That Petrol Emotion

THE GO-BETWEENS – A LOVE LETTER

We are delighted to post this wonderful love letter to the Go-Betweens from Breda Corish. Breda lives in north London and works in the scientific & healthcare information sector. While London has been her much loved home for over 30 years since emigrating in 1987, she stays connected to Ireland as “home home” through volunteering with the London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign and the Irish in Britain charity – and music of course.

It’s June 2008 and we’ve joined the crowds streaming into The Roundhouse in Camden, eager to see My Bloody Valentine, back on stage for the first time in 16 years.

On the way in, your tickets are checked: so far, so normal. But in return, you’re handed a small cellophane bag containing a pair of red earplugs that look like mini traffic bollards. Who’s up for the challenge of sitting through the aural soundblast without protection? The husband is – he’s intent on hearing the MBV sound unimpeded. He’s adamant the damage is already done to his hearing from years of gig-going.

2008 The husband’s set of MBV earplugs – still pristine

I’m not up for it myself. The earplugs go in but unusually for me, both of them. Because at at every other gig I’ve gone to in the last two decades, I’ve worn just one earplug, in my left ear.


And who’s to blame for that? Unlikely noise merchants, The Go-Betweens a.k.a. Australia’s criminally underrated indie tunesmiths.


Flashback to July 1987. A few days after graduating from UCD, I’ve escaped to London. I’m running away from Ireland and the never-ending rounds of political-ecumenical contortions about condoms, people being trapped in loveless marriages, women getting the boat to England, and a man being killed in Fairview Park because he’s gay.

1987 Working as a Waitress

Within a few weeks, I’m working as a waitress in a pizza restaurant in Covent Garden and living in a flat share in Crouch End. I’ve never even heard of the place before moving in. I later feel like I share a secret connection with Cathal Coughlan when The Fatima Mansions release Viva Dead Ponies in 1990:

Do you know how old Jesus feels?
For he walks the Earth again
but not in Mecca or in Jerusalem
No, he sells papers and beer in a shop in Crouch End”

  • Viva Dead Ponies

Within a few months, I’ve also acquired a boyfriend, one of my co-workers in the pizza restaurant. He’s English, a few years older than me, with an impressive flat top and an equally impressive record collection. I’m painfully aware of the cliché of boys dispensing a musical education to their girlfriends. But when we exchange live music anecdotes, Auto Da Fe at The Baggot Inn can’t really compete with his 15 years of gig-going in Southampton, Brighton and London.

So I embraced both the record collection and the boyfriend, and yes, reader, eventually I married him.

I very quickly realised the benefits of the boyfriend’s impeccable music taste, even though it included a faint sense of mortification that he knew of more and better Irish bands than I did. Within days of getting together in September 1987, he had bought an extra ticket so I could join him seeing That Petrol Emotion at The National Club in Kilburn. And did the same thing again a few weeks later, to see Microdisney at The Fridge in Brixton.


The Go-Betweens had unwittingly played a part in building these connections.

A couple of years earlier, the boyfriend had got a job at the pizza restaurant in Covent Garden through a friend. One night, he went to see a gig at The Boston Arms by an Irish band that the same friend had joined as lead singer. The friend was Steve Mack and the band was That Petrol Emotion.

After the gig, the boyfriend was waiting for a night bus when a distinctive Australian couple walked up to the stop and asked for advice about which bus they should take to get home. They all got on the number 4 going north. By the end of the bus journey, Robert Forster had convinced him that he really needed to listen to the other Irish band that had played with the Petrols that evening. That band was Microdisney.


The Go-Betweens had released their fifth album Tallulah in June 1987, but it was the first of their records for me. The jangly guitar and string-laden sounds of Right Here became the soundtrack to our new head-over-heels-in-love relationship.


“I’m keepin’ you right here
Right here, right here
Right here, right here
Whatever I have is yours
And it’s right here”

  • Right Here

Life in London was everything I hoped for. Compared with Ireland, the sense of anonymity and freedom to be who you want, to dress as you want, to live as you want was liberating. But there were also times I was very self-conscious about being the freckle-faced Irish girl from the sticks, when I desperately want to be self-confident on the dancefloor of the Electric Ballroom in Camden. I heard a coded message in another track on Tallulah.

