Dublin March 1978 - June 1978
Ingmar Kiang Vocals & Guitar
Johnny Byrne Bass (R.I.P.)
Paul Bibby Drums
Fed up with 70's disco music, the pair launched a DJ night called Snots in TCD’s New Library offering Punk/New Wave and 1950's Rock n Roll. They told the Sunday Independent (8 January 1978): We’re in it for the fun, we don’t charge in … We toyed first with calling our disco Scabies until a girl friend of mine came up with Snots. (Our posters say) ‘Snots will be appearing under your nose’.
From "Come Here To Me"
Sordid Details would change their name to the New Versions and added Regine Moylett, (Regine is the sister of Boomtown Rats keyboard player "Johnny Fingers"). Regine also runs a "Punk" clothing store (No Romance) in the Dandelion Market with her sister Susan.
Photo supplied by Patrick Brocklebank, the photo was first published in the "In Dublin" magazine.
RIP Johnny Byrne
17/03/1978 Project Arts Centre, Dublin with U2 & Revolver. This was Sordid Details first gig.
Ireland 1978 - 1982
Ingmar Kiang Vocals & Guitar
Regine Moylett Keyboards
Johnny Byrne Bass (R.I.P.)
Paul Bibby Drums
Like Gordon Of Khartoum/What You Want
7" Like Gordon Of Khartoum/What You Want Mulligan Records LUNS 744By the time of this single Ivor had replaced Johnny on bass, Johnny engineered the record. Henry McGlade in the Connaught Telegraph (17 June 1981) wrote that the single “features a blend rarely found on Irish releases – lively sound, good production and an intelligent lyrics”.
this record comes in an eye-catching colour sleeve and a copy of the hand-written lyrics … but the attractive packaging is not enough to compensate for the lack of drive and edge which this record could have.
I think it’s catchy enough and stands up well when comparing the record to what their peers were releasing in the same period.
The Only Cure/Around The Corner
Video from RTE's Irish speaking programme SBB Ina Shui. Tracks are The Only Cure/ Around The Corner.The band split up shortly after this TV appearence.
Hot Press review by Brendan Halpin The New Versions opened the night with a set of moderate New Wave/Rock. Tho’ a 3 piece, their sound is full enough, due in the main to the fast jagged rhythm guitar of the part Chinese Ingmar Kiang. Their set consisted of fast, enjoyable original material. With a bit more variety and originality, they could quite well go places.
06/10/1978 Baggot Inn, Dublin with Sidewinder
St Anthony's "Punk festival"
Eamon Delaney "I have a poster for this gig. The full lineup, from the top, is the New Versions, Berlin, the Virgin Prunes, the Strange Movements, the Skank Mooks and the Citizens. It was my first gig, and very memorable ; a wild show, with fires being burned down the front of the stage as people set alight some reams of computer paper thrown around as part of the Prunes typically avant garde shock-art set. A women in a wheelchair was whirling around the moshpit, and kids from nearby Oliver Bond flats snook in to join the show. The Strange Movements had a single, Dancing in the Ghetto with Good Vibrations records and the New Versions had Regine Moylett as a singer, subsequently a long time PR person with U2. She and her sister Susan ran the famous No Romance punk and fashion bondage shop in the Dandelion..".
Photo taken by Patrick Brocklebank, the New Version at St Anthony's.
"Streets Ahead Tour"
“Magazine Girls”, “Orders From Above”, “Steady Girl”, “I’m Not Yours”, “Say When” – The New Versions’ song titles are to hand but sadly the melodies are not. And lest the addition of the musically ineffectual Moylett sisters on backing vocals fool anyone, The New Versions on the night, revealed themselves to be nothing more or less than an amphetamine H.M. power trio – the kind of stuff heroes were made of in 1976. Their paucity of melodic invention and acute lack of dynamics gained relief only on “Chicken Feed” and “70 Years of Ignorant Bliss”, both of which strived at some sort of judicious balancing of light and shade; for the remainder of the set they continually remined of embryonic Radiators – implicit in that comparison being the (under) statement that there’s room for improvement.
Before the biggest crowd I’ve ever witnessed at McGonagle’s – queues stretching to Grafton St., reminiscent of the Rats final days at Moran’s – Berlin played a set which opened promisingly but was a ragged mess by the end.
“Movin’ Again” was an early highlight – strongly percussive, a memorable melody and some noteworthy bass from Maurice Czerniate, who proved himself the ace in the pack.
The Small Faces “All Or Nothing” and the original “Blood In The Spotlight” – even if it did pay more than a passing resemblances to “Neon Hearts” – were both good too, the Rats comparisons further compounded by Brian Freeze’s Geldof – styled poses and talk overs.
