Gareth Murphy on early punk, entrepreneurs and women

 

One of the best books about the music industry is Gareth Murphy’s Cowboys and Indies: The Epic History of the Music Industry.

More than just a standard history, the book focuses on the individuals who made huge changes to the industry. People who founded record labels, often as D.I.Y. enterprises on a shoe-string budget. It is fascinating, and inspiring, to learn how these people started their labels, made decisions, nurtured talent and brought us some of the music we love the most.

Gareth’s parents were two of the most interesting entrepreneurs of Ireland’s counter-culture. His mother had a fashion stall in the legendary Dandelion Market in Dublin in the 1970s, and his father was a music promoter responsible for bringing bands like the Ramones to Dublin. Crucially they were responsible for staging Dublin’s first major rock festival in 1977. It featured Thin Lizzy, Graham Parker and the Rumour, the Boomtown Rats and the Radiators From Space. As such, it was a key moment in Ireland’s rock as well as punk culture.

In the new issue of Long Live Vinyl magazine, Gareth has a lengthy article on the early punk moment. Just as he did with Cowboys and Indies, he looks at punk with a fresh perspective and highlights the significant contribution of behind-the-scenes individuals like Danny Fields, the early Ramones manager.

Gareth very kindly answered some questions for us about his punk research. Interestingly, he notes that some of the most successful and innovative music entrepreneurs had a background in punk. He also identifies how Richard Branson’s Virgin empire got a major boost from punk.

What was the most interesting thing you discovered/learned when you were researching the piece?

Well, over the last five years, I’ve pretty much been around the block when it comes to punk. I’ve talked to a lot of key players and had to look at punk from different angles – both in the UK and from an American perspective. At the end of it all, what you come away with is a sense of all the mythology. Blagging seems to be a core feature of punk. Punk was, and remains, a great news story. It never sold that many records. I’m sure it’s sold far more newspapers, magazines and documentary grant applications. So, it’s unique in that regard, and you have to cut through the fibs and be forensic.

Writing this piece, I had to condense everything down to a definitive essay. Although I was given 2,500 words, I didn’t have the space to pirouette around diplomatically. I had to pour the main points into the given pages and be damned with it. So I guess what I learned is that I don’t care if I’m offending anyone.

If punk mythology has thrived unquestioned for so many years, it’s because so many writers have stars in their eyes and keep giving these punks free rides. I definitely don’t have any stars in my eyes. Not anymore. It’s a snake pit of professional bullshitters and I can prove it.

What songs/albums from that early punk era do you go back to and listen to most?

It’s the “punk-not-punk” bands that I like the most. The Stranglers would definitely be my favourites to come out of that whole scene.

Although, I really wonder if they count as punk. Listen to their keyboard player, Dave Greenfield, who is very much a virtuoso, almost in that prog tradition that punk supposedly hated. He’s a genius who made many of their songs so good.

Talking Heads are another example of a band who surfed that punk wave, initially, albeit somewhat sideways. I think they were a really important group who I happily listen to today. Blondie I love, but again their best stuff was not punk at all. I actually can’t stand their first punk album. Same goes for Ian Dury. He’s the original London punk, isn’t he? And what a hilarious poet, but the Blockheads were the opposite of punk.

Musically, I don’t really like raw punk. What I do find interesting, musicologically, is how it was a reaction to corporate rock and hippie uniformity. It’s a great story as a cultural event. I definitely get the joke and can recognize how it put energy and meaning back into the music business. As a clothing fashion, I love it, too.

My problem is that I’m a musician, so there’s only so much Sex Pistols or Ramones I can listen to before I get bored. That said, in a party or a particular situation, one well placed joker like “God Save The Queen” or “Blitzkrieg Bop” can work a treat. Very much a question of context and what was happening before.

Your family ‘had a seat at the table’ with those early punk bands…any stories that stand out?

My parents were gig promoters, so the anecdotes I heard tended to be horror stories. The laughter was always mixed with due shock. My father, Pat Murphy, organized that famous Ramones gig in the State Cinema in Phibsboro [Dublin]. He was taken to court because fans ripped up the seats and threw them in the air. The venue was trashed and I think he may have lost money in the end.

Generally, the punk gigs got so violent, they had to get metal detectors at the door, and at one, they found a meat cleaver in someone’s trench coat. Gobbing and stage invasion was in vogue, so bouncers had to guard the stage while being gobbed all over. Apparently, on the front line, punches were flying in all directions.

