Buoyed by my meeting with PolyGram, I headed straight to the offices of Hot Press and placed my first classified ad in the ‘bands wanted’ section. Within a couple of weeks, I got a call from a girl called Blanaid, explaining her band’s complicated situation. Their singer, Anna, had returned to Italy for a few months to spend time with her family. The band had agreed to continue working while she was away and to get someone to fill in on vocal duties temporarily. The situation would be reassessed when she came back and the new singer could probably stay with the band as a backing vocalist. It wasn’t ideal, but I was talked in to meeting the band at least.
The band was populated with very serious musicians. They listened to my demos as a form of audition (mostly because we couldn’t identify a cover song that we all knew) and asked me to consider the gig. As I hadn’t exactly been deluged with responses to my ad, I decided to take the chance. Rainbow Kite had some definite prog rock leanings and the absent Anna’s vocal melodies were matched with some opaque and often trippy lyrics. The arrangements were dense and time-signature changes abounded. I was some distance from my pop comfort zone.
But I worked hard at learning the material and, with some serious rehearsal, I passed the live test unscathed. As a group, we got on well and soon started to write together. I even committed the heresy of re-writing some of Anna’s parts, reasoning that they would return to normal upon her return. However, as the date of her return got closer, the band decided that they wanted me to stay on… as lead singer. Somehow, the horrible task of breaking that news to Anna fell to me. Suffice to say she wasn’t best pleased but was really very gracious about the whole thing. She came to our next gig, where she sat right at the front and stared at me throughout. Afterwards, she murmured her disappointment at how poppy the band had become.
Around this time, Blanaid introduced her new flatmate to us. Oonagh was great fun and offered to sing backing vocals. Around that time, we decided to re-think the dreadful band name and eventually settled on ‘The Room’. We also made some efforts to whip the very eclectic set into something more cohesive. With me writing lyrics and vocal melodies for the songs, things started to take a more commercial direction but everyone seemed happy enough with it. We decided to demo two songs which marked a fun return to Origin Studio.
As anyone who has ever been with a band will tell you, it is the devil’s own job getting people to come to hear songs they don’t know. The more we gigged, the smaller our audiences got – mostly because it was the same set of friends and acquaintances hearing the same songs in mostly the same order every time. One night, we arranged a gig in Nealon’s on Capel Street. The audience was our smallest yet: just our drummer’s wife and the barman. Disheartened, we treated the gig as a glorified rehearsal and then settled in for some serious drinking. This was the end of the group.
Sometime later, I got an unexpected telephone call from a small, new local label. They had gotten hold of the two-song demo that we had sent out a few months previously and – amazingly – they were interested in “exploring things.” I did a quick ring-around of the others to let them know but, surprisingly, no one was particularly interested. I pushed and pushed until they agreed to at least consider reforming for what, I felt sure, might be a decent opportunity. The Label Mogul (who shall remain otherwise nameless for reasons which will soon become apparent) said that he’d prefer to meet with me first, so their ambivalence wouldn't cause problems too early.
At his Temple Bar office, the Mogul had our bio, photo and demo tape laid out on the desk in front of him. He had asked me to bring along recordings - no matter how rough - of anything else we had, and handed over a cassette of one of our rehearsals. He played everything and seemed excited about a couple of songs that we held in no particular esteem. He told me that this label was new leg of a music publishing company that handled material by big names, such as Christy Moore and Mary Black. He wasn’t remotely bothered by the very un-Mary Blackness of our material. Moreover – and here’s where things got really sticky – it turned out that he wanted just me and not the rest of the band. After all my begging and pleading, it was very awkward to break that news to the others.
A second meeting happened soon after, at which the label guy spoke about plans to mould me into a kind of Irish Julian Cope (formerly of 80s rock band, The Teardrop Explodes). As he was aiming to get Paul Young’s producer, Laurie Latham, on board, I should prepare for a stint in London. We agreed that he would work up some documents and arrange another meeting in a few weeks to fine-tune the details. I left the office elated. This was too good to be true!
I set about getting recommendations for lawyers and, after a period of telephone silence, I decided I’d check in with The Label Mogul to see how things were going. The number rang out constantly so, a couple of days later, I called around to his office during my lunch break. When I got there, however, the office was completely empty. No people, no furniture, no name plate on the door. I was met by dust bunnies and the suspicious glare of a janitor.
I did some asking around and all I heard was that this guy was somebody that I really should avoid at all costs. I was told that I was very lucky not to have parted with any money and that he was much more likely to have had plans to get into my pants than to get me into the charts.
This was so bizarre that I couldn't even get too disappointed. My naïveté and lack of street smarts might have made it easier for this guy to sell me his Walter Mitty schtik but, in some ways, I think it also made it a bit easier to dust myself down and plough ahead. There followed a couple of months of inertia and inactivity. Eventually, for the sake of something to do, Blanaid and I recorded one of our compositions in the national heats for the 1990 Eurovision. Stop The Clock – produced by the late Columb Farrelly – didn’t fare any better than my previous entries but, as it happens, I had little time to wallow in bitterness – I was called to try out for another band.