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This Weekend I’ll Mostly be Listening to… The Golden Horde, the Chocolate Biscuit Conspiracy July 9, 2011

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....
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Inevitable, is it not that we’d eventually arrive at the Golden Horde. And not the first to do so, although note they were also namechecked here, but… nonetheless a band worth covering, and particularly the earlier stage in their career because they managed to do something quite unusual by bringing together punk and a certain strand of hippy from the years of zonk, albeit a curiously and perhaps uncharacteristically knowing strand of hippy.

The lineup which took The Chocolate Biscuit Conspiracy on the road was, to my mind, the classic one, though I only saw them once or twice. Simon Carmody’s voice was a punk monster, all Joey Ramone and grand gestures. Bernie Furlong’s vocals were equally strong – indeed some might suggest that the band were never better than when there was the interplay between Carmody and her. Des O’Byrne produced surprisingly subtle guitar sounds and all this underpinned by Peter Kennedy on drums and Donal Murray on bass. That changed after they left Hotwire Records, with Sammy Steiger coming in as a second guitarist, and John Connors replacing Donal Murray. The sound changed too, but that’s a different story.

It’s amazing to think that for a band that were a near permanent fixture on the Irish rock scene between 1982 and 1994 they only released three disks that could be – loosely – termed albums. More amazing still to listen afresh to their sound and hear how different it was to almost anything else going on in Irish rock at the time. Because The Golden Horde were a perfect marriage of punk and garage with a side order of psychedelia and psychobilly and when set against the faux modernist trappings of U2 and their host of imitators they sounded not merely raw but bloody.

But, if that was distinctive, then bringing Robert Anton Wilson – co-author with Robert Shea of the Illuminatus Trilogy – prime artifact of mid-70s zonkdom in terms of drugs, politics and sexuality – into the mix as a sort of vocalist was inspired. The visibility of the Illuminatus Trilogy was quite something during the late 1970s and early 1980s. I think I read it first in 1978 or 79, and quite an impression it made on a young 13 or 14 year old WBS – it left me an anarchist of sorts for quite some years subsequently. Of course, what worked well in the sunny climes of the United States – or at least some of them, didn’t necessarily translate unerringly well eastwards across the Atlantic, and by book number 2 of the trilogy I was fading fast. Wilson of course was an intriguing sort of libertarian, I read now he was in favor of basic income and he had critical words for Ayn Rand in the Illuminatus Trilogy itself. But then Wilson also translated eastwards across the Atlantic winding up on our fair shores.

Some enterprising person who goes by the name of charliespliff on YouTube has uploaded some tracks from the peerless Anton Wilson/Golden Horde collaboration “Chocolate Biscuit Conspiracy”. Now sadly you won’t find ‘I was a Communist for the FBI’ here, or their epic ‘Black Flag’ or indeed … but ‘Little U.F.O.’, ‘The Chocolate Biscuit’ and ‘Young & Happy’ are here. Sometimes hard edged, sometimes surprisingly skeletal, all held together by Carmody, Furlong and Anton Wilson… And in some ways that’s all you really need. Except, of course, it isn’t, so I’ve thrown in a few more tracks as well from across their career.

Curious as to where you might have seen them? I direct you to this fan website which has almost every single gig they played. According to this I saw them at least four or five times. Probably a few more if truth be told, but the memory isn’t what it was. And wasn’t then, come to think of it [IELB makes the point that though not overtly political they also played quite a few benefits for pro-choice and other issues].

My own interaction with them beyond that of spectator, and God knows if you listened to any bands in the 1980s they were sure to be somewhere about, either in the crowd or playing support, was limited but not nonexistent. Carmody was what you’d expect, Des a gentleman.

In a period where groups tended towards a similarity of image they were widely/wildly divergent in look looking as if they should be in four or five separate bands. No bad thing – and perhaps the source of their strength. But musically they were tighter than might be expected and a lot more fun. And if there was sometimes the sense – [particularly in their later incarnation] that they’d have liked nothing more than to be Ireland’s Ramones [a band they once supported], well in truth they were as close as we were going to get, and that was pretty damn close. But perhaps a more accurate way of looking at it is that they were in no way simple Ramones copyists, and were instead so much more and better than that.

Exhibits A through H below…

Little U.F.O.

The Chocolate Biscuit

Young & Happy

Later still…from 1986

Crash Pad Chick

Vampire Bat

Later again from the early 1990s

100 Boys

Endless Weekend

I Never Came Down

Comments»

1. sonofstan - July 9, 2011

Carmody was what you’d expect,

🙂

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WorldbyStorm - July 9, 2011

Whaat? Whaaaaattt? 😉

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sonofstan - July 9, 2011

You know, BTW, his father was a communist for the CPI? Paddy Carmody, who wrote as A. Raftery……

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WorldbyStorm - July 9, 2011

I did not.

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2. Pat - July 9, 2011

Great band, the Mother Records 100 Boys vinyl still get a spin on the Dansette from time to time.

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WorldbyStorm - July 9, 2011

Unless I’m mistaken none of their stuff is available except second hand, which is a real pity.

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Dr. X - July 9, 2011

That’s probably because it’s really not very good, is it?

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3. Dr. X - July 9, 2011

To quote the Hold Steady (a band our 48-year old teenager would like, btw), ‘I lived through the ’80s once already, and I don’t remember them all that fondly’.

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WorldbyStorm - July 9, 2011

Well some folks really know how to brighten up a Saturday morning…

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Dr. X - July 9, 2011

Just spreading sweetness and light through the hibernoleftcybersphere. No need to thank me!

