The Cure

TALES OF THE TAPE

 

The delicate art of just being there can be tricky enough to manage at the best of times, especially to those of us long gone from the streets that raised us, in exile. But just because we’re out of sight, keeping our eyes on the ball and one foot ahead of the other, doesn’t mean we think any less of those we’ve left behind. Distance, indeed, will often bring a far greater intensity and perspective to any relationship. And whenever I return home now – for family occasions, celebrations, at times of loss and grief or just, simply, to catch up with my parents and siblings and attempt to stay in touch – I’m dealing increasingly with a far more complicated backdrop :- the slow-dance with old ghosts.

My mother must have documented the lot. And anytime I’m home now, she’ll produce a series of photographs or a scrap-book or an old three-hour VHS tape, beaten and war-torn, its struggling body wrapped in vandalised cardboard casing and bearing random television programme titles from the last century scrawled in biro on it’s spine. She must have a bottomless treasury of old clippings, by-lines through the decades, a cache of old videotape, old press releases, band publicity photographs and under-age match reports. And its probably just as well :- as someone who struggles to remember what I did last month, the late 1980s are a daunting challenge.

She built up that store over decades knowing that the day would eventually come when, quietly and without fanfare, we’d be actively looking to pass the torch on. That there’d ultimately be an hour when what were once just fleeting snapshots in time would assume much more significance, as happens now with every trip home, every milestone reached, birthday celebrated, every year chalked down. And the more we’ve lost over-board along the way – mighty uncles, mighty aunts, a barely born niece, grand-parents, friends, enemies, relationships and time – the more that personal archive takes on more stature. And the more we’re thankful for the diligence and the soft hands of the record keeper.

My own children, no moreso than anyone elses, can’t believe that we ever lived like we did all the way back in the 1980s. That we ever dressed like we did or that we ever communicated to one another in a real world and not in an unreal, virtual one. Or that we ever played music directly from vinyl :- it’s a concept that, to those growing up at a time when one of the first motor instincts in any young child now can often be to try and swipe at a television screen with a finger, is just beyond them.

So where does one even start when it comes to the not insignificant matter of the Cassette Tape which, I’d contend, has always been the national music format of choice and one to which the country has been instinctively drawn for decades and across all aspects of society, from the most curious of collectors on the margins to the religious crackpots out there beyond the beyond.

I honestly thought we’d seen the last of the cassette which, during the 1980s and 1990s, was a vital tool in our armoury and one that we deployed in many different guises. But despite thirty years on death row, the format lingers on and, if recent trends continue to hold, may even be in line for a surprise pardon.

My first encounter with the cassette was up in my grandmother’s house in Farranree. She had a healthy supply of country and Irish compilation tapes stored alongside her favourite religious recordings and, when we’d swing by there on Sunday mornings, I’d often wade through her stash in the forlorn hope of locating something a bit more obtuse. In behind the work, perhaps, of Jimmy Shand, Isla Grant and Dónal Ring, a local accordion-playing ceilí band leader from out the road in Blarney who briefly – ‘featuring Paddy Carey’ – threatened a national chart breakthrough with ‘The Bold Christy Ring’ [‘his hurling’s most glorious, he’s always victorious, he’s Cork’s darling hurler, the bold Christy Ring’].

And although, against the honk of turnip on the boil outside in the small kitchen, this calibre of stuff was enough to scar you on sight, there was something unusually fetching about the cassette format itself. Like many of my favourite bands during this time, tapes were efficient, part magnetic, barely held together and, with the right amount of poking
with a pencil, would unravel in an instant.

I was reminded of the peculiar allure of the cassette recently when, during an unscheduled raid on Music Zone, a small, un-sung record shop in Douglas Shopping Centre in Cork, I saw that a couple of new releases – Morrissey’s ‘Low In High School’ among them – were also available on tape. And at a considerably lower price-point too. But although I rarely, if ever, bought any new music on cassette, tape was actually where the real business of my youth was done, the currency of the oik and the everyday language of the indie ghetto. Like fanzines, good brogues and satchels, tape separated the anoraks from the day-trippers and all of those who were simply passing through. Demo tapes, pre-release tapes, compilation tapes and crudely-recorded sessions, taped from the radio, were all part of the vernacular of the day, essential companions to any aspiring collection – and collector – of wax.

