CULT CLASSIC: THE RADIATORS-GHOSTOWN.
Cult Classic: The Radiators-Ghostown.
When The Ramones played at the Roundhouse in London on the ‘4th’ of July 1976, this was a catalyst for punk movement. Many of the future leading lights of the punk movement have since claimed to have been present that night. In the audience were apparently future members of Generation X, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Adverts, The Slits and X-Ray Spex. They watched the as the support act The Stranglers worked their way through their set. Little did they know how important a band The Stranglers, would be or the longevity they would go on to enjoy.
As The Stranglers left the stage, there was a sense of anticipation in the air about The Ramones. Very few people had seen them live but some had read about them in the music press. Others had only heard third hand about The Ramones and speculated about what was about to unfold. The speculation was nothing compared to the reality of The Ramones live at the Roundhouse on the ‘4th’ of July 1976. This was a seminal moment for the nascent British punk scene. After seeing The Ramones legendary concert, many of the future leading lights of the punk scene went on to form bands.
They weren’t alone. Up and down Britain, new bands were formed on an almost daily basis and the punk rock movement exploded. It was the musical movement British youths had been waiting for, as it allowed them to vent their frustration at life in battered Britain in 1976. Soon, it was a similar situation elsewhere.
This included across the Irish Sea in Dublin, where the punk movement was also born in July 1976. Just like Britain, the Republic of Ireland’s economy was far from healthy. Less that fifty percent of school leavers were fortunate enough to find a job. The rest was known as the “unemployed generation.” Adding to their woes, and that of the rest of the Irish youth was the lack of recreational facilities. They had been overlooked and failed by their government.
Some fell into a life of crime, while others made the journey “across the water,” to British cities where many Irish people had settled. This they hoped would lead to a better life. However, the prospects were no better there, and often, the natives were far from friendly. As a result, many young Dubliners decided to stay were they were. It was a case of “better the devil you know.”
Some of the young Dubliners that stayed in the city of their birth would become involved in the city’s nascent punk scene after July 1976. This was ground zero for Irish punk and many young Dubliners would form bands, found independent record labels and publish or write for fanzines. A thriving and vibrant scene was about to take shape over the next year or so. All this was partly due to Ireland’s first punk band The Radiators From Space. They issued a call to arms and asked the Irish youth to unleash their creativity.
That is what the Irish youth proceeded to do over the next few months and years. They discovered hidden talents that had passed unnoticed at schools across the country. This wouldn’t have happened if it hadn’t been for the band who are credited as Ireland’s very first punk band, The Radiators From Space, whose debut album TV Tube Heart is the perfect entrée for newcomers to the ban d who were formed in 1976, and were unlike most punk bands.
It’s safe to say that The Radiators From Space were a much more cerebral and literate band that the majority of punk bands. They were intelligent and didn’t indulge in the clichéd, vacuous posturing of many of the British punk groups who used controversy as a means of self promotion. That wasn’t the way that The Radiators From Space operated.
The Radiators From Space were formed in Dublin in 1976, and their early lineup included Philip Chevron, Pete Holidai, Steve Rapid (Steve Averill), Jimmy Crashe and Mark Megaray. From their early days, it was obvious that were different from other Irish and indeed, British punk bands.
Not only were The Radiators From Space cerebral and literate, they also had an almost encyclopaedic knowledge of music and musical history. Partly, this was because Steve Rapid’s father brought back music and American music magazines from his regular trips to New York. These magazines Steve Rapid and the rest of the band poured over, developing and honing their knowledge of music. Meanwhile, The Radiators From Space listened to groups like Hawkwind, MC5, The Deviants and The Stooges, right through to pop, rock, subversive German cabaret and traditional Irish music. This The Radiators From Space regarded as their musical education, and unlike many other punk bands, they didn’t reject this music when punk arrived. Instead, it was part of The Radiators From Space’s musical DNA as they moved forward.
Having formed The Radiators From Space, the band announced that they had developed their own manifesto. This had all been thought out and carefully considered as The Radiators From Space announced that they wanted to transform the Irish youth from consumers to producers. The Radiators From Space knew that the Irish youth were capable of forming bands and record labels, founding fanzines and putting on club nights. They would issue a rallying call, and this encouraged the Irish youth to become producers not just of music, but create a fledgling music and entertainment industry. Part of this inspirational rallying call was also about enjoyment and pleasure.
This wasn’t easy in Ireland in 1976, where poverty and unemployment were rife. Many youths were from broken homes and there was a massive problem with illiteracy. There was also ‘The Troubles’, which blighted both sides of the Irish border. Many Irish youths didn’t want to get involved in the conflict, as they had watched as friends and acquaintances got caught up in it. Some ended up in prison, while others were injured or even killed. That was a road they weren’t going down, and the only rallying call they listened to was The Radiators From Space.
