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Classic Irish Albums #1: The Blades – The Last Man in Europe

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.

Tracklist:
side one:

The Last Man in Europe
Downmarket
That’s Not Love
Talk About Listening
Got Soul
side two:

Chance To Stop
Don’t Break the Silence
Those Were The Days
Pride
Boy One
Waiting

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:

Related posts:

  1. List: Most Anticipated Irish Albums of 2011
  2. Top 100 Best Irish Albums of All Time
  3. Best Albums of 2008: Herald’s Best Irish Albums
  4. Best Albums of 2008: Metro’s Best Irish Albums
  5. List: Irish Acts’ own favourite Albums of 2010 Part 1

7 Comments

  1. I love the idea behind this series. I can’t say I’m familiar with The Blades but I’m interested in hearing this.

  2. Thanks, hopefully I can keep it up with some less-obvious albums (although I might have to throw in Van Morrison or someone now and then!)

  3. Nice one Ronan, look forward to future installments!

  4. Thanks very much. Me too. It’s nice digging out old records!

  5. Awesome idea. Made me dig out this album. Downloaded it from somewhere a few years ago after it was in the Hot Press reader’s poll. Album still is great.

  6. Thanks Colin. Probably ripped from the Reekus re-release I’d say.

  7. Great to see The Blades music being introduced to new a new audience. just want to point out though that The Blades signed to Reekus after EG, who released the singles The Bride Wore White/ Animation, Some People Smile (Paul solo) Revelations of Heartbreak and Downmarket, before the band were discovered by Andrew Loog Oldham and signed to Elektra. There was still the Reekus connection, which is why the The Last Man in Europe was subsequently released by Reekus.

    Interestingly 25 years after the demise of the band, Downmarket was the Readers No 1 choice in UK mag MOJO in June, AND there’s a mock-up poster of The Blades at the Baggot Inn featured in the new Nike ad for Ronaldo retiring from football! – it’s part of various images of geniuses pre Ronaldo! (its about 0.35 in the video). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SRJSgCd2Ydk&feature=youtu.be

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