PUNK IN NORTHERN IRELAND

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MULLY
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PUNK IN NORTHERN IRELAND

Post by MULLY » 08 Jun 2009, 21:33

Over the years I have posted a number of articles regarding Punk in Northern Ireland and have received various PMs , e-mails and, on meeting some of you fine Strangler fans, uncovered a genuine interest in Ulster Punk - not to mention the replies to many of the posts. In fact, some of you have even been presented with a selection of the 'classics' on CD.

Anyway, if you will allow, I hope over the next few pages of this thread to lay down, not only a personal outlook, but some other articles printed about the local scene which might enlighten and hopefully entertain.

So, here we go - Part One.

TRUE CONFESSIONS OF JUSTA NOTHER TEENAGE REBEL

"State Of Emergency" - SLF

Northern Ireland in the '70s was in a state of turmoil - stuck in the middle of a raging civil war - two communities divided by bigotry and sectarian hatred, which in typical self-depricating 'Irish' humour became known simply as 'The Troubles'. Terrorist shootings, car-bombs, running riots, a gun-toting Police Force supplemented by an Army presence on the streets, P-checks (names and addresses taken randomly and often, by both security forces), a city-centre barricaded by the famous 'ring of steel' with security checks at every shop entrance and 2000 dead. Troubles - yeah, right!! - this was 'Anarchy in the U.K.'. To compound the problem, the country had the worst unemployment figures and the poorest housing in the whole of the United Kingdom. Everyone lived with the threat of violence hanging over their heads, many actually taking matters into their own hands and 'fighting for the cause', be that either Orange (Loyalist/Unionist) or Green (Republican/Nationalist), and joining one of the various Paramilitary organisations. Not particularly an ideal place for a hormonally-charged teenager to be growing up - 'No Fun' and 'No Future' - but, the perfect melting pot for the punk revolution to blossom.

Pre-punk, Belfast city-centre was a ghost town after 6.00 p.m. Shops pulled down their bomb-proof metal shutters and the security gates at the top of Donegall Place and Royal Avenue were locked - the infamous 'Ring of Steel' - not only sealing off the town from potential attack, but also ensuring there was no nightlife. The only city centre in Britain that was totally deserted when most others were just coming to life. People did not leave the relative safety off their own communities once darkness fell - nobody dared venture out incase they were caught up in a security incident. I lived in the south of the city where the streets were 'run' by numerous gangs, or 'Tartans' - nurseries for the Paramilitaries - a 'boover-boy' culture of long-hair, skinner high-boy parallel trousers, harrington jackets and tipped Oxford brogues. Within a mile radius of my mid-terrace two-up, two-down house in a predominantly Loyalist area there were three such gangs - the Finaghy Tong, Lisburn Road Spartan and the (in)famous TTR - the notoriously vicious Taughmonagh Tartan Rule. Although sometimes clashing amongst themselves, the real enemy were Catholics and occassionally pitched battles flared up at Finaghy Road North railway bridge - the borderline between Protestant and Catholic South Belfast - as a barrage of bottles and bricks rained across the divide. Their brand of football hooligan thugishness was not always religion driven however. I remember hearing of one particular incident when a lone youth was walking along the Unionist stronghold Lisburn Road, only to be confronted by the Spartan.

"You a Prod or a fuckin' Taig?" ('Taig' being a derogatory term used by Loyalists to describe a member of the Catholic persuasion). The obvious answer, and the wisest choice, was quickly offered up - "Prod". The response, with a glint of menace in the eye... "Well, we're fuckin' Taigs!!"
One swift kicking later, a battered and bruised victim was left bleeding by the side of the road. Not sectarian, just brutal.

"Smarter Than U" - The Undertones

I was considered too young to be worthy of joining any such gang and, to be honest, that particular vocation did not interest me in the slightest. I was content to spend whatever daylight hours were left after returning from school, to hone my football skills and spent many an hour or two happily kicking the ball against a gable end-wall (sometimes by myself). The small gaggle of friends I did hang around with were a varied bunch, too young and too wrapped up in our own particular problems to worry about the grander scheme of sectarianism, and we 'ran' our street - basically meaning, whenever any members of the TTR came through, we ran!!

"Listenin' In" - Protex

Musically, we were treated either by the Glam/Heavy Rock tunes from our peers, talked about in the schoolyard and the playground, or Country & Western ballads from our parents. I remember my father, sitting in his armchair with the headphones on, singing out-of-tune yodellings to Jim Reeves, Charley Pride or Slim Whitman, but when I got my first transistor radio for Christmas '73, I was escounced in my bedroom listening to the Top Forty chart run-down on a Sunday evening - Slade, Sweet and T.Rex blasting out of one tiny speaker. We were all avid watchers of Top Of The Pops on a Thursday evening - after all, no band was brave enough to tour Northern Ireland. To be fair, a few bands did make the effort - The Bay City Rollers played in '75 - but lets be honest, would you want to go and see them? Rory Gallagher with Taste played annually, but he was from Donegal so doesn't really count - but also, it was a heavy blues sound which did not really appeal to people my age. Not only was it incredibly foolhardy to play Belfast at the height of The Troubles, but it was also financially draining, as the equipment had to be ferried across the Irish Sea, high insurance premiums were required due to potential hi-jackings, bombs or both and there were very few venues deemed worth playing. Many were too small for a major act to consider performing in and many had 'bitten the dust' as the conflict effectively killed off the entertainment business.

By the time I was in Grammar School, my circle of friends had expanded - although night-time still centred around my home vicinity as Belfast was still a no-go area. Stuck at home the only entertainment available was watching the only three TV channels being broadcast at that time - and they all ended before 12 o'clock!! - or listening to the radio, became the normal routine. Around this time Ulster was also subjected to The Worker's Strike - called to protest the power-sharing initiative in Stormont. This was 'organised' mainly by loyalist paramilitaries and associated politicians which basically brought the 'new' government (and the country) to its knees. It resulted in weeks of power strikes - sitting around in front rooms with paraffin lamps or candles, and only the radio for entertainment - petrol rationing, businesses closing and road-blocks manned by masked men in paramilitary uniform performing their own P-checks on commuters. The economic and personal stress this (in)action caused practically crippled the Province and forced a political stand-down. However the terrorist activity still continued unabated - bombings and legitimate targets soon giving way to tit for tat killings and the indiscriminate slaughter of the innocent. Scary times.

"The Cops Are Coming" - The Outcasts

What we needed was an 'Alternative Ulster'. Through the pages of NME and Sounds, plus the late night broadcasts of John Peel on Radio 1 and Dave Fanning on RTE Radio 2, a new music was emerging - something fresh and exciting. This was a musical backdrop, a soundscape that perfectly complemented the life and times of a disillusioned misfit struggling to come to terms with the hostile environment I was growing up in. It reflected the emotions and frustrations I felt living in the teenage wasteland of battlefield Belfast. Although too young to be allowed to attend any of the gigs, Eddie and The Hot Rods and Dr. Feelgood played Belfast - but soon the real force of Punk was to reach our shores, as in 1977 The Clash announced they were to perform. This was deemed a seminal moment in Ulster Punk History as like-minded souls from across the city gathered outside the Ulster Hall, meeting other punks from outside their own group of friends for the first time - included in the crowd were most of the key characters from either the already formed or the soon to be formed bands making up the Ulster punk scene. The actual concert was 'banned' by the City Council resulting in a 'punk rock riot' as reported in the local media - although compared to Ulster's usual riots, it was all very tame. The Police were still called, but it was all blown out of proportion. Unfortunately, I was not in attendance this time - it would still be another year before my first 'real' punk gig - The Stranglers first concert in Belfast.

"Big Time" - Rudi

I had already been introduced to The Stranglers through one of my best mates at school, spending the majority of '77 in his attic room, playing 'Rattus Norvegicus' and various other punk records practically non-stop. The walls of this room were decorated with cuttings from the NME, displaying all the main punk (anti) heroes - Rotten, Strummer and our own personal favourite JJ Burnel. At school there were a number of similarly minded miscreants who displayed their punk credentials - we all were sporting drainpipe trousers compared to the flares worn by the 'in crowd' of sporting 'jocks' and straight ties (just like The Heartbreakers) rather than the then popular 'big-knot' styled ties. Doc Marten eight-hole boots replaced the more acceptable brogue footwear as we were both mocked and (secretly) respected in equal measure. The attic room became our punk HQ as we hung out listening to our favourite records and discovering the delights of Tennents lager. Through mutual friends and contacts we were expanding our small circle - soon heading into town on a Saturday afternoon to meet up with others at Good Vibrations Record Shop. It was here we found out about the local scene and I first heard the thrilling opening bars to Rudi's 'Big Time' - Belfast's first punk band and the first release on Good Vibes - sheer bliss. The record shop itself was a tiny first floor room over a healthfood shop, with a print shop installed upstairs, where all the fanzines, gig posters and even record sleeves were produced. John Peel visited the shop at one stage, describing it as "a dinky toy phonebooth" - it really was that small. It was also, however, probably the most important punk institution in Northern Ireland - the only record shop in Belfast at that time that sold 'decent' second-hand records as well as the new releases and imports. But vitally for the burgeoning scene in the Province, it also began releasing local bands on it's own record label. I can still recall the first time I climbed the narrow staircase up to the shop, after being directed through the door by the life-size cut-out Elvis pointing the way, suffering the heady smell of spices and god knows what from Sassafras downstairs and walking in. Up the narrow stairs and after squeezing through the doorway, I was awestruck - confronted by a wall of punk picture sleeve singles and the one-eyed visionary himself, Terri Hooley.

