It’s not The Dubliners, anyway. While no doubt everyone knows The Dubliners ‘Seven Drunken Nights’ from 1967, this Tom Archia tune from 1948 always raises a smile too. You’d have to get a chuckle out of Wikipedias piece on ‘Seven Drunken Nights’, stating that: “Each night is a verse, followed by a chorus, in which the narrator comes home in a drunken state to find evidence of another man having been with his wife, which she explains away, not entirely convincingly”
While it’s far more likely The Dubliners learned the basis of Seven Drunken Nights from Joe Heaney and the Irish language Peigin is Peadar, this is brilliant.
(Little has been written on the Dublin Punk & New Wave scene of the late 1970s and early 1980s, next to nothing on the Rockabilly revival scene and even less on the Mod Revival/Northern Soul scene of the 1980s. This is a small attempt to ratify this. I’ve chosen to focus on the Bubbles Mod Night as there is a reunion this Saturday at the Grand Central Hotel. Thanks to Paul Davis, Joe Moran and Karl Carey for talking to me and also Anthony Healy, Morgan Nolan and Anne Doyle for the photos.)
Bubbles was the most important and influential mod revival night in Dublin’s history. Located in what is now the basement of the Temple Bar Hotel in Adair Lane, the night ran from 1981 to 1987 – the golden years of the mod revival scene in Dublin.
Starting as a weekly event (Wednesdays from 8pm till 11.15pm), it became twice a week (Wednesday and Sunday nights) to accommodate the growing subculture. The 11.15pm curfew was to facilitate punters getting the last bus.
Admission price was £1.50 (or a pound if you were a member). The cloakroom was 20p and, if you could afford it, a coke was 50p. Alcohol was not on sale. This was, uniquely, an all ages event. However, as Paul Davis, who is organising this weekend’s reunion, remembers, this didn’t stop a “few enterprising lads” selling a cans of beer at a couple of all-nighters. There was also one individual who did a “lucrative trade” in pills.
Karl Carey's 'Bubbles Discotheque' Membership Card
At the start, the music policy was pure 1960s mod and soul with a dashing of ’79 revival. Original Trojan/Studio One ska also made an occasional appearance. As time went on, Northern Soul became a staple part of the Bubbles diet.
Bubbles 'Mod Scene' Concession
A funny anecdote relates to a number of TV theme songs that were played every week at Bubbles. The theme from Joe 90 and Hawaii 5-0 were long-established tunes that were attached to the Northern Soul scene (for what particular reason I’m not quite sure). The third song that was played every week was the Match of the Day melody. As Paul Davis explains; “this was never regarded by anyone as northern soul, mod or anything like that, it was Noel’s (the DJ) way of saying, that’s your lot, it’s over till next week.” Nevertheless you still had ‘newbie’s’, who were on their first visit to Bubbles, thinking that the Match of the Day tune was also a Northern Soul cult classic and they’d get up and dance to it. The regulars saw it as a great (and often humorous) way to distinguish the posers from the genuine fans on their first visit.
Mods in Bubbles.
Joe Moran recalls his first time in Bubbles:
I think it was the summer of 1984 when a friend of mine gave me a Motown LP. I had just turned Mod and for me I just couldn’t fit the style with the post 79 new wave and angry Pop and was searching around for musical satisfaction … with an older guy who had been a mod from the seventies when no-one else was and he had a huge collection of mainly white RnB British stuff and he had me listening to that. He pointed out when I told him about the Motown Lp that the original Mods were big lovers of RnB and Motown in particular so I was very firmly on the right track.
