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Thomas Paul Burgess

It remains a conviction, that when Allan Clarke, infatuated by all things David Bowie, looks in the mirror, he sees Ziggy Stardust looking back. Over many years, as Bowie's look changed, so did Clarkey's alter-ego. The Cross the Line documentary made by BBC Northern Ireland in 1980 offers an insight into his thinking around. Clarkey's unshakeable belief that he is somehow hardwired into the Bowie psyche. In addition, his photogenic persona and strong stage presence, coupled with his highoctane performance came to be synonymous with the visceral musical signature of the band. So if manic, force-of-nature unpredictability with a fluid take on reality were prerequisites for a frontman, he had them in spades.

in Wild colonial boys
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Thomas Paul Burgess

The author relates that he had taken to spending more and more time at the Brixton high-rise flat of Grimmo and Karen in the after hours. It was a small municipal flat on the 22nd floor that someone had somehow managed to get a grand piano up to. It overlooked the main Brixton railway junction, a jumble of intersecting tracks and signals. The furnishings were basic and the small kitchen less than sanitary. But the assembled bric-a-brac, reclaimed furniture, piano and the neon cityscape that stretched out below us gave the whole place something of a Blade Runner vibe. The author explains how his role as manager, led to him feeling the sting of the others' resentment, as well as hurt and lonely.

in Wild colonial boys
Thomas Paul Burgess

Around 1984, Kissed Air, the band from Maghera, were well ensconced in the leafy suburbs of North London. While struggling to command attention for their own music, like so many Irish exiles who went to London before them, each of the members had secured both accommodation and gainful employment, holding down sometimes quite menial jobs. The Kissed Air crew and Gareth Ryan expressed an interest in paying for the pressing, cover and distribution of 'The Wild Colonial Boy'. The author relates how he offered services as producer for Kissed Air's second single, 'Out of the Night'/'Change of Attention,' which added valuable studio craft to his steadily growing skill set. Kissed Air boys had been spending a lot of time socially with Cuthbertson who enjoyed the live music scene and quite fancied playing a role as indie record executive.

in Wild colonial boys
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Legacy issues and the perils of misremembering
Thomas Paul Burgess

The whole 'legacy' debate on how people deal with the past continues to torment, pulling in one direction the urge to (perhaps) forgive but not forget the awful inhumanity of the recent history, hauling in the other, the generational and pragmatic tug to simply move on. Powerful actors in this drama find uncomfortable narratives, retroactive and limiting. For the orthodox narratives surrounding Belfast punk are entirely problematic. Yet Good Vibrations and the standard bearers of Belfast punk rarely cite the band in any official or historical context. Occasionally, the self-appointed keepers of the Belfast punk flame are compelled to give Ruefrex their due. The Ruefrex song 'The Perfect Crime' features a prolonged overdriven guitar introduction, loaning itself to use as film incidental music. It had been employed in John T. Davis's Shell Shock Rock in this way to great effect.

in Wild colonial boys
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Thomas Paul Burgess

During the Twelfth of July celebrations in Belfast, when the town was almost exclusively full of partying uber-prods, the author would somehow manage to meet, and leave with, the only Catholic girl amongst the red, white and blue throng. Around this time, the author and his punk band Ruefrex were working with a film crew from BBC Northern Ireland on Cross the Line, a documentary about the band that featured live performances in the now notorious Tyndale Community Centre. It was the first of many cross-community ventures that Ruefrex was to play around the province. But it was Turf Lodge that steeled their resolve not to dilute or shy away from their mission to challenge the scourge of sectarianism.

in Wild colonial boys
Thomas Paul Burgess

By 1978, a hierarchy of bands had already formed in Belfast. Posturing and ego were nipping around the edges of what the author and his band had assumed punk was supposed to be about. Having played a particularly strong Saturday night set at the Harp, support band The Androids suggested that the author travel down with them the next day to Dandelion Market, Dublin, for a gig. The bohemian buzz around the market seemed a million miles away from the open wound of urban decay and raw violence associated with Belfast at that time. Vintage clothing, accessories, furniture, music, Dandelion Market evoked childhood memories of Smithfield Market at home. The author outlines how the band was supported on a tour by Lou Reed, and his delight when he secured a press pass from the Record Mirror. Punk could make everyone a star and a fan at the same time.

in Wild colonial boys
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Thomas Paul Burgess

In this chapter, the author discusses his love affair that started with the press in 1986. A review by Muir MacKean of a Ruefrex gig at Jules, a secret nightclub in Belfast, spoke about Ruefrex as a powerful, mature that only needed a decent sound system to be heard as one of the most important bands in Britain. The front cover profiles were down to the backing of the good people at Melody Maker magazine, which was prepared to dedicate a healthy amount of coverage to reflect on the more nuanced political and cultural interpretations of (Northern) Irishness as represented by Ruefrex and others. The author relates how Bill Graham, a stalwart of old-school music journalism, had published an article whose title was controversial, making the author realize how the fourth estate could hinder, rather than help, one's best intentions.

in Wild colonial boys
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Thomas Paul Burgess

The EP of three songs appeared in the Good Vibrations catalogue as GOT-8, and was preceded in the series by Rudi, Victim, The Outcasts, The Undertones, Xdreamysts, Protex, and a compilation disc. The strongest song of the three was 'One by One'; indeed, it was always intended as the featured track. The author relates how Sound Engineer Davy Smith largely earned a living recording radio jingles and Irish country-and-western songs at the Wizard Studios in Donegall Street, Belfast. The lyrics were a jumble of alliteration, suitably surreal to complement the essential oddness of the track. For kids in rural communities, away-day gigs by Belfast bands were a serious affair. The author's band cornered Hooley for a release date of GOT-8, but he seemed to enjoy stringing them along and they became more frustrated with each other. Unsurprisingly, there was no imminent release of GOT-8.

in Wild colonial boys
Thomas Paul Burgess

By 1988, any remaining flirtations with 'the music biz' seemed limited to writing for the music mags - an occasional review of a gig or a critique of a band's new release. These were sometimes put in the author's way by Barry McIlheney, Stuart Bailie or other kind gentlemen of the press. All thoughts were now turning to Belfast. Neil Cuthbertson, the South African owner of Kasper Records, and Sophie Richardson, the sister of TV comedian and director Peter Richardson, were to be betrothed. Perhaps because his side of the church would be woefully under-represented compared to the bride's, Neil had been generous when issuing his invitations. The Richardsons hailed from the south-west of England. At a get together at the Richardsons' home, the author enjoyed the sound of laughter from the children of family and guests. One could not imagine a more archetypal portrait of England's green and pleasant land.

in Wild colonial boys
Thomas Paul Burgess

By August 1985, the author personally had a full-page spread in Melody Maker, a piece that ran with the headline 'The Wild Colonial Boy'. Staff photographer Andy Catlin shot some moody close-up portraits of the author me with a beard, creating a general mood of troubled intellectual or 'poet warrior', and journalist Barry McIlheney wrote the article. The author was vocal about how Sinn Féin/IRA were the common enemy of all Irish citizens, north and south of the border, and about how the Provos had targeted the southern state for insurrection and political change once Northern Ireland had been subjugated. This resulted in his parents being targeted, which reminded the author of how a thug, the son of a well-known paramilitary figure, bounced up and down on the bonnet and roof of his first car with an intention to lure a squad of young RUC officers for a confrontation.

in Wild colonial boys