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!!! 🙂
Anthony MacCarthy (aka AMC)
This was another Nice One Production.