Shake off your despondency, and your country girl act.
You’re reading me poetry, that’s Irish, and so black.
I know you’re warm, the warmest person alive,
But are you warm, deep down inside?
I want us to be lovers
I want us to be friends

”The House Jack Kerouac Built”

The penny started to drop that being Irish actually had a certain cachet for the lefty, post-punk/alternative/indie music enthusiasts of north London. While anti-Irish sentiment was still in the air, it very rarely touched me. It would be another couple of years before the IRA bombing campaign seriously shifted its focus to London.

I made the pilgrimage to Holts in Camden and bought my first pair of Doc Martens. They were 12-hole Blackburns, high-shine with no yellow stitching, and I strode down the street feeling ten feet tall. I hijacked the boyfriend’s old black leather jacket for a while and when the waitressing wages started to build up, bought a biker jacket of my own.

The Boyfriend’s old black jacket

1987 rolled over into 1988. One of the best things about being a late arrival fan is that you get to binge on a feast of records in one go. The Go-Betweens’ debut Send Me a Lullaby made no real impact on me but I was bowled over by a series of standout tracks on the other albums, most of them the obvious singles candidates.

“Cattle and Cane”, Grant McLennan’s autobiographical vignette of going back to rural Australia on Before Hollywood. Followed by Spring Hill Fair with the gorgeous melody and aching lyrics of “Bachelor Kisses”. Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express was bookended by the urge to dance around the room to “Spring Rain” and to indulge in the melancholy of “Apology Accepted”.

I had my first opportunity to see the band live when they played the London Astoria on 28 July 1988. This is the point where I should be able to give a blow by blow account of The Go-Betweens’ performance that night. But the truth is my memory 30 years on is just one big mashup of recollections from different gigs at the Astoria that summer….

Queuing for a pint while waiting for The Three Johns to come on stage, and breaking into spontaneous dancing when Teenage Kicks blasted out from the PA. Pogoing at Voice of the Beehive, wearing a ballet tutu with those Doc Marten boots and four-inch dangly earrings. And the always sticky floor helping to keep your feet connected to the ground in the middle of the moshpit. (When the Astoria was demolished for the London Crossrail project in 2011, 13,000 Victorian jam jars were found in an old vault from the Crosse & Blackwell warehouse that originally occupied the site).

This was the Voice of the Beehive DMs + tutu + leather jkt look

What I do clearly remember from that first Go-Betweens gig are my impressions of the individual band members on stage. Grant McLellan was the regular guy. Amanda Brown was gorgeous. You’d enjoy a drink with them down the pub. Robert Forster was tall, angular and aloof, and wildly attractive. Lindy Morrison was impressive and intimidating. Having a drink down the pub with them would be a bit nerve-wracking.

Danny Kelly’s review in the NME highlighted simmering tensions within the band members, but I was oblivious to all of that. Instead when Robert Forster intoned “The Clarke Sisters”, it felt revolutionary and transgressive to hear someone on stage singing about women who are feminists and having periods. This was only 1988 after all and advertising for tampons and sanitary towels was still banned on British TV.

They had problems with their father’s law.
They sleep in the back of a feminist bookstore.
The Clarke Sisters
The eldest sister keeps a midnight vigil.
The youngest sister she’s not spiritual.
The Clarke Sisters.
Their steel grey hair, their lovely steel grey hair.
The Clarke Sisters.
Why don’t I introduce you
I’m sure they won’t mind.
But don’t you dare, laugh at their collections
Handed down, handed down for love.
The middle sister gets her period blood.
The flood of love. The flood of love.
The Clarke Sisters.
Their steel grey hair, their lovely steel grey hair.

  • The Clarke Sisters

The following month, August 1988, The Go-Betweens released 16 Lovers Lane. It was a collection of glorious songs, underpinned by spiky, questioning lyrics. Even the most chart-friendly single “Streets of Your Town” had a nod to the dark underbelly of small town life.


Round and round up and down
Through the streets of your town
Everyday I make my way
Through the streets of your town
Don’t the sun look good today?
But the rain on its way
Watch the butcher shine his knives
And this town is full of battered wives.

