Nevermind at 30

1991 the year that punk broke

I feel stupid and contagious, here we are now entertain us, a mulatto, an albino, a mosquito, my libido, vay, vay, a denial, I’m worst at what I do best and for this gift I feel blessed. I found it hard, it was hard to find, oh well, whatever, Nevermind.

From inlay of 20th anniversary deluxe edition of Nevermind.

On 24 September 1991, Nirvana released their second album, Nevermind on Geffen Records and turned the rock world on its head.

Produced by Butch Vig and the first to feature new drummer Dave Grohl who had replaced Chad Channing, this album was a more polished, radio-friendly sound to their debut album, Bleach.

Prior to the album coming out I had never heard of Nirvana, in fact I was totally unaware of the US underground scene as towards the late 1980s and early 1990s I was listening to a variety of heavy metal like Metallica, Megadeth, Iron Maiden, Guns N’Roses, Queensryche and even the funk metal crossover appeal with the likes of Living Colour and Faith No More.

By the summer of 1991, the biggest albums I was listening were the Black album by Metallica and Use Your Illusion 1 and 2 by Guns N’ Roses.  Incredible to think that nearly a week later Nevermind was soon to be released.

At the end of September the album shot straight into the UK chart at no.36 but would probably have sold more at the time if Geffen had pressed enough copies in the UK, only 6,000 at the time of release. Priority seemed to have been more towards Guns N’Roses double album by them.

I came across Nevermind reading about it in the metal press.  I was a bit sceptical at the time but somehow, I was intrigued by this band Nirvana.  I hadn’t even heard Smells Like Teen Spirit.  I really was in a bubble but on sheer impulse alone, I bought the album, and I was blown away with it.

The impact the album had on me was incredible from the start when it begins with the Pixies inspired Smells Like Teen Spirit to the end with the spin chilling Something In the Way, suddenly when you leave the CD running on a bit longer than normal that you get the fright of your life when from out of nowhere the chaotic feedback of Endless, Nameless starts howling through the speakers.

In a short space of time the overblown hype of the Guns N’Roses double album would soon gather dust in my collection while I embraced the new sound that was coming from the alternative rock world.

When Kurt Cobain talked about the influences of the record from the likes of Pixies, REM and The Melvins I started to take notice.  When I told one of my colleagues in work that I was getting into Nirvana he recommended two Pixies albums to me, Doolittle and Bossanova.

Both albums I took to straight away and I could see where Cobain was coming from when he cited the band as an influence especially with the quiet-loud-quiet dynamic.

The album really does celebrate everything about music – mainstream pop, punk inspired hard rock and even acoustic numbers like Polly and Something in the Way.

In the winter of 1991, the band were due to play Belfast for the first time at Conor Hall which is part of the Art College. Ticket was on £6.50. But promotional duties got in the way of that gig and they were scheduled to perform on the Jonathan Ross show instead which meant the Belfast show got cancelled.

The final European dates of 1991 were cancelled in December as the band were exhausted with touring and promotion of Nevermind. Thankfully, they did come to Belfast and it was worth the wait when they came in the summer of 1992 playing at the much larger King’s Hall.

One only wonders if the gig at Conor Hall had never been cancelled it would have been some gig.

By 1992 the album had become an unexpected critical and commercial success reaching number one in the Billboard charts and knocking off Michael Jackson from the top spot.

Legacy of the album

The full effect of the album began to change my taste in music.  While still liking metal I didn’t quite abandon it overnight and go the other direction.  I was suddenly finding new bands to get into – Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Screaming Trees, Smashing Pumpkins, Rage Against The Machine, Jane’s Addiction, Sonic Youth, Belly, Pavement, Helmet to name but a few.

Pearl Jam were often accused of jumping on the grunge bandwagon.  In fact, Ten was released a month before Nevermind.  You could say I got into Nirvana first and then Pearl Jam followed.  For me this wasn’t a Rolling Stones vs Beatles moment.  I could appreciate both bands for what they were.

The shift in music also changed how I viewed music at home.  For so long, U2 were my favourite Irish band but after Nevermind came out I would discover bands like Therapy? whose influence owed more to the US underground scene and also Ash who were at the same concert I was at when Nirvana came to Belfast in the summer of 1992.

The cultural impact

Nirvana’s breakthrough sparked a media frenzy eager to bring the band to the masses.

Their infamous world live debut on Channel 4’s The Word performing Smells Like Teen Spirit on 11 August a few weeks prior to the debut at the Reading Festival, had Kurt Cobain opening declaring to everyone “I want everyone in this room to know that Courtney Love, the lead singer of the sensational pop group Hole, is the best f**k in the world”.

By the autumn of 1991 the band were invited to perform on BBC’s Top of the Pops. I was never a fan of the format because you knew that the acts on it were lip syncing and not performing live.

When Nirvana were asking to lip sync to Smells Like Teen Spirit they refused but what we got instead was the band barely pretend to play their instruments while Kurt changed the opening lines of the song to: “Load up on drugs, kill your friends” while singing in a very deep Morrissey-like voice.

It was very funny and not something the Top of the Pops audience would be used to.

On the Tonight With Jonathan Ross they were supposed to play Lithium but instead broke out into a very loud and raucous version of Territorial Pissings, finishing by thrashing the stage and leaving only the sound of feedback in their wake. Ross was probably stunned at what he had just witnessed and probably wouldn’t have known the difference that they played a totally different song to what was expected!

In 1992 Dave Markey directed 1991: The Year Punk Broke featuring Nirvana’s label mates Sonic Youth on their European tour of that year.  The film also features Nirvana, Dinosaur Jr., Babes in Toyland, Gumball and The Ramones.   In many ways it kind of gives credit that Nirvana were the trailblazers for the new alternative scene coming from the States.

Also released in 1992 was the romantic comedy Singles written and directed by Cameron Crowe.  While the film focuses on a group of young Gen X’ers in Seattle at the height of the grunge phenomenon it is very noticeable that Nirvana are not even name checked nor appear in the movie.  Instead, it focuses on the likes of Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden.  For me this wasn’t a bad thing.  I didn’t think much of the movie but the soundtrack was excellent.

