, and he certainly didn’t like it as much as he did The Underground where, over the years, he saw frenetic live sets from a host of his local fancies.


One Easter Saturday night, during a Something Happens/Cypress, Mine ! double-bill – and after a hard few days of it with both bands in Cork – he fell down the end of the stairs and onto the stage. This trick was far more difficult to complete in The Rock Garden although, to be fair, George manfully attempted it on several occasions. I wrote a longer piece about George after his funeral in April, 2015, and that piece is available here.


It was in The Rock Garden that I first met Uaneen Fitzsimons. She’d been a college-mate of the two Dónals – Dineen and Scannell – and, like the rest of us, was standing-by, waiting for a break. And it was in The Rock Garden, with the Dónals, Des Fahy, Jeanne McDonagh, Jim Carroll, Ritchie Flynn and Eamonn Crudden and many others that the basic idea for the No Disco music television series started to form. When Uaneen took No Disco’s reins from Dónal Dineen, it just felt like we’d completed another circle and made good on a conversation that may, or may not have been had years previously in Wild, one of the many clubs run upstairs at The Rock Garden.


Martin Egan was another gentle soul who’d turn up unannounced in Crown Alley every now and again and he’d leave with a handy support ;- Jeff would always make sure that he was looked after and sorted. Martin is one of that number of decent scouts we lost in the trenches during the last twelve months.


It’ll be ten years next April since I stood under my friend Philip’s box up in The North Cathedral in Cork and, with his brother and a handful of others, lifted him out and on his way. I think about Phil a lot ;- we lived in each other’s pockets as we dreamt our way through our teens and into our twenties and yet I often wonder if I ever really knew him at all ? But when The Trash Can Sinatras unveil their upcoming album later this year, I’ll instinctively ponder how he would have rated it ? He once ended up backstage with them after a sparsely-attended show in Nancy Spains in Cork and spooked the band by knowing their back catalogue more intimately than they did themselves.


I moved out of Cork twenty-five years ago and, for the most part, tend to keep a respectful distance now. I love the streets and the lanes around the Northside but I’m not one of those exiles who consistently yearn to get back there ;- I left for a reason. But for an important few days every Christmas, I’d make my way back home from Dublin and, before I’d even get to my family, I’d have already dropped in on Phil at the shop on Patrick Street where he worked.


And, from the door of the premises, we’d determine the year’s best releases and consider the previous twelve months, just rabbiting on. He’d make sure I knew just how great everything was and it would never dawn on me to probe a bit deeper ;- it just wasn’t how we rolled. Music and records brought us together in the first place and it was music and records that we last spoke meaningfully of. Indeed in truth, music and records were all we really ever spoke of meaningfully, more’s the pity.


That journey home becomes harder and more important by the year. Three weeks ago I hit the road South straight after Aiden Lambert’s funeral and I couldn’t wait to leave Dublin behind me. I made several other car trips over Christmas and ran up a fair few miles and, every now and again, from behind the wheel, my mind would drift off a bit. And I’d think about Aiden. And George Byrne, Tony Fenton, Mick Lynch and Martin Egan. In the low light I’d picture Uaneen and Pat Neville and Eugene Moloney and Brendan Butler ;- some of whom I knew well, some of whom I barely knew and yet all of whom, back the road somewhere, were there with us during the bright nights and the dark nights down in The Rock Garden and The Underground and Sir Henry’s and wherever else.


But I’d keep driving on. Because we’re always just driving on.


Courtesy of Nessa Carter




































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 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 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.


This is our first guest post – courtesy of Jim O Mahony – a wonderful reminder of a real Cork city institution… I hope you all enjoy reading it and remembering as as much as we did… Thanks Jim…

Comet front

Comet Records

Hard to know where to begin really. In an era where people now cherish the memory of record stores and even have a designated day every year dedicated to them it’s worth remembering that such stores were the norm 15/20 years ago. Every city had a few decent and not so decent ones.

Comet Records was one of the decent ones. An offshoot of Comet in Dublin it was the first proper independent record store in Cork providing the music lovers in the real capital with a variety of exotic musical styles in many guises. Since its doors closed for the final time about 15 years ago it has attained almost mythical status in the history of the Cork music scene. Some of this is deserved while some is taken silently and cynically with a pinch of salt.

