Dublin 1979 - 1983
Fred Penney Vocals
Frank Kearns Lead guitar
Dave Boardman Bass
Eric Briggs Drums
Frank, When a band starts off at the beginning, there’s no light at the end of the tunnel, but eventually if you plug away at it, you will cut the ice.
Formed in September of 1979, the Myster Men have worked hard at self promoting their music, despite the difficulty of getting suitable venues they have obtained a residency at the Magnet, Sunday afternoons, plus McGonagles and the Baggot Inn, they are aware of the problems involved at being a support band – the band’s own sound can not be reproduced when the sound mix has already been set for the headline act – try asking Timmy to adjust the sound for your set at a Lookalikes gig! At least when you set up the sound for your own gig and something goes wrong, you have no one to blame but yourself, there are also problems with the drums set up.
Eric: Different drummers have their kit set up in different ways and specially that kit to night, the tom – toms were set at 90 degrees. I prefer them nice and level. The band listen to a wide range music, but in an attempt to find a direction for themselves they prefer not to be categorised. We were surprised to find that the band have already recorded their first demo tape, produced by school friend Bono from U2.
Frank: We payed £125 for it and we were really pleased with the standard. There’s not really much you can get with four tracks but I think we got an awful lot out of it. We could have done with extra tracks to achieve a better mix between drums and bass. We are very grateful to the people concerned, the engineer, the producer and the Eamon Andrews studios.
Vox: Having already said that you do not wish to be categorised, how then do you project the bands image?
Frank: We’re not into smashing the system.
Eric: In 1977 the bands had a grudge against society. We do write songs, admittedly, about society. However, you’ve got to accept it as it is. What we do, is comment on the situation we find ourselves in.
Frank: We’re not trying to get any major political points across, as the Clash are trying to., there’s no heavy meanings in our songs.
Vox: How big an emphasis does the band place on quality of their instruments?
Frank: Well I’ve got a Gibson Explorer copy, but I’d prefer the real thing. I love the sound but I’d like to customize the shape. Dave Edge of U2 has one and his sound is original – there’s so much you can do with that guitar.
Eric: Fred’s getting a Fender voice.
Dave: I’ve got a bass made by an auxiliary company to Fender. It’s a company that make acoustic guitars but it hasn’t got the Fender name on it.
Eric: I’ve found a kit of my dreams. (Briggs plays a pearl kit).
Vox: would you consider yourself a dance band or just for listening to?
Fred: Yes, we are a dance band. When I’m jumping around I like to see people enjoying themselves as well, it produces an atmosphere.
Certainly the riffing on “Billy Davis” proves this to be the case. Other good numbers include “Fantasy Dreams”, “Who Needs Idols” and “End Of Time”. Yes the Myster Men are a dance band with credibility.
Along with the members of U2 he attended Mount Temple school & is a friend of Larry Mullen Jr, The Undertakers played two gigs, supporting U2. Most of their gigs were at schools in the Howth area.
He would later have much success with Cactus World News who were signed to U2's Mother Records.
When in New York with Cactus World News Frank got his biggest compliment when he met Joey Ramone & Joey informed him that he loved their music
Frank now runs the "Dublin School of Rock" www.rockschool.ie Eric Briggs was U2's drum tech from 1978 to 1980, see U2 By U2. He also stood in at rehearsals for Larry when Larry could not make it due to his 9 - 5 job. At this time Bono was talking of Eric being the permanent drummer with U2, although Eric never stood in for Larry at a concert.The Myster Men were tipped as the next big thing by "Zig Zag" magazine. Eric informs me that the band are friends to this day, but they have no idea were Dave is, if you happen to see this Dave, please get in touch.
The Myster Men recorded a 3 track demo at Eamonn Andrews Studios in Dublin, they paid the grand sum of £125 for the 4 track demo.
Six years later Eamonn's son Fergal, would be in Cactus World News with Frank.
The demo was produced by Bono, with Bono on backing vocals, this was Bono's first time producing.
The tracks are; No More Idols, Fantasy Dream, I Should Have Known Better.
Flyer supplied by Frank Kearns
09/11/1979 McGonagle's, Dublin with The Blades Hot Press review by Missfit The Blades used to make me happy. Now it's changed somewhat. You can be happy in ignorance, but soon the failing will run out from the shadows. It's better to be delirious for a reason.
Anyway, outside McGonagle's, there's twenty people. Wait until the time is right, then it's a pound for a pass. Either everyone is feeling self conscious or lazy, because lights shine on the floor, but nobody stands or dances under them. The cardboard cut outs are pasted up against the wall. Music is neglected in favour of the delights upstairs with the money machines. Watch two girls, mingling with everyone, selling two different fanxines before the music's on.
