Colm O Callaghan on The Frank And Walters


We know the Sir Henrys exhibition is finished and everything but Colm O Callaghan has written a wonderful piece on the Franks and we felt it would be great to share it. Hope you enjoy…

The Frank And Walters
I first met The Frank And Walters in Cork in the summer of 1990, back when I was rapt and ready to roll into the breach on their behalf, whatever the job. The years since have taken all of us to places we’d probably dreamt of but hardly expected to see in the flesh. And while I no longer see them as often as I should, this doesn’t mean I consider them any less than I used. These days I‘m their eternal shadow, a ghost who stalks.

Morty McCarthy was the dealer. Morty and I were first introduced by a school-friend and I was quickly taken by his breath of reference. He was as comfortable talking about The Primitives and The Fall as he was about Junior B Hurling in Ballinlough ;- he was a genuine one-off and there was no side to him. Morty was also the youngest person I knew who held a legitimate driver’s licence. He drove a delivery van for a living, spending his days on the roads with a bagful of cassettes and a cargo of cash and carry for company.

In another of his guises – as editor and writer-at-large on a fanzine he ran, Sunny Days – he’d mention gigs he’d seen in places like Myrtleville, Youghal and Kinsale. And it was at one of those shambolic shows that he’d snagged a copy of an early Frank And Walters demo tape. Which, true to form, he’d copied and passed on.

I was into my twenties, gormless and arsing around, looking for any sort of summer distraction as long as it involved music and sport. The song of the season was ‘Put ‘Em Under Pressure’, sound-tracking Ireland’s first ever World Cup Finals campaign in Italy. But fans of Cork GAA – Morty very prominent among them – were revelling during a heady couple of months in exploits far closer to home.

It was live music that kept us hydrated. A Derry band, The Carrellines – fronted by Paul McLoone – won the Carling/Hot Press Band Of The Year in Sir Henry’s. During the June Bank Holiday weekend, Meat Loaf headlined the first of a new three-day event in Thurles called Féile, supported by an undercard that also featured Dublin’s Into Paradise and Thee Amazing Colosssal Men [with Garrett ‘Jacknife’ Lee on guitar]. Back in Henry’s, meanwhile, the yearly Cork Rock bash attracted the usual coven of record company executives, lured by the prospect of landing An Emotional Fish.

Prince played Pairc Ui Chaoimh and featured a king-sized bed as part of his stage show, although fears that he’d blaspheme the sacred ground with his tarty pop proved unfounded, sadly. As I reported at the time in The Cork Examiner, the most shocking thing about the Prince show was how unshocking it was. Those expecting a non-stop erotic cabaret were left disappointed and, on the long walk back up The Marina, some Pairc Ui Chaoimh regulars remarked how monthly County Board meetings were usually far more explicit.

An independent music retailer, Comet Records, had opened on Oliver Plunkett Street the previous year and quickly became a focal point for local anoraks. That small shop often resembled an AA meeting room for pale young indie addicts seeking peer support from those with similar problems. In the best traditions of ‘the exotic local record shop’, the in-house soundtracks were varied and mixed, veering from the extremes of the underground to the erratic sounds of Cork’s suburbs. In part an outlet, refuge and primary source, the shop had already became yet another tentacle of what was now a burgeoning local scene. Into which came The Frank And Walters.

By the end of September, Cork’s hurlers and Gaelic footballers had delivered a memorable All-Ireland double and the three-piece from Bishopstown had started to move through the gears.

It was on the wall of Joe Mac’s coffee shop in The Queen’s Old Castle arcade that I first clocked the name :- The Frank And Walters. The Queens was a real magnet for posers, wannabes and goms [with myself prominent among them] and its insides were lined with posters advertising live gigs of every hue. All sorts of sub-species – Goths, Mods, Cureheads and decrepit old punks, primarily – would congregate around the Patrick Street entrance, some of them often bearing instruments and amps. Out front, Daunt Square was one of Cork’s most exotic pitches, where the ghosts of early Microdisney hung in the air around their old rehearsal room, down by what was once Woodford Bourne’s wine-shop. And, when the Square wasn’t hosting left-wing political discourse and intellectual loitering it was, maybe more importantly, leading the way into Mandy’s, then Cork’s stellar fast food restaurant.

It was around The Queens Old Castle that you’d catch mention of the likes of Takapuna, Burning Embers, Jinx, Expresso Mambo, Without The, Cypress, Mine !, No Sangoma, The How And Why Insects, Porcelyn Tears, Shimpu Zig Zag, Scarlet Page, Blunt, The Electric Hedgehogs, De Confidence, Serengeti Longwalk, Censored Vision, The Outside and a host of other local acts, all of them rehearsing loud and thinking big all over the county. None moreso than The Franks.

I met them for the first time in The Enterprise Bar at the end of Barrack Street on the night that England played West Germany in a famous World Cup semi-final :- July 4th, 1990. They’d recently recorded three songs in Studio Fiona in Fermoy with Brian O’Reilly from Loudest Whisper working the desk and were seeking a kind ear and good advices. And I gave them some of what they were looking for.

Within minutes of our first session together in their rehearsal space in Brother Cusack’s room in Sullivan’s Quay school, I was already behind their eyes and under their skin. They were electric and clueless, loud and ambitious and, twenty-five years later, I don’t think I’ve ever loved them or obsessed about them more.

Once we’d plugged up, it was obvious enough how exceptional Paul was. Apart entirely from his song-writing, his incredible voice was a real boon. He’d struggle manfully with the higher end of his register, but that rarely stopped him from pushing and pushing, often to the point of fracture.

But he knew how to mind himself too. Proudly tee-total, hot water with honey and lemon was often his twist after rehearsals. And the years have been kind to him ;- he looks younger now than he did back then and his voice hasn’t diminished with the years either. So much so that his vocal performance at the band’s show in The Opera House last October was among the finest I’ve heard from him.

