Starband / The Crack
Though these two pop groups probably deserve separate posts, we’ll deal with them together for now as they have a complex interlinking history. The story really begins with the infamous Miami Showband Massacre of July 1975. The Miami was by that point a very well established and popular group despite the fact that they had shed all of their original members over the years, with firstly The Sands and later frontman Dickie Rock departing for greener pastures. But in fact, the young new band members had revitalised the group by the time of the devastating incident in County Down. Stopped by a UVF roadblock, their tour van was being fitted with a bomb for transport into the Republic when it exploded prematurely. The panicked gunmen opened fire on the hapless musicians and killed three of the six members. With remarkable resilience, the three survivors – Des ‘Lee’ McAlea (saxophone/vocals), Ray Millar (drums) and Stephen Travers (bass) – rebuilt the band and were touring again before the end of the year, but Travers and Millar soon dropped out and The Miami carried on even after Lee quit in 1978.
Free of the baggage that came with their former group, Lee, Millar and Travers reunited later the same year and recruited former Chips keyboard player and mainstay Adrian Mullen, one-time Mushroom guitarist Aonghus McAnally, and little-known singer Dee ‘Julie’ McMahon to launch themselves as Starband featuring Des Lee and Julie for their debut single Kiss Me, Kiss Your Baby. Managed by Louis Walsh, they were slightly renamed as Des Lee, Julie & Starband for a series of bouncy bubblegum pop singles, mostly on the Spider label. It is surprising perhaps that Starband never seemed to gun for Eurovision glory like Chips or Maxi, as their music would have been a perfect fit. The uncharacteristically risque picture sleeve above (which perhaps would have better suited The Crack!) also housed a single on luscious yellow vinyl. A second ‘Julie’ – Liz Allen – temporarily replaced Dee McMahon from late 1979. Soon after, Travers and McAnally split to form their own group, and Lee also departed for a time. Starband ploughed on but even the return of Lee and McMahon could not revive the chart prospects of the group. Des Lee and Liz Allen formed a new band which emigrated to South Africa in about 1982.
- Kiss Me, Kiss Your Baby / If I Had You Back Again (Release Records RL 942; 1978)
- Kiss Me, Kiss Your Baby / Don’t Hurt Me Anymore (Release Records RL 942, 1978)
- Hold On To Love (Release Records, 1979?)
- If You Wanna Make Love / Still In Love With You (Spider Records WEB001, 1979)
- Mamacita / Summer Lady [Still In Love With You] (Spider Records WEB010, 1979)
- Don’t Hurt Me Anymore / Don’t Hurt Me Anymore (instrumental) (Spider Records WEB023, 1980)
- The Hucklebuck / Rest Your Love On Me (Spider Records WEB031, 1980)
- Johnny, Oh Johnny / Baby Come Back (Release Records, 1981?)
Crackers, who sadly didn’t take the country by storm.
Meanwhile, Stephen Travers and Aonghus McAnally had formed Crackers, with Tommy Lundy (guitar/vocals), Ronan O’Callaghan (keyboards) and Pat Waller (drums). Based on the above evidence, Crackers were a hyperactive pop outfit, but after this first 1980 single McAnally and Waller departed (McAnally to release a solo single and become a TV presenter). With Lundy stepping forward as frontman, and with new drummer Barry Patterson, the band changed their name to The Crack.
As mentioned elsewhere, Crack was also the name used for a 1980 Irish novelty single about Paul McCartney’s Japanese drug bust, but the groups were not connected. Coincidentally, Lundy’s singing voice bore a strong resemblance to that of McCartney, and the new Travers/Lundy songwriting partnership (only these two were pictured on record sleeves) crafted soft rock & pop tunes not unlike Wings’ output. A 1981 single on their own ‘Cracked Records’ label was followed by two more and an LP on CBS. That album – the amusingly titled Dawn of The Crack – was released early in 1982 and featured Travers’ former Starband colleagues Adrian Mullen and Dee McMahon, and Jim Barry of The Memories, as guest backing vocalists. Drummer Martin McElroy soon replaced Patterson, but nothing more was heard from the group despite their undeniable songwriting talent. Tommy Lundy passed away in 2003. Stephen Travers led a successful campaign to have a memorial erected for his three murdered band-mates, and in 2008 events came full-circle as Des Lee, Ray Millar and Stephen Travers once again reformed The Miami.
- When The Time Comes
- Kickin’ At The Kickham
- Go Away