Much has been made in long magazine features, contemporary novels and even screenplays, of the impact and influence of ‘the mix-tape’, the preferred method of communication during the 1980s for indie snobs, show-offs, aspiring [usually perspiring] musos, trainspotters and enthusiasts. Many of whom struggled to finish their sentences whenever regular conversations veered off course and into areas that didn’t involve Morrissey and Robert Smith. And who almost always tended to be single and pitied.

Usually featuring a carefully curated selection of songs by left-field bands and artists and, more often than not, recorded crudely from vinyl originals to cassette via the domestic three-in-one, the mix tape used music in lieu of common discourse, sending out subtle messages, flirty hints, signals and political and personal suggestions. Ultimately, though, the mix tape was often just an awkward cri de coeur.

Showing scant regard for the baleful suggestions carried inside many international vinyl releases warning that home taping was illegal and, worse again – over an apocalyptic crossbones logo – that the practice was killing music, the home-grown compilation cassette worked on the same basic principle as the engagement ring. One only ever gave or received a mix tape after a period of courtship, often short and intensive, during which both sides had established common ground – a shared affection for The Cure, R.E.M, The Wedding Present and The Fall, usually – before moving on together, for better, worse and usually poorer, to the more challenging aspects of the human condition. Where the likes of The Stooges, vintage Bowie and The Velvet Underground were located.

Pickled with runes, tunes and indie metaphors, a standard mix-tape designed to make an immediate impression might have opened with ‘Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me’ by The Smiths before gliding softly onto R.E.M.’s ‘Pretty Persuasion’, something lateral by The Beatles, Depeche Mode’s ‘See You’, The Cure’s ‘Just Like Heaven’, ‘Always The Quiet One’ by The Wedding Present, an assortment of frankly unlistenable c86 codology [The Pastels, Eyeless in Gaza and Gene Loves Jezebel] before closing out with a plaintive question, disguised as an end-of-show statement :- Buzzcocks ‘What Do I Get ?’.

 

 

I made numerous such cassettes over the years, for men, for women, for folk I knew well and folk I hardly knew at all. And each one of them recklessly surfed the lines between what I considered to be studied cool, the vagaries of random personal selection and absolute pretentiousness. ‘Frou Frou Foxes In Midsummer Fire’ by The Cocteau Twins and something more obtuse than usual by Einstürzende Neubauten were regular gold-plated cuts in this respect, even if what was often gained on the roundabout of hip was lost quickly on the swing of the practical reality. Because it was virtually impossible to fit longer titles and band-names onto the in-lay cards inside the cassette boxes without making an artless mess, which tended to defeat the purpose.

Bound by an enduring sense that, ultimately, I just knew better, I poured my heart and soul – and pints of Tippex – into those compilations, every single one of them constructed with the kind of care I used decades later when we took our first-born daughter home from hospital for the first time. Songs were inserted carefully into particular order, lovingly and pointedly selected and wrapped with real intent. And of course most of them were assembled while I could and should have had my head buried in text books instead. Indeed, had the fine art of ‘The Mix Tape’ been a core honours subject on The Leaving Certificate, I’d have rolled into U.C.C. on a scholarship to Electrical Engineering and featured on the main evening news as an over-achieving academic freak-show instead of just simply just stumbling up the main avenue into college looking like a failed lab experiment. But we were happy, apparently.

I received – and devoured – many mix tapes over the years too. The best and easily most influential of which was a compilation from a fellow traveller I met on a course on youth leadership, no less, in Newbridge in County Kildare during the early 1980s. Slightly older and also called Colm, he was a student of philosophy and theology at university in Northern Ireland and we bonded instantly. Or as quickly as it emerged we were fans of the same sort of music and, because he had a few years on me he was able to pull from a far deeper well of experience and reference, which he shared freely. This, to me, was a
definitive form of youth leadership.

