Dún Laoghaire Calling – The Clash in the Top Hat

When I wrote about the historic Sonic Youth and Nirvana gig in the old Top Hat – on its 25th anniversary in August 2016 – I felt absolutely ancient, even though I wasn’t there. That mythical gig has become the Dublin indie kid equivalent of being in the GPO in 1916.

On October 12, 1978, The Clash played the old ballroom on Longford Place, which later became the Fun Factory, and subsequently demolished to build a block of apartments called De Vesci House. Tickets were £2.50.

The support act that October evening were the Virgin Prunes; an Irish avant garde post-punk band featuring Gavin Friday, who gave this hilarious recollection of the night to State magazine:

“We came on: Guggi was wearing a tiny skirt and I had a plastic suit made out of raincoats, no jocks underneath, and pair of Docs. We’d only played two little gigs before that. Steve Averill from The Radiators From Space played synthesizer with us. The crowd just went apeshit. They thought Guggi was a chick.

“The adrenaline of all these people pogoing kicked in and I started jumping around, the next thing this plastic suit that me ma had made me split completely. I was standing there totally bollock naked, except for a pair of Doc Martins. I turned around and Guggi’s skirt had come off and you could see that he was a bloke. All hell broke loose, there were bottles flying, they were setting the curtains on fire. We were reefed off the stage by The Clash’s tour manager and fucked out the door. We had no money and had to walk with all out gear, back from Dún Laoghaire to Ballymun.

“If you go back to parts of the Eastern bloc of Europe now, that’s what Dublin was like in the 60s and 70s. Grey, dull, mass unemployment and complete poverty. Music became a lifeline to escape for kids. Punk gave you a licence to form a band with just an attitude. I turned 16 when punk kicked in and had plenty of attitude.’”

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Other acts who have played the Top Hat include U2 (just about a month before The Clash on September 9, 1978, according to Setlist FM), Danzig, The Stranglers, Faith No More, The Charlatans, Metallica, The Mission, Slayer, The Jam, Nuclear Assault, Zed Yago, W.A.S.P., Exodus, Slammer, Crumbsuckers, The Waterboys, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Onslaught, Suicidal Tendencies (1989 and 1989), Kreator, Death, The Pogues with The Dubliners, then featuring Dún Laoghaire born and bred legend Ronnie Drew, Sepultura, Anthrax, Prong, and of course, Sonic Youth and Nirvana, just a few short weeks before the release of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’.

This week, music fans all over the world will turn up The Clash to commemorate the anniversary of Joe Strummer, who died suddenly on December 22, 2002. He was just 50 years of age.

We also remember Frank Murray, who managed The Pogues and Thin Lizzy. Frank died on December 22, 2016, so he shares his anniversary with Joe, who also often performed with The Pogues, and stood in for Shane McGowan as lead vocalist for a tour.

May they rest in peace.

And so now I’d like to say – people can change anything they want to. And that means everything in the world. People are running about following their little tracks – I am one of them. But we’ve all got to stop just following our own little mouse trail. People can do anything – this is something that I’m beginning to learn. People are out there doing bad things to each other. That’s because they’ve been dehumanised. It’s time to take the humanity back into the centre of the ring and follow that for a time. Greed, it ain’t going anywhere. They should have that in a big billboard across Times Square. Without people you’re nothing. That’s my spiel.
                                                        -Joe Strummer, 21 August 1952 – 22 December 2002
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Joe Strummer mural at Blenheim Crescent, Ladbroke Grove, West
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Joe Strummer mural, 132 East 7th Street, New York

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