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Punk and Disorderly.

Derry 1977 was a special time and place. Though 25 years have passed and a lot has changed the fact that you grew up in Northern Ireland during the seventies still holds a facination for many people. Some react with a "that must have been awful" others are intrigued and want to know more, some go "Wow! that must have been interesting". The reality for most who lived there is I guess a mixture of all these. No matter where we come from we can all look back on our teenage years and have good, bad and bittersweet memories. For those born in Northern Ireland some memories are bleaker but what always shines through is a unique sense of humour, a sense of living for the moment and a down to earth demeanor.

The ClashIn the Seventies as Northern Ireland burned and descended into Anarchy, across the UK a new musical phenomenon was taking root, soon to explode into the most important musical and social revolution the UK had experienced since the sixties - Punk Rock. In every town and city Anarchy and Chaos were the key words for the unemployed youth. Bands like The Clash and the Sex Pistols, taking their lead from the Ramones and The New York Dolls in New York were creating musical havoc. Nothing like this had been seen before and "Authority" was at a loss as to how to cope. As kids took on the "I can do that" attitude and proceeded to learn three chords on the guitar every town would go on to produce its own Punk heroes. Some would go on to fame and fortune and to make dodgy records - Billy Idol - most simply enjoyed fifteen famous minutes.

The situation was no different in Northern Ireland except that whereas the Sex Pistols were singing about Anarchy we were experiencing it on a daily basis. We were lucky. We had a musical and a political revolution taking place at the same time.


Typical street scene in Derry on any given afternoon in the Seventies.

Indeed Derry must have seemed like a grim place to the outsider as images of street violence and bombings were beamed around the World. As a teenager it would prove nigh impossible not to affected by this in some way or other. Even a visit to our local football team was no longer possible as a Saturday afternoon escape, the team having been banned from the league following an attack on a rival teams coach. Thankfully they are now back in action and as football is supposed to be the new Rock and Roll you can find our more about the team at: Derry City FC

The arrival of punk provided an escape route for many who could for a few hours on a Friday or Saturday disappear into the dingy recesses of The Casbah The Casbah and the The Rock Club Rock Club, two local bars that had become synonymous with the city's more colourful characters. It was in these two bars that the fledgling Punk Scene found a haven and where new bands were given the chance to play their own songs to an ever growing audience. The alternatives musicially were the dancehall scene where top class musicians perfected cover versions of the latest chart toppers or the bars where local bands like King Rat played covers of Thin Lizzy, Lynyrd Skynrd and the like. I'm old enough now to admit to having enjoyed their version of Thin Lizzy's Jailbreak.

Another venue that deserves special mention is the Orchard Gallery. Run by the forward thinking Declan mc Gonigal it was made available for various gigs by bands like the Undertones and the Moondogs and it is with great thanks to Declan and Willie Doherty that we were invited to gallery openings and introduced to the world of Modern Art. The fact that free wine was provided played absolutely no part in the attraction. The most memorable of events here was the "Come and Feel the Noise" festival held over three days in July 1979 and ending with an unannounced, (but everyone knew), performance by the Undertones.


Declan went on to be a renowned curator of some of the most famous museums including the ICA in London and the Irish Museum of Modern art. Willie went on to be a successful artist who in 1994 and again in 2003 was shortlisted for the Turner Prize. You can read more about him at the-artists.org

Poster for Come and Feel the Noise

As far as fashion and style were concerned then Paris it certainly was not. Most wore what they were given or what was handed down. Local gangs dressed in regulation Crombie, Doctor Martens or Oxford brogues, with matching tartan and Alsatian. Other than that there were the Bikers, perfectly greasy with cool bikes they roared and patrolled the City. The DamnedFor the local youths the sight of punks was strange but compelling, it was either kick them or join them. Most wanted to kick them but slowly a steady band of followers began to appear and as more and more students returned from the Universities in England with tales of having seen the Buzzcocks or the Jam the scene became more accessible, (even if the chances of buying a punk record in Paddy Rices didn't improve). Younger siblings began copying big brothers and sisters and the sales of Peroxide and dog collars went through the roof. Copies of Talking Heads 77 and The Ramones LPS were replacing Status Quo and Thin Lizzy on sixth form turntables, School ties were tied tighter trousers worn straight not flared and ear rings became the norm.

Angelic UpstartsWhile in many other cities across the UK Mods were fighting Rockers and Rockers were slashing Punks the closeness of the community and the siege like atmosphere that existed meant that all these groups found a way to coexist in The Casbah and The Rock Club along with of course the Hippies, Moonies, Lefties, Prossies, and others who defy description. Why? because this was not some manufactured scene this was real escapism from the daily violence and from "normality". A normality that was peculiar to those living there.

The Scene musically was dominated by the then unknown outside of Beechwood Avenue and Broadway: The undertones

The Undertones belted out original songs mixed with a few classic cover versions at a frantic pace. The excitement and energy generated was electric. A real sweat soaked adrenalin buzz.

The MoondogsFollowing close on the heels of the Undertones were The Moondogs who provided a healthy support for the Undertones on many occasions indeed sometimes blowing them off the stage. If you have never heard "She's Nineteen" go and find a copy. A punk pop classic!. Both The Undertones and the Moondogs enjoyed success outside Derry but let's not forget the contribution to the local scene made by Dick Tracey and the Green Disaster, Idle Threats, The Sect, Grafitti and The Corner Boys.

xmas concert


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