Comet Records Bag

Comet Records Bag

Cork has always had record shops – some good and some not so good. For years the best shop in town was The Swap Shop in MacCurtain Street which sold second-hand records and musical instruments. We never really had a proper alternative record shop like they did in Dublin or Belfast. Comet Records changed all that when it opened its doors in Cork in 1989.

Originally situated halfway down Oliver Plunkett Street above Mr. Video selling new and second and cassettes and records in a variety of genres – rock, pop, indie ( a term I hate ), metal, rap, country, folk, jazz and a panpipe section that actually sold quite well – the people of Cork took to it like ducks to water. Depeche Mode 12”s would have been big sellers and I can still remember the Friday the first Stone Roses album came in. We got five copies which sold in about 5 minutes. We lasted about a year in Oliver Plunkett Street until one day one of the landlords (two identical twin brothers you couldn’t tell apart) arrived in and announced that the building had been sold and we basically had three days to vacate. We had to send some of the stock back to the shop in Dublin and the rest was stored in the front room of my parents’ house in Blackpool… ruining the carpet in the process… where it remained until we finally found our new home at No. 4 Washington Street where Comet would establish itself as a Cork music institution.

September 1990 we opened on Washington Street. The first record we sold was Bossanova by The Pixies. Any fears we had that the customer base we had established on Oliver Plunkett Street would disappear were quickly parked. We thrived there but it was hard work. As well as the music – LPs cassettes new and second-hand – we also had our concert tickets, t-shirts, badges, fanzines etc. as many small record shops did. Grunge, Metal and Hardcore formed a large part of our sales in the first year or so. Two albums that immediately spring to mind are Babyteeth by Therapy and Nevermind by Nirvana. The cultural significance of the latter album in relation to Cork has been more than well documented so I won’t get into it here. Around this time it was also becoming evident that in order for an alternative music store to survive something else was needed. A lot of the bigger selling underground groups had signed to major labels so their records were starting to appear in mainstream stores at a cheaper price than we could sell them at as they would have had much more buying power than we did. The fact that the majors didn’t really give a shit about the little shops didn’t help either. It was also getting exceedingly difficult to get excited by new releases from these awful bands like Carter USM, Ride, Curve, Northside etc. Something new, fresh and exciting was needed and it had to come from the underground.

That something new arrived in the late 80s/early 90s and it was a game changer. When the acid house scene emerged it provided a much needed shot in the arm not just for independent record shops but it created a whole new counter-culture within music, media, fashion and attitude. We embraced it wholeheartedly in Comet. We had no choice really. To ignore this one in a lifetime opportunity as some shops foolishly did would have been commercial suicide. This was pure underground music produced in little studios by little known artists from Berlin to Chicago. It didn’t get any airplay and didn’t really feature in the charts but was huge in the better underground clubs and Sweat in Sir Henrys here in Cork was one of the best ones. It was a no brainer really.

I think the first time I really noticed it from a commercial point of view was when we got this 12” by Altern 8. I had been to Sweat many times before but never put two and two together. So we got five copies of this which ended up in the industrial section as we didn’t have a dance section at the time and they pretty much sold out straight away and then lots of people started coming into the shop looking for that tune and similar stuff. I couldn’t help noticing that most of these people were new customers who’d never been in the shop before. It was a bit of a lightbulb moment.

The Comet Clock

The Comet Clock – still working after all these years

Within about three months the whole shop had changed. Out went the Country, Blues and even the panpipe section along with a fair chunk of the second-hand section (big mistake) and to be replaced by more exotic terms such as progressive house, techno, trance etc. As time went on these would be joined by Breakbeat, Drum & Bass, an expanded soul and jazz section, exotica and ahem… speed garage. We were also very conscious of our original customer base so the likes of Fugazi, Napalm Death and The Breeders could still be found on our shelves. Contrary to popular belief we were never a specialist dance shop. We were in fact a specialist music store that stocked dance music. Cork completely embraced this whole new scene. The better clubs and pubs were rocking, every second person seemed to be a DJ and then we had a radio station… Radio Friendly… that was playing all this music all day and all night. Good times in Cork overall.