In the other corner, Paul’s brother, Niall, played guitar loudly and aggressively, as if he had his axe in a headlock and was frenzily mashing it with a breeze-block. You’d often have to roar at him to get a response and he’d invariably lash right back at you. He kept a store of old riffs on a cassette tape and, whenever the occasion demanded, would reach in and pull a pre-made guitar line from the stash.

Behind the traps, Ashley pulled the whole thing together. He was the spiritual leader of the band, its heartbeat and heart-throb in equal measure and a man for whom league positions [Cork City and Chelsea, strictly] meant as much as chart positions did. He was a fine, sinewy drummer to boot, always nice and busy around the kit.

Outwardly at least, The Franks cut an absurd dash with their loons and big hair but, beyond that, they took their music very, very seriously. Ashley had even run off a stock of gammy business cards that bore the words ‘Frank And Walters, Indie band’, his home address in Bishopstown and a contact number. And those cards captured every contradiction about them :- they were a serious lot, clever young men playing the fool only never at the expense of the music.

The first year disappeared in a blur. Paul had a heap of material ready to go and, within months, we’d knocked out another pair of decent demos, one in Caroline Studios in Blackpool and another back in Brian O’Reilly’s in Fermoy. During rehearsals in the school we’d look at how the songs started and ended, always mindful of how they’d detonate when played live. Several of the early songs – ‘The Never Ending Staircase’ and ‘Davy Chase’ especially – sped up as they developed, ending in a blur of guitars and drums. And we always kept a close eye on the clock, editing savagely, and very few of the songs now exceeded three minutes in length.

Often we’d just pull the songs asunder and re-position the various bits, noting the new structures in chalk on the broad blackboard that dominated the room. Niall would regularly locate suitable middle-eights and bridges from his collection of pre-made riffs and we’d routinely transplant bits in and out.

The band had already flirted with one record company, Revolver Records, the London-based label that issued the first Stone Roses releases, and had been encouraged down a particular path as a result. ‘Indie dance’, they answered once when I asked them to describe the band’s sound.

But I heard in them, rather, an out-and-out pop band with a mischievous indie streak and a lot of tradition in the backbone. To me they were nodding to bands as diverse as The Wedding Present, The Beatles, The Monkees and that other incendiary three-piece, The Jam. There are other clues too, especially in the songs they’ve covered over the years and ‘Daydream Believer’, ‘Funky Cold Medina’, ‘The Model’, Julian Cope’s ‘Elegant Chaos’ and ‘Pop Muzik’ by M suggest a far broader breath of reference than you’d think.

But they drew too from the Irish showband traditions and, with their stage uniforms and the slaggy banter led from behind the drum-kit, were far more Dixies than they were Pixies.
The straight Franks And Walters narrative is well worn by now and, as a no-frills biog, ‘Irish’ Jack Lyons’ 2007 book, ‘A Renewed Interest In Reading’ is the last word and won’t be bettered. But on the back of last October’s twenty-fifth anniversary performance at The Opera House in Cork, its maybe worth re-tracing the band’s steps and establishing some sort of retrospective context.

My own bottom line is clear enough :- The Frank And Walters are one of the great contemporary Irish popular music stories but seldom get the respect they deserve for that. A moot point, perhaps, but the band’s first ever Late Late Show appearance, for example, occurred in 2011, twenty years after the release of their first EP. Notwithstanding the vagaries of television and the demands of producers and bookers, just how do we square that ?

But The Franks are a resilient lot who have an unshakable belief in their own ability, matched only by Paul’s devotion to the healing power of the song. To that end, hes easily one of the most consistent and fluid song-writers the country has ever produced, and with a pretty serious body of work behind him at this stage too. But is anyone really listening ?

During the late 1980s and early 1990s, Dublin was routinely billed as ‘the city of a thousand rock bands’. Which would have been a fine marketing tag-line were not most of those thousand bands unfit for purpose. Jim Carroll and myself wrote at length around this time about how the most pressing, urgent new music in Ireland was emerging in the regions and, between us, cited The Cranberries, Therapy?, The IRS, Engine Alley, Toasted Heretic, The Sultans and The Franks. We coined a counter-slogan – ‘Dublin Is Dead’ – more out of a sense of stubborn devilment than anything else and proselytized widely, keen to present a growing nationwide scene as more than just a regional curio. Notwithstanding the gifts bestowed on Stephen Ryan, Dave Couse and a smattering of others, most of the Dublin guitar bands operating at this time usually boasted two songs – one fast, one slow – that leant heavily on REM’s magnificent 1985 album, ‘Fables Of The Reconstruction’.

The Franks, of course, sounded nothing like REM and, more importantly to me, didn’t want to sound like REM either. A point not lost on Keith Cullen, who heard in them the kind of recklessness that was already hallmarking his emerging Setanta imprint. And so they fled to a hostel in South East London and instead took their chances in England.

Run from a squat in Camberwell, Setanta had already developed a niche as a launch-pad label – sussed, connected and regarded – if not so much in Ireland then certainly with the London-based music press. But before The Franks left Cork, there was one last piece of business.

On the sunny afternoon in June, 1991, when the Cork Rock event opened in Sir Henrys, we’d arranged a private rehearsal back in Sullivan’s Quay School for one of the visiting major labels, out of sight and away from the numbers. The band laid into a cracking short set, debuting a belting new song, ‘Fashion Crisis Hits New York’, alongside regular set features like ‘Walter’s Trip’, ‘Angela Cray’ and ‘Davy Chase’ and, five feet away, the magic was lost on The Man, who sat impassively throughout. Later that weekend, The Frank And Walters levelled Cork Rock with more or less the same set and the word was out in earnest. They were recording for Setanta before Halloween.
I followed them to England during the early weeks of 1992, ostensibly to help out at Setanta while earning a crust working as a freelancer with Melody Maker magazine. The Franks had a head-start on me and, settled in Wimbledon, were receiving good notices for their first EP releases, which were produced by Dave Couse of A House. Pretty soon the band was playing the industry and even dining out on it. Within a year The Frank And Walters were on the pay-roll at Go Discs and I was headed back home, putting together a new music television series for RTÉ Two called No Disco.