They were at the heart of the nascent punk movement, with The Radiators From Space playing live and ran and published their own fanzine Raw Power. This was an outlet for the band’s manifesto and allowed them to discuss their plans for an Alternative Ireland. This wasn’t a political movement. Instead, it was about making a better life for young Irish people. The Radiators From Space, wasted to inspire and foster a feeling of solidarity. Readers were encouraged to try to find pleasure during each day. Sometimes, readers found love, and a few even found love across the religious divide. This was controversial and indeed dangerous in Ireland in 1976.
Before long, The Radiators From Space and their fanzine was coming in for criticism from the Catholic Church. When Father Brian D’Arcy, a spokesperson for the Catholic church wrote about out The Radiators From Space and their fanzine Raw Power, he didn’t encourage their endeavours or creativity. Instead, Father Brian D’Arcy sneered contemptuously of The Radiators From Space and their fanzine Raw Power. It seemed that The Radiators From Space had the Catholic church rattled with their call to arms as a largely secular generation look for an alternative to organised religion. However, The Radiators From Space had another means of reaching an even wider audience…their music.
Although The Radiators From Space were activists and creatives, they were also musicians. That was what they hoped would offer them an escape from the grinding poverty and unemployment that besmirched Ireland, and indeed Britain. Music just like football and boxing was still an escape for working class youths in 1976.
It was a similar case in Britain, where punk bands were being formed almost daily. Many of them lacked talent and charisma and were ill-suited to what was still the entertainment industry. By comparison, those that encountered The Radiators From Space found them engaging and intelligent. They were also talented, and a cut above the average punk band.
After a while, The Radiators From Space wanted to embark upon a recording career. They were no different from punk bands in Britain, America and Australia. For punk bands releasing a single was a rite of passage and for others would be a reminder of their brief brush with the music industry. Most didn’t get any further than that and disappeared without trace. However, releasing a record in Britain was much easier than in Ireland.
Unlike many capital cities, Dublin didn’t have a music industry by 1976. There were neither major labels nor recording studios. Some bands travelled across the border to Belfast to record singles prior to the punk era. That was the past; and given the DIY spirit of punk, bands in Britain had recorded singles without going near a recording studio. They used basic equipment and transformed garages or basements into makeshift studios.
One option for all Irish bands had been to pack their bags and travel to London, where they would try to forge a career. The lucky ones like Rory Gallagher and Thin Lizzy went on to sign recording contracts, and became Ireland’s most successful musical exports. However, not all bands wanted to move to London, and that included The Radiators From Space during the early part of their career.
They were at the centre of Dublin’s scene and realised that something special was starting to take shape. Across Ireland, a new wave of bands, writers, fanzine publishers, promoters, record label owners and DJs were becoming part of the country’s burgeoning music scene. This included Eamon Carr and Jackie Hayden, who had founded the independent label Midnite Records.
The pair was also friendly with a trio of Irish expats living in London, where they were part of the music industry. Ted Caroll was from the Republic of Ireland, while his friend and colleague Roger Armstrong was from Northern Ireland. Both lived and breathed music and were cut from the same cloth as Eamon Carr and Jackie Hayden. Both Ted Caroll and Roger Armstrong were musical entrepreneurs who had embraced the DIY principal and owned Chiswick Records. They kept in touch with booking agent Paul Charles, another Irish expat who still kept his finger on the pulse in the Irish music scene. He booked many of the top Irish bands and was part of The Radiators From Space inner circle.
Of all the Irish bands, Paul Charles was especially taken with The Radiators From Space. They were the only punk band who managed their own affairs. This was just a continuation of the DIY spirit The Radiators From Space had tried so hard to foster. It’s also likely given The Radiators From Space encyclopaedic knowledge of music that they were wary of music managers and would rather manage their own affairs. This was about to work in their favour.
In 1977, The Radiators From Space signed to Chiswick Records. Unlike many labels, Chiswick Records didn’t require the band to move to London. Instead, The Radiators From Space could continue to live in Dublin.
With the deal signed and sealed, The Radiators From Space began work on their debut album TV Tube Heart. Before the album was recorded, The Radiators From Space their debut single in May 1977. The song they chose was Television Screen with Love Detective on the B-Side of their debut single. It was Sounds magazine record of the week, and was a memorable way for The Radiators From Space to announce their arrival.
TV Tube Heart.