Terri was instrumental to punk in Ulster, especially in those early days. Not only forming the Good Vibrations label and releasing the debut singles of many punk combos - Rudi, Victim, The Undertones, Ruefrex et al, but by allowing the young punksters to hang out - to chat, listen to the myriad of singles and albums crammed into the shop - but also later on organising punk events. The highlight undoubtedly the Punk and New Wave Festival 1978 in the Ulster Hall, featuring a crop of local bands (Rudi, Protex, The Outcasts and Starjets) but also The Saints from Australia and The Stimulators from New York. Terri possessed an ex-hippy heart and an anarchist soul - the perfect combination to embark upon influencing and encouaging the initial handful of local punk bands. He had originally opened the record shop after seeing an advert in Exchange & Mart and purchasing a job-lot of records and, in due course, was advised by one of his clientele to catch a punk gig in The Pound featuring Rudi and The Outcasts. The experience changed his life - this was exactly what he had been looking for - a new buzz, an excitement reminiscent of his youth and he grabbed the opportunity with both hands. Through the contacts he had made and the enthusiasm of the kids, the debut single on Good Vibrations Records was manufactured and released. Neither party really knew what they were doing, but with youthful endeavour, some good luck and learning from any mistakes (but often repeating them!!), the local punk scene had taken a massive step forward.

Whenever punk in Northern Ireland gets reported on, it is usually only The Undertones and Stiff Little Fingers that take all the plaudits, but the local scene was so much more than just these bands. Both hit the 'big' time relatively early as they were signed to mainland record labels and benefitted from their backing. Although The 'Tones sang about teenage kicks and chocolate and girls, SLF took a more politicised stance - singing about the state of emergency and wasted lives. However, it was the influence of an English journalist that distanced the band from local fans. We were already living our lives in an 'inflammable' situation and preferred not to be reminded about it - punk rock to us was an escape. This may be considered a rather harsh viewpoint, after all they were only singing and writing about the situation they too were experiencing, just as The Clash were doing with 'White Riot' and 'Londons Burning'. But it has been the considered opinion of many 'original' local punks, that the band sold-out and were only exploiting the situation having moved base to the mainland. Were they being hypocrites or was there a certain element of jealousy creeping in? I know what I think of Jake and the boys - you make up your own mind.

"Gangland Warfare" - The Outcasts

Meantime, as punk rock fever took hold, some other major acts decided to pencil Belfast into their tour itinery. Some absolutely memorable gigs from the likes of The Stranglers (twice), The Buzzcocks, The Ramones and Siouxsie and the Banshees, to namecheck just a few, took place between 1978-79 and started to re-kindle an entertainment scene in Belfast. These concerts were amazing to a musically starved audience - there was little or no aggression seen at these events, as everyone was there to see the band, listen to the music and enjoy the occassion - a gathering of punk-loving individuals already disassociated from 'normal' society. Punk music was still frowned on by many and punks were deemed an 'easy' target by the local 'spides'. Spides (a.k.a. spidermen - I don't know where the moniker came from!!) were similar to the Chav culture of today, hanging around in groups harassing and sometimes attacking individual punks as they made their way to and from their homes or the gigs. Of course, the Paramilitaries also took a dislike to this new scene, no doubt because we were deemed 'different', but also because we were upsetting the status quo - punks from both sides of the religious divide were mixing socially and not caring if your newly made friend was a Protestant or a Catholic. The Friendly Society were an alleged off-shoot of one of the loyalist terror groups and were neither social nor friendly!! - they made a point of 'punishing' youths who were seduced by punk. It was understandable to anyone living in Northern Ireland why the 'idea' of punk was considered such a threat. It de-stabilised the bigotry that had been passed down from the older generation and the 'reign of terror' that the paramilitaries relied on to keep the struggle 'on track', as kids from both communities took on the new 'punk religion'. Throw into the melting pot the Sex Pistols' track 'God Save The Queen' and Joe Strummer's (ill-advised) stance on Irish politics - by choosing to wear a 'Smash the H-Block' T-shirt - and immediately a completely new 'party politic' dimension was thrust upon punks in Ulster. Were you pro- or anti-monarchy?, a Republican sympathiser? - just because you listened to a particular band. Nothing was ever straightforward in this fucked-up country.

"Strange Thing By Night" - Victim

The Banshees' gig, was held up due to the bands' equipment not making it across by ferry - the doors eventually opening at 11:00 (usually the Belfast curfew, as all buses stopped running around this time and taxis were non-existant or at least reluctant to journey into certain areas) and many punters had made their way home before the concert actually started. Me and a mate stayed on (even though it was a school night) and whenever we were eventually allowed in, it was decided the running order should be reversed, so that Siouxsie would perform first, followed by The Cure and last but not least, The Outcasts. They were not meant to be on the bill, but had lent their PA system so the show could go on. Siouxsie and the boys played a blinding set and The Cure were still just three imaginary boys dressed in army surplus gear, however, by the time The Outcasts were taking the stage it was after 01:00 in the morning. Obviously I knew my Mum would be going up the wall with worry, not forgetting this was a pre-mobile phone age, so rather than remain to see the local heroes, I decided to depart. My mate however, wanted to hang on - and so I was left to make my own way home alone. As I wandered along Bedford Street, which was obviously totally deserted of any sort of traffic, I noticed two figures walking along the opposite side of the street - shit, what a night to decide to wear my totally punk rock, genuine Army combat jacket. No wonder so many soldiers were shot - this camouflage made you stand out like a bloody statue!! Head down, I quickened my pace - but out of the corner of my eye, I saw the two figures begin to cross over and approach me. Fuck. Without waiting to see what they wanted, I took to my heels, managing to evade them as they tried to cut off my escape route and I ran as fast as my DMs would carry me. I didn't dare look back until I had reached the corner of Bradbury Place and the junction of the Lisburn Road - a good half-mile sprint. No-one was in view, so as I re-caught my breath, I began the further mile or so walk to my mate's house where my moped was parked. Still gulping down lungfuls of air I heard the dreaded thud of footfalls behind and looking back, there they were - two figures charging round the corner!! Oh shit, here we go again. Somehow, probably due to the adrenaline rush, I managed to make my legs work and forced them to pump as hard as they could - lactic acid build-up causing me to stumble, but no way was I going to let myself fall - the alternative was not an option. Those two bastards chased me the whole way back to my friend's house and I only just managed to get through the front door before they stopped their pursuit. Needless to say I still received a good bashing that night (one of the 'ear' variety) when I eventually reached home - to find my Mum, sitting in her dressing gown, awaiting my return!!

"Teenage Kicks" - The Undertones

Local bands were putting on more of their own concerts too. Originally, when the punk scene started off, bands could not find venues that would allow them to play their brand of fast and furious zeitgeist Rock'n'Roll. To get around this minor detail, bands like Rudi, The Outcasts and Stiff Little Fingers would book the upstairs room of a bar or a hotel for a private party, some false birthday celebration, informing the management there would be some live music. They would then be seen selling tickets to the event outside in the car-park!! Through time, local venues began to allow the new breed access - but it was The Harp Bar that became the 'Belfast Roxy' and was the regular hang-out for punk rockers in the city. Situated in Hill Street, down a series of dark back-streets, it was enclosed in a steel mesh security cage held in place by concrete-filled oil drums plus a CCTV and intercom security system - apparently it had been bombed previously by the IRA and the owner had no intentions of letting that occur again. Opening it's doors to punk in '78, the bar was a real dive - I recall a red and black upstair room with a small stage and toilets that made the ones in Trainspotting look hygienic!! There were also strippers plying their trade before the Saturday night event, although I personally never had the dubious pleasure of meeting one. Although there was a membership scheme in place, I never subscribed, but did attend a number of the gigs and punk discos organised there - it was daunting enough gaining access being under the legal age, nevermind approaching someone for an application form. Initially, it was quite an intimidating place to enter, as we made our way through to the inner sanctum - sitting or standing around were a number of regulars, some faces we recognised from around town, and we were soon acknowledged by a nod of the head from a few. As a 'classic' punk tune hit the turntables, a frenzied pogo session began - we were grabbed and dragged into the middle of the throng. Realising this was our initiation rite, I started to (almost) enjoy myself and after an exhausting couple of minutes managed to escape to the relative safety of the bar. From this vantage point I was able to observe the crowd, sampling the almost unreal atmosphere. Most of the seminal Ulster punk movie 'Shellshock Rock' was filmed there and anyone who was anyone either played or pogo-ed there at some stage. Punks were safe there, and everyone - be they Protestant, Catholic, working class, middle class or the rich set from the Malone Road - could all mix down at The Harp without the worry or fear of intimidation.

