Skool Daze Feedback - #U240
Original Story by Harry Kantas (2016-09-06)
“White Walls, Morning Eyeballs.A Thousand Voices echo through my brain. Schools daze, new direction. Boxes beat the clockwork. 1 2 3 4 everybody’s sweating. Blue trees and now the question. Yes I mean No. Sorry. C-C-C-Concentration Cramp ha-ha-ha. Concentration Cramp.” (Concentration Cramp, Bono, 1978)
“We don’t want to stay in the past too long”, says Bono.
“…But I’m told, if you don’t visit at all, you’re condemned to be there forever…”, says also Bono.
And he’s right. On both accounts.
Being together for 40 years would be a massive achievement for any other band.
For U2, a band to break out of Ireland at age 4, be discovered by about a billion people at the same time at age 9, and be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame at age 29, your 40th is way too young to be stuck in the past.
For U2 fans though, that’s a whole different story. Growing up with this band, being part of their life by letting them be a part of yours, a 40 year relationship is titanic.
Then, there’s another aspect, that makes #U240 special. It’s the people that didn’t make it to the birthday party this year, and need to be remembered.
Rev Jack Heaslip comes to mind.
Larry Mullen Sr comes to mind.
Dennis Sheehan comes to mind.
Garvin Evans comes to mind.
All family, to the band, and by extension, all of us. After all, it is a family business, no matter what way you look at it.
Many people are fascinated by the story of the Big Bang. We are also interested in the story before the singularity.
The universe that had to implode, and bleed into a brand new one.
There was a time before the Lypton Village, before Paul McGuinness, before Dave Fanning and U2-Three.
Bono was Paul, The Edge was David, and had not discovered the melodies hiding inside the Gibson Explorer just yet.
There was a place where the first molecules bonded, to emit those first sparks of light.
That place was called the Mount Temple Comprehensive School, and without it, U2 would not be here to celebrate its 40th today.
Towards the end of each school year, the pupils would publish a magazine. 2 of those magazines, from school years 1976-77 and ’77-78 make up the earliest items in my U2 collection.
Alison Stewart, Paul Hewson, David Evans, Adam Clayton, as well as Larry Mullen Jr’s new band, “Feedback”, later called “The Hype”, are all featured.
We reached out to Neil McCormick, and Frank Kearns, two of the pupils closely tied to that era.
Neil is Chief Music Critic for The Daily Telegraph. Most U2 fans will know him from the “I Was Bono’s Doppelganger/Killing Bono” book, as well as his contributions in “U2 by U2”.
Frank owns Ireland’s first ever Rockschool, was in Cactus World News, and recently released “Speed Of The Stars” with The Church’s Steve Kilbey. Frank used to jam with Larry, before he put up that infamous note on the school message board. That was before he met Adam, and learned what “jam” meant.
Harry: Neil, born in England, moved to Scotland, and eventually Ireland. Frank, born and raised in Dublin.
Did Mount Temple Comprehensive in the mid-70’s feel like something different?
Maybe at the time, and through the eyes of an angry teenager, it might have been more of a “same sh*t, different place”, but what about looking back today?
Neil: Not the same shit at all. I moved to Ireland when I was ten and went to two other schools before I arrived at Mount Temple, so you could say I was acclimatised by the time I arrived there. But I had already worked out that the education system in Ireland had unique problems. The first school I went to was run by Christian Brothers, and it probably did a lot towards hardening my nascent and confusing atheism. When I rocked up in Mount Temple, it was clearly something different, much more open and tolerant in its attitudes. My parents chose it because it was Dublin’s only non-denominational school and they thought it would be more liberal and tolerant, which it was.
Frank: Mount Temple in 1974 -79 was a liberal comprehensive school set up during a time of great turmoil in Ireland.It was a brave initiative and set the template for others to follow afterwards. For example there were no dress restrictions, we could and did wear what we liked. I wore slashed Levi’s for a year! Adam and Bono were even more creative in their attire – winkle pickers and safety pins!
As 14 yr old students knew this was something new for the country and I think we all were protective of the freedom we were given. It was education for life mixing people from all backgrounds and religions which had profound life long impact on all of our lives
Harry: Neil, I have two Mount Temple magazines in my hands. One is from 1976-77, the other from ‘77-78. Both feature your artwork on the covers.
Do you happen to remember how frequently those were being written/published, and in what volume? Would each pupil get one each year?
Moreover, was this a tradition you found when you attended Mount Temple, or rather something that started during your time there?
Neil: I think they may have been published every year – you may have had to buy them though. I don’t think they were handed out for free. But as a budding writer and artist, it was definitely something I grabbed hold of. I think there was an editorial committee. The first year I may have just done the cover. But the second year (when I would have been in the top class) I basically put the whole thing together as an excuse to run all my illustrations and review my own band. I remember I got an award of £30 for it. Which seemed like a lot of money in those days.
Harry: The content is quite varied, there’s articles you’d find in any school magazine, the school sports teams, events, field trips, etc.
