Tag Archives: bands that changed a life

Bands That Changed a Life – Against ME

Bands That Changed A life – Against Me

The title of this is slightly misleading. Some bands provided direction in my life at a very young age. Some pointed me down certain roads and offered me the chance to travel with them. Some had great music. Some I was ready to die for.

Well not really but figuratively so. The first time I heard Against Me was their debut album on No Idea Records, Reinventing Axl Rose. This was 2002 and I’d already spent a life sentence listening to punk rock. I’d formed my ideas, I’d chosen the independent road road of veganism, no alcohol and diy but when the first note of that first song, ‘pints of guinness make you strong’ cam on, I was completely blown away.

The songs were stories of the day – with the politics of starving and it’s lines “It’s time for real world politics, economics, history, math and english. there are some of us who have, and some go without” My daughter had just turned three and we used to sing along wildly to those ‘Anarcho Punks are Mysterious’.

Hope had just published ‘Document: A story of Hope’ and I needed to get over to some shops in the Uk with it so I co-incided my trip to Bunker records, brighton, with an Against Me gig. It was a small packed to capacity venue that had no need for stage or barrier and the whole couple of hundred of us sang at the very very top of our voices “We rock, because it’s us against them, we found out own reasons to sing, and it’s so much less confusing when lines are drawn like that, when people are either consumers or revolutionaries, enemies or friends” I was ready for the fight. I was ready to be led a new way.

I was as excited as I had been when seeing the Pleasure Cell all those years before, or Fugazi in McGonagles.

This was THAT good.

And then I went home and spread the word. Soon after they came to Ireland. City Arts Centre was the venue as they sang of the revolution. We booked a babysitter for the night and sang strong. Against Me were the band where we all sang along, together as friends. That feeling of energy is hard to capture in words but it is an exhiliration that happens infrequently with music. It is our drug, I suppose.

More and more people wanted to listen to Against Me and the band felt that No Idea records wasn’t able to cope with the demand and they brought out the next two albums on Fat Wreck – As the Eternal Cowboy and Searching For a Former Clarity. With the second Fat Wreck release there were signs that things were changing.

In Unprotected Sex with Multiple Partners Tom (as she was then) sang of “how long is this really going to last” as it became a band that needed to write songs to pay their bills. You could feel the pressure coming on and it finally popped when Sire Records signed the band. The backlash hit hard and heavy. I was disappointed they went off my road but it was totally their choice and I respect any band for that. I find it ironic when people in full-time jobs or those who have made lifestyle choices rally against a band because they have chosen a route not agreeable to them. Especially those who believe in freedom of choice.

I’m torn as to whether it’s a pity or not that their debut major record label release is their worst. On the next album, White Crosses Tom (still Tom) explained “I was a teenage anarchist, looking for a revolution” and we sang along “Do you remember when you were young and you wanted to set the world on fire” but he then goes on to say “the scene got too rigid, it was a mob mentality, they set their rifle sights on me” which is such a shame. What a horrible way for someone who wrote so many great songs to feel. But tom was searching out for her real identity and finally emerged after leaving Sire Records as Laura Jane Grace. She had been dealing with gender dysphoria since childhood and in 2012 finally came out as transgender. Their next album (most recent studio one too) was entitled Transgender Dysphoria Blues and is a concept album about a trans prostitute.

Against me still play sporadic gigs and Laura Jane has a solo tour coming up. I still remember that gig in Brighton and when I need to give an explanation of what music can achieve I hark back to 200 people in a packed room of strangers ready to embrace as if we had seen the greatest sporting achievement of our lives.


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Bands That Changed a life – The Pleasure Cell

Bands that saved a life
The Pleasure Cell

Picture the scene. A boy with an attitude. Wanting to change a world be believes is coming to get him. Him and his punk mates. Only. Everyone over 21 is out to get him. Noone understands. Only when his music is playing is he happy. It’s 1985 and Dublin is grey. School means nothing. There’s very few jobs anyway. As a kid this boy loved sport. Played all day. Then punk rock became his training sessions. Bass guitar and plectrums replaced footballs and boots. Writing letters became his passion. Writing to people in bands. Waiting for those postal deliveries. Twice a day.

Of course the distraction of school existed. One day there was a small piece in Hot Press magazine about a band called The Pleasure Cell. It seemed interesting. The band were singing abut life in Finglas and listened to English counterparts like new Model Army. The lead singer was a recovering heroin addict and was happy to discuss it. They were giving some lunchtime talks in Bolton Street College. School attendance would be a problem, Of course that turned into no problem as a walk into town on the day of the Bolton Street gig was the only wise thing. Worry about school afterwards.

And so I trooped into Bolton Street and was blown away by the honesty of the three playing members and 1 non playing member of the band. As someone who didn’t drink swimming above water in a sea of alcohol that was my community I wanted in. Then the band played a set. I was rooted to my set. I wanted to go up and hug the 4 lads. Thanks, I’ve found what I’m looking for.

After that I went to see them play ahenever and wherever. They were so inclusive and encouraging in all I did. The band I was in at the time, Kill Devil Hill, played a mutated psychobilly sonud. It was fun but I was never really part of it. When the Pleasure cell were going to appear on Irelands biggest tv programme (most tv sets in the country had this show on every week) Noel was going to sing proudly wearing his homemade Kill Devil Hill t-shirt. I hadn’t the heart to tell him the night before when he finished it that we had split up that day. I did tell him and he wore his shirt buttoned over iot on the night.

