If you’re at all familiar with 1980s rock band the Blades, you’ll have heard the infamous tale of how they got thrown out of their first ever gig at Ringsend YMCA when the owners mistook their cover of the Sex Pistols’ ‘God Save the Queen’ for the British National Anthem. If you’re not familiar with the Blades, you may not know that they once did a six week residency with U2 at the Baggot Inn, and won best single and most promising act in the 1982 Hot Press National Poll.
In their early days, in the late 1970s, the band consisted of three working-class Dubliners: Paul Cleary (vocals and bass), Lawrence “Lar” Cleary (guitar), and Pat Larkin (drums). They released two 7″ singles in this original lineup: ‘Hot For You’ and ‘Ghost of a Chance’, the latter of which they performed on the Late Late Show in 1981. They had signed to Energy Records, but when a promised LP wasn’t forthcoming, both Lar and Pat left the band.
Songwriter Paul took over lead guitar duties and recruited Brian Foley (bass) from the Vipers and Jake Reilly (drums) as replacements. This new lineup signed to Elektra Records in a reported $100,000 deal, releasing two singles in 1982, ‘Revelations of Heartbreak’, and the Hot Press award-winning ‘The Bride Wore White’. In 1983, the Blades’ signature sound was complete when Frank Duff (trumpet) and Paul Grimes (trombone) joined the band. They began recording their debut LP the same year at Windmill Studios in Dublin, with John Porter (The Smiths) enrolled as producer.
However, Elektra chose not to release the album, The Last Man in Europe, and it received just a limited Irish release through Reekus Records in 1985, who had put out the singles ‘Downmarket’ and ‘The Last Man in Europe’ ahead of the expected album launch. The band broke up soon after, becoming disillusioned with the music industry, particularly after being let down by both Energy and Elektra Records. Following the split in 1985, Reekus Records released Raytown Revisited, a singles collection. Both The Last Man in Europe and Raytown Revisited were re-released by Reekus on CD in 2000.
I chose The Last Man in Europe as their classic album because although Raytown Revisited has all their early hits, it wasn’t conceived as a proper LP. The album opens with the storming intro of the title track, a sublime introduction to the band, particularly if you’ve never heard anything by Paul Cleary before. The record is filled with gorgeous New Wave power-pop songs, similar to the sound Paul Weller had crafted with the Jam, and later the Style Council. Had The Last Man in Europe gotten a proper worldwide release on Elektra, there’s no reason why they couldn’t have followed a similar career trajectory to Baggot Inn co-headliner Paul Hewson’s. Also, have a listen to the first few bars from ‘Even Better Than the Real Thing’ off Achtung Baby, and tell me that Bono isn’t indebted to Cleary.
The Last Man in Europe
That’s Not Love
Talk About Listening
Chance To Stop
Don’t Break the Silence
Those Were The Days
Stream The Blades – ‘The Last Man in Europe’:
Watch The Blades – ‘Downmarket’ live:
The Blades – ‘The Bride Wore White’ music video:
The Blades – ‘Revelations of Heartbreak’ live on TV: