21
Mar

Hello! It’s been almost two weeks since the last update and I will be honest, I didn’t miss much blogging. I guess it must be because I was abroad on vacation and my mind was somewhere else. Now that I’m back in New York I started to miss this blog. I started to have nostalgia for endless afternoons looking for information about some obscure band and just writing some of my adventures and dreams.

There are a couple of news on Cloudberry side. If you head to the website you can check the Occasional Flickers A side for the next single they are putting out with us. The song is “Capitalism Begins at Home”, and it’s really beautiful. I always loved Giorgos vocals and had worked with his band before on Cloudberry with a 3″ and, even before that, on an album on Plastilina. Pre-order button will soon be up. So keep an eye.

About Tripping the Light Fantastic, as many of you have been asking me, it is being pressed at the moment. I will send to print the jackets during the weekend and will also sit down and write the inserts before it’s too late. I have this nostalgia for their hometown, for Hamburg, so probably I’ll be writing an ode to that fantastic city. So, if everything goes as I think it will go, the release date should be April 10th. Sorry for the delays, but all these price changes at the post office kind of pushed the release a bit.

The fanzine. Waiting for a song. That’s all. As soon as we have it. We’ll send it to print.

How can you help to speed up the process? Well, buying some records always helps! We did lose A LOT of money with the postage increase as we had pre-orders with the old postage prices. Of course it wasn’t the customers fault, so we sent the records, at an almost 100%, to everyone who pre-ordered. I think we did the right thing. Though it did hurt us proper.

While abroad I got to see Alpaca Sports live. Also got the chance to spend some time with them, so nice lunch, and then a bit of chit-chatting. They are fantastic people and I can’t wait until they come to NYC for Popfest in two months. Their live show was perfect. It felt like they’ve been playing for like forever. They know how to be tight and put a fun show. I believe they sold out all their records at the Madrid show by the way, and they brought lots. They were so successful there. The crowd was dancing and singing along the songs. A friend next to me told me he felt he was having a time warp to the early 90s, that Alpaca Sports would fit so nicely on one of those 3″ CDs that Marsh-Marigold used to release. I agreed. How couldn’t they fit along The Seashells or my beloved 50,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong? Top stuff!

Andreas and Amanda are naturals on stage. I know Andreas favourite band might be The Brilliant Corners, but when I see him strumming the guitar I think of Julian Henry of The Hit Parade. Not that I’ve ever seen The Hit Parade live, but it’s how I always imagined them. Amanda compliments the songs perfectly, hiding behind her goldilocks hair and appearing again, with whimsical charm and shy vocals. Pa Pa Pa. And start again. She told us about her Spanish jacket. Her amazing story. She wanted to go to some stores in Spain, but they have strange hours in this country. Closed on Sunday, closed in the afternoons. Strange. And Carl, is at the back, doing all the secret things that make Alpaca Sports sound great live. All those little sound effects are being taking at his little station at the back. It feels like he is some sort of mastermind in the shadows, enchanting all of us with the Alpaca Sports potion.

Another great “Cloudberry” moment was seeing The Garlands again. They headlined my party in Stockholm and they made me, and the crowd, swoon. It was quite interesting to see them in Sweden, the chatty Patrik and cute Christin not talking in English to the public, but in Swedish. It was a more natural feel to it that I enjoyed. They played all their hits. They made me so happy. Me standing at the front, watching how Maria’s fingers crawl over the bass fret. And Robert banging the drums, full power! Einar is dissecting his guitar, playing those wonderful chords that make The Garlands special. Christin, well, I want to hug her, she is just great with her soaring vocals. And Patrik, he is the FUN. He makes The Garlands feel like the indiepoppiest band on Earth.

Other “Cloudberry” band I got to see in this trip was Los Lagos de Hinault. It was the only band that Oscar from Zipper liked. And I find it easy to see why. The lyrics. They do write fabulous lyrics. You’d might think it’s a shame that they are written in Spanish and because of that not that many people can appreciate them. But the thing is, perhaps these lyrics wouldn’t be that great if they were sung in another language. Think about that. Quirky, smart, and bookish, Los Lagos de Hinault are in a class of their own in the Spanish Pop scene. They deserve much attention I think. Perhaps they won’t be huge ever, but they do deserve a cult-following. And judging by their live set, potent, direct, and with a lot of presence, I wouldn’t be surprised. My only regret, not having being able to secure a photo of myself with the whole band!

And the only other band I’m going to mention in this small review is Zipper. They played early on Saturday’s Popfest night. They were the special guests for this occasion as they had written the Madrid Popfest official song for this year. A blast of a minute and a half of pure POP! And how was their set? It was short, around 12 minutes or so, but it was a ricochet of fantastic melodies, fast guitars, catchy chorus, and an indiepop attitude that is so contagious. As always I’m so happy to see them, have some beers, some calamaris, some chorizo. They are the true indiepop band from Madrid. And because I’m so spoiled and lucky, they will be coming to NYC this year for Popfest. Can I actually ask for more? I wonder how many times I’ve seen them already. Thing is, every time they play they are so good that it’s never enough.