We spent many hours on that course locked in intensive discussion about the importance of sharp lyrics and music with an edge and, during our last night on the campus, as everyone was preparing to pack up and leave, he gave a formidable, unscripted homily to the entire group about the power of friendship, signing off with a verse of Bob Dylan’s ‘Forever Young’. ‘May you always be courageous, stand up right and be strong. And may you stay forever young’. And after he’d finished, I felt like breaking out through the wall and running the journey back to Cork.

Within days of getting back home, an absurdly wide-ranging, home-produced cassette arrived for me. More or less synopsising, through an almighty breadth of styles and sounds, the conversations we’d had the previous week, it was a perfect diadem. In-set among which were lateral cuts from The Fall, Alain Stivell, Bob Dylan, Throbbing Gristle, Neil Young and Holger Czukay and, over the course of that bulging sixty minute, two-sided cassette, I saw the light and the light was good. Colm had shown me, basically, how to kill my darlings and set my snobbery to one side. Because it was obvious, from the expanse of new music at my elbow, that quality music could reside anywhere and everywhere and that there was real magic in diversity. And of course, as these things tend to go, that was the last I ever heard from him.

Morty McCarthy – the drummer, advocate and philosopher – was another enthusiastic tape trader around Cork and I’ve written previously about how, because of his energy, various peccadillos and his ear for a tune, I grew and developed a lifelong friendship with The Frank And Walters. He’d compile regular guitar-led manifestos onto tape and distribute them freely around his peer group, steadfast in his view that indie-pop would one day save civilisation from itself. God knows where he sourced some of the stuff that turned up on those tapes and yet, to this day, I’m thankful for the introduction he brokered between McCarthy [the politically-charged, no-frills, straight-in, no kissing indie janglers who, sadly, bore no direct family relation to him] and myself. That band’s three albums – ‘I Am A Wallet’, ‘The Enraged Will Inherit The Earth’ and ‘Banking, Violence And The Inner Life Today’ – are easily among my favourite records of all time and I can trace this life-long affair all the way back to a poorly-recorded, c60 cassette tape traded
under streetlight.

Morty dealt openly too in one of the more extreme aspects of the format – the demo tape – and I don’t think he was never more giddy than when some young local shower would emerge, direct from the eight-track cauldron at Elm Tree Studios on The Mardyke, with their three-song, two-chord calling card burning holes in their jeans, ready to take on all comers. I pored over hundreds of demo tapes down the years, often at Morty’s prompting, and spent many miserable hours – that I won’t ever get back – chasing fool’s gold.

 

 

But the rare glint of magic through the gap, and that instinctive sense that something rare was bubbling beneath the crude over-lay, always had me coming back. I can remember still, of course, the whiff of cordite that popped the air around me when I first played the uncouth, unpolished and unsteady studio demos from the likes of The Franks, The Cranberries, Toasted Heretic and Whipping Boy. As Liam McMahon, who managed a teenage Roy Keane at Cobh Ramblers asked Dave Hannigan in our 1997 television documentary, ‘Have Boots, Will Travel’ ;- ‘What price do you put on potential ?’.

Easily the most jaw-dropping demo I can ever remember was the first tape sent to Setanta Records by Neil Hannon after he’d jettisoned his band and his shoe-gazing aspirations and retreated back to Enniskillen to re-invent himself as a solo performer.

Coarsely committed to tape using a basic four-track, Tascam machine and recorded in a shed behind his family home, that cassette featured, in skeletal form, the guts of what subsequently became The Divine Comedy’s ‘Liberation’ album. And still, even as a series of callow sketches and rough outlines, it just dripped with raw majesty :- it was for this kind of unexpected sorcery that I could excuse the bulk of what had gone before me and to which I had voluntarily subjected myself.