As well as the treasure trove of records there were many other things that made Comet the stuff of legends. The famous half price sale… which originated in the Dublin store… took place every year on January 2nd… 10 am till 10 pm…  basically every record in the store was half price. People loved it. They queued and got bargains and in return we had a massive clear out and got rid of some turkeys while at the same time giving something back to our loyal customers. Not all of the turkeys always sold. An LP by Omar and a box set by The Farm both survived about 5 half price sales.

Jim and Nick - the farm box set behind

Nick Cave & Jim – unsellable Farm Box set in background

in the shop with Nick Cave

Organizing instore appearances was another important part of running a record shop. They weren’t always easy to get as we were small but we got some good ones. Nick Cave was probably the biggest one. Don’t ask me how we got him but we did. He was in Cork doing a charity gig in the City Hall with Shane MacGowan… phone calls were made and hey presto we had Nick Cave in the shop on a Saturday afternoon signing records. My abiding memories of the afternoon include a very drunk girl without a camera wanting to get a photo with him, he was a very nice guy and also he looked exactly like Nick Cave looked on his album sleeves.

outside Shop with Grant Hart

Jim with Grant Hart outside the store

Sometime later on another Saturday afternoon Grant Hart from Husker Du sat with an acoustic guitar on the counter and entertained the crowd for about an hour. We also had Therapy, Frank & Walters, Fatima Mansions and literally stopped the traffic one afternoon when Scooter did an instore. Not all were successful. When Cornershop did a signing absolutely nobody came into the shop while they were there.

My personal favourite was when Bass Odyssey launched their debut single with a live appearance in the shop one Sunday afternoon. Everybody later retired to the Back Bar in Henrys where it all went off.

Bass Odyssey lauch their single

Bass Odyssey launching their first single

We always tried to have a good selection of concert tickets. They were never a huge money spinner but they brought people into the shop. This was in the days before Ticketmaster swallowed all that business up. We also used to get a certain allocation of tickets for concerts in Dublin and even Slane so when it was feasible we used to run buses to these gigs. McCarthy Coaches in Mallow supplied the buses at a reasonable price and the fare was never more than a tenner. Admittedly some of the coaches had seen better days but we always made it there and back even though it might have taken us a bit longer than everybody else. George generally travelled with the buses and he counts among his adventures trips to Death, Pestilence, Chilli Peppers and Metallica. Steve once took a busload up to see The Fugees and on two occasions I took buses to Slane to see REM and Neil Young. Think I might have taken a busload to see Nirvana in The Point as well. Generally I tended to leave the travelling to the two lads as the whole day could be quite stressful and a general head wreck. Somebody for whatever reason always got left behind and it was usually left to me to deal with the irate parent.

With Grant Hart - looking

Grant & Jim again

All record collectors want those collectors’ items and hard to find records and in the days before the internet the local independent record store was usually the first port of call. Comet was no exception. Over the years we had our fair share of rarities pass through our hands. Most of the non-dance ones would come as part of second-hand collections. Many times you would come across a gem and would really struggle to keep that poker face while you made your meagre offer which more often than not was accepted. Dance records were a different kettle of fish altogether. They tended to be “white Labels “or original pressing sourced through a bit of ducking and diving and they could be very expensive. People in Cork paid crazy prices for certain dance 12”s and certain shops charged crazy prices for them. We were no exception. On the one hand it was ridiculous but on the other hand we were running a business and we only charged what I perceived to be the market value at the time. On the other side of things we always tried to price the ordinary everyday records as cheaply as we could. It’s all different today of course. Go into any record shop now and the prices of all new and second-hand records are outrageous. This is due to a number of reasons… not all of them the shops fault. But lots of second-hand record shops and charity shops are getting their prices from the internet. Fine if your store is in Tokyo or New York… not so fine if it’s in Cork. The true value of a record at the end of the day is what somebody is willing to pay for it. Common sense needs to be applied.

