Cathal Funge. An interview with the broadcaster Cathal about his punk radio documentary.

What can we expect from the documentary?

 

The documentary is going to be a bit of a trip back forty years to tell the story of Irish music in 1977. I’ll be covering quite a few events from that year including The Boomtown Rats and The Radiators From Space both releasing their debut singles, Rory Gallagher headlining the Macroom Mountain Dew Festival (Ireland’s first outdoor rock festival), Lizzy headlining Dalymount with The Rats and The Rads supporting, The Clash in Belfast and Dublin and the launch of Hotpress.

 

Were there any surprises for you as you delved into the scene at the time?

 

There was a lot of talk in the UK press over the last twelve months about the 40th anniversary of British punk so I started to look at what was happening in Ireland around that time. The initial idea was to look at the Irish punk scene but after a bit of research I noticed a lot of things started to happen at once and not just in Dublin but across the country, North and South.

 

1977 in Ireland seems to be a year of beginnings for a modern Irish music scene. You had bands like The Radiators getting into the charts, rock festivals in Macroom and Dublin, The Rats on Top of the Pops, a national music magazine launched etc. The documentary in many ways is about a bunch of people just going for it, creating new ways of doing things and setting the tone for others to follow, which off course they did.

 

If you compare today’s vibrant local music scene to 1977, it doesn’t just feel like a different era, it feels more like a different planet!

 

What do you make of those early punk ‘pioneers’?

I love the DIY attitude and lot of the music from that era has stood the test of time. A lot of the events I cover in the documentary are not punk but they were inspired by the spirit and energy of time. It seems as if the climate for change was ripe and people went for it. In the case of Macroom, it was just a bunch of people in a small West Cork town trying to bring some extra business into their area. They came up with the idea of staging Ireland’s first rock festival and managed to pull it off with Rory Gallagher headlining the event at a time in his career when he was playing venues like Shea Stadium, not the local GAA pitch in Macroom.

 

At the same time, up the road in Cork City, Elvera Bulter (now label boss at Reekus Records) was in UCC and she started putting on gigs in City Hall including Dr Feelgood and The Stranglers. By the end of the year she was hosting the weekly Downtown Kampus gigs at the Arcadia which quickly established itself as the focal point of a new music scene in the city. That scene blossomed in the 80’s and gave us great bands like Stump and Microdisney.

 

I’m sure they didn’t realise it at the time, but a lot of these people were pioneers. They didn’t just do things, they also showed that there was a market for rock music in Ireland.

 

How did you get into music (as a fan) in the first place?

 

Growing up in Wexford, there wasn’t much going on in terms of music, no record shops, no gigs etc. I was very fortunate that my dad and older brother both had great tastes in music. My dad had a lot of old 60’s albums that I soaked up and then as I got a little older, I would sneak into my brother’s bedroom and rob/borrow some of his albums. So, anything from Teenage Fanclub to Nirvana, Mercury Rev, Pixies, Sonic Youth.

 

Around that time, I got a part time job as a petrol pump attendant in a local garage, working a few evenings after school and during summer holidays. The garage was in the middle of the country side and I sat in a hut for about 5 hours with only a radio to keep me company. Dave Fanning suddenly became my best friend and his nightly show was an education, as was Donal Dineen’s show on Today FM.

 

 

Any particular punk songs/albums/gigs that really moved you?

 

From the late 70’s era, I particularly love Buzzcocks first five singles and I think The Clash’s debut album from ’77 sounds great forty years on. In the documentary, I talk to Paul Burgess from Belfast band Ruefrex and Jake Reilly from The Blades about The Clash’s visit to Ireland in October ’77. The Trinity gigs have gone down in local music folklore, how many bands formed after that night out with Strummer and his gang? On the flip side, up in Belfast the gig was cancelled which caused a mini riot and some claim is was the night that the Belfast punk scene was born. I think that might be stretching it a little but it is interesting to hear about the impact the visit one band had on music fans in two very different cities in October ’77.

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