  • Streets of Your Town

And if the lyrics are read as autobiographical, then the simmering tensions referenced in Danny Kelly’s gig review were in the spotlight now. Something had clearly gone awry between “Love Goes On” and “Was There Anything I Could Do?”


There’s a cat in the alleyway
Dreaming of birds that are blue
Sometimes girl when I’m lonely
This is how I think about you
There are times that I want you
I want you so much I could bust
I know a thing about lovers
Lovers lie down in trust
Love goes on anyway
Love goes on anyway

  • Love Goes On!

 

She comes home and she’s happy
She comes home and she’s blue
She comes home and she tells him
Listen baby we’re through
I don’t know what happened next
All I know is she moved
Packed up her bags and her curtains
Left him in his room
Was there anything I could do?

  • Was There Anything I Could Do?

1988 rolled over into 1989. I had hung up my waitressing uniform by then and got my first “real job” working as a scientific editor in an office building on High Holborn. Running up the stairs after lunch one day, I ran into The Fields of the Nephilim walking down in their dusty coats and belatedly realised that The Melody Maker was our unlikely work neighbour.

The boyfriend and I had said our goodbyes to Crouch End and were now living at the top of Camden Road. Looking back, it feels like we went to a non-stop round of gigs. The Town & Country Club, The Boston Arms, The Dome and The Hawley Arms were all within walking distance. Forays further afield took us all the way out to the Mean Fiddler in Harlesden.

The Go-Betweens were on tour again in the UK and played The Town & Country Club on 6 June 1989. We didn’t know then that the band would decide to break up by the end of the year. My overwhelming memory of that night is being a woman on a mission to get as close as possible to the stage.

The venue was heaving with fans. I ploughed through the moshpit, leaving the boyfriend somewhere in my wake and ended up right at the front of the crowd. I was vaguely aware of a speaker stack immediately to my left, but spent the gig immersed in the music while worshipping literally at the feet of the aloof and arrogant god that was Robert Forster.

We walked home afterwards, sweaty and exhilarated and woke up with a remnant of the traditional post-gig ringing in the ears which dissipated over the next day.

I can’t remember who was playing at our next gig that summer, but the first thudding bass lines were accompanied by the unpleasant sensation that something was jabbing my left eardrum with a pointy stick. The left eardrum jabbing recurred at the next gig, and the next one and the next…..

That was the beginning of a new pre-gig ritual which continues 30 years on. Patting down my pockets to check for money, keys, lipstick, travelcard while the husband asks “Do you have your earplug?”. To this day, if you see a middle-aged woman at a gig in London improvising with a wodge of toilet paper stuffed in her left ear, that will be me.

And was it worth it? Yes it was.
I don’t want to change a thing when there’s magic
I don’t want to change a thing when there’s magic
In here, now the coast is clear
I got no time for fear

  • Magic in Here, The Friends of Rachel Worth

11 Feb 2019
Breda Corish, London N16
Twitter: @N16Breda

WOULD YOU LOOK AT THE STATE OF US ? MUSIC IN CORK, 1992.

As a college student in Cork between 1985 and 1989, The Triskel Arts Centre was where I believed some of the more off-beat cultural stuff in the city was going down. Located in an alleyway off of the junction of Washington Street and The Grand Parade, it was a bespoke venue that was certainly on my radar, albeit one that I visited sparingly. Over the years I saw a handful of excellent theatre performances there, as well as a couple of smashing live music shows. I can especially remember seeing Anthony And De Confidence do a ‘multi-media show’ there in 1988 and I also helped to promote a live Serengeti Long Walk gig at The Triskel, which was recorded by Ray O’Callaghan [no relation] of Poles Apart.

de-Confidence-Feb-14-742x745

De Confidence via http://www.ansanctoir.ie

Later, as producer of the No Disco television series, I returned to film some acoustic sessions there, most notably with The Harvest Ministers, Martin Stephenson of The Daintees and the wonderful Kerry singer-songwriter, John Hegarty. My most recent visit to Triskel was in 2001 when, in another guise, we hired the theatre to premiere a documentary film a bout the footballer, Denis Irwin.

