The Eclectic Light Programme

The Eclectic Light Programme – Interview – Pete Holidai of The Radiators From Space (17/8/2017)

Earlier this year, word came to music fans of a momentous anniversary. It’s all part of getting on and all that, but some anniversaries and events do make you take a step back. This is one of them. For those of us of a certain age, who were teenagers in the 70s, it was another moment to savour. Ziggy had blown our minds, Bolan had told us we were born to boogie, disco was just around the corner and the 60s was a distant memory…

In 1977, Ireland had its first punk band. They arrived with a great name too. The Radiators From Space had a clever moniker and a great logo that was as Irish as you could get and still had that little extra, that otherness that bands sometimes suggest but don’t always deliver. They delivered.

It was a funny old time back then. Some of us were still in thrall to the rock gods, The Who’s and the Zeppelins, The Stones. The Beatles had stepped away, the psychedelic adventurers were disappearing somewhat up their own fundaments a bit and basically getting older and out of step with the young dudes that Bowie and others had awakened. Some of the blame was laid at the door of Whispering Bob Harris and there was a sense that things were happening for younger people outside of the BBC and the notion that America still had the best bands was slipping away, bit by snarly bit.

In England, young bands with real attitude were making themselves known. Punk was a musical genre coined in late 60’s USA but it had a different meaning over this side of the pond; DIY, three chords and the truth, two fingers to the boring old farts. The kids were getting unruly again and the record companies were starting to take notice. The Sex Pistols horrified official England and thrilled us over here, all sneer and ripped clothes. Safety pins were being liberated from nurseries and a young movement was stirring in Ireland too.

Irish fans of punk (well, this one anyway) had little or no exposure to punk as it was called in England unless you were able to hear John Peel or some rare Irish broadcasters (all illegal at that time too, including myself). You saw the reaction of the English papers, from horror in the tabloids at the latest offence taken by the official media, yet we were, as we always were, on our own. Hot Press only debuted in mid 1977 and we didn’t have the same penetration of fanzines as there had been in other countries. Word of mouth was literally that, our own social media, yarns being the fake news of the time. Lizzy were kings, Horslips were local heroes, Rory Gallagher was the best guitarist in the world. The Boomtown Rats were limbering up for their own assault on the charts.

In to this new awakening came a band that had a manifesto; these guys had the name, the moves, the attitude and the songs to back it up. They came, they stayed a while, headed to England and made their name. In 1977 they produced their debut album and it still rocks the head, singles that rang clear, melodies that shone through and yet they defied description. They were themselves alone. Songs that stand the test of time and still have the power to raise the (greying or disappearing) hairs on the back of the neck. For my money they kicked all but Thin Lizzy off the park in Dalymount…

Fast forward to this year and the 40th anniversary. During the Roots Festival in May I stumbled upon the Trouble Pilgrims at the bar (of course). Some of the Radiators have made their home here, rocking out as always, with the odd look back and a smile and then a hard look forward, songs that make you move, think differently, reject the years that have passed and lock deep inside. And there’s the therimin, another blast from outer space…

We chatted about their album, more looking forward but then a little look back at that monstrous, ground shifting debut. Calls were made, dates were agreed and in August I found myself face to face with the legendary Pete Holidai, every bit the star he was then and then some. Most of what we discussed in the canteen will remain there…for a variety of reasons, but there you go…

We sat down for a quick chat. It turned in to the best hour or so that I’ve ever had in Studio 2. I hope you enjoy it.

The 40th anniversary edition of TV Tube Heart is available in all good record shops with plenty of goodies and loads of memories….buy it and play it for other people. Very loudly. Spread the word. Again