Thursday, 30 October 2008

The Lost Chord

This the opening section of my novel The Lost Chord. It is available from the publisher Lagan Press or from Amazon.
It was reviewed by bloggers at Crimesceneni and Fionnchu.
I also liked the review carried by The Irish Emigrant website.

WHILE flicking through TV channels I am suddenly confronted with a vision of my past, my face fresh and smiling between the parted drapes of shoulder length hair. I am astounded at my composure as Ipick out a medium-paced lick, my fingers sliding along the neck of my guitar to hit the higher notes. The camera pulls away from me as the band’s singer Gino steps forward to a microphone and takes up the vocal. His hair has been tied back into a ponytail leaving his bog oak-coloured face more exposed and angular than usual, its narrowness accentuated by his drooping, tight-pinched nose. From his left ear hangs a tangled crucifix and from the long purple suede coat that he wears dangles a variety of medals, badges, feathers and shrubbery. As he sings, his fingers are constantly moving, chunking out a mixture of rhythm and riff until midway through the song they fly off into a guitar solo that seems to cover a dozen octaves at the same time. The camera breaks from Gino and pans to his right where the bass player Finn perches casually on the drum riser with one booted leg curled around the other as he expertly manipulates notes from his instrument. He is wearing dark green-tinted granny glasses and a decrepit top hat with spiked tufts of ginger hair poking through holes in it. The focus shifts just behind him to where the drummer Aaron is a spasm of constant movement, his head and entire body jerking in time to the rhythms that he hammers out, his eyes clenched shut and forehead bathed in sweat. The shot then cuts to keyboard player Justin, his eyes darting towards the camera as he delights in the attention, a cigarette burning between his lips as his hands flit between the triple-decked bank of synthesisers and organ. Then it is back to Gino in time for the final moments of his guitar solo and the last verse of the song.

The footage was shot about a year after I had joined Duil. We had been asked by a Belgian TV station to play three songs live in their Antwerp studio for a documentary they were making about the band when we were at the height of our success.

The next clip, however, shows a totally different band playing a concert in Argentina and the contrast is dramatic. The footage is from our last debauched world tour and in retrospect it is easy to see that disaster was on the cards. The film clip starts with a lingering silhouetted shot of Gino taking a long slug from a bottle before turning back to face the camera and audience. Coming immediately after the Belgian footage it is shocking to see how his earthy-looking complexion has been drained to a listless grey, the sinews of his neck and forehead are prominent and his eyes are covered by shades. He strums a couple of times at his guitar, shrugs and almost accidentally picks up on the opening riff of a song called ‘Sahara Night’ followed half-heartedly by the rest of the band. A shot of Aaron shows him making all the right moves but with little passion, for while he taps out a faultless rhythm, his body is rigid and tense. Finn’s hair is still spiked and fiery and he wears his tinted granny glasses, but he too seems lethargic, standing slumped against an amp, his face set into a scowl. Justin nods in time at his keyboards, but avoids eye contact with the camera which pans across to where I am standing in the half shadows at the side of the stage. My head is dipped towards my guitar and I seem oblivious to the intrusion of the camera as I play a counter melody to Gino’s riff; when I look up I glance across the stage to where Gino is, my eyes haunted and wary, afraid

that at any minute he will launch an attack on some member of the audience.

Although I have seen this footage before I am still shocked at my own appearance and the contrast between the confident, slightly stoned guitarist who was on the screen a few minutes earlier and the emaciated and scraggly bearded figure I had become.

Rory Gallagher

RTE television paid tribute to the late Rory Gallagher on Monday night with a docu-
menatry made in the 1970s and a second programme featuring Rory playing a live accoustic set, also from the mid 1970s. If Rory had lived he would have been 60 this year.
I saw Rory play a dozen times in Belfast and Dublin. The first time I saw him was at Lisdoonvarna in Co Clare in 1983 when I was 18. I caught a bus from Belfast to Galway, then hitched over the Burren for the two-day festival. Rory headlined the first night and Van Morrison the second night. The day after the concert I hitched to Limerick and the next day from Limerick to Dublin and on to Downpatrick by that night.
Below is a feature I wrote for The Irish News in 1997 to mark the third anniversary of Rory's death and which includes an interview with his brother Donal. Part of it was quoted, although unattributed, on the slieve notes for a CD edition of his 1974 Irish Tour album.