The Comet Mobile

The Comet Mobile – nearest thing to a Comet Delivery Van

While always challenging and enjoyable it wasn’t always fun and games. Running a small shop is hard and you couldn’t swing a cat in this shop. We had no internet or computer so the ordering was done by hand and faxed usually on a Monday. New records come out every week and you need to keep up. Musical trends change like the wind. Often it’s the small things send you over the edge. A certain little litter warden was once told to take his summons and to paraphrase James Coburn in Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid “shove it up your ass and set fire to it”. He never returned so maybe he took the advice given. You also had to be aware of the competition. We weren’t the only small record store in Cork though to be honest the only other one I took seriously as competition was The Vinyl Room just down the road from us. The megastores were a different matter. HMV arrived in Cork first and to be honest I thought they’d create more problems for us than they did. Virgin hit us a lot harder. A bigger blow again and ultimately for the megastores themselves was when Tesco entered the market selling top 20 cds at below cost price. That in my opinion was almost as big a contributor to the demise of the record shop as downloading. There was also competition from afar. Every week people would tell you endless stories about these magical record shops in Dublin, Galway and Manchester full of these wonderful records that nobody else had and if I had a euro for every time I had to stand and listen to somebody prattle on about the “classics” they just bought from bloody Hard to Find Records……

Everything eventually changes and all good thing come to an end. Towards the end of the decade it started to go downhill. Times were changing and it had probably run its course. We won Best Contribution to Dance at the first Smirnoff Dance Awards in 1999 but it was a hollow victory…the last sting of a dying wasp.

Best Contribution to Dance Award

Best Contribution to Dance Music Award

Looking back now would I have done anything differently? Yes.

Did I make mistakes? Absolutely.

Would I do it again? Hmm…..

Do I miss it? Yes but I probably miss a time that no longer exists. Today’s record shops… if you’re lucky enough to find one…are much more organized and efficiently run but they’re not as much fun. Back in the day you could smoke in the shop …even though we banned it around ’97 becoming the first shop in Cork to do so… and you could physically assault shoplifters and boot them up the arse out on to Washington Street. Probably wouldn’t get away with that one now. But they were great times and it was great to be part of it and I have some great memories and friends from those days. Though the nostalgia can get a bit annoying at times to have been part of something that will always be remembered so fondly by so many people for so many fantastic and memorable reasons is indeed truly special.

Jim and George

George and Jim – never liked being photographed

All pictures, and captions, courtesy of Jim


Like the small handful of others around these parts, it was during their U.K. and Ireland tour supporting Martin Stephenson and The Daintees in 1990 that I encountered Five Guys Named Moe for the first and only time. Between one thing and another, they went to ground pretty much immediately thereafter and, even now, not a whole lot is known about them, bar a skeleton outline. Although the group’s only album – also called ‘Five Guys Named Moe’ – is now available – almost – in it’s entirity on YouTube, the band behind it has been long-lost and is rarely, if ever, either cited or referenced. Given Canada’s reputation as an infrequent source of quality new music, the gaps in this particular story are all the more baffling. The record itself is virtually impossible to find and, try as I have done, I’ve been unable to locate the actual RCA issue via the usual sources. Google them and you’ll be invariably directed to the long-running musical of the same name and/or to a series of cabaret acts peddling scaled back versions of the same thing ;- so be careful out there.

moe album cover

Five guys Named Moe via

‘Five Guys Named Moe’ was recorded in Ringsend Road Studios in the heart of Dublin during the Autumn of 1989, produced by Donal Lunny of Planxty and Moving Hearts. But it’s not as if the band is readily recalled by locals either. True to form, Lunny also contributed bouzouki and bodhrán and also enlisted the help of some of his regular wingmen :- Ronan Browne plays uileann pipes on one track, James Kelly brought his banjo and Noel Eccles is credited as a hired-in percussionist.

album cover back

Five guys named Moe back cover via

Not that any of this should either deter or mis-lead you. Five Guys Named Moe peddled a terrific line in smart, sinewy pop music, in the margins with the likes of Divinyls, ‘Til Tuesday, Sixpence None Then Richer, The Pursuit Of Happiness and The Lotus Eaters, and with the lyrical whimsy of The Divine Comedy. Twenty-five years later, this seemingly phantom record still holds it’s own.

In keeping with the band’s general anonymity, they never feature either in the annals of live music in Cork, and why would they ? Only a handful of hardy regulars witnessed them open for The Daintees and the band then promptly disappeared into the mist. In terms of sound, tone, look and feel, they are the absolute counter-point to Nirvana. And, for that very reason, they embody every core difference between Sir Henry’s and De Lacy House.