Just like everything though, all good things must come to an end - or evolve and change. Some local bands were either snapped up by major labels or decided that London's streets of gold would be where they would find their fortune - however, some still limped back with their tails between their legs. The blank generation were growing up too. By 1981 I was heading off to University, leaving many of my friends behind, not to return until three years later to a very different scene. Good Vibrations had bitten the dust - forced into bankruptcy by mainland record stores not paying their 'dues'. Punk in Belfast had adapted and morphed into the 'anarcho' hard-core scene - mohawks, studded leather jackets and jeans tucked into DM boots that had far too many eye-holes, was the new dress-code. Not really my cup of tea, thank you very much - but at least better than being a New Romantic!! The security gates surrounding the city had started to be removed and although there was still the threat of terrorist activity - bombings and shootings were still rife - the city centre didn't seem as desolate as a few years prior.

"Cross The Line" - Ruefrex

It may have taken a while to properly take off, but Punk burned brighter and lasted longer in Northern Ireland than any other area of Britain - probably out of pure necessity. It was also closer to the real ideology of punk. In Ulster all the bands and fans really were teenagers - there were no bands jumping on the bandwagon and turning punk (except SLF!!) - most were all picking up their instruments for the first time. There were no svengali figures manipulating the scene nor punk-chic shopkeepers producing over-priced gear. The D.I.Y. ethos of putting on gigs and releasing records was very much to the fore and there were no record label A&R men rushing around to sign the next big thing - not in the early stages anyway!! It provided an outlet for disillusioned youth who were tired of the same old rhetoric that had been rammed down our throats - allowing the blinkers to be removed - seeing that anything was possible, things could change and that we could achieve our dreams. Preconceptions were challenged and history re-written. It has certainly influenced me - more than I probably realise - it has affected the decisions I have made, the choices I have taken and, more often than not, forced me to question, rather than accept, that which is put in front off me.

Thirty years on and Belfast has changed beyond all recognition - a buzzing city centre with an equally vibrant nightlife. Was this due to punk? Not entirely, but I do believe that it was the early punks who cracked open the closed door, broke down the barricades and allowed a trickle to become a flood. There is still a lot of opinions that need to be challenged and a lot of injustices that need redressed - we may not have an Alternative Ulster just yet, but we are getting there.

"I'm an individual, its your time to be proud,
I don't care what you think, its your time to be proud,
I am not a number, its your time to be proud,
I don't give a damn,
Its your time to be proud"


''Time To Be Proud'' - Rudi
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Re: PUNK PICS FROM NORTHERN IRELAND

Post by MULLY » 08 Jun 2009, 21:45

Some images to accompany...
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rudifanzine.jpg
AU FANZINE 2
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07_alt_ulster.jpg
AU FANZINE
07_alt_ulster.jpg (91.11 KiB) Viewed 11478 times
harp bar.jpg
THE HARP BAR
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Re: PUNK IN NORTHERN IRELAND

Post by wanderlust » 08 Jun 2009, 22:09

Lots of good stuff I have NORTHERN IRISH blood myself my GRAN was from LIMAVADY..

I think the UNDERTONES were absolutely right to not write songs about the troubles in the province as O'NEILL said in the CH 4 TOP 10 PUNK show "The Ramones were not writing songs about the troubles so we didn't either"..
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Re: PUNK IN NORTHERN IRELAND

Post by BazinBlack » 09 Jun 2009, 00:31

Excellent read Mully, reminds me of a Punk festival that was going on in Belfast or Holywood in the very early 80's and I remember bumping in to some American band that was staying with the promotor along the beach near Holywood, he was taking pictures of the band. Got a free single as well must dig it out and get the band name, I think one of the girls in the band was called Mercedes?

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Re: PUNK IN NORTHERN IRELAND

Post by C r a s s ! » 09 Jun 2009, 00:49

Fascinating Mulls, and how you ran the street!
http://www.strangled.co.uk/ The unofficial Stranglers site.


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Re: PUNK IN NORTHERN IRELAND

Post by 50millionwatches » 09 Jun 2009, 09:53

A fascinating and engrossing read Mully! And just as I am in the middle of reading 'Watching The Door' (cheating death in 1970s Belfast) by Kevin Myers.
Im due to work in Northern Ireland at the end of the month and really looking forward to it!
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Re: PUNK IN NORTHERN IRELAND

Post by wanderlust » 09 Jun 2009, 10:42

I tend to find that some of the punk bands were "Angry" just for the sake of it and alot of their lyrics were forced at times but bands from NORTHERN IRELAND had a good reason to be with the amount of bullshit going on there at the time.
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Re: PUNK IN NORTHERN IRELAND

Post by MULLY » 09 Jun 2009, 12:37

Cheers guys.

Brought back a lot of emotions writing that.

Wanderlust - regarding the punk bands in NI being 'angry'. There were only really two 'political' bands emerging from the scene. One (obviously) being SLF and the other, a lesser known outfit, Ruefrex. However, Ruefrex were altogether more marxist (with a small 'm') in their songwriting. I have spoken to Paul, their drummer and lyricist, and an article relating to their take on the politics of war-torn NI will be forthcoming.

Most of the bands steered well away from the Troubles as a topic for their songs - we were looking for escape rather than having it rammed down our throats. Hopefully, this will all be explained in later pieces on this subject. Look out for Part Two - the Shellshock Rock piece - very enlightening. To be posted later in the week (hopefully).

Got a couple of great interviews (not done personally) and some great pics, You-Tube clips which hopefully you will never have seen before.

Watch this space.....
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Re: PUNK IN NORTHERN IRELAND

Post by gjinblack » 09 Jun 2009, 17:30

Fantastic read that Mully. Thanks very much.
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Re: PUNK IN NORTHERN IRELAND

Post by MULLY » 09 Jun 2009, 21:21

Part Two - an article by Brian Young (Rudi/Sabrejets/Shame Academy) about the film/documentary 'Shellshock Rock' - shot mainly in the Harp Bar, but also other venues around NI and featuring SLF, The Undertones, RUDI, The Outcasts and a few lesser known (some never to be seen again!!) bands in NI.

Links are also added to a six-part You-Tube compilaton of the original film - watch and enjoy!!

SHELLSHOCK ROCK - DO YOU REALLY CARE?

Sadly most films that were actually shot back in the halcyon days of punk veered from the laughably pretentious artfag slop like Jubilee to the shameless showboating and self mythologizing that characterised such celluloid dreck as the Great Rock N Roll Swindle and Rude Boy. Apart from Don Letts thrilling Punk Rock Movie most every other documentary styled work fell neatly into the category of tediously predictable ‘Shock! Horror!’ exposes or quickie idiotic fast buck cash-ins like Suburbia. But for my money the best punk film ever made – and one of the very few that not only still stands up today, but actually improves with the passing years, is ‘Shellshock Rock’, John T Davis’ affectionate snapshot of Northern Ireland’s burgeoning punk scene in 78/79.

I first became aware of John late in ’77 when, working part time as a freelance photographer, he’d been sent out with some gormless local hack to take pics of Belfast’s earliest punk combos for a piece in the Belfast Telegraph. RUDI were the first Belfast punk band and back then by far the most popular. We practiced in a hall just off the Albertbridge Road and while the journalist who ‘interviewed’ us (I use that term loosely as he ignored everything we said…) simply wanted to leave as soon as possible, the photographer, who looked looked like Keef Richard’s skinny half brother chatted away to us, impressing us with his knowledge of the 60s garage punk covers we were practicing. This cowboy booted individual turned out to be none other than John T Davis in the flesh - and though we’d pegged him as some hippy throwback at first, we soon figgered that anyone who recognised the godlike genius of ’96 Tears’ was OK by us!

Several months later and Ulster punk was making it’s presence felt on the bigger stage as hot local combos unleashed a string of killer 45s. Though oft derided by the Belfast punk cognoscenti as ex heavy metal bandwagon jumpers, Stiff Little Fingers were first outta the traps with ‘Suspect Device’ with RUDI’s ‘Big Time’, the first release on Belfast’s Good Vibrations label and the Outcasts ‘Frustration’ EP on Portadown’s IT records snapping hard on their heels. Good Vibes kept up the pace with Victim’s ‘Strange Thing By Night’ and the Outcasts ‘Teenage Rebel’, finally hitting paydirt with the Undertones ‘Teenage Kicks’.

Though more used to churning out industrial information films and evangelical shorts John realized this was too good an opportunity to miss and after snagging a tiny grant from the local Arts Council he set out to capture what was happening round him on celluloid. He was in the right place at the right time and filming started in late summer 1978 finishing at the end of January 1979.

Sure, folks were suspicious at first but when it became patently obvious that John wasn’t gonna make some lame pisstaking shockumentary or heavy handed political diatribe he was quickly accepted. Unlike most everyone else the wrong side of 30 he treated us nasty punk rockers with courtesy and respect and besides we all wanted to get our ugly mugs on film! It mighta helped too that it was strongly rumoured that John was the first ever registered drug addict in N Ireland!

Though short on budget, Shellshock Rock is long on imagination and the aerial shots alone are breathtaking. Texturally it’s mighta impressive too and John helms each scene skilfully, keeping it tight and focussed and avoiding the tiresome bomb and bullet chic beloved of so many lesser filmmakers. Sure, there are shots of soldiers and armoured cars but John was careful not to take sides, simply documenting everyday life here impartially and honestly.

Shellshock Rock not only looks good but sounds it too - and musically it punches way above it’s weight. Stars to be, SLF and The Undertones are captured live and raw, before the record company marketing men got their hands on ‘em, and both never looked better. Local heavy hitters RUDI are immortalised travelling by bus to practice in an Orange Hall and live at the notorious Glenmachan and their regular sparring partners The Outcasts are seen recording in Belfast’s Wizard Studios - where many a great band and song were ruined by Davy Smyth’s pathetic production technique.
A pre Polydor Protex are still feisty and refreshing at the Glenmachan and Rhesus Negative and Victim are filmed down and dirty at the legendary Harp Bar. Barely into their teens the Parasites tear it up at a local youth club and local cults The Idiots stopped fighting amongst themselves long enough to shamelessly rework Dion’s ‘Teenager In Love’ as the title track ‘Shellshock Rock (Do you really care?)’
Sure the bands were rough and ready but they more than made up for what they lacked in technique and er.. professionalism - with spunk, pizzazz and reckless teenage abandon – a sharp contrast to the studied, cynical posturing of so called punk bands elsewhere. This was our 5 minutes of fame and boy were we gonna make the most of it (Sadly a planned soundtrack album on Good Vibrations fell through)!

But where Shellshock Rock scored highest was recognizing that there was so much more to Ulster punk than simply some great music and it’s the scenes where enthusiastic local punters reflect on what punk means to them and how it impacted and changed their lives that carry the most weight. While punk mighta proved to be little more than a sharp marketing ploy elsewhere, here it drew people together, cutting across divisions of class and religion, creating a very real sense of local pride and inspiring folks to think for themselves and go out and do their own thing – and unlike any other punk film I can think of ‘Shellshock Rock’ carries a refreshingly positive message.

Better still, it’s damn funny too and I defy even the most po faced critic not to crack a smile at the scenes where some local punks wander through Belfast city centre at Xmas much to the amusement of visiting shoppers and encountering such diverse delights as a Salvation Army brass band and Mickey Marley’s Roundabout.

Shellshock Rock was set to debut at the Cork Film Festival in 1979 – but bewilderingly it was banned at the last minute! Thankfully this attracted more attention than if it had been shown and over 1000 locals packed into UCC Kampus later that evening to watch the film, accompanied by sets from RUDI and the Outcasts.

RUDI played with the film too at its Belfast debut in a sardine packed Harp Bar shortly after where it played to riotous acclaim. We shared a stage with the film many many times in the months that followed at clubs and pubs throughout Ireland as John eschewed traditional distribution methods, preferring instead to turn up guerrilla style armed with a screen, a projector and his film. Those were the days!

Sadly, Shellshock Rock never received the wider exposure it so richly deserved, although in recent years it has garnered plaudits when it has turned up amongst several cinematic punk retrospectives. Tragically, the possibility of any such future shows looks bleak as John’s house and film archive were destroyed by fire some years back.

Though never officially released on video or DVD, bootleg copies have turned up over the years - though avoid copies taken from the one Channel 4 TV showing of the film as the Undertones had insisted their appearance was removed and it was replaced by footage of the somewhat less impressive X Posers.

But, watch this film and see what you missed…

(For the full low down on Ulster punk check out the book ‘It Makes You Want To Spit’ (Reekus Publications) by Sean O’Neill and Guy Trelford - crammed with exclusive photos, reminiscences, comprehensive band histories and discographies it just has to be the best book on punk ever!)


Brian Young – tMx 16 – 08/04


And now the film itself....

SHELLSHOCK ROCK PART ONE - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NrT5Nqn6WFk - feat. SLF

SHELLSHOCK ROCK PART TWO - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cXI5aj7EE9U - feat. PROTEX

SHELLSHOCK ROCK PART THREE - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cXI5aj7EE9U - feat. RUDI

SHELLSHOCK ROCK PART FOUR - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_jmM8oN0nj4 - feat. OUTCASTS & UNDERTONES

SHELLSHOCK ROCK PART FIVE - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=11SyIp6IuO0 - feat. PARASITES

SHELLSHOCK ROCK PART SIX - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kUs7nX-UZt4 - feat. VICTIM, RHESUS NEGATIVE & UNDERTONES

Thanks to Brian & TraxMarx
Last edited by MULLY on 31 Mar 2011, 22:24, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: PUNK IN NORTHERN IRELAND

Post by MULLY » 09 Jun 2009, 21:27

Accompanying pics for Shellshock...
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Re: PUNK IN NORTHERN IRELAND

Post by MULLY » 12 Jun 2009, 01:28

Part Three - RUDI CAN'T FAIL.

Recollections from Brian - including Morrissey, The Clash, The Jam and The Undertones - an insight into substance abuse, boiler suits and the N.I. Punk Scene!!

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Rudi – Brian Young Interview


tM - Not many guitarists are inspired to pick up a guitar following a one on one interface with Marc Bolan. What are your memories of the Isle Of Man 1975?

Brian: Uh..well, first up back then everyone was too chicken to visit these shores and Belfast city centre closed down and was a no go area at nights - so none of us had ever seen a real live band play – apart from the crappy showbands who cluttered up the live circuit here(and still do!). So when I read in Disc that T.Rex were playing Douglas I just hadda be there. 4 of us went over on the rusty ol’ steam packet boat and hooked up with a lot of pals who were already on holiday - it was the traditional July holiday week here and back then half of Belfast went to the Isle Of Man for their holidays. Grimmy was there with his Mum and Dad and it turned out that the Rex skinsman Davey Lutton’s brother worked in the shipyard with Grimmys Dad! We hung about shamelessly outside the Palace Lido hoping to get a glimpse of our idols. The band arrived first in a seated transit – followed by Marc and Gloria in a limo! But even though we were scruffy 15 year olds they couldn’t have been nicer to us, signing as many autographs as everyone wanted and posing for photo after photo. Better still they even insisted – much to the be-suited doorman’s dismay - that we could all come into the hotel bar with them where we doubtless bored ‘em silly with inane questions the rest of the afternoon!
The gig that evening was everything I coulda hoped for - and more. It was very much a stripped down, raw and gutsy T.Rex, less bombastic and more focused and ballsy. I guess Marc had something to prove on that tour – he mighta been down - but he was by no means out. It was also the first time Marc ever played ‘Soul Of My Suit’ live and that song retains a special place in my heart.

Next day we dutifully returned to our vigil outside the hotel and again the band all came out to bid us farewell, signing yet more autographs and posing for yet more pictures. Marc couldn’t have been more down to earth, friendly, warm and gracious – and he’d brought some gifts with him for us. He gave me the yellow T.Rex music book – though he said the chords were wrong! Whitey got a signed tambourine - which Grimmy later bought off him. Natch, the whole encounter blew us away – and I returned home determined to get a guitar and follow in Mr Bolan’s elfin footsteps -but hey! - don’t hold that against him!

Sadly, in the years to come, any time I met more of my musical (for want of a better word) heroes I always came away disappointed – most of ‘em were either mean-spirited, self-important ego maniacs who were far too busy to deign wasting their precious time with mere mortals - or (worse still) - patronizing record company whores and glad handers with all the sincerity of a jellyfish. I guess Marc Bolan truly was a one off!


tM - What was yr personal Punk Rock Epiphany?