By 1993, grunge and alterative rock had really taken a foothold.  Even the BBC documentary No Nirvana which showcased the best of the US alternative scene was maybe a bit late catching on as by the time I had seen the programme most of the bands on it I was already listening to.

The pun in the title No Nirvana was very telling but you could tell by watching that that were more fantastic bands out that that deserved some success and recognition.

Thirty years later and this album still is my favourite of all time. It was a case of right time and place when it was released. It changed how I listened to music and introduced me to other bands that I would probably never have dreamed of listening to.

You can watch the really excellent documentary, When Nirvana Came to Britain, which aired on BBC recently. https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000zx9h

#AtoZBest00sSong

For the month of August I was taking part in the latest Twitter challenge hosted by @sotachetan which takes us into the new millennium with a A to Z of the best songs from that decade.

I think the noughties was a decent enough decade music wise as I came across new bands to like as well as enjoying music from the bands that I had been following in the the 1990s.

Overall, Queens of the Stone Age being one of the new bands I discovered at Reading 2000 have dominated the list here with four absolute bangers. It would have been hard to leave them out. I made good use the of the wildcard rotation for songs that I couldn’t pick due to the letter so so me of my favourites managed to slip through.

A

Accelerator – Primal Scream

Kicking off with his really cracking song from Primal Scream’s XTRMNTR (2000) album. A more aggressive Bobby Gillespie is in fine form attacking government, police and multi-nationals in a more political stance compared to their earlier records. Kevin Shields from My Bloody Valentine joins the band for this album along with Mani from The Stones Roses. Released as a single, this would be the final single put out by the Creation label.

B

Bleed American – Jimmy Eat World

I didn’t discover Jimmy Eat World until 2002 when they were the support for Blink 182’s European tour. Can’t remember the circumstances of why Blink 182 cancelled their tour at the time but Jimmy Eat World came over to Europe anyway and done their own shows, one of the them being at Temple Bar Music Centre (now The Button Factory) in Dublin. I took a chance and got a ticket to see them and it was just amazing. This track being one of my favourites as it sent the mosh pit wild. My glasses got broke during that song!

At the time the song got renamed Salt Sweet Sugar and the album was just Jimmy Eat World as a self-title album. The reason for this was due to the 9/11 attacks in America. But over time the album and indeed song eventually regained it’s original title.

C

Chop Suey! – System of a Down

Not one for embracing the nu-metal scene that seemed to dominate in the early 00s, System of a Down stood out among all the other bands as the replacement to the disbanded Rage Against The Machine.

The first single from their Toxicity album (2002), this was another song that wasn’t quite fitting in the post 9/11 landscape of inappropriate titles with a line from the song  ‘I don’t think you trust in my self-righteous suicide, I cry when angels deserve to die’ . However it didn’t get renamed like Bleed American did for Jimmy Eat World.

D

Driving Death Valley Blues – Mark Lanegan Band

Having briefly followed some of Mark Lanegan’s solo career after Screaming Trees disbanded, Bubblegum (2004) had a big impact on me and I have been following Lanegan’s solo career since. I never got to see Screaming Trees live but first glimpse of seeing him live was when he was touring with Queens of the Stone Age. I first got to see Mark Lanegan play Belfast in 2003 which was just before Bubblegum came out.

I picked this song as it just feels like a song to soundtrack a road movie.

E

Eat Junk Become Junk – Six by Seven

By 2000 I was really looking for more new bands to to get into and Six By Seven released their sophomore album, The Closer You Get album that year. Eat Junk Become Junk bursts out from the album and grabs you by the throat with the chainsaw guitars and thumping bass.

F

Fruit Fly – Nada Surf

Another new discovery thanks to the cover mounted CDs you got free on the music magazines at the time. Nada Surf’s Blizzard of ’77 was my introduction to the band. As Jimmy Eat World took the B slot the song misses out and is replaced here by Fruit Fly. Let Go from 2002 is a fantastic album.

G

Go With The Flow – Queens of the Stone Age

Starting the sequence of Queens of the Stone Age’s dominance of my selections for the A to Z series, this banger from 2002’s Song for the Deaf which featured Dave Grohl from Foo Fighters on drum duties.

H

Hit The City – Mark Lanegan Band

Second entry from Mark Lanegan is also from Bubblegum and one of my favourite tracks. It also featured PJ Harvey.

I

I Am Mine – Pearl Jam

Taken from Pearl Jam’s seventh studio album Riot Act (2002) was one of the most successful songs released from that album. Original written by Eddie Vedder prior to the Roskilde tragedy, the song tackles existential matters with Vedder stating before a show “This song’s about personal safety, and the feeling of being secure, and even free.”

Up to this point the band had not done any promotional videos since Do The Evolution (1998) releasing five videos from the album of live performances.

J

Just a Day – Feeder

The band had enjoyed a very successful 2001 by the time this was released as a stand alone single. It didn’t feature on any albums until it was included in the 2006 The Singles compilation. One of my favourite Feeder songs and often a set closer towards the end of the gig which is going to get you bouncing.

K

Kick Out the Jams – Rage Against The Machine

This fantastic cover of the MC5 classic features on Rage Against The Machine’s final album, Renegades (2000) which came out two years after the return to form The Battle of Los Angeles album from 1998.

Renegades as an albums covers a diverse range of artists such as Bob Dylan, Minor Threat, Bruce Springsteen, The Rolling Stones, The Stooges, Devo and Afrika Bambaataa. Of all the songs covered many with their own interpretation of the originals, Kick Out The Jams was does MC5 justice with both bands sharing the same goals.

L

Little Discourage – Idlewild

From Idlewild’s second album, 100 Broken Windows (2000), brought the band more radio play and increased fan base. I became a fan of the band after seeing them support Placebo at the Ulster Hall in 1999.

M

Mr November – The National

The National supported Barack Obama’s presidential candidacy in 2008 with a t-shirt saying “Mr November” referring the American elections for new president. The song was in fact written in part about John Kerry’s candidacy from four years earlier and features on their third album, Alligator (2005).