In Love with the Blues

Tonight Belfast's Elmwood Hall will rock to the music of the late Rory Gallagher. Three years after Rory's death on June 14 1995, Tony Bailie looks back at the man and his music and discovers his legacy lives on ......
It is not unusual for a city to honour its famous sons, and recently a memorial was unveiled in Cork commemorating Irish blues guitarist Rory Gallagher ..but why should there be a Avenue Rory Gallagher in Paris?
There are other more surreal memorials; a crawl through the Internet uncovers a host of sites dedicated to the guitar legend: often these sites have been set up by fans Ireland, Germany and Scandinavia and another swathe in North America give their own testimonies to the music of Rory and to share their memories of the man.
It is of course a cliché to use the word legendary" when talking about a rock star, particularly when they are dead, but the status of Rory, in his home country and abroad, is more deserving than most.
He may never have set the pop charts alight, but worldwide his albums sold millions and his concerts have gone into the pantheon of rock history.
Belfast has a unique place in the Gallagher legend during the rhythm and blues explosion of the mid 1960's Rory and his band Taste lived in the city and refined their sound before going on to take Europe by storm.
Rory Gallagher never forgot Belfast and returned throughout the 1970's, when few other artists of his calibre dared to come near the place.
The Ulster Hall became almost a second home to Rory and it is not unusual for older rockers in the north to become choked up as they recall his performances.
Younger (ish) rockers like myself can boast that we saw the great man in the eighties, again in the Ulster Hall, but there was always a feeling that we had missed Gallagher at his prime. Not so, assure the older members of the rock fraternity- Gallagher never lost it.
Rory was actually born in Ballyshannon, Co Donegal, in 1948, and moved with his family to Cork when he was still a child. His brother Donal can remember him tuning into American radio to search out Blues music when he was aged just six.
He recalls: "My father was a musician and when Rory asked for a guitar my parents sent off through a catalogue and received what was almost a toy guitar, but Rory at the age of eight was able to pick out chords on it. Later when we moved to Cork he got a proper acoustic guitar and then later an electric one. "
Rory's first musical outings were with the showbands that predominated the Irish music scene in the 1960's, but during atom in Germany the showband he was with fell apart and Rory persuaded the promoter to let him continue with a three-piece.
When he returned to Cork, Rory stuck to the three-piece format and formed his first power blues trio, Taste, in 1966, a year before Cream and two years before the Jimi Hendrix Experience.
The Rolling Stones and The Animals had already successfully tapped into the Delta Blues sound of the American deep south, and in Belfast a young Van Morrison and his band Them, were doing the same.
The Belfast audience was ripe for the burgeoning rhythm and Blues scene and had spawned the legendary (it's that word again) Sammy Hustons and the Maritime Blues Club.
Here regulars could see the best of Irish and British Blues bands, interpreting the sounds from across the Atlantic. It was that scene which attracted Rory to the city.
Queen's University lecturer John Fleming recalls Rory Gallagher in those days and being instantly taken by his mastery of the guitar, stage show and his ability to get an audience hopping.
It is an admiration that lasted throughout Rory's career and those memorable Ulster Hall concerts. John Fleming is still a Gallagher devotee and one of those behind tonight's Elmwood Hall tribute.
"His guitar technique was what caught me and he never lost it. He was a shy man, but seemed to come alive when he went on stage. "
Taste went through a number of line-ups before settling down to the line-up of Gallagher on guitar and vocals, Richard McCracken on bass and John Wilson on drums.
They produced two studio albums and a live recording at the Isle of Wight festival in 1969 , before breaking up.
Rory spent the rest of his career touring under his own name, usually in a three-piece format, but with piano and mouth harp augmenting the line-up along the way. His steadfast bass man through nearly the rest of his career was Belfast born, Gerry McAvoy .
Rory produced over a dozen studio albums, but the live ones seemed to portray the man at his best. Doubters should listen to Bull Frog Blues on his early live release, European Tour, or Too Much Alcohol and the self-penned, A Million Miles Away, on the Irish Tour 74 album.
In fact let's get down to it, A Million Miles Away, aching vocals and tortured guitar solo, is the best goddamn song you're ever likely to hear.
Many late comers, like myself, may have been lured (appropriately dressed in denims and a cheap copy of Gallagher's seemingly endless supply of cheque shirts) to Rory concerts by the foot stompin', stadium rockers like Shadowplay, Philby and Shin Kicker, but it was obvious that the man's artistry and passion were with the blues -a passion that he instigated in others, handed down, and for many (I'll include myself here again), blossomed into an obsession.
The common theme that ran through Gallagher's music was the blues: he could have gone all Claptonesque and sold bucket fulls of a glossy soft bluesy pastiche, but he was too deeply rooted in the whole Blues ethos to do that.
