Month: June 2014

Cocktails, cornflakes and chicken feathers

“A new world opened up when you walked through its doors,” says Paul O’Mahony of the early days of Sir Henry’s

Paul O Mahony pic 1

Sir Henrys exterior shot – © Paul O Mahony

If, as the saying goes, the past is foreign country, then I come from a land with no internet, no social media, no mobile phones, no bottled water and no electronic guitar tuners.

The late ‘70s and early ‘80s were a depressing time in Ireland. The Catholic church and Fianna Fail had a stranglehold on the country, Northern Ireland was a daily news item of death and destruction, and across the water Margaret Thatcher came to power. Unemployment in Cork was rife and the general sense of economic doom and gloom was reinforced on Leeside by the closing of the hugely important Ford and Dunlop factories.

Emigration was on an epidemic level. Most of my friends left the city. And so did I. Eventually…

But not before Sir Henry’s arrived in ’77 to bring a chink of light to the city. Jimmy O’Hara and Dominic O’Keeffe (RIP, 1994) brought their version of a Hard Rock Café to Jerry Lucey’s premises on South Main St. Dominic had been a DJ I’d seen when I used to sneak (underage) into UCC’s Campus Kitchen and his records stirred my teenage rock’n’roll dreams with grooves by the likes of Bad Company. Plus, he looked cool. On the other hand, I didn’t know Jimmy prior to Henry’s, but I can’t recall him never wearing a suit of some description. Not long after starting up, they parted, with Dominic moving over to the Victoria Hotel to run the hugely successful and now also legendary Co-Co’s Nightclub, Pitz cocktail bar and other offshoots.

In those days, Henry’s was Jimmy. It was part cocktail bar, part restaurant, part live venue. It contrasted sharply with the dullness of the streets outside. A new world opened up when you walked through its doors. In the pre-MTV era, it also had a large screen that showed the ‘latest’ videos, from The Rutles’ pastiche on The Beatles to Jackson Browne’s ‘Stay’ to Sid Vicious doing ‘My Way’. Local bands like Hot Guitars, Small Change and Asylum held down residencies but I don’t recall any international acts coming in as they did in later years when the venue expanded. The music scene pretty much reflected the wider socio-economic context, being mostly tired and uninspired.

Into this came Berserk, the city’s first ‘punk’ band, influenced by the energy and attitude of the punk scenes in the US and the UK, although it was The Sex Pistols whose highly charged ditties we’d cover most frequently, from ‘Pretty Vacant’ to ‘Bodies’ to ‘Did You No Wrong’. And we had the attitude, embodied by Aidan McCarthy (RIP, 1981) on drums and occasional vocals, a natural entertainer like his ol’ man, Joe Mac (of The Dixies fame). Manic energy. One of my earliest memories of a Henry’s gig is ‘Maccer’ scattering cornflakes and feathers from a (deceased) chicken – which he was plucking there and then – into the audience while singing his tune ‘I Got Fever (Inside My Head)’ with the band noisily riffing away behind him.

Being in my first band, it was nerve-racking and adrenalin-surging to play a ‘real’ rock venue like Sir Henry’s. Furthermore, to be playing bass with Maccer was unnerving, for what might happen next! And it always helps when the venue booker likes the band, likes the spirit, as Jimmy did.

You can hear a short clip from a 1979 Berserk rehearsal – never heard in public before – taped on an old banger of a cassette player  

 

I got involved with Maccer and guitarist Martin Kelleher while I was working part-time in one of the best indie record stores Cork ever had, Dave O’Loughlin’s TNT Records on Paul St. We used to rehearse in the Worker’s Party offices across the river from the old dole offices and, later, during daytime below Henry’s itself in The Stardust club inside the Grand Parade Hotel. To earn a few bob, the band doubled as The Shades, a middle of the road covers band doing material like ‘Love Is In The Air’, a chart hit at the time. It was almost vomit-inducing to play such insipid rubbish and nearly became so one Sunday night in the Ardmanning Inn in Togher! Booked to play a nice gentle Pop set for the Sunday night regulars, The Shades – Incredible Hulk-style – suddenly transformed without warning mid-set into full-on Berserk! We hadn’t planned it that way, it just sort of happened! The devil in us. We never got paid.

