Remembering Something Happens

My friend Jeannie sent me a link to some recently posted YouTube videos. Here’s one of them:

Back in the day, pretty much any and every band that formed in Dublin was called “the next U2.” After U2 hit it big, record labels had people scouting out the Dublin scene — and all over Ireland, I would think — trying to find the next big thing.

Something Happens was one of the bands that formed and grew in the late ’80s, and Jeannie introduced them to me … in the mid ’90s, I think. The only thing they really had in common with U2 was that they were a 4-piece and hailed from Dublin. Something Happens didn’t write huge, sweeping epics; they wrote the catchiest, most perfect little pop/rock songs you’d ever hear, with the most clever and witty lyrics you could imagine. I loved them. Still do.

They put out maybe a handful of albums, but were beset by poor production to some degree. They were very popular in Ireland and had a modicum of success elsewhere in Europe, as I recall. They tried and tried to crack the U.S., but never could. In … I think it was 1994? maybe ’95? … they toured the U.S. by bus with Warren Zevon. They were both the opening act and Zevon’s backing band during his set.

Cari and I drove to Portland to see them play with Zevon. Jeannie had sent us some Irish chocolate bars to give to them, so we found their bus a couple hours before the show and were able to meet them and chat for a few minutes. Super nice guys. I got to meet Tom Dunne, the lead singer, again in 1996 (I think) when Cari and I made our first visit to Dublin. Here’s a pic of me and Tom at the Virgin Megastore:

Tom Dunne and me

(That’s when I still had my TV sportscaster hair.)

But the Happens never really hit it big, and after a while it became obvious that the band members could make more money doing other things. Their last album came out in 1997. Tom has gone on to be one of the top radio personalities in Ireland, winning awards left and right over the last decade. (He also provided the narration for U2’s Elevation Tour documentary that appears on the Live from Boston DVD.)

In 1998, a panel of Irish music experts picked their second album, Stuck Together With God’s Glue, as one of the 10 best Irish rock albums ever — in the same league with The Joshua Tree, Achtung Baby, Astral Weeks, and others. Here’s the article. (And yes, Bono flat-out stole that title for a lyric in U2’s song, “Staring at the Sun.”)

They only get together once a year now to play one gig in Dublin. The video above is from Wednesday night, in a little club called Whelan’s. The song is “Hello Hello Hello Hello Hello (Petrol),” which isn’t one of my big favorites, but a good song, nonetheless.

You can find their first 3 albums on iTunes. Bedlam-A-Go-Go is the roughest/loudest and is my least favorite of the three, but has two of the best Happens songs: “Daisyhead” and “Beautiful Country.” The latter song is probably one of the best songs ever about the Irish Troubles, and, to be frank, puts U2’s “Sunday Bloody Sunday” to shame. The former is Tom writing about the death of his father:

Now there’s daisies growing in your head
The only flowers to have found a bed
Where only stones you’d expect to find
Inside that scenic but dated mind
Take it from me. That it’s raining on you.

(snip)

Tell me, baby, how the world fell apart at its seams
Tell the world now why you’re better off covered in green
You won’t get up
You can’t come back again

It’s a picturesque but lonely little place where you’re lying now
It’s past the time for you, you can’t hear the crying now
But what the hell’s new except the daisies that grow in you
In your daisyhead

“Room 29” and “Devil In Miss Jones” are great songs, too. The latter is Tom’s ode to porn star Traci Lords. Srsly. Shame that iTunes doesn’t have Planet Fabulous, which has always been my favorite Happens album — but it does have one of the songs, “Momentary Thing,” which was apparently used on the TV show, Veronica Mars. Great, great song — maybe the best 99 cents you’ll spend on iTunes. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

As for me, I’ll just hope they keep playing those once-a-year gigs in Dublin … and that I can get over there someday to see one.

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One Response to Remembering Something Happens

  1. Jon January 1, 2010 at 11:07 pm #

    Great post… always wondered what happened to this band. Saw them 3 times when they came around to the SF bay area in support of the albums. Loved the songs and that they played to small empty clubs like they were full. I had a college radio gig at the time, played them as much as I could get away with, told all my friends… but I was the only one in this neck of the woods doing so.

    I think they were also victims of the grungefest that was going on at the time… fans were not appreciating the lighter touch of hooks and melodies. I think I even have an old shirt of theirs that was a parody of a Guinness shirt. Thanks for tweeting this.

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