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The Stars of Heaven – Speak Slowly (1988)

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In the street, lovers move,

rehearse their goodnights.

The usual Two O’Clock Waltz.

The first, and unfortunately, last official album released by this seminal and peerless band, the sublime Dublin group The Stars of Heaven.

And ye shall be left few in number, whereas ye were as The Stars of Heaven for multitude; because thou wouldest not obey the voice of the Lord thy God.

Deuteronomy 28-62

As you know, we fucking love The Stars here! No, we’re not mad amateur astrologists!! Night time is not for staring at the sky in the cold outdoors while drinking hot cocoa from a flask! No, it’s for staring at curvy, nasty strippers while drinking Jack Daniels, and doing tequila shots from titties, in the Emergency Room gogo bar!!

So get ready for more gushing than if Maria Ozawa were a Cylon clone, and three Maria Ozawas came over to Dublindog Mansions for the weekend, before annihilating the Human Race!

And so we are very happy indeed to be able to bring you this masterpiece of Irish music, the sublime Speak Slowly from 1988!

We’re not usually prone to excessive hyperbole, but this album really is as close to perfect as can reasonably be expected!

The Stars were making music that was way ahead of it’s time. Sublime music. We miss them!

Maybe I’ve gone too far though by setting up a prayer shrine to Stephen Ryan in the corner of my room!!

“Art is never finished, only abandoned.”

– Leonardo da Vinci

Listening to the tracks again now, so many years later, what’s most amazing is how fresh the songs sound! Like they were cut just yesterday!

The Stars were way out of synch with the music herd in Dublin back in the late eighties. They had their own unique blueprint which sounded like nothing else. They were making music that was not of any one time. Music that exists out of time.

With influences ranging from Hank Williams to Woody Guthrie to the Beach Boys to Traditional Irish music to Gram Parsons to Big Star to the Go Betweens to the Velvet Underground to Johnny Thunders to a one-man-band bloke busking on Grafton Street, they were really out of step with the mundanity of the music scene that then existed.

Evocative, beautiful, timeless, unforgettable songs, along with some delicate instrumental pieces (which nobody at all was doing back then),were hallmarks of their vinyl outings.

I remember my first time hearing the Stars of Heaven, all those many years ago. It was 1985, on the Dave Fanning radio show, the only bastion of indie music amongst the morass of Irish radio back then. The music sounded very strange. Totally different to anything I’d heard before. But utterly compelling. Brilliant. Addictive.
In music journalism, groups are always – very lazily – described as sounding like this and like that. With the Stars, this was not possible. They sounded nothing like this. And even less like fucking that!

The Stars’ blueprint is very similar to what would, many years later, come to be known as Alt-Country and make buckets of bucks for acts inferior to the Stars (Wilco, Ryan Adams, et al). So too, with their instrumental tracks, they were years ahead of the so-called “post-rock” movement (Tortoise et al).
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This, their only full album proper ‘Speak Slowly‘ was released in April 1988 on Rough Trade.

Produced by Paul Barrett (with 4-5 tracks remixed by Stephen Street), ‘Speak Slowly’ received widespread critical acclaim.

It contains some classic, timeless songs, with sumptuous melodies underlying beautiful, evocative, and often dark lyrics.


With every other word

you throw me away
and we get by
every other day

Just check out the magnificent 2 O’Clock Waltz, 28, Lights Of Tetouan, Leave as you Came …… Well, nearly all the tracks, actually!

It didn’t sell too many copies though. Predictably so – it wasn’t art for the masses – but sickening nevertheless.

In a recent poll by the Irish Times of “Greatest Irish Albums Ever” ‘Speak Slowly‘ was voted as number eighteen.

Only number fucking eighteen? Give me a break morons! Top ten without a doubt!

Here the boys perform “28” on an Irish TV show in 1988.

When you don’t love the one you’re with,

and the one you love is gone,

you’d better smile

or she’ll ask you, “what’s wrong?”