I worked with them – formally, for the last time – on the songs that formed the spine of their debut album, pushing them hard in an echoey rehearsal room in a small industrial unit in Camberwell. We shaped the edges of many of the songs that would back-bone ‘Trains, Boats And Planes’ and, of the newer songs, ‘Time’, ‘John And Sue’ and ‘Transpotters’ were well basted before they left the room.

And I was there too in the band’s house in Morden in South East London when Paul played me a spartan version of ‘After All’ for the first time on an acoustic guitar. It was one of the last songs written for the album and, over the course of an hour in the kitchen, we’d re-worked it, harmonised it and, if memory serves, written a middle eight for it.

There have been far better Frank And Walters albums since and there will be many more again, but none have attracted anything near the same level of attention as the eleven-track debut. But in the year when the band releases its seventh studio album, the omens are good :- when they’re playing the seldom heard ‘Russian Ship’, you know there’s something going off in the cauldron.

Following the highly-charged triumph at The Opera House show last October, I recalled two events from around the release of the band’s fourth album, ‘Glass’, back towards the end of 2000. The first was a review of that record on an Irish music website called Cluas that savaged them as brutally as they’d ever been savaged anywhere. The other was a bizarre appearance on an afternoon television programme on RTE where they mimed their way listlessly through the lead single on that album, ‘Underground’. While they weren’t necessarily being counted out on the canvas, the band that once shared a dressing room at Top Of The Pops with Paul McCartney were now holding court on Live At Three with Marty Whelan.

I hooked up with Paul and Ashley that afternoon and we had a decent chat about the record and about how things were, laughed in all the right places and I lauded them about the album. But it was hollow enough stuff on both sides of the table and I couldn’t get over just how lethargic and miserable they seemed. Maybe I’d caught them on a bad day – or maybe I just amplified the lethargy out in them – but the joy that once so clearly defined them was missing.

The Frank And Walters may not have appreciated it at the time, but ‘Glass’ is now one of the primary defining moments in their history. Produced by Flood and engineered by Rob Kirwan, it’s the band’s most difficult album by an ocean and, Paul’s vocals aside, sounds nothing like what went before it. They’d dropped a couple of hints on the previous album, ‘Beauty Becomes More Than Life’, which featured more keyboard sounds and samples than previously. And they’d also added a fourth member, Sarah De Courcy, to fill out the live sound.

But the bleeps, tinny synths and workmanlike beats couldn’t mask the fact that ‘Glass’ was the very difficult sound of a band coming apart at the seams. And so it proved :- it was their last record for Setanta and the last to feature Niall as part of the band. And yet, beneath the sound of implosion, a pulse was still audible. ‘New York’ [revived in The Opera House and starring the well-known Cork soprano Mary Hegarty performing the female vocals originally taken by Marlene Buck], the magnificent ‘Talking About You’ and ‘Isn’t It Time’ and the cracking, old school sing-along ‘Forgiveness’ were all defiant and proud. As was the aforementioned ‘Underground’ which, I am convinced to this day, was magpied the following year and re-versioned as ‘The Sound Of The Underground’, eventually a debut hit for Girls Aloud. But against that, a distinctly average record closed with two of the worst Franks songs ever committed to tape, ‘I Will Be King’ and ‘Looking For America’, studio-doodles both.

During the period immediately following the release of ‘Glass’, the band couldn’t get arrested and, despite sporadic appearances here and there, the thrill had gone. It took them ages to re-group and re-calibrate and, with Niall no longer in the picture, it was six years before their next album. And a pretty striking return to form it was too, with the title revealing the mood in the camp :- ‘A Renewed Interest In Happiness’.

The Franks had every opportunity and every good reason to check out for good after ‘Glass’. That they choose instead to go back to first principles and re-appraise where they were most comfortable only confirms the view that I’ve held since those early days back in 1990 :- that the Keating-Linehan axis is simply unbreakable.

The band has now outlived most of those magazines that slapped them on their front covers way back, the label that issued its first records, the website that gave them their most aggressive pasting and most of the bands they shared the stage with back in Sir Henry’s at Cork Rock in 1991. Friends, family and fellow travellers have been lost along the way too. But as they prepare to release yet another album, haven’t The Franks finally put the last remaining stereotypes to the sword ? And doesn’t such a rich and expansive catalogue stretching back so long warrant some sort of sound critical footing ?

I’ve seen The Frank And Walters play live more than any other band and I honestly couldn’t believe how fresh and optimistic they sounded at The Opera House, belting through a long set that featured no new material.. On the trip home I drafted an alternative set-list of songs they didn’t perform on the night but that would have knocked the socks off of any audience in the country. I gripped my fist tight on the walk across Emmet Place, clenched my teeth and prayed a silent ‘Yesssssssss’.

Little did I suspect, back in the summer of 1990, that we’d still be here, years later, picking over The Frank And Walters. In one way, we should have all moved on years since but very often its only by looking back that can we truly comfort ourselves in the present and the future. All the more so when there’s so much history in the can and water under the bridge.

Its to The Franks’ credit that they’ve stayed the distance, lapped the flashier pace-makers and are still running personal bests. The last twenty-five years are pock-marked with many, many highlights and just as many surprises and land-mines. I can’t really recall a record collection of mine they weren’t in and can’t forsee one where they won’t hold centre-stage. With the band’s best work still to come, God knows what they’ll sound like in 2040.

Sindikat :- The greatest Cork band never to have played Sir Henry’s ?