 

 

As an emerging and already respected label making waves and noise while our competitors were pulling in cash, Setanta received a regular barrage of cassettes from aspiring, hopeful acts, many of them Irish and most of which were plainly unlistenable. But because necessity is the mother of invention and because we were fervent re-cyclers, we found plenty of use for most of them :- in the spirit of punk rock and doing it for ourselves, we’d record over them with some of our own forthcoming material and re-distribute them as samplers to the loyal band of admirers on our mailing lists.

Keith Cullen, Setanta’s founder and chief strategist, never fully grasped the popularity of the cassette form back in Ireland and would mention this whenever he was arguing that the market there was irrelevant. Which was often. Long after tape had become a dead format in Britain – who remembers Minidiscs ? – Setanta would often have no other choice but to produce a special run of cassettes, at significant cost and with no little bother, whenever we released anything by A House, for instance.

One of the biggest regrets I have about many of my own relationships – with friends, girlfriends, colleagues, passing acquaintances – is the amount of quality music I lost or squandered along the way in the hope, like Morty all of those years previously, of maybe setting broader society on the right path. I loaned The Trashcan Sinatras’ ‘A Happy Pocket’ to so many different people over the years that I’ve had to replenish my own stock at least ten times and yet, up to recently, didn’t actually have a physical copy I could call my own. A sad state of affairs made sadder by the knowledge that, irrespective of how truly magnificent that record is, it served as either a coaster or a serving tray in some squalid Dublin flat long after I’d been given my marching orders or decided to up sticks because of irreconcilable music differences.

The moral being, I suppose, that while it’s never too late to repent, some souls just aren’t worth saving.

To accompany this piece there is a specially created Mix Tape… 

 

 

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U2 AND THE ARC

U2 - UCC Downtown Kampus Cork 1979 copyright Pat Galvin

U2 – UCC Downtown Kampus Cork 1979 © Pat Galvin

 

In December, 1992, the Cork-born showband singer, Tony Stevens, sustained multiple injuries when the van in which he was travelling back home after a show in the West of Ireland was involved in a serious road collision. He spent the best part of a year recovering in hospital, endured many subsequent years when he was physically unable to perform and saw his career locked in the sidings and his considerable national profile all but lost. Five years later, the full details of the accident and the extent of it’s impact emerged during a High Court case in Cork, in which he settled an action for damages.

 

Stevens, whose real name is Tony Murphy, was a welder from Cork who, during the mid-1970s, went full-time onto Ireland’s lucrative cabaret circuit and quickly developed a decent domestic standing. Clean-cut and affable, he pitched himself as a young, middle-of-the-road crooner among an established cohort of old-school performers. Backed by his band, Western Union, he gigged early and often, playing inoffensive covers and making regular appearances on RTÉ’s light entertainment shows, plugging his numerous releases, of which a cover of ‘To All The Girls I Loved Before’ is easily his best known. And as such, he’s an unlikely starting point for a story about U2 and that group’s long association with Cork city and it’s people.

 

During the summer of 1977, the main canteen on the U.C.D. campus at Belfield hosted what was billed as ‘Ireland’s first punk rock festival’. The line-up featured some of the country’s most exciting and freshest punk-pop and new-wave outfits, headed-up by The Radiators From Space, who’d released their debut single, ‘Television Screen’, months Earlier. Among those on the undercard were the emerging Derry outfit, The Undertones and The Vipers, a local mod-fused power-pop band who, among their number, was Brian Foley, who later fetched up alongside Paul Cleary as a member of The Blades.

 

The UCD event was marred by – and is, sadly, best remembered for – the death of an eighteen year old man, Patrick Coultry, from Cabra, who was stabbed after a row broke out in the crowd during the concert. Over thirty years later, John Fisher, who promoted the show and who went on to manage the career of the comedian, Dermot Morgan, recalled in a piece for the excellent Hidden History of UCD blog how, at the time, ‘gigs in Ireland were pretty simple affairs. They were run by enthusiastic amateurs, with very little security. After Belfield it became more regulated, more professional and safe’.

 

Elvera Butler, from Thurles, County Tipperary was, by her own admission, one of those enthusiastic amateurs who, from humble beginnings, and possibly more by default than design, went on to become, like John Fisher and a slew of others from that period, key players in the domestic entertainment industry.

