Date Published: 05-Aug-2011
IT is not often that a man who was once nominated for the presidency of the United States takes to the stage in a Galway pub, but there is hardly a more unconventional rock star than former Dead Kennedys frontman Jello Biafra who brings his newest band to the city’s Róisín Dubh next Wednesday night.
Biafra has been a thorn in the side of the American establishment for over three decades and arrives in Galway with his latest band, The Guantanamo School of Medicine, in the midst of yet another controversy over whether or not they should play a live date in Israel as part of the band’s current world tour.
Controversy seems to have dogged the life of 53-year old Biafra, real name Eric Boucher, ever since he left his native Colorado for California and a job as a ‘roadie’ with an early punk group called The Ravers back in 1977.
A year later, he responded to an advertisement in a record store to form a band called the Dead Kennedys, with guitarist East Bay Ray.
They went on to record some of the most important songs in the history of American punk rock, going through plenty of legal wrangles, a bitter split, and heaps of troubles in the intervening years.
For a generation of rockers on either side of the Atlantic, though, Biafra is still fondly remembered as the man who created and belted out such punk anthems as Holiday in Cambodia, California Uber Alles (a sardonic attack on then State Governor Jerry Brown), Police Truck, Kill The Poor (a critique about the neutron bomb), and the extremely cynical Viva Las Vegas.
He was one of the first American punk stars to write politically themed songs and California Uber Alles, which has been since covered by artists as diverse as The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy and They Might be Giants, is still seen as the song which defines an entire generation of American hardcore bands.
The band became minor stars in Britain and the US in the late 1970s and early ‘80s, amid concerns at one stage that their moderately successful single Too Drunk To F*** would make it onto Top of the Pops in the UK. Thankfully, for the good people at the BBC at any rate, it only made it to number 31 in the charts back in 1981.
For more on Jello Biafra and the Dead Kennedy’s obscenity court case see this week’s Tribune.
The way we were – Protecting archives of our past
People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.
Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.
She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.
Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.
Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.
When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.
Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.
And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.
All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.
“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”
That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.
For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here
Early tries scupper Wegians in Bateman Cup
Date Published: 24-Jan-2013
WOMAN TOLD TO LEAVE GALWAY OR FACE JAIL
Killimor wary of favourites tag for semi-final
Date Published: 30-Jan-2013