Jason O’Sullivan: Songs In The Key Of Life

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Jason O'SullivanFrom bootlegged tapes out of a suitcase during the festival to being on stage with U2.

Well known face on the Tralee music scene, Jason O’Sullivan, tells us his Songs In The Key Of Life….

“I think I will skip most of the eighties considering all that was in my cassette collection was Michael Jacksons Bad and Turbo and Ozones breakdance album Electric Boogaloo (below).

U2 – Rattle And Hum

But there was one little gem that I was proud of and that was my bootleg copy of U2’s Boy. I remember picking it up out of one of the bootleggers suitcase during the Rose of Tralee festival and staring at the photocopy cover when, before I could even get the two pound notes out of my pocket, he was being chased up the road with suitcase in hand by a Gardai!

I took my new tape home and wore it out. The first album I actually paid for was ‘Rattle and Hum’ on double vinyl with my confirmation money. I also got the VHS of Rattle and Hum and a U2 mirror to go along with it.

U2 – The Fly

U2 are the reason I wanted to be in a band. The song that stands out for me the most has to be ‘The Fly’ off  ‘Achtung Baby’. I remember Rattle and Hum got critically slated so there was talk of U2 going away for a while and coming back with a new sound.

Then one October morning in 1991 Dave Fanning announced he was playing the new song called The Fly. So I was all set with my blank tape, ready to hit record, with my mother shouting up the stairs that it was five to nine and I’d be late for school.

I didn’t care, I wasn’t going anywhere until I heard that song. I’m proud to say I supported U2 in Pairc ui Chaoimh for their Zooropa tour. I never played a note – instead I wore a big head on stage with Macnas theatre group.

Bob Dylan – ‘Bringing It All Back Home’

I guess every musician should have a “the first time I heard the Beatles” story or seeing Elvis’ first television performance. For me it was when I heard Bob Dylan for the first time. My old fella worked in the Snooker Hall [on Pembroke Street] and that’s where I spent most of my youth.

One day he handed me a cassette tape he bought off some guy for a bunch of change out of the machines. It was Bob Dylan’s ‘Bringing It All Back Home’. When I played that tape for the first time I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

I had never heard anything like it before. It was new. It was fresh. It was chaotic yet beautifully arranged. It was animalistic. It was everything I hoped an album could sound like.

Pixies – Doolittle

From the opening bass line on ‘Debaser’ to the primal screams of the last track ‘Gouge away’, ‘Doolittle’ by The Pixies was hypnotic and I was hooked straight away.

It was 1990 and I was 14 and didn’t care too much for Bob Dylan anymore at that moment. A year from then, Nirvana would release ‘Smells like teen spirit’ and everyone would rush out and buy guitars and grunge would go mainstream, but I just felt I had heard it all before in the Pixies.

The whole ‘Grunge scene’ churned out some great bands and some fine albums but like every scene it becomes watered down and mainstream, (just ask Kurt Cobain).

The Pixies music, in my opinion, still holds up today because nobody could pigeonhole them. There was great freedom in those albums. You got the feeling they were comfortable in their musical skins and that for me is how music should be made.

The one band I would have loved to have seen live was The Doors. Growing up having Jim Morrison as your idol probably aint the best thing for a teenager. ‘Break on through’ was the first track I heard from the Doors and I ended up owning all their albums on vinyl. Bands like the Doors,Led Zepplin and The Band made me want to write music. I have always had the opinion that musicians listen to music differently. So much so I have been accused on many occasions of being a music snob.

The Doors – Break on Through

Since buying my first guitar at the age of 15 I have played with every kind of musician and played every genre of music imaginable. The two that will always stand out the most for me would be Oliver Sweeney who I began writing and forming bands with before we could even play. (We use to have a shoe for a mic stand) His father Brendan always gave us a helping hand with equipment and a kick up the arse when needed.

The other is my brother Colin who is the finest guitarist I have ever played with and we still keep ‘Deadbeat Radio’ going. We must have played every kind of pub you can imagine and every kind of place you cant imagine. The best musicians I have played with over the years are the ones who were born into music. The likes of Oliver, Colin and Keith Fitzgerald, who is an amazing drummer, all come from musical stock. This town has always churned out great musicians and I hope it keeps up the tradition long after the likes of us have burned ourselves out.

Jason and his brother Colin can be heard this week playing in the Teach Beag Friday night and Paddy Mac’s Saturday and Sunday night.

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