I’d always considered Triskel to be just a little bit beyond me, even if this had more to do with my own ignorance than anything else. That said, I recall very vividly the venue’s former Administrator, Robbie McDonald, making many an impassioned and literate contribution in the media on behalf of arts life in Cork city.

So I was genuinely taken aback when, in the Autumn of 1992, I was asked by Triskel to make a contribution to The Cork Review, a yearly over-view of cultural life in the city published by the Centre. My task was to offer a breezy snap-shot of how Cork was faring in the worlds of rock and pop music.

At the time I was free-lancing, writing largely about music but also working on a short-lived television series for RTE 2 called ‘Rant’. It was put to me that my piece could counterpoint some of the other, more formal pieces that had been commissioned for that issue of The Cork Review and it’s clear now that I followed that instruction very literally. And then some.

The best that can be said for my piece is that it’s enthusiastic and passionate :- I clearly had a bee in my bonnet about how incestuous and trite the local scene was but didn’t have the ability to articulate it properly. I’d started to believe that regional bands – and Cork bands, particularly – simply didn’t generate the national recognition some of them deserved. I also felt that some bands didn’t do themselves any favours when it came to making the most of what they had :- frustratingly, some really great young Cork bands just didn’t want to push on and were content to lord it over their peers in The College Bar or The Liberty Bar and no further. And of course this was – and is – absolutely fine too :- it’s just that I didn’t appreciate that back in 1992.

And then there were those bands who just refused or were unable to accept any form of criticism, however well-intentioned. This sensitivity was heightened in Cork :- a friend of mine says that no-one does ‘indignant’ like Cork people, and she’s right.

But 1991 and 1992 were real breakthrough years and so, with no little relish, I polished off my crystal ball, lowered the blades, and set to work.

Up   Your   Arts

All right then, so where do I begin ? I’m not really sure. It’s just that there have been so many bands, so many songs, so many singers in funny haircuts. Some have been great and some could have been great and some have been just plain horrible, but then that was never an issue. I mean, really ?

We laughed then and we still laugh now and at least we’ve got lots of little stories for when we’re walking home late at night and it’s raining heavily and we haven’t brought our umbrellas. But right now ? Well … Cork pop is in more eyes than ever before. And this time it’s in other people’s eyes too. And that makes for some change.

You see, Cork pop, just like Cork folk or Cork theatre or Cork classical, well, it’s horribly self-contained. It’s too bloody close and too bloody narrow-minded for its own good. We are wary of opinions and we hold lots of petty little grudges. And we’re still, like it or not, as vulnerable as we ever were. We’re paranoid as hell too, too slow to let go. Too many of us just don’t want to share our bands. We want to know all of the details all of the time. There should be room for talk, sure, but not for theft and lies and vendettas. But at least most of us understand that now. After all, hey, it’s only songs.

But Cork is cooler than most right now. Both The Frank And Walters and The Sultans of Ping FC have become big and notorious and have made great records and, for once, well, we’re not fooling ourselves. And sure, we’re had bands before but we’ve never had bands quite like these. These bands aren’t just big pop kids in their own underpants. Others have taken the message and bought the records. These bands don’t just exist in the pages of the music papers. They play to loads of people in loads of places. We’re not exactly sure where all of this is going, of course, but then neither are they. But at least they are going. And at least they’re thinking big. Narrow streets, you know, breed too many narrow minds. And this is a great big world.

But I’m not here to bitch and gripe, I guess. No. Cork is where I come from and it’s where I saw my first shows and it’s where I bought my first records and it’s where I wrote my first reviews and stuff. But for me, well, for me The Frank And Walters kind of say it all, you know. It’s no big secret, but I know them and I work with them and I’ve helped them from time to time and I still get all chilled-up when they bring around some new songs on a noisy cassette.

But The Frank And Walters are, quite probably, pop’s most unaffected band. And the more that I live and the more that I see, well, the more I’m impressed and the more I want to hear some more. Alright, so maybe they’re ‘essentially Cork’ or maybe they’re ‘whacky’ or maybe they’re ‘quaint’ ? I don’t know and, in all honesty, I’m way past caring. But they’ve got a barrowload of great songs and a free and easy talent. They just write the songs :- some of the best songs that I’ve heard and that’s for sure. And I know that they’ll sell tankerloads of records. And I know that they’ll be on bedroom walls. I just know. Believe me.