A regular feature of an gig played by The National which sees front man Matt Berninger jumping into the crowd with microphone.

O

One Armed Scissor – At The Drive In

Post-2000 saw an explosion of post-hardcore and emo bands and At The Drive In for me one of the bands that stood heads and shoulders of the rest. Taken from their third studio album, Relationship of Command (2000) it is a work of aggressive edge with a melodic drive, harmonious, emotive vocals, and surreal lyrics.

I saw the band when they played at the Empire in Belfast, a very small venue with an even smaller stage hosting a band that jumped around the stage quite a lot. However, they were not fans of the audience jumping up and down though, witnessing one eager fan pogoing a lot to be told to stop.

One of my favourite performances of this song was when they were on the BBC Later show hosted by Jools Holland. Poor Robbie Williams had to follow up after them. I think he was quite stunned as you can see from the video below.

P

Parabola – Tool

From one of my favourite albums of 2001, Tool’s third studio album Lateralus produced this mind-bending single. How they managed to release this as a single is beyond as the album literally feels like one big massive song split up into sections. It is one of the best albums you will ever hear.

Q/Wildcard

Be Yourself – Audioslave

Going through my CD collection I could find no songs beginning with Q for the noughties but as this day was also a wildcard entry it gave the opportunity to pick a song that got missed out earlier and that went to Audioslave’s Be Yourself.

What is there not to like about this with Chris Cornell teaming up with the remaining members for Rage Against The Machine for this one? At the time the joke was Rage Against The Garden to describe this supergroup.

R

Renegades of Funk – Rage Against The Machine

Second selection from Rage Against The Machine was the their cover of Afrika Bambaataa’s Renegades of Funk. A song that really suited the style of Rage Against The Machine as their video namechecked the “renegades” such as hip hop artists like Public Enemy, Beastie Boys, De La Soul, as well as civil rights activists Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr, and boxer Muhammad Ali to name but a few.

S

Songs for the Dead – Queens of the Stone Age

The first of two selections from Queens of the Stone Age’s Songs for the Deaf (2002) which featured Songs in their title. I actually originally to the two mixed up when researching on YouTube mixed it up with Song for the Deaf.

I found a great video of Dave Grohl drumming with the at Rock Werchter. He really beats the crap out of those drums.

T

Two Rights Make One Wrong – Mogwai

Taken from Mogwai’s third studio album, Rock Action (2001) sees the band making some changes to their sound by bringing in electronics . Less dark from their previous works it is still essentially Mogwai.

U/Wildcard

Breakerfall – Pearl Jam

With no songs to choose from the letter U, it was back to using the wildcard and another selection from Pearl Jam. The lead-off song on Binaural wasn’t a single, but the lightning-fast song has become a fan favourite and infuses shows with incredible energy each time they break it out.

V/Wildcard

Vertigo – U2

My favourite band from my teenage years but this one from 2004’s How To Dismantle an Atomic Bomb was slowly starting to become my least favourite U2 song. Vertigo gets the nod here as it fits in nicely with the letter V but since its release along with Beautiful Day and Elevation are the songs I wish the band would ditch from their live set. I guess I’m just bored with those songs now but at the time, yeah I did have a liking for this one but maybe not so much now.

W

Whatever Happened to My Rock N’Roll (Punk Song) – Black Rebel Motorcyle Club

One of my favourite songs from 2001 – Black Rebel Motorcyle Clubs fuzzed up Whatever Happened to My Rock N’Roll (Punk Song) is a blistering track from the band and you can really tell the influence of The Jesus and Mary Chain here.

X/Wildcard

Feel Good Hit of the Summer – Queens of the Stone Age

Final selection from Queens of the Stone Age is this drug fuelled banger from Rated R (2000) with it’s opening lines of Nicotine, valium, vicadin, marijuana, ecstasy, and alcohol cocaine referenced the band’s stoner rock history.

Many radio stations refused to play it and some stores had warnings on the album cover but despite all that the song stands alongside Smells Like Teen Spirit and Killing in the Name for its instant impact. I must admit I could hardly make out the lyrics but when played live its just a good excuse to go absolutely go nuts to.

Y

You Held The World in Your Arms – Idlewild

Idlewild’s third studio album The Remote Part (2002) departs from the punk rock traits of their previous releases. I always felt that from this album own their sounded a bit more like REM which is probably not a bad thing.

Z/Wildcard

A Song for the Deaf – Queens of the Stone Age

Correctly crediting this song from the earlier mistake, this is the last track of the album (some editions feature the hidden track Mosquito Song) written by Josh Homme and Mark Lanegan includes a snippet of Feel Good Hit of the Summer.

123/Wildcard

2+2=5 – Radiohead

On first glance you probably think that is a typo but it is indeed the correct name of the song from Radiohead’s sixth studio album Hail to the Thief (2003) which references George W, Bush’s election win and very much influenced by the war on terror at the time. The title itself comes from the George Orwell’s 1994 novel which is one of the slogans from the dystopian novel.

That concludes the A to Z of best songs from the noughties. It was quite a challenge but I do think the songs selected does reflect my tastes for that decade.

Slane Castle Memories

40 years ago Slane Castle hosted the biggest outdoor concert in Ireland. 16/08/81 was the date of first concert headlined by Thin Lizzy.  Over 30,000 rock fans from all over Ireland came to what turned out to be one of the most successful music concerts organised in the country.

Slane Castle is in the village of Slane, within the Boyne Valley of County Meath and it takes roughly an hour and a half to get to from Belfast or if coming from Dublin less than an hour.

Prior to that there weren’t much big gigs in the country both north and south.  With the security situation in the north most bands didn’t quite come to Belfast so for a lot of us it was making the pilgrimage down south to see our favourite bands.

Thin Lizzy were supported by U2, who would return there to record their 1985 album The Unforgettable Fire and would eventually headline two shows in 2001.