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Now let me talk about an obscure band. An Irish band! There are not that many more bands left to cover from the (by now) legendary mix CD Rupert gave me last year at Indietracks. Today let’s try to uncover the mystery of Cuba Dares.

The Irish Rock web site has a small bio about them:

Ronan Stoke’s band formed early 1982. Initially a duo of Stokes & Clancy plus a drum machine, this expanded Dennis Rusk (guitar), Tony Kennedy (bass) and real live drummer Barry O’Rielly. This lineup split when Ronan and Blathain moved the band to London circa 1984, where Rory Stokes, Paul Mooney and John McGrath all joined as The Sussed had split. Cuba Dares released one fine EP in 1986 (by which time Paul Mooney had moved on) which won single of the week in NME (among others) and is difficult to locate these days. The lineup that recorded the EP is listed above. They split sometime after.

There are reputedly many unreleased recordings.

The lineup mentioned in that bio is:
Blathain Clancy – vocals
Ronan Stokes – guitar
Rory Stokes – guitar/keyboards
Chris McKenna – bass
John McGrath – drums

They were based in Dublin and later in London.

Their discography only included that fantastic 12″ EP. IT was called “One Nine Eight Six EP”. It included on the A side the song “Yellow and Red” and on the B side the songs “Sweet Ephemeral” and “Lost Without a Trace”.

The engineer for this record was Simon Osbourne. And the record was released by Mastervolume Records. Catalog was MV12S1.

When I listen to “Yellow and Red” I do think of girl fronted bands of the late 80s like Suntime Glorious, Girl Of My Best Friend, The Honeymooners, Po! and The Sundays. to name a few. It’s a terribly catchy song with a great melody. It’s not super upbeat or anything, but it feels like it. I can picture it in a good indie disco, all the kids dancing even. “Bye Bye to all the dreams I had” Blathain sings. And I could feel that. Who hasn’t had their dreams shattered? Totally. You can identify with this beautiful song, can’t you?

The other 2 songs, the B sides, if you want to listen them, you can always head to their old and abandoned Myspace. “Lost Without a Trace” being my favourite of the two.

And this is all the information I could find online about Cuba Dares. I wonder what their name means. If it has anything to do with Cuba (most presumably, right?), perhaps they even lived there! I also wonder about those many unreleased songs that are said to exist. I’d love to listen to those one day! I’m sure they are fantastic. And also about their one and only release, how many copies were made, if there exist in some place a box with copies of this fantastic record. I’d love to own one one day, play it on my turntable. It’d be so great, songs like these deserve to be played on record, not as MP3, even less stream then! Anyhow if anyone of you out there know anything else about them, any anecdotes or anything really, please share! Would love to know more about their band story!

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Listen
Cuba Dares – Yellow and Red

6 Responses to “:: Cuba Dares”

I don’t wallow in the yesteryears, and I don’t often type “Cuba Dares” into a search engine. Having had one of those absent-minded what-do-I-google-next moments, this evening I did just that, and here I am, reading about people who made or still make music. In this case I’m reading about music I created with one particular and special friend called Blaithín (Blaw-heen in Gaelic – translation = Little Flower).

We constituted the core of Cuba Dares, working productively or otherwise with a number of other folk under that name during the 1980s.

The question was raised above as to the origin of the name ‘Cuba Dares’. The name must be seen in the context of the early 1980s – when CIA-trained murder squads were slaughtering the most defenceless of ‘targets’ in El Salvador, while the Contras were on the rampage in Nicaragua. Western-backed reactionary forces in Angola were also busying themselves with the task of furthering the goals of western neo-imperialism. It was our perspective that without Cuban support, both moral and material, the poorest of the people in these countries would have been utterly defenceless against the well-funded and heavily armed forces of the international right.

In short, the name is a statement that the band embraced the politics of the left, but we were also committed to guitar-based pop music on its own merits.

The Cuba Dares bio from the Irish Rock website is nonsense – it was written, to my knowledge, by one of the others named, in an attempt to bolster the credentials of another band named in the blurb. I have never dwelt on the goings-ons of the inward-looking Dublin scene, and have never been bothered rectifying the errors in the bio.

The facts: the band was formed by Blaithín Clance and me in 1982. Our first recording, ‘Zigzags’, with all instrumentation generated by me via overdubbing, received airplay on the Dave Fanning Rock Show on Irish national radio. Shortly afterwards we assumed a standard vocals/guitar/bass/drums lineup, but reverted to the two-piece format for our first significant live performance – supporting Factory Records’ ‘A Certain Ration’. Shortly after that we supported Depeche Mode in Ireland’s National Stadium, having begun to make an impression on the Dublin live scene. ABC soon after released the ‘Lexicon of Love’ album, which was a massive No 1 in the UK, and they began their British and Irish tour in Dublin, with Cuba Dares as the support act. Next up was the support role to New Order in Dublin at the time of the release of Blue Monday, one of the epochal concerts of the 80s in Dublin. At this time the band recorded a track called “Wrapped Up” which was subsequently used on a regular basis as the outro track for Ireland’s most popular radio rock show, though it was never released on vinyl. Also at this time the band appeared in and performed soundtrack music for an independent film called ‘The Statistic’, the subject matter of which was Ireland’s absolutist anti-abortion stance.

