Tuesday 17 September 2019

The perfect Irish story of sex and drugs and rock and roll...

I ran into my old Hot Press mate Karl Tsigdinos last week, lucky to catch him a for a few minutes - Uncle Karl can do just about everything, though he is perhaps best known for his extraordinarily fine radio shows, and these days he spins the discs on two stations, RTE Gold at 9am on Sunday mornings, and Dublin City FM on Saturday evenings at 7pm.

Anyway, he reminded me of one of the most perfect of all Irish rock'n'roll stories of that time, which we might call the Stiff story.

Hot Press had sent Karl to London on the boat to do loads of interviews with various punk and new wave personalities, a trip which included a visit to the offices of Stiff Records, famed for their audacious promo campaigns - at the time they were pushing Ian Dury's Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll, so they had done a range of badges around that theme. The individual badges said sex, drugs, rock and roll.

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Uncle Karl, who had come to Ireland from Ann Arbor in Michigan having already assembled a prodigious collection of rock'n'roll records and memorabilia, was happy to receive the Stiff stuff - eventually his suitcase would be packed with albums and singles from various record companies, but he elected not to wear the Stiff badges on the journey back to Ireland, in case they attracted the attention of the customs officers at Dun Laoghaire.

Still they stopped him on his arrival after a long, long journey by train and boat.

And as they chatted to him about what he was doing in London and about the reprobates he'd been meeting ("Siouxsie and the Banshees" made little impression, nor indeed did Hot Press) they asked him to open his case.

Pulling the zipper back an inch, a badge popped out on to the metal table. It spun in a circle and it stopped. It did not say sex. It did not say rock. It did not say roll. It said drugs.

The customs officer called over a colleague to have a look at this wondrous thing. He called a third officer. And finally it was felt that the supervisor would have to see this. Four customs officers and one rock journalist stared at a badge that said drugs.

They thought about it for a while.Then they just waved him through.

Sunday Independent

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