Below is an amusing collection of memories from the Drogheda music scene in the early 1980s, written by ex Drogheda man, Enda Murray, who now lives in Australia.
Punk in Drogheda – the 12 O’Clock Drunken Remix (Draft copy subject to correlation and more pints)
My experience of contemporary music (punk is as good a shorthand as I can find) in Drogheda came through my involvement with the New Musical Society (NMS).
The NMS was a group of people who came together in Drogheda in the early 80’s to entertain themselves and others with gigs, clubs and assorted nefarious activities. The NMS came together as a result of a number of events.
The first gig that was organised was in the Boxing club in 1981. It was organised as a benefit for the victims of the Stardust fire on Valentine’s Day 1981.
There was a couple of us who were particularly affected by the Stardust fire because we had been there exactly one month before (14th January 1981) for a gig by the Specials and the Beat (I still have the ticket stub). I went to the gig under my own steam but I’m sure there was a bus from Drogheda with Ciaran ‘Quigser’ Quigley and the Ballsgrove mods.
I was hanging around with Roger ‘Goosey’ Reilly and I tagged along with him to the Jayteens gigs which I think were in the Summer of 1980. I remember being smitten with the excitement and the energy – so much so that I did stayed for the end of the gig and didn’t go back to work as a nurse’s aid in St. Mary’s Hospital and was promptly fined by the nuns.
I hung out some more with Goosey and spent as much time as I could in the Carlton where he was practising with the Enzymes. Roger was a bit of a guru for me and I was impressed by his ideas such as dressing as convicts complete with leg irons for New Year’s Eve 1978 (despite there being no fancy dress on) and then carrying a coffin bearing the Remains of the 70’s across West St. before setting it alight and tossing it into the Boyne from the Bridge of Peace on New Year’s Eve 1979.
We were keen to find a place for the bands who had come together for the Jayteens gigs to find some more local gigs because there was nowhere to play in Drogheda at the time. I was also keen to find something to do on Saturday afternoons and hopefully meet some GIRLS.
The Jayteens gigs took place in a deathtrap basement in the Lourdes Band bandrooms in the Backlanes opposite the back of the Augustinian church. There were a couple of discos and at least one gig where the Enzymes (Goosey Reilly, Gavan Kierans, Joe McCormack) played along with a couple of other bands. Notable for me was the one and only memorable appearance of the Baldy Scaldies (Mick ‘Dali’ Reid, David ‘Gus’ Gavin and David ‘Milish’ Milne). I was a member of the band previous to the gig but dropped out beforehand (due to musical differences of course).
After the Jayteens gigs we called a meeting on a Saturday afternoon in the Community Services Centre in Fair St. and formed the New Musical Society. I pushed for the name because I got the idea from a New Music Society that had formed in Trinity College (where I was studying rats). Present were: me, Paul Lennon, Joe McCormack, Anne McAuley, Gavan Kierans, Goosey Reilly, Mary Roden, Michael Reid, Derek ‘Zip’ Traynor, Mary Doyle, Karen Doherty, Jackie Quinn and a few more who I can’t remember. John ‘Jack’ White joined soon after. I have the original Minutes book from that meeting somewhere so I can check it when I get a chance.
We had been trying for some time to get a practise room and ‘Youth drop-in’ centre off the ground. We had even spoken at a meeting of Drogheda Corporation to get access to an empty premises on James’ St. which was earmarked for demolition for the new dual carriageway. We were actually successful but then the County Manager overruled the corporation with a Section 4 and so we never got access to the premises.
We saw an opportunity to get a gig in the Boxing Club as a benefit for the Stardust. At the time it seemed that there were the ‘Oldies’ in the town who ran everything and owned everything and then there was us spotty youths with big ideas and Dunne’s Stores monkey boots (I couldn’t afford Docs).
We got the go-ahead from Johnny Connor and the gig was called the “Last Dance on the Titanic” (there is a poster for this gig still stuck to the ceiling in Carberry’s). I helped Goosey print the posters on his silk screen at the Carlton Restaurant.
Scheduled to appear were Enzymes, Ulterior Motives (Barry Loughran, Brian ‘Bug’ Hall); Prophecy (Frank Byrne); Against the Grain; Maggot and the Ashtrays (who by the time the gig took place had changed their name to the Frustrated Barristers); Aztec Demon Demon (Hennie Dennis, Martin ‘Lambsie’ Lamb, Paul Berrill and Ged Brady); Electra Glide and Midnight Blue.
