Idiots were a four piece band formed in east Belfast at the end
of August 1977. After some drunken discussions at a Rudi gig in
the Glenmachan Stables; the three culprits were Barry Young, the
younger brother of Brian Young ‘Rudi guitarist’, and
the only one who ‘sort of knew’ how to play Guitar.
The other two were well known Punk’s around town Gordy Owens
alias ‘fangs albert’ because of his lack of front teeth,
on Drums and Dee Wilson who could play the flute, (not that would
helped him in the Idiots) on Bass Guitar. All that was need was
someone who could remember the words; it didn’t matter if
they could sing or not this was Punk Rock. The post was finally
filled a few days later by Stephen Harvey, a school friend of Barry’s.
With an average age of just fifteen, Dee was the oldest at sixteen,
meant that the Idiots were the youngest band on the circuit at the
time. Dee Wilson “ We were initially inspired by serious amounts
of Old English Cider and Drawbridge wine, the latter not being the
nicest of beverages but it did the trick back then, the 70’s
version of Bucky (Buckfast) “.
Soon the band were rehearsing in such salubrious surroundings as
each other’s homes, which, given the title of their one and
only single ‘Parents’ is quite ironic. While they occupied
their parent’s front rooms, driving them mad with their racket,
Barry had begun to pen the lyrics of the song. The Idiots also rehearsed
in a building in the grounds of Stormount courtesy of Dee’s
father. Dee recalls how his dad helped the band “My father
worked for a Government Security firm and at weekends or Public
Holidays, while he was doing overtime the Idiots would entertain
him and his fellow work mates at the Stormont premises at which
he gained access for us. He even on one occasion stood in as road
crew, as did Ronnie Matthews’s dad for Rudi, God bless them”.
Dee again “Rehearsals and gigs were never really taken too
seriously at first. They were just an excuse for a rake or a piss
up or whatever else would turn up, which could mean anything with
the Idiots. The rehearsals usually took place at Stephen Harvey’s
house, which meant all sorts of mayhem would occur as Stephen’s
mum was never at home most of the time due to her work load. So
rehearsals became a whole different ball game in Harberton Drive
a lot of raking went on to say the least. The fact Stephen had a
little sister at just the right age made matters worse. I was always
disappearing with Stephen’s little sister, quite often for
long periods of time! This was the main reason why Stephen left
the Idiots. I think his aim was to protect his little sister from
me but I knew where she lived and she liked me (foolish girl) so
his efforts were all in vain”.
The Idiots soon built up a set consisting entirely of cover versions
i.e. Ulster Boy, Angels With Dirty Faces, Janie Jones, Sweet Jane
and the one cover that they made their own “Teenager In Love”.
Their rendition of the song later became the title track of the
John T Davis movie Shell Shock Rock.
Their debut gig, in pure Idiot fashion, was gate crashing a Rudi
Gig at the Arts College in Belfast York Street, the Gig was headlined
by Rudi with the Flying Squad and Pretty Boy Floyd And The Gems
as support. The Idiots entirely missed both support acts but entered
the stage, backed by the members of Rudi and armed with Rudi’s
instruments. However, this impromptu appearance only lasted for
one song. Dee Wilson takes up the story “We ‘played’
a cover of Lou Reed’s Sweet Jane and for some strange reason,
vocalist Stephen Harvey walked off stage at the end of the track.
I’m not sure why he walked off the stage after just one song,
but I believe it was because his little sister had arrived with
a few of her little punk mates, which distracted me on stage and
Stephen wasn’t happy that I was abusing his little sister,
he did try to be protective”.
Prior to forming the Idiots none of the band had ever played in
a band before, but their enthusiasm and sense of fun made up for
any lack of musical ability. They did gradually improve with each
and every gig they played.
The bands second gig was barely a week after their debut. This time
they found themselves at the Winsor Hotel, Knocknagoney, with Rudi
and Victim. This time out they managed to play three songs before
vocalist Stephen Harvey once again walked off stage, this time for
good. Dee again “Stephen was never seen again but his sister
was”. Two up and coming faces of the Belfast Punk scene who
witnessed proceedings that night were William Guiney and William
Johnston better known in the Belfast punk scene as Bill Ginny (R
I P) and Billy Idiot. Both were already friends of Wee Gordy and
they soon befriended the rest of the band and within a matter of
weeks Billy Johnston was given a name change (Billy Idiot) and drafted
in on Vocals. Wee Gordy quit the Band and Guiney was drafted in
to briefly fill in on Drum stool. Bill was soon replaced however,
Dee takes up the story “His reign as rhythm master or rock
star didn’t last long as he was replaced by a friend of Alwyn
Greer’s, he of Belfast punk fanzine Private World and photographer
of some note. Alwyn’s friend was Gary Thompson who was also
given his very own name change, on joining the band. He was to become
known as Jah Weeble, a friendly piss take of his shape and size
but could he play the Drums. The only one you could have called
a musician in the Idiots. His new stage name was crossed between
the TV advert catchphrase Weeble’s wobble but they don’t
fall down and the name of the then bass player of Public Image Limited,
Jah Wobble. It may seem cruel but he took in good stead.