Also, on the bill that day were Hazel O’Connor, Rose Tattoo, Sweet Savage, The Bureau and Megahype.

I was only 10 years old at the time and it would be a few years later that I would discover U2.

Following the success of the first concert they would get big names like the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Queen, David Bowie, Madonna to name but a few.

The gig I wish I was able to go to

My first memory of knowing about Slane Castle was when Bruce Springsteen arrived in 1985 during the Born in the USA tour.  I was a big fan the year before but was way to young to be travelling to such an event.  My parents didn’t let me go but I heard so many stories about it that I really wish I had been there.

The gig you and your friends couldn’t decide on

By the 1990s I was really getting into music but the problem I always faced was getting your friends to go along with you.  This was the case in 1992 when Guns N’Roses made their first visit to Ireland.  Supported by Faith No More and Soundgarden.  I had gone off the band a bit as grunge was taking over but trying to convince friends to go just to see Faith No More and Soundgarden was a hard sell, so no takers and I wasn’t brave enough to venture down on my own on a bus!

The gig I regret not going to

A year later and to this day one of my biggest regrets was not going to see Neil Young with Pearl Jam in support.  That gig on 10 July 1993 is for me the one that I should have went to but was out of country at the time it happened.  After that going to gigs took priority before going away anywhere.

My first Slane gig and the best

1995 and I finally make it to Slane!  REM brought the Monster tour to Ireland on 22/07/95 and I had only got into the band the year before.  Monster being the first REM album I bought.  Prior to that I really wasn’t into them, but this gig remains the best outdoor gig I have ever been to.  REM was just immense.

They ripped through 23 songs with the majority of it coming from Monster but we got other classics like Losing My Religion, Pop Song 89, Everybody Hurts and Finest Worksong. Topping it off with It’s The End of the World As We Know It.

Nearly outdone by Oasis who were support.  The way the crowd took to them was almost like they were the headliners.  Somebody chucked a plastic bottle at Liam Gallagher who almost walked off stage.  Oasis went down well with the crowd.  A year later they would be headlining their own outdoor shows with their famous two night stand at Knebworth.

Oasis would be back at Slane in 2009 but by then I had gone off their music and wasn’t interested in heading down to see them.  Support was decent enough with The Prodigy, Kasabian and Glasvegas but I wasn’t sure if I would stick two hours of the Gallagher brothers.

The rest of the support bill was great too with Belly, Spearhead, Luka Bloom and Sharon Shannon. A fantastic day and one I won’t forget in a hurry.

Least favourite Slane gig

My second visit was on 29 August 1998.  The Verve were headlining with support from Manic Street Preachers, Robbie Williams, Finlay Quaye, The Sea Horses, James and Junkster.

Me and my friends got down early enough and I don’t think we saw Junkster but were around for the rest of the bill.  I wasn’t too fussed on The Sea Horses who were fronted by John Squire (ex-Stone Roses).  Finlay Quaye and Robbie Williams didn’t quite float my boat either.  Within a year Robbie Williams would be headlining.

Favourites on the day were James and Manic Street Preachers.  I got to see them twice that weekend.  It was back to Belfast for the Manics gig at the Ulster Hall on the Sunday night.  By then they had just achieved their first no.1 single, If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next.

When it came to The Verve it was a case of why bother.  The band were going through the motions, and it wasn’t a great gig as they were on the verge of breaking up.  Most people there only seemed to be familiar with Urban Hymans.  When they played some of their early stuff nobody knew any of the songs.  Leaving at the end there was a huge disappointment as you wanted it to be a good gig, but it wasn’t.

When everybody and their granny wants to see U2

Being a big U2 fan how I missed out on both 2001 shows remains a mystery.  The band had completely reinvented itself following the more experimental releases from the 1990s of Achtung Baby, Zooropa and Pop by returning to their early roots with All That You Can’t Believe Behind.

The first gig on 25 August 2001, the tickets sold out in no time (that explains how I didn’t get a ticket).  The Taoiseach requested a fast-track legislation to allow a second concert to take place, to accommodate the massive demand to see U2 live at Slane Castle. The two concerts were headlined by U2, and each concert brought an entirely different set of supporting acts.

The second gig came as a surprise, and I was over in Scotland at the time for a gig and missed out again!  The second one on 1 September had Foo Fighters for support but unfortunately, they cancelled and got replaced by Ash.  Foo Fighters would eventually return in 2003 supporting Red Hot Chilli Peppers, another gig that I should have been at, but those tickets flew out the window.  Support looked good on the day with PJ Harvey and Queens of the Stone.  Gutted to miss that one.

Slane 2015 – wet and wild

Foo Fighters finally made their headline debut on 30 May 2015.  It was a wet and wild day and not the best conditions of a concert.  Getting out of the place was hell.

Thanks to Tom Rowley for this picture of Dave Grohl

Support came from The Strypes, Ash, Hozier and Kaiser Chiefs.  Missed most of the support due to the difficulties getting into the venue.  Caught a bit of Hozier’s set and all of Kaiser Chiefs.

When Foo Fighters came on, they didn’t disappoint.  They had a runway stage and a b-stage.  That wasn’t used due to the rain all day.  My friend Tommy got some good photos from the gig despite the conditions.

Foo Fighters played a solid 23 song set including some nods to previous Slane headliners.  They covered Jailbreak by Thin Lizzy for the first time.  Thin Lizzy of course being the inaugural headliners from 1981. 

They also played Under Pressure by Queen who played here in1986.  A permanent fixture in most Foo Fighters concerts with Taylor Hawkins taking over vocal duties and Dave Grohl going being the drums.

Despite it being a very long and wet day, the last song was a cover of AC/DC’s Let There Be Rock.  That was a cue to start making the long way up the hill and back to the car.

Looking back and after buying the t-shirt on the day with the 2015 tour dates on it, little did we know that a few weeks later Dave Grohl would fall of the stage in Gothenburg, Sweden. We got lucky to see them that year.

Foo Fighters would return to Ireland in 2019 with shows in Belfast and Dublin.

