A Fucking Poem

Fuck the outside

Fuck indoors 

Fuck the ceiling 

Fuck the floor 

Fuck in front 

And fuck behind

Fuck fast-forward 

Fuck rewind 

Fuck the darkness 

Fuck the light 

Fuck the Left and

Fuck the Right 

Fuck the good and

Fuck the bad

Fuck the sorry 

Fuck the glad

Fuck the sunshine 

Fuck the rain 

Fuck the mad and

Fuck the sane

Fuck the strong and

Fuck the weak

Fuck the bold and

Fuck the meek 

Fuck fatalism 

Fuck all hope

Fuck kings and queens 

And fuck the pope 

Fuck roses red

Fuck violets blue

But most of fucking all,

Fuck the fuck out of fucking you.

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An outline for a television show that is sure to be massive;

Crime drama, ‘Bacon and Cabbage’. 

Our main protagonist and hero, Tom Bacon, has been through the mill a few times. He is grim and jaded. Having been kicked out of the Special Branch for batin’ the shite out of two lads that never did nothing, he now makes a crust as a private detective who does Kung-fu. 

Now, with his foul-mouthed but street-smart sidekick, Pat Cabbage, they solve crimes on the gritty streets of Galway armed only with their wits and a big load of guns and explosives. 

Chief Superintendent Seán (or possibly ‘Fiachra’) Sanguidge is an angry, but well-meaning man. He cares only about justice. He does be shouting at Bacon & Cabbage for not playing by the rules, but we the audience know that he is hiding a generous heart. Little do we know, but he is secretly a compulsive collector of pencils. This will become important later in the series, so pay attention. 

Bacon & Cabbage’s arch nemesis is a lowly dog who goes by the name of ‘Lowly Dog’. He controls all criminal activity in the town. He tortures small animals and sells drugs to nuns. Also, he is forever smoking cigarettes. Every time we see him, always a fag in the gob. 

Bláthnaid, oh, let’s say her last name is Jones or something, is a fiery youngwan who will take guff from no man. Yet her heart yearns for Bacon. And she is great at the old karate as well, so she isn’t afraid to kick arse when the need arises.

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Pato Had A Band

My brother Pato had a band and they were called ‘Drater’.

Drater were unlike any other band that I have ever heard. I think that everyone else who has ever experienced their sound has felt the same way. The guitar chords and riffs were never ordinary, the bass and drums always unusual and powerful. The vocals were huge. They were a real punk band.

Many of us who played in bands in Salthill in the early 80s thought we knew what it meant to be punk. We mimicked The Sex Pistols, the Dammed and The Clash, but until Drater came along we hardly knew that we were just playing at being punk.
Drater were the real thing. They made up the rules of their own music as they went along. It was as if aliens from beyond had heard punk on the radio waves drifting across space and decided that we had all got it wrong and they decided to descend to earth to teach us how it should be done.

I had been in a band who played songs which tried to sound like the Buzzcocks meets the UK Subs meets The Ramones. We had access to rehearsal rooms above an amusement arcade called Leisure Time in Salthill, Galway. My brother Pato had played in a previous incarnation of the band but had been shipped off to boarding school at the recommendation of local priests and police. One summer he returned with some songs and grabbed two friends to work on some of them. Their influences were similar to those of the rest of us but were enhanced with heavier stuff. Stuff that was more real. They had been listening to a wider sonic spectrum ranging from The Velvet Underground, Joy Division and Killing Joke to Crass, GBH, Black Flag and Bad Brains.
Drater made every other punk band in Galway sound like the fucking Nolan Sisters.

At first they were called ‘Frater’. Some tried to fathom why they chose this name and it was concluded that because it was Latin for ‘brother’ they must have been somehow reaching out to their fellow man in some kind of sense of brothership. Utter shite. The name, as I was given to understand it, was supposed to be meaningless. When I asked Jimmy Ward, Drater’s original bass player, why the name was chosen he told me that it was because of the great Tom Frater. (No such person, to my knowledge, has ever existed). Jimmy was a leg-puller, to say the least.

So, to thwart those looking for further meaning, they changed the name to ‘Drater’. This later caused problems when the same geniuses looking for truth where no such thing existed decided that this was the word ‘retard’ spelled backwards. I think the band gave up trying to subvert peoples’ attempts to see a pattern where there was none and just decided to stick with the name.
Around this time Drater would sometimes gather in the garage of our family house. Many musical instruments were gathered here, including a bodhran, an irish drum. The boys had written, in thick marker on the goat-skin, the legend ‘Frater’. After the name change it of course had to be changed to ‘Drater’ and this became the logo. An ‘F’ scribbled over to become a ‘D’.