 

She had become the recently-installed Entertainment Officer on the Student’s Union at University College, Cork during that period when, in Britain, The Sex Pistols released ‘God Save The Queen’ and The Clash unleashed their vital, self-titled debut album. And, by so doing, fundamentally democratised many of the long-established tenets that tended to under-pin the entertainment industry. Punk rock was, in many respects, just doing it for itself and urging everyone else to do likewise.

 

As part of her brief, Butler staged regular live music shows – mostly low-key, often solo acoustic affairs – on the U.C.C. campus, primarily in The College Bar. But from time to time, she’d book bigger and more established acts like Sleepy Hollow and Stagalee to perform in The Kampus Kitchen, a large, low-ceilinged restaurant buried deep in what was then the college’s Science block. When, towards the end of 1977, an opportunity to move those shows into a bigger venue off-site presented itself, the College travelled the three mile distance downtown, to what was then known as The New Arcadia Ballroom on The Lower Road, opposite Kent Station.

 

The first ever live show advertised in the local press as a Downtown Kampus event, took place in it’s new home on Thursday, November 24th, 1977, when The Memories played live at that year’s ‘Cowpuncher’s Ball’ ;- admission was one pound. The following night, down in the belly of the building, Tweed, a Kilkenny-based, pub-rock seven-piece headlined the night that formally christened The Downtown Kampus. ‘UCC Kampus Kitchen moves downtown to New Arcadia MacCurtain St’ [sic], ran the text that accompanied the small box advert in The Evening Echo.

 

And on Saturday, November 26th, the Cobh-born Freddie White [and his band, Fake], and Dublin hard rocker, Jimi Slevin, played a two-handed headliner that book-ended the venue’s opening weekend ;- The Arc was up and running.

 

The Downtown Kampus rightly enjoys a mythical standing in the history of contemporary music in Cork, as much for the quality and spirit of the music it hosted as for what it represented in wider socio-cultural terms. Over the course of it’s three-and-a-half year life-span, it hosted a series of often chaotic, widely diverse and fondly recalled live shows at a time when, in the after-glow of punk rock, Cork was a city light on glamour. And during the late 1970s, Ireland’s second city, over-dependent on a cluster of long-standing, traditional industries, could indeed be a grim and dank place. Albeit one with serious notions and a long-standing creative under-belly.

 

During the summer of 1977, Fianna Fáil had been returned to power following a landslide victory in that year’s general election and the party’s leader, Jack Lynch, in whose constituency in Cork North Central The Arcadia Ballroom was located, was elected Taoiseach with a huge majority. In early September, Martin O’Doherty of Glen Rovers, the fabled northside club of Christy Ring, Josie Hartnett, John Lyons and Jack Lynch himself, captained the Cork senior hurling team to their second All-Ireland hurling title in a row :- they’d memorably complete a famous three-in-a-row the following year.

 

But it isn’t unreasonable to suggest that those live shows at The Arcadia gave a young and clued-in sub-section of Cork society a real glimpse of something more arresting and moderately glamorous ;- a cracked window beyond which was another time and another place, far from the the more traditional influences of establishment politics and Gaelic Games.

 

And this is reflected in the full list of acts that performed there – local, national and international – that’s as varied as it is long and that runs the line fully from the likes of John Otway to The Beat, The Specials to Nun Attax, XTC to Sleepy Hollow and that also includes The Only Ones, The Blades, UB40, The Undertones, The Cure, The Damned, Doctor Feelgood, The Virgin Prunes and hundreds of others. Practically all of them enticed to perform at The Arcadia by Elvera Butler who promoted most of those shows and, betimes, by Denis Desmond, then a fledgling agent working in the U.K., now one of the biggest and most powerful players on the international music circuit.

