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Dick Tracy and the Green Disaster

Domhnall McDermott

Putting the word Disaster in the title of your band is asking for trouble but in the case of Dick Tracy and the Green Disaster the only shame is that they could not also include the words comic and tragic. For here was a band that in their own words had "limited talent and no ambition". What they did have however was a real energy that helped them pack local venues and even gain some critical acclaim from journalists who really should have known better.

In 1987 a review in Hot Press summed up the band quite well:

"In fact considered in any half-sane musical context the Disaster can't play for toffee. What they do have is a daredevil willingness to have a bash at almost anything."

The same Journalist in 1992 came up with the following and I can only imagine he was as drunk as the band when he wrote it.

"This was rock and roll the way the bishops never meant it to be. Compared to Dick Tracy and the Green Disaster every other rock band in Ireland is pissing in the wind."

The Radiators from SpaceFormed around the larger than life character that was Domhnall MacDermott, the original line up was Domhnall, vocals, Willie Doherty, vocals, Gerry McCauley, guitar, Seamus Cassidy, guitar, Tony Vail, bass and John Coyle on Drums. There followed a number of line up changes that included Domhnall's brother Feargal, Colm McKeever, Tommy Olphert and Ciaran McLaughlin who went on to drum in That Petrol Emotion but the ethos of the band never changed. Drink, play and have fun doing it. The band did manage to get support slots with The Radiators From Space who were then emerging out of the Dublin scene and with, of all bands, Horslips, at the Culdaff Arms. By all accounts this was a legendary performance.

The band's "back catalogue" comprises one studio tape of the infamous "Kevin Mahon" (think the Skids TV Stars), a tribute to the Derry City player. Rumour has it that the recording was so bad that the local radio station asked people to pledge money to charity before they would take it off air. A small fortune was donated. The final line up was Domhnall MacDermott, Gerry McCauley, Mickey Griffiths (often drunk, rarely sober) and Niall McKeever. They continued to perform sporadically in the late eighties and early nineties until the untimely death of Domhnall MacDermott in September 1994 at the age of thirty five.

Dick Tracy and The Green Disaster will never be remembered for their contribution to popular music but what they did have in abundance was the punk spirit of get up and do it. By doing so they encouraged others to follow and for this alone they deserve their place in Derry's Rock and Roll hall of fame.

The following tribute from John O'Neill of the Undertones is a testimony to the personal contribution made by Domhnall MacDermott and to the fondness with which he is remembered by many.

"At the start of 1976 The Undertones (although, we didn't really have a name at that point) were a considerably different band from the one that ended the year thanks mainly to one person, Domhnall MacDermott. Although 1977 is seen as the watershed year for punk in Britain and Ireland with the release of records by the Sex Pistols and the Clash, it cannot be stressed enough how important the first Ramones LP was the previous year. It polarised music fans between those who 'got it' and those who didn't.

Up until that point the music scene was split between so called album bands such as Supertramp, Genesis and E.L.P. etc and the bland MOR muzak that was played on daytime BBC Radio One shows. There were a few exceptions in David Bowie and Roxy Music as well as John Peel's nightime show, but if you were young and white and looking for something to relate to, it was easier to identify with the so called golden era of rock'n'roll of the fifties and sixties than most of what was going on in contemporary music.

The N.M.E. was also highly influential in emphasising this. Highly critical of the self-indulgence of the lumbering progressive rock acts, it harked back to an earlier time when you could equate rock'n'roll with rebellion and excitement and fun. It ran articles about how important the Velvet Underground were, or the dark sexiness of Jim Morrison and the Doors, or the manic white noise of Iggy and the Stooges or the MC5, or the fucked up glam of the New York Dolls, or about how a guy called Lenny Kaye had released a compilation LP of obscure '60s garage bands called 'Nuggets'. Bands who were highly influenced by the British R+B invasion of the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds, the Who, the Pretty Things and Them etc and were not afraid to make their own records just for the fun of it.

Hot RodsLiving in Derry, with nothing else to do but dream about an alternative existence, it was easy to be swept away by these images but not so easy getting hold of the records to hear what all the fuss was about. Which, luckily for us, was where Domhnall came in. Derry is a fairly small place, so it wasn't difficult to hear of other people who were fanatical music fans like ourselves. We had been playing the odd show in Derry doing cover versions of things like early Rolling Stones, early Fleetwood Mac and Dr. Feelgood songs; pretty much what was then termed 'pub rock'. As long as there was no more than three of four chords in a song, that suited me fine. I was vaguely aware from the N.M.E. that the Velvet Underground had also taken a minimalist approach to their music, but apart from having heard Lou Reed's 'Walk on the Wild Side' and 'Sweet Jane' on the radio, without hearing the records properly, it was hard to understand exactly what they sounded like. Then one day, during the summer of 1976 I remember someone telling me that there was a guy who had the first Velvet Underground LP and was more or less the same age as us. At this point we had already been moving away from doing straight R+B versions in our set, and had started playing the songs twice as fast as the originals thanks mainly to the influence of Eddie and the Hotrods 'Live at the Marquee' E.P. So when we heard about someone else who had a record collection of stuff that we had no chance of ever hearing or ordering in Derry, it didn't take us long to invite ourselves 'round to his house. As well as having the first two Velvets' records he had records by The Stooges, The New York Dolls, The Doors and the Nuggets compilation!!! It was love at first sight!

Bravely, Domhnall (or as we knew him then, Wombat) allowed us to borrow his records over the next few weeks. Borrowing one or two at a time seemed a reasonable compromise, we wanted them all at once but we could see he was rightly a bit wary of us and in retrospect he definitely was taking a chance with these precious pieces of vinyl. Once taken home though, we plundered, pillaged, soaked up and outright nicked as much as we could. In fact the reason we chose the name The Undertones was because we thought it sounded like one of the garage bands off 'Nuggets'. The rest, as they say, is history. The Ramones first LP was released later that year, there were reports of a growing Punk scene in England and everything sort of clicked into place as we started to write our own songs 'borrowing' heavily from The Ramones, The New York Dolls and The Stooges. Domhnall had got most of his records in the first place sent up to him from Dublin by a certain Phil Chevron, who went on to form the Radiators from Space (and was later a member of the Pogues) and who subsequently gave us our first shows in Dublin in 1977.

Dick Tracey and the Green Disaster

Domhnall himself went on to form 'Dick Tracy and the Green Disaster' and I remember bumping into him one day, telling him how much I really liked one of his songs called 'Action Comics' and how great a title it was. I always remember him saying to me that he had better get it copyrighted quick as I had stolen so much from him as it was, that he wasn't going to take any more chances, which was about right!!! They say life is all about fate, well, it was a pleasure to have got to know Domhnall and it was certainly a life changing experience for me borrowing his records and basically getting his support at a time when sticking your neck out in Derry inevitably meant verbal and physical abuse. A true fan and lovely guy. With any luck he is up in heaven singing along with Johnny Thunders and Dee Dee and Joey Ramone. And, I never did steal that title!"

And that says more than anything I can add.


The Boys


OWEN DA GAMA, STUART GAULD, KEVIN MAHON, KEVIN MAHON
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