At times in the rehearsal rooms above Leisure Time, after a few cans of beer in the bus shelters on the promenade or pints in O’Reilly’s bar, jam sessions would occur with members of local punky bands, Shattered Ego, The Real Men and Western Front. They were usually fuelled by reefer, amyl nitrate, stolen booze and an over-the-counter, readily available kind of speed pills known as Do-Dos. And the jams were great. I think. But then the rest of us would usually give up and just let Drater do their thing. Sometimes we’d join in on choruses of songs like ‘Let’s Go To The Party’, ‘Misionary Sisters’, ‘Nice Guys’ and ‘Baked Beans’. Sometimes we’d just jam things like ‘Police And Thieves’ by Junior Mervin or ‘The Guns Of Brixton’ by The Clash.

Once, when we returned from the pub as Drater finished their rehearsal, they handed the room over to us for our drunken jam. They left to an adjoining room to drink cider as we attempted our poorly put-together repertoire. Soon, as the drugs kicked in for both bands they returned, hooded in shroud-like blankets with candles burning on overturned mic stands chanting ‘AZVALIUS VAN PORKUS BANTUS VAN FORSAK’. This would hereafter be known as ‘The Chant Of The Boswell Pig’. At least that’s how I remember it. Some accounts may differ in the telling.

There were a few changes and additions to Drater’s line-up over time, including Mags on bass when Jimmy was in London for a time, Eamann Hallinan on vocals for a couple of songs and Jimmy Lucey, also on vocals for some songs at a gig in Seapoint Ballroom. I played guitar at one gig in the Aula Maxima, UCG, though my performance was not good enough for me to be required for further shows. Do-Dos may have played some part in my downfall, but perhaps I am looking for excuses for my failure.

Drater would do the odd gig here and there (a couple of beauties in The Tuesday Club at The Oasis in Salthill) and would usually go their own ways for a while. Pato and Jimmy would often end up squatting in London, coming back to Galway when things went tits up. Then another Drater gig, new songs, a bigger idea. Colin travelled to Helsinki and beyond. We lost Pato in 94. Jimmy died a few years ago. Mags and Eamann are gone from us now as well. Some of the closer fans have left us too, (we miss you, Peter!) but I suspect that there are hardcore Drater fans out there yet. I count myself among this number.
For me, the younger brother, Drater will always be about Pato. His songs. His vision. He was my older brother, my bully, my hero and eventually my teacher. Or at least he tried to teach me lots of things. He tried to teach me about drawing and painting. He failed in this, but only because his pupil was stupid. He swore that I taught him certain things about music, but I, in turn will swear to my dying day that he was humouring me. The fucker knew how to do that.

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1 & 2 attempt a conversation;
1- C’mere till I tell ya. I keep meaning to tell ya about that time…
2- Sure don’t I know well…
1- Will you let me talk?
2- Amn’t I lettin’ ya…
1- Listen to me wan minute and I’ll tell you…
2- What time are we talkin about now?
1- I’m tryin to tell you. You mightn’t have been there no it fuckin was definitely you. Or maybe it wasn’t. But you were there anyways it doesn’t matter. You were fuckin definitely there. That fuckin time when he fuckin told me, HE FUCKIN LOOKED ME IN THE EYE AND TOLD ME… anyway it doesn’t matter, but what i’m tryin’ to say is….
2- oh yeah, I think I –
1- no, shut the fuck up, i’m tring to pay you a compliment here… oh, sorry, was that yours? I’ll get you wan in a sec.. but what I mean is, you were, you know? and I was fuckin… LISTEN TO ME. WILL YOU LISTEN TO ME? That other cunt was givin out like, fuck that cunt. Fuck him. he was givin out about me. He fuckin. no. will you let me talk. No. Just let me talk. I remember the craic with youself and he was all fuckin oh fuckin yeah, fuckin. Just fuckin let me talk. I’m tryin to fuckin oh yeah now you’re all fuckin yeah don’t fuckin mind yerman sure he’s fuckin yeah… well I’m shut up for a fuckin sec I’m no I’m tryin’ to fuckin yeah no youre fuckin’ a class act but you need to listen to me. No, listen, do you remember that time when I told yerman and you were all and then I was fuckin, right. Remember. that cunt. Fuck him. Fuck hom. You and me. Cunt.
2- Hold on you fuckin
1- No you no I no you yeah fuckin
2- I know well what you’re
1- do you fuck know you’re only I’m only tellin you
2- yeah and I’m only sayin
1- will you listen to me? You think that I’m some kinda but I’m fuckin tryin to tell you no shut the fuck up I’m tryin to hold on will you let me speak I’m tryin to fuckin yeah hold on a minute I’ll be there in a shut the I’m …do you remember that yeah the time when yeah, no ah fer fuck sakes no I was only messin will you listen for wan fuckin no
2- I know well will you relax
1- I’m fuckin rel- no I won’t you relax I fuckin
2- lookit don’t be all
1- I know, yeah you don’t be I’m just tryin to pay you a compliment go fuck yourself so I couldn’t give a fuck…
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Music, Theatre and Stuff…