The earlier Stars compilation Rain On The Sea (which we have already posted) and Speak Slowly would later be combined in a great “Blue-Cartoon” release from 2005.

In 1988, as the group had just finished recording some tracks for Mother Records with Mitch Easter as producer, and could finally be potentially on the brink of well deserved commercial success, the boys called it a day.

In 1999, long after the group had split, the collection “Unfinished Dreaming” was released.

This fine album collected their first single, some rare tracks from BBC and RTE radio sessions and best of all, tracks from their unreleased fourth LP tracks recorded for Mother Records with Mitch Easter.

Stan Erraught went on to appear in two great groups, The Sewing Room and The Great Western Squares, who both have released some rather excellent albums.

Stephen Ryan went on to release two more wonderful albums with “The Revanants“, the excellent Horse of a Different Colour from 1993 (voted in the top twenty Irish albums ever) and Septober, Nowonder from 1999.

If anyone knows where Stephen now is and what he’s doing, drop us a line! He really went of the radar years ago after the Revenants called it a day.

I guess Stephen’s the Thomas Pynchon of Irish music!




There is a full and detailed Stars Of Heaven Discography on the great;
irishrock.org/stars

Some other good Stars of Heaven resources here;

http://STARS on myspace

http://www.independentrecords.ie/STARSofheaven

More Stars of Heaven here on Last Bastion; Stars of Heaven

We’re looking for an upload of the 1999 collection”Unfinished Dreaming“. If anyone’s got it, please drop me a line! I’ve got it somewhere back there in an attic or in an ex-GF’s room, but I don’t live in paddyland anymore!

Also if you’ve got any Revenants, Sewing Room or Great Western Squares stuff, please let us know.

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Tracklisting

Unfinished Dreaming
Little England
What Else Could you do
Paradise Of Lies
2 O’Clock Waltz
28
Lights Of Tetouan
Leave As You Came
Every Other Day
Three Kings Day
Ghost Cars

Here be magic;

The Stars Of Heaven – Speak Slowly

More Stars of Heaven here; Stars of Heaven

May 12, 2008 Posted by | Ireland, Music_Alternative, Stars of Heaven, Stephen Ryan, _MUSIC | Leave a comment

The Stars of Heaven – Rain On Sea (1987)

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See your sometime

vanished smile

Fall like the rain

on the sea


A wonderful compilation album by one of the greatest Irish music purveyors of all time, the sublime Dublin band The Stars of Heaven.

The Stars were making music that was way ahead of it’s time. Perfect music.

Listening to the tracks again now, so many years later, what’s most amazing is how fresh the songs sound! Like they were cut just yesterday!

The Stars were way out of synch with the music herd in Dublin back in the late eighties. They had their own unique blueprint which sounded like nothing else. They were making music that was not of any one time. Music that exists out of time.

With influences ranging from Hank Williams to Woody Guthrie to the Beach Boys to Traditional Irish music to Gram Parsons to Big Star to the Go Betweens to the Velvet Underground to Johnny Thunders to a one-man-band bloke busking on Grafton Street, they were really out of step with the mundanity of the music scene that then existed.

Evocative, beautiful, timeless, unforgettable songs, along with some delicate instrumental pieces (which nobody at all was doing back then),were hallmarks of their vinyl outings.

I remember my first time hearing the Stars of Heaven, all those many years ago. It was 1985, on the Dave Fanning radio show, the only bastion of indie music amongst the morass of Irish radio back then. The music sounded very strange. Totally different to anything I’d heard before. But utterly compelling. Brilliant. Addictive.

In music journalism, groups are always – very lazily – described as sounding like this and like that. With the Stars, this was not possible. They sounded nothing like this. And even less like fucking that!

The Stars’ blueprint is very similar to what would, many years later, come to be known as Alt-Country and make buckets of bucks for acts inferior to the Stars (Wilco, Ryan Adams, et al). So too, with their instrumental tracks, they were years ahead of the so-called “post-rock” movement (Tortoise et al).

