- 03 Jun 09
In the new Hot Press, Peter Murphy picks his 20 highlights from the last 35 years of home-grown alternative culture (in strictly chronological order!). Take a look and then have your say on the indie moments that rocked in your lifetime...
|1. Rudi’s White Riot with the Clash City Rockers (1977)|
East Belfast punk pioneers Rudi, formed in 1975, were inspired to pen their song ‘Cops’, by the last minute cancellation of The Clash’s Ulster Hall show in October 1977 due to insurance being withdrawn. The crowd reacted to the news by trying to block Bedford Street, resulting in a confrontation with the RUC. The following April the band unveiled their debut single ‘Big Time’, the inaugural release for Belfast legend Terri Hooley’s Good Vibrations label. The tune was originally intended as a free fanzine flexidisc, but the band changed their minds when they realised they could release a vinyl single for the same price.
|2. John Peel plays 'Teenage Kicks'... twice! (1978)|
As early as 1978, the aforementioned Hooley despaired of securing a major label deal for his charges The Undertones. As a last resort, he issued the band’s Teenage Kicks EP on his own Good Vibrations label. Fortune came calling when the late John Peel played the song twice in a row on his highly influential BBC radio show. Within days the A&R herds were clamouring for a piece of the band, and they ended up signing to Sire. Peel subsequently declared the tune his all time favourite song, and the inscription “Teenage dreams, so hard to beat” adorns his headstone in Suffolk.
|3. Dave Fanning Rock Show Sessions begin (1979)|
When RTÉ Radio 2, Ireland’s first pop music station, was launched in the summer of 1979, Dave Fanning’s midnight slot came to be regarded as the Irish equivalent of the Peel show. Chief among its innovations was the Fanning Sessions, overseen by Ian Wilson, whereby a fledgling band was given the opportunity to record four tracks which were aired at least twice, thus granting valuable national exposure, not to mention a few quid and a free lunch in the RTÉ canteen. U2 were the first band to record a session, and allowed the show’s listeners to choose the A-side for their first single. Other notables to avail of the service included The Cranberries, Hothouse Flowers, Therapy? and JJ72.
|4. White Light, White Heat, Dark Space (1979)|
In the summer of ’79, Project Arts Centre chairman Jim Sheridan co-ordinated an event that was part Warholian performance art happening, part mini Lollapalooza and part post-punk be-in. U2, The Virgin Prunes, Rudi and others played a weekend all-nighter. The event was to have significant resonances over the next 20 years, not least among them being Bono and Gavin Friday’s collaborations on the soundtracks of Sheridan’s In The Name Of The Father and In America.
|5. Eamonn Carr launches Hotwire Records (1983)|
Founded by ex Horslips drummer Eamonn Carr in 1983, the Hotwire label played a major part in the golden age of 80s Irish indie, releasing underground classics by the Zen Alligators, the Stars Of Heaven, Light A Big Fire, The Partisans, the Golden Horde and the Last Bandits. The label folded in 1990, but surely deserves to be commemorated with a Nuggets-style compilation.
|6. The Stars of Heaven come out to play (1985)|
The Stars Of Heaven’s country-tinged Rickenbacker pop, distinguished by Stephen Ryan’s fragile vocals and delicate songwriting skills, aligned them with West Coast paisley undergrounders like The Rain Parade and the Dream Syndicate, and provided a welcome relief from the many U2 clones clogging up the Dublin works. The band’s debut single ‘Clothes Of Pride’ was a landmark Irish indie release.
|7. Therapy storm the Baggot Inn (1990)|
“James Joyce is fucking my sister!!!”
When Therapy? arrived down from Belfast to play the Baggot in 1990, the city was crawling with designer hippies and pop dilettantes sporting major label advances. The effect was as if the Visigoths had gatecrashed Arcadia. The reverberations caused by Fugazi-like belters such as ‘Potato Junkie’ can still be felt.
|8. Paradise In The Picturehouse tops the Irish album charts (1990)|
Always the people’s band, The Stunning reaped the benefits of hard touring and songcraft (‘Half Past Two’, ‘Brewing Up A Storm’) to top the Irish charts with their debut album in 1990. Their workmanlike approach might have lacked the flash of cosmopolitan cousins, but the Galway band bore testimony to the benefits of having an actual audience rather than three scenesters and an A&R patron. The album remained at the top slot for a record-breaking five weeks.
|9. Julian Gough steals the Warner Music banner at Feile (1992)|
Pop mavericks Toasted Heretic put out four albums of quirky, wordy tunes on a shoestring budget in the early ‘90s, the most celebrated of these being the 1992 top ten Irish hit ‘Galway And Los Angeles’, an account of a close encounter with Sinéad O’Connor in RTÉ. However, singer Julian Gough’s most infamous hour was at Féile 1992, when he attempted to steal a huge 20 foot Warner Music Ireland banner used to brand Simply Red’s VIP tent. The scoundrel was apprehended in mid-flight by security.
“They were entirely right and justified in ejecting me,” he recalled. “I got it into my head to start screaming and roaring that they were taking me out to the car park to be buggered by Peter Price, the head of Warner Ireland. There was no element of truth whatsoever in this, but it amused me to shout at the top of my voice: ‘Help, I need a lawyer and some lubricant, I’m about to be taken as a pleasure toy to be sacrificed to the evil desires of Peter Price!’ Serious Security were really pissed off at me, and rightly so, because I’d made them look appalling, I was accusing them of running a homosexual vice ring for the head of Warner Ireland. I gave them flowers later on.”