I think I remember my first true experience of the power of music in theatre. It was during the mid 80’s while I lived in Dublin pretending to be a student of Philosophy , Psychology and Archaeology. All this was a front for what I had been doing all along, being a musician, but I was in denial. Being in a band meant that I could pretend that I was just playing music as a hobby. We lie to ourselves only when that lie is truly pointless. Then what seems to be folly becomes truth. Then truth becomes an unavoidable necessity. Eventually truth becomes a thing which cannot be denied.

I was asked to join a punk band in Dublin with some guys that I had met through my time in Art School, (I had previously pretended to be an Art student, but that’s another post entirely).

Then one day the guy who I shared a house with told me that he had two tickets to see Salome in the Gaiety theatre, starring (and I think directed by) Alan Stanford. It was a wonderful experience for me. My only previous experience with theatre was in secondary school when I somehow managed to get the part of the Reverend Chasuble in a production of The Importance of being Earnest by our school and the girl’s school next to us. I hated acting. I could, even at that age, get up in front of any amount of people and sing or play, but acting, or pretending to try to act, terrified me and I vowed never to have anything more to do with it again.

But when we went to the Gaiety that night I was transfixed. It was another Wilde play and I knew I would like it, but what got me was the fact that the music for the show was provided by a piano player who was the only person who was on stage throughout the entire performance. He wasn’t even in the pit. He was right there on stage the whole time. I wish I could remember who this great musician was, because for me he was both invisible and glaringly visible. He was there, but you didn’t see him. His music was haunting and evocative, lending emotions to the dialogue that acting alone could never have rendered. It changed me. That’s what great music, and indeed, great theatre, is supposed to do. Transform you in some way.

I began to wonder if this was something that I could do. I, however, had no formal training in either music or theatre, so I wrote these thoughts off as a kind of mad pipe-dream.

Then on my return to Galway that summer something bizarre, beautiful and transforming seemed to place itself before me, almost as a challenge.

My first conundrum on arrival home was trying to decide how to tell my parents that academia was not for me. My immediate choice of action was to go for a few early pints with a friend from Art school, Dara. He mentioned, around pint number four, that there was a parade taking place up the town by the Galway arts group, Macnas, based on Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, with a huge inflatable of the man himself (Gulliver, that is, not Swift) being walked down through town accompanied by music, dancing and general mayhem.

It was the music that got me. It sounded to me like it could be music from another world, Lilliput or Brobdingnag or another planet. It was recognisably melodic and catchy. I instantly knew that I had to be part of this sort of thing somehow, though I had no idea what my next move was.

As I may have related in previous blogs, I was successful in getting a place with Macas through a Social Employment Scheme. The person who was Musical Director for Macnas, and a man from whom I think I may have learned much, was John Dunne. John would later go on to play on some early recordings with a then up-and-coming band known as the Saw Doctors.

Mr. Dunne was, and probably still is, a deep man. A true composer and artist. I had the joy to play in John’s theatre band in Macnas for about five years on and off, doing some great shows. Then I got bored again and longed for Rock and Roll, so off I went.

But during my time in Macnas I had met Little John Nee. If you have not experienced this man I strongly recommend that you look him up and try to see some of his shows. While he defies description, I shall attempt to describe him nonetheless. Picture a multi-layered hybrid of Buster Keaton, Johnny Rotten, Stan Laurel, Tom Waits and some guy from Letterkenny whom you may think you get, but trust me, you don’t.