It was a mixture of original songs and Party Line’s version of the traditional song The Radiators From Space. TV Tube Heart was very much a group effort with the five members of the band having penned the twelve original songs.
When recording began of TV Tube Heart began on ‘22nd’ June 1977, with Roger Armstrong took charge of production. The Radiators From Space’s rhythm section featured drummer Jimmy Crashe, bassist Mark Megaray and guitarists Phil Chevron and Pete Holidai. Adding the lead vocal was Steve Rapid. Eventually, TV Tube Heart was completed by August 1977.
On the ‘9th’ of September 1977, The Radiators From Space played a showcase gig at The Vortex. During a blistering set, they played Prison Bars, Contact, Party Line, Press Gang and Enemies, which feature on the newly released 40th Anniversary Version of TV Tube Heart. These tracks feature The Radiators From Space at the peak of their powers.
A month later, TV Tube Heart was released by Chiswick Records on October the ‘7th’ 1977. Critics were won over by The Radiators From Space’s debut album TV Tube Heart. Critics spoke as one, praising TV Tube Heart. That came as no surprise given the reception their debut single had received.
The Radiators From Space had followed this up with an accomplished album of pop punk that wasn’t short of anthems and social comment. From the howling feedback that opens Television Screen, it’s a case of sit back and enjoy the ride. It’s a memorable way to open the album, as The Radiators From Space combined elements of garage rock, pop, punk, rock and even rock ’n’ roll. Unlike many punk bands, The Radiators From Space prove dto be talented songwriters and musicians.
Nowadays, TV Tube Heart is punk classic, and a cut above many of the third-rate albums that were being released. The Radiators From Space had made their mark on the punk scene on both sides of the Irish Sea. Surely, it was only a matter of time before one of the majors came calling?
Two months later, and The Radiators From Space released their sophomore single Enemies in on Chiswick Records in December 1977. Just like its predecessor Television Screen, it won the approval of critics. Things were looking good for The Radiators From Space, who critics said had a bright future in front of them.
Nearly two years later, and The Radiators as they were now known were still signed to Chiswick Records. They had moved to London earlier in 1979. This was a big step for the band, leaving their home city behind.
By then, The Radiators had written the ten tracks that became Ghostown. It was recorded during 1978, with The Radiators now a quartet featured a rhythm section of drummer Jimmy Crashe, bassist Mark Megaray and guitarist Pete Holidai. Phil Chevron switched between guitar and synths and took charge of the lead vocal at Good Earth Soundhouse. London. Taking charge of production was American producer Tony Visconti.
Once Ghostown was recorded, its release was delayed for the best part of a year. By then, Million Dollar Hero (In a Five and Ten Cents Store) has been released as single in April 1978, with Let’s Talk About The Weather following in June 1979. The singles were a tantalising taste of Ghostown, which was released in the summer of 1979.
When the album was released on August ’10th’ 1979, it was to overwhelming critical acclaim. Critics called the music on Ghostown ambitious and literate, with tracks like Million Dollar Hero (In a Five and Ten Cents Store), Let’s Talk About The Weather and Kitty Ricketts which was released as a single on the ‘31st August 1979. Along with Song of the Faithful Departed and Walking Home Alone Again these were the highlights of Ghostown, which some critics were calling The Radiators’ finest hour.
While some critics, Ghostown was The Radiators e finest hour, Others sill believed that TV Tube was their best album. What was clear was that The Radiators From Space had released two genre classics. However, their sophomore album was ambitious and literate and features a band whose star was in the ascendancy in 1979.
Sadly, two years later in 1981, The Radiators split-up. It was the end of an era for what many regard as Dublin and indeed Ireland’s first punk band.
The Radiators were reunited in 1987 and were together until they spilt for the second time in 1989. They were reunited in 2004, and are still together today During that period, they’ve released two albums 2006s Trouble Pilgrim and Sound City Beat in 2012. It was another five years before The Radiators From Space returned to the studio and rerecorded some of their songs that featured on TV Tube Heart which were billed as Live In The Studio.
Despite releasing two albums after reuniting Ghostown is regarded as a landmark album and a genre classic. It features The Radiators who were punk pioneers and nowadays are regarded by many as Ireland’s first ever punk band. Their sophomore album Ghostown showcases one of the best and most accomplished punk bands who were a cut above the competition. By comparison, many of the British punk bands, who were a rag-bag of chancers, charlatans, publicity seekers and talentless no-hopers. Meanwhile, across the Irish Sea, The Radiators were cerebral, literate, inspirational and had a social conscience. They were also one of the leading lights of the Irish punk scene and recorded two true genre classics TV Tube Heart and Ghostown.
Cult Classic: The Radiators-Ghostown.