Sindikat :- The greatest Cork band never to have played Sir Henry’s ?

‘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.

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 after 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. But beyond that, the  school’s support for music was very limited and the subject didn’t feature as part of the formal  curriculum. That said, 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. To a small handful of us in our mid-teens, they were the closest we got to real erotica. And 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, through 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 record 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’, he said. 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 – 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.

But Sindikat had undergone radical surgery. The curtain went up and revealed that Kieran – the band’s tender 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 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. And 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 still is – 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.

… we all wanted that feeling that Henrys gave us to last forever…

This latest post is courtesy of Edele Nolan – thanks Edele…


My beautiful friend Eileen Hogan suggested I write a blog for the exhibition 2 months ago. I was very flattered, and also baffled because, as I reminded her , lots of it is a bit of a blur! But I suppose my biggest dilemma was how do you put into words the feeling you got from a night in that dark, dingy but amazing place. How could I really put into words that feeling of absolute euphoria that a night in Henrys gave you. For all the dark dingy corners it was such a friendly place. You never knew who you were going to meet and everyone was a friend!  Everyone fitted in. It didn’t matter where you were from, or what you did, you just knew you belonged.  Even now just thinking about that place gives me a feeling of a happy, fun filled time in my life.

I first starting going to Freakscene as a first year college student and I remember that feeling of awe the first night I went there. Seeing people dance and dress just how they wanted was a feeling of liberation and excitement for a shy, young 19 year old from a small town.  I was hooked, I soon starting going on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights and loved every minute of it. I was exposed to music I never would have listened to and I couldn’t get enough. Every week was a countdown to the weekend so you could once again experience the magic that was Henrys.

Saturday nights were always the biggest. You would spend the day deciding what you were gonna wear, not that it mattered much by the end of the night! I went in on a Saturday night and slowly worked my way through club. I would start off in the back bar to the soulful and very funky tunes of Mr Stevie G, who is definitely one of the best DJs in the country. Id start off rocking out to everyone from Stevie Wonder, the Supremes, Snoop Dog, and the list goes on.  For someone who never been exposed to any of this music before it was such an education. Id work my way into the main room where Greg and Shane always took the crowd on an amazing deep house journey. Id get lost in the music and every once in a while look around to catch someone eye, smile, throw a few shapes,( big fish little fish cardboard box)!! and then just carry on dancing! My last hour of the night was often spent going nuts to the amazing Mark Walsh in the back room. He lifted the roof off the place and always had the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand with uplifting progressive house classics.

Everything was about the music and everyone was there just for that. Even then, at 19 years of age I knew I was part of something really special. It didn’t matter what you were wearing, who you were with, or who you knew, everyone was the same once you got on that dancefloor. We were all there to experience the magic and just dance.

Most of the worlds best Djs played there to a captive crowd who loved every single minute of it. We were spoiled in Cork, Karl Cox, Laurent Garnier, Justin Roberson, Joe Clausell, Danny Howells, to name but a tiny few and you could see it was such a special experience for them too. Myself and a few friends would often try to blag our way to the DJ box or to the hotel bar afterwards and the rare times we got lucky and managed to get “backstage” I remember all the DJs I met saying the same thing, “they loved playing in Henrys”. But for all these famous DJs it was the regulars Marq, Greg and Shane and Stevie who made the club what it was. You felt their passion and their love of the place, the people and most of all for the music. It really was somewhere where people came together to experience something truly special.

I remember so many nights after the last tune had played, the lights came on and just watching all hands in the air, everyone singing “everybody, move your body” and “one more tune”!  No one was going anywhere, we wanted more, we all wanted that feeling that Henrys gave us to last forever.

Henry was such a special place for me, it opened up a whole new world of music, great experiences but most of all of all it gave me wonderful friendships with people, many of whom I am still friends with today. I don’t know if I would have had the same experiences had it not been for that club. So all to all those who experienced that golden era of Henrys I was lucky enough to be a part of,  I say “Nice one!”

Can You Feel It: by DJ AMC (Now a mature or maybe not so mature 40 something)

Our latest post is courtesy of Anthony McCarthy, or as Henrys Dance punters might better know him as DJ AMC.



Can You Feel It

by DJ AMC (Now a mature or maybe not so mature 40 something)