LJ, (for thus he is known by those who know and love him) was and is a Punk, a street theatre performer, a musician, an actor, a writer and man who can just make things happen. I had done some shows with him, playing music to back his anarchic, improvised kind of stand-up performances, when he asked me to travel with him to Washington, DC for a one-man play called ‘The Derry Boat’. It was a show that dealt largely with the cultural connections shared between Donegal and Scotland. Nobody else could have written this show because LJ was born in Glagow yet brought up in Donegal. While many people, both from Scotland and Ireland could relate to the story, only LJ could ever clearly tell it. When I first agreed to do the show, he grinned widely at me, saying, “well, Duffy, at least I know your Donegal passport is up to date”!

I, as usual, was filling in for another musician on this gig, a fellow called Fergal Gallagher, and I thought that that would be it. Then, not long after our return from the US, LJ began to speak of his ideas for the next show. It was to be called “The Ballad of Jah Kettle” about a punk who had traveled the world jumping trains and having adventures. Our Hero had lost his best friend and was trying to get to grips with the loss. It was a show that I knew that I had to do, and I told him so. To my surprise, he agreed.

I think that in this performance I ended up playing about ten different instruments, usually at LJ’s insistence. He might arrive into rehearsals in the morning with some strange, new musical contraption and say “here, Duffy, see what you can do with that!” I always loved the challenge and we were both of the opinion that perfection was less important than the feeling which might be evoked by a different sound, another texture.

Also, Little John had previously been involved with a Hindu religious organisation. He was no longer a devotee, but what with the nature of our work he thought it inspirational to keep a small shrine to the Goddess Sarasvati in the rehearsal space. If you don’t know about Sarasvati, she is a Goddess who is responsible for all artistic and musical inspiration, amongst other things. She is often depicted with many arms most of which hold a musical instrument.

One morning I arrived in to rehearsals clearly shook, and not for the usual dipsomaniacal reasons. He could see my distress, and like the boss that he is he asked me straight out what was bothering me. I had to be honest. I had, I confessed, had a dream about Sarasvati the night before. She had been very impatient with me. With every one of her multitudinous arms she was presenting me with a different musical instrument, clearly frustrated with my inability to keep up with her. Eventually she seemed to smile at me, but to me it was not a “good man yourself” kind of smile, but rather a “YOU ARE MINE NOW AND NOTHING YOU CAN EVER DO WILL CHANGE THAT” kind of smile. Still freaks me out a bit when I think of it.

So who am I to argue with a Goddess?

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Shattered Ego (or how I got into this mess part 2)

I may have mentioned the very first Rock & Roll band I was ever part of, Shattered Ego, in former blogs. My experiences with this band, the place and time from which we came and the music that formed us may merit further discussion. We were basically a punk band even though we were open to many other kinds of music. Perhaps ‘Garage Band’ is a better description. The band started off rehearsing in a garage, after all. This was before I joined. They were then called ‘Perverted Youth’.

I was recruited after the whole ‘Perverted Youth’ thing. Before I had ever joined the band the name had been changed to ‘Shattered Ego’.

We started doing punk-rock quite a while after punk-rock had ceased to be cool. Though we knew it was a commercially daft idea, we thought that this was the whole point. Punk Is Dead. Long Live Punk.

But about the band…

We were a kind of varied lot, but we agreed with each other musically on many points. We all loved good old Rock & Roll. Mainly the nasty stuff. Punk, Rockabilly, Ska and garage-band stuff. We had an edge. We were not technically ‘good’ musicians, yet I think we had the thing that every band needs. We were able to make our audience go a bit crazy. We were the local band, the band that the teenagers of Salthill, (a suburb of Galway) could relate to. We had songs like ‘Big Boy’, an attempt to relate to other young folk who dealt with bouncers and cops on a daily basis. We had songs that dealt with teenage love and all the frustration with which such a thing came, ‘Oh, 18’.

When we started the sound equipment consisted of one amplifier which belonged to Fred, one of the guitarists and a founder member. For rehearsal purposes we would all plug in to this. I think it was a 50 watt. It couldn’t really take the punishment of two guitars, a bass and a vocal mic and it struggled to compete with the volume of the drum kit, but we thought we sounded good. We sounded almost like a Rock & Roll band.

