Pat O'Donnell & Steve Belton began working together as a duo in the early 1980s. Steve Belton had earlier been in Square Meal.
Their early work was in the experimental electronic vein and they were associated with the Projects Arts Centre in Dublin. They recorded soundtracks for the works of performance artist Nigel Rolfe among many other activities, including working as an engineering & production duo (e.g. the B-side of the Virgin Prunes "New Form Of Beauty" 12inch). But they also developed a more 'rock' side to their activities, performing live as a new wave/techno-rock duo, gigging extensively during 1982-84. Bill Graham described them in 1983 as sounding like a cross between Kraftwerk and The Shadows.
In 1984 they changed their name from Belton & O'Donnell to The Fountainhead [an Ayn Rand reference] and self-released their debut EP. Kieran Owens (later of The Dublin Event Guide) became their manager. They were signed by China Records in the UK. They began to develop a poppier, dance music style on record which invited comparisons to other duos such as OMD, China Crisis and so on.
During 1986-87 they became a full-time full-band lineup with Peter McKinney (ex Katmandu) on drums, Willie Demange (ex Toy With Rhythm) on bass, and Phil Rennicks on keyboards. They supported Queen at Slane '86, followed by a tour of the United States. This lineup recorded the Live at the Whiskey EP in Los Angeles. They supported The Art of Noise at the Hammersmith Odeon, played the Self-Aid benefit, and appeared on BBC's Old Grey Whistle Test.
Even so the poppy side of their sound still dominates all of the records on China Records released during 1986-88. This is especially true of the much slicker second album "Voice of Reason" [the title another Ayn Rand reference], which sounds like a deliberate attempt at a commercial sound, comparable to late 80s Scritti Politti. It was not to be, however, and the bands relationship with China ended shortly after.
The five piece band split in 1987 which William Demange joined Conor Goff & The Crash and Peter McKinney played with The Waterboys before joining The Four Of Us. Phil Rennicks played with Norman Teeling and The Prunes.
There was another, brief live lineup of The Fountainhead in the late 80s with the rhythm section of Cactus World News, i.e. Feargal Andrews (bass) and Wayne Sheehy (drums) plus Daragh Connolly (of Hinterland, Those Nervous Animals, The Strong Are Lovely) on keyboards. Connolly and Sheehy both playd in Hinterland, who were managed by then Fountainhead manager Ciaran Owens. Connolly left, dissatisfied with the situation, and Jim Corr (of The Corrs) took over.
There are many unreleased Belton & O'Donnell recordings pre-dating The Fountainhead days [and some early Fountainhead demos too] which illustrate their new wave synth rock approach which was comparable to Ultravox, Bill Nelson's Red Noise, or Bill Graham's "Kraftwerk meets Shadows" comparison. These include at least one Dave Fanning session which included a guitar-heavy track called "Defender" which reminded me strongly of Bill Nelson.
The band probably split sometime in the late 1980s (can anyone confirm the date?). Pat O;Donnell released a solo LP on SRS Records in 1988. Belton & O'Donnell currently work as a production duo.
Apart from a number of Spanish reissues in the 1990s, there has been no attempt to reissue the Fountainhead's recordings. If they ever come out again, it would be great to hear the early demos again.
Note the Fountainhead who released two LPs on Toads Records in the 1980s is a different band, a US southern/hard rock outfit.
Sometimes known as the Live EP. Two tracks appeared as bonus tracks on the CD edition of Voice Of Reason. From the sleeve notes: "These songs were recorded live by The Fountainhead at the Whisky in Hollywood on Tuesday 9th December 1986 at the final show of the band's debut US tour."
Notes: With Peter VanHook (New Order, Joy Division) on drums. Produced by Paul Hardiman.
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