I have been meaning to write this up for a couple of months now, ever since I heard about the proposed new Sir Henrys Exhibition @ UCC, it’s just that it brought back so many memories to me of those great times, that crazy rollercoaster of a couple of hectic years, when the whole emerging dance/house music scene in Cork and the rest of the world was all so new (Acieed!! Acieed!!) and shiny and exciting and where anything seemed possible, that I just wanted to get my thoughts down on virtual paper before they evaporated again into my distant and rapidly aging memory banks.
The thing is, I was part of a dastardly, dynamic djing duo (no that’s a mouth full) called Eddie B & AMC (that’s me, AMC writing to you now)…. sounds silly when I think about it now, 24 odd years or more later, but at the time, all we really wanted to do was to help expose this new and exciting genre of music to like minded people in our native Cork. They were mad and great days with many characters on the scene… from Sean O’Hara with his awe inspiring fashion sense, complete with his various Russian ushanka hats, whistles and teething dummies…. to Jon Bon’s expressive facial and bodily acrobatics on the dance floor… from those heady days at Isaac Bells… to our weekly and compulsive visits to our new found Church and place of worship, Sir Henrys, it was all good ☺
Within those sacred Sir Henrys walls we were all the same, no class distinction here, from a sweaty handshake to a gentle tap on the back and a half audible “Nice One”, it was a place where our primal and tribal instincts were heightened to new levels, where a simple chord change could make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end and the rush of aural euphoria would overwhelm you.
Sir Henrys was not the only place to start playing this new hypnotic and infectious music, Spiders Niteclub had also been playing underground dance music for a while under the progressive ear of one Sean O’Sullivan, affectionately know as Sean Zapp, an often forgotten key contributor to the whole emerging scene as it was back then along with other smaller emerging venues like the infamous Redz, infamous that is for it’s charismatic owner, Dominic O’Keeffe (may he rest in peace), but one thing Dominic did have was a great ear for what would be the next big thing. He gave Greg & Shane their first real break I think before they even started to play at Sir Henrys, but my recollection of these type of urban myths could be a little clouded by time, but I think that’s correct. Myself and Eddie even got to play a regular spot there for a few great years also and as the saying goes, they really were some of the best years of my life, definitely the craziest, most gloriously chaotic, and the memories created there will always stay with me, fragmented and blurry as they may well all be ☺
We would play in Redz from 9pm to about 2am on Saturday nights as a pre-club feeder venue for Sir Henrys and to also, hopefully, hang on to a few of our loyal fans also until closing. Our blend of music usually involved DJ Eddie B (aka Eddie Burgess) playing semi-Henrysesque type tracks along with his own selection of choice cuts to get everyone grooving and into the mood and then I, AMC, would come on and play DA DEMON TECHNO MUSIC to take things up another gear and to also play a style of music really not getting any serious air play in the emerging dance scene of the time. We were both very passionate about the music we played and we lived our days and nights seeking any opportunity to get to play for anyone and everyone that would listen.
Back before there was things like iPods, iPhones, iTunes, social media, podcasts or even The Internet essentially, the only way you could get people to hear this kind of music was the circulate Mix Tapes (a choice selection of your best and hottest tracks, sometimes mixed and sometimes not) and that’s what we did to spread the word. I can vaguely remember it now… as the sweaty masses would pour out of Sir Henrys after the nights proceedings would have ended… the zombie like gathering of lost souls would converge on South Main Street… sitting on the curb sides, someone would nearly always produce a ghetto blaster and mix tapes would start to be played and heads would start bopping and feet tapping all over again. Recollecting these experiences, all I have is my foggy memories, but hanging around outside Sir Henrys after a great nights music, and listening to mix tapes outside or back in someone’s flat afterwards is definitely a memory I will never forget, especially if we got to hear one of our Eddie B & AMC mix tapes being played. That would always be the icing on the proverbial cake… ☺
Back then, Sir Henrys was very so much part of our lives…. I worked, and currently still do, as a graphic designer, and Eddie worked as a draughtsman for a local architect, but all we would both do was count down the days and hours to Thursday night, for our first fix of the week of those infectious 4×4 beats and euphoric synth stabs. At the beginning there were really only one night on offer, Thursday night, but as the scene progressed and became more popular, the Saturday night option was added also. The Thursday night was the original of the species (for original believers and hardcore loyal disciples) and it was very much the more authentic of the two nights…. but as the years went bye, it was to be the Saturday night offering, complete with added Sloppy Buzz Heads, that would eventually win out as the Big Henrys Night Out, but for me, it was always the Thursday night that has held the most affection. But really, none of that really mattered, all that mattered is that we could get to go to Sir Henry’s as much as we possibly could. It was like a drug in itself, and for me, it was all about the music and the people that I met there that really made a lasting impression on me. I could go there by myself and I would always be sure to be made welcome and have a great night with my fellow peers, clubbers and ravers. I still meet people from back in “da day” on the streets of Cork from time to time and we nostalgically chat about the old days (and always with rose tinted glasses of course).
One funny story I have is about meeting one of those great people I spoke about above. I can’t remember his name now, I think it could be Seamus or Shane… he had a Northern Ireland accent and we bumped into each other one Saturday afternoon, outside the GPO. We chatted and laughed about the old days, he was married or in a relationship… and so was I… I think he had a few kids also… and he started asking me about what sort of music I was currently into… at the time I had started listening to a whole new style of music, and moving away really from the whole dance scene as it was all just getting a little too popular, boring and overground… I was listening to a new wave of artists like Antony & The Johnsons, Rufus Wainwright, Joan as Policewoman… and as I wanted to be honest with him, I explained who I was listening to and slowly I could see his face drop, I think he still thought I was still this crazed, techno seeking maniac… we both had to head off to do our respective chores, but when he was walking back up along the road, he turned and shouted back at me from the top of his voice “AMC Has Gone Folk”… I couldn’t stop laughing away to myself for ages after hearing that…. I had spent years trying to get people to listen to my crazed Belgian techno and now, with one conversion, I had shattered that illusion forever. But little did I know I was to get back listening to dance music as fanatically as ever, all over again, only a few years later.
Our weekly Thursday night ritual would usually begin with a visit to Isaac Bells… an unassuming bar located over on St. Patrick’s Quay. I can’t remember much about the specifics of that bar, only the feeling I would always get when I walked in there early on a Thursday night. DJs Mark Ring and Andrew (who later went on to become a regular fixture over the famous/infamous back bar in Sir Henrys) were the resident musical maestros at Isaac Bells, sitting there, at the back of the bar, with their mixing decks in front of them, surrounded by a mix of full and half empty beer bottles, cigarettes and overflowing ashtrays, these two guys for me were also key figures in those early days of this emerging scene to get help get this new sound out to the people of Cork. It wasn’t about the mixing with these guys really, it was all about having a great night out and you could really see that they just loved playing the records and having fun with it all. Isaac Bells on a Thursday night wasn’t just all about that strange eclectic mix of dance and reggae beats, they also sold great beers and one in specific new drink to arrive in Cork at the time was called Grölsch (way before all these trendy craft beers stuff that we have today), it was served in a green bottle with a ceramic glasp at the top… so that irresistible cocktail of hypnotic beats and strong beers always made for a great start to the evenings proceeding which would always eventually have us end up on the inevitable approach to the entrance to Sir Henrys at the end of South Main Street.
I can remember as you walked up to the entrance door, which was always surrounded by a herd of the meanest bouncers you could even imagine, well that’s what they seemed to be to a 20 something at the time, but really they were mostly just gentle giants trying to do their job, with their black bomber jackets and Harringtons, menacing smiles and crackling security ear pieces, but for the most part we would just bop our heads past them, mesmerized by the blurry sound of the muffled basslines booming from inside the building before us and in we would go into our place for worship for another nights dancing.
One experience that I will have never forgot to this very day was the feeling of dancing past those bouncers and into the main stairwell area, fumbling payment at the cashiers desk and then walking step by step up those stairs, all the while the booming and pounding beats of the main room would almost go in sync to your every step as you hopped, skipped and jumped up along those stairs to get inside as fast as you possibly could and when you actually reached the top landing, you would open those double doors to be aurally assaulted with the booming beats of the music playing. I could always feel the bass against my chest it was so loud… I never got sick of that feeling. hearing that crisp, sharp rhythmic sound in my ears, seducing and leading me inexorably into it’s awaiting hallowed walls and to this day I still love my music as loud as possible. I think that pretty much explains why I’m half deaf at this stage of my life, that and the sound monitors we all had to endure as DJs, they were probably the worst offenders for sure.