At that point the band was faced with remaining in Dublin, with a continuing high profile, or relocating to London where we would be starting from scratch. We moved to London in 1983, with no contacts and no financial resources. We worked the live circuit, hoping for some financial input from a record label. We were repeatedly advised by A&R types that our name and our leftist stance were major impediments. Cuba Dares self-released the One-Nine-Eight-Six EP which was the focal point of the piece above, but the band did so without any real knowledge of how to get airplay in the UK, how to get the record into the shops, and how to ingratiate ourselves with the music press.

Cuba Dares continued to play live and to record, but didn’t release any other records. There is a substantial list of high-quality multi-track recordings from the late 1980s. The tenor of the music is generally darker, harder and more complex than was the case with the music released on the EP, and at this time the band had become a stable five piece line-up, expanded to include keyboards. Among those who expressed an interest in the band during this time was Joe Strummer.

It should be noted that the mid to late 80s was not the best of times for guitar-based bands who included leftist sentiments in their output. The band would have been well-placed to profit from the return of guitar-based rock and pop in the early 90s, but by this time the onset of parenthood for key members had introduced the necessity to earn a regular income. Not so radical now, I know.

There are at least 20 unreleased tracks by Cuba Dares which exist still on multi-track master tapes. Myself and Blaithín Clancy maintain a deep friendship, and it is our intention to reopen the band’s catalogue with a view to releasing most of this material, at a time when the need for record-company involvement is minimal in comparison to the era in which we worked.

A number of copies of the 1986 EP are still held, though these have been reduced by interest from indie-DJs in Japan and record collectors elsewhere.

The interest shown here in our obscure and little-known band is heartening. It is very much our intention that the buried gems we hold on tape are released to a wider audience in the next year when the old tapes have been harvested and re-worked in a way our previous lack of financial resources prevented.

For info: there were 1,000 copies of the EP, and you are welcome to one of the remaining ones. Just get back to me, and I’ll swing one at you.

Apologies for the tome-ish quality of my comment, but you did ask……

Just for the record, there has been no middle-aged softening of political positions in this case. We are still Cuba Dares.

Ronán Stokes
April 6th, 2013

Hi ronan,

I am keen on the ep. Do you have any spare ?

Freddy

Freddy yim
August 8th, 2013

Hi Ronan,

Can i buy a copy of your Ep? Please shoot an email to banie.vinluan@ovi.com

Cheers.

Banie

Banie
August 8th, 2013

Hi Roque,

Can i have the email address of Ronan. Thank you in advance for your help 🙂

Cheers.

Banie

Banie
August 8th, 2013

Slowly, bit-by-bit, all the information in the world, past and present makes its way to an electronic device. Every now and then I stick a name into google and where previously there was nothing, some type of information appears from the past. As I lay in bed this morning I wondered, for no particular reason, what became of the Cuba Dares? I knew Ronan and Blathaín briefly in the early/mid eighties in London so was interested to read Ronan’s response to your post. I first saw Ronan circa 1982/3 on Irish TV in the audience of The Late Late Show, the world’s second longest running chat show, he made some point about us all having a great deal of leisure time in the future due to the onset of technology. If I remember rightly, and I could be wrong, Ronan was sporting an odd leather jacket that resembled something that dustmen used to wear – sleeveless perhaps. A year or so later I was living in London and went to a gig at Camden to see the Irish version of ABC, an awful band called Tokyo Olympics. I spotted Ronan’s dustman jacket in the audience and bizarrely remembered it from the TV – I introduced myself to Ronan on the basis of the jacket. I shared a black cab home with him and the singer from Zerra 1, another forgotten Irish band. I do recall Ronan, who was living in Kilburn telling me that computers were the future of popular music; they’ve certainly led to the downfall of the music industry. One time he claimed he’d maintained eye contact with Ronald Regan as he drove past in his motorcade and had attempted to transmit visual hatred. There were a bunch of Irish émigrés in London at that time, Microdisney, Five Go Down to the Sea, Blue in Heaven etc. Somewhere I’ve a cassette that Ronan gave me with ‘Wrapped Up’ on it. Probably because of Ronan’s Dublin brogue he’d mentioned the song by name and I’d mistakenly thought it was called “Rap Dub” – not to be confused with Dubliner Mannix Flynn’s one-off single ‘Dub Rap’. I never saw Cuba Dares play but their recorded output I heard was, at the time competent, hopfully, for history’s sake the rest of their stuff will see the light of day.

May 9th, 2015

Hi all.
Just for the record I have never played for Cuba Dares. I did an audition once for about half an hour which didn’t go very well for me. While I WAS friendly with the band members and subsequently worked with Tony Kennedy and Barry O’ Reilly on a few projects, and attended one of Cuba Dares recording sessions, I have no idea why my name is listed as having been a member of the band. This is in no way an attempt to denigrate Cuba Dares who were a great band with whom I would have loved to play but simply a clarification. I have played in numerous Dublin bands down the years but sadly Cuba Dares was not one of them.
Denis Rusk.

Denis Rusk
November 26th, 2015