I’ve long thought that De Lacy House never really received the credit it deserved as an excellent live music venue, especially between 1988 and 1994. Against the long-established might of Sir Henry’s, it was at a reputational disadvantage from the off, but promoters like Jim Walsh, the late Des Blair and the other Denis Desmond worked Don Forde’s top floor hard, and with no little sense of adventure. Far from rivalling Sir Henry’s, De Lacy’s complimented it instead, often presenting a far more diverse range of output, reaching across a broad spectrum, from folk and trad to out-and-out indie. And this may indeed have been a weakness as much as it was a strength ;- one could, quite literally, see anything there.

Personally, I loved the place.

It was there, towards the Grand Parade end of Oliver Plunkett Street, that I saw The Fatima Mansions, Roddy Frame, Power Of Dreams, A House, The Wannadies and numerous others test the support beams beneath the third-storey’s wooden floor. And where I also saw a host of roots acts too, most memorably the excellent Don Baker, a regular there in his pomp. It was where I saw The Fat Lady Sings play to twenty people one Sunday night [most of whom ended up on the stage for the encore] and where I once encountered an uncle of mine at the bar during a set by Thee Amazing Colossal Men :- he thought he’d come to see The Wolfe Tones. It was that kind of venue.

And it was in De Lacy House where I’d routinely get the nod on the main door from Tony Hennessy who, when he wasn’t kicking imaginary footballs down Barrack Street or refereeing youth football games [‘careful now lads, 2-0 is the most dangerous lead in soccer’], was easily Cork’s best groomed and most efficient doorman. The stairs may well have been a nightmare for roadies and humpers but the venue itself hosted many a memorable night for punters, and Tony was a fixture for all of the really great shows.

And none more so than on that midweek night in 1990 when Five Guys Named Moe opened for Martin Stephenson to a coven of well-meaning locals. They’d certainly been billed on some of the advance publicity and a couple of standard stills were certainly in circulation, one of which may even have been carried by The Evening Echo. On the night itself they played for no more than forty minutes, performing ten songs at a push, all of them I imagine from their debut album. Myself and my regular companion, Philip Kennedy, were immediately taken with their smart and sassy pop-songs and cutesy stage-banter and, as quickly as we could thereafter, both sought out the record. And, although I’ve given away more copies of it over the years than even ‘A Happy Pocket’ by The Trash Can Sinatras, I still retain one crudely down-loaded version that I absolutely treasure.

Meg Lunney

Meg Lunney via

The band was comprised of co-lead vocalists Meg Lunney and Jonathan Evans [who also wrote most of the songs], backed-up on bass and drums by Tom McKay and Graeme Murray respectively. Founded in Ontario, Canada, the group re-located to London and then onto Glasgow, from where they settled their line-up, attracted local management and signed to a major ;- in many ways, they are redolent of the intelligent Scottish pop sound of this time. And, in the great traditions of popular music, ‘Five Guys Named Moe’ was released in 1990 to the sound of silence and was dead on arrival.

Apart from a video for the first single, ‘She’s On A Mountain’, and obviously some form of tour support on that Daintees tour, the band was never really a priority-push for it’s label thereafter, a story all too familiar to a slew of Irish bands during the same period. All that exists on-line by way of a history is unofficial fan blogs that clips together a series of short personal testimonies from some of the band and that’s located at Saltyka and Gamekult

The record itself is eleven songs long and, while bearing testament to the classy writing ability – and no little ambition – of Evans, is also a tribute to Lunny’s uncanny knack for delivering real diamonds, whatever the context. While his track record as an innovative player and band leader has been extensively documented, he’s also taken a producer’s credit on a wide range of studio output, from Kate Bush and Elvis Costello to Rod Stewart and The Indigo Girls and a myriad of different points on all sides. The fact that his own on-line biography references Five Guys Named Moe in this company is revealing in itself and, in a mildly pathetic way, affords me some sort of cheer.

band small

Five guys named Moe via

Five Guys Named Moe, by their own admission, had been listening to the sweet harmonies of The Beatles and The Beach Boys and, very clearly, to the shared boy-girl vocal approach used so tellingly by Prefab Sprout on ‘Steve McQueen’. While their own record doesn’t [thankfully] attempt to so crudely replicate, those influences are certainly obvious ;- this is no bad thing and one can hardly fault Five Guys Named Moe for the scale of what they were attempting to do.

They may not have been the biggest or brashest band to ever play De Lacy House but, to two friends who stumbled on them by accident – or was it fate ? – they were certainly one of the most impactful. Even now, all of those years on, the record comes highly recommended.