Our first gig was in our school’s drama hall. It had a good stage and we had hired amplifiers and a good PA system from one Derek Murray, who was also our sound engineer on the night. We were off to a good start right there. There were good Rock & Roll lights, even a follow-spot manned by the now Artist Of Renown, Dara McGee.

The head priest of our school, in a rare show of generosity wanted no money from us for the gig so long as we only charged £1. The place was thronged. £400 minus equipment costs between 5 teenage lads in 1980 meant quite a lot of money per person.

I was the bass player and backing vocalist. I had two songs on which I had to sing lead vocals. The second was ‘There’s A Riot Going On (Up In Cell-Block #9). I knew I’d be fine with that. The first, however, was that great Motown classic, ‘Money’. I thought I might be ok with that as well, but no, I was very wrong. My voice simply would not do what I wanted it to do. It squeezed and squawked when I thought it should have soared and seduced. I was amazed when after the gig many people praised me on that performance more than the one that I felt I had delivered correctly. In hindsight I can only conclude that people saw my discomfort and interpreted it as true artistic grit. If so, they were wrong. Or perhaps right. Only the audience knows for sure. This I learned on that night. Only the audience knows for sure.

To conclude, I regret nothing.

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In Galway in the 90’s there was a thriving, young Spanish community. Indeed, the Galway/Spanish connection is centuries old as shown by the renowned Spanish Arch and the Latin Quarter. But at the time of which I speak there was a new, young and vibrant influx of Spaniards arriving in Galway both to work and study. Then there were those who came merely to change our lives for the better by giving us the beauty, the joy, the healing that comes from music. Luis was the foremost of these.

Being a musician in the city at that time was interesting. One would typically be in a band performing original material and also, probably, on some sort of social employment scheme. This would keep your head above the water, but only just. So for a bit of extra money it was a good idea to have a covers band on the side. I was in one that payed New-Wave, Punk and at my insistence, lots of Ska. We were doing quite well playing all over the country. Then one day I was approached by a keyboard player and a drummer, both of whom I knew by reputation and whom I had enjoyed seeing in other bands. They spoke about forming a kind of Soul/Funk band. They wanted me to sing and play guitar. I thought they were insane. They informed me, however, that the instigator of the project was certain that I had the chops. He could not be there just then because he was on his way back from Spain and I could meet him the following day.

The next day we called round to his flat. This was Luis Asturias. He constantly had some kind of musical instrument in his hand which he payed adeptly. I noticed, also, that he smiled warmly always and welcomed everyone. The flat was heaving with young Spanish and Galwegian groovers who had enthusiasm for music. He seemed to have a scene going on right there in his living room. He didn’t exactly create the scene. He simply attracted it. It just turned up and he smiled at it. He gently encouraged the beautiful mayhem. That was Luis.

We had some great years playing music, entertaining folks and having fun. The nature of the entertainment business means that people often drift apart and find new things to do. You learn not to let this fact make you sad. You learn to deal with it. Chances are you will bump into one another again somewhere down the road. So it was that while sitting in a dressing room in Arlington, Virginia eating lunch I heard a Spanish/Galway accent behind me saying ‘Hey Duffy!’ and I couldn’t believe it. Luis was playing bass with the support band on the tour. I was once again to be blessed with the presence of this man’s talent, his gentle demeanor and kindness.

Unfortunately not long after that tour he became ill. I don’t know the name of the illness nor it’s full nature, but it was bad. His heart suffered. Such a big heart that it took a lot of sick to make him suffer. His blood also suffered and his lungs. Never have I heard Luis raise his voice in anger. Never have I heard him complain. He always smiled in a gentle way and was quick with a joke.

When he had to go back to Spain for treatment a few years ago I was ready to buy a plane ticket so I could visit him to properly say goodbye. My heart was ready to break and I was trying to find the courage. Then I was told that he was returning to Galway. My heart leapt. Could it be? Had they found a cure?

I met him outside a local venue on his way in to play a gig. The tubes sticking out of his nose, the paleness. These things shocked me a bit. But still there was that ever present smile, that sparkle in the eyes. He told me that while in hospital all he could think of was getting back to Galway and playing music. All he wanted to do was entertain. To give what he had to give to others. He had not one selfish atom in his being. All he wanted was to give. And that he did. Right up until the end.

Yesterday he passed away, that bastard illness having caught up with him. Galway, Spain and indeed the world shall miss him. I miss him.

Goodbye, Luis, and from the bottom of my heart I thank you for your existence.

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