Yet, somehow, Berserk have been written out of the ‘official’ histories of Cork rock. It probably didn’t help that we, regrettably, went unrecorded. And although I went on to write for Hot Press magazine, I ‘blame’ that publication for that state of affairs, for when Reekus Records later started their nights in the Downtown Kampus, Hot Press were brought down from Dublin to see the likes of Nun Attax and thus the history of Cork ‘alternative’ rock invariably and erroneously seems to begin at this point. One hundred yards from the railway station and the train back to Dublin. It’s not a bad point to begin, and most of the bands were great (I particularly liked Constant Reminders, featuring Mick Lynch), but it’s factually incorrect.

There was a link, however. Myself and Berserk singer Mike O’Brien did go into the studio as a one-off studio side-project, Loko Parentis, with Rikki and Smelley from Nun Attax and Giordai O’Laoghaire to do two tunes we had never rehearsed; the idea was to capture the tunes as live as possible and the resulting Loko Parentis demo picked up notable airplay in Cork and nationally on the Dave Fanning show on RTE. But the idea was to just record, capture the energy and disappear. Like a mayfly. It was a concept I would come back to in 2007 and the Oxegen festival.

You can hear a track from that 1981 Loko Parentis demo here: 

Following Berserk, guitarist Vince and I teamed up with Ger Hennessy (guitar/vocals) and Padraig Murphy (drums) in Orpheus, who played Sir Henry’s several times.

As you can hear from this Orpheus instrumental track, featuring Vince on lead guitar, it was a world apart from Berserk or Loko Parentis: 

Other Berserk guitarist Martin Kelleher went on to form The Kidz, who moved to London, while Maccer started a few projects in Cork. Alas, he was killed in a car crash with his wife Linda in 1981, leaving behind a young child. It was front page news on The Cork Examiner and was a tragic event and upsetting time.

 

 

Here in full is my tribute to him in Hot Press at the time:

Paul O Mahony - Aidan Grab 2 jpeg

 

 

Orpheus then added Berserk and Loko Parentis vocalist Mike and became power-pop outfit Factor Fiction. At one gig in Sir Henry’s in 1982, we came away from the gig with exactly one pound note – which we tore into five pieces afterwards so we all came away with something! The gig had been packed after we’d done some promo for our vinyl ep and we’d also had a Dave Fanning session broadcast on RTE but we decided to get the Henry’s gig recorded, hired a big PA, a sound engineer, and printed posters. Raising the bar meant our costs escalated.

You can hear a clip from that same 1982 Factor Fiction Sir Henry’s gig here: 

As with such bands with members aged in their twenties, however, and with little job potential in Cork, the members started to scatter to the four winds.

Having written an obituary about Maccer in Hot Press, I decided to keep submitting articles to the magazine, with Sir Henry’s as the core review venue. I had seen from a musician’s perspective that Cork bands were not getting the profile they deserved in Hot Press and the national media. In those days, there were no social media or mobiles, so the gap with a predominantly Dublin-based Pale-centric media was a chasm. My first review as ‘Cork Correspondent’ was of Hot Guitars in Sir Henry’s and then I covered bands like Alice in Wonderband, 1990, Real Mayonnaise, Porcelyn Tears and more. Some – like Driveshaft, The Kidz, 5 Go Down To The Sea, Microdisney, Mick Lynch and Stump – by-passed Dublin altogether and headed straight for London and probably gained more traction than they ever would have in the capital.

From a personal perspective, it was in Henry’s where, as an aspiring writer, I had the good fortune to meet and chat with the legendary rock journalist Dave Marsh of Rolling Stone and where I would invent cocktails with Fiona H. Stevenson (RIP, 2003), who would also begin to co-write Cork feature articles with me before she moved to Dublin as a full-time staffer with Hot Press, as did I in 1984.