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Dr. X - July 9, 2011

Also you have my personal guarantee that you will like the Hold Steady:

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WorldbyStorm - July 9, 2011

Ah, the Hold Steady, I’ve got to admit a sneaking fondness for their muted Husker Du tendencies.

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4. Dr.Nightdub - July 9, 2011

Didn’t realise the support slot for The Fall was only their second gig…maybe it’s the fog of memory confusing me, but did they have two drummers on that occasion?

Also, am I right in thinking they were Aidan Walsh’s backing band whenever he started playing live? I know he had the Screaming Eagles or something later, but early on they were the perfect partners in wackiness.

As for not recalling the 80s too fondly, I doubt anyone does – but no harm remembering with gratitude the times when it was possible to escape the misery. The Horde (in both incarnations) offered a great antidote to all that.

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WorldbyStorm - July 9, 2011

I should have mentioned, wasn’t there an Aiden Walsh crossover on the Chocolate Biscuit? Great point.

Ach, the 80s, they were okay. Some cracking music in the early part. But then that was true of the early 90s and the mid 90s in electronica.

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Dr.Nightdub - July 9, 2011

Think it was more of a Horde crossover on Aidan’s album. Thought I still had that but when I checked the vinyl vault, it seems it must’ve been kidnapped by aliens, all I have left is his “Christmas in Four Dimensions” EP and pretty much all of the Mark 2 lineup of the Horde play on that.

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sonofstan - July 9, 2011

I have a signed copy of Aidan’s album:
the dedication reads ‘From Aidan Walsh to —– and —- best of luck from Aidan Walsh’.

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WorldbyStorm - July 9, 2011

The Eagle… Wasn’t that his moniker?

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5. Chet Carter - July 9, 2011

Someone told me that Simon Carmody went on to be Bono’s fashion consultant for awhile, Advising him on what he should wear and what music he should be listening to ….. hmmmm.

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WorldbyStorm - July 10, 2011

No, say it ain’t so!

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Chet Carter - July 10, 2011

Thinking about Bono’s need to get acceptance from hipper people -U2 are popular with the lumpen rock fan who thinks Coldplay are cutting edge – but anyone who is hip will never like them. They will never get acceptance from their cooler peers. I remember Ian McCullough sneering at their ironic Zooopa phase. “I see U2 are being ironic now, I was ironic when I was seven”.

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WorldbyStorm - July 10, 2011

The thing with U2 for me was always Bono. Never liked his voice, never liked his lyrics, never liked the ‘look at me, look at me!’ stuff. The rest of them grand, good sound and rhythm section albeit nowhere near as edgy – ha, ha, as they thought they were.

And they’re so stolid as a group, album after album of leaden stuff which try to put twists on the basic formula depending on what’s in vogue but never transcends it.

Sad thing is that their first album was pretty good, if a bit pleased with itself. And October was okayish. But after that…

Whereas the Bunnymen. Mistake after mistake but still gold.

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LeftAtTheCross - July 11, 2011

U2 were the business once upon a time, really there wasn’t a band that came close to them when they were starting off. DC Nien maybe for a short while. The Strougers, but quite formulaic, although they pushed the bounds of that limitation. The Virgin Prunes as a mish mash, pretentious but never dull. And U2 rose above them all with energy, imagination, presence, and good music. I appreciate it’s uncool to say anything positive about U2, and their lengthy career leaves plenty of scope for criticism, but in their early stage they were something else. Boy and before. October was the start of the decline.

As for Echo & The Bunnymen, well don’t bother listening to Mac mouthing off in the media, just listen to the music. Show of Strength still gives me tingles, 30 years and a million listens on.

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6. crocodile - July 10, 2011

A propos recent posts, I see on the Guardian website that Wurzel of Motorhead has died. As Wikipedia states:
‘Before joining Motörhead in 1984, Burston had been a corporal in the Army, serving in Germany and Ireland with the 1st Battalion of the Gloucestershire Regiment, and had played in the bands Bastard and Warfare.’
‘Bastard and Warfare’. Love it.

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WorldbyStorm - July 10, 2011

Bloody hell. I remember when he seemed young.

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7. JOEKERMAN - July 15, 2011

For anyone looking for some Golden Horde sounds heres the place

http://diyirishhardcorepunkarchive.blogspot.com/search/label/Golden%20Horde

and anyone who doesn’t want to know the lofty heights Mr. Carmody has now climbed to then I’d recommend not reading this article through

http://www.herald.ie/entertainment/around-town/mud-sweat-and-cheers-as-showers-stay-away-for-oxegens-first-night-2817449.html

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8. irishelectionliterature - August 10, 2011

The Golden Horde live..
“show was originally recorded on 3/11/1988 as part of the Eurorock festival in Groningen, Holland but broadcast on radio in 1989. ..”

http://fanningsessions.wordpress.com/2011/08/07/the-golden-horde-eurorock-3111988/

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9. irishelectionliterature - September 3, 2012

A load of old Golden Horde demos , live and unreleased tracks

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10. ec - September 3, 2012

Saw them support Public Enemy during a lunchtime show in the very early 90s. Amazing show. Horde did all tunes with girls names in titles. Public Enemy’s DAT machine was bust so Chuck D gave the assembled masses a pretty much IRA loving anti-Imperialist speech. Seeing The boys march through the crowd on the green flanked by Security of the 1st World – imitation rifles and all – was quite something.

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ec - September 3, 2012

Sorry – should have said a TCD lunchtime show.

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