The band’s first release for Rough Trade in March 1986 (Rough Trade – RT 203) was the ‘Holyhead’ E.P. (the name deriving from their song “Before Hollyhead”, a tribute to the Go Betweens great Before Hollywood).

For those who don’t know, Hollyhead is a dirty, grim, little port town in the South East of Ireland, Co. Wexford, from where ferries dispatch daily to exotic locations like France and Wales!

The trackisting was Never Saw You/Before Holyhead/Widow’s Walk/Someone’s Getting Tired Of You,

This was a sumptuous record of lyrical depth and subtlety, as well as gorgeous melody and instrumentation.

The Stars followed this up with in September 1986 with ‘Sacred Heart Hotel‘ – a mini album – again on Rough Trade (Rough Trade, Rtm 173).

Side one consists of the four tracks recorded during their John Peel Session of 14 January1986 and the second side contains new tracks.

The majestic songs thereon were; Sacred Heart Hotel /Talk About It Now/ Moonstruck /So You Know/ You Only Say What Anyone Could Say /Folksong /Man Without A Shadow.

Another glorious record of lyrical depth and subtlety, with magnificent melodies and instrumentation.

The album entered the UK indie album chart on 20 September 1986 for a 4 week run, peaking at #11.

In a recent poll by the Irish Times of “Greatest Irish Albums Ever” ‘Sacred Heart Hotel‘ was voted as number twenty!

Only number fucking twenty? Give me a break morons! Top ten without a doubt!

How well you know

that time is not my own.

Still you take it all away.

How well I know

how well I’ve hurt you

down the days.

You still mean the same.

You still mean the same.

After a short UK tour in March 1987 the songs along with the John Peel session were coupled together for release as an LP.

Rough Trade compiled ‘Sacred Heart Hotel’ and the ‘Holyhead E.P.’ onto one album ‘Rain On The Sea‘ for European release (Rough Trade – Rough 113).

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Tracklisting

Sacred Heart Hotel
Talk About It Now
Moonstruck
So You Know
You Only Say What Anyone Could Say
Folksong
Man Without A Shadow
Never Saw You
Before Holyhead
Widow’s Walk
Someone’s Getting Tired Of You

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Here be perfection;

The_Stars_Of_Heaven_-_Rain_On_The_Sea

More Stars of Heaven here; Stars of Heaven
http://stupidd.blogspot.com/

Mail us: stupidand@gmail.com

May 8, 2008 Posted by | Ireland, Music_Alternative, Stars of Heaven, Stephen Ryan, _MUSIC | Leave a comment

The lost genius of The Stars Of Heaven


The Stars of Heaven perform “28” from their great album “Speak Slowly”!

The stench of solitude

multiplied by two,

and I remember my life with you.

What evidence I have to hand

suggests that I loved you.

What a foolish thing to do!

When you don’t love the one you’re with,

and the one you love is gone,

you’d better smile

or she’ll ask you

“what’s wrong?”

An old piano plays a long forgotten tune,

though not in perfect keys

I visualise my life with you.

What evidence I had to hand

suggested I loved you.

What a foolish thing to do!

When you don’t love the one you’re with,

and the one you love is gone.

you’d better smile

or she’ll ask you

“what’s wrong?”


And ye shall be left few in number, whereas ye were as The Stars of Heaven for multitude; because thou wouldest not obey the voice of the Lord thy God.

Deuteronomy 28-62

A wonderful memento this of the wonderful Irish group of the late eighties, The Stars of Heaven.

This was the only video they ever made. Of course, this was the era just before the tidal wave of rubbish music videos. In any event, the boys were not exactly Boyzone and shunned such inessential nonsense.

The Stars of Heaven comprised Stephen Ryan (vocals, electric guitar), Stan Erraught (guitars, backing vocals) , Peter O’Sullivan (bass) and Bernard Walsh (drums).

Most of the songwriting duties were undertaken by Stephen Ryan and Stan Erraught, two magnificent songwriters.

Their songs, at their best, combined wonderful lyricism with great pop melody and often complex instrumentation.

