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The Tearjerkers

From: Belfast/Portadown

Active: 1978-1982

Style: Powerpop

Original Lineup (Oct 1978-May 1980):
Second Lineup (May-Sep 1980):
Third Lineup (Sep 1980):
Reformed Lineup (1981-82):


The Tearjerkers were a superb powerpop band formed in Portadown in October 1978 by local boys Paul Maxwell AKA Paul West (ex Speed and Midnite Cruiser) on vocals, Brian Rawson on guitar and Nigel Hamilton (ex Cobra) on drums, and from Belfast Paul 'Groover' McIlwaine (ex Detonators) on guitar and Howard Ingram (ex Detonators) on bass. They proved to be an excellent powerpop band with several excellent songwriters, all producing very strong material. Howard Ingram & Paul McIlwaine wrote together while Nigel Hamilton provided the music for Paul Maxwell's lyrics, though other permutations of these arrangements also occurred.

They began gigging a few months later, making their live debut at the Rockin' Chair in Derry on 23 February 1979. They played the usual N.IRL haunts of the time including the legendary Belfast punk venue The Harp Bar in March 1979. This proved to be an eventful gig as there was some trouble from certain members of the crowd and the band was pelted with bottles and cans. Two members suffered minor injuries, though some of these may have been the result of retaliating against their attackers. The reason for this unpleasantness remains unclear. The authors of It Makes You Want To Spit! speculate that it may have been due to rivalry or jealousy, or because The Tearjerkers were not considered 'punk' enough by The Harp crowd. In any case, the band never played there again.

On the cover of Positive Reaction #5 (1979)

The Tearjerkers recorded a demo tape which was given to Terri Hooley, owner of the Good Vibrations record shop and label in Belfast. He offered them a deal. A recording session for the debut single took place on March 8th 1979 at Keystone Studios in Dublin during which several (four?) tracks were recorded. Two of these ("Love Affair" and "Bus Stop") were selected for the single which was released in July 1979. Two more tracks ("Chit Chat" and "Don't Blame Me", possibly recorded on a second visit to Keystone) were earmarked for a second Good Vibrations single, but this would be cancelled when the band signed to Phonogram. A piece in Hot Press in 1979 quotes the band as saying that one of these tracks was planned for a projected Good Vibrations compilation called "It Takes All Sorts" but like many Good Vibes projects this never came to pass.

In April 1979 the band set out on the two week "Good Vibes Spring Irish Tour" with The Outcasts and Rudi. The tour was organised by Nigel Hamilton and included a couple of gigs south of the border. That same month the debut A-side "Love Affair" was performed on Good Evening Ulster, broadcast on UTV on April 5th, making The Tearjerkers the first Good Vibes band to appear on TV.

Love Affair finally released in July 1979.

In June 1979 the band recorded a Downtown Radio session for the Monday night rock show Have You Heard. Four of the seven (?) tracks recorded were also broadcast by John Peel on his show on 23 November: "Dressing Up", "Heart On The Line", "Murder Mystery" and "Comic Book Heroes". Plans to perform one of these tracks on RTE were hampered by the BBC rules governing the use of such tapes. The performance was filmed for RTE's Our Times show and was scheduled for inclusion in the broadcast on Monday October 8th, but I'm unsure if it actually happened (I was 15 at the time and glued to this show presented by Dave Heffernan every week, and I don't recall The Tearjerkers performance). The band had earlier played the now legendary Dandelion Market venue on Saturday 18th August 1979.

In September the band signed a 5 year contract with Phonogram Records in the UK (Mercury worldwide). They choose Phonogram's Back Door imprint, home of new wave outfits The Donkeys, Dalek I Love You and Agony Column). This ended plans for a second Good Vibrations single.

The recording session for the planned Phonogram debut took place at Downtown Studios in November. "Murder Mystery" and "Heart On The Line" were re-recorded (they'd already recorded both at the same location back in June) and the single was released on January 18th 1980. It was released in the UK, where it peaked at #74 in the charts, France, Sweden and the Benelux.

Prominent gigs in Februayr & March 1980.

March 1980 was a busy month for the band. They played some dates in the UK and continued to recorded. On the 15th they recorded their second Peel session which included a new recording of "Comic Book Heroes" plus "Is It Art?", "Jenny Jenny" and "I'm Sorry". The following day on Sunday 16th they played the opening night of the Sense of Ireland festival at the Venue in London, with the Rudi and Ruefrex (and not the Moondogs as the poster advertised). The festival ran for 4 nights and also included bands like DC Nien, the Virgin Prunes and U2. There's an apocryphal story that Bono once asked Nigel Hamilton to join U2 as they were unsure about Larry; this may be true but it appears to have been a tactic used regularly by the rest of U2 to get Larry to commit seriously to the band as other drummers were asked the same question.

March 1980 also saw the recording session for the second Phonogram single. Three tracks were recorded at Parkgate Studios "Comic Book Heroes", "Can't You See" and "Fingers" for a maxi-single scheduled for release on May 30th.