Once inside, the music, the people, the atmosphere would just take hold of you and bring you on this whole new adventure. It was like you could not control your arms, yours legs, your neck, your head or even your hips anymore… it was as if you had offered them up as some kind of sacrificial offering to the Dance Music Kings, Greg & Shane, up there in their shadowy DJ box above, and for next 3 hours of so, they would be in total control of your every move. They were now our musical puppeteers and we were their willing and loyal puppets. We all had our special spots to dance at, well at least, I did anyways… it was down at the beginning the far left side wall on the way to the main stage. There we would all gather and slowly work our way up into a frenzied nights dancing complete with the obligatory shaking of countless hands and “Nice Ones” all round. From my own vantage point I could always see the DJ box and try and work out what the next tune might be from Greg & Shane. Occasionally I might get a hint, but more often than not I would have to wait like the rest of the crowd to hear the next leg of our musical journey for the night. As we all danced (more like a crazed jogging on the spot) we would all listen out carefully for that slight overlap of hi-hat, that distant overlapping kick drum that would signal the beginning of the next track and that we were IN DA MIX. It might be a piano stab… or a subtle, distant vocal that might give the game away… but as soon as someone knew what the next track was, especially if it was an established Henrys classic, the entire place would light up with cheers and whoops… and off we would all go to musical nirvana.
Never was this so evident than at the end of the night when everyone was totally exhausted and spent… the final track of the night would have to be selected and played. This was usually the result of much clapping, shouting, hands in the air waving or even chanting… Ooooowwwaaaahhh… Ooooowwwaaaahhh… or Everybody, Move Your Body!!, Everybody, Move Your Body!! … resounding around the main room and resonating like a never ending loop. All eyes would be on the DJ box above our heads. All eyes looking anxiously to see if Greg & Shane could squeeze one more track out of the ever present venue manager, Sean O’Neill. It would be look like some half time huddle and then either Greg or Shane would appear at the front of the DJ box and we all knew in that moment there would be ONE MORE. One big finale track that I think we all remember is Inner City’s Pennies From Heaven… the opening bassline to that track is something that still gives me tingles just thinking about it today… another great closing track would have been Strings of Life ‘89 by Rhythim is Rhythim (Derrick May) with it’s infectious piano intro… cascading and crescendoing it’s way into a fully fledged techno track complete with strings and multiple breakdowns is another classic track that is forever hard wired into my brain and really is my favourite dance track of all time and I think if you listen back on it now that it still stands up today.
I am very fortunate to be able to remember Sir Henrys when it was a rock bar also… I even got to see Blue in Heaven there once and slam danced my way through the whole set. I watched Pink Floyd’s, Live in Pompeii on the big screen there some Sunday afternoon whilst drinking copious pints of cider, but still for me… my enduring memories of Sir Henrys will be the whole dance scene side of the venue. That for me is the greatest legacy of Sir Henrys. But in saying that, it was never really about the venue either… it didn’t have fancy toilets or a cool trendy bar, or even a great stage and when the light went up at the end of the night you sometimes couldn’t even believe that this grotty space could bring you so much enjoyment… but it did, because what it did have in bucket loads was heart and soul, and an amazing bunch of people that graced its inner sanctum.
Today I’m still loving the whole dance music scene…. I rediscovered the scene again about 2 years ago after hearing a continuous mix from a new and upcoming DJ called Noir from Belgium on Defected Records… see I’m getting all geeky again with my record labels references… hahah… it never leaves ya…. :) Ever since, I have been totally hooked on the Deep House and the whole Defected Records sound… which curiously, I have to say, sounds a lot like the Sir Henrys sound from all those years past… simple, infectious rhythms, lavish vocals that keep you humming them over and over again in your head until you go crazy… :) These days my BPMs are seriously around the 120-125bpm mark… sometimes I stick on an old techno classic from my record box and I wonder how the hell I ever found the energy to dance around to music at those kind of speeds… ahhhh to be young again!! ☺
I am very proud of our achievements as a djing double act and eventhough our 15 minutes only really lasted from 1989 to about late 1992, we had many highlights. Getting to play Sir Henrys for the four successful Keep The Faith nights with Greg and Shane would be very much one of them for me… but also getting to play our very last ever gig together in Sir Henrys under the banner of our Xtra Hard themed night would also be very memorable for me personally also as it was just us alone playing our own special flavour of music with an extra emphasis on the hard/techno side of things to a packed crowd of curious Henrys and enthusiastic techno heads. I have a VHS video from that event somewhere up in the attic. I must try and dig it out some day and look at it again… I’m sure I will cringe with embarrassment of my then all important “dance moves”, but I reckon I would also enjoy reminiscing over that, our last great gig together as a djing duo. Another highlight would have to be for sure the two Bamba Raves in the City Hall, Cork allowing us to play along side “three decks” Carl Cox as he was known back then and Colin Dale, but the absolute highlight for me was getting to play support, along with other DJs from across Ireland to The Prodigy at the Point Depot, on November 15th,1992. We even played the Mansion House in Dublin a good few times, playing support to the likes of Tin Tin and Micky Finn.
Looking back, the whole Sir Henrys experience for me was a moment in time in my life that I will never forget and one that I am very proud to talk about with new friends when they ask about my past. I think Sir Henrys, and specifically the Greg and Shane residency was a complete one off, a very unique combination between two guys with a very similar musical philosophy and one that Cork will never experience again for a very long time.
If I could go back I wouldn’t change a thing about what I experienced. In fact, I think living through those early days of the dance scene, meeting so many people of all ages and all backgrounds… dancing and sweating side by side… hugging each other in spasms of musical ecstasy thought me alot about being an open minded person, about accepting people of all colours and backgrounds and to just to let go and express yourself whether it be through dance or any other way, and to just enjoy life to the max when you can. I think it also gave me the confidence to pursue my dreams in life and to believe that anything was really possible if you worked hard enough at it and never give up.
We the ravers and clubbers of Sir Henrys were all of the one tribe, one unstoppable, united movement that helped to establish the scene as it was back then and influenced what it has become now today. Decades on from those first few heady years of the dance/rave scene and it’s now become a multi-million dollar business… DJ’s are the new rock ‘n’ roll heroes, EDM is the new buzzword and dance music is in fashion all over again, but it was places like Sir Henrys in Cork, and The Haçienda in Manchester that were the guiding beacons for us all in helping create this great and diverse genre we call House Music.
I met my wife Liz also at Sir Henrys… we became the best of raver friends, fell in raver love and we will be 18 raving years married this September. We have a beautiful girl, Heather, who is also now a dance music fan… not that she has much of a choice with her “Oldest Raver in Town” Dad… but she’s even mixing now on her Djay 2.0 app for iPhone… who would have ever thought eh… ? DJ mixing on your phone… maybe one day she’ll even able to crossfade (more like chop mix) as good as her old man ☺
I would like to congratulate Greg and Shane on such a successful career and with so many accolades to there name now it looks like they are going to just keep going from strength from strength and potentially they should be able to keep going FOREVER!! I may not have always agreed with their musical taste at the time, as I was passionate about my own musical direction… but it’s only with time and maturity you can look back and assess things with more appreciation. They were fantastic years… years I cherish and to be honest, years I wish I could recollect a little better, but these fragmented, blurry memories are all mine and I lived them all, and for that, I am very fortunate, grateful and proud to have been a small part of it all.
If you have read this far, thank you so much for sticking with my ramblings. Apologies if I started to meander a few times, but I just wanted to get what came into my head, finally down in black and white, and to try and provide a little snapshot as to what it was like, when Cork, for me, was the raving capital of the WORLD and Sir Henrys with was right there at the very center of it all.
I would also like to acknowledge some of the other people who lived through those great times with me… especially to Eddie “B” Burgess my DJing partner, Gareth “MC Fly” Flynn, my wingman plus Dale & Luke (Rush The Gearbox), Paul ‘Butsy” Butler, Mick (sorry I don’t remember your surname), Sean O’Hara, Mark Ring (Donkeyman) and Andrew (The Architect), Ger McNamee, Diarmuid “Boxer” Kelleher, Dave Sully, Hitchie, John “JP” Paul, Edwin James, DJ Marq Walsh, John Bon (Legend), DJs Greg & Shane, DJ Stevie G, DJ Cal, DJ Morgan Madden, Kieran Motherway (aka DJ K), DJ Tonie Tony Toni, MC Mr. P (YES), DJ Mark Kavanagh (Dublin), Sean O’Neill, Edel Hogan, Niamh O’Shea and many more who’s names I just can’t rescue from my memory. So apologies now in advance if you are not mentioned in the list above.
Here are a few names of current DJ/Producers that I’m currently listening to: Noir, Simon Dunmore, Finnebassen, Larse, Solumun, Magit Cacoon, Ten Walls, Dusky, Route 94, David August, Huxley, Claptone, Nora En Pure, Agoria, Stefan Z, DJ Andy Daniell to name but a few. Check out a few and enjoy.
My Top 10 “all time” Fav Oldskool Tracks (in no particular order):
– Strings of Life (Derrick May)
– Energy Flash (Joey Beltram)
– Go (Moby)
– Windows (S.I.L.)
– Vamp (The Outlander)
– Can You Feel It (Mr. Fingers)
– Chime (Orbital)
– Greece 2000, Original Mix (Three Drives)
– Moog Eruption, Lava Mix 91 (Digital Orgasm)
– And the one and only Android (from The Prodigy)
I have uploaded a digitized copy of one of our original Eddie B & AMC Mix Tapes to DropBox if anyone wants to take a trip down memory lane. Just follow the link below and happy listening.
Thanks for reading my nostalgic raving ramblings and KEEP THE FAITH!!! :)
Yours musically,
Anthony MacCarthy (aka AMC)
This was another Nice One Production.







