Dick Purdy was a member of one of the most legendary of Dublin bands, the Skank Mooks. They didn’t last long but they made a mark on the local music scene with their punk attitude of ‘why can’t we do it?’ They played in the very legendary gig at Anthony’s Hall in November 1978. A gig that was pretty much ignored by the local Irish media, but was of massive significance to the young Irish music fans, many of whom were inspired to pick up instruments by punk and then by events like this.
The Boomtown Rats had just gone to Number 1 in the British charts, but in Ireland the conservative showband cover-bands still dominated the airways and the nightlife.
One of the few music columns that previewed the gig was the Evening Herald. They mentioned that Strange Movements would be playing, but provide few other details.
Then again, the music big attractions in Dublin at the time were the showbands some of whom had morphed in cabaret acts.
That week the Nevada showband were at the Irene, Dickie Rock and the Miami were at the National, Brose Walsh was at the Irene, Johnny McEvoy was at the Olympic, and the Sands were at the TV Club.
Hardly revolutionary, most of them had been around for years. But was revolutionary was the gig that young promoter George Purdy had arranged. This was music by youngsters for youngsters, promoted by youngsters. It was a revelation in Irish youth culture, Do It Yourself in action, and it drew close to 1,000 young Irish music fans hungry for something fresh and new and inspiring.
Even more revolutionary, young George Purdy staged the gig, which featured the Virgin Prunes, Berlin, the Skank Mooks, and Strange Movements. George’s brother, Dick, was a member of the Skank Mooks and a very dedicated gig-goer. Here he recalls the Dublin music scene.
You are probably best remembered as one of the first young people in Ireland to get involved with the early punk/new wave scene. How did that come about?
Dick Purdy: Dublin was a bleak place in 1977. For some reason my memories up to that point, I kid you not, are in black and white. When the punk thing happened, it was like taking control of your own life, your destiny. It was about possibilities that a young northside working class Dublin lad didn’t know existed, or felt didn’t apply to him. I was about giving yourself permission to be who you were. Suddenly there was this explosion of music, clothes and colour. Of course I wanted to be involved and I realised I could be.
When did you start going to gigs?
First gig was Slade I think, in the National Stadium on the South Circular Road. March 1973 I think. I went to other touring UK bands after that, mostly chart stuff. As soon as the punk thing happened I started going to gigs more regularly. I saw all the touring overseas bands and the local bands in the smaller venues.
Any particularly memorable ones?
Obviously The Clash in Trinity was a game changer. I was with my brother George and a mate from Stoneybatter, Shay Doyle (currently still playing guitar with Absolutely Yo). I was right up front and was completely mesmerised, under a shower of gob. Paul Simonon, the Clash bass player had to have his bass tuned by Mick Jones between songs. It showed me you didn’t need to be a musical genius to make great sounds and be heard. He caught my eye during the gig and gestured for a cigarette. I had stitches in my hand at the time which he inadvertently opened with his fingers as I was passing him the smoke. Blood everywhere. But I still have the scar as a memento of the first time The Clash played Dublin. It’s the gig that changed everything. There were people there that night who would become lifelong friends. Also The Ramones in the State Cinema in Phibsborough was another momentous occasion. I don’t remember how many seats were still intact after that one, I suspect very few.
Was there music in your house when you were growing up?
We were not a musical family. Although I remember my mother always expressed a wish to play piano. She loved piano. Her wish was never fulfilled unfortunately. There were old 78s around and we always had a record player.
What was the music scene like in Dublin when you were growing up?
I remember the local bands such as Arthur Phybes Band, Jimi Slevin and of course Brush and Skid Row. There was also a pretty vibrant folk scene with the likes of Tony J. Walsh and Leo O’Kelly and Sonny Condell playing around the folk clubs.
You were in the Skank Mooks, people talk about the band but not make got to see them. How did you form?
Ah, Skank Mooks. It started as more of an idea, a dream. I’m not sure anyone really expected it to actually develop into a proper band. I’m not sure it ever did. In hindsight there was certainly potential, considering who was in it. Johnny Bonnie and I ran with the idea and began to sound people out. It was only when we actually teamed up with people who actually knew what they were doing musically that the idea turned into a band. Those people were Paul Woodful and the late Fred McLoughlin. They were very patient considering they were dealing with such musical novices. They were really into the vibe though. And one of those musical novices went on to become one of Irelands most legendary drummers. There were various early line-up changes and it was a very ‘punky’ vibe. The original singer Tom McCann (the famous ‘Bottle Of Milk’) left after two performances, one jam in the Magnet which featured members of Skank Mooks, Strange Movements, U2, The Citizens and I think The Vipers. The other gig was the famous St. Anthony’s Hall gig. Tom is now a professor in a University in Germany and is a very cool chap indeed. After Tom’s departure a more ‘settled’ four-piece line up of Paul on lead guitar/vocals, Fred on rhythm guitar, Johnny on drums and yours truly on bass. There were also a couple of Mookettes on backing vocals for the earlier gigs, Sarah Cochran and Marissa Kavanagh.
Where did you rehearse, where did you play?
We rehearsed in my parent’s kitchen in Stoneybatter and Fred’s place in Mount Merrion. We played in St. Anthony’s Hall, The Magnet, Crofton Airport Hotel, Howth Community Centre, Killiney Court Hotel, McGonagles and The Steering Wheel, the memory is a bit foggy. What we lacked early on musically we seemed to make up with notoriety, considering people remember it and ask about it forty years later. We played a small part in the beginning of something that would become much bigger. We didn’t know it at the time, but we were part of a revolution. We and Ireland would never be the same. We were part of a movement, I think that’s why people remember Skank Mooks.