But The Frank And Walters, unlike too many bands, know that all of this is just one big rotten game. At least they’ve got songs, which is more than most. But they’ve also got a manager with a tight haircut and some wits, they’ve got luck because they make their own and they’ve got marketing and press and they’ve played every toilet from Dudley to Buckley and back. But it helps too when you’ve got parents who don’t gripe when you’re making yet another cross-channel call ; when you’ve got parents who help to put your posters up and who take out subscriptions to Spiral Scratch and who know Verve’s mid-week chart position. It all adds up.

But looking back is kind of fun too, you know. I mean, did we really try to record once in a studio which had no reel-to-reel recording tape ? Did we really wrangle a live show in U.C.C. just so that we could review ourselves in Hot Press ? Did singer Paul pose with his bass-guitar on the front of The Cork Examiner ? In colour ? Ah, the ways in which we were raised.

Five go down to the sea

Five go Down to the Sea via  https://www.youtube.com

But there were others too. And there were other songs : and other times. Did Five Go Down To Sea really have songs called ‘What Happened Your Leg?’ and ‘Kelly From Killeen’ and ‘Carrots From Clonmel’ ? Did Sindikat really break a bass-guitar string during a City Carnival show in The Ivernia car-park ? And did singer Pat really drop his tartan punk trousers during a show in The Underground ? Were Censored Vision really serious ? Did Without The really have a song called ‘Sit on my face, Elaine’. Were there really fifty-three record company pigs in Sir Henry’s to see An Emotional Fish play at Cork Rock ? And did we really  spend an endless weekend at Euro Rock two years ago, where we saw fifteen bands back-to-back ? And then The Sisters of Mercy ?

And then That Petrol Emotion ? And did Scarlet Page splay their legs and thank people during a song called ‘In The City’ in front of seventeen people ? In The Opera House ? And did Serengeti Long Walk really have a band logo that had a little man in a trilby hat ?

But there are little frustrations too, of course. Like that Cypress, Mine ! broke Up and that they never got to put ‘Last Night I Met The Man For Me’ out. Or that Lift aren’t huge. And that we still sneer and gripe and complain about everything and see things through parochial glasses and that. But hey, that’s pop and that’s life and we’re never quite sure what’s around the next corner anyway. I’m just glad that I’ve been and seen.

I like to think that the best is yet to come. One day I may even get to have a real job. But just not yet.

This piece was originally printed in The Cork Review, 1992. Published by Triskel Arts Centre.

‘IF YOU COULDN’T PERSUADE HENRY’S, YOU DIDN’T MATTER WHERE IT MATTERED’

Sign

Image courtesy of Theresa Lucey

 

This post first appeared last year on the blog for the Sir Henrys 2014 Exhibition held at Boole Library, University College Cork. It is reproduced here in full.

 

I can’t remember the first time I set foot inside Sir Henrys and I can’t remember the last time either but I remember clearly where the rose was sown.

 

I was a weedy teenager during the summer of 1982 [and for several other summers thereafter] when my father arranged a part-time job for me, my first. For eight weeks I stacked shelves and packed shopping bags, without any great distinction, in Roches Stores on Patrick Street. On my first day I was assigned to the biscuit aisle ;- on my second, to stack sanitary towels in the female toiletries section. I was asked by one of my co-workers – an older man whose hands were pock-marked with Indian ink – if I’d ever been ‘inside’. I was a teenage boy from Blackpool and, even thirty years ago, it was an obvious question.

 

Before the end of the summer I’d struck up with another pair of part-timers who made like they knew their music. One was obsessed with a nascent Dublin group called U2 and appeared to have form. He wore a bouffant centre parting in his hair, managed regularly by twin combs, clearly in honour of the band’s drummer. The other seemed to know quite a bit about Ireland’s darker underbelly. Dave Fanning, Hot Press, hash. Such things.