Where Berlin blew it was on the homogenised high energy stuff which constituted the last quarter of the set – from “Heart Of The Saturday Night”, through “Electricity” (and a modest laser appearance) to the end, guitarist Frankie Taylor’s playing gradually fell to pieces and the band’s deficiencies in such fundamental chores as keeping time and playing in tune were made patently obvious.
At present Berlin have ideas in abundance, but seemingly not the ability to match conception with execution. The kind of work rate which is planned for the “Streets Ahead ’78” tour, seems to me, to be a absolutely imperative. 25/12/1978 Liberty Hall, Dublin with Berlin
With perfect posturing & dynamic delivery, Paul Hewson, straining every muscle & pulling the band forward, was always arresting. While they were always confident & competent Dave Evans (gtr) & Adam Clayton (bass), belied the intermittent tendency to drag the music into the clutches of the age old malaise of heavy metal sludge, especially on the shadily atmospheric "Shadows & Tall Trees". The sound was crisp enough, but Tayto it ain' t. Yet numbers like "Cartoon World" & "Another Time Another Place" they showed enough bravado & intelligence to convince anyone that this young band has hair on it's chest. "Street Missions" was great. Their encore "Glad To See You Go" was energetic but it suffered slightly from it's slower than Ramones pace. Not to worry. Their own numbers & enthusiasm will see them through.
In fact, it was was a 26 hour event as the music continued until midnight last Saturday week. Aside from the more controversial aspects of the festival, such as the strip tease act, the music, played entirely by leading young Irish bands (with the exception of The Mekons from Britain), was of an unexpectedly high standard. maybe it was the appearance of Britain's leading rock DJ, John Peel, which prompted the energetic performances & it is reasonable to assume he was accordingly impressed.
Prior to the venture, many people feared the worst. The festival idea has strong hippy connotations & it was felt that possibly the New Wave fans & bands would find it all too boring. Allied to that the disappointment over the non appearance of Johnny Lydon & his PIL band & the confusion over whether some Irish bands would play added to the pessimistic view.
However, as events showed, it was probably better that Lydon did not appear as Public Image's star appeal might have detracted from the impact of the local bands. I caught The Atrix, The Mekons, The Virgin Prunes, U2 & many more. They were all enjoyable but I was particularly impressed by U2, who have made great progress in the last few months, & the very promising, The Atrix. The Virgin Prunes very theatrical act was highly entertaining, but the limitations of the music & playing are too severe.
The crowd, John Stephenson of the Project told me, totalled about 800 over the 26 hours, but at the reduced price of £4 a head (owing to the non appearance of John Lydon & Throbbing Gristle) he said that the festival would lose a lot of money. Invariably, there were many small problems, such as the sound not always being correct or the music drowning out the soundtracks of the films which were shown throughout the festival. But these minor cribs amount to little when compared to the peace, the good music & the general good atmosphere which permeated the East Essex Street building. Even the Project workers remained in good spirits at the snacks counter though they were there for 12 hour shifts.
Unfortunately, along with the many unusually dressed people there were (including one fan with a Mohican hair style) I noticed two people wearing Nazi insignia, a despicable trait that I thought the New Wave had dispensed with. They is nothing funny about fascism, as many people of different races & colours have found out, & are still finding out to day.
Incidentally, I tried to find out the meaning of the title, "Dark Space", but nobody seemed able solve the mystery. However at 7am on a Saturday morning "Dark Space", adequately summed up the the state of my head, so maybe that's what the organisers meant.
In fact, the non appearance of Public Image was a boon. Bereft of their presence and the weekend punks they would have attracted, the flow wasn’t distorted nor energies distracted by that overriding event, instead, but for the presence of The Mekons. “Dark Space” was a completely local event, allowing the bands to sow the seeds of self-conscious community.
It wasn’t just Dublin. The Belfast contingent in their denims & black leather jackets were just as important with Rudi possibly the band who gained the greatest advantage out of the event. The two scenes mixed as they never had the opportunity to previously “Dark Space” significance must include the cross border detents it achieved.
Admittedly Project lost money. But the spirit of the affair appears to have convinced them of the necessity to repeat the experiment & if there were faults in the organization, the lessons have surely been learnt.
The event had to be over-the-top to make the desired impact & the scope of the occasion at least allowed every band to democratically show their wares. None the less few had the stamina to make it through the full twenty four hours. It may be wiser to concentrate the next into an allnighter.
It was the less estimated bands who provided the surprises, D.C. Nien, The Letters, Zebra, The Modern Heirs and, so this non-witness gathers, The Vultures all proving themselves as fully capable as the groups in the lager hall. As for the bigger names, they all performed close to or at the peak of their abilities.