Then there’s a more creative side. Kids writing about music, writing their own plays, sketches, or just taking the p*ss out of their mates, as one does.
There’s 2 sides of you in here: There’s the punk kid, with the clever illustrations of the school-prison and all the funny characters.
I also see a poem by you in there. Summer Sunday it’s called.
Neil: I was a bit surprised by the poem. I don’t remember writing that at all. But I wrote a lot of poetry in those days, rarely as bucolic as that. I was probably trying to impress a teacher. Some of the stuff was foisted upon us by teachers, and some of it was particular kids who wanted to have a piece in the magazine. A couple of girls in my class helped me edit, I seem to remember us pestering people for contributions. As for the the illustrations … I was a bit obsessed with Ronald Searle, especially his St Trinian’s and Molesworth cartoons, and I was basically ripping him off. There was a surreal Goonish sense of humour amongst a bunch of us in our class, including the Edge (although he hadn’t acquired that name yet) and some of that is evident in the cartoons and the comic portraits of teachers. There’s also the influence of a few other UK underground comix artists that I was into and I was starting to notice the inky style of Ralph Steadman, which eventually led me to Hunter Thompson and it was all downhill from there. But in ’76 and ’77 I was still young and innocent and the “down with skool” humour is pure Molesworth.
Harry: From what I have been told, and read, schools used to be very strict in Dublin around that time, up until Mount Temple, and Mr. Brooks.
Would you say that that kind of freedom may have had something to do with Frankie Corpse & The Undertakers, The Modulators, or writing for Hot Press, as well as The Fast, and of course Cactus World News respectively, or am I reading way too much into all of this?
Neil: The freedom and encouragement at Mount Temple was very significant for all of us who benefited from it. There is a reason U2 came from that school. We were encouraged to express ourselves, bands were given practice rooms, we played gigs in the school … all of this was pretty much unheard of in Ireland in the 70s. There were some very important teachers there, who really filled kids with a sense of possibility, particularly our form tutor and history teacher Mr Moxham, the music teacher Albert Bradshaw and our (late) religion teacher and careers adviser Jack Heaslip. All of those people made a difference to my life, and they all played a part in facilitating the birth of U2, and have been acknowledged by the band down the years. A teacher with a vocation can be a wonderful thing. I have a lot of love and admiration for those fantastic human beings who, in hindsight, were very tolerant and encouraging of quite an unruly and unconventional bunch of kids.
Frank: I can only speak for myself, but prior to enrolling in Mount Temple I was in a local Christian Brothers school and suffered greatly from that regime. When it came to preparing for secondary school, I failed all the local schools entrance exams and my parents really had given up on me being able to secure a place in any secondary school. It was suggested that I try Mount Temple and somehow I managed to get in and achieve high marks on an aptitude test. My first year there was bliss compared to where I’d come from . I achieved A grades in Maths and other subjects and my parents were stunned. It is amazing what a person can achieve when they don’t live in fear of constant abuse. The religion issue was still a hot potato. I had to get permission from the Parish priest before I could enroll in Mount Temple – hard to believe now!!
Mr Brooks was a visionary and passionately believed in the power of non denominational education. His whole vibe as a principal was that if you want your students to respect you then you must first teach them respect by showing them respect! I have taken his philosophy with me throughout my life especially in teaching young people rock music. As the atmosphere of most places of work and learning is dictated from the top down, you can appreciate the radical approach he took in 1974. Protestants and Catholics made great friendships and deep bonds were created. Mount Temple then was a genuine experiment in partnership with students education. That uniqueness manifested itself in many miracles. I met my wife in Mount Temple, as did many others and I still have strong friendships with people made back then as a 15 year old. When Feedback and Frankie Corpse and the Undertakers formed they were allowed to practice in the school after hours. Expression was encouraged and we did express ourselves!
I spent most Wednesday afternoons sitting alone on a school desk in the music room while Feedback ran through their songs ‘Show Me The Way’ ‘Brown Sugar’ ‘Johnny B Goode’ and then later Stranglers and other punk songs. I brought my sandwiches into the room and just sat there looking at them run through their set again and again. Bono would say, “Frank, you are our first fan so don’t forget it!” I thought they would be the biggest band in the world back then. My 15 year old self must have sensed the chemistry.
Harry: I see all sorts of familiar names in here, besides yourselves.
I see Alison Stewart writing a review for a play she saw about the Beatles, some funny poetry later on.
David Evans is writing about his rugby team.
Paul Hewson writes about Mr Brooks’ last year before retirement.
Adam Clayton writes (of course) a very articulate music article.
Alison and Paul were school prefects.
Could you help paint a picture of those days, how all those relationships came to be?
If memory serves, you two got together with Ivan to form Frankie Corpse and The Undertakers after some of the Feedback sessions in Larry’s kitchen.