Perhaps because they couldn’t top that little performance, Toasted Heretic split not long after.
|10. The Frank & Walters on TOTP (1992)|
By the early ‘90s, Keith Cullen’s Setanta stable, based in a squat in Camberwell, had become a de facto home from home for Irish ex-pats looking to make inroads into the free for all that was the post-rave British indie scene, with a stable that included The Divine Comedy and Into Paradise. For a while there it looked like anything was possible, especially when Cork’s Frank & Walters appeared on Top Of The Pops with ‘After All’, which stalled an agonising one place shy of the UK Top 10.
|11. No Disco launched on Network 2 (1993)|
The televisual equivalent of the Dave Fanning radio show, mixing quality left-field international acts with domestic ones, No Disco was a beacon of light throughout the 90s. Acts like The Frames, David Gray and The Divine Comedy have all publicly acknowledged the debt they owed to presenter Donal Dineen, who was not above directing his own mini-films for tunes that didn’t have their own promo clips. The late Uaneen Fitzsimons proved a worthy successor, but the show never quite recovered from her loss and was cancelled in 2003, causing much controversy among the programme’s avid viewers, many of them music industry professionals.
|12. Road Records Founded (1998)|
Road Records, one of Dublin’s leading independent music stores, was founded by Dave Kennedy and Julie Collins in 1998. Much beloved by musicians, it was the chief source for international purchases of The Cake Sale charity album for Oxfam. Hit hard by the recession, Road announced in January this year that it was to close, but earned a reprieve thanks to a benefit gig in Andrew's Lane Theatre featuring the likes of Jape, The Jimmy Cake, Si Schroeder, Adrian Crowley and Colm Mac Con Iomaire. Bell X1's Paul Noonan and Lisa Hannigan were among those who played instore to celebrate.
|13. The digital revolution (2000)|
By the turn of the millennium, the advent of digital technology had facilitated affordable home recording set-ups, which allowed musicians to learn engineering and producing skills and exercise unlimited control over their own music. For the singer-songwriter, the soundscaper and the auteur, Pro-Tools was a godsend. Over the last decade we’ve seen a proliferation of musicians turned studio rats, thus generating a much needed pool of producers – among them Dave Odlum, Karl Odlum, Joe Chester and Kieran Kennedy – willing to record your album without charging ten grand a track plus royalty points. Consequently, bands found they could now market their work directly over the internet, using networking sites such as MySpace as stalls for their wares.
|14. Republic of Loose slay ’em at Oxegen (2004)|
Every band has a breakthrough moment, and for Republic of Loose it was their Oxegen 2004 set, a blistering soul revival that prompted an evangelical editorial in this very magazine. ROL weren’t the first Irish band to mate black influences with whiteboy rock, but they were arguably the first to do it right. Within the year they’d consolidated with the classic ‘Comeback Girl’, a sparse white funk strut with an infectious clipped guitar riff that sat as easily on the daytime airwaves as in the indie disco.
|15. The Frames headline Marlay Park (2004)|
Irish indie music – specifically the Whelan’s mafia – arguably came of age when The Frames finally quit major labels for good after troubled stints with Island and ZTT. Following the release of their masterpiece Dance The Devil, they seized back the reins, embarking on self-financed tours and recording sessions. Their next album, For The Birds, produced by Dave Odlum and Steve Albini, was a platinum seller, and by the time they’d released the live album Set List, they were headlining to 18,000 people in Marlay Park. Tourists were astonished to see a U2 or E-Street scaled performance from a band that was still relatively unknown abroad.
|16. Julie Feeney wins the inaugural Choice Music Prize (2006)|
Feeney, a multi-instrumentalist ex-National Chamber Choir vocalist, composer, model, lecturer, student of psychoanalysis and possessor of three Masters Degrees, won the inaugural Choice Music Prize in 2006 with her self-funded classic 13 Songs, a triumph of independence and individualism. It was testimony to her considerable talent, as well as the healthy state of the domestic music scene, that she managed to achieve Sunday magazine status without compromising her vision.
|17. Phantom FM Goes Legit (2006)|
When Phantom 105.2 scooped a contract from the Bradcasting Commission of Ireland after eight years as a pirate and then internet station, the alternative nation rejoiced. The station relaunched on October 31, 2006 and won the gong for best music-driven local station at the 2007 PPI awards.
|18. Fight Like Apes get their guns (2007)|
Colour, commotion, humour, in-your-face song titles, even more in-your-face live shows and a magnetic frontwoman. At long last Irish indie threw off its shoegazing tendencies and rustic earnestness to produce a hybrid art rock act who weren’t afraid to be extroverts. Fight Like Apes’ debut EP How Am I Supposed To Kill You If You Have All The Guns? showcased MayKay’s yelping vocal tics, jagged synth and guitar moves and killer songs like ‘Jake Summers’ and ‘Lend Me Your Face’.
|19. ArtsLives does Jinx Lennon (2007)|
In which Dundalk punk preacher Jinx Lennon became the subject of an hour-long 2007 RTÉ ArtsLives documentary Noisemaker, a programme worthy of mention alongside The Devil & Daniel Johnston and Fearless Freaks as an example of how a cult musical act can make a great story – in this case the tale of an introverted, asthmatic youngster interested in astrology and paleontology, who found solace in the writings of midlands antecedents like Patrick Kavanagh and grew up to become a cross between Christy Moore and Chuck D.
|20. Once Upon A Time In America (2008)|
In February 2008, in a glorious moment of guerrilla film-making and indie music symbiosis, Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova won the Best Song Oscar for ‘Falling Slowly’ from John Carney’s Once. Even U2 couldn’t manage that one.
Has Peter got it covered or d'you think you could do better? Let us know your top indie moments in a comment below – the best response will win a Hot Press goodie bag!
- Film & TV
- 16 Aug 22