Here’s a journey around my brother. It may be a trip that’s a little more curvy than straight – which is fine because so is Shane.
He was born on Christmas Day 1957 in Pembury, Kent. The nurses in the hospital were busy celebrating and my mum didn’t get a lot of attention as Christmas Eve turned into one long night, so she wasn’t enamoured with the hospital. But he did get to have his picture on the nursery wall as the Christmas baby. My father’s sister lived in Kent and Shane was taken to her house and put in a drawer as our also newly born cousin, Nicholas, was visiting with his parents from Dublin and taking up the cot.
I came along five years later. There were just the two of us, born to our mother, Therese, a beauty and award-winning Feis Ceoil singer and father, Maurice, a sharp Dublin wit. When we were young, at our mother’s house in Tipperary, Shane used to shove my face in cowpats. On the other hand he once saved me from a horrible death by raising the alarm when I was being chased by a cock-turkey. Uncle John took out his gun and shot it and we had it for dinner. When the rosary was called at 6 every evening we used to hide together behind the crumbling stone wall and he and Uncle Jim used to swing me into bed at night. When we travelled back to Tipp from England we’d cover ourselves in the back of the car with a blanket and write and draw for hours.
Shane didn’t like school, he didn’t fit in. Although, an avid reader, he was very good at English. So good in fact he won a Daily Mirror literary prize when he was 13 and a scholarship to Westminister. Which he really didn’t like. Although there were parts he enjoyed. Like being appointed Minister for Torture when he and his friends formed a Cabinet. Nevertheless when he was caught with his fellows enjoying a companionable smoke outside school gates and was asked impolitely to leave, he complied quickly with the request. He was about 15. He went to Art College for a while but that didn’t really work out either.
He was 18 when punk broke. For him it was heaven-sent. He’d always been into music. In fact he was a devotee. Since he was 12 he’d built a vast record collection – the Beatles, Stones, Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath, Buffalo Springfield, Cream. When Jimi Hendrix died he lay on his bed facing the wall without moving for one day and one night. Always he could be found in his room, nodding his head manically to a napalm bomb of music while greedily devouring his NME, Melody Maker or Sounds magazines. The early 70s found him donning my mum’s pink jacket and applying make-up for his jaunts out. Then one summer’s evening in 1976 I took a picture of him in this Bolanesque garb, proudly clutching an Iggy Pop album. Two days later he had hacked off his regulation hippy hair and dyed it ghost-white. My mum screamed.
And so a face on the London music scene, Shane O’Hooligan, was born. A stalwart at the Sex Pistols gigs and all the early Punk haunts like the Roxy, the 100 club and Marquee, he was the fervid author of a fanzine called Bondagea – giving the Jam their first review and first made the cover of Sounds when Jane from the Modettes famously bit off his ear. His ear was actually still in situ but the cover had him sprawled over collapsing tables like a crucified bat, blood oozing from his lobe.
Thus the brother’s familiar, cherished face was heralded a face of the New Wave and the stage was set. Along with his then girlfriend, Punk Queen, Shanne Bradley (who cavorted with the likes of Captain Sensible, Glen Matlock and Johnny Rotten’s crew and had been an early champion of the Sex Pistols, booking them to play her art college) he formed the Nipple Erectors (later the Nips) playing their first gig at the Roxy in 1977.