The first gig with the revamped Idiots line up was to be held at
the Stormont Methodist Church hall youth club. Dee Wilson remembers
the gig well “Basically it was a youth club for little rich
kids and one which allowed local bands to play, and these gigs usually
without any incident. Then the Idiots arrived. We shared the gig
with the Tinopeners but sadly our set came to an abrupt end, again
after only playing three songs! We had been second on the bill but
our set was cut short by the Minister of the Church. He pulled the
plug on the back line due to the amount of bad language that was
used on the night, mainly by me. There was a bit of banter between
himself and Stuart Bailie of Acme. Ironically I later played in
both the Family of Noise and the Troubleshooters with Stuart”.
The band now decided that it was time that they wrote some of their
own material, a job that fell to Barry. Barry’s first attempt
was the infantile, yet extremely catchy and enjoyable Parents, which
ended up on the band’s only recorded output when it appeared
on the Good Vibrations Battle Of The bands EP in 1978. Parents had
been recorded at Wizard and Aza Middleton (Androids, Victim) provided
the three note lead break towards the end of the track. Dee Wilson
again “ The truth behind this is that none of the band were
aware of Aza Middleton’s input on the track until the E P
had already been released. By that stage it was too late to do anything
about it. The band had never asked or approved of any such input
by Aza. Middleton was a friend of Fat Barry the band’s so
called roadie who was so far up Davy Wizard’s arse it was
unbelievable. There was a time you would have thought Davy Wizard
had a pair of shoes in his back pocket! A few days after all the
bands had recorded the single fat Barry the roadie arranged for
Aza to record the guitar solo. Not even Terry Hooley knew of this
or so he said at the time. The hand claps however were provided
courtesy of Rudi as Brian and Ronnie of the band had turned up an
hour or so after the session was due to begin to help the band with
the recording only to find them already packing up as they had finished
the backing track! Barry Young “Parents was just my attempt
to write something more relevant to a 15/16 year old. Not quite
Anarchy in the UK, I’ll give you but it was played more than
once on the John Peel show and for that I will always be proud”.
the summer of 1978 the band had sourced new rehearsal rooms run
by the art council on Lombard Street in Belfast city centre. These
were used by other bands such as Rudi etc. Not only was it used
for rehearsal space though, the bands also used the premises for
partying with many a late night practice season, most going on through
to the early hours of the morning or at least until the first bus.
A live tape of these boisterous rehearsals does exist. Dee Wilson
recounts one such memorable evening “There was one night in
particular that has fond memories for Barry and I. It was a Friday
night after rehearsals. The band relaxed, Idiot style, with loads
of drink. The night was going as it usually did, then out of the
blue Billy Idiot made a comment to Jah Weeble that didn’t
go down too well with him. All hell broke loose; Jah Weeble was
going to kill him. Fuelled up on four tins of Carlsberg Special
Brew he lost it and turned on Billy who in turn told him to stop
acting like the incredible bulk. Jah Weeble went totally and uncontrollably
mad chasing Billy around the rehearsal room, falling over all sorts,
bouncing off walls, doors etc. and finally out on to Lombard Street
and towards Corn Market. Barry and I just sat there wetting ourselves
laughing. We found the whole thing highly hilarious. Ultimately
we knew though that we had to stop him. It took some doing stopping
the big lad but we succeeded. Now with Billy long gone they were
able to control the beast until he finally fell into a drunken sleep.
Not a good advertisement for Carlsberg Special Brew that night”.
Dee Wilson left shortly after the release of the EP. The main reason
being Rudi’s recent move to London in search of fame and fortune,
which had sowed the seed in Dee’s head and it wasn’t
long before he began to lose interest in the Band. Dee explains
the final nail in the coffin for him as a band member “I had
an argument with Terry Hooley at Harp Bar. Basically Terri had brought
the Undertones (who had been recording Teenage Kicks at Wizard Studio)
to an Idiots gig and foolishly had asked them to do their set before
the Idiots played. This meant us lending our gear to the Undertones.