The Myster Men are here, they really try hard, and a score or so of people move vaguely in appreciation. The Skin set meanwhile perform their usual tribal dance on the floor. Shove someone onto the ground, kick him around for a while. Kick the air. Like Hare Krishna's with a few day's stubble, they don't care about non Skins.
The vocalman needs more confidence but the Mystermen are rewarded for their pains at the end of it all; they get an encore.
In the interval before the Blades, the floor is cleared. Are people afraid of the light; they might look older - older than a teenager? Time for a coke anyway.
It's the beginning of a barn dance. Not enough on the floor so that you can lose yourself in anonymity. Unless you join in there's something missing. The three demo tape tracks and "So" cut the deepest impression. People aren't dancing, but the Blades aren't doing anything about it. Some things need just a little push, Paul. You like encouragement too, I bet.
This is where the change in the Blades is noticeable, in this group I haven't seen since the beginning of the summer. Even pop can have it's serious moody side. It needs a little thought, though the action comes naturally. The Blade don't get an encore, but then I wouldn't want a repetition of (most of) that night either.
I get my coat. The disco is on and ther'e no bare floor space. I decide to go home and study the law of perversity.
26/01/1980 Central Lounge, Ballina
30/01/1980 Central Lounge, Ballina. A benefit concert for the people of Cambodia, with Telstar, Dallas, Sweeney Men, Sounds Inc, The Ribbon Men, Molloy Bros.
02/02/1980 Campbell Lounge, Swinford
23/03/1980 Magnet Bar, Dublin
30/03/1980 Magnet Bar, Dublin
06/04/1980 Magnet Bar, Dublin
The Myster Men have come to play; they step on stage and quickly shift into top gear, locking tight and solid on a chunky melodic anthem, “Billy Davis”, that has the most wonderful chorus of the evening. Their sound is very strong, the vocals step forward in the mix without a corresponding loss of power from the rest of the group. They play brisk animated pop that chugs rather than rushes over a straight beat and flowing bass. Think of U2, think of the Jam, Skids, Cars. Think U2 again.
Myster Frank Kearns is on guitar, black leatherette ‘n’ PVC, open mouth gaping as he chops another brittle chord on his Explorer copy – he is obviously an admirer of Mr Edge, knocking off harmonic notes to hang over rumbling bass, fingers stretching over a hundred unusual chords to know and love. His rhythms are clean, chopping and angular, his solos slow and carefully effective.
The songs, too, are reminiscent of a U2 approach, pop verging on metal, stops and drops to bass, sliding intros, lyrically dealing in dream/fantasy love and teen anthems with social conscience. They are sung by Myster Fred Penney in a strong and distinctive voice that expresses charter. His stage patter is weak but otherwise he shows momentary signs of shaping to be a good frontman.
The Myster Men are not a surrogate U2, leaping on a soundalike bandwagon (Liffey-beat anyone?) They display obvious influences but seem to have strength of songwritting and obvious dedication to carry them through as they mature and stamp more of their own identity on their material.The Myster Men have come to play – see them, watch them grow.
20/04/1980 Magnet Bar, Dublin
20/04/1980 Campbell Lounge, Swinford
27/04/1980 Magnet Bar, Dublin
04/05/1980 Magnet Bar, Dublin
1980 Irish Tour with U2
It was U2's first visit to Ballina, a town were pop, disco, counrty music & alcohol still reign supreme. And it was proberly their last time here - in fact it could be the last time a decent rock band will ever play in this town.
The night started badly with 60 or so young people scattered in pockets around the huge empty hall. There was a significant paucity of over 18's.
But Bono didn't let this defeat him & he took to the stage with almost savage frenzy. Without even an introduction he sped into the first song, enticing the crowd to dance, to become part of the music, to lose themselves.
And he kept on trying, "Out of control", "Boy Girl" - all their brilliant numbers. He rolled on the stage, joined the boppers on the floor, whipping them along & giving it all he had. U2's performance was top class & it was heartening to see such music going down in a town which has seen only the Cheeters & Berlin in the last year. But the night ended in disaster which overode the pleasure of the gig.
When it was all over, encores done with & the crowd dribbling out, a row started.
Roadie, Pat O'Driscoll defending the band's gear got caught up in it. His head was smashed against the wall, he was kicked in the back & stomach as he lay there. News of the fight reached Bono & the band backstage & they lost no time in getting out to intervene.
Within seconds, the back of the hall was a mess of rolling bodies. Bono got a chair cracked on his back. Adam's glasses were smashed on the floor. The bouncers tried to mediate but it was useless as the rual bootboys turned their aggression onto the innocent U2. The rock n roll dream had turned sour for them.
The cops were called & tails between their legs, Pat was taken by ambulance to the local hospital, thankfully there was no major damage.