I checked that everything was ok the day before but when I went down on the day of the gig Johnny Connor had sold his boxing ring (which was the stage in the club) the night before so we had to borrow tables from the Golden Days Club in the Community Services Centre in Fair St, carry them down to the Boxing Club and tape them together to make a stage.
I booked Brewster from Dublin to do the PA when I saw him doing sound for a lunchtime gig outdoors in Trinity College in Trinity Week. When he arrived I asked him whether he had brought guitar amps for the bands. ‘Don’t you have a backline’ he said? ‘What’s a backline? I said. I saw a worried look on his face and his next question was how many people were we expecting.I could see he was nervous about getting paid.
And so in the week that Vienna by Ultravox was Number One and Motorhead, Gloria and Joe Dolce’s Shaddup Ya Face was in the charts a new chapter in music began in Drogheda’s Boxing Club. The gig went off very well – there was ‘no aggro’ according to the Drogheda Independent review and 300 punters packed in to see this fine lineup of talent.
The review in the Drogheda Independent mysteriously mentions three more bands who were not included in the pre-gig publicity but who did play. Warr (Nicky Mallon, Tony Conaghy and Barry ‘Bazz’ Quinn –later to become Exile in the Kingdom); Manta (Noel ‘Mata’ Matthews) and the Baldy Scaldies (I think this may have been Dali and the Surrealists (Michael ‘Dali’ Reid).
Also worth a mention were the Frustrated Barristers (Patsy Flanagan, Maggot Caffrey, Charles ‘Res’ Fitzpatrick and the No Good Dancers).
I think we raised about 300 pounds for the Stardust and Aine Carberry videotaped the gig for Boyneside Radio (does this tape still exist??)
We were encouraged by this success and planned a second gig at the Boxing Club. The second gig was called “The last dance on the Titanic” which also had about 8 bands. Again we printed posters for it on Goosie’s silk screen.
There were some problems in the organization of this gig. The Frustrated Barristers wanted to play but never told us so we hadn’t put them on the bill. On the night of the gig they threw eggs at the stage and the eggs broke and splashed over Johnny Connors beautiful red velvet curtains which were hanging behind the band.We tried to dry clean the curtains but nothing could clean them. We ended up having to pay £70 to Charlie Wilde in Laurence St. to cut out the soiled parts and re-make the curtains.
There’s a great pic of Michael ‘Munich’ Reilly in West St. wearing a sandwich board with the Last Retreat from Russia poster on it among Michael Flanagan’s photos on this site.
We did a number of discos around town including one on the 24th September at the Star and Crescent. I was dressed up as a German Navy Admiral and drank a glass in the Weavers (because I had a dickie bow on) on my way to the S&C. Tony Clayton Lea dj’d and I heard Joy Division Love will tear us apart for the first time. I remember the date because it was my 21st Birthday. I bought a slice pan on the way to the S&C, stuck matches in the top, lit it, sang happy birthday and threw the slices around the hall. When I called down the next day the bloke from the S&C was HOSING the hall down and cursing the gobshites who had held the party the night before.
We also did a ‘Futurist’ disco in the Boyne Valley Hotel (pre Lucianos). I remember this because I printed posters using a wooden block system in Trinity College.
After the success of the Boxing Club gigs the NMS decided to put on a gig with ? in the back room of Sarsfields. At this stage the NMS were me, Paul Lennon, Jack White, Reido, Joe McCormack, Anne McAuley, Niall Kierans and Gavan Kierans.
Some of the punters from the front bar looked in to the back room to see what was going on. The next thing a chair came flying in the door, just missed whoever was on the door (probably Anne McAuley) and broke in pieces on the wall. We gathered up the bits of the chair and threw them over a wall in Francis St. so that Mrs. Sarsfield wouldn’t find them and charge us for damages.
Around this time Goosey Reilly and Mary Roden started the Subterranean at Biba’s night club in Number 1 Shop St. underneath the AOH.
This was a great club with a number of top New Year’s Eve parties. One of the Dj’s was Ruth Roden.
One of the few live gigs to take place at the Subterranean was a double bill with Microdisney and Five go down to the Sea (formerly the Nunattax).
Gigs that the NMS did in Sarsfields:
Some blokes from Monaghan? Who Ruth Roden recommended who played a version of Dire Straits’ Romeo & Juliette.