Legend has it that when Mick Jones, who replaced the late Brian Jones, left the Rolling Stones, Gallagher was approached, but he refused and some guy called Ronnie Wood joined instead.
Donal Gallagher says that there was pressure on Rory from his record company to concentrate on the heavy metal sounds, but that Rory could not leave the Blues behind.
Perhaps he suffered in commercial terms, but his integrity earned him the respect of the Blues fraternity. At the precocious age of 24, Rory played with Muddy Waters and later with Jerry Lee Lewis.
Belfast, sometime in the mid 1980's, Gallagher's band disappears off the stage, but he stays and is handed a medieval looking acoustic guitar and launches into Tony Joe White's "As the Crow Flies'. Rapture and applause follow. Next comes, and somehow we all knew somehow it would, Leadbelly’s 'Out on the Western Plain'. Nice one Rory.
Like John Fleming, Belfast rock impresario Terri Hooley is another who remembers Rory during his early performances at the Maritime, but he also has a unique insight into the man and his music, just before he died.
Terri recalls, "I interviewed him for a UTV programme called "Rock the North". He was ill at the time and didn't want to do it, but finally agreed....saying he would rather talk about what he was doing then, rather than his past musical career.
"That was fine, but then I asked him why did Irish people like the blues so much. That set him off and he talked for, it seemed like hours, about Irish traditional music, Cajun, the Blues and how they were all interlinked.
"He was one of the nicest guys you could meet, but if you walked in to a room with six people in it, Rory Gallagher was the last person you would ever expect to be a rock legend. If you went back stage he would be pacing up and down by himself and be really nervous, yet by the time he got on stage it was a completely different ball game and there was a real stage presence there. "
Terri Hooley has also had recent first-hand experience of Rory's international appeal.
"We see it with the influx of foreigners coming to Belfast who come in and snap up an Rory's albums. During the peace talks there were literally hundreds of journalists from all over the world staying round the corner in Jury' s Hotel and the Europa, and they would come in and get really excited about all of Rory's albums that they couldn't buy at home."
The Gallagher legacy looks set t0 filter down into a new generation. Radio Ulster's rock guru Mike Edgar, who presents the youth-focused Across the Line, admits he is a Rory Gallagher fan.
"He is Ireland's Jimi Hendrix." But Mike's admiration is, he says, outshone by a new generation of fans. "I am constantly amazed by his appeal. I can think of two 17-year-olds, one who plays in an indie rock group and the other in a heavy metal band and both claim to have the entire Rory Gallagher back catalogue in their record collections. I think it might be a generational thing, and their parents who were growing up during the seventies and eighties have now passed on their appreciation of Rory to their kids."
Mike also remembers Gallagher as "a quiet, unassuming" man.
"He was very soft spoken, but a genuine and sincere person. The last time I interviewed him he was unwell and anyone else would have told you to clear off, but he seemed to sense that it was more than an interview for me, that I was a fan, and he said it was OK for the interview to go ahead. "He was someone who was seeped in the Blues and respected by his peers. I remember on one occasion interviewing BB King and he was sitting talking about Rory Gallagher. You don't get a much better recommendation than that, but still he (Gallagher) didn't have the world wide recognition he deserved."
If Rory didn't get such recognition in terms of record sales and music press, he did among his musical peers and his fans. Few recording or touring artists have earned the accolade of being among the top 10 guitarist in the world, and in the transient world of rock music, few have secured the loyalty of life-long fans.
That devotion has continued beyond Rory's life and according to John Fleming, tribute nights will be held across Europe, Asia and North America this weekend to remember the Ballyshannon-born Blues man.
"We are expecting people from England and Europe at the Elmwood Hall on Saturday. There will be five bands, including Aftertaste with Dave McHugh, who looks like Rory and does a mean impersonation of him. Mark Feltham, who played harmonica on-and-off for nearly 15 years with Rory, will also be appearing."
Donal Gallagher also plans to travel to Belfast for tonight's concert and he is currently working his way through Rory's archive and plans to remix and release all his albums, post Taste for now, with additional tracks never before issued.
Donal still has Rory's trademark battered Fender Stratocaster guitar and will be shipping it off to Fender in California next week so they can begin work on a Rory Gallagher signature model.
Recently the guitar was put on display at a Fender exhibition and there were guitars belonging to Hank Marvin, Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck, but Rory's stood out, it is so distinctive it hardly needed any explanation as to who it belonged to."
Donal admits to being proud of his brother's legacy, although it is obviously tinged with sadness that he is no longer with us.
"I don't think he got the recognition that he deserved while he was alive, but the generation of musicians and fans coming through now seem to respect his music and I think he is now getting a lot more recognition for his integrity. He lived and died the Blues."