Brian: Uh – depends how ya define ‘punk rock’. Like so many future punksters, seein’ the New York Dolls vilified on the OGWT by beardy baldster Bob Harris was hugely significant to me – Johnny Thunders was, is and always remains punk rock incarnate, in my book! (My hero! Shucks!) Dr Feelgood (w/Wilko) were a BIG influence too. We had all their early platters and when they first played the Whitla Hall here in late 75/76? they tore the roof offa the place! Plus by that time I could almost figger out some of Wilko’s riffs which helped (that Chuck Berry song book I bought was coming in damn useful!). Eddie and The Hotrods first gig here at the time of the ‘Marquee’ EP was pretty damn seminal too hereabouts. Now all but written out of ‘accepted’ trendy punk rock histories, believe me, they were very influential at the time as they were actually out and about playing round every gawdforsaken backwater burg in the country when it actually meant something. Also, they were the first band I’d seen onstage who were closer to our age. A LOT of the folks who went on to start the early Belfast punk combos were all present and correct that same night!

Record wise – again, it has to be the Ramones first LP - which flipped me for good. I listened to Peel for the first time when I heard he was gonna play a Ramones cut (‘I Don’t Wanna Walk Around With You’ if memory serves?) and it floored me. I raced out and snagged one of the first US import copies in Caroline Records and played it morning noon and night. They had it all down pat, the look (though their hair was too damn long for my taste!), the killer lyric inner and - best of all - their songs were just so damn catchy. I could even just about play along to ‘em – which was a first!

F’rinstance – the only Dolls song we could work out at that stage was ‘Pills’ (which the mighty Bo wrote anyways). So certainly that Ramones debut was the big impetus to us to start writing our own songs - if they could do it, so could we!


tM - You took the name Rudi from a song by The Jook. What made The Jook so inspirational?

Brian: Well, I’d clocked’em in the music rags where they’d stuck out like the proverbial sore thumb – here were all these flabby failing glamsters/pretty boys and hairy hard prog rockers trying to look rich, sophisticated and oh so intelligent and arty – then glaring evilly at ‘em from across the page was this gang of no-counts in drainpipes, cropped haircuts and boxer boots looking as if they wanted to rip Donny Osmond’s floppy cap up and ram it up his jacksie! JOOK RULES OK! was sprayed on a grimy wall behind ‘em and once I’d sussed the Bolan connection I was well and truly hooked. (Chris Townson, the drummer, had been in John’s Children with Mr Bo, as had their manager John Hewlett). Many years later at a John’s Children reunion in Dublin, I stumbled nervously up to the aforementioned Mr Townson and informed him that my first band was named after a Jook record – he looked totally bewildered - as I think he’s been trying to live the whole episode down ever since!

Anyways, I thunk they looked just great (wow! at last a whole band with crappy haircuts and bad dress sense just like mine!). Interestingly, in interviews they talked about being the white equivalent of ‘rudies’ (rude boys) - so were they ahead of their time, or what? Musically, they kicked ass on vinyl (though this was apparently a shadow of their live prowess), knocking out feisty guitar driven pre punk teenage anthems two or three years too early. Sadly, a proposed LP was nixed and they folded in disarray. Amazingly, it is about to be released by RPM this May! Snap it up! We nicked the moniker RUDI from ‘Oh Oh RUDI’ – which isn’t their best 45 – but is still pretty neat. It was one of those ‘everybody put in some names and we’ll choose the least worst’ situations that every member of any first band will remember (not so) fondly. And no, I can’t remember any of the other suggestions – ‘cept that one of our pals wanted us to call the band KNAW (as it spelled ‘wank’ backwards - and he had this brainwave of having a mirror onstage so the ‘real’ name would show up – we didn’t have the heart to tell him it wouldn’t work quite like that!). Remember, this was late 1975/76 - so we coulda done a lot worse (though we were kinda deflated in later years when someone remarked that it was like calling a band ‘Bert’ in Germany - and Hazel O’ Connor did once ask us if we were a ska band around 1982!). Ho hum!


tM - What slogans did you paint onto your stolen boiler suits?

Brian: Jeez, now this is one question I’ve never been axed before - if I remember right, most of it was our own song titles and RUDI (the band name natch!) and stuff taking the piss: like ‘pop star’ and ‘new commerciality’. We really DID want to get into Jackie as much as Sounds or the NME - and we woulda killed to have gotten on TOTP! Besides, the first pin up I ever saw of the New York Dolls was in Popswop! First up, you gotta remember that the boiler suits were crappy nylon ones – that’s all the place Grimmy worked in had in stock! First we ripped off the sleeves and then tried sticking RUDI on in peel-off car letters - but that didn’t work, for obvious reasons – so we painted ‘em ourselves - best household gloss too, probably! I was dumb and impressionable (plus ca change?) so I went for the bondage straps/chains, etc and red collar. Ronnie had lurex/white collar and cuffs, I think - and Grimmy’s Mum probably took his one in properly as she worked in a woolshop! Stewarty, our first real bassist, just ripped his to bits and bled all over it as he always played so hard his fingers were bleeding by the end of a set! When Gordy Blair joined towards the end of 1977, the first thing we did was crop his hair ourselves and give him a boilersuit of his own! Remember, we did this pre punk to give us our own identity and it did set us apart from the crappy showbands and covers bands. But boy! - did we look like prats!


tM - Rudi initially had to promote their own gigs at venues like Girton Lodge & Glenmachan. What memories do you have of those 'private parties'?

Brian: Both those venues were notorious run -down hotels situated in East Belfast where we all came from. Both were renowned locally for the frequency of fights/trouble, rumoured paramilitary involvement and legendary for their liberal interpretation of licensing laws – i.e. they would serve alcohol to anyone who could afford it! But the Glenmachan in particular became our local hangout and even though it was a tip we loved the place. Grimmy, in particular, could be found there without fail 7 nights a week! I’d previously been banned for life for pulling a knife on a bouncer the first night I was there, paralytic at age 14! Still, having finally mastered the rudiments of the three chord trick we were determined to unleash ourselves onto an unsuspecting public and as none of the few established venues would touch us, we hit upon the brainwave of booking private ‘parties’ in the function rooms at the Girton Lodge or Glenmachan on any spurious excuse – usually someone’s birthday (fictitious or otherwise!). Then we’d simply turn up and play! Clever huh? Amazingly, we packed ‘em out time and time again and we came on in leaps and bounds rattling through sweaty marathon two-hour sets of ropey glam covers and stripped down rock’n’roll classics to an audience of paralytic underage boozers! We were amazingly self reliant – cos we had to be! We didn’t even have a proper back line or PA but we always managed to cobble something together and our buddies even put together a light show of sorts (again ‘borrowed’ from various sources!). Later we switched mainly to the Glenmachan – which if anything had a much worse reputation. But it was only when punk went overground and the media actively whipped up punk bashing that both venues started to get cold feet and tried to ban us – though we’d always manage to sneak back in under some pretext. Most, if not all, of the early N.I. punk gigs took place at the Glenmachan – which we had single handedly established itself as a viable punky waver venue, which says something – though I’m not sure what! Nevertheless, by the time of the Pistols GSTQ media blitz, punk bashing had gotten much more frequent – especially if the growlers at the ‘Machan assumed you were anti monarchy (and thus pro-republican) - and a lot of gigs started to end in serious trouble. Though we escaped unscathed as we knew most of the local thugs, a lot of others weren’t so lucky, which is why it was so important when the Harp opened its doors in the center of town – a safe venue for punks from all areas and back-grounds. But those early hotel gigs do bring back very special memories.

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tM - You were involved with Morrissey & The Dolls fan club for a time. How did you get along with Morrissey?

Brian: I spotted an ad in the NME small ads mentioning starting up a New York Dolls Fan Club in 75/76? and wrote off to this guy in Manchester who turned out to be one Steven Morrissey. I remember writing that I had been a fan since the Rick Rivets days, which suitably impressed Mr Moz as he hadn’t heard of Rick then! Pure teenage bravado on my part! And so we used to send each other passionate 20+ page letters extolling the godlike genius of the Dolls. Though, sadly, the fan club never actually did get off the ground! Once punk started Steven kept me hip to what was happening in Manchester – I recall that he was totally enthralled by Howard Devoto and the Buzzcocks and was (supposedly) getting John Maher to teach him the drums! I later put him in touch with the guys at Alternative Ulster and Private World zines here and he used to contribute articles and reviews on the Manchester scene. He only did get to see RUDI once when we played supporting the Jam in Manchester in 1982 (The first time we played Manchester in 1978 with Skrewdriver, he didn’t come along to the gig as apparently you were almost guaranteed a good kicking at the place the gig was in! At least he didn’t tell me that until after!) The other guys in RUDI thought he was very quaint, quintessientially English and kinda reserved - they were expecting some maniac Dolls lookalike clone, I s’pose! We were staying with Wes and our pals in Victim (including one Mr Mike Joyce) at the time and I do remember later getting a letter from Steven telling me that Mike had joined his new band The Smiths. We still kept in touch, swapping tapes and pondering on the vagaries of life up until they got real big and then we just fell out of touch I guess – which was a pity. I must admit I never ‘got’ the whole Smiths thing at all - but I do admire Steven for sticking to his guns and remaining a beacon of pithy intelligence and wit amidst the careerist dullards that clog up the musick biz. As for the rights and wrongs of the Dolls reunion – uh, ask me that in about ten years time! I still do hate bands reforming – especially when half of em are dead – but I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. Go figger!


tM - The Clash arrived in Ulster in October 77 & failed to play – but still took a few nice holiday snaps near some barbed wire - in retrospect, do you think their motives for their visit were sincere?