 

There was loose banter in the store-room one day about Sir Henry’s, with which both of my colleagues were familiar. There was a framed U2 poster to one side of the venue, apparently. Signed by the band. U2 liked Cork and someone’s relation helped them to set up their drums. I’d regularly seen Sir Henry’s from the outside. Hadden’s Bakery on North Main Street was on my family’s regular beat and, in the days long before paid parking, we’d frequently pull the car up outside. The place looked like a right toilet, but I never imagined that it would look even worse on the inside.

 

Myself and my friends were regulars at Sir Henry’s from around 1987 until 1994, when I left Cork for good. It was somewhere we went to hear live music and see bands, good, bad and often un-naturally ugly. Back then, when we knew nothing and cared less, music meant the world. And Sir Henry’s was one of the foundation blocks.

 

The place hosted some truly memorable nights and some remarkable live shows and, even at a distance of twenty five years I can clearly recall the most minor moments of some of the better ones.

 

In terms of Irish bands, it was in Sir Henry’s that Power of Dreams, The Sultans, The Franks, Engine Alley, The Subterraneans and Therapy? flowered in their pomp. It was in Henry’s too that arguably the finest and most perpetually ignored of them all, Into Paradise, played like their necks were on the line to a meagre scattering of, maybe, fifty people at a push. If anything captured their career in a snapshot, it was the continued indifference of Cork audiences. If you couldn’t persuade Henry’s, you didn’t matter where it mattered. Sir Henry’s could be cold and unforgiving and, while many were called, only the few were eventually annointed.

 

The Blue Angels being a particular case in point. Blue In Heaven were contemporaries and peers of Into Paradise from Churchtown, a suburb in South Dublin. A dirty and easily detonated live act, they found particular favour in Cork, and amongst the Sir Henry’s frontline especially.

 

Most of Blue In Heaven eventually evolved into a more considered and mildly diverting sub-species, The Blue Angels. But the Sir Henry’s crowd were having none of it and more or less refused to acknowledge they existed. The Blue Angels were famously sent packing for Dublin to the sound of one man clapping. They were a fickle crowd, the Henry’s lot.

 

But they adored their own too and I can still feel the fuzzy urgency with which my favourite Cork bands went about their thing on the live stage at Sir Henry’s [although plenty of other business was conducted off-stage too]. LMNO Pelican – who I later had the pleasure of producing – were restless, busy and catchy. I remember encountering a nervous and sensibly sober Brendan Butler for the first time, the Pelican’s drummer and heartbeat. ‘Alright player’, he opened, before heading straight to the gut of the matter :- he was chasing a critical view on a new Guadalcanal Diary compilation. We lost Brendan at a desperately young age in February, 2013 and its only right and proper that, in any potted history of Cork music, he is appropriately remembered and acknowledged. Rest easily, champ.

 

I concede now, as I did very openly then, to a soft-spot for local bands like The Bedroom Convention, Lift, Benny’s Head, Treehouse, Real Mayonnaise and The How And Why Insects, who later became Starchild and Crystal. These were the names that stood out then like they still do so now, a rangey peleton of domestiques in support of the prestige riders, lead by Cypress, Mine !, Burning Embers and The Belsonic Sound.

 

Of the blow-ins, my strongest recollections include live shows by Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, Nirvana, Sonic Youth, Pavement, The Wedding Present, Babes In Toyland, The Sisters Of Mercy and That Petrol Emotion. It still rankles that I never saw either Microdisney or The Fatima Mansions live in Sir Henry’s :- in the great traditions of Cork politics, The Fatima Mansions tended to favour De Lacy House while Microdisney [although I first saw them support Depeche Mode in The City Hall in 1982] and me just didn’t have our clocks in sync and they’d fled Ireland years before I’d ventured out of Blackpool.

 

But while Sir Henry’s could destroy even the most vaunted of visitors, the inverse could be true too. Transvision Vamp played there once and, to my mind, blew the place limb from limb. ‘I wanna be your dog’ roared a leery drunk from the front row at the lead singer. ‘Woof woof’, responded Wendy James, as she sank a prozzie’s heel into his snout.