The Undertones, Terri Hooley, Outcasts and Rudi

These were a series of articles I wrote for The Irish News earlier this year to mark the 30th anniversary of Teenage Kicks by The Undertones. It includes interviews with Undertones guitarist John O'Neill who wrote the song and Terri Hooley who founded the Belfast punk label Good Vibrations which released the single. It also includes interviews with Greg Cowan from the Outcasts and Brian Young from Rudi, who also released records on the Good Vibes label.


Teenage Kicks has endured for 30 years as one of the best known songs to come out of Ireland but it took less than an hour to write.
Undertones guitarist John O’Neill was 18 at the time and while he acknowledges its place in popular culture, he doesn’t actually think it is the best song he has written.
The Undertones were formed in Derry in 1976 by O’Neill, his brother Damien, drummer Billy Doherty, bass player Mickey Bradley and singer Feargal Sharkey.
“I was strumming on my guitar and was trying to write a song in the style of the Ramones who were our big influence at the time,” John O’Neill said.
“The whole chord structure is in the style of a 1950s rock song by Eddie Cochrane or the Shangri Las. Once we had the chords in place it all came together fairly quickly.
“When we first played the song it probably took about 10 minutes to find the right key to suit Feargal’s voice.
“The Undertones had actually been on the verge of breaking up when they were signed to the Good Vibrations label by Terri Hooley.
“We sent demos to different independent record labels and they were either rejected or else we got no reply. Then a friend of ours who knew Terri Hooley offered to take him a copy of the demo.
“We owe everything to Terri Hooley.”
Teenage Kicks was the fourth single to be released by Good Vibrations and The Undertones and Hooley set about trying to get it some radio play, with little
It was drummer Billy Doherty who set in motion a series of events that would change the lives of The Undertones and ensure that the song would forever also be associated with one of Britain’s best-known and most influential radio DJs.
“Billy sent John Peel a copy of Teenage Kicks and rang him up to say we had released a single and asked him to play it,” O’Neill said.
“I don’t know what he thought of these weird Irish people who kept ringing him but he played it on his show and, famously, immediately played it again.”
Peel always maintained that Teenage Kicks was his favourite songs and when his death was announced on BBC Radio One in 2004, it was the first song played immediately afterwards.
O’Neill and other members of the Undertones attended Peel’s funeral.
“It was very sad and strange because there were so many famous people there. Robert Plant (singer with Led Zeppelin) was sitting behind us and Jack White (from the White Stripes) was in front,” he said.
“There was some great music played during the service but then when they were carrying the coffin from the church they played Teenage Kicks.
“It really gave me goosebumps.”
Following the success of the song, The Undertones went on to record four albums and a handful of successful singles.
In 1983 the band split. Singer Feargal Sharkey went on to have a successful solo career and the O’Neill brothers formed That Petrol Emotion.
However, in 1999 The Undertones reformed featuring four of the original members and with fellow Derryman Paul McLoone taking over as vocalist. The band has continued to tour and released two new albums.
O’Neill said he had written dozens of songs since Teenage Kicks but doesn’t resent being remembered for something he did when he was 18.
“I think the songs that I wrote for That Petrol Emotion were better than the ones I wrote for the Undertones,” he said.
“I don’t think Teenage Kicks is one of the greatest songs ever written but it does have a great atmosphere and somehow everything clicked together. I think that
is what appealed to John Peel.”