Stan Erraught went on to appear in two great groups, The Sewing Room and The Great Western Squares, who both have released some rather excellent albums.

Stephen Ryan’ went on to release two more wonderful albums with “The Revanants”.

//www.tangents.co.uk/tangents/popular/graphics/stars2.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.In a recent poll by the Irish Times of “Greatest Irish Albums Ever” The Stars of Heaven have two albums in the top twenty (Speak Slowly and Sacred Heart Hotel), while Stephen Ryan’s subsequent group “The Revanants” have one album (Horse of a Different Colour) in the top twenty!

I saw them play many times in the eigthties in small clubs in Dublin ranging from the Underground to the New Inn, (which wasn’t remotely fucking new, rather an old, smelly, falling-down dump!) to Mc Gonagles to Trinity College. Their gigs were always memorable, though, in true punk fashion, were rather eventful and quite unpolished musically!

Also, for a time, I lived in the same house as Stephen Ryan – different flats though – and we had many interesting conversations about music we were listening to etc.

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The Stars of Heaven were always a band set apart from the herd and a band with their own idiosyncratic songwriting style, their own idiosyncratic influences and a totally different take on how music should be made.

These guys were making Alt-Country music years before Alt-Country as a term existed! With influences ranging from Hank Williams to Woody Guthrie to the Beach Boys to Gram Parsons to Big Star to the Go Betweens to the Velvet Underground to Johnny Thunders, they were out of step with the mundanity of the music scene that then existed. Far ahead of their time, in a sense.

The Stars Of Heaven debuted with a 7″ single ‘Clothes Of Pride / All About You’ released on Dublin’s indie Hotwire records.

John Peel picked up on the record, loved it and invited the band to London for a session.

The boys then hooked up with top Brit Indie label Rough Trade, home at the time to wonderful groups such as The Smiths.

Their Flying Burrito like constructs and jangly guitars were being appreciated by the alternative music fans, who at the time were engrossed in American bands such as R.E.M. and The Replacements.

Their first release for Rough Trade in March 1986 was the ‘Holyhead’ E.P. (the name deriving from their song “Before Hollyhead”, a tribute to the Go Betweens great Before Hollywood).

This was a glorious record which showed the band moving away from their former blueprint.

They followed this up with in September 1986 with ‘Sacred Heart Hotel‘ – a mini album.

Side one consists of the four tracks recorded during the 1st Peel Session recorded 14.01.1986 and the second side, some new tracks.

The album entered the UK indie album chart on 20.9.86 for a 4 week run, peaking at #11.

In 1987, Rough Trade compiled ‘Sacred Heart Hotel’ and the ‘Holyhead E.P.’ onto one album ‘Rain On The Sea‘ for European release.

The Stars’ live shows at the time showed a fondness for obscure classics by Alex Chilton, Richard Thompson, Gram Parsons and many others who as time passed have gained a fame of their own.

Their only full album proper ‘Speak Slowly‘ was released in April 1988 on Rough Trade.

Produced by Paul Barrett (with 4-5 tracks remixed by Stephen Street), ‘Speak Slowly’ received wide critical acclaim.

It didn’t sell too many copies though, very unfortunately.

Rain On The Sea and Speak Slowly would later be compiled together, with extensive cover notes, in a great “Blue-Cartoon” release from 2005.

In 1988, as the group had just finished recording some tracks for Mother Records with Mitch Easter as producer, and could finally be potentially on the brink of some well deserved commercial success, the boys called it a day.

In 1999, long after the group had split, the collection “Unfinished Dreaming” was released.

This fine album collected their first single, some rare tracks from BBC and RTE radio sessions and best of all, tracks from their unreleased fourth LP tracks recorded for Mother Records with Mitch Easter.

There is a full and detailed Stars Of Heaven Discography on the great; irishrock.org/stars

Some other good Stars of Heaven resources here;

http://STARS on myspace

http://www.independentrecords.ie/STARSofheaven

http://irishrock.org/STARS


And the good news is that we’ve got our paws on some Stars music @320 and will be posting the wonderful albums Rain On The Sea and Speak Slowly in the coming days.

