H2O ~ What Happened Next
Being in a band is the best fun in the world: the excitement leading up to the gig and seeing people respond when the music begins – it’s the most addictive feeling. And if you’re having a good night and everything comes together… bliss!
Meeting Ray and Paddy in The Tassie a few months ago really brought back memories of a happy time, I think, for all of us. Looking at the two of them across the table from me warmed my heart. And as we talked, I could see they really hadn’t changed at all – they looked as they did 36 years ago and were as cool as ever.
I’ve seen Jackie a good few times over the last four or five years, and if she’s changed it’s only in that maybe she’s more confident than she was then – let’s hope we all are. She’s still the same pretty girl I loved singing with – who wouldn’t? She makes your voice sound twice as good.
As a band and a bunch of mates we had a lot of fun, and being with people you like compensates for the fact that you’re rehearsing in a freezing cold cement bunker on the edge of a football field. (We disagreed about stuff too, I’m sure, but I doubt if any of us remember what).
Other rehearsal venue options were the biggest rooms in the drummer’s (Paddy Forsythe) or guitarist’s (Ray Downer) houses. The neighbours weren’t too mad about it but it had to be done a few times.
I don’t remember how we decided on H2O as I name but I think it was a democratic vote thing.
At the beginning we did talent competitions to get known and to learn about what we were at: we’d do recent chart songs (Rivers of bloody Babylon) but later did more of what we liked (Chuck Berry, The Cars, Blondie), For later gigs we valued our Status Quo ‘medley’ which was just stringing a different set of words together to exactly the same chords. And later again we did instrumentals and originals: Ray tells me someone recently mentioned ‘Lazy Days’ which we now all shudder to remember, but the punters really liked it – then.
The Sunnybank in Bray was a regular venue for talent competitions, MC’d by the charismatic Ernie Piggot who was always friendly and kind. We competed in The Noggin Inn competitions and in that case it was quite disturbing to see several teachers from your school watching you while you’re trying to not look like you’ve had a pint (I had definitely had a pint).
My sister Martha made myself and Jackie silver waistcoats and matching bow-ties which we wore a bit self-consciously (we were more hippy chics, we thought): but they looked nice and gave us an organised appearance. Martha also – quite rightly – suggested we wear lipstick while on stage, and ‘try to smile a bit!’, but the combination of lipstick and unaccustomed smiling just made our lips stick to our teeth – our mouths were dry with nerves.
The lads all wore black, of course, and looked very handsome as you can see from the pics.
Once we got a bit known we got support gigs for The National Ballroom and various other places, like a festival in Roundwood and an outdoor thing somewhere in Sallynoggin (anyone remember what that was?).
My brother-in-law Tommy was our manager at this stage and he was brilliant. Tommy loves all kinds of music and drove us in and out to gigs without a murmur: four in the back sometimes, one clutching a snare drum. We’d stop on the way home at Jon Don’s on the Rock Road for Hawaiian Burgers – a burger with a slice of pineapple. We’d be thrilled with ourselves, solvent and starving.
H2O supported loads of bands, like Johnny Logan (pre-Eurovision), Dickie Rock, Margo, Sheba – and some quite well-known ones… Some of them were more co-operative than others: doing support meant we had to use the headline band’s equipment – of course we blamed any sub-par sound on the fact that we weren’t allowed to touch anything: volume, reverb, etc. They would set it and wander off, and we’d be itching to turn it up or give ourselves a bit of echo… ah, the things that concerned us then.
One night in the National we had mixed vodka – or someone had – with lemonade (it was a dry ballroom so had to be smuggled in) and got a little drunk (not Jackie – she was very good). Apparently we got loud and giddy and Tommy had to cut the sound to get us off stage; and at an afternoon gig in Sweeney’s in Kilmacanogue the electricity was shut off on us because we wouldn’t shut up.
Paddy left H2O to pursue another musical path and we were fortunate to find one Andy Healy: a huge fan of Joe Dolan’s drummer Tony Newman and who, playing for the first time with a band at the audition (in the aforementioned freezing cold cement bunker – nothing glamorous about this!), impressed all of us. So we carried on.
When Jackie left the band, the vocal responsibility was heavy to handle on my own. Martha had gotten us a gig at The Roundwood Festival and, because she knew all the songs, she got up, bopped around, sang wonderfully and got us through the gig. It’s good to have someone beside you when you’ve been used to working as a team.
However, all good things come to an end and other circumstances conspired to split us up. I was bereft. We would probably never have set the world on fire but it was such a good place to be in – working with your friends, making music and money – that it was hard to leave behind. I’ll always be grateful to Jackie, Ray, Paddy, Anto, Daithi and Andy for great times that I still smile about today.