THE words punk and explosion often sit side by side but the actual date when punk first exploded depends on who you are talking to.
In England it is generally accepted that the Sex Pistols were to the forefront of the movement but their early success and notoriety in 1976 was more of an angry fizzle driven by the use of naughty words on television.
It wasn’t really until the summer of ‘77 when they released the provocative single God Save the Queen, in which the British monarchy was described as a “fascist regime” and whose cover had a picture of Queen Elizabeth with a safety pin through her nose, that they really exploded onto the scene.
There were punks in Northern Ireland from the start of the movement and dozens of bands were formed in 1976 and the following year, but for many it was 1978 when punk really exploded in the north when the record label Good Vibrations was set up.
According to the label’s founder Terri Hooley, it came into existence almost by accident.
Hooley was running the Good Vibrations record shop in Great Victoria Street in Belfast city centre where many punks had begun to gather to listen to records and occasionally even buy the latest releases from Britain.
“I went to see Rudi and the Outcasts in the Pound. I loved Rudi but hated the Outcasts – which was ironic because a year later I was managing the Outcasts and releasing their records,” he said.
“I asked Rudi if they fancied putting out a record. We were initially going to make a flexi-disc which we could give away with fanzines but then it turned out that it would only cost 6p per record to release a proper single.”
The release by Rudi was followed up by a host of other bands including Victim, The Outcasts and Protex.
“I wanted to try to put Northern Ireland back on the musical map. At that time the only thing that Northern Ireland was known for was the Troubles,” he said.
“The whole label was run on a shoestring but within months we were getting demos from all over the world.”
One of those tapes came winging its way from Derry from a band called The Undertones and it would ultimately give Good Vibrations its best known release.
“I got the demo through a friend and listened to it for about two weeks. I kept playing it to other people and bands but no-one else seemed to get it,” Hooley said.
“I had to make a decision between signing up the Undertones and another band, because I didn’t have enough money to put out records by them both.
“Then someone told me that the Undertones were about to break up so I decided to bring them on to the label– I’ve always felt sorry for the other band.”
The Teenage Kicks EP was recorded in Wizard Studios in Belfast, behind the Duke of York bar.
It was recorded in a day. There were four tracks – Teenage Kicks, True Confessions, Smarter Than You and Emergency Cases.
Hooley said despite the subsequent international success of the title song it did not immediately set the record industry alight.
“I took it over to England and persuaded one of the hippest independent record labels of the time to distribute 500 copies, even though someone on the label told me it was the worst record he had ever heard,” he said.
“I also took it to other major labels but they just threw me out. Then John Peel got a hold of the record and the rest is history.
“A senior executive for Sire Records heard Peel play it and immediately wanted to sign up the Undertones and release Teenage Kicks in the States.
“The next day other record labels were on to me asking if I had any more bands that they could sign up.”
Hooley is still running a record shop, Phoenix Records, in Haymarket Arcade off Royal Avenue and there are plans to make a film based on his life story, with an impressive production team.
“Snow Patrol singer Gary Lightbody and David Holmes (record producer and DJ) are executive producers and the script is being written by (novelist) Glen[n] Patterson and (poet) Colin Carberry,” he said.
“I was a bit worried at first because people might actually finally find out if I’m a taig or a prod but they have told me that they won’t mention that.”
A concert celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Good Vibrations record label was held in the Mandela Hall, Belfast, on Friday April 25.
Headliners were The Undertones and support was ‘punk supergroup’ Shame Academy, which includes former members of The Outcasts and Rudi.