Cactus World News (?)
Five go down to the Sea..one of the most memorable gigs we ever did. They did a version of ‘These boots were made for walking’. They stayed in our rented house in 242 Brookville.
We then did some gigs in Joey Mahers.
We used to arrange to meet the bands in the pub across the road on the corner of Fair St. and George’s St. because Joeys was never open on a Saturday afternoon.
Bands we did in Joeys were:
The Alsatians. ‘5 honours and a 175, an education and a license to drive one of the best songs of the era.
Zen Alligators. Memorable for the fact that ex Horslips guitarist , Johnny Fean, was unconscious in the band’s van with a bottle of spirits when he should have been soundchecking.
Freddie White. Never stopped haranguing the crowd to keep quiet.
Aslan. After the gig members of the band went missing with some female members of the audience.
Auto Da Fe. Gaye and Terry Woods had to be the most bad tempered musicians we ever dealt with.
Some Kind of Wonderful. Not sure how many gigs in Joeys but they certainly played at the New Years Eve gig in the Karate Club. This was the occasion when the Karate Club demanded compensation from us for a broken door or else they would ‘expose’ us to the media for the events of that night and the ‘items’ (condoms) which were discovered upstairs at the venue the following day. SKOW were being booked out by Denis Desmond of MCD.
In Tua Nua
Eugene (managed by Billy McGrath)
Around this time we also put on ‘Adored by Millions’ featuring Termonfechin’s most famous son Arthur Matthews (of Fr. Ted fame).
Joey Mahers then became the Swan Inn and had an increased capacity and the stage moved down to the Mell end of the building.
Gigs at the Swan were
The Comedy Store with Billy McGrath.
Scullion. I toured the record shops in Drogheda with Phillip King looking for a copy of one of his records to bring to an interview with Boyneside radio. I don’t think we found one.
After Joey Mahers we moved to the White Horse Hotel in West St. (now Earth nightclub). Date?
Gigs we did in the White Horse were:
John Martyn twice. A sellout both times.
Moving Hearts. We did them twice. Once with Mick Hanly and once with Flo McSweeney.
Rocky De Valera and the Gravediggers. The power went off and the band kept the gig going singing acapella.
Virgin Prunes. Memorable for the fact that we got ripped off by their management. We ended up getting something like 5 pounds out of a 500 pound door. The gig was great.
A British new wave band who Ruth contacted, memorable for the fact that ‘Young Dixie’ headbutted me in the face when I tried to stop a fight.
In 1983 we started doing the Dance Factory at the Rugby Club. The inspiration came from the Hacienda in Manchester and the Hirschfield Centre in Dublin, Dublin’s first gay club which was eventually firebombed. We brought in an extra amp and put up extra speakers in the hall. We dressed the hall with large graphics painted onto big sheets of hardboard and dressed up in overalls for the opening night. Maureen Finn created some of the graphics.
One of my proudest memories of this period is playing a slow set and watching boys dance with girls and boys dance with boys on the dancefloor and no-one gave a flying fuck.
There was a gang of the campest gay men used to come down from Balbriggan. I asked them one time ‘How many people live in Balbriggan?’ Two’ was the reply. ‘Us two – the rest of them are dead’.
At that time we were often running club nights at the Dance Factory on Fridays and gigs in the White Horse on Saturdays so it was busy times.
John Leonard used to sell sausages in the foyer and was a token bouncer when things went pearshaped (which was very seldom).
The Dance Factory was like having a birthday party every Saturday night. Eveyone knew everyone else and the vibe was very friendly.
We had Dave Fanning and BP Fallon come down one night and I ended up masquerading as Bruce Springsteen’s helicopter pilot in order to get them a hotel room on the ground floor in the Rossnaree Hotel so that they could skip off without paying the following morning.
Another night we had a dj from Dublin who played ‘dance’ music but no-one danced because they didn’t know the tunes.
Yet another night we had a busload of posers came down from Dundalk. One of them, Robert ? then started doing gigs in Dundalk.
I was doing the entertainment page for the Drogheda Independent and Paul Lennon was doing the entertainment page for the Local News so we had the PR thing sewn up. We would give big headlines to the gigs we were promoting and not give a thought to conflict of interest.
