Posts Tagged ‘Dublin’


This Is A Low


Blur – Parklife

circa 1994

In the Summer, Me, Ev and Richard decided to make the move from home and get ourselves a flat in the city. We plumped for Rathmines, an area 20 minutes walk south from Dublin City Centre. Rathmines is one of several inner city residential areas that form a belt along the Grand Canal. What was once a mainly middle-class borough had in large part been taken over by the many students that attended the various colleges and universities in the area. The rows and rows of red brick Georgian family homes had been hacked up by unscrupulous slumlords to create bedsits and tiny flats.

My Dad got me work for the summer with Jacobs the biscuit manufacturer out in Tallaght at the foot of the Dublin mountains. I worked in a large warehouse stacked floor to ceiling with boxes of biscuits. My job as “Order Picker” entailed driving a little electric cart around, collecting the orders and putting them on the delivery trucks.

Busy as I was with work, I left it to Ev and Richard to find our new abode. After much searching they found a two bedroom place on Ardee Road. The flat constituted the whole ground floor of what was once a two-story single family home. The landlord in his wisdom converted the two floors into self-contained flats with a common front door. The hall door opened into a tiny kitchen. The table was so small we had to take turns eating our dinner. The living room was to the left off the kitchen with both bedrooms to the back also off the kitchen. The only snag was that access to the bathroom, a former out-house now attached, was solely through the smaller of the two bedrooms. Ev and Richard took the larger of the two bedrooms I got the smaller to myself.

To celebrate our new found independence we invited all of our mates over for a house warming party. We started out in the Rathmines Inn, getting a few drinks down us before heading back to the house to get smashed. It’s probably appropriate that I don’t remember much of what went down at the party. I have hazy recollections of one of Matt, Alan, Paul or Ciaran crashing their motorbike while racing in the street outside. When we did come to in the morning we discovered that one of the windows in the lads bedroom was broken. I went to the hardware store and bought replacement glass and glaziers putty. While the lads cleared up the mess I installed the new pane.

"this is a low, but it won't hurt you"

One of the lads mates from UCD, Piaras, had brought over his copy of Blur’s Parklife album for me to tape. Although I liked their exuberant There’s No Other Way single from a couple of years back, both Ev and I had been pretty dismissive of their Girls & Boys single and mock-Cockney shenanigans. Piaras though was adamant that these guys were cool, so I thought I’d give them a whirl.

That morning, as we sat down in the living room with our cups of tea and pounding hangovers, I stuck it on. The lead-off track was Girls & Boys, its thumping beat was a bit much considering our delicate situation but that quickly segued into the much more palatable Tracy Jacks and that into the wonderful End Of A Century. Badhead, To The End, Clover Over Dover – each track was better than the preceding one. It’s fair to say it was love at first listen. Alan, who’d just dropped in, thought so too. By the time we got to the magnificent This Is A Low, a song about the weather forecast, I was well and truly hooked. The singer and chief songwriter, Damon Albarn, has that rare artistic gift – the ability to take a mundane, ordinary, everyday subject and turn it into something beautiful. Pure genius.

When the lads caught up with Piaras a few days later he somewhat sheepishly admitted that it was him that had broken the window – with his arse? After several weeks the putty still hadn’t set in the window and to the best of my knowledge never did.



Artist: Blur

Album: Parklife

Label: Food

Released: 1994

Recommended Tracks: See above.


Monkey Gone To Heaven


Pixies – Doolittle

circa 1989.

Ev, Brian and I were in our 5th year of secondary school. Ev’s older brother Fergal was doing an arts degree in UCD. He went to Boston on a J1 Summer work visa to paint houses or something. Don’t remember what we got up to but I’m sure it wasn’t very exciting.

Ferg returned in September with a selection of miniature bottles of aftershave for Brian and a tape of The Head On The Door by The Cure for me. Cheers Ferg. We’d gather round him, rapt as he told tales of exotic radio stations that played non-stop alternative music for American student types. Terrific.

The closest thing we had to this in Ireland was the late night Rock Show on 2FM. It’s presenter was Dave Fanning – the biggest wanker I’ve never met. He styled himself as Ireland’s answer to the BBC’s John Peel, though the gulf between Fanning’s gigantic ego and the latter’s humility couldn’t be greater.

To his credit Fanning did play a lot of stuff you wouldn’t hear on daytime radio, and he did try to give a leg up to bands on the burgeoning Irish music scene. Unfortunately, back in the 80-90’s, if you were to believe Fanning, and pseudo music journal/political mouthpiece, Hot Press magazine, seemingly any four fuckwits with guitars were going to be the next U2. The sad fact is that in the past 30 odd years Ireland has produced only a tiny number of successful bands of any real quality.

Anyway, no sooner was Ferg back than he bought a copy of Doolittle by Boston’s Pixies. I’d never heard of the Pixies before and I’d never heard anything that sounded like them either.