Last visit to Slane 2019

Metallica made their first Irish visit since 2009 when they played two sold out shows at the Odyssey in Belfast while the Point was closed for refurbishment.

It was another wet day but wasn’t as bad as the weather from 2015.  For the first time we weren’t in a hurry to get down missing most of the support until we got into the amphitheatre. 

We could hear Stiff Little Fingers finishing off their set and we were in on time to see Ghost who seemed to be popular with the crowd down at the front. 

After Ghost finished it was the long wait for Metallica. Thankfully we didn’t have long to wait in the cold and wet evening as the opening bars of Ennio Morricone’s The Ectasty of Gold started playing and everybody was getting excited.

Launching in a 21 song strong set with quite a lot of new material being played from the recent Hardwired to Self-Destruct album, they treated the fans to a selection of songs from their back catalogue along with a cover of Thin Lizzy’s Whiskey in the Jar. The band acknowledging the connection Slane has to the first headliners.

Half way through it’s time for some solos from Kirk and Rob. Kirk treated us with a snippet of The Wild Rover during his solo but it was Rob’s bass solo that almost brought a tear to the eye of even the more hardened Metallica fan when they put a picture up on screen of the late Cliff Burton whilst Rob played Orion. It was just beautiful.

During Seek and Destroy, you could see the back drop showing a ticket stub from their SFX Centre show in Dublin. Early Metallica gigs before they hit the big arenas included Top Hat in Dún Laoghaire, Antrim Forum and Ulster Hall in Belfast.

Enter Sandman was the big finale with a massive fireworks display at the end. This was the cue to start heading up the hill but we stopped half way up to marvel at the speculator view of the stage from the hill.

A nice touch of Irish hospitality was presented to the band by U2 who gave them a picnic basket full of goodies to welcome them to Ireland.  Failte!

Speakeasy is 1

Happy birthday to Speakeasy fanzine who have turned one this month.

Yes, 12 months ago this fan driven platform on Twitter has produced a really great fanzine for music fans of a certain era, normally the 90s.

I got involved, bought some issues and then subscribed to it. Last year I I asked them if they would like me to write an article for a future issue. The response from Cris and Faye was very positive and they said yes for me to submit an article. Instead of taking any of the articles from the blog, I decided to write a new article from scratch and keeping in theme with the 1990s I wrote about the Irish scene here, entitled More to Life Than U2.

Thanks to the editing and proof reading and a few queries from Jeremy, I can now share below the printed article.

This was published in the April 2021 issue earlier this year. I am really pleased with this and I hope you like reading it too.

It was a great feeling to see something you have wrote being printed. I enjoyed the experience and am currently submitting a new article so watch this space.

You can follow Speakeasy on following social media platforms:

Twitter at @Speakeasy_Zine.

Facebook – Speakeasy Fanzine

Instrgram – Speakeasy_Zine.

If you would like to buy a copy or even subscribe at speakeasyfanzine.bigcartel.com you will get a great wee read for £1.

Again, I would like to acknowledge the support of all involved with the fanzine – Cris, Faye and Jeremy for the encouragement to write this and to so help shape it in the way that it came out. Thank you!

Ash #FaveArtistTop15

My third attempt to do a top 15 for the month of July organised by @yesokwaitmaybe and @jasonsammis on Twitter was to feature Ash.

Ash have been one of my favourite local bands for the last twenty five years. I first took interest in them around 1994 and by 1995, they were supporting Therapy? at the Ulster Hall. This was months before their debut album 1977 was released and also prior to that they had released a clutch of great singles leading up to the album.

Before 1977 came out, Trailer was released as a mini album in October 1994. Two songs from my top 15 come from the album. Petrol (11) and Jack Names The Planets (9) are two great songs and regularly feature as part of the live setlist. Both songs were recorded while the band were still in school.

Ash were due to celebrate their twenty-fifth anniversary as a band with a tour last year. Unfortunately the pandemic put those plans on hold and I will have to wait until next year to see them.

As part of celebrating 25 years, both Petrol and Jack Names The Planets got the remaster treatment for the new promo videos below.

Debut album proper 1977 was released in May 1996. Drawing comparisons with The Buzzcocks, Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr., the album features six songs that make my top 15. Oh Yeah (2), Girl From Mars (3), Goldfinger (5), Kung Fu (6) and Angel Interceptor (8) are all great songs.

The album took it’s name from the year that punk rock broke into the mainstream and also when Star Wars came out. You can tell they are big Star Wars fans. You can hear the sound of a tie-fighter in the background at the start.

The difficult second album, Nu-Clear Sounds came out in 1998 and the band became four as Charlotte Hatherely joined as second guitarist. Considered a commercial and critical failure, the album for me is an underrated gem. A more harder approach than their debut which is not bad thing, it includes my favourite track from the album, Wildsurf (10) which has a Beach Boys vibe to it.

This live version from Later with Jools Holland on BBC is one of my favourites.

At this stage the band are on the brink and almost bankrupt but they regrouped and put together what was definitely the finest comeback album, Free All Angels (2001). Lead singles Shining Light (4) and Burn Baby Burn (7) are great singles. This is a good sign of a band that have a great knack for producing great singles.

Shining Light won an Ivor Novello Award for songwriting and Burn Baby Burn was named as NME single of the Year.

Meltdown released in June 2004 would see the last of Charlotte Hatherley’s involvement with the band and they would go back to being a three piece again. Choice cut from this album was Orpheus (12). A live favourite since it’s debut and it definitely has the road trip feel to it.

With only fifteen songs to choose from, two albums get a miss through no fault of their own. Twilight of the Innocents (2007) and Kablammo! (2015) have no entries to the top 15. Also missing the top 15 are the A-Z Singles series where they put out a single over a fortnightly basis, 26 in total.

The most recent studio album, Islands (2018) showed comparisons with The Beach Boys, The Ramones and even Derry legends The Undertones. Both Damian O’Neill and Michael Bradley from The Undertones provide background vocals for Buzzkill (14) which is a pure pop song which was the lead single.