Brian: First up, they made the effort to actually come here in the first place when most everybody else was still too chicken - which has to count in their favour. Wee Gordy Owens (more on him later) used to phone ‘em all the time at rehearsal rehearsals and we both got in to meet ‘em in the ultra swanky Europa Hotel where they were staying. I have to say that in person Joe Strummer seemed 100% genuine - and genuinely interested in encouraging what was happening here with the nascent bands and zines. Ironically, the fact that they didn’t actually get to play that time round garnered huge local media attention and helped spread the punk gospel better than if they had actually played!

Taking the barbed wire’n’barricades snaps did rankle – but I know now that the band weren’t entirely happy about posing for ‘em. What mattered most to me was that they did keep their promise to come back and play as soon as they could – and they did – playing a truly memorable gig that December at Queens. Mebbe it was cos they were closest to a traditional rock’n’roll combo, but the Clash were easily the best UK punk combo in my book – despite the posturing, preening and posing, I’d forgive anyone anything who wrote such classics as ‘Complete Control’, ‘Garageland’ and ‘White Man’.


tM - Joe Strummer's H-Block t-shirt set back much of the work punk had already achieved thus far in uniting both sides of the sectarian divide. How do you think someone so intelligent got it so spectacularly wrong?

Brian: I guess by that stage he was surrounded by too many ‘yes men’ and believed his own hype. I’m not saying he shouldn’t have worn it – that was entirely his choice - but if he really had no idea what the impact would be then it showed just how far from reality the Clash had strayed by that point. However, I’d not over emphasize its impact over here. Nobody here with half a brain paid much attention to such attention grabbing sloganeering - we’d heard it all before - and would hear it all again!


tM - Also in October 77 Gordy Blair quit Highway Star to join Rudi on bass - a sound move. Why did he jump ship & what tales did he tell of his former employers?

Brian: Funnily enough, Gordy never really told any scurrilous tales about SLF. I’d seen Highway Star support the Pink Fairies at Queens University in 77 and they were truly dire: flares cheesecloth, Buddy Holly specs and endless Rory Gallagher guitar flailing. I guess punk hadn’t quite happened for them just yet! When Stewarty quit we advertised for a ‘young pretty talented bassist – no hippies’ - in fact Gordy was the only one who turned up to the audition – but boy could he play! He’d seen us at the Glenmachan and wanted to join us as we were the only band he’d seen in Belfast who were writing our own songs. I heard rumours that Gordy had quit Highway Star or been thrown out as he didn’t like punk – but back then I dunno if anyone but Henry in Highway Star/SLF actually had any affection for punk at all. I must admit I always harboured some suspicion that Gordy joined RUDI to somehow get back at Jake – but that’s speculation on my part. There certainly didn’t ever seem to be any hostility or resentment and both bands always all got on pretty well. For the record, Gordy always told everyone who would listen that he wrote the bass riff for ‘Gotta Getaway’ - but that was the only time I remember him ever mentioning ‘em. Gordy later ended up playing in most every band in Belfast. Though he was a talented musician, he certainly wasn’t the easiest guy to be in a band with!


tM - As the Ulster Punk scene began to grow & new groups formed literally overnight, what did you make of your contemporaries?


Brian: Well, almost without exception, every band I saw here really had something special – that was the truly great thing about punk here at the start. Nobody had seen any of the UK/US bands play - and so everyone kinda came up with their own spin on what punk was about. As we hadn’t anyone to copy all the early NI bands ended up sounding and even looking pretty unique, making up in originality and imagination what we lacked in traditional musical skills. What I still find amazing was that even the crappiest band here seemed to have at least one or two killer self-penned songs in their repertoire. I guess it all stemmed from the fact that we all believed in what we did 100% - and for most of us these were our first bands and we were all so goddam young and still burned with the fire of the righteously naïve. We just didn’t know any better I guess!

Later on when we moved to London and I finally got to see the well known English punk bands onstage I was heartily dismayed at just how dull and pedestrian they were in comparison – and the realization soon dawned that for 99% of these prats, punk was just a piece of convenient marketing as they’d all been knocking about in loser hippy outfits for years. Ho hum! And yes! I still do think that NI punk was the best in the world!


tM - Your legendary show at The Pound with The Outcasts in Jan '78 drew the attentions of Terri Hooley & resulted in the formation of Good Vibrations records. What was his initial reaction to this vibrant new scene?

Brian: As he’s always reminding us, Terri is an old hippy at heart, and he calls punk his ‘hippies revenge’. Make of that what you will! Anyways, when Good Vibes opened in mid 77 I used to spend hours scouring through the records in his shop, more often than not accompanied by my wayward delinquent chum, Wee Gordy Owens. Gordy lived in nearby Sandy Row and was always beaking school - so we used to meet up and haunt Terri’s shop just chatting about new records, our fave artists and what was in the NME and Sounds that week - as we were all just totally obsessed with music. If I remember right, Terri was keen enough on this new punk music - but not entirely convinced. He’d grown up going to see Van Morrison and Them and his heart remained loyal to that raw 60’s beat and the early 60’s girl group sound – both of us loved the Ronnettes - which was hardly hip at the time! Terri had heard about us already from other customers - but Wee Gordy kept on and on at him to come down to see us and he literally dragged Terri down to the Pound that night in January ‘78. We played alternate sets with the Outcasts and the whole night ended in a mini riot when the UDR came in to help empty out the club and some lights got smashed. Natch - the Pound banned both groups immediately (until punk became a money spinner and it decided to reconsider its position!). Terri hadn’t seen anything like it in years and reckoned we reminded him of all the 60s garage junk he loved - and from then on he did his best to help us out whenever and wherever possible - which came in very handy as he had a lot of useful contacts and friends who helped with gig venues, practice rooms and printing posters and zines, etc. Once Terri devotes himself to something - there are no half measures! The label itself came about when AU asked us to record a flexi to be given away free with the mag. Terri priced it and discovered it was almost as cheap to do a proper 45 – and hey presto! The mighty Good Vibrations record label was born.


tM - How important to the development of the scene was 'Alternative Ulster'?

Brian: All the zines over here played a major role in encouraging the local scene. AU wasn’t the first, by any means, but it quickly became the most regular and comprehensive publication of its kind. As with all the other zines, it’s real significance lay in the fact that for the first time ever here was a cool mag that concentrated on reporting the local bands and scensters first and foremost – taking a real pride in our local scene and treating all of us as every bit the equal of the Clash/Pistols et al. This was a massive confidence booster to all the bands here and was hugely encouraging. We were no longer second-class citizens or no good hicks from the sticks - as we’d been led to believe all those years! All the zines here were vital in spreading the punky waver gospel far and wide - and at one stage in those balmy far off days, most every town boasted at least one local punkzine. Those were the days, huh? Later too, both Gavin (Martin) and Dave Angry(McCullough) from AU both ended up writing for the proper music press - which snagged us our first write ups in NME and Sounds, respectively!


tM - Record shops played a large part in Punk Rock where ever you were. What were your local shops & what role did they play as things picked up speed?

Brian: Up to and including the early punk days, the best record shop in Belfast by far was Caroline Music - at the end of Anne Street. It was the place where everyone met to hang out at the weekend and check out the spiffy new punk 45s. Its importance in bringing in these records in the first place can’t be underestimated. We mightn’t have been able to see any bands play - but we could at least hear ‘em on vinyl. Later, of course, there was Rocky Mungos at the back of the city hall - and then in mid 77 Good Vibrations first opened its doors in Great Victoria Street.

Outside Belfast there were lots of great local record dives - like Unicorn in Bangor - or Cliff Moore’s IT Records in Portadown. Though the bands on IT records weren’t even remotely punk, Cliff deserves credit for starting the first real local indie label. Terri would follow suit early in 1978 and the Good Vibes empire was born - nuthin was the same ever again.

The lasting importance and significance of these shops was first in providing a meeting ground for like minded folks to hook up in safety, and later on, by setting up their own labels and providing an outlet for local bands to release their own records – which simply just didn’t happen here pre punk.

Lordy, wasn’t it a shock when the local bands proved to be streets ahead of their UK and US compadres? Yippee! Time To Be Proud, fer sure!


tM - What was Templepatrick Studios like & how was yr first recording experience?