The bizarre, vivisection-astronaut-monkey freak show on the outside only hinted at the sonic science-experiment-gone-wrong on the inside. I don’t recall listening to the album for the first time – I know that I didn’t get into in the beginning. In fact I think I kept the album at arm’s length, so new, so different was it that I could not figure it out. I just couldn’t get my head around it. Brian loved Doolittle straight away. He’d play Crackity Jones over and over and delighted in the whoop, whoop yelping vocals.

Powerful drums,  pounding bass, and ferocious surf guitar, the music was all over the place, but direct and focused at the same time. The album’s lyrics – half yelled, half screamed, half in Spanish? – what I could make out I didn’t understand, but I grew to love it all the same.

There was little mention of the band in the liner notes. No photos either. I imagined a gang of greasy long-haired rockers wearing black leather motorcycle jackets. Months later I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the four members were giant nerds. They looked like they’d walked off the very college campuses whose radio stations championed them.

The following year Ev gave me one of the two tickets Ferg had bought him for their October gig at the National Stadium in Dublin. That might sound a bit grandiose, but in reality the National Stadium was a smelly boxing arena that maybe held 1,000 people. Back in those days we’d always get to gigs super early to see all of the opening bands. I wouldn’t usually drink either for fear I’d have to go for a slash during the headliner.

Eventually the Pixies came on and blasted everyone away, tearing through Doolittle, its predecessors and the new album Bossanova. When the houselights came up at the end we walked out into the cold night air, the sweat steaming off us with giant grins plastered across our faces.



Artist: Pixies

Album: Doolittle

Label: 4AD

Released: 1989

Recommended Tracks: Where to begin? Debaser, Gouge Away, Tame. Look, they’re all fucking great.

Joey Santiago endorses TheSpiralScratch, thanks to Sonya & Twitter.


Spiral Scratch


I’ve been set a challenge through work to create a successful blog. Not sure quite what that means but I guess I need to get loads of hits, visits, comments etc.

I’ve never followed or read extensively any blogs, I’m not into connecting with people or much else on the internet apart from a bit of news, online banking and some other stuff that I probably shouldn’t mention here. Oh, and eBay, I buy a lot of stuff on eBay. I guess what I’m driving at is that I don’t know what I’m doing here, so I’m just going to make it up as I go along.

I remember advice I got in a writing class years ago about writing what you know. So what do I know? Well in my humble opinion, quite a bit. I love history, politics, travel, photography, art, books – all the usual stuff people add at the end of their resumés. In truth though, there is only one topic on which I could claim to be an authority enough to write about, and that’s music. Ever since I was young, very very young, I’ve been fascinated by the art, the artifice and the theater of pop and rock.

I grew up in Lucan, one of the many satellite towns around Dublin. It was a fairly picturesque place, more of a village than a town to be honest. Life was pretty idyllic, bike riding, climbing trees, playing football past dark until the auld-one (mother) came looking for me. Seemingly endless summers, you get the idea. It’s a sad reflection really but amidst all this my favorite pastime was watching TV.

TV was great as a kid, Saturday morning cartoons and Swap Shop (look it up). I’d watch all the American imports like the A-Team, Starsky & Hutch and Knight Rider. BUT, the highlight of the week was when the whole Brennan clan – Mam, Dad, brother, sister and I would gather in front of the TV to watch the top 40 chart show Top of the Pops.

This BBC show was vital viewing, it was a kind of portal into a technicolor, parallel world of the rich and famous. It featured singers and groups of the day lip syncing to their latest hit in front of an adoring studio audience. When an artist couldn’t make it to the studio, dancers would fill in and later video took over. Amongst the saccharine pop hits the occasional gem would come along, David Bowie, The Smiths and the Sex Pistols all appeared over the years. The Clash stayed away because the show was too commercial. Wankers!

“Beelzebub has the devil put aside for me, for me, for meeeeeee!”

Top of the Pops features prominently in one of my earliest memories. By Christmas 1975, Queen had been at the number one slot for a record nine weeks with Bohemian Rhapsody. Week after week the video, featuring the group’s disembodied heads, terrified me. As the line goes – “very, very frightening me”. No fucking kidding, I was 3 years old but the seed was sown. Far from turning me off music, it became a passion, a lifelong obsession.

I took the name for the blog from Spiral Scratch, the debut single by Manchester’s Buzzcocks. Their title refers to the groove a record player needle follows on an lp. This blog is for anyone that’s mad into music, anyone that ever mimed guitar solos on their brother’s tennis racket or banged their head on a door jumping around the living room to A Town Called Malice by The Jam.

Anyway, I’m going to pick records from my collection and write a short piece (shorter than this anyway) explaining how it transformed my life and maybe how it could transform yours.

Tune In, Turn On, Rock Out.