I was too young to see the gigs, but I do remember the stress at home, because as promoters, my folks were taking all the risk. They were terrified someone would die from a stabbing or being crushed. This was a perfectly reasonable nightmare scenario because at the side door emergency exits, dishonest bouncers were letting people in for cash. The venues were dangerously over-packed and no matter what my parents did, it was always terrifying mayhem. In the Olympic Ballroom, nutters used to dive off the balcony onto the people below.

Were there any women entrepreneurs that have been forgotten about by the standard histories?

I can’t think of any truly game-changer women managers or label heads. The music business has always been male dominated and largely still is. As my mum put it: “women aren’t stupid enough to take such crazy risks.” However, there was the New York journalist Lisa Robinson who in 1975, alerted Danny Fields about the Ramones. She was one of the very first players who sensed something happening. A bit later, there was Linda Stein who, on Danny Fields’ invitation, co-managed the Ramones.

On the fashion side of things, Vivienne Westwood was a key player who proved herself as a successful entrepreneur. But I think it’s in the actual bands that one finds a higher-than-usual proportion of women. I’m thinking of Debbie Harry, Gay Advert, Poly Styrene, Jayne Casey, The Slits, and if one widens the field into new wave and post punk, there’s Siouxsie Sioux, The Raincoats, Chrissie Hynde, Tina Weymouth, Lene Lovich, The Go-Go’s and half of the B-52’s.

There’s no doubt that punk was good for women. And even the subsequent generation of early 80s pop stars, like Madonna, Toyah, Annie Lenox and others, definitely got their cues from the pioneers in the late seventies. In that sense, you can see that punk’s take-no-shit attitude was, in many respects, its single greatest strength.

Who were the impressive entrepreneurs of that era do you think….what traits did they have?

There were plenty of labels to come out of punk. In fact, giving so many people a crash course in business was the the real success of punk and it’s amazing that nobody really says it more often. Stiff, Factory, Fiction, Mute, 99, 4AD, STT, Radar, ZE, Def Jam, Zoo, Epitaph, etc.

People say that punk made Richard Branson because he signed the Sex Pistols, but he already had a chain of record shops and a boutique record label that had scored a massive hit earlier in the 70s with Mike Oldfield. He was already heading for bigger things, but it’s true that Branson learned new tricks from Malcolm McLaren about playing the media. Virgin was a much more aggressive company after punk.

But I think the most interesting examples were obviously Rough Trade and Beggars Banquet. Both were record shops that evolved into labels because of punk. They’re still around today, because what they had were musically literate bosses – Geoff Travis and Martin Mills respectively.

As young shop owners, they learned vital lessons about operating within modest means, keeping up to date, building a community and being genuinely independent. And all these labels, including some new ones like Def Jam, KLF, Sub Pop and others went on to drive hip hop, rave and grunge. They were all run by punk graduates.

Michael

Bear Trade – Silent Unspeakable

Bear Trade
Silent unspeakable
Dead broke records

“Please raise a glass and speak well of me when I’m gone ” sings Greg robson on the opening track to bear trades third album. Well I’m not going to wait and I will continue to speak well of Greg and his band as long as those lungs keep belting out these belters. There’s a nostalgic feel to all that bear trade do, bar the music which is very current. The artwork harks back to simpler days and the lyrics tell tales of friends but always with a feeling that somehow things could be better.

This is not a political album about the establishment. Bear Trade are not that sort of band. They do wear their hearts on their sleeves and you just know if they were your friends they’d have your back. Silent unspeakable is not only 12 great singalong guitar songs but Greg singing about the reality of a world that has humans and a home life that isn’t perfect. Cuts are opened and examined and beneath it all the songs are about the beauty of friendship and how important people are to each other.

I know none of bear Trade but the beauty of music makes me feel like they are in my community and we all look out for each other. Along the way they are providing part of the soundtrack and it’s such a good one it would be a real shame if you missed out.

niallhope

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.

Listen to the documentary here

Cathal Funge….a great documentary on 1977 Punk in Ireland

Cathal Funge has produced an excellent radio documentary on 1977 the year that punk established a foothold in Ireland.

The show includes some great reflections by participants including two of the best bands of the era, the Undertones and the Radiators from Space. You can hear:

Elvera Butler (Reekus Records and Cork Kampus venue)

Smiley Bolger (DJ and promoter of Moran’s, McGonagles and the New Inn)

Fachtna O’Ceallaigh (manager of the Boomtown Rats)

John O’Neill (Undertones)

Pete Holidai (The Radiators from Space, Trouble Pilgrims)

John Creedon (broadcaster)

Donal Gallagher (manager of Rory Gallagher)

and the historian Diarmaid Ferriter.

