Named after a Dublin suburb, Stepaside was formed in 1971 by Bob Bolton and Bobby Kelly after the break up of the Chosen Few. Bolton has previously been with Some People, Uptown Band and The Stellas, while Kelly had been with The Hootenannys, The Greenbeats and The Sands. They recruited Basil Hendricks (steel guitar), Jimmy Faulkner (electric guitar), Chris Meehan (piano) and Ritchie McCabe (drums) for the first lineup.
This original Stepaside was a country rock band active up until ca 1977. Basil Hendricks AKA Henriques was a reknowned pedal steel player who'd played with showbands (e.g. The Virginians). He recorded a solo LP of Hawaiian music in 1973, released on Tara Records in Ireland. He left Stepaside to join another showband. This was during the country music boom in the showband world. Ritchie McCabe was replaced by Robbie Brennan, who'd played with Bolton in the Chosen Few. When Jimmy Faulkner left to form Hotfoot, Brenny Bonass (also ex Chosen Few) joined on guitar. This lineup played boogie, blues and country rock. In a newspaper review from the period, journalist Fachtna O'Kelly mentions many covers played during their set at Toner's pub in Dublin, including "Just Another Tequila Sunrise", "Drift Away", "She's A Barmaid In The Honky-Tonk Downstairs", "Great Balls of Fire" and the Doobie Brothers "Country Grove".
Chris Meehan left to become a barrister and was replaced by Dave MacAnaney (ex Rootzgroop, The Negatives) on piano. This is the lineup who toured with Kevin Johnson in 1976. By now the band was attracting record company attention, and they were approached by Solomon & Peres, the Belfast music business mogols who'd signed Van Morrison's Them. Wary of their fearsome reputation, Bob Bolton did not want to sign with them. After a live performance on BBC Northern Ireland in 1977, Solomon and Peres offered them a 3 year contract. All bar Bolton were eager to sign and his led to Bolton leaving Stepaside and joining the Swarbriggs band. Solomon & Pere withdrew their offer. Bolton was replaced by Gerry O'Donavan. Bobby Kelly had left the band by this point too.
Deke O'Brien (ex Nightbus, Bees Make Honey, etc), joined Stepaside in mid 1977, revitalising the band. Brendan Bonass, Bobby Kelly, and Robbie Brennan had all played on the Nightbus LP. Also in 1977, Gerry O'Donavan was replaced by Tommy Moore and then Paul Ashford. This lineup recorded the band's debut single "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl" released on Mulligan Records in 1977. It's a rather tame effort and sold poorly. A second single on Mulligan was cancelled.
In June 1978 the band appeared on the bill at Macroom, supporting Rory Gallagher. In September 1978 the band's set was largely comprised of country rock mixed with pub rock, as is borne out by a live broadcast on Ken's Klub on RTE Radio that has survived on tape. Deke O'Brien left by the end of 1978 but probably appears uncredited on later Stepaside recordings. The band continued with Mark Costigan on board. The music moved in a new wave / powerpop direction, as is evident by the self-released second single "We've Got You Surrounded", released in April 1979. A clever piece of new wave pop, this was far superior to the debut of two years earlier and bode well for the future.
By mid 1979 Stepaside were playing energetic, R'n'B infused powerpop/rock
which more-or-less fit the new
wave bill but which owed as much to Bob Seger as it did to Elvis Costello. They
weren't considered authentic new wave in some quarters though they'd have fit
into the Chiswick or Stiff roster easily enough. They completed recording their debut LP
by October 1979. The original title was "The Last Resort", but it was finally released
as "Sit Down And Relapse" a month or so later on their own Sidestep label.
It's a very good powerpop LP with some great tracks.
In January 1980 they signed a deal with Gale Records (anyone know anything about Gale Records?) and embarked on a lengthy tour in March. Gale released a single "Sit Down And Relapse" and the LP of the same name in the UK in April. Both sold poorly. Both were released in Ireland on the bands own Sidestep label a few months later in Ireland where they fared better. They made several Irish TV appearances around this time. Gale and Sidestep released a few more single releases followed, but none made any impact outside Ireland. Stepaside disbanded circa early 1981.
Guitarist Brendan Bonass led a new lineup in 1981 with Mick O'Hagan (bass/vocals), Denis Woods (keyboards) and Niall Power (drums). They were managed by boyband impresario/svengali Louis Walsh. They did some very glam, heavy on the eyeliner publicity photos and recorded a single for Spider Records which barely came out when the label crashed. This single is now one of the harder to find Stepaside releases, especially with the poster. This band had split by 1983.
Singer/bassist Paul Ashford fronted The Sharks in 1981 and later released mediocre solo material. His backing band often included Brennan & Costigan.
Stepaside reformed for occasional gigs in the new millenium with the lineup Ashford, Bonass, Brenna & Costigan. Paul Ashford passed away in January 2011.
Notes: Recorded before a live audience, the performance included a couple of interview segments with DJ Ken Stewart. The lineup was Deke O'Brien (guitar and lead vocals), Brendan Bonass (lead guitar), Dave MacAnaney (piano), Paul Ashford (bass, vocals) and Robbie Brennan (drums).
Some sources claim this was to be the second Stepaside single "Too Long On The Road" in which case it probably never existed as a Mulligan release as the band issued it themselves in April the following year; another theory put to me by someone close to the band is that it was a repress of the debut single given away with initial copies of the Nightbus LP, but as that came out in 1976 this seems very unlikely! See Deke O'Brien for more details.
Issued in a very fragile printed bag, like an LP inner sleeve, and very hard to find in good condition as a result. A few hundred copies pressed.
Stepaside's debut LP was ready for release in October 1979 but it was a few months before it came out. The original title was "The Last Resort". All CD reissues to date are on budget labels and sound it, so be warned! The Break Music CD is reputedly awful - I haven't heard it, but if it sounds anything as bad as the cassette edition, the people responsible need horse whipping. The digitally remastered Chart Records issue doesn't sound right either in my opinion. Whether its a remastering problem or a manufacturing defect I cannot say, but it sounds tinny, thin and trebly, and gets worse with each track. It's particularly noticeable on "Last Resort" which sounds diabolical IMO. It was re-mastered by Robin Robbins of Bob Seeger's Silver Bullet Band in his studio and apparently sounded terrific at the time, but it hasn't translated well to the finised CD for some reason. At time of writing (June 2008), there is no substitute for an original vinyl LP pressing.
New version of the A-side recorded at Windmill Lane by the 1981 lineup of Mick O'Hagan (vocals), Brendan Bonass, Dennis Woods (keyboards) and Niall Power (drums). 500 copies were pressed and were due for release when Spider Records went bust. The records were then dumped at the back of Warner Bros offices in Dublin, so it was never officially released. Copies are in circulation however, so it did go on sale. Even so it's a tough find these days.
The blurb says: Two Great Irish Rock Albums In One Box. One disc is the 2003 Chart Records issue of Stepaside's Sit Down And Relapse album. The other disc is Brush Shiels "Fields Of Athenry" album.
Blurb..."Legendary Irish Rockers, Stepaside's new Album 'Straitjacket' is a rare collection of previously unreleased studio recordings, including one live cut. A special recording of their anthem,'The Last Resort' features Ronnie Drew"....END BLURB
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