Paul O Mahony Advert

And pirate radio had come to Cork in the early to mid-‘80s, as it had to the rest of the country. Steve Archer in Cork City Local Radio (CCLR), Ian Richards in ERI and, to a lesser extent, Southcoast Radio started giving the kind of airtime to Cork bands that RTE was not.

You can see step into a Cork time-warp thanks to Bob Le-Roi and see photos and logos of the Cork pirate stations and hear a sound link from ERI in 1983 at http://www.bobleroi.co.uk/ScrapBook/Ireland_SCR2/SCR.html

As well as the pirate stations, The Arcadia, UCC College Bar, Heaphy’s, the Phoenix, the Bodega (Oliver Plunkett St) and venues in Clonakilty and Youghal all supported original Cork bands at the time, as did local journalists like Brian O’Brien in the Cork Evening Echo and Con Downing in The Southern Star.

Yet, it was Sir Henry’s that was the city’s flagship, and when it broke down a few walls and extended its capacity so that it could accommodate national and international bands alike, and eventually club nights like Sweat, that it entered a new phase quite unlike the ‘innocence’ of the 1977 to 1984 era of being very local and self-contained.

The venue was evolving into something new, reinventing itself on a bigger scale, as it had to do in order to survive as long as it did. Its future was not to be part of the memories of ‘my generation’.

Our day in Sir Henry’s was done.

 

 

Postscript: After leaving Cork in 1984, Paul O’Mahony worked for Hot Press in Dublin until 1999. In 2006, he re-activated the Loko Parentis project in Dublin with a new line-up, which included members of The Gurriers and Las Vegas Basement. They played the Oxegen festival (New Band Stage) in 2007 and released two albums, The Other Side of Fear (2009) and Dream Revolution (2010), to critical acclaim. In keeping with the original 1981 Loko Parentis project, there was never any aspiration to do anything else other than record two very good albums.

You can hear a track from each album, here:

The Other Side of Fear: 

Remember to Breathe: 

 

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… and I kept on dancing…

Catriona Hegarty provides us with our most succinct post – and a reminder of one of the perils of dancing in Henrys…

One of my funniest memories of Henry’s was dancing away one night at the edge of the main dance floor near the step up to the next level, minding my own business, quite close to a guy dancing on the step who was lost in the music, doing that typical house dance punching his arms out straight ahead of himself, when next thing I know I got punched straight in the face!!!!! Totally accidental of course and the guy couldn’t have been more apologetic “gurl I’m so sorry, you alright?” Which I was of course and I kept on dancing!

Burning Embers (1986 Session)

The Fanning Sessions Archive

Image via IrishRock.org Image via IrishRock.org

I’ve been trawling the archive for something vaguely related to Sir Henry’s in Cork, the subject of an upcoming exhibtion at UCC Library hence today’s post. Burning Embers were Sean O’Neill (vocals), John Poland (guitars), Niall Macken (keyboards), Mel Poland (bass), Gordon Ashe (drums). They recorded this session for Dave Fanning on November 17th 1986.

Champagne & Toffee (1986)

Waiting (1986)

The Blood Game (1986)

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“If you couldn’t persuade Henry’s, you didn’t matter where it mattered” – Colm O Callaghan

This guest post is courtesy of Colm O Callaghan – somebody who has been supportive of this project literally since the start.  Our first email was from him, wishing us well and offering any assistance and he has been true to his word. Thanks for all your help Colm.

And now he has written this for us. I hope you enjoy

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It was a dump all right, but it was our dump!” – Paul McDermott

Paul McDermott wrote this piece for us.  Many of us can surely relate to the memories and the thoughts contained in this piece. I know it certainly evoked many memories of a place that objectively might have been a bit of a dump but for me when the lights went down and the music went up it transcended its dumpness (for want of a better word). The rest is Paul. Thanks Paul

 

The Mekons played Sir Henrys on Sunday, 06 February 1994. This was my first night DJing in the venue. The gig was fairly empty and hardly anyone was in for the first hour when I was spinning tunes. It didn’t matter – I was DJing in Henrys. I had walked out across the gangway and had watched a gig from the greatest vantage point in the room, the DJ booth – gigs were never the same afterwards.

