Alternative Ulster

Piece Written as Part of CopyWriting Pitch for Exhibition on Local Music Scene.

We didn’t get it. Their loss!

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Alternative Ulster

“It Doesn’t Get Any Better than This. . .”

John Peel

Bombs, bullets and bigotry provided one soundtrack to twenty-five years of Troubles in Northern Ireland. That was for the rest of the world. But here, there was an Alternative Ulster. Forget the Armalite and the ballot box; we’re talking an underground music revolution with a telecaster in one hand and an AC30 Vox amp in the other.

Inspiring Suspect Device and Teenage Kicks, yep, it was so good they played it twice. Gigs, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, navigated the Troubles through the rubble on the streets, escaping politics through music was normal.

From Cyprus Avenue, to the Trident in Bangor, the Casbah in Derry and the Harp and back to the Pound in Belfast’s docklands.

The sounds of Rudi, the Outcasts, Sweet Savage, the Exdreamysts echoed down the deserted night streets of Belfast. Outside it was quiet, inside the clubs, a different story. There, it wasn’t about politics, it was about music. Stiff Little Fingers and the Undertones escaped, making it across the water.

Life normal, as we knew it – bank holiday train trips to Portrush and Bangor.  Parkas and Vespas. Braving near-curfews and no-go areas for a gig. And the uniform? Same as everywhere else.  Leather biker jackets, jeans, 14 hole DMs. Safety pins, tartan, razor blades, bike chains and spiked dog collars commonplace on Saturday afternoons round the Cornmarket.

As Terri Hooley lamented: “It just shows you what we chucked away when we started shooting each other.”

But something else was gained. Riots not over sectarianism, but because the Clash were playing in Belfast. SS RUC ringing in their ears as the police used riot gear to disperse a crowd of Punks at a Rudi gig. Nothing sectarian about it, just good old fashioned Rock ‘n’ Roll Northern Ireland-style.

Teenage Kicks so Hard to Beat, everytime you walk down the street. Doesn’t get any better than this does it? So good they had to play it twice. We all did.

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