It’s actually quite an unbelievable coincidence that the above cover of the NME appeared exactly 30 years to the day when Cathal Coughlan‘s death was announced by his family.  It’s also quite poignant that the photo has Cathal pictured alongside comedian Sean Hughes, another who died well before his time.

I can’t claim to be the fount of all knowledge in respect of the late musician.  I have but a handful of releases in the collection, dating back to Microdisney singles in the mid 80s, having taken a bit of shine to the band after seeing a live appearance on Whistle Test on BBC TV.  I only ever saw him live on one occasion, when Fatima Mansions played King Tut’s in Glasgow on a hot summer’s night in 1991.  I’ve a copy of a single he co-recorded with Martin Stephenson in the early 90s – talking of which, I’ve some sort of vague recollection of him appearing on stage once with the Daintees, although that may very well just be wishful thinking on my part.

I know I should have paid more attention, especially when many folk wrote such incredibly positive reviews about Song of Co- Aklan, his sixth and what proved to be his final solo album, which came out just a couple of months ago.  It honestly was on my list of things to pick up, but I was holding back as Rachel always asks for a few ideas for my upcoming birthday.  When I do give it a listen, it will be with real sadness.

The tributes flowed freely last week when the news finally emerged that Cathal had passed on 18 May after a long illness.  It was typical of the man that he chose to keep his poor health to himself, with not one feature on his new album indicating that it had been recorded under difficult circumstances and that it was certain to be his last piece of music.  I was in Bristol for a few days last week and picked up the news via a social media posting from a friend, and found it hard to take in.  I listened to Gideon Coe‘s show on BBC 6 Music that night, and he took the opportunity to read out various tweets and messages from fans, as well as air some songs recorded for BBC sessions over the decades.

My thanks to flimflamfan and chaval for taking time to share some thoughts about Cathal when they left comments on the Leonard Cohen/Ian McCulloch piece the other day – having no laptop with me, I was unable to do anything with the blog and was feeling awful at the thought of the death not being recognised in any shape or form.

As I said a few paras ago, I am no expert at all on Cathal Coughlan. But what I do know is that he was responsible for writing and singing on one of my favourite singles of all time.  Here’s a recap of something I wrote back in February 2013:-

“Someone on Discogs described this 1990 single as having the voice of an avenging angel having a bad day and guitar chords like a firing squad.

I wish I could sum up songs as brilliantly as that.

The only reason this never made my 45 45s at 45 countdown all those years ago is that I missed out on it when it was originally released. My first exposure came via an end of the year round-up on some late evening show on Radio 1. I bought the CD single the next time I was in a shop and paid almost £5 for the privilege.

Since rekindling my love for vinyl, I’ve got my grubby hands on bits of plastic both here and over in Canada. This is a record that should be in every music fan’s collection”

mp3 : Fatima Mansions – Blues For Ceausescu

The music Cathal Coughlan was involved in over the decades was rarely on the commercial side of listenable.   It always seemed as if he didn’t care about being anything more than a cult figure, seeming to even go out of his way to sabotage things when Fatima Mansions opened up for U2 on various dates across Europe in 1992, none more so than in Milan where be baited the 12,500-strong crowd with a number of derogatory comments about the Pope.  This was after he had pretended to stick a bottle of holy water, in the shape of the Virgin Mary, up his arse.  It was his way of dealing with an audience that had been hostile to his band from the off, the type that wanted only to see U2 and nobody else.

By all accounts, this sort of behaviour was at odds with his real life persona, described by many as a gentleman.

I’ll finish with one of the singles I bought back in the day:-

mp3: Microdisney – Town To Town

In reaching #55 in 1987, this lovely piece of indie-pop was as close to having a hit as that band ever got.



Kind of inspired by yesterday’s mention of Mack The Knife, here’s what wiki has to say about today’s featured song:-

“Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off” is a song written by George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin for the 1937 film Shall We Dance, where it was introduced by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers as part of a celebrated dance duet on roller skates. The music sheet is annotated with the word “Brightly”. The song is most famous for its “You like tomato /təˈmeɪtə/ / And I like to-mah-to /təˈmɑːtə/” and other verses comparing British and American English accent.

The differences in pronunciation are not simply regional, however, but serve more specifically to identify class differences. At the time, typical American pronunciations were considered less “refined” by the upper-class, and there was a specific emphasis on the “broader” a sound. This class distinction with respect to pronunciation has been retained in caricatures, especially in the theater, where the longer a pronunciation is most strongly associated with the word darling.

I’ve a 7″ AA single sitting in the cupboard with a version almost faithfully recorded by Martin Stephenson and Cathal Coughlan.  I’m sure I picked it up at a gig in 1990, quietly pleased that two of my favourite singers at the time had come together for what surely would have been a fun day in the studio. Not actually owning a working turntable at the time meant that I didn’t actually hear the version for a while – not until 1992 when it was included as an extra track on CD1 of Big Sky, New Light, a single by Martin Stephenson and The Daintees.

mp3: Martin Stephenson/Cathal Coughlan – Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off

I had long anticipated that the same version of the song was on both sides of the vinyl, or perhaps the duo had reversed roles with Cathal singing the lines Martin has sung on the A side.  I hadn’t really paid too much attention to the fact that the A side was produced by Mickey Watson (an occasional Daintee) and Martin Stephenson, but that the AA side was credited to Satan O’Sullivan.  I should have known better than to think the Microdisney/Fatima Mansions frontman would have played it straight:-

mp3: Cathal Coughlan/Martin Stephenson – Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off

This one will probably drive most of you bonkers, maybe switching it off after no more than 45 seconds.  There’s all sorts of things going on during its four minutes but not much in the way of singing, nor a suggestion that Martin Stephenson was even involved, but there is a section when the notes that make up the National Anthem of Ireland can be heard.

You say bananas, I say it’s genius.