I began DJing in The Village for Shane Fitzsimons in 1992, and saw some incredible gigs. Nottingham’s Pitchshifter tore the room apart with their industrial metal cacophony – the first time I’d ever seen a band play in front of a projected film. The images behind Pitchshifter depicted a man mutilating himself with a razor, it turned out to be The Big Shave, a 1967 short film directed by Martin Scorsese. Watching Benji Webbe, front man of Newport’s Dub War take to the stage and twist the handle of an air raid siren was one of the most exciting things I’d ever seen; their blend of punk, dub and reggae was absolutely fantastic. Jale, were from Nova Scotia and signed to Sub Pop, they played to a few dozen people. ‘Not Happy’ a track from one of the two 7”s I bought that night still gets heavy rotation round my place.

From summer 1990 I was a regular at Tight, the Friday indie night and went to as many gigs as I could afford. Some of them are unforgettable:  An Echo & the Bunnymen gig in November 1990 was from that strange period when the Bunnymen limped on sans Ian McCulloch. It was a pretty sad affair – the Bunnymen without Mac, but standing directly in front of Will Sergeant and watching him play guitar was mesmerising.

Seeing Sonic Youth in August 1991 and taking 24 pictures of them on a disposable camera; I didn’t even take pictures of Nirvana – who knew eh! A scan of my ticket stub from the gig was recently used by Sini Anderson in ‘The Punk Singer’, her fantastic documentary about Kathleen Hanna. I’m still chuffed. Cork got a taste of Hanna’s Riot Grrrl movement when Huggy Bear played The Village in February 1994, with our own Amazonic Siege supporting.

In March 1992 I sneaked in to Henrys, during a sound check to get Gavin Friday and Man Seezer to autograph my copy of ‘Each Man Kills the Thing He Loves’. I’m still proud of the setlist I nabbed after their gig. The Franks played on 21 October 1992, a big hometown gig following their initial success over in the UK – the returning heroes if you will! The lads arrived on stage to the theme tune from The Famous Five and the room exploded. They were supported by LMNO Pelican whose ‘Call Yossarian’ from their Boutros Boutros EP has to be one of the greatest tracks ever written by any Cork band. I love the bright orange triangular ticket stub from this gig.

Another ticket stub I prize is from a Wedding Present gig on 12 December 1993. “Any obnoxious behaviour up the front and you’re out” it tauntingly reads. The Wedding Present were at the height of their powers: critical and commercial darlings. They had released their masterpiece ‘Seamonsters’ in 1991 and 1992 was the year of their 12 monthly 7”s, so there was an amazing atmosphere for this one. A No Means No gig in June 1994 was unbelievably good. Rob Wright’s bass guitar rumbled like an earthquake as they launched into ‘The Tower’ and not for the first time I thought the PA would collapse. Manhole supported on the night and showed everyone just why they were the greatest band in the city at the time.

Loads of other gigs spring to mind: being completely awestruck watching a possessed Steve Mack from That Petrol Emotion as he bounced around the stage while the band tore through ‘Sensitize’. The saxophonist from Bad Manners crowd-surfing after being thrown off the stage by Buster Bloodvessel, the guy kept playing his instrument and never missed a beat. Cathal Coughlan taking to the stage with The Fatima Mansions and opening with ‘Go Home Bible Mike’, turning the room into a pressure cooker in seconds – keep music evil indeed! Mark Eitzel leading the crowd in a sing-along of ‘Johnny Mathis’ Feet’ in 1998 was a spine-chillingly special moment. Watching the Dancing Bastards From Hell and thinking my sides were going to split open from laughing.

I remember feeling really lucky because I got to see the Sultans twice in one night; but dreaded having agreed to hump the PA and sound-desk down to the Village for the second show – we were never paid enough for loading PA in and out of Henrys, a dangerous backbreaking job! Moving the gear usually took six of us a few hours, we’d do it and be happy with a few quid, free entry into the gig, a band t-shirt if we were lucky and a few pints in Streets at the end of the night. It’s amazing that no one was injured over the years.