As the countdown is slowly heading towards no.1, the next two songs are choice b-sides. Cantina Band (15) was the b-side to Girl From Mars. Being true Star Wars fans, the John Williams composed song gets the reworking by the band and it is fun song to do live.

Ash have been compared with loads of bands and they have often been compared to Weezer which is quiet a compliment. Only in Dreams (13) is a very faithful cover of the Weezer classic from their Blue Album (1994). The song was the b-side to Burn Baby Burn.

And in at no.1 is the non-album track A Life Less Ordinary which was Charlotte Hatherley’s debut with the band. The song was the title track of the Ewan McGregor/Cameron Diaz movie of the same name which came out in 1997 and my favourite track. Can’t say much about the film though!

Very much a fan favourite and it features heavily in their live sets, It is not too often you find yourself in the crowd when the band are playing live and it goes on on TV. Footage below is from Glastonbury 1999 which I had attended. I remember going down to the front with no care in the world going absolutely mad when this song came on. The video footage goes quite fast between stage and crowd so it was near impossible to spot myself!

The top 15 in order:

  1. A Life Less Ordinary
  2. Oh Yeah
  3. Girl From Mars
  4. Shining Light
  5. Goldfinger
  6. Kung Fu
  7. Burn Baby Burn
  8. Angel Interceptor
  9. Jack Names The Planets
  10. Wildsurf
  11. Petrol
  12. Orpheus
  13. Only in Dreams
  14. Buzzkill
  15. Cantina Band

Check out my Spotify playlist for the above. Sadly, the Ash cover of Only In Dreams is not available on Spotify.

Teenage Fanclub #FaveArtistTop15

My second attempt to do a top 15 for the month of June organised by @yesokwaitmaybe and @jasonsammis on Twitter was to do Teenage Fanclub.

One of the mistakes I kept making was the hashtag on Twitter. Going forward I have amended it to the correct one so that everyone can read it.

So Teenage Fanclub was my choice for this month and for a band who formed in 1989 with twelve albums released, their most recent one being Endless Arcade which I purchased recently. The tough task was to pick fifteen songs which I think do the band justice.

In the end my selections were dominated by Bandwagonesque (4 songs), Grand Prix (2 songs) and Songs from Northern Britain (3 songs). Probably my three favourite albums but there a few other gems in here.

My introduction to the band was when I saw them support Nirvana at the King’s Hall in Belfast on 22 June 1992. Up to that point I hadn’t heard of them but after seeing them live they became a new band to start following.

Kurt Cobain held the band in very high esteem citing Bandswagonesque as his favourite album. It topped Spin magazine’s 1991 end-of-year poll for best album, beating Nirvana’s Nevermind, their Creation stablemates My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless, and R.E.M.’s Out of Time

It is very hard to describe what the band sound like. Their early sound embraces a type of proto-grunge on the first two albums – A Catholic Education and Bandwagonesque but they also owe a huge debt to the likes of Big Star and The Byrds which you can hear more in their sound in later albums.

Before Grand Prix came out, they were pretty much tagged into the alternative scene that was big on both sides of the Atlantic. Fallin (just missed out on my top 15) was a collaboration with American alternative hip hop trio De La Soul for the Judgment Night soundtrack featuring collaborations between well-known rock, metal and hip hop groups. The chorus was sampled from the song Free Fallin’ from Tom Petty’s 1989 solo album Full Moon Fever.

However hard people tried to pigeon hole the band, they were neither in the grunge scene nor did their fit into the Britpop scene by the time Grand Prix.

Around that time Liam Gallagher of labelmates Oasis called the band “the second best band in the world” — second only to Oasis. Songs from Northern Britain built on that success but they were far from a Britpop band.

The album title was a joking reference to Britpop, and everybody who thought we were part of that scene”. Norman Blake expanded on the title in 2016, commenting, “We just thought it sounded funny. No one calls Scotland “Northern Britain,” although technically it is.”

This is my top 15 Teenage Fanclub songs via Spotify. You can scroll down and enjoy all 15 tracks.

May Gigs

Continuing on from the April gigs, it was time to look at the month of May #gigoftheday.

This was a busy month gig wise over the years and at the end of the blog there is sort of mini-league table of the most seen acts over the years for the that month.

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You can read more about the the 6 gigs in May here.

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Top Performers
1. Bruce Springsteen (5)
2. And So I Watch You From Afar (3) & Teenage Fanclub (3)
3. Ash (2), The Breeders (2), The Undertones (2) and Catatonia (2)

April Gigs

With no gigs in nearly over a year since the COVID-19 pandemic started, I started looking back on my gig tickets and created a new almost daily post on Twitter, #gigoftheday.

This is a snapshot of all gigs that I have been to over the years in month of April.

Missed out on seeing these guys in 1994 but this gig made up for it.

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First time seeing both of these bands.

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You can spot the typo here! Should be American Hi-Fi.

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Having seen Nirvana in 1992 was curious to see what the tribute band were like. They weren’t bad.

First time seeing Therapy? do an acoustic set. One of the best gigs I have seen them do.

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A bittersweet moment as this would be the last time I would see Chris Cornell live who sadly died in 2017. RIP Chris.

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Bob Mould – #FaveArtistTop15

For the month of May and with lockdown easing for a lot of people @yesokwaitmaybe and @jasonsammis have brought the #FavArtist series down from 25 to 15.

This would be quite a challenge as I have gone for Bob Mould. Which an massive discography of this works from Hüsker Dü to Sugar and his solo material, 15 songs really isn’t going to cut it. So I have broke it down to five each which will give a fair balance of Bob’s output.

There isn’t much videos out there so I will do the top 15 below and at the end there will be a link to Spotify for you to check out the selections I picked.

I was pleased with the response on Twitter from fellow music fans and feel that the choices I have made were good ones. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did putting this together.

15. I Don’t Know You Anymore – Beauty & Ruin (2014)

I loved the video for this . Colin Meloy (of The Decemberists) swoops in and gives Mould some funny advice on how to reach the modern day masses. The sketch in the beginning is full of comic send-ups of modern culture, with Meloy giving Mould advice on how to properly announce a record on social media, utilizing everything the internet has to offer, from Facebook to Blorph. Mould portrays the straight man willingly, takes all the advice in stride, and begins work on making I Don’t Know You Anymore the hottest single out there.