Also too, we will post the soundtrack forPlanes, Trains and Automobiles” on which, quite surreally, the Stars perform a cover of “Wheels”!

Stay tuned!!

We’re looking for an upload of the 1999 collection”Unfinished Dreaming”. If anyone’s got it, please drop me a line! I’ve got it somewhere back there in an attic, but I don’t live in paddyland anymore!

Also if you’ve got any Revenants, Sewing Room or Great Western Squares stuff, please let us know.



Sometimes seen as forerunners of the country/roots/Americana sound nowadays, but at the time it didn’t seem that simple. There was a Byrds influence for sure, but songs like “So You Know” placed them just as easily beside bands like The Dream Syndicate. This was the uniquitous Velvets influence, which ran though many an indie band in the 80s. A great band whose discography is a bit messy: at the time they seemed not to have recorded that one, flawless, killer LP which they certainly had in them, but in retrospect their recordings were fabulous.

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For today’s carefree Celtic Tiger cubs, references from thirty and fortysomethings to how tough it was 20 years ago can make 1980s Ireland seem a world apart.

As journalist Nick Kelly puts it in the liner notes to this release, it was a time of mass emigration, mass unemployment and Mass – none of which could be applied in the same way to 2006.

Perhaps then these are two timely reissues from a Dublin band that never quite made it big. They feature separate releases of the Stars of Heaven’s mini-album ‘Sacred Heart Hotel’ and the ‘Holyhead’ EP that followed it on one CD, and ‘Speak Slowly’, the band’s only ever full-length album on another.

The albums’ new liner notes feature contributions from the band members, journalists and record label representatives on how it all began and how it all went wrong.

DJ Tom Dunne, then a rival of The Stars Of Heaven in Something Happens!, feels the Stars’ problem was they were before their time.

And it’s true, on parts of ‘Speak Slowly’ you can feel an alt country vibe that would slot directly into a Wilco album today, and this years before the sub-genre even existed.

One track that should have been a hit is ‘2 O’Clock Waltz’, a downtempo tale of unrequited love soundtracked by a combination of unmistakably 1980s drumming, haunting Clannad-esque vocals and, ahem, an accordion.

While it’s hard to imagine a Dublin band in 2006 aiming for success in rock with an accordion in tow, it seems to work here. On this track as well as others such as ‘Lights of Tetouan’, the quality of the band’s guitar play is also evident.

Both of these tracks were among the newer songs the band had at the time, though the record also features many songs that had been written long previously, which perhaps explains its uneven nature.

Elsewhere on ‘Speak Slowly’, the Stars’ trademark elements of Irish folk, 1980s rock rhythms and country music melodies don’t quite fit together.

As guitarist Stan Erraught observes in the liner notes, if the Stars had clung together for another album before their split in 1990, things could have worked out much better for them. Perseverance, it seems, is one lesson here for young bands seeking to achieve success in the music business today.

– Bill Lehane; http://www.rte.ie/arts/2006/0103/thestarsofheaven.html

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The Stars of Heaven were always a class act on the Dublin music scene, a band set apart from the others with different songs, different influences and a whole different take on making music. I was always slightly heartened by their gigs: they were a bit shambolic really and to a band like ourselves who could already whip a crowd of thirty or forty people into a light sweat, they seemed no real threat, or so I thought. Yet coming out of those gigs you couldn’t help but find yourself name checking songs and discussing solos, lyrics and arrangements that were like nothing else we then knew.

After a while you started to wonder just where on Earth the Stars had come from? They were incorporating influences like Gram Parsons long before anyone else in Dublin or for that matter London. They were alt. country long before Jeff Tweedy had even thought about it. When their songs started to gradually drift onto the radio I honestly thought nothing would stop them. Sacred Heart Hotel had a quality about it that suggested timelessness, fading grandeur and deft elegance. It sounded, from the moment it was written like a song that had always existed.