So my summer exams finished and I had told my folks that I was going to this Disco (Bubbles) in town and that it finished at 11.30 etc. etc. you know how it was when you’re young. And after some misgivings on their part they gave their blessing once I agreed to be on the last bus home ( I never got on that bus but walked home with my companions talking nine to the dozen and skipping along like a three-year old, gesticulating and investing a teenagers perceived importance onto all the things I had seen that night and they were smiling at my mad capering antics)
Anyways I organise with my cousin Karen and her friend to come along with me as all the Mods from East Wall I knew were non-committal (their mod life was on the wane) but as I knew a few Mods from school who’d be there I knew I wouldn’t be on my own. I remember the clothes I wore that night, Black and white golf jacket, Polka dot shirt, grey sta-press and bowling shoes. I looked the business (or so I thought)…
So with trepidation we head into town and down the lane and up to the doors where we are greeted by some bouncers all dressed up and me thinking “they are either going to a ball or serving at one with their evening suits and dickey bows on”
“First time tonight?” Says the small bouncer
“Eh, yeah, can I go in?” says I nervously trying to swallow with a dry mouth
“Okay, you need to get a membership, you got photos, give them to the girl downstairs and she’ll sort you out”
“yeah I got them, okay”
“Any fucking messing and you’re barred”
“okay no problem…no messing”
Down the stairs and pay in and then through the arch and I’m there. There’s some track playing I don’t know, some band belting out the power chords. I see Mods everywhere as I stand against the wall, getting sized up by the regulars who are kitted out in some sensational (to my eyes anyway) styles. Guys in suits smoking and chatting up fashionable girls with big hair, heads thrown back at some witty repartee and I feel like a hick in the big smoke for the first time, aware of his quaint fashions and demeanour and I try to blend into the scenery whilst attempting to look cool. The girls have fucked off to the jacks leaving me on me Sweeney but I spot a Mod from my School, Peter Ragazolli, and he waves and beckons me over and introduces me to some of his crew and before I know it there’s a host of us back slapping and sizing each other up – its blur of names and interestingly for those who went to bubbles and probably has some importance that seemed so important in those days all this takes place over by the deejay box on the dance floor (one of the very few times I ventured past the pillars) I forget the names and faces now but for a time most of those people were a big part of my life.
Dublin mods in O'Connell Street.
And then suddenly the mood changes, the deejay starts playing a slow set – To Sir, with Love is playing and there is a slow enough take up from the punters to start the lurching. The crew moves up to the bar for a smoke and a talk and I get the usual questions from the guys I don’t know “ where you from” “Do you know so and so” how long you been into Mod” “what music you into” and it’s all easy and relaxed and my musical taste are getting nods of approval from one or two and soon we are parrying records and tunes back and forth – as I scan the bar I see that not everyone is wearing tailored clobber and I don’t feel so bad but make a mental note to sharpen up next time I come out.
I note a crew of Faces and realise that I recognise one of them and he wanders over and chats to me for a while and I’m introduced as a “friend of ours” its like the mafia – I’m in. I’m treading carefully around subjects and trying to fit in – laughing at the right places most of the time though in fairness most of the adventures and personalities in the stories are unknown to me
The slow set is fading out and the crowd start to walk back down the tunnel past the jacks (some months later I was to realise that once you started going regularly you got to know the deejays set inside out so rarely did he play a new tune) and then I feel my heart start to throb as a bass-line attacks me from the speakers. A tambourine kicks in and then some falsetto harmonising rounds out the sound “Before, I go forever, be sure of what you say” and then it sounds like the place is collapsing and there are people leaping over each other to get to the dance floor and the place goes mental. I’m looking at Jimmy Mulvaney (I found out his name later) doing what can only be described as the most spectacular dancing I had seen up to that point in my life. He looks almost like a mod with his neat hair, Fred and bowling shoes but his trousers are a little too wide and they flap as he kicks his leg high in the air and pirouettes and stops dead on the beat and then he’s off again doing some more footwork.
I’m stunned – I look around and Ragger and the guys are laughing and joking as if there’s nothing happening – I’m in awe I had never had a song grip me like that with its raw power, its beat and pure exuberance
“Ragger – what the fuck is that song?”