It is a fascinating piece of work, and really captures the spirit of the times.

Here is a link to the documentary:

https://www.todayfm.com/Music/LISTEN:-1977–The-year-Irish-music-was-reborn

Cathal was kind enough to answer some of our questions about the documentary and what inspired him to delve deeper into the story of punk in Ireland.

 

 

This can be your Christmas Song

Joe Solo has done it again.  One of the main agitators behind the we shall overcome movement Joe has got together with the Hatfield Brigade

‘Merry Christmas From Hatfield Main’ by Joe Solo & The Hatfield Brigade was recorded on location at Central Club in Stainforth on October 30th 2016 as miners and their families from up and down the UK gathered to join a choir like no other in the spirit of community and solidarity.

The single is available to download from all major outlets from Monday November 28th and all funds raised will go to those struggling to make ends meet in Food Bank Britain.

There is a VERY limited number of CD copies available which are simply a printed disc in a clear plastic sleeve with just the one song on. Only 200 copies were made and promos have been taken from this, so this is a very rare little piece of history.

 

Fanzine Of The Week – Eaten Alive

I picked up 2 copies of this at Rebellion

It is a hark back to the cut and paste zines from the 80’s with staples down the side, the interviews are pretty sparse but he can only print what the band reply I suppose

Issue 34 has interviews with Anti-Establishment,Angelic Upstarts,RED ALERT and East Town Pirates!

Issue 35 has interviews with The Warriors, Hospital Food, The Defects and Disorder

derrick.moore1@btopenworld.com

Eaten Alive fanzine

152 Heath End Road

Cotton

Nuneaton

CV107JG

UK

Mystic Inane – EP’s of M/I

It’s very rare that a record label gets a description incorrect of one of its bands.  They know them best, theiy know their secret likes and all that goes into the wiritng of their songs.  So when their record label, lavidaesunmus, describe Mystic Inane as “Freaked out FLIPPER meets RUDIMENTARY PENI acid punk from New Orleans who channels the weird vibes of earlier SACCHARINE TRUST and battles them against modern distorted hardcore creating a hybrid soundtrack to a bad trip.” there is no point in me arguing for something else.

It drifts along at a fuzzed out speed as indeed is as confusing as it is exciting

niallhope.

 

 

Fanzine of the Week – Blackpool Rox2

Fanzine of the Week

Blackpool Rox2 Issue 11

image

Another special brought out for Rebellion and has good interviews with Cock Sparrer, Simon Wells, Ted Dibiase Million Dollar Punk Band, Colleen Caffeine and local Blackpool acts Poly-Esters and Du Pig/  ALongside that there’s extensive reviews from Steve Scanner and bits on being a woman in Saudi Arabia and Andys travel blog from the European Championship.  Andy’ style of writing is quirky and chatty and Blackpool Rox2 is always worth picking up.

andy@jsntgm.com

16 Windmill Close
Blackpool
England
FY3 0EB

 

Andy does this youtube show every week where he plays a cover version, check it out below

Fanzine Of The Week – Suspect Device / Zonked

sd58

Tony and Gaz just keep that Suspect Device machine rolling.  It’s heartening to see them into issue 58 and still with the enthusiasm on *1.  It is a split issue with Zonked which has is a newbie in comparison with 13 previous issues.

Interviews with Dry Heaves, Chroma, Rotten Mind, Immolato Tomatoes, Hack Job, Army Of Skanks, Darren Bourne, Time Waster and some great pics and reviews.  I always have a new band to listen to after reading Suspect device

£3.20 post paid in the UK – email suspectdevicehq@hotmail.com for further details

niallhope

 

Vegan Punk rock rules (are there any?)

It’s an indication of how we deal with music in the 21st Century.

When I first heard that Fall Out Boy drummer Andy Hurley was channeling his hardcore roots in a new band called Sect I immediately went to google to check its accuracy.  There was no need for a trip to the record store to ask an informed worker or indeed to check a zine or music press for validation.

And so a quick check led me to noisey and it tells me that the band are a straight edge, vegan group, which also features members of the punk bands Cursed, Burning Love, Earth Crisis and Catharsis, and they will release their self-titled debut album on August 5.

That really piqued my interest do i delved further.  Where’s the bandcamp page? the twitter account, the facepook page so i can like it.  Vegan and Straight edge!  let’s get that back out there.

There doesn’t seem to be any social media presence but the record is going to self released and sounds like a pure belter of aggressive hardcore punk rock.  Screaming at ya

https://soundcloud.com/user-947973294/scourge-of-empire