We also ran buses to gigs in Dublin and to festivals. We had a deal with MCD that we would get cheap tix to the gigs in return for selling tix and running buses. We would organize competitions at the Dance Factory and do packages. For example we had a (dance) competition (or was it a raffle) for the Smiths gig in the SFX. The winner ( Olly Henry I think) got 2 Smiths tickets,2 bus tickets, 2 flagons of cider and 2 bunches of daffodils.
Other memorable occasions. Sean Brady dressed in plastic garden chains and white overalls like Howard ‘Like to get to know you well’ Jones..it might have been the opening night.
We held a break dance competition and Mal Murray did a suicide move and concussed himself. I ended up with him in the casualty in the Lourdes that night.
We did a black music night and an Irish music night.
Other events that the NMS organised between 81 and 85 were a pie fight in front of St. Peter’s church in West St. for charity (?). Aine Carberry got pasted.
There was also an art exhibition in Mayoralty House which featured work from Eugene ‘Scrooge’ Kavanagh, Reido, Goosie Reilly, Mary Roden, Maurice Clarke and Paul Eustace (who later worked with Vogue and Interview magazines). Ruth Roden had a piece in the exhibition which was the words ‘Is this Art?’ drawn out in watercress plants.
Two magazines were produced during this period 1981 to 1985.
The first was the Ould Bag in March 1981, a magazine edited by Goosey Reilly that was typed up by Margot Conaghan and gestetnered (pre photocopier era) by me in the Student’s Union in Trinity College Dublin. I think there were 2 editions with print runs of about 50.
The second was No News circa 1984/5..spearheaded by Tony Clayton Lea and featuring articles by Arthur Matthews, Michael ÒMunichÓ Reilly, Kelly Fincham, Shane Harrison, Eric Myles and Declan ‘Nicky’ Mallon. This was a much more upmarket affair, printed on glossy paper, with runs of about 500 and all sold out on a Saturday afternoon on West St.
Also published during this time was the Gimp – a libelous scandal sheet full of gossip and innuendo masquerading as journalism. The Gimp was published anonymously but it was believed to emanate from Carberrys pub and involve the sinister hands of Ged Kelly and Patsy Flanagan.
I went to America in June 1984 and left the NMS although I returned to Ireland in September.
The NMS returned to the boxing club in 1984 or 1985 and ran gigs there for a while.
Features of the club around this time involved girls forming a star shape in front of the cubicle in the Ladies toilet (there were no doors on the loo) to prevent a free view from the dancefloor of those doing the business.
Fictitious names were written in the guest book on the front door (I personally signed in as French footballer Dominique Rocheteau for about 4 years – I often wondered did the doorman Gisty McDonagh ever check it?)
In June 1985 I left for England for good. The rest of the NMS continued to run gigs there but increasingly Paddy Connor and Sean Faulkner did the promoting themselves.
We did play one NMS /Dance Factory reunion at the behest of Paddy Connor in Man Fridays (or was it Fusion) round about 2001.
These are my memories of punk in Drogheda. Of course many of you will have completely different recollections. According to Zap Cummins the first punk gig to happen in Drogheda occurred in the Cellars with Zap and Poach Hynes performing in a duo called ‘Mondo Weirdo and the AgitatorsÓ.
1979; Stiff Little Fingers play the Gem
Early 1980; Radiators from Space play the Gem (my first punk gig)
1980; Specials support Dr. Feelgood at the Olympic ballroom and blow them off the stage.
Summer 1980; Jayteens gigs
Dec 80; Stiff Little Fingers play UCD. I meet Dom McCormack and ‘Skel’ Skelly
January 14 1981; Specials and Beat at the Stardust, Artane.
February 14 1981; Stardust Fire
March 20 1981; Last Dance on the Titanic
March 81; Ould Bag Published
Sept 81; Last Retreat from Russia
Sept 24th; NMS Disco in Star and Crescent (doubled as my 21st Birthday party).
Oct 81; NMS Disco in White Horse(?) amidst mushroom fever in Carberry’s.
Dec 81: Subterranean NYE . Speaker falls on someone’s head.
1982; Sarsfield’s gigs
1982; Joey Maher’s gigs
1982; Swann Inn gigs
Dec 82; NMS NYE gig in Karate Club with Some Kind of Wonderful
1983; White Horse gigs
Easter 83; Dance Factory starts
Sept 83; Ran bus to Dire Straits gig in Kildare
NYE 83; in Dance Factory
Oct 84; No News published
March 85; Enda Murray makes Exile in the Kingdom Video
July 85; onwards NMS do gigs in Boxing Club