Via The Medusa Fora:
Philip Chevron wrote:
If anybody has a copy to loan us – however rough sounding – of the infamous 1985 Pogues press conference at RTE, Dublin, please let me know. This was the event which was broadcast on BP Fallon’s radio show – the BP Fallon Orchestra – and was the Pogues’ introduction to the massed gents and ladies of the Irish media. This was the occasion the concertina player Noel Hill, in particular, called our music “unlovely” and “an abortion” and we were, in general, accused of the most base paddywhackery imaginable. Basically, had Yeats been there, he would almost certainly have thundered “you have disgraced yourselves again” at the assembled Irish journos and musos. Anyway, a fella called Sean Campbell, who has written a number of scholarly theses on Irish rock, wishes to revisit the moment and figure how it now stands, 25 years later, against what was subsequently known about the Pogues’ work and general impact. He has had no luck tracking down a tape of the show from any of the potential sources, including BP Fallon and RTE themselves, so he has sought out my help. As this press conference is perhaps the Pogues’ equivalent of Dylan at Newport, I’m quite curious myself to see how it stands after all these years. So if you have a copy of the radio programme, in any format, or know somebody who has, can you please drop me a message via this site’s Personal Message system. I’d very much appreciate it and would of course, compensate for your help.
John Foyle answers..
The show was recorded on Thursday Sept.5 ’85, broadcast on Sat. Sept 21 ’85. The ‘public’ tickets were issued via a ‘phone-in on the Dave Fanning radio show on RTE 2 FM on Tues.Sept. 3rd. I was interested in the Pogues both because I liked their records and because of their involvement with Elvis Costello.
Arriving at the RTE radio centre in the leafy environs of Montrose in south Dublin, at about 8PM on a sunny Thursday evening , after a day’s work as a store’s assistant in a department store , I seem to remember there being a bit of a gathering of teenagers at the steps up to the buildings entrance. A uniformed man had a list of winners of the ‘phone in. Contrary to the assurance I had been given when I was, apparently, amongst the first 40 phone-ins my name was not on the list. I wasn’t going to protest much. I was mere years from a strict education environment which was succeeded by a equally draconian work situation. In short, I was used to doing what I was told and deferring to authority. I must have shown disappointment or something because all of a sudden the peak capped jobsworth made a grumbling noise, decided he’d had his little power trip and said something like ‘Oh gone on , if you want’. It was a messy start to the evening.
We were ushered into a semi basement studio; I don’t remember any natural light. Rows of plastic stacking chairs faced elevated tables. On each seat was a faded photocopy of a Sunday Tribune article, by BP Fallon, about the Pogues . Microphones jostled for space with glasses, ashtrays and bottles of alcohol. I can’t remember if The Pogues and Frank Murray and BP Fallon were already seated, along with the journalists/ musicians etc. I knew no one else there. My work colleagues were much older and I had little contact with school friends who were all, unlike me, at college. Music, and related matters, were all that made my then rather isolated and miserable life worthwhile. I burden you with all this rather mawkish stuff in an effort to put into context my contribution to what followed.
The c.35 minutes of ‘discussion’ that was broadcast , interspersed with tracks from early Pogues releases, was a masterpiece of editing of about an hour of what can only be called attrition. The Pogues sat behind the tables, drinking and smoking and giving us sideways glares. We now know, of course, that they were all young people dealing as best they could with fame and its attendant pressures. Recourse to stimulants of all kinds were an understandable means of doing so. Most of us ‘members of the public’ were used to getting our ‘pop stars’ neatly packaged, with tidy quotes in coherent profiles. What we were seeing was a bit of a shock.
The tone was set when, in a moment unbroadcasted, a Pogue ( not Shane ; Spider , maybe?) barked at us ‘ Were ye expecting a few songs?’ and turned and smirked at whomever was next to him. No one really responded, besides maybe a few half hearted ‘yeahs’. BP then made some intro comments, stuff like saying we shouldn’t swear etc. The programme then commenced, with the various exchanges, as spliced together for broadcast. The sense of hostility was stifling. Every exchange was laden down with the anticipation of a scowl and a slap down. A few cogent points were made, mostly by Frank Murray and Phil Chevron.
As broadcast my contribution is rather pivotal. It didn’t seem so on the night, just another scrappy aside really. My simplistic obsession with all the errata of musical matters made me ask , in a series of strangulated verbiage, Cait about her Pride Of The Cross recordings. She briefly and contemptuously slapped me down. Knowing now what’s known about her stressed out life at the time, it’s understandable. At the time it hurt, and it must really have shown. My faltering voice on the recording is aural illustration. Looking back to the control room , I could see Dave Fanning looking down , mouth agape , hand to his chin. Only for a later contribution it probably would not have been broadcast. As the proceedings wrapped up Joe Ambrose (a music management figure/character about town of the time) decided to put the boot into Cait, specifically citing her response to my question. The infamous manners of a pig comment was made, Cait made her ‘oink oink’ response and a perfect sound bite just had to be used. Amid embarrassed looks all round BP made some finishing comments and we all got up, amidst noisy chair legs and jeery comments, to leave. Joe Ambrose saw me passing him, broke away from a conversation and said something to me like ‘ she couldn’t be let get away with that’. I mumbled something and moved on, just dying to get out of the place.
I haven’t thought about this show in years. Looking back I’m so glad I’m no longer the person I was then. We’ve all done a lot growing up since then. As to whether it’s a ‘Dylan/Newport’ type landmark moment I really cannot say – I just do not have the required remove to do so.
And Philip replies:
And indeed, I’ve just realised, hearing it for the first time ever, that some of the more interesting hostile exchanges – on both sides of the argument – were edited out. Notoriously, at one point, Andrew challenged one of the invited audience members – I’m afraid I can’t remember who, though conceivably it’s Noel Hill or Joe Ambrose again – ‘what it comes down to basically, is are you a better fucker than me’, reducing the entire debate down to something of a non sequitur on sexual prowess, which is scarcely less elevated than where it was already pitched, but I suppose it was naive of me to assume RTE would ever let it through. It did, however, give a better measure of just how heated the whole thing actually became, and why the episode caused such bad blood. The hostility towards the band had been growing for weeks and, while BP Fallon thoughtfully provided a number of people who spoke eloquently in the band’s favour, we definitely felt ambushed by the negative questioning, which is why, Shane and Frank Murray apart, we are so poor at addressing some of the more valid questions. We were, I think, genuinely shellshocked by the whole thing, and Cait’s bad temper only managed to confuse the issue, toppling the whole thing over into farce.
Still, ‘s’rocknroll, innit……I’d quite forgotten it was the moment Terry joined the band.