They fused the Clash and new Model Army and had some rousing songs. Whether singing about police violence, changing your world or screaming for a brighter future they ploughed an independent route. Their self-released New Age single came out in 1988 on their own Statement label. With the single they issued a brick when sending it to the press. Do with this as you will.

Grey Dublin held little allure for people wishing to play music in the 80’s and the band headed to London, saaadly for me. When I travelled to see them in Hammersmith Clarendon they seemed to think that image might help them obtain some sort of record deal. As they squatted around Hammersmith they practiced and played wherever possible but never quite made that breakthrough. When they left Dublin they played to a packed Teachers Club, that was their highlight. Sold it out on their own merits.

After that they became one of the many thousands who emigrated, lost in the dreams of a better workd outside green and grey Ireland. They left a huge mark on me and when we were putting things together as Hope Promotions / Collective I endeavoured to emulate the Pleasure Cell philosophy at their gig. Greet people as they come in, treat them as you would wish to be treated. That way we can all be in this together


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Bands That Changed a life – The Wedding Present

Bands That Changed A Life – The Wedding Present


“TWPGeorgeBest” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:TWPGeorgeBest.jpg#/media/File:TWPGeorgeBest.jpg

I’ve started this three times and never seem to get past the first Wedding present album, George Best. it’s just a classic and it captures a wonderful time for me.

This series is a celebration of bands that have had a profound impact on me and no doubt the Weddoes are one of these. My initial contact was through the old fashioned letters and postcards way. It was 1987, I had just started getting used to not having to give all my money over to my parents and was sending away for fanzines, reading music papers and buying records in Dublins independent record shops. I took a day trip by Ferry to Liverpool to go to probe records and one of the snags I took home was George Best.

The cover of that record became iconic for me. Simplistic, it featured a picture of the footballer George Best and the name of the band in white on a green background. Simplistic but exciting. George Best was the sort of footballer that football fans loved. He didn’t always play by the rules and wanted to have a good time but he always had flair. In a sense you could say he was a punk footballer without the politics, anti establishment and never one to do something he didn’t want. Putting him on your album sleeve was captivating.

Of course there was the music. Guitars jangling for ever with a trebley sound that never quite got to screeching but sure did wail. Backed by a solid bass and drums and Gedge’s voice, musch like George best, in its own world. The songs weren’t about fighting a system that oppressed, they were love songs. Songs that ordinary people could relate to. I quoted “What did your last servant die of” somany times, whispered it under my breath as I struggled with the concept of work. I never considered them to be love songs, those types of tunes were for people in pop bands, clammering for stardom. These were tales of everday life and relationships formed theis for many. They were the ying to the redskins yang of creating a better way of living.

They came to Dublin and I proudly wore my three balloons badge, no need for a band name. Their McGonagles gig in 1988 stands out as a guitar fuelled blitz in my memory. I travelled to London to see them and remember ringing up David Gedge asking where I would get a ticket. He had sent me a postcard previously and I viewed this act of kindness as an invitation. I didn’t think he probably does this for everyone not expecting them to ring. Well I did and will never forget how accommodating he was. Amazingly he was equally magnanamous when I called back asking could my frined come to.

pete weddoes

But that’s the sort of band they were and still are. No pretence. Soon after we travelled different roads. RCA records got hold of the band and, although I sill listened to the songs, I had made a decision to support those bands on a different journey. My music was one of diy and independent labels, that was my community. Of course people can sme and go into this community and David Gedge is back. Playing some gigs with Wedding Present and also in Cinerama those guitars are still jangling and the pretence is still miles away.

gedge weddoes

Get the latest info on the band here



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Bands that changed a life – The Ex


I will never forget the first time the ex came to Dublin. We had been putting on gigs for a few years and had seen many troubadors in those initial days. My parents had a world opened up to them they never knew existed as bands came for lunch before their Dublin gigs. The biggest problem was getting places for bands to stay. Thankfully there were some very kind Dublin punks who opened their rented spaces for bands to lie their heads for the evening. When the Ex and Dog Faced Hermans came to town Fergus and Michael were the willing hosts.

Usually when a band drove it was some sort of van, we had the membranes and their multi coloured affair and the people from working class northside of Dublin were suitably intrigued. Howev er the extook on another dimension. Of course it is 25 years but my memory is of a fire engine, parked on the street with people spilliing out.

That kind of sums the ex up, majestic and unpredictable. I had some of their records and they were better educators than my history teacher in school. The Spanish Civil War, world poverty and the plight of the Kurds were all brought to my attention by the ex. My wall at home had a few press clippings and pictures but in the middle of all this was a huge poster of an archetypal business man in a suit withpockets out to give an impression of being penniless. The header stated, “Home taping is killing music…..” and the footer proudly read “… And about time too.”

The sentiments were spot on. Sure we taped records by bands but it wasn’t to get around buying the album it was to check out the music. If we liked it we tried to get the record. Major labels were concerned at loss of sales and us punks were ok with that.

So the ex took their bass guitar and drums and made their tribal sound. It was cutting but still had a beat. It wasn’t all about chords but guitar solos were still very much down the list. Majestic. When I was playing bass in my band I tried to copy that sharp sound, i never worried too much about notes but more the pounding rhythm, it was a pale imitation but each time I went on stage I thought about the Ex and the sound they made.

25 years later they were back in Dublin, as good as ever with some line up changes along the way but they have lost none of that abandon from the early days.

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