 

Bono of U2 performing at the Arcadia Ballroom, Cork, Ireland on March 1 1980

Bono of U2 performing at the Arcadia Ballroom, Cork, Ireland on March 1 1980 © David Corio

 

The U.C.C. Downtown Kampus at The Arcadia Ballroom is still best known, however, because of the many live shows played there between 1978 and 1980 by U2, the young Dublin band who, during this period, were in search of a beginning. Like every teenage band with ambition, they were still trying to locate a distinguishing voice in a crowded field while also building up flying-hours, putting money in the bank. In Paul McGuinness, they had a connected manager who was sussed in the dark arts of public relations and marketing and, unusually enough, they appeared to have a strategy. Part of which was to play as many shows as they could as often as they could and wherever they could while, in parallel, developing their song-writing.

 

Contrary to popular belief, U2’s first Cork show wasn’t in The Arcadia at all but, rather, in The Stardust, now The Grand Parade Hotel, on July 7th, 1978. On that night, they were supported by a young local outfit, Asylum, featuring Sam O’Sullivan on drums :- he has long been part of U2’s core road crew working, to this day, as the band’s drum technician.

 

The band’s first appearance in The Arc took place later that same year when, on September 30th, they supported the Swindon new wave band, XTC, and were paid £80 for their troubles. Its not entirely clear how many shows U2 played at The Arcadia – its either nine or ten – but what is certain is that, by the time they took the stage there for the last time – in December, 1980, when they were supported by a young local band, Microdisney – they’d built up a decent and loyal following around Cork and, as has long been documented, had also assembled the bulk of a road crew plucked from the scene there, many of whom would serve them for decades thereafter. Primary among them Joe O’Herlihy, who did their front-of-house sound in The Arc and who remains an integral component of U2’s operation, listed these days as the band’s ‘audio director’.

 

 

On Saturday, March 1st, 1980, U2’s set at The Arcadia was witnessed by the young British music writer, Paul Morley, who was assigned to write the band’s first major feature piece for the influential London-based music weekly, New Musical Express. And on the morning after that show, he sat down with Bono in ‘the cheaply luxurious lounge of The Country Club hotel’ to gauge the extent of the band’s ambition a matter of weeks before U2 signed a major recording deal with Island Records. According to the piece, which appeared in print on March 22nd, 1980, the band was then ‘at the rare-in-Eire point where they’re recognised in the streets, hounded for autographs at Gaelic Football matches’.

 

U2 on the roof of the Cork Country Club Hotel, Cork, Ireland March 2 1980

U2 on the roof of the Cork Country Club Hotel, Cork, Ireland March 2 1980 © David Corio

Thirty-seven years on, that two-pager – off-set by a series of terrific snaps by David Corio, then a young free-lancer who has since gone on to photograph some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry – makes for terrific, if sometimes bizarre reading. In part a considered policy paper from Bono – who, in outlining U2’s plans to take their shtick beyond Ireland, takes aim at a number of his peers – and in part an over-excited, fanzine-style sermon by Morley about the vagaries of the music business and the state of the Irish nation, it concludes over its closing furlongs with the following quote from
the singer :

 

We’ve been given Lego, and we’re learning to put things together in new ways. This is a stage that we’ve got to that I’m not ashamed of, but I believe we will get much stronger’.

 

Later that afternoon, a fleet of cars carrying the band, it’s small crew and Paul Morley, left Cork to play yet another live show, this time at The Garden Of Eden, a dance-hall in Tullamore, County Offaly, then a four-hour drive away, where U2 were scheduled to play a ninety-minute set. Supporting the night’s head-liner, Tony Stevens and his band.

 

Tullamore is referred to throughout Paul Morley’s NME piece as Tullermeny [Bono’s real-name is also mistakenly noted as ‘Paul Houston’], possibly because the writer is especially scathing of the town and it’s youth ;– ‘they rarely smile and there is a far away look in their eyes’, he writes. But he reserves his most savage lines for the showband culture and for Tony Stevens in particular, whom he frames, not unreasonably, as a cultural counter-point to post-punk and the very antithesis of what U2, at the time, were attempting to do. ‘Showbands are slick, soulless, plastic’, he writes. ‘The showbands are failed rock musicians, their faces shine with aftershave … their technique is improbably over-competent’. Even if, whenever the definitive, unfiltered history of Ireland’s showbands is eventually captured, the darker realities of that scene will be far removed from such casual stereotyping.