In October 1994, I remember standing and listening as the sound engineer with the Manic Street Preachers used Yello’s ‘The Race’ to test the PA. As the words “Time is running out and the illusion fades away,” crashed out of the speakers I genuinely thought our eardrums would bleed. Later in the night when Nicky Wire kept punching the head of his bass guitar through the low ceiling of The Forum’s stage, I genuinely thought he was an idiot. How could a Hotel house the greatest venue in the country – a mini-amphitheatre – in one room and at the other side of the wall construct the horror that was The Forum’s stage? Maybe Nicky Wire had the right idea.

I remember running backstage after Mark E Smith stormed off, two songs into The Fall’s gig at Freakscene in November 1997. Smith was at one side of The Forum and the rest of the band was at the far end. Steve Hanley gave me a reassuring look, things would be okay, and I had to leave them to it. They returned to the stage a few minutes later and continued the set. Afterwards Smith asked what I thought of the gig. Feeling disappointed, I answered honestly, that I thought the gig was good but had expected more. He looked at me puzzled and said, “but it’s The Fall!” Smith would fire the band weeks later infamously declaring: “If it’s me and yer granny on bongos, it’s The Fall.”

I remember when Rollerskate Skinny’s ‘Speed to My Side’ finally filled the floor at Gigantic on Fridays in the mainroom, We’d been playing it for weeks to half-empty floors but finally it clicked; John O’Leary and I turned and high-fived, you’d swear we had written the bloody song we were so proud. I remember special moments like that or in 1998 when we played The Young Offenders’ debut single ‘That’s Why We Lose Control’ from a promo cassette that Shane Fitzsimons had given us. The crowd stood and listened; we then rewound the tape and playing it a second time and felt elated as the crowd went berserk. In May 1998, John and I interviewed Grandaddy on their tourbus for our show on Campus Radio, when they supported Super Furry Animals in Henrys. The band was added to the bill at the last minute. We thought it was hilarious that a band, whose name wasn’t even on the flyers, had a bigger bus then the headliners.      

In writing these words, I don’t think I’ve succumbed to dewy-eyed nostalgia. I have good memories of Henrys but it was a bit of a dump, ask anyone who walked through the place during the day: to stock the bar; set-up lights; turntables; backdrops etc. When the lights were on, the place looked like a hell hole and it absolutely stank. We shouldn’t forget that more often then not gigs were under attended and many promoters lost a lot of money. That Mekons gig in 1994 had no more then fifty people at it – they were fantastic though. It was a dump all right, but it was our dump!

 

Paul McDermott is a lecturer in Media Studies and Journalism at Rathmines College and the Director of Programming at Dublin City FM.

“… both hairy & Interesting times…” – a view from Mike Lyons

Got an email from Mike Lyons [some might remember him from Treehouse, Hooky, Box Camera] – he certainly triggered a lot of memories for me. Hopefully reading this post, from the email, will do the same for you. Thanks Mike
 
My name is Mike Lyons. I learned of the upcoming Sir Henry’s Exhibition at UCC on Twitter recently. When I saw the call for submissions I immediately regretted not having been more of an archivist or a magpie during my time there. I realise that it might be a bit late to contribute now but for what it’s worth like many of my contemporaries from 1988-89 on I regularly frequented Henry’s to see bands like The Power of Dreams, Toasted Heretic (I think), Whipping Boy, Something Happens, The Stunning, A House, Sonic Youth, Super Furry Animals, The Wedding Present and Therapy. The Indie Discos on Friday nights in the late 80s and early 90s were a welcome release from the school/colege week and guaranteeing getting in was a well planned and carefully executed exercise. 
Subsequent to that, between 1991 and 1994 I worked for freelance promoter Shane Fitzsimons at the Village and Sir Henry’s as well as for occasional gigs he ran at the City Hall and other locations around town. I did flyers and posters for Shane while in the second  and third years of my degree  and after often taking tickets/cash  for Shane at the doors of both venues and others to make some dosh while studying at UCC. 
 