Neil: My younger brother Ivan was at the birth of U2, in Larry’s kitchen. He was a member of Feedback for a few weeks. I wasn’t there but due to some confusion in an early U2 biography everyone thinks I was, even the band. It was Saturday 25th September 1976 … the only reason the date is remembered is because Ivan made a note in his diary, which I think went along the lines of “joined a band, watched some TV.” They were heady days, but who knew history was being made? We were young and rock and roll seemed an exciting and creative option. Bono (or Paul as I knew him then) was an exciting character to be around. He was a year older than me but we had a real rapport and talked about music and God. Some things never change. David Evans was a friend who I shared a lot of silliness with, Ali Hewson was gorgeous and we were all half in love with her, Adam was strange and cool, Larry was a bit younger but was already so handsome that he had acquired a kind of charismatic allure. The band was just a vague thing in the background of our teenage lives. Ivan (who was a bit younger than all of them) was edged out and started jamming with Larry’s friend Frank Kearns. Punk was bubbling under and Frank was an early adopter, taking the name Frankie Corpse. I used to keep an eye on them as they played guitar in our house, and started hatching plans of my own. When I saw Feedback’s first gig … my life changed. I think I probably hitched myself on to Ivan and Frank’s bandwagon the next week. For better or worse it was rock and roll for life.
Frank: Ivan and me formed Frankie Corpse and the Undertakers. What happened was Larry suggested to Ivan McCormick that he should team up with me and form a band together because Larry knew I was really into rock music. Myself and Ivan met in the McCormicks’ house in Howth and after a few hours torturing the guitars Neil appeared from downstairs and showed us a song lyric he had just written inspired by our Punk Rock strumming. That song was called ‘I’m a Punk’ ( and I’m blasted on Junk). Back then, I couldn’t sing to save my life so Neil became the singer. later that same day myself and Ivan traveled to North Strand church hall for a disco and live performance of two guitars playing Johnny B Goode and a Vibrators song. Gill (The Edge’s sister) came out with us that night. Thankfully there are no recordings of that performance around.
I didn’t have a guitar at that stage and borrowed one from a friend however Larry’s friend Peter Martin (the guy who didn’t make the final selection in Larry s Kitchen) offered me his Ibanez telecaster for £35 plus an amp.
I paid for it over a period of weeks and used it to play in Frankie Corpse and the Undertakers.
Harry: Frank, you and Larry go back way before the Feedback days.
Would you say Mount Temple and Feedback had an impact on him, being the youngest of the group?
On one hand we see Larry as this shy kid, but at the same time, he was the one to post that infamous note on the school message board, looking to start a band.
Frank: Yes Larry was a dichotomy. He really wanted to be in a band but wasn’t comfortable with the other stuff that came with it. Myself and Larry would hang out every day in Mount Temple. I would meet him on Wednesday to lift his drum kit out of his parents car and into music room. We would have had long conversations about music late into the night in Rosemount avenue. There was a rivalry between Keith Edgley AKA Keith Karcass from Frankie Corpse and the Undertakers and Larry. It spilled over into constant arguments about the drum kit positioning after we supported Feedback or the Hype. My next band was the Fast and at one gig in the Howth Community Centre, Larry once filled in on drums.
Harry: Lastly, one of the very early, if not the earliest, mentions of Feedback that I have ever seen, is on the 1977 mag.
Do you have any recollection of that event, or anything you could share with us?
Neil: Feedback’s first gig was in the school gymnasium. The line-up was exactly the same as U2’s line up now, Bono, Edge, Adam and Larry. They played on some tables which had been taped together. Their first song was Peter Frampton’s I Want You. When those chords kicked up and Bono grabbed the mike … the earth moved. Girls started screaming. It was the first live electric music I think any of us had ever seen … even the band themselves. It was like a lightning bolt. It changed everything. I’ll never forget it. The one mentioned in the magazine was a school disco in a basement in the old block, where I think they had already changed their name to The Hype, and my band Frankie Corpse and the Undertakers played support. Hot, sweaty, exciting. The Hype were fantastic. They were a five piece with Dick Evans on second guitar. We were a frenetic punk band, they were already moving into another realm … or so it seemed to me. U2 were always a thrilling group to me … they developed so fast, and pushed on so hard, Bono was made to be a frontman and The Edge was a box of tricks in himself. Those moments were like witnessing The Beatles in the cavern to me. White hot rock and roll.
Frank: I remember lots of nerves almost puking up in the upstairs tiled corridor we were allotted as a dressing room. Edge wore a chequered shirt that night and during the Tom Robinson song ‘2,4,6,8 Motorway’ (a firm favourite of theirs) he suddenly jumped up and kicked the wall beside the stage almost tripping himself up and just about regained his balance before completing the chorus!. It was hot and steamy inside, tiled surfaces, and the energy was tremendous. My first real gig and I was absolutely on a high afterwards. I smashed a guitar as part of our performance, luckily it was a mock up guitar! I remember playing a Vibrators song that night called ‘Baby Baby’ and Eddie and the Hot Rods’ “Do Anything You Wanna Do”.
Frank has graciously provided us with two never before seen photos, one is of Frankie Corpse and The Undertakers, the other of The Hype, sound checking outside Mount Temple’s Gymnasium, in 1978.