In the dressing room afterwards, the band tried to figured out what had happened & why. Bono was annoyed, not because the gig was ruined or that he had been bashed about, but because such things still go on. He lay on the ground repeating "I can't believe it". Before the fight he had talked about trying to break the tradition of the show bands, trying to show young people they don't have to follow the standards set by brothers & sisters. He thought their appearance in Ballina might help. Ten people, he thought, is enough to consitute an audience. And then some of that audience had turned vicious on them.
Has anyone an explanation?
The West had never been the home of anything other than the Nashville & Castleblaney beat. But the worrying question is will this ever change? U2 made a start & they were literally & metaphorically, kicked in the face.
After Saturday night's spectacle, it would be easy to say that towns like this don't deserve ever to be visited by rock bands. Because you can't weed out the Getin Boys & you can't go on running gigs at huge losses with the latent threat of mindless upsurges of violence.
Bono was doubtful that he would ever come back to Ballina. And he doubted that other bands would, on hearing the news. The promoter was doubtful that he could afford the risk of any more gigs. Many of the supporters doubted they would waste £2 for a re-hash of Saturday night's scence.
It seems that Ballina, & May can be scratched off the circuit. Big Tom is still king.
11/05/1980 Tullamore Harriers Club, Tullamore, with U2
12/05/1980 Blue Lagoon, Sligo with u2
14/05/1980 Showboat, Waterford with U2
15/05/1980 NIHE, Limerick with U2 It's believed that this gig may have been canceled as Eric has no memory of playing in Limerick
16/05/1980 CYMS, Tralee with U2
17/05/1980 Downtown Kampus, Cork with U2
18/05/1980 Magnet Bar, Dublin
25/05/1980 Magnet Bar, Dublin
01/06/1980 Magnet Bar, Dublin
01/06/1980 Campbell Lounge, Swinford
08/06/1980 Magnet Bar, Dublin
15/06/1980 Magnet Bar, Dublin
22/06/1980 Magnet Bar, Dublin
23/06/1980 McGonagle's, Dublin
29/06/1980 Magnet Bar, Dublin
06/07/1980 Magnet Bar, Dublin
23/07/1980 Project Arts Centre, Dublin with The Mo Dettes. Karl Tsigdinos Review from Hot Press
In this showcase situation the Myster Men bore their nerves, and their influence far too prominently. The Bono esque moves of vocalist Fred Penny, The U2 intros and song structures, and the Ramones like appearance of guitarist Frank Kearns and bassist Dave Bordman detracted from their otherwise potentially intriguing and exciting set.
In both cases experience will close the gaps. For The Mo Detttes the chasm between their looks and their playing, and vice versa for The Myster Men.
22/11/1980 Magnet Bar, Dublin
27/11/1980 McGonagle's, Dublin with Yeah! Yeah!
04/12/1980 McGonagle's, Dublin with Yeah! Yeah!
07/12/1980 Summit Inn, Howth
11/12/1980 McGonagle's, Dublin with Yeah! Yeah!
14/12/1980 Summit Inn, Howth
18/12/1980 McGonagle's, Dublin with Yeah! Yeah!
21/12/1980 Summit Inn, Howth
28/12/1980 Summit Inn, Howth
01/01/1981 McGonagle's, Dublin with Yeah! Yeah!
1982 Myster Men
Peter Delaney Vocals
Frank (Washington) Kearns Guitar
Tony St Ledger Bass
Noel McMurray Drums
Both photo's supplied by Tony St Ledger (Tony is now playing with the Trouble Pilgrims). After extensively giging the Dublin circuit and working extensively in their purpose build studio in The Saint Francis Xavier Boys Club in Upper Sherrard Street the band created a new set of new material.
The Myster Men were invited to do a show case tour in Germany by EMI in 1983 playing dates in Hannover,Uelsen,Kiel,Suldorf and Hamburg where they record Russia Around their new single this record was released under Blue Russia.Onstage sound for this tour was provided by Tim Buckley later to work with U2 and out front sound was by Tim Martin, one of Ireland’s leading recording producer/engineers who has worked with major Irish recording artists from The Waterboys, Clannad, The Dubliners, Aslan, The Frames, Thin Lizzy, Paul Brady, The Commitments, Mary Coughlan, In Tua Nua and Christie Hennessy. Tim and The Myster Men forded a trusted and special relationship and Tim was included by the band on the German Tour to engineer the Russian Around and She Never Came recordings in Hamburg these session were funded by EMI Germany.
The Myster Men. Live at The Klimperkiste Club, Uelsen, Germany in 1983. The Myster Men are Pete Delaney (Vocals), Frank Washington (Guitar), Noel McMurray (Drums) and Tony St Ledger (Bass).
Both photo's supplied by Tony St Ledger.
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