Brian: Kyle Leitch from Caroline Music was helping us out as unofficial manager and he got us a cheap rate at Templepatrick as it was owned by Solomon Peres (the company who they bought a lot of their stock from). We drove up in Grimmy’s works van and recorded the two songs completely live – only adding the lead vocals after. George Docherty ‘produced’ it – which literally meant turning on and off the recording tape. Nonetheless, he did a fine job – though we were terrified it sounded too tame at the time! For our very first time in a recording studio ever it all went alarmingly smoothly – but then we were a real tight lil combo!


tM - Did you feel like you were on the way to somewhere when 'Big Time' was received so positively in April of '78?

Brian: We were all just thrilled to have a real live vinyl 45 of our own. The band, our pals, Terri and all the folks who worked in Good Vibes just couldn’t believe it – we had gone and made a real record! We’d never dreamed we would actually get to make a real record - and now we had! I remember sitting in the shop folding dozens of sleeves and the record selling as fast as we could fold em! Naturally, none of us knew the first thing about proper promotion or distribution or crap like that - but we learned pretty fast. It was a real exciting time from then on – things were just moving so fast. But the main thing with Big Time was that we had proved that it could be done! You didn’t have to run off to a major – you could release your own records locally and sell thousands! And if we could do it - anyone could! Oh - and the record wasn’t half bad, either!

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tM - What memories do you have of the Battle Of The Bands Queens show on June 14th 1978?

Brian: It was a strange gig. It was pretty significant as it was the first large-scale punk gig anyone had dared put on with only local acts. A couple of other big names were playing the same night in the city center and we were all scared that no one would turn up. Logistically - it was a disaster. The PA never turned up and a local gang of bikers who had been asked to act as bouncers seemed more interested in getting pissed and picking occasional fights with hapless punksters. Still, on the night the place was packed and most of the top local punk combos got to strut their stuff. In fairness, although we were headliners and went down pretty well, the night belonged to the Undertones. None of us had seen em before - and they played a short tight punchy set that left us all slack jawed – how come none of us had heard of ‘em? They recorded Teenage Kicks the next day.


tM - The subsequent Good Vibes Double-Single-Of-The-Gig featured a new recording - 'Overcome By Fumes'. Was solvent abuse a big problem in Ulster back in '78?

Brian: No – though some members of RUDI had been known to, erm, dabble more than a little! We used to sniff ‘Thawpit’ - which was a brand of oven cleaner. To be honest, all it ever did for me was give me a headache - but we’d have taken anything we could lay our hands on back then (yes, readers, I know it’s not particularly clever or wise - but thems the facts!!!)

(Actually, some younger readers may be amazed to learn what we actually did have to take to feel ‘different’ back then: Dodos (cough remedy containing a speed based substance), John Collis Brown (a cough syrup boasting healthy levels of opium) & Egaweld (a compound designed for gluing plastic conduit), were all abused on a regular basis. Designer drugs were some way off! Ed.)


tM - You left Ulster for England in August 78 - in a packed Transit van with group, gear & girlfriends - is it true you had to siphon petrol from parked cars all the way to London?

Brian: Yep! It was the band, Liz, my long suffering girlfriend (now wife), and Gavin Martin from AU. We went through Grimmy’s luggage on the way over and threw any trousers he had that were remotely flared. Once we got to Stranraer we waited until dark then pulled up along side any parked cars we could find and siphoned the petrol out (using a short hose) into a can - then into our van. We even pulled up alongside a camper van whose occupants were all fast asleep and siphoned their petrol directly into our tank – trying desperately to stifle our laughter! If this was typical of our master plan to achieve fame and fortune - is it any wonder we fared so badly? When we arrived in London we had nowhere to stay and slept in the van - pulling up at public toilets every morning to wash! As luck would have it, we bumped into Dennis from the Gems who hipped us to readily available squats in Clapham - or we’d have never got a roof over our heads! We still kept siphoning petrol too – until Grimmy and Griswold (one of our buddies) got arrested and charged with ‘going equipped to steal’. Well, how else do you explain carrying a hosepipe and a petrol can at 3 in the morning!


tM - Following shows with The Doomed, a renamed Highway Star, The Nips & others - you became big mates with Raped. Did you know Sean Purcell went to Shipston on Stour High School (near Stratford upon Avon) & once knew John Hunt of (our) local heroes Deadly Toys/Ideal Husbands (small world/wouldn't want to paint it)?

Brian: Yeah, we did get to play a lot of very interesting gigs! We met Sean and the rest of the Raped gang via Mr Puke – one of our buddies who had run off to London and was too young to sign on - so the Raped fed and watered him until he turned 16. They were a great live band and really nice blokes. Sadly, at the time, they couldn’t give their records away - with the hypocritical Rough Trade PC whining over their name - but we all hit it off and they did get us a lot of gigs and helped us out in lots of other ways too. We returned the favour getting ‘em gigs with us in the Pound and Harp in December ’78 - which were their last gigs as the Raped. I still like the first Cuddly Toys LP to this day. They were a very fine band – just in the wrong place at the right time. Oh, and Mr Puke is now a fully ordained Pastor with his own church in Drogheda, fact fans!


tM - Following an SPG purge of Clapham squats - you returned to Ulster. Did it seem like defeat?

Brian: At the time I wasn’t so sure. Basically, Ronnie and Grimmy were jailed for spurious driving offences and the only way to escape 6 month sentences was to return home immediately – do not pass go – do not pick up £200, etc. But in retrospect, it was probably the best thing that could’ve have happened to us. London was a great learning experience for us – we’d gone from being big fish in a tiny pond to being minnows in a vast ocean – we hadda move our game up several notches and we did – we dropped the old boiler suits and glam tat and practiced for hours on end honing our chops and writing a bucketload of spunky new material - we also made a lot of valuable contacts and got our name about – and that would prove to be very helpful in the months ahead. So when we returned home we were a far, far stronger and better band than we’d been when we left. Also, when we got home we found it had changed hugely in our absence - for the better! So I guess it did work out better for us in the long run!


tM - 1979 kicked off with Rudi being filmed for the 'Shellshock Rock' movie about NI Punk & promptly got billed for the smashing of 210 glasses. Who did the smashing?

Brian: Uh, I’ll take the fifth on that as I think the bill is still outstanding!


tM - You turned down a Polydor contract because you wanted to keep drummer Grimmy & they didn't - bonus Punk Rock Points then - now, in retrospect, the right thing to do/or not?

Brian: Totally the right thing to do – after all, Ronnie, Grimmy and I had started the band off in the first place and had been buddies for years – you just don’t treat a pal that way! The three of us had a certain chemistry and it worked. Take one away and it wouldn’t. Besides, Grimmy wasn’t as bad a drummer as they made out – apparently they called him a ‘madman’ - so what? None of us were exactly virtuosos! Polydor apparently then signed Protex and the Xdreamysts for the same money they woulda signed all 3 bands for - so I guess they didn’t think that much of any of the bands. They then neutered and watered down both those combos killing em stone dead – so I reckon we had a lucky escape.

tM - How did you manage to sign away the publishing rights to 'Big Time' 'without realising it'?

Brian: We thought we were signing a piece of paper giving them our permission to use Big Time on the record. I never even found this out until the mid /late 1990’s - it was shabby trick - but we have no one to blame but ourselves. At the time we honestly had no idea at all what publishing was!


tM - 'I-Spy' was your second momentous 45 - how was morale within the group at that time?

Brian: Morale was very good – we’d come back from London with a set of all new killer songs and still pulled by far the biggest crowds, locally. We had ‘made up’ with Good Vibes yet again and we were all convinced that ‘I Spy’ could easily ‘do an Undertones’ and repeat the success of ‘Teenage Kicks’. The recording was a nightmare though – Davy 'Wizard' Smyth (the guy who had previously ‘lost’ the original mix of ‘Fumes’) wasn’t interested in anything except getting to the pub. For example the vocal on ‘Sometimes’ was supposed to be a guide vocal but he insisted it was good enough – it wasn’t! Though I did learn for the first time that you could actually overdub guitar parts when he played two bits back while we were ‘mixing’ it – pity he didn’t tell me while we were recording it! Nevertheless, we still had high hopes for the EP and it did sell very, very well indeed! Now, if it had been produced properly - we mighta snagged some proper airplay too!


tM - The inclusion of 'Big Time' on Cherry Red's 'Label's Unlimited' compilation led to bonus airplay from the likes of Mike Read. How was all this exposure affecting the group?

Brian: Uh – it wasn’t! We were all still signing on and just plugging away. Having Big Time on ‘Labels Unlimited’ would later pay off in spades, though, as Mike Read had hipped Pete Waterman at Leeds Music to the band - and he signed us up to a publishing deal which kept things moving up until we signed with Jamming! Remember, at the time Pete wasn’t the media ogre he is today – he had been involved in the Specials early days and was a(nother) huge music fan. His heart was definitely in the right place and he helped us a lot with his encouragement and advice. He used to fly over to listen to us rehearse in a lock up garage behind Grimmy’s house. Another guy who deserves to go down as one of the good guys in the RUDI story.


tM - On the 24th April '79 a truly local Punk festival took place at the Ulster Hall. What are your memories of that night?

