Patrick Logue: My past life as a teenage rock god in a shed in Donore
Almost 25 years after that summer, I still listen to those tapes
Every so often I drift back to the early 1990s, to a shed in Donore, not far from Newgrange, which is just outside Drogheda and just inside Co Meath. My hair is long and tied back in a short ponytail and I have a black replica Gibson Les Paul guitar hanging around my shoulders. It is plugged into a small amplifier with a large volume switch. Two friends, Gerry Hough and Tony Leddy, are there too. We are in Tony’s parents’ shed and we are all about 17. Gerry has a black-and-white Fender Stratocaster and Tony is sitting behind a set of Pearl drums.
Around us are various miscellaneous objects stored by the family, pieces of carpet, an old couch and what not. We don’t have a name for our little collective, nor do we have a bass player or a lead singer. We don’t have a gig to play, nor that illusive record deal. We don’t look awful but we are not destined to go a long way. We do, however, have a packet of cigarettes and heads full of dreams and possibilities. It’s the way it should be when you’re an 18-year-old man-boy.
In the corner is an ageing, black, single-deck radio cassette player spattered with paint. Inside is a blank tape, and the play and record buttons are pressed down. This is our mixing desk. Myself and Gerry have arrived with our equipment in the back of my mother’s red Renault 4. Sometimes we play in the conservatory at my house, in which case the drum kit arrives in the back of Tony’s mam’s green Toyota Starlet, or even his granny’s green Renault 5 on occasion , but generally it is easier to transport a couple of guitars and amps than a set of dismantled drums. Drummers: always the awkward ones. We always have lashings of tea in Tony’s kitchen before playing and often go into town in the evening for the postmortem.
But not before we have listened back to the recording and transferred the best bits from the original cut to a master tape. This is achieved via a hi-fi twin deck stereo system in Tony’s parents’ sitting room.
At certain points in time, these sessions are probably the most important things in our lives and we have all dreamed a little about being rock stars. Doesn’t every boy dream of being a rock star or a footballer? None of us is much good at football, but we are pretty handy at playing music. We attempt covers of our favourite artists and come up with some improvised tunes ourselves. One of us comes up with a riff, the other tries to pick it up before one of us embarks on a 10-minute solo. All the while Tony is doing his best to provide a rhythmic interpretation of it all.
Funny things, memories. We put them away and take them out from time to time. Almost 25 years after that summer in Donore, I still have a quick listen to those tapes, long since transferred to a hard drive and then uploaded to Soundcloud for posterity.
We were pretty good, but most of all the sounds invoke good memories and reawaken the dreams, the what-ifs, the little nuggets you can hear in the backgrounds. Like the part where I can be heard telling Gerry in an annoyed tone to get his guitar “in f***ing tune” or when Tony asks what we should play and Gerry responds that “a beat, maybe” would be a good idea. Meaningless incidents to anybody except those in the room, but precious to those three people.
It is why we put our memories in safe places – in the form of photographs, on hard drives, backed up to Google – and we call them up at certain times in our lives. I have a metal box under the bed in the spare room. Inside are handwritten letters I have received, cinema tickets from Paris in 1995, tickets to the Slane concert for Guns N’ Roses, REM, Neil Young, U2, the Foo Fighters and others. There are greeting cards people sent to me for significant birthdays, and a list of invitees to my 21st party. There are newspaper cuttings and entire editions where I felt the contents were worth keeping.
And on the issue of becoming an international rock star when this journalism thing doesn’t work out, watch this space. I don’t like to bang on about it, but I came extremely close to inventing a social network long before Mark Zuckerberg got lucky. Anything is possible, good memories rarely fade and dreams definitely never die. Man.