“Franie Valli – The Night”
“Where do I get one?”
“Ah ask the soul boys when they are finished dancing – they’ll get you one, probably cost you about 2 or 3 quid”
The floor is jammed with bodies, slim tall mods, cigarettes in their hands doing a variation of the block, bobbed black-haired girls doing this dainty stepping dance and the soul boys moving around the floor like manic spinning tops
The song finishes and the next tune on the decks is as fast and as hard-hitting as the previous . Another Motown sound though more Motown-ish than the previous one and as different to my Motown Gold LP than if they’d been made on two different planets. ‘(There’s a) Ghost in My House’ has the same intensive beat and the dancers are getting up into a lather, even the contoured Mods are starting to show the heat in this humid cellar club and the girls are disappearing to the jacks to powder their noses (today they just head to the jacks to stuff powder up their noses but different times eh?).
The deejay keeps the tempo going and its obvious that the crowd know all these songs and as people leave the Dance floor someone will take up the vacant real estate like some telepathic signal to “ keep the space warm for me while I go grab a fag”.
And then after some more glorious vocal tunes and instrumentals the tempo changes and I recognise Secret Affair’s ‘Time For Action’ and as one the soulies move off and the Mods reclaim the dance floor.
There were other songs that I heard over that first year/two years that turned my head – Eddie Holman’s I Surrender is an all time favourite of mine, Epitome Of Soul – ‘You Don’t Love Me’, The Metros – ‘Since I Found My Baby’ and a whole host of other top-notch sounds but I can arguably say that ‘The Night’ and ‘(There’s a) Ghost in My House’ were the two songs that got me into Northern Soul.
Bubbles closed in early 1987 after the owners didn’t renew the lease on the venue. It moved to a new premise in Abraxis on Sackville Lane beside Cleary’s but many saw this as the beginning of the end for the Mod scene in Dublin. Davis remembers that the venue didn’t suit us; “it was a bit too trendy and bright”. By 1987, the Mod scene was dying a death. In the UK, the scene “had already gone way underground” while in Dublin it was on its last knees.
Ben, Nicky. Karl and Linda in Bubbles
Karl Carey (42) looks back on Bubbles fondly:
“My first time at Bubbles was late September 1984. I was 16. Suits, Parkas, Loafers, Fred Perry’s, Scooters and oh yeah, girls! My mod music was based around the 79 sounds, Bubbles introduced me to new mod sounds - Northern Soul (yeah I still have to explain what it is to people). As I get older I prefer to keep it my treasured secret.
Every Wednesday and then also every Sunday night I couldn’t miss Bubbles. To be honest, some nights were just ok but when they were good WOW! The All – nighters were ours and ours alone, don’t think any other scene had or has anything like it. Met the most wonderful people at Bubbles and even got the most gorgeous girlfriend and then wife because of Bubbles.
25 years, 2 sons and 6 scooters later I find myself getting more and more back into the scene … Some things have changed and I realise you can’t hold on to everything you might want, but your memories will last forever…………….”
After Bubbles, Joe Moran, Eamonn Flavin and Mark Byrne set up the This Is It Soul Club in the basement of The Plough on Abbey Street which then moved on to The Fox & Pheasant on Great Strand Street, close to Capel Street Bridge. This shared alternate Fridays with the Night Owl Soul Club, which Paul Davis ran with Stuart Chaney and Mick Duffy. Both clubs ran for less than a year. The early 1990s saw most of the original Dublin Mods pack up and move to London.
Mods in Dublin. Location unkown.
There wasn’t another regular club in Dublin until the Dublin Soul Club was set up in 1995 by Paul Davis, John Dunne and Ray O’Reilly. Their night ran for six successful years in The Plough.
The Sleepless Nights Soul Club took up the torch in 2002 and the scene has been burning bright since. They are celebrating their 8th anniversary with a weekend of Northern and Motown soul on April 30 and May 1 in McGrattan’s.