The music video segment features Mould and his bandmates dressing up in genius bar style outfits, making deals with record store owners, and going out on the street with fliers, all in order to draw hype for their “one of a kind, limited edition single.” It’s a silly jab at tech fascination as he doesn’t actually offer anything digital, just the single packaged in an Apple Store box, but the crowd’s reaction to them at the end is priceless.

14. See a Little Light – Workbook (1989)

Following the demise of Hüsker Dü , Mould’s Workbook was a surprising U-turn, showcasing his ability to craft the same passionate pleas through the medium of twelve-string salutes. The uplifting, life-affirming See a Little Light may be a little too positive for Mould purists, but it’s an anthem in itself and still resonates today.

13. Could You Be The One? – Hüsker Dü Warehouse: Songs and Stories (1987)

Hüsker Dü at their melodic best . The last real gasp from a band that was about to hit the wall on their final album.

The video that was filmed for the song was the band’s only video that had them performing on a sound stage as opposed to featuring live clips of them playing. The song was also performed on The Late Show With Joan Rivers

12. The Descent – Silver Age (2012)

This was the real return everyone wanted – Mould at his punk-infused, bile-spitting best. The Descent was that first glimpse of the rekindled flame, a Sugar-esque six-string blast that’s perfectly anchored by Mould’s unbeatable rhythm section of Jon Wurster and Jason Narducy.

11. Makes No Sense at All – Hüsker Dü Flip Your Wig (1985)

Flip Your Wig is Mould’s favorite record from Hüsker Dü. The album was named after a Beatles board game! By this stage the band had signed to Warner Brothers but out of respect for their previous label, SST they released it with them.

Makes No Sense at All is a super simple song. One of those handful of songs in Mould’s catalogue that has so far stood the test of time and he never gets tired of paying it.

10. Sweet Serene – The Last Dog and Pony Show (1998)

Mould was tired of his imposed identity as the angry young man of rock. The Last Dog and Pony Show was a consolidation of his strengths – heart-heavy lyrics, pounding melodies and a load of guitars. Sweet Serene is the pick of the bunch, a ramshackle ride that’s aided by Mould’s twisting, turbo-charged fretwork.

9. Tilted – Sugar Beaster (1993)

At first listen you think Beaster is going to be an acoustic album but Come Around lures the listener into a false sense of security until Tilted starts. A headlong plunge with Mould’s vocals tripping over themselves in a futile attempt to keep pace as the guitars take the listener further down into the abyss at break-neck speed.

8. I Hate Alternative Rock Hubcap (1996)

In the wake of Smells Like Teen Spirit all you have to do is take a look at modern rock in 1995 and you can guess what Mould is rallying about. One band got it so right that the whole world changed, and in four years, everyone flogged it to death. In 1995 Mould wrote this song, there were a lot of bands where he thought, “I f**king hate this band and wish they would go away.” The original title was, I Hate F**king Alternative Rock and Wish It Would Go Away. It was a little long, so he shortened it.

7. JC Auto – Sugar Beaster (1993)

Despite Copper Blue’s success, its immediate aftermath left Mould burned out by overwork and watching his relationship with his manager/boyfriend slowly crumble. He channelled this angst into Beaster, a six-track mini-album that arrived seven months after Copper Blue, and served as that album’s dark afterbirth, its lyric sheet using religious symbolism and Catholic angst as a route to wider catharsis.

Every bit Copper Blue’s equal – but an undeniably tougher listen – Beaster peaked on JC Auto, in particular its chorus, “I look like Jesus Christ/ I act like Jesus Christ/ I know I know I know I know”, barked over a breeze block-wielding riff and repeated again and again, until it feels like punishment or penance.

Beaster reached No 3 in the UK albums chart.

6. Hardly Getting Over It – Hüsker Dü Candy Apple Grey (1986)

The lyrics are very literal. It’s a very clear picture of a family and mortality in its different forms — family who pass away and how one handles it when it happens. A song I can relate to following the death of my parents six months between each other.

5. Changes – Sugar Copper Blue (1992)

Copper Blue was NME’s album of the year. Cathal Coughlan formely of Microdisney and The Fatima Mansions reviewed it on the 25 July 1992 edition of the weekly music magazine, “Sort of restores your faith in human beings, really. I’d be surprised if that wasn’t Single Of The Week.”

He wasn’t far wrong. NME included it in their end of year compilation album of the same year.

4. New Day Rising – Hüsker Dü New Day Rising (1985)

New Day Rising is the best pop record a hardcore band has ever made. This feels like a very odd statement considering the almost vitriolic power behind hardcore, but that’s what makes New Day Rising, and Hüsker Dü exciting—that a band could be have this almost punishing power, yet still have a strong melodic backbone to their songs, even if said melodic backbone is draped in fuzz and pushed by an intangible force.

3. The Act We Act – Sugar Copper Blue (1992)

Mould’s second power trio saw him return to electric guitar, and the opening track to Sugar’s 1992 debut LP Copper Blue was overloaded with enough hooks, riffs and flourishes to fill a lesser artist’s entire album. The Act We Act suggested My Bloody Valentine applying their ear-melting assault to the 12-string jangle and chime of the Byrds. Its perfect balance of might and melody set the tone for the album’s embarrassment of riches.

2. Celebrated Summer – Hüsker Dü New Day Rising (1985)

Released five months after Zen ArcadeNew Day Rising built upon its predecessor’s melodic flowering. The album’s standout found Grant Hart’s knitting-machine drums powering a whirlwind of fuzz-toned major chords, as Mould waxed nostalgic about summers past: “Getting drunk out on the beach, or playing in a band/ And getting out of school meant getting out of hand.”

  1. If I Can’t Change Your Mind – SugarCopper Blue (1992)

The stand out track from the album. Bob Mould knows how to write great rock songs but he also creates some well crafted pop songs.