Naturally the St Anthony’s Hall gig is legendary….what do you remember about it?
Very little. We were there. We played. Chaos. A great vibe.
The band seemed very volatile….why did the Skank Mooks fall apart? Or how did you manage to stay together for so long?
I wouldn’t call it volatile. Personally, everyone parted as friends. There were people in the band who had a natural talent. They went on to make careers in music and are still playing today. I never was and never have considered myself a musician. I found and recognised my limits in the few bands I played in. I will be forever thankful to the people I played with who took me on that short journey into playing/gigging and all the incredible experiences that come with it. I would consider them all friends to this day.
Were you in any other bands before or after that?
I never picked up a bass until The Mooks. After we parted ways I played for a short while in a band called The Massive Moving Miracles with Ita Carr, Vinny Murphy and Lou Bergin.
What about the other bands of the time, did any of them stick out for you?
They all do. But The Radiators From Space hold a special place in my heart. They kicked down the door the rest of us walked through. The bands are not the only ones (pardon the pun) who deserve a mention. None of this would have been possible without the people behind the bands, the record shops who stocked the music and the venues who were prepared to let the bands play and of course the fanzines. People like Jude Carr, Ger Siggins, Terry O’Neill, Ross Fitzsimons, Linda Duff and the legendary Sully played a huge part in the early Dublin Punk scene, unsung heroes.
Did punk matter to you?
Of course it did. It gave the music industry a kick in the bollocks. It enabled thousands of young kids like me to pick up guitars and get involved.
How did you hear about punk?
Like everyone else through the music press. There was obviously something happening in New York before it exploded in London. You could sense there would be a change.
Were any of your friends into it?
Yes a lot of friends got into it. I also made countless friends because of it.
Did you buy any of the punk records?
I bought as many as I could afford. Remember Dublin was a bleak place at the time. High unemployment and money was tight. We’d sit around in friend’s houses listening to the records we didn’t have ourselves.
Any particular memories of those songs/albums?
The first Clash album impacted everyone. TV Tube Heart by the Radiators From Space was special. Special because they were ours and because it was, and still is, a brilliant album. I can’t express how proud we were that an Irish band put this out. If you want to know what Dublin was like in the 70s listen to their second album Ghostown. It paints a perfect picture.
Where did you get/buy them?
Advance Records, Sound Cellar, Murray’s.
Did you listen to music on tapes? Did you have any home-made cassette tapes?
I was always a vinyl man.
Did you go to any of the early punk gigs…Stranglers, Clash, Jam, Adverts, Dr Feelgood, Elvis Costello, Boomtown Rats?
All of the above and more.
What were those gigs like for you?
When the punk thing happened the number of and frequency of visits from UK and American bands increased dramatically. We had our own ‘done good’ heroes as well in The Rads and The Rats. It was great to get to see the bands you listened to up close and often meet them.
Does any one stand out for you?
As mentioned above The first Clash gig at Trinity and the first Ramones gig stick out in my memory.
Do you remember any of the other characters from the scene?
Jude Carr who ran Heat became and remains a good friend. He was one of the major characters in the early scene. He went on to form Bad Karma Beckons in London a few years later who were a great band. Linda Duff played an important part in the early promotion of The Vipers and ran their ‘fan club’. Linda pursued a very successful career in music journalism in London. She passed away a few years ago unfortunately and will always hold a special place in my heart. There were many fringe characters who played an important role at the time and are too numerous to mention.
Were you going to see any of the early Dublin punk/new wave bands? (Radiators from Space, Revolver, the Vipers, Rocky de Valera, U2, the Atrix, DC Nien, Virgin Prunes, Berlin) did you like any of them?
All of the above. I must have attended hundreds of gigs. There were many memorable nights spent in the various venues around the city. I knew a lot of the bands and enjoyed their company as well as their music. After The Rats and Rads left for London I really got into The Vipers and am glad to say Dave Maloney remains a friend to this day. Their single ‘I’ve Got You’ is up there with The Radiators ‘Million Dollar Hero’ as one of the best radio friendly pop tunes to come out of Ireland. I find it remarkable that people from that time are still making original, relevant music to this day. My old band mate Johnny Bonnie is in Trouble Pilgrims with Pete Holidai, Steve Rapid, Bren Lynott and Tony ‘The Ledge’ St.Ledger. Take a listen to their latest album, it’s a career high for these guys. That’s saying something. They’re sixty something for feck sake.
Did you get to see any of the Northern bands when they came to Dublin?
Yeah, The Undertones, SLF and Rudi
What venues did you go to see bands in? The Ivy Rooms, Baggot Inn etc?
McGonagle’s, Moran’s, Baggot Inn, Toners, Dandelion, Trinity, Top Hat, Tivoli, Arcadia (Cork) and many more.
What was Moran’s like?
Dark, loud and sweaty. Radiators were magic there.
What type of music did you love before punk came along?
When I was younger mostly chart stuff. I then got into Bob Dylan and some of the more ‘progressive’ stuff like Led Zeppelin and Jethro Tull. Punk came along and saved me. I do have an enduring love of Dylan though.
Were you friends into it too?
Yes they were.
Did you go to any gigs pre-punk?
None I’m going to admit to.
Stano, Paul Bibby, Dick Purdy, Johnny Bonnie, Bren Lynott
What does punk mean to you now?
Attitude and enduring friendships. It happened in my formative years, so helped shape my character. I am an old punk.
Dick and George Purdy
Michael Mary Murphy