FAR too often the vibrant Northern Ireland punk scene of the late 1970s is summed up by name-checking just two bands, the Undertones and Stiff Little Fingers.
However, there were hundreds of other groups playing at the time some lasting barely a few days but others who gigged regularly and put out records.
Two bands who were also tipped for major success were Rudi and The Outcasts. Both released singles on the Good Vibrations label.
Shame Academy features members from both bands and their set combines their best known songs.
Brian Young was guitarist with Rudi and Greg Cowan was bass-player and vocalist with The Outcasts. Another punk veteran Petesy Burns, who played with Stalag 17, is on drums.
Young was 18 when he and a group of friends formed Rudi, the first band to release a single, Big Time, with Good Vibrations in April 1978.
“The music being made by bands here was much more original than bands in England,” he said.
“There were no bands coming here to play so we couldn’t go and see them and when it came to writing a song we just made up our own rules.”
While Young agrees that the music was an important aspect of punk, he said the attitude and self confidence it generated for thousands of young people during the worst decade of the Troubles has often been overlooked.
“I don’t want to be too naive about hands across the barricades sort of stuff but there were people coming together and sharing something in common. Maybe if it
hadn’t been for punk they would’ve got involved in some organisation or other,” he said.
Young now plays with rockabilly band the Sabrejets, with Shame Academy being dusted down for the occasional gig.
Greg Cowan from The Outcasts hadn’t played for more than 20 years until he agreed to join Young and Burns in Shame Academy.
He was bemused that his musical comeback should be with associated with a band he once derided.
“If you had told me that 30 years ago that I would be playing in the same band as a member of Rudi, playing their songs and that I would still be playing Outcast songs, I would have laughed at you,” he said.
Cowan formed the The Outcasts with his brothers Martin and Colin and guitarist Getty after they heard the Sex Pistols in 1976.
“It was more a case of ‘Right, we’re going to be in a band’. We couldn’t actually play any instruments,” he said.
“People still ask me how we got that strange slightly out of tune effect on our guitars for our first album. They think it is a sort of punk thing when really we couldn’t properly tune our guitars.”
Cowan agrees with Young that punk helped a lot of people define who they were.
“Nobody could have imagined that decades later we would be sitting trying to analyse the music and its effects on society,” he said.

John Moriarty

This is an interview I carried out with John Moriarty in 2001. It was originally written for the website, which I ran at the time and which is now defunct. I met John in Killarney and later drove him to his home on the side of Mangerton Mountain. He wrote nine books, most of them huge ponderous things but which carry you along. John died in 2007 from cancer.