 

To my mind, Sir Henry’s rightful reputation as the country’s best live music venue bar-none was franked and sealed over three consecutive nights during the Summer of 1991. Facilitated through the offices of Ian Wilson and his team at Radio 2FM, Cork Rock was an annual shindig that assembled fifteen of the country’s best, aspiring and unsigned bands and flashed them in short-set form to sussed audiences speckled with talent spotters flown in – on generous expenses – from Britain and elsewhere.

 

The line-up in 1991 tells its own story and, among those bucks who faced the starter’s gun were The Frank And Walters, The Sultans Of Ping F.C., The Cranberries, Therapy?, The Brilliant Trees and Toasted Heretic.

 

It was, without question, the single most exhilirating weekend I can recall in my short, personal relationship with Sir Henry’s. And I still meet friends and acquaintances, now well into their forties and beyond, who legitimately lay claim to having been there before the finest generation of young Irish bands ever took flight with The Man.

 

Work subsequently took me to many more live venues all over Britain and Europe throughout the 1990s. And with a fresh perspective it was clear to me that, whatever we thought back then, Sir Henry’s was in many ways less artifice and more franchise. Every city that assumes a love of new music and a fostering of new acts has venues that sound, look and smell like Henry’s used to do at its peak. London, Glasgow, Manchester, Liverpool, Amsterdam, Hamburg, Paris, New York.

 

In hindsight, Sir Henry’s was where the more intense kids went after they’d outgrown the secondary school disco and re-calibrated their ambitions. To me, one of the venue’s primary attractions was that it was on our doorstep [and not in Dublin] and, to those of us who, by 1986 and 1987 had grown into angry young men and women, this was of no little import.

 

My fellow traveller at this time was a friend I’d met in school, Philip Kennedy. During the summers from 1982 onwards, we’d started another, far more attractive form of rote learning and, in so doing, developed a love of Joy Division, New Order, The Smiths, Prefab Sprout, REM and, memorably, the frenetic political jangle of McCarthy [Morty McCarthy [no relation], was the key dealer here].

 

We spent our evenings swapping albums, battered cassettes, taped radio programmes, bootlegs and even demos. It was through Philip [and his regular dealer, Morty] that I first heard the famous first Frank And Walters demo, a tape that genuinely blew me away and which kick-started a long-standing connection that endures to this day.

 

It was Philip who, while I was away in America in 1988, harrassed Ciaran O’Tuama, then manning Comet Records with Jim O’Mahony, on a regular basis about a likely release date for the second Cypress, Mine ! album. That record, which is magnificent, has still to see the light of day, although I remain hopelessly optimistic, as I always did for that band.

 

Phil and myself hung out into the long summer nights on the railings outside his house on Saint Mary’s Road, by Neptune Stadium, talking the big music. Or just talking big about music. In our heads we cut an artsy dash along Redemption Road as we ferried our albums, always under-arm, for everyone to see. In reality, our parents may have hoped this was all just a fad, a passing thing. Sir Henrys became a natural extension of those nights, but it wasn’t the only one. My own favourite Cork venue was Mojos. Or De Lacy House. Or The Shelter. Or, briefly, The Underground, down a side alley around the back of Roches Stores. It was there that I once saw Sindikat, one of my favourite ever Cork bands, comprised mostly of past pupils of our old school. I may even have seen The Stars of Heaven there, a band who, had their store of stellar notices converted to sales, could have retired to stud after the release of their first album, ‘Speak Slowly’. Philip passed away on April 28th, 2006. He hadn’t yet turned 40 years of age and I never hear a cracking new album or see a storming new live band without thinking of how he’d so forensically de-construct them. And he was sharp and funny with it too.

 

One night we encountered Margaret Dorgan on Parnell Bridge ;- she was off to see a local band, The Pretty Persuasions, in The Phoenix. Margaret shared her concerns for the band’s well-being, worried that there might be were too many ‘posers’ in the audience.

 

‘The only posers there’, Philip told her, ‘will be on the stage’.

 

He was there at my elbow for years, through the good times and the even better times. He saw Sir Henry’s claim its many trophies and also bury a hell of a lot of bands who simply couldn’t cut muster. From wherever he is now, he knows where the bodies lie and, more importantly, why Sir Henry’s took shovels to their crowns.