by Billy Mawhinney
I grew up in a small fishing village on Ireland’s most Easterly point and only ever wanted to do three things.Play for United. Drum for the Beatles. And Colour in. I got very lucky with the colouring in and when I discovered Kinsale it blessed me with the opportunity to enjoy the other two.
Chris Ward was an excellent young Bass player so all we needed was a Singer. Mick Jagger turned us down and we auditioned my Copy Writing partner, Nick Welch. He was very Jarvis Cocker ( ie. he talked) and we said “Thanks, but no thanks.” Little did we know Nick’s eldest Daughter would go on to fame and fortune as Florence and the Machine. If only we’d stuck with Nick we could have played the O2. We went over to Saatchi’s and pinched the wonderful Eugene Ruane. To his eternal credit when we all threw in our favourite songs he had a go at nearly all of them. Including Prince!I remember giving him a tape of Springsteen’s “Working on the Highway”. We were both sharing a cab to rehearsals, at a sound studio we discovered in JWT’s Berkeley Square basement that hadn’t been used for years. I asked him what he thought of my suggestion. “He ******* wrote that for himself , didn’t he!” he replied. We never played that song. We did our first gig at The Commodore (JWT ‘s in House Bar) and another at Mark Hanrahan’s Bar in North London. But like any self respecting Band we wanted to be “On the Road”. I wondered if we could play Kinsale? So I spoke to Gail Sloggett , the Queen of Producers and wondered if we could organise a gig at The Spaniards on the Friday night. She spoke to Pat and Mary who were Landlady and Landlord at the time. I think they thought as it was a quiet night on Friday, with all the different groups at Dinner, if it’s a disaster there’s no harm done. And very few people said NO to Gail. We loaded up my Range Rover ( Oh the days of Company Cars!) and got the boat to Cork.
The back room at the Spaniards then wasn’t used very often and Pat had borrowed a few pallets and made us a very rickety stage.
We set up as if it was Shea Stadium and did the sound check with some fear and trepidation. Mike Murphy , sadly no longer with us, was not only a truly great player but had played enough to know how to get the best out of a gig. We were anxious to get on but Mike held us back until 9 o’clock, when almost every one at the Awards had had their dinner and were curious about this Band from JWT/Saatchi.
The (small) place was packed.
Every one was there and as I sat at the back on our small stage I watched the evening unfold. Eugene cracked gags despite us telling him we were a serious Band and don’t do gags. And that this was Shea Stadium. Chris , like all Bass players , was inscrutable and spotted every mistake I made. Mark and I were having a ball. Mike would close his eyes and go on wonderful , mesmerizing guitar solos. I watched as some one tried to weave through the crowd with a tray of Murphys. Ross Hubbard was at “Woodstock”, flailing her arms about entranced by this fantastic band. She swung round in one great swirl and her, and everyone around her, were covered in Murphys. They kept on dancing. I think it was just after Midnight I saw Mary squeeze her way carefully through the crowd from the back. Now that we’d made the “ big" Stage we were determined to stay on all night.
We may not be covering any Springsteen songs but we were determined to do a long Boss set. Mary very carefully made her way to the front as Mike , leaning back, eyes closed was off on a great lick. She tugged his jeans. No response. Old slow hand was away. She tugged again and Mike woke up and looked at Mary. “Boys ,boys” she whispered "...... you’ll have to stop!” I thought there had been a complaint and the Gardaí were about to raid the place. “You’ll have to stop.......we’ve sold out of Beer!”
We had sold the Spaniards out of Beer. We’d had a great night and just won Gold. It turned out Pat and Mary had never had a busy Friday night during the Awards and their Brewery order was coming on the Saturday morning. We didn’t care.
When I do The Flat Back Four Anthology this night at The Shea Spaniard will be the night we cracked the big time.