Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Orpheus In The Underworld.

The old Orpheus Bar in York Street has been pulled down. Saw the bones and rubble of it from the bus on the way to work the other morning. The newly adjusted bus route took us past its dusty skeletal remains and I do not believe another person on the bus batted an eyelid at the sight of its demise. I noticed the old Co-Op Building is coming down as well, stage by stage. That end of York Street, just past The Art College, seemed to me like a fixed point in time where nothing much ever went up or down. I used to think The Great Void began just beyond The Orpheus. Off course it was just the beginning of the motorway but it always seemed to stretch off into an electric over lit nothingness to me. For all I knew it was the rainbow bridge to Asgard.
               I do remember way back in the day a couple of buddies and me(see photos above) put together a band and that we made our stage debut in The Orpheus. I say debut but it was in truth our one and only stage performance. SEVENBASTARDSSUCK we called ourselves, after a Virgin Prunes song. The Prunes were a Dublin grown band we worshiped and thought Elder God Like. We were a support act for a band that could actually play. There is no other way to put it. Such was their generosity they allowed us to use some of their equipment. We did three songs which we stretched in our naive incompetency into a set. A song I wrote called The Devils(which was based on the Aldous Huxley story the Devils Of Loudun). As the lead singer I had this great spoken intro line HOW SHOULD A MAN PROFIT IF HE SHOULD GAIN THE WORLD BUT LOSE HIS SOUL before the guitars and drums came crashing in. At that point someone switched on a rented smoke machine and we vanished from view. Did not stop us though. I wailed and raved and my buddies slashed and bashed. We went straight into our second song. A cover of Dark Entries by the band Bauhaus. I believe I managed not to quite mangle Pete Murphie's punk toasting though I am probably wrong. We finished with a Siouxsie And The Banshees song Israel. LITTLE ORPHANS IN THE SNOW WITH NO WHERE TO CALL A HOME START THEIR SINGING. I thought it was heaven. An illusion no doubt reinforced by being shrouded in an artificial fog. Unable to see the faces of those unfortunate enough to hear us. Until I turned and saw someone else from the other band was playing for us. Our drummer had remembered he had left a bottle of cider hidden in the toilet cistern in a cubicle behind the stage. He had gone in to sit on the bog and finish it off.
               I thought we were a triumph. The bar manager described us as the second worst band ever to play there. Which I thought was a crashing insult. To be the worst would have been something but to just be the second worst was just to be rubbish. I thought we were stars. Indeed I thought it was already time for me to be thinking about my solo project with Siouxsie Sioux and Robert Smith. A concept album about Oscar Wilde dinosaur hunting.
               Leaving the Orpheus that night we were chased by skinheads. We fops scattered into the darkened Belfast side streets. Me and my mate ran up Royal avenue. This proved to be a mistake. The City Center in those days was ringed by security fences of very high steel that were locked up at night. If you were already in you could get out through a turnstile but not the other way around. My mate flew up that fence with the agility of a spider monkey. In truth he was just propelled by adrenalin and terror. In that state he could have climbed up a jet of water. Even at my very best I was less agile. However fear is a great spur to achievement and I somehow managed to go up that steel fence.On the way over the kilt I was wearing snagged and I fell forward and just hung awkwardly from the metal spike on top. When the skinheads reached the fence they just laughed and mocked. Which I suppose is better than a kicking. Thank Goodness there was no such thing as a phone camera then. Off the skins went on their not so merry way looking for some other victim on that dark Belfast night. I had to tear my kilt to get off that spikey top. All the blood had quite rushed to my head and I felt giddy and odd. I have often felt that way after escaping a kicking. Like my brain turns to chewing gum.
                 We never did take to the stage again. SEVENBASTARSUCK did indeed suck. My buddy Denis died. The first of the gang to die. Precious mate he was too. We were stupid and funny together. It is still unbelievable to me that he is gone. And now even the old venues are disapearing as the world gets ready for new peoples stories. Buildings cannot talk so we must speak for them. I am sure Belfast and beyond is full of people who have their own wee yarns to tell about evenings spent in pubs that were probably never all that good. I do not think that is an imminent qualification for a good memory though. Often the most vivid memories are not necessarily the best. Or even the worst.
                 Like moments lost in time.
                 Or Orpheus in the Underworld.
                 When the worst possible thing you can do is look back.