Thin Lizzy invited The Tearjerkers to support them on their 10 date Irish tour during April 2-13. At least three gigs were recorded (I suspect all were in fact recorded). Recordings from two shows yielded the "Everybody Wants To Shag..." bootleg tape (later on CD) while a third show recorded in Sligo on April 6th was issued as the "Good Evening Sligo" CDR. There's another live tape in circulation which was recorded at the Barrel & Basket in Omagh but I haven't heard it. The band then appearted at another big Good Vibes gig at the Ulster Hall on April 24th 1980 with headliners The Outcasts, Big Self, Rudi and Ruefrex.

Good Vibes at the Ulster Hall, 24 April 1980

Phonogram cancelled the second single, scheduled for release on May 30th and the release date for the debut LP provisionally titled "Grey" is pushed from August to later in the year. Some of the tracks would emerge on a US only compilation of Back Door artists (and The Who!) in May 1980 anyway, though the band didn't know about this at the time. In retrospect, a cancelled single so soon in their relationship with Phonogram was an ominous sign. Communication with the label was obviously not as good as it should have been.

Nigel Hamilton left the band over musical differences and perhaps the lack of progress with Phonogram. Johnny Lee (of Blue Steam) and Greg Lindsay would fill in for him off and on over the coming months. Lee played on a short UK tour in the autumn. Lindsay was a more permanent replacement. The band continue to work on new material without Hamilton and to record at Downtown Studios in Belfast with Stephen 'Rasta's' Nelson at the controls.

Official publicity photo taken after Nigel Hamilton had left, circa May 1980.
LR: Ingram, new drummer Greg Lindsay(?), Maxwell, Rawson, McIlwaine.

In June "Where's Julie" and "Lip Gloss Factor" were recorded at DTR with Greg Lindsay on drums. Both tracks would emerge two years later on a single credited to Paul West.

In July the band played several dates in the UK, including a gig at Dingwalls on the 15th, which was recorded. Further sessions on July 20-24th at Radio Luxembourg Studio yielded the tracks "I'm Sorry", "True Love Stories" and "Jenny Jenny". These were considered as a replacement single for the cancelled "Comic Book Heroes" with a new release date of September 1980 (and the LP released pushed into early 1981), to coincide with an autumn tour, but it never came to pass.

By September the band has split in two. Maxwell, McIlwaine & occasional drummer Greg Lindsay form Etc Etc with Stephen Mallaghan. Ingram & Rawson with the help of John Lee (switched to guitar??) and new singer Dave Huntley (ex P45) continue as The Tearjerkers for a short period, including the autumn tour of the UK, originally intended to concide with the now cancelled "True Love Stories" maxi-single. They also record a final session for DTR ("Teenage Love Song", "Holiday Romances" and "Hong Kong Maiden") and almost complete the "Grey" LP but they split and The Tearjerkers are no more.

Ingram joined Maxwell and McIlwaine in ETC ETC who existed up until 1982 approx. Ingram founded the Blue Rhythm Audio label (see links below) which released two June 1980 Tearjerkers tracks under the name Paul West in 1982.

In 1981, Nigel Hamilton (now on guitar) revived the bandname. This version of The Tearjerkers recorded a four song session for Dave Fanning's Rock Show on RTE Radio 1 (Fanning was a big fan), including re-recordings of 'Comic Book Heroes' and 'Fool'. The session was recorded at RTE's studios in Donnybrook in Dublin. The lineup was Janine Mullawley (vocals), Nigel Hamilton (guitar), Christian Peters (keyboards), Kit Wright (bass/vocals) and Steve Lathe (drums). 'Comic Book Heroes' and 'Fool' were re-recorded for a single on the Vixen label in 1982, recorded at Lombard, Dublin. Original Tearjerker Brian Rawson guested on this single. He later emigrated to the USA. Nigel Hamilton recorded as a solo artist and as a member of Radio City.

Howard Ingram, Paul Maxwell, Nigel Hamilton and Davy Ewing (of Radio City) also recorded as the Dingo Babies.

In recent times, various Tearjerkers & related recordings have emerged. Nigel Hamilton appears to be the source of various live tapes and a bootleg singles compilation judging by the catalogue numbers (NHM = Nigel Hamilton Music?) but I should stress this is speculation on my part!

Maxwell, Ingram, McIlwaine and Lindsay continue to play and record together and are instrumental in attempts to issue the long lost Tearjerkers LP (simultaneously resisting the temptation to alter the original recordings in any way, eh lads?) now re-titled "Comic Book Heroes". It's been imminent since 2005 but has yet to see the light of day.

At present The Tearjerkers recordings are now scattered across various dodgy/bootleg CDRs of varying quality (see discography). It's a shame that such a great band have yet to have their original studio recordings issued on CD.

Tour Dates

23 Feb 1979 live debut at the Rockin' Chair, Derry
8 March 1979 session for debut single at Keystone Studios Dublin
5 April 1979 debut TV appearance on Good Evening Ulster
18 August 1979 Dandelion Market Dublin
23 November 1979 First John Peel Session broadcast
18 January 1980 