Except for early gobbing & numbskulls at the finale who ripped off the reception desk, the event was never petty. The organization wasn’t always perfect but it invariably coped & was never the shambles some pessimists had previously predicted. If I’ve one gripe, it was the closing scene, U2 being cut off in mid set due to late scheduling. Whatever about them, it really should have climaxed with every band or at least a representative on stage. That celebration didn’t come.
No matter, an orphan scene finally found a home where it didn’t have to deal with Fagins, publicans, gangsters, hucksters, and failed star trippers. Those who were there know its importance, in five years time, those who weren’t will be clamouring to pretend they were there and Project will discover they’d had as large audience as filled the G.P.O. “Dark Space” was the first Irish rock gig for the eighties. Jump aboard.
The New Versions are one band that don't seem to suffer this kind of problem. It's a strange thing these days to see a young band as politically aware and as musically capable as they are. However they're at a very early stage of their development and a lot more work needs to be done before their true potential is realised - but they're heading in the right direction, that's for sure.
On Monday night in McGonagles they managed to overcome some bad sound problems to play a tight, well organized set. At first they sound like a really fine new wave danceband but when you stand back and listen to them, there's more to it than that. They're not content to write songs which appeal just to the feet, (though that's important): the attitude which comes across in original songs like "Orrors From Above", "Tango Of Nerve" and "Brenda Spencer" is that there's more to the whole thing than just bland acceptance - even bland acceptance of the new wave. It's a stance which could easily backfire on them - and at times it nearly does - but, in the end, they win through despite the odds.
If they have a real problem, it's with their sound. Regine Moylett's keyboards playing is subtle and delightful - when she can be heard. On Monday she came through only at the end, which was a pity - because when she does she adds a whole dimension to the textures of the music. Her playing is very individual as is Iggy Kiang's guitar work these two together giving the Versions songs a particularly melodic flavour. Johnny Byrne on bass (and excellent lead vocals) and Paul Bibby on drums, make up a fine rolling rhythm section.
If the New Versions stay together, sort out their sound problems and continue to develop along the lines they've already charted, they could well become the most important band in the country within the next year.
Up on stage the End are having problems. The guitarist needs practice, and his guitar seems to wish it was somewhere else. The sound is thick, jangly, flies all over the place. The vocalist shouts above the din. The rhythm section, heads down, concentrate on keeping the show together. The vocalist needs to sing, not shout, put more variety in his voice. The set needs more variation. There are good tunes in there, and some good songs, especially “Love OnThe Airwaves”. The End, I hope, have only begun.
I came to the gig ready to slag the Versions right off the stage. A so so track on the “Kicks” LP, and a godawful “Our Times” video were my only previous experiences of the band. However, I left all my preconceptions and prejudices (“No Romance” and Boomtown Bigtime connections etc.) in a plastic bag outside. Objectivity prevailed……..
Imagine a big, fat fairground organ sound tacked on to a melodic ’77 thrash, and you’ve got the New Versions. Regine Moylett looks like a cross between the wicked witch and a music teacher. She sits at the keyboards, pumps out the colours, the textures that flesh out the rest of the sound. Guitarist Iggy Kiang (somebody read this man the 2nd commandment) pale, gangling, with a self inflicted haircut, wraps himself round his guitar looking incredibly like George Harrison circa 1960. He strikes the right poses, plays the right guitar (Fender telecaster original!!) from which he gets the right sound – raw, dirty, and very loud. Bassist Ivor – plays bass, and looks grim. Drummer Bibby – plays drums, and adds effective backing vocals. Covers include Glen Miller’s “In The Mood” and Talking Heads’ “Psyscho Killer”, which they play without sounding like Talking Heads.
The Versions are by no means a great band, and probably never will be. They do make, however, an entertaining rock ‘n’ roll noise. The songs start to run into each other as the set progresses, the result of a lamentable lack of pace and variation. The need; (a) a lead singer (Kiang cannot sing). (b) a lot more texture on guitar. Moylett’s keyboards do too much of the work in that area. (c) Some manners. No credit was given to the End when they loaned their snare drum to the Version’s drummer when the latter inadvertently demolished his. It’s little details like that that matter. 06/06/1980 Project Arts Centre, Dublin
From dabbling with the sound desk while playing with The New Versions, Johnny Byrne discovered his true calling and soon put down his bass to take over chores behind the mixing console. He worked at the Keystone and Windmill Lane studios in Dublin with artists like U2, the Chieftains, Christy Moore, the Boomtown Rats, Thin Lizzy, Paul Brady, the Radiators from Space and Rory Gallagher. He moved to New York City in 1985, where he worked as a live sound engineer while producing and recording acts that included Black 47, Eileen Ivers, Pat Kilbride, Rogue’s March and the Rascals.