 

By Bono’s own reckoning, U2 died miserably on-stage at The Garden Of Eden. Taking the carpeted floor shortly after 11PM, they were greeted, at best, by a minimal audience response. ‘Sat along the front of the stage’, Morley wrote in his NME piece, ‘bored looking girls can’t even be bothered to turn around and see what all the commotion is about’. The venue manager was just as bemused :- ‘Very good’, he quipped. ‘Much different from Horslips’.

 

I felt ashamed because we didn’t work’, Bono told Morley. ‘I actually saw it as a great challenge. It became like slow motion. We blew the challenge, and that’s bad’. But Tony Stevens and his band fared far better in Tullamore and, shortly after they opened their two-hour set, comprised in the main of contemporary chart hits, the dance floor began to fill.

 

The story of Tony Stevens’s fleeting dalliance with U2 one Sunday night in 1980, deep inside Ireland’s midlands, was one of a number that didn’t make the final cut of ‘U2 Agus An Arc’, Tony McCarthy’s film about that period that airs on RTÉ One television on July 20th next. Because in many respects, the commercial half-hour just isn’t enough to do justice to a story that, although rooted in music and the culture of youth, also extends way beyond that.

 

The last ever Downtown Kampus show at The Arcadia took place on May  30th, 1981 when four Cork bands ;- a nascent Belson, a noisy, multi-part Microdisney, Sabre – who included a young John Spillane among their number – and Prague Over Here, featuring the future RTÉ radio reporter Fergal Keane on bass – brought the curtain down on what, in hindsight, is a wholly distinctive local history.

 

Months earlier, forty-eight people lost their lives when a fire broke out during the early hours of Valentine’s Day at a disco at The Stardust nightclub in Artane, on Dublin’s northside. That disaster, and the scale of the loss of life and the age profile of those who died, had a profound impact – politically, socially and legally – on many of the day-to-day dealings of the state. Particularly so on those, like Elvera Butler, who were promoting big, live social events to the same age cohort in similarly-sized venues across the country. In an interview with the Irish Mail on Sunday in March, 2012, Butler told Danny McElhinney that ‘after the Stardust disaster, insurance premiums for gigs rocketed and we knew we couldn’t go on for long. Then the hunger strikes happened not long after that and a lot of bands were avoiding Ireland altogether’.

 

Not long afterwards, she decamped to London with her partner, Andy Foster, from where she initially ran a small independent imprint, Reekus Records, that issued quality wax by a series of superb Irish bands, The Blades and the epic Big Self among them. The label continues to release new material, albeit on a more ad hoc basis and, now living back in Ireland, Elvera retains a direct involvement in the development of young, emerging Irish talent.

 

After many years off of the track, Tony Stevens made his way back very slowly onto the cabaret circuit and eventually resumed a career of sorts, albeit to nowhere like the same extent he once enjoyed. He still performs live, at home and abroad, with his current band, The Rusty Roosters.

 

And U2 ? Within ten years of their last show in The Acradia, U2 were among the biggest and most influential rock bands on the planet and, for many years thereafter, the most compelling and distinctive live draw anywhere. And yet there are those around Cork who remember those magical nights on The Lower Road when many a noisy local rival or an international peer blitzed them off-stage, handed them their arses and sent them packing back out on the road to Dublin.

 

And they may well be right and they may well be wrong.

 

Ghostown: The Dublin Music Scene 1976 – 1980

 

FÓGRA :- ‘U2 Agus An Arc’, directed by Tony McCarthy, airs on RTÉ One television on Thursday, July 20th, at 7PM.

 

FÓGRA EILE :- Cork librarian, Gerry Desmond, has compiled a definitive list of all of the Downtown Kampus shows and this typically thorough undertaking was of huge benefit to us in compiling this piece. And is, of course, a fine public service. Go raibh maith agat.