The first punk single to be released in Ireland was 1977's Television Screen, by a Dublin band named (no doubt inspired by that wonderfully innocent combination of hubris and geekery that would lead another teenager to dub himself "Bono Vox" soon after) The Radiators from Space. The inspiration for this single, and its follow-ups, was explained by frontman Phil Chevron (nee Philip Ryan) in this fashion:
"Our best songs came from our experience of growing up in an Ireland still paralysed by political and religious hypocrisies but which, we believed, was in its heart youthful and forward-thinking. We were the first Irish band to grapple with these contradictions but first and foremost we were a pop group and we could readily identify with the UK's 'No Fun' slogan."
Of course, the next Irish (here using the word to describe the island itself, not the republic) punk band to explode onto the scene (check out the notes concerning the release of the first single) was Belfast's Stiff Little Fingers (a future blog post? you betcha!), whose sound was harsher... it's the difference between describing "political and religious hypocrisies" and describing political and religious slaughter.
Anyway, back to the Radiators from Space... their first album 1977's TV Tube Heart is a great artifact of the punk era. Press Gang and Sunday World cover ground similar to that covered in the Jam's News of the World. Blitzin' at the Ritz references changes in trade policies and politics. All-in-all, it's a fantastic, and woefully unappreciated, album.
The band shortened their name to The Radiators (not to be confused with The Radiators from New Orleans who are, in a mind-boggling coincidence, playing B.B. King's in Times Square tonight), and relocated to London for their follow-up album Ghostown, which was released in 1979. This album saw a maturation of the band's sound, and a multiplicity of styles, ranging from the simple rave-up Johnny Jukebox to the brilliant, bizarre Kitty Ricketts. My personal favorite from the album is the incredible (Song of the) Faithful Departed, an epic sprawl through Irish history and literature, incorporating Christian iconography and folk balladry, and referencing the works of such Irish literary greats as Sean O'Casey, William Butler Yeats, and James Joyce:
I would love to know what the deal is with the dude who is seen in the video before the song begins. The performance itself is a lip-synch of the album version of the song, but a stripped-down acoustic version of the song was included as a bonus track on the live retrospective Alive-Alive-O. The guitar intro to the album version of the song, to me, is reminiscent of Television's twin-guitar sound- I so proud of my little observation that I was just a little crestfallen when I found that this writer scooped me, but I am happy to have discovered his blog. Faithful Departed was covered by Moving Hearts, a band fronted by (BE NICE, ZRM!!!) Christy Moore.
After Ghostown, the Radiators split up, but Phil Chevron went on to join the Pogues for their second and subsequent albums. He wrote the incredible emigration song Thousands are Sailing
and the gorgeous, heartrending Lorelei (on which he sang lead vocals).
Apparently, the Radiators recently reunited and released a new album. Just that knowledge alone makes me glad I wrote this post.
Further reading on Phil Chevron