In a weekly series, Irish Independent writers share the books, films and music they turn to when times are tough. Here, Chief Sports Analysis writer David Kelly describes how he fell in love with a great Dublin band
Everyone wants to be in a gang. Enforced solitude, as many are now experiencing, invites an urgency to be once more amongst the crowd. For some of us, it is not necessarily a novel feeling. And not necessarily miserable.
As an only child growing up in Dublin within the walls of what Irish society once unfeelingly labelled 'a broken home', it was natural to seek the immediate gratification of the posse.
I was enraptured by sport and culture, and sought solace by gradually immersing myself in TV and radio, devouring newspapers and magazines. As an aspiring sportswriter who never really played sport to a sufficient standard, I also wanted to be a DJ for precisely the same reason, not being able to sing a ditty, hit a drum or strum a string.
Furtive record shop visits - 'Heart Of Glass', Blondie, aged six - augmented the world of the outside, the voices of radio and TV streaming into a bedroom, all offering comfort. Well, not all.
Radio Dublin was an early favourite; I'd walk down from my father's shop to stand at its gates with a keening desire akin to Charlie outside the chocolate factory, too shy to go in.
The football ground that was across the road in Inchicore, Richmond Park, offered a safer sanctuary; if not quite off-setting loneliness given the sparse attendances.
But there was real belonging here and a depth of passion that seemed oddly out of kilter with the surroundings (decrepit, typically), the standards (mediocre, mostly) and even the supporters (oddballs, occasionally).
Local heroes would be formed on this grassy slope by the River Camac, but they weren't there on a wet day in September, 1986.
In quest of a musical accompaniment to my new sporting passion, yet one more intimate and innate than The Smiths or multiple others, and more relatable than the emerging behemoths that were U2, I was directed by a school friend towards A House from nearby Perrystown.
In my memory - but not in fact - the first sound of them that seared into my brain, with the bracing urgency of a Major cigarette, was Fergal Bunbury's scabrous guitar, followed with murderous intent by Dave Couse's equally violent vocal. "Call me Blue!" Love at first spite. Then I heard their first single, 'Kick Me Again Jesus'. U2 may have been finding religion before losing their way Stateside, but back home, here was somebody kicking against all the pricks.
Like St Pat's, the 'small' club, A House were not merely outsiders, but also outside the hundreds of small fry hoping to make it big. And they saw themselves as a 'team' too.
They were beyond the outside, shunning not just the status quo, but even those who shunned the status quo. John Peel loved them but, like St Pat's, the turnstiles didn't click enough; sweaty nights in the old Underground on Dame Street hinted at deep fanaticism, but throughout their existence, only around 30,000 regularly bought their stuff.
It's a good number but, as they would soon discover, it wasn't big enough.
The 80s were bleak, when to be gay earned you a vicious kicking, or to be unexpectedly pregnant sent you into a bleak graveyard or a cold ferry, or to be unwanted invited abuse and neglect. Difference aroused suspicion.
Like St Pat's, to be a fan of A House defined one as a member of a peculiar cult; for me, St Pat's league win defined 1990, not Ireland's World Cup; I Am The Greatest was the album that marked 1991, not the over-blown Achtung Baby.
But as the big time turned its back on A House, so they moved ever further away from it. I Am The Greatest - such a profound, Ali-esque statement in the context of the band being unceremoniously tossed on the rubbish heap by their major label!
They sang of vulnerability - "I am afraid" - like no one else. "Whatever happened to good music?" they spat as Celtic Tiger blandness ruled the airwaves.
They were trying again and failing better. Less commercial, but more profound. Breaking all the rules. No encores. No apologies. Always ignored by the great Irish public.
'Endless Art' made it big on the BBC, but couldn't be found in the shops; if it wasn't for bad luck… The darkly prophetic 'Here Comes The Good Times" was written in 1994 but undiscovered until, ironically, the public voted that it accompany Ireland's 2002 World Cup campaign, sung by Westlife - the ultimate insult.
It topped the charts, but they were long gone; their farewell in the Olympia - the same year Kerr left St Pat's - a sad lament; we were shunted on to the wet streets so an Oasis tribute band could set up.
A pathetic fallacy. Ireland pissed on them until the very end. And when Ireland needed them, it was too late.