A tribute to Sir Henrys – Don’t Laugh

Susan O Shea posted a lovely little piece on our Facebook page earlier this morning – we thought it would make a nice post… so here goes, Thanks Susan
A Tribute to Sir Henry’s – Don’t laugh

No matter where we play or what clubs we go to, it’s difficult not to compare them to Henry’s. Yes there was often trouble outside the club but for four hours the differences between the ‘alternative’ and ‘dance’ crowds would melt away into sweaty walls, sticky floors, warm Carling XL beer with the paranoia inducing beats of Josh Winks ‘Don’t Laugh’ chasing us around the main bar. Naked torsos, long hair, Mercury Rev, hippie chicks, scobes, bump and grind, nerds, Nick Cave, Vicks, cider, bass so hard and deep the building shook, leaking toilets, lollipops, curry, chips and peas, buckled knees, cloudy water, we are, we are, we are the Frank and Walters. Stage invasions, whistles, once white jeans muddied with dancing love, lingering hugs, back bar grooves, being allowed rub the magic bald heads of Sweat veterans, Paradise Lost, Sultans of Ping, The Golden Horde, Kerri Chandler, Fad, Fork, LTJ Bukem. Falling down the stairs, bruises, lost cloakroom tickets, Freakscene, friends, lovers, all night raves, memories forever.