During that time, I also played in a band called Treehouse that regularly played at the Village and Sir Henry’s supporting bands like Mercury Rev, Daisy Chainsaw and participating in showcases such as 2FM Cork Rocks. I also worked on lots of gigs at the Village and Sir Henry’s for bands like Rollerskate Skinny, Leatherface, Babes In Toyland, AC Temple. Manhole, The Mary Janes, Pet Lamb, The Shanks, No Means No, Sebadoh, Jawbreaker, Dub War, Alice Donut, Brawl, Jam Jar Jail, Pitch Shifter, In Motion, Pavement, Mexican Pets, The Sultans of Ping, The Frank & Walters and others. 
 
Later on, I worked for the Simpson Brothers who owned the hotel after Jerry Lucey. Admittedly, those were both hairy and interesting times. I managed entertainment at the venue behind Sir Henry’s, The Forum for a while. On one occasion, we had The Manic Street Preachers + Nicky Wire playing at The Forum. They had us facilitate the decking out of the tiny back-stage dressing room in camouflage netting  on arrival and James Dean Bradfield was the only one who said hello. I remember that the tour manager on the night, whose name was Rory Lyons, refused to allow the band to go on stage with drinks served in glass from behind the bar . We were sold out and doors were opening. In a blind panic, I eventually got plastic pint glasses from the Metropole Hotel on loan so the gig went ahead to a full house. Phew. I have fonder memories of bands like Shed Seven though who felt sorry for me and bought me drinks instead of telling me what to serve them in.
 
Later in 1999, I played there in support of Mercury Rev with a subsequent band Hooky. I attach the poster in case you’re interested. I also found a battered VIP Pass from Sir Henry’s (1999) and a faded Frank& Walters AAA pass for a gig there with Hubble in support in 1997 (See attached). These are the only items that remain in my possession besides vague memories of meeting bands like Pavement in my role as promoter’s go-for/lacky. They were really nice guys. They played with Grandaddy that night I think.
 
Given what was going on around me it is incredible that I wasn’t more prescient but perhaps I was too wrapped up in the moments as they happened.  Anyway like I say, I don’t have much from my time at the venues in the Grand Parade Hotel but I spent a lot of time there and I hope this small and insignificant contribution is of some mild interest.
 
On another note and in a wider context, if there is to be an ongoing social/cultural history project taking in other music, memorabilia and photographs from Cork I have lots of material from my time with Hooky and Box Camera, the last two bands I played in. I have a wide ranging digital archive of music an photographs of a total of three albums (two studio and one live) made with both bands. I have copious photographs and other relevant material such as demos/posters/setlists etc. If you, your colleagues or any other party engaged in collecting such material have any interest please don’t hesitate to pass on my e-mail address to them. 
Again, for what it’s worth…thanks and best regards,
Mike Lyons

Sweat – the people of Cork were in their own way what made it magic

A nice email arrived in from Alan Collins… now our latest post. Thanks Alan…

Hi my name is Alan Collins. I served my time in Sir Henrys from 93 to 03 hardly ever missing a Sat or Thurs night. I know Stevie. I was blood sober for every one of those nights. Sad I know ha! That place was and is very special to me.  It’s still a big part of my life. It inspired me at the time to visit the infamous Shelter, and Body and Soul clubs in New York and The End up in San Francisco , the Rex in Paris but Sweat was really better ,the seemless mixing of Greg and Shane , the sound system I think came from New York was flawless and the people of Cork were in their own way what made it magic. I used to sit on a railing on the stage at the back of the main room when I was all danced out and look around at a mass of bodies jacking grooving doing their own thing ,it didn’t matter to the music , I never took it for granted I savoured every second and I will never forget! Strong words I know but it and the music were my life. I was very lucky to be part of it. I wish you well with your project drop me a line if you want my stuff or If I can help in any way Alan