Never being one to mince my words and having never liked the Undertones,
because as far as I was concerned they were not a punk band and
didn’t belong in the Punk world. I still believe that they
stood for everything that Punk in Ulster stood against. I wasn’t
one bit happy about Hooley overstepping the mark by making such
an Idiotic request. It resulted in a blazing row and I left the
band, all be it on good terms and still friends with the others
Wilson was replaced by new bass player Graham 'Jaunty' Johnston,
who made his live debut with The Idiots at the Dark Space 24 hour
bash at Dublin's Project Art Centre. An event that now goes down
in Belfast Punk folklore. Not only did The Idiots play on the same
bill that included the likes of U2, Virgin Prunes, Rudi, Protex,
The Mekons and Public Image Ltd (although the latter failed to show).
According to Dee Wilson “This was the first time Belfast Punks
were to meet the Black Catholic’s, a group of Dublin skinhead/punks
who loved a row, and subsequently a fight began which lead to an
on-going cross border battle between the Rudi crew and the Black
Catholics which lasted for a few years. The Belfast Punks showed
Dublin what Punk Rock was all about. The Dublin punk scene, what
punk scene? However, Barry Young has no recollections of such confrontations.
Barry “In all honesty I personally don’t remember any
hassle with the Black Catholics - the whole Dark Space thing was
a crazy trip. It was Graham's first gig with the band and we all
went down with Gavin Martin on the train with our guitars and a
carry out of the liquid variety and pro plus!! We made our way to
the venue and were given passes. We then hit the pub. I did get
thrown out of it later for attempting to hit Gordon Blair ! Oh!
The joys of youth. Whilst my memories of U2 are vague I do remember
the Virgin Prunes more clearly and the fact the the Dublin bands
were crap. We were not due to play until 8.00 am on Sat morning.
Friday night is a bit of a blur but we were our usual serious minded
selves and managed to lose Gary for a couple of hours and just hung
out with some girls down from Belfast. By the time 8 O’clock
came we were all present, willing and reasonably correct. The only
thing I can say about the gig is that Gavin subsequently gave us
a 3 Page spread in Alternative Ulster fanzine and was pretty complementary.
My other memory is spending time in the dressing room later that
day chatting away to the very charming and friendly Ali Hewson.
We all spent that night in the front room of an old people’s
home kindly provided by a couple of local punks who worked there!
All in all it was a great trip. I genuinely don’t remember
having any bother with the Black Catholics.
1979 proved to be a busy year for the band. On their return to Belfast
they recorded their version of 'Teenager in Love' for John T Davis's
seminal punk movie Shellshock Rock and the song was muted to appear
on the films soundtrack album which was never released. However,
snippets of the song can be heard during the film itself along with
the dubbed theme song 'Shellshock Rock', also performed by The Idiots.
The Idiots version of 'Teenagers.....' was a live favourite with
the fans and would have made a great single. Dave Fanning played
a tape of the song on RTE Radio 2 and the recording used was superior
to that of 'Parents'. The Idiots continued to gig through 1979 and
began to include a few new covers in their set such as Black Sabbath's
'Paranoid' and the Bay City Rollers 'Keep on Dancing'. Barry Young
again. The rest of our short career saw us improve in leaps and
bounds. We got tighter and grew in confidence and we played as often
as we could with all sorts of bands.
Billy Idiot had slowly become a closet Heavy Metal fan and tried
to move The Idiots in that direction but Barry was having none of
it and the band decided to split, citing 'Musical differences' as
the reason. They played a 'Farewell to the Harp' gig on 15/09/79
and shortly after, played their final gig as support to The Moondogs
and Rudi at Oscars in Derry. Barry Young Ultimately we broke up
for a couple of reasons. One thing I remember was that Billy was
a big metal fan and really into Iron Maiden. If we had listened
to him we would have gone over to the darkside. As it was, that
kind of led us to call it a day. If you want to get a feel what
the world of the Idiots was watch the Inbetweeners and add guitars!
Barry Young went on to play in Acme Music, with Stuart Bailie (who went
on to write for the NME). Dee Wilson formed Family Of Noise who
eventually changed their name to Troubleshooters before Dee left
the band and relocated to Italy where he reformed the Family of
Noise and continued playing for a few more years. A full bio on
each band is listed elsewhere on this web site. Billy Idiot went
on to sing in some Heavy Metal outfit.