With a shock of white hair, ancient lived in eyes and a mildly eccentric dress sense, John Moriarty is someone who causes people to do a double take as he passes by. He exudes an easy going and unselfconscious charm which enthrals the waitresses in the restaurant where we sit down to eat and they seem to squabble over who is going to serve him.
Our conversation is an almost hypnotic experience as Moriarty intones his sentences in a rich north Kerry accent, repeating key phrases two or three times to milk the full impact of the point he wants to make, almost as if he is mimicking the chanting shamans who dominate so much of his writing.
He has published five books drawing liberally upon the legends of Ireland, classical Greece, American Indians, Australian Aborigines, Ancient Egypt, Islam, Asia and the Christian Gospels to try and articulate the inner most mysteries of human consciousness.
His most recent book Nostos, published in March 2001, is a huge sprawling volume of autobiography containing nearly 700 pages of tightly crammed text, with no chapter breaks, setting out many of the ideas that he had already articulated in his previous books, but in a ``biographical context.’’
He was born close to Listowel in Moyvane in 1938, educated at University College Dublin, lectured English Literature in Canada for six years before dropping out of academia to live in Connemara where he worked as a gardener.
``I baptised myself out of culture in Connemara and started to remake my mind again with new sensations, sensations the colour of red stragnum and the sound of the stream, the colour of sunset, the calling of a fox, the smell of heather,’’ he says
``I went through libraries, I had been to the galleries and been to the concert halls and I was literally glutted with culture, I had to come out and put my head in a stream in a bog in Connemara and let it all wash out and start again and remake my mind.’’
He moved to Kerry six years ago and currently lives in a small book filled house on the slopes of Mangerton Mountain about five miles outside of Killarney. He says he feels like an exile in modern Ireland and only comes down from his retreat to give an occasional lecture or to shop for groceries.
He continues: ``An old name for Ireland is Fódhla and I live in a dimension of the land of Ireland called Fódhla and when I am coming down to Killarney I feel like showing a passport sometimes at Muckross because I’m crossing into Ireland.’’
Moriarty’s first book was called Dreamtime after the Australian Aboriginal myth that their ancestors literally dreamed the earth, as we know it, into existence. He says that his writing is an attempt to bring this concept into an Irish and European context.
``I wanted to drop out of official Europe and find out is there an Irish Dreamtime in the way that Australian Aborigines walk their songlines. I feel that is where I live. I live in Ireland’s Dreamtime, I live in Europe’s Dreamtime. It is a dropping out of history and your responsibility to history, returning to the Dreamtime that was before history and so it was an attempt to go back and walkabout in Ireland’s Dreamtime,’’ he says.
For Moriarty myths are a means of articulating the inner most concerns of the human psyche and their retelling is a path to self-knowledge.
``The Minotaur myth to me is an enlightenment about the beast within me, it pictures the beast in me, it pictures who I phylogenetically am rather as opposed to who acidicly I am. They let me see myself in my deepest impulses, my darkest impulses,’’ he says.
``I open my door to the wisdom of humanity with no customs and excise stuff. If I can touch the pulse of a myth or an Upanishad or of a Sutra from the Buddhist thing, or the Tibetan Book of the Dead then that speaks a truth to me, the truth isn’t tribal, there are tribal truths, but my door is open and I listen extra-territorially, I listen outside of my own territory.
``We have not taken what the myths have said to us seriously, now some of them are stupid and silly, but there are quite a few which to me are places of great revelation and enlightenment and they enable me to know me and to inherit me.
``I am taking responsibility for the darkest impulses within me and saying `John ask this much of yourself but don’t ask that much of yourself, don’t stir up the beast within yourself.' You’re not going to like what you find, you can be terrified by what you find.’’
Moriarty had to spend many years battling the ``beasts’’ within himself, an experience he says which could have ``blown me away.’’
He continues: ``In the way that there is a physical appendix and that siphons off the poisons which if they burst would flood the body and poison the body, I think there is a karmic appendix and the karma of lifetimes is stored in it and a time comes in one incarnation or another that karmic appendix bursts and your mind is flooded with bad karma and there were nights when I felt that the windows of my bedroom were fogged up with the stuff that was coming out of me, it was a real witches cauldron.
``There was a time when I saw three doors before me, a door into a monastery, a door into a high security prison, because it was within me to commit the ultimate crime, the big crime, the kind of impulses that would enable one to commit the ultimate crime were at large in me, and I saw a door into a mental home.’
Moriarty took refuge in an Oxfordshire monastery living there for 18 months as layman, participating fully in the monastic routine and returning to the Catholicism of his youth.
He says: ``I needed divine assistance, I needed to invoke grace, I mean I can’t heal me, I need healing from outside the system that I am and that normally is called grace…. I found when I needed help I found myself falling back into mother tongue and mother tongue wasn’t Hinduism, wasn’t Buddhism, wasn’t Taoism wasn’t Australian Aboriginalism or Native Americanism.
``The Gospels really are a wonderful tall tale about Jesus and its as a tall tale in the best sense of the world that I see them, and I’ve gone so far as to say that even if the tale was ten times taller it would still only be capturing glimpses of the reality… it’s the poetry of Christianity, not the dogmas, the Jesus that I hear instead of the lawyers, the people that would turn it into dogma.
``Christianity enables me to be much more radical than most of the secular radicals. Christianity is so radical that we have to water it down. I don’t think it can be socially realised at all, which is usually the old problem with mysticism. How do you socially institute mystical insights? You could do a lot of damage while trying to do it.’’
Moriarty says he felt as if he went through ``fire and purification’’ and that in a way the books he writes are part of the healing process.
``It was very important to speak it and to name it… I had to learn the language and the vocabulary and a lot of the vocabulary was the old myths and then the mystics the Upanishads and the Sutras of Hinduism and Buddhism and the Christian mystics and the Muslim mystics,’’ he says.
As well as working on another book Moriarty has plans to open what he calls ``a hedge school,’’ based on a monastic discipline. He wants it to become a place of learning where people can come to study mythical and mystical texts, particularly the Hindu Upanishads which reflect on the nature of man and the universe.
The Upanishad may not fall within the canon of texts studied in most traditional western monasteries, but as Moriarty says he wants to ``listen to the wisdom of the world.’’
He continues: ``I don’t think within the tribe, I haven’t walled myself in to the tribal thinking. I listen to the wisdom of humanity.’’

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

First Blog

The Lost Chord is the story of a peculiarly Irish rock legend as seen through the eyes of Manus Brennan, Duil's rhythm guitarist and former Belfast busker.
Picked up by the luckiest of flukes to join Gino and his not-so-merry men, Manus lives to the full the rock and roll lifestyle. As he happily admits in his recounting of the Gino legend, Manus leaves no cliche unturned: the boredom of touring, the drugs, the groupies, the joy and freedom of playing before thousands, the unexpected liberations of songwriting, the waste of money and the excesses of ego.
And yet at the centre of it all is Gino. One of the lads and yet always unknowable, whose sudden disappearance turns everyone's world upside down.
Written with the verve and brio of Gino's press interviews, Tony Bailie's debut novel is a sardonic and entertaining romp through rock mythology.
The Lost Chord can be bought directly from the publisher Lagan Press or from Amazon