Lost Video Tape

As I read the memories of past pupils of the Henry’s school….my own ones come flooding back to the surface.
My brother worked as a glass collector in the Grand Parade in the late 80’s prior to the Sweat nights(they called him “Feathers” back then)and one night after a drunken night out he happened to recover a years supply of Friday night passes for Henry’s which I commandeered for myself. This was 1990 and even though it was only a fiver in(free before 10 for the dedicated) I used that extra fiver for the 3 pints of Beamish beforehand to stretch out my limbs for the night ahead.
So began a beautiful relationship….friday nights were a musical education in itself…one must remember that not every Friday night was a capacity night…more often than not it was dead in the water but when it hit the spot the atmosphere was something to behold. I was repeating my leaving cert at the time so all week was a campaign for the class to meet up in Henry’s and when the call
was answered…anything could happen!!!
Sure, we were all on a voyage of discovery at a seminal moment in history when multiple trends were on the up and the overall mix created, produced some great music and memories. Henry’s catered for the kind of people in search for a different kind of tune and the ‘laissez faire’ attitude within created the legend that we all remember. I had no allegiance to the place whatsoever….sometimes I couldn’t bear it but in the beginning of my journey it was the only place to go without hearing the dreaded pop music of the day.
As Henrys expanded into the backbar things got more exciting….I never forget seeing Eddie Butt down the back bar setting up his decks… playing his record collection for the first time. Donkeyman on a Saturday night playing some 2tone Ska for the 1st time with a load of bomber jacketed skinheads hopping about the place….this was knocked on the head fairly lively due to fears of a fatal collision or worse still the floor collapsing. For anyone walking through those doors for the first time on a Saturday night…visiting the back bar and slowly moving towards the main room was a seminal experience…the sounds …the smells…the people….the music…nothing like this had happened before it and the ordinary people who went there regularly knew it. From late 1990 to 1992 was a voyage of discovery for all concerned….
This was all pre mobile smart phones so there are no proper records of any goings on within the place which probably adds to the mystique…however I do remember one Saturday night when Sean O Neill was filming us nutters from the DJ Booth. I have it on good authority that his sister(Deirdre) apprehended this video tape because her husband Ian was my brothers best man(small world in Cork). He commented to me one day years later that he had a video tape of me acting the eejit in front of Sean back in the day. You couldn’t miss me with my big curly mop of hair…some people referred to me as ‘Sideshow Bob’ …an uncanny resemblance!!
The search continues for this piece of history…my history….
I have countless memories of those hallowed halls but as others have said …I can also lay claim to DJing in the back bar on 2 occasions…thanks to the 1st hit the decks competition which enabled myself and my cousin along with Stevie G amongst others to have our day in front of a grateful crowd down the back bar..
I could go on forever and probably will….

Sean O Neill opens Sir Henrys @UCC Library

Sean O Neill opened the Sir Henrys @UCC Library exhibition. He was the lead singer with 80s Cork rock and pop outfit Burning Embers, who released a number of singles and had a very good live reputation. He started managing Sir Henrys in 1988 and not only booked bands but also introduced Greg Dowling and the soon to be legendary Sweat dance night to the venue. He was in charge when Sonic Youth and Nirvana touched down in Cork plus his era also coincided with the expansion of Sir Henrys into more rooms such as the Back Bar. The renowned DJ weekenders also started at this time and it was Sean who gave the go ahead to a supposed one-off indie night called Freakscene too. Below is his speech from the night. Thanks Sean for a great speech and, as a former punter, thanks for vision you brought to the club…

Firstly I have to thank UCC for putting on this celebration of Sir Henry’s and to its curators Martin O’Connor, Eileen Hogan & Stevie G, Cronan and Colette and all the staff.
Sir Henry’s didn’t just open one day it was born out of history. The Lucey brothers, Murt, Michael and Jerry were at the vanguard of the music scene from the 1960’s. They were innovators, risk takers and forward thinkers. There would never been Sir Henry’s without Murt, Michael and Jerry Lucey. Sir Henry’s was Jerry’s baby.
For those of you who never experienced Sir Henry’s let me paint you a picture.
I am most associated with being the manager in the heady days of the dance scene, aptly named ‘Sweat’. However, I started my relationship (yes, it was and even still is a love affair) with Sir Henry’s like everybody else when I was 18 (maybe even 17), just trying to get into this mysterious, weird and wonderful place. That my mother would have classed it as a den of iniquity made it even more important to get in through those doors. Yes, it had it’s detractors down through the years, but, it’s always hard when it’s different.
Sir Henry’s was exciting, Sir Henry’s was cutting edge, music being the thread.
This little club crossed musical and social boundaries from folk to rock to punk to the dance scene, it mirrored the music culture of the world.
This was only possible because of Jerry Lucey’s willingness to take a chance, to try something new. Jerry gave things time. Jerry saw something in me that I didn’t see, he took a chance and gave me a chance.
This exhibition gives vent to the wealth of talent that passed through its doors, played on its stage, enjoyed it’s spirit. From the 70’s right up to and through the 90’s if you went to Sir Henry’s you remembered it.
History will always judge, for better or for worse and Sir Henry’s is now getting its rightful recognition. I think that is fantastic.

Sean O’Neill