The perfect end to my top 15. This track got to no.30 in UK charts.

6 Days in May – a gigging diary

There used to be an old gig diary ad in NME years ago that you could go to a gig every night of the week.

Well this day in 2002 I literally done that by going to six gigs in a row.  I was just one short of making it seven.

By this stage I think I had too much time on my hands.  I was still single, and all my gigging friends had moved to London to work so that didn’t leave too many friends back in Belfast who shared the same music tastes.

So, I ended up going to gigs on my own which broke a taboo that I had because I always felt self-conscious about myself and didn’t want to go to gigs on myself.  The pattern used to follow with friends along the lines of “do you want to go and see such and such a band?” which they would reply “not interested or don’t like them” sort of answer.  Result – missed out on loads of gigs during the 1990s because I didn’t want to go on my own.

That all changed by 1999 as we were about to hit the new millennium my gig buddy friends were relocating to work in London.  There would be advantages of that too as I would soon be making regular trips to London for gigs.

So, in 2002 I went to six gigs.  All by myself and two of them in Dublin.  And this is how it all started.

Thursday 2 May 2002

Rocket from The Crypt – Conor Hall, Belfast

This was my one and only visit to what was the Art College which was part of the University of Ulster.  Many bands including Radiohead, Buzzcocks, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, The Wedding Present, Lush and Therapy? have all played here.  One band that was scheduled to play there was to be Nirvana on 9 December 2001.  There was a lot of dates that got cancelled from the winter European tour including both Irish shows at McGonagles in Dublin and Conor Hall in Belfast.  By the time they came back to Ireland the following year they would play the bigger venues like The Point Depot and King’s Hall.

Back to Rocket from the Crypt, they stopped by Belfast for a show here at Conor Hall touring their new album, Group Sounds.  I had seen the band the previous year at the Astoria in London and they were brilliant live.

There haven’t been any gigs on the campus in years and it has since then been redeveloped.   From what I remember about the gig, it was a great venue and I wish I had seen a few more bands here.

Friday 3 May 2002

Evan Dando – Limelight, Belfast

I loved The Lemonheads back in the 1990’s but I was late getting into them.  I only discovered them when they released It’s a Shame About Ray in 1992.  Little did I know that they had been to Belfast the year before in the Ulster Hall. 

However, this was an Evan Dando solo gig and not billed as a Lemonheads show but he done a mixture of solo material and played some well-known Lemonheads songs to the delight of the sold-out crowd.

Saturday 4 May 2002

The White Stripes, Dublin Castle

Time to hit the road to Dublin for two gigs which were part of the Heineken Green Energy Festival which traditionally takes place over the May Bank Holiday weekend throughout various venues in Dublin.

First up was The White Stripes at Dublin Castle who were touring their album White Blood Cells.  I first saw them at Witnness 2001 where they played in a tent the previous summer. 

This was my first visit to Dublin Castle which is in Dame Street and is literally just across the road from the Olympia Theatre.  There is a rich history about the place as this was the seat of the British government’s administration in Ireland until 1921.  Usually hosts the inauguration of each President of Ireland and other State receptions so it was a unique setting for a gig.

The concert was outdoors in the courtyard and The White Stripes brought their own handpicked support bill with The Von Bondies, The Dirtbombs and The Detroit Cobras.    It was a fantastic show and the band had come a long way since their Irish debut at Witnness in the tent.

Sunday 5 May 2002

Muse and The Hives – Dublin Castle.

By the time I had bought a ticket for The Hives they were down for a headline show at the Ambassador Theatre at the top of O’Connell Street.    This venue was originally one of Dublin’s longest running cinemas from 1897 up until 1999.  Between 2001 and 2008 it hosted gigs and I have been to quite a few here.

When Muse got announced for Dublin Castle on same day that The Hives were to play the Ambassador for some reason the promoters changed things and The Hives ended up as support to Muse. Both bands were enjoying a high profile at the time.

Muse were touring their new album Origin of Symmetry from 2001 and sold-out Dublin Castle in no time.  Whilst in Dublin, I took the opportunity to visit my friend Seamus who lived in Dublin and called round to see him before heading to the gig.

By the time I got to the gig, the front row was completely full and there was an extra barrier.  I can’t remember if that was the same set up from the previous night as I was closer to the stage for The White Stripes.

Both bands were amazing live, but I thought The Hives would have been better indoors.  I wouldn’t be disappointed as I also had a ticket to see them in Belfast!

Monday 6 May 2002

The Hives – Limelight, Belfast

After staying overnight in Dublin, it was time to make the journey back to Belfast for gig number five.  A much smaller venue than what they were originally supposed to play in Dublin, from an old cinema to a castle courtyard, the Limelight was the perfect place to see the band.  It was very sweaty, and everybody had a great time.  People were leaving with grins on their faces.  It was like you had just witnessed the best concert you have ever been too.  The band didn’t disappoint, and I enjoyed this set more than the previous night in Dublin. One of the best gigs I have been to the in the Limelight.

Tuesday 7 May 2002

Ikara Colt – Limelight, Belfast

By the time I got to day six I was knackered.  Being out for the five previous nights had taken its toll on me and I was just tired by this stage.  Ikara Colt released Chat and Business in 2002 and were influenced by the likes of Sonic Youth and The Fall.

Support from the evening came from The Parkinson’s originally from Portugal but based in London.  NME compared them to The Stooges and called them “Europe’s snotty, messed up answer to The Strokes.

From what I remember about the gig it was the only one that I had been too over the six days that wasn’t sold out.  Think it was quite a sparse crowd attending this.  Even the support act was a bit intimidating coming off the stage and mingling with the crowd!  By the end of the night, I think I left feeling a bit indifferent probably the one gig of the six nights that I didn’t enjoy as much.

Since then, I have never quite hit the same heights of numerous gigs like that again.  Last time it would be four nights when the MTV music awards came to Belfast in 2011 and there was lots happening around the city for that.  Now I settle for one gig and maybe two as a bonus!