It came as no surprise to us then when Rough Trade records came banging on their door or when the late John Peel started to champion them. The Stars had a certain nous about them, a certain effortless grace that was almost unique. They had moments of fragile, startling beauty in their songs that sometimes mightn’t have translated to a live arena but which held those who listened bewitched and in their thrall forever. Steven would joke that not many people came to the shows, but all who did were journalists. Journalists and life long fans.

These were the days of The Underground gigs in Dublin, a tiny venue that became the centre of a thriving music scene. I was lucky enough to see the Stars there and once the doors closed and the band started to play it was like time and place disappeared. The wonderful power of music and the wonderful power of a truly great band. Some Sundays at this time we even played them in five a side soccer. My memory is that we were at least their betters on a football pitch if nowhere else.

In retrospect I’m not that surprised they didn’t make it. The only word they understood in ‘music business’ was the music one which is how it should be. The business part we have discovered since is an ugly place and the Stars were too good for that. Yes they didn’t make it, but that was never really the point. The point was the songs, the lyrics and the places the music took you to. And that was one place were the Stars did make it and perfectly too. They weren’t called The Stars of Heaven for nothing.

– Tom Dunne, Today FM (ex Something Happens)

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Between the death of new-wave and the hullabaloo of the NME C86 tape there existed quite a few interesting acts many of whom either based their music upon a remodelling of older pre-punk and new-wave styles or as up-coming shambling indie bands. The few years immediately before C86 were certainly a time of change and I can think of no-better example of this than to cite the acts featured on the Rough Trade label. The Smiths were selling records by the bucket load, Jonathan Richman had released possibly his most famous and best loved single and album in “That Summer Feeling” and “Rockin ‘n’ Romance” while the Woodentops and Microdisney were the new “up and coming darlings” of the musical press. All this excitement meant Rough Trade could “experiment” a little by signing new bands like the Apartments and the Stars Of Heaven.

A 4-piece band of Bernard Walsh (Drums), Stephen Ryan (guitar & vocals), Peter O’Sullivan (bass & Vocals) and Stanley Erraught (guitars) the Stars Of Heaven played a version of country music more in tune with the sixties band the Byrds than anything else in the mid 80’s indie charts. The first Stars Of Heaven release appeared in 1985 on the very independent Hotwire label. Titled “Clothes Of Pride” and only strictly available in their home nation of Eire. Like no other indie musical style of the time the single reflected the gentle Celtic country twangs of Ireland and sadly received little acclaim except from John Peel who, after playing the song a few times invited the un-signed band in for a session

Recorded in January 1986 the John Peel session again featured songs in a similar mould to the single and these would eventually be released on a mini LP compilation titled “Sacred Heart Hotel.”

After the session the band were eventually signed by Rough Trade and recorded a further 7 songs. These songs were released on the “Holyhead EP” and the mini LP “Sacred Heart Hotel.”

After a short UK tour in March 1987 the songs along with the John Peel session were coupled together for release as an LP titled “Rain On Sea.”.

By 1988 the band had written and recorded a new set and, after many delays these new songs appeared on the album “Speak Slowly.” Dave Henderson aptly summed up the album by giving it his highest accolade (his review is reproduced here, though it seems Dave could not add up because the album has 11 songs and not 10 as he suggests.)

Unfortunately, no single was lifted from the album and even a recording of Gram Parsons “Wheels” for the film “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” failed to give the band a wider audience so by the end of 1988 the band had sadly split up.
Unfortunately by this time the music press and the “indie scene” was by now caught in the grip of “C86 fever” with many artists from the tape releasing possibly their best singles and with the likes of labels like Subway, Pink, Fire, In Tape, Reception, Flying Nun, Factory, etc at the height of their popularity there was probably too many good “indie” records for the public to choose from.


More Stars of Heaven here; Stars of Heaven

http://stupidd.blogspot.com/

Mail us: stupidand@gmail.com

May 6, 2008 Posted by | Ireland, Music_Alternative, Stars of Heaven, Stephen Ryan, _MUSIC | Leave a comment