Regine Moylett moved to London after the band’s break up. She started writing gig reviews for NME before joining Island Records’ press office and working with Frankie Goes to Hollywood. Since 1985, she has been U2’s press agent and publicity director.
Drummer Paul Bibby later played with Some Kind Of Wonderful and the Soulmates. Based in England, he is currently works as a Sales Director in the Media industry.
In New York last week, the Irish music community mourned for Johnny Byrne, who died at the weekend in Manhattan's Bellevue Hospital Intensive Care Unit. After a tragic slip where Johnny fell five flights from the fire escape of his home in the East Village, he lay in Intensive Care for three weeks, under the constant vigil of close friends. We sat at his bedside and talked, sang, read and rambled on to Johnny, in the hope that he might hear us even sit up and tell us to get up the yard.
With visiting restricted, people were only allowed in two at a time, and only if they were one of ten names constituting permitted visitors. This bothered both those waiting to get in to see Johnny, and the Bellevue receptionists, who had never experienced such a huge volume of people. Friends called in from London and Dublin daily to check on how he was doing. We told him that his gig had the most exclusive guest list in town, but sadly he never regained consciousness to appreciate this. For the last week or so, when the hospital lifted the restrictions, there was a constant stream of visitors to the Intensive Care Unit. That John Byrne he must be a helluva guy, one security guard remarked as he tried to negotiate the flow. He was right.
Johnny finally left the console quite peacefully, around four o'clock on Saturday afternoon, just one week before his fortieth
birthday. Two days later, family, friends and a host of figures from the Irish music community in the US packed into the Bellevue Hospital Chapel to attend a special commemorative mass in his honour. On the altar, a beautiful arrangement of lilies was complimented by another styled after a New Orleans Jazz funeral spray, with his photo placed at the centre. It was made of
lilies for mourning, but also deep red roses for the passion that Johnny always had for life.
Music was heard throughout the ceremony, which, in his absence, underwent the chapel's natural amplification. Susan McKeown of Chanting House sang Amazing Grace , Helena Mulkerns rendered the Our Father from Sean O'Rmada's Irish mass, Alice Farrell sang Ave Maria and when Tommy Walsh of The Tain played out the mass with an extraordinarily beautiful tune on
the accordion called St. Brendan's Voyage , it would have been hard to find a dry eye in the house.
One unique aspect of the event was that instead of a lengthy sermon, Father Campbell (originally from Belfast), invited
those present to remember Johnny Byrne in their own words, and several moving testimonies were given. Those who had worked with Johnny praised his outstanding talents as a craftsman in the recording studio. Others remembered a big-hearted
man whose humour and lust for life made the pleasure of his company a very special one, whether in business or play. He was the kindest, gentlest and most generous member of the Black 47 family, said Larry Kirwan. So long, Johnny, we'll never see the likes of you again.
Known in New York largely for his work with Irish bands here, Johnny originally started in the music business as a musician himself, playing bass with The New Versions. He began working as a sound engineer at the Keystone and Windmill Lane studios in the early eighties, and subsequently worked with many Dublin bands, including Philip Chevron and the Radiators from Space, Horslips, Thin Lizzy, U2, The Boomtown Rats, Chisty Moore and Paul Brady, among others.
Since his arrival in the United States in 1985, Johnny had been at the cutting edge of New York's music scene. He was the first engineer to work with Black 47, and had since produced and recorded with Rogue's March, Paddy-A-Go-Go, The Rascals,
Ploughman's Lunch, Eileen Ivers, Pat McGuire, Pat Kilbride, Pierce Turner, Susan McKeown, Kevin Delaney and The Tain. Before his accident he had just finished a special new children's record by Larry Kirwan of Black 47. Members or friends of
almost each of these bands were present on Monday night. From the music community across the Atlantic, others sent messages. Even at a distance, Johnny was the most supportive and closest of friends, said Philip Chevron in London.
He really taught me a lot about friendship, miles never seemed to matter.
Johnny Byrne loved New York, and his time spent in the city touched many lives and helped many talents to develop and prosper. In honour of this, at a get-together in Paddy Reilly's bar nearby after the mass, the large floral altar arrangement was given a new place of honour in the sound box of the venue where Johnny used to sit as he worked with live performances there. On the jukebox, we played an extended Johnny Set , people reminisced and attempted to address loss as deeply in the crowded, smokey bar as anywhere else. As we left the premises, we each took a red rose as a momento of a much-missed friend.
Johnny's funeral was held last Thursday in Dublin, at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Churchtown.