Now with the excellent Trouble Pilgrims, Johnny Bonnie had never played drums until he got together with Dick Purdy, Paul Woodful and what became the Skank Mooks. Since then he has drummed with over thirty Dublin bands, which surely is some kind of record. He is also one of the genuine good guys in the local scene, friendly, enthusiastic, no attitude and with an undiminished love for music and good bandmates.
Johnny was part of the great gig line-ups for a great cause when Those Handsome Devils, Paul Clary, Moore, and the Commotion played for the striking Dunnes workers who refused to handle goods from apartheid South Africa.
What type of music did you love before punk came along?
Started with Sweet, T.Rex, Slade, Suzi Quatro then on to Rory Gallagher.
Were you friends into it too?
Yes school friends.
Did you go to any gigs pre-1977?
I Went to Rory Gallagher in Carlton Cinema and National Stadium also Dr Feelgood.
Your first band was the legendary but short-lived, Skank Mooks? How did you become the drummer?
We were sitting in McDonalds Grafton St, the first branch in Ireland, and each of us picked our instrument of choice.
Did anyone encourage you (parents, family, friends, teachers etc)?
No encouragement from anyone.
Did punk matter to you?
I was into music well before punk and It kickstarted me to start playing and getting involved.
How did you hear about punk?
The Geordie Scene Tv show with Dr Feelgood kicked it off for me.
Were any of your friends into it?
No, but It made me lots of friends still to this day.
Did you buy any of the punk records?
Lots, every month I travelled to Manchester with the Utd supporters club and got my records. And of course in Advance records.
Any particular memories of those songs/albums?
The Rads T.V Tube Heart and especially Ghostown stand out for me as great memories of the time and still do.
Where did you get/buy them?
Were home-made cassettes important to your early music listening?
No not really, I don’t think punk was being played a lot at the time on radio and you found It hard to get good reception from John Peel and the like.
Did you go to any of the early punk gigs…Stranglers, Clash, Jam, Adverts, Ramones, Skids?
I went to them all.
What were those gigs like for you?
Loved them for the energy.
Were you going to see any of the early Dublin punk/new wave bands? (Radiators from Space, Revolver, U2, the Prunes, the Vipers, Rocky de Valera, the Atrix, DC Nien, Zebra, the Fountainhead) did you like any of them?
Went to see them all, The Rads, Vipers, Revolver, Rocky and The Atrix, were my favs.
Did you get to see any of the Northern bands when they came to Dublin?
I did, Pretty Boy Floyd and the Gems in McGonagle’s. S.L.F in McGonagle’s and The Baggot…Rudi at Dark Space.
What venues did you go to see bands in? The Ivy Rooms, Baggot Inn etc?
Ivy Rooms, Baggot Inn, Toners, National Stadium, C.I.E Club, Top Hat, Steering Wheel, Moran’s, Magnet Bar, McGonagles, Santa Anna Club, Dandelion, Olympic Ballroom, Project, T.V Club, U.C.D, Celebrity Club, St. Anthony’s Hall, and Trinity.
Did you go to or hear about the Dark Space Festival in the Project Arts Centre in early 1979?
Yes I went. It was great, the Project was a great venue.
You were in some of the really interesting post-punk groups in Ireland, what was that like? You were incredibly young at the time! How did you get your gigs?
Yes I was busy then. There were plenty of bands and venues. Dublin had a good music scene. We would go around with the paste bucket to advertise gigs. You had to hire out a P.A for most of the venues. Everyone knew each other so getting gigs was easy.
What kind of music inspired you? Did you feel part of the ‘Dublin scene’ of did you feel you were just doing your own thing? Were there any other local bands at the time that you enjoyed?
Very much part of the Dublin scene. We followed the Vipers around a lot, Paul Boyle the singer was such a good front man.
Michael Mary Murphy
One thought on “Dublin Rock’s Gentleman Drummer: Johnny Bonnie Interview. Part 1”
Johnny is a real top chap. My Dad played with his Auntie…or some vibe like that. My late friend Steve New (Rich Kids) spoke very highly of him. We knew that already. X