Brian: We’d been bickering with Terri (as usual) so he put us on the poster for the gig in tiny letters – yep - we were all very mature individuals! Thankfully, we went on near the top of the bill as was fitting. What was most amazing was to see the Ulster Hall absolutely crammed with local punters – most of em in their early teens – all going apeshit over local bands doing their own material. It was a very special night!


tM - You finally parted company with Good Vibration following the debacle surrounding your impending 3rd 45 - 'The Pressure's On'. What went down there?

Brian: Uh - you tell me. Briefly we’d gotten picked to be one of two live bands on the BBC TV show, Something Else – along with the Undertones. The plan was to release the two songs we would play on the show as a new 45 - and with such widespread TV exposure we hadda have a real chance at a hit! That was the theory – we did our bit and recorded the 45 ‘The Pressure’s On’/ ‘Who? You!’ and Terri sent it off to be pressed – and that was the last it was ever heard of!

The TV show went out to great acclaim – and was even repeated unexpectedly - so the interest was there and people were in contact day after day looking for the record. It never did turn up and we split with Good Vibes in disgust. In fact almost 30 years later I STILL don’t know why it wasn’t pressed up! (NB: The 45 did finally see the light of day a couple of years back on the last years’ Youth label based in Germany. They’ve also released several RUDI LPs and EPs that are well worth tracking down. Go get ‘em!

RUDI - The Pressures On. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=db-eV7iwwBY

RUDI - Who You. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NwwLpmNoAyM

tM - Towards the end of April that year you recorded 4 songs for Mike Read's Radio 1 show. What do you recall from those sessions?

Brian: We’d hired a beat up wreck of a car from a back-street hire place (with dodgy insurance) and piled the gear in (bass drum on a roof rack!). We drove from Liverpool to the BBC arriving just in time to record the session. Mike Read is a great guy, very genuine and with an encyclopedic knowledge of music - and he plugged the band at every opportunity - even interviewing us on air while we were recording the session! Mike Robinson produced the session and for the first time I got to muck about with guitar overdubs and, for my money, it’s the best RUDI recordings ever. After the session was over we rang round until we found someone whose floor we could sleep on in London (Jeremy from the Androids!) and the next day we drove up to Darlington to headline a NE Tour! Phew!


tM - In August 79 you shared a bill with Leamington Spa's finest – The Shapes. What did you make of our answer to the Sex Pistols?

Brian: The truth? None of us knew how they’d ended up on Good Vibes in the first place – and I can’t remember anything about them at all - though I think I was disappointed they didn’t play their set wearing their ‘shape’ masks!


tM - In 1981 Rudi became mates with Paul Weller who had a hand in the formation of Jamming Records. How did that work out?

Brian: Briefly, what happened was that Paul Weller (unlike all the other punk cognoscenti) actually put his money where his mouth was and bankrolled an indie label – he knew Tony (Fletcher) through the Jamming! zine and entrusted him to set up and run the label. It was Tony that picked us to be the first band on the label – he loved the band and also knew they were guaranteed to sell copies of anything that had our name on it. I dunno if Paul would have chosen us himself at first – at least judging by the mod/clone bands he picked for Respond. None of us were particular Jam fans and we were much more ‘rocker’ than ‘mod’, but once he’d seen us live and saw that we knew what we were doing he was very supportive indeed. Really the Jam and their crew, especially John Weller, couldn’t have done more to help us out and I’ll forever be grateful.


tM - The 3rd Rudi 45 - 'When I Was Dead' - sold 2,000 copies in the first 3 days of release. Did it feel like the big time was finally beckoning?

Brian: We’d been let down so many times before that we never allowed ourselves to take anything for granted – but Tony did such a great job on a shoestring budget that it did really feel that at long last after all the ups and downs we were finally making real headway. ‘When I Was Dead’ remains my fave RUDI 45 by a long way cos it actually sounds the way we wanted it to! Pete Wilson and Paul Weller produced it and we learned more in the half-day in the studio with them recording the 45 than we had learned in all our previous studio time put together! Paul even had to show us how to do proper harmonies!

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tM - What do recall from your John Peel session?

Brian: The guy who produced it was Buffin, who we were in awe of as he had been in Mott the Hoople. Unfortunately, he was a short-arsed egomaniac who kept insisting “I produced this better than your record”! Ho hum! I don’t think we were really a ‘John Peel’ type of band – we weren’t quirky enough or something! We did both our Mike Read and Kid Jensen sessions with Mike Robinson who was a brilliant producer and real easy to work with. In fact we wanted to get him to produce ‘Crimson’ but Jamming! couldn’t afford the £200 he wanted. Boy, it’s tough at the top, huh? Again the Jam came through for us - lending us their drum kit and assorted gear for some of the sessions! Strange Fruit approached me years back about releasing the Peel Session but it never saw the light of day (officially) until recently on the Japanese Radio Sessions CD (see reviews page for details & contact address for mail order enquiries.Ed)


tM - With the addition Paul Martin, Rudi began to expand their sound with keyboards. What was behind this decision?

Brian: It was a combination of things. We’d gotten fed up being pigeonholed with the emerging ’punks not dead’ brigade – we’d play London and Time Out would still trot out: ‘RUDI - young Ulster punks in trouble with the law’ - and we really didn’t like the new crop of punk bands at all – we had nothing at all in common with their clichéd hackneyed thrashings. In the meantime a lot of the new songs we were writing were less guitar based and we wanted to fill out the live sound somehow. To add insult to injury, when Mike Read tried to play ‘When I Was Dead’ on the BBC breakfast show he wasn’t allowed by his producer as it was ‘too noisy’. So as a result of any/all of the above we started looking for a keyboard player. Ronnie worked as a joiner and knew Paul Martin through the building trade - as he was probably the most hapless plumber in N Ireland – once famously burning the roof off a bungalow he was working on! Paul hadn’t played since leaving Pretty Boy Floyd And The Gems but agreed to try out keyboards on some new songs we were writing. Despite looking uncannily like Paul McCartney, Paul had a very original keyboard style that really lent itself to our new material and so we paid his train fare over to record a Kid Jensen session – providing a bottle of Mundies wine there and back as a sweetner. Boy, were we big time, or what? The radio session worked so well that we decided to ask him to join the band as a full time member. In hindsight, keyboards fitted the new songs perfectly – but didn’t always work with some of the older stuff live - but remember we were always trying to compete with the David Bowie’s of the world – not the UK Subs!


tM - What memories do you have of that Jam tour?

Brian: Absolutely brilliant – some of the best times we ever had! We got treated so well by the whole Jam crew and we truly had a ball. Unlike most bands who played with the Jam, we went down real well and one of the all time highlights of being in RUDI was coming onstage to play to the biggest audience we ever played to in the cavernous Queens Hall in Leeds the same day that Crimson was made single of the week in Sounds! It don’t get much better than that!

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tM - The Jam's decision to call it a day subsequently meant the end of Jamming Records & ultimately Rudi itself. Was there really nowhere else to go?

Brian: We did briefly consider other options – there was mention of a Poshboy deal in the USA - but it just seemed like the right time to call it a day. In hindsight I’m more sure than ever that we did make the right decision. We went out at the top (or what was top to us!) and never did sell out or cheapen ourselves on the punky cabaret circuit - and I’m still real proud of everything we did. See, unlike most punky waver groups we actually DID mean it maaaan!


tM - The publication of Sean o'Neill & Guy Trelford's 'It Makes YouWant To Spit' has immortalized the Ulster scene in print - 'Shellshock Rock' on celluloid - don't you think it's time we had a quality audio collection (boxset)?

Brian: Yeah it’s long overdue – but (and it’s a BIG but) - the licensing would be a logistical nightmare – the bands are long extinct - and who actually owns what is a potential minefield as nobody ever signed actual contracts. My big regret is that (and this applies equally to most other NI bands) most of RUDI’s best songs actually went unrecorded – and so many others were emasculated by feeble production (Davy Smyth at Wizard studios has a lot to answer for!) - but if someone did get it together I’d definitely buy a copy! (Well, I’ve had to buy every other compilation that RUDI material has turned up on! Sad but true! Ho Hum!)

Jean Encoule – tMx 19 – 04/05

RUDI - I-Spy. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V4Umqm5e ... re=related

Thanks (again) to Brian & TrakMarx.

N.B. APOLOGY: It has been brought to my attention that some of the facts transcribed above were incorrect. Brian had orginally and mistakenly assumed that Davy Shannon/Davy Smyth were one and the same person, when they are/were not. Davy Shannon had apparently left Wizard Studios before Rudi recorded there but he DID produce/record The Undertones' Teenage Kicks E.P.
Last edited by MULLY on 27 Mar 2011, 23:49, edited 1 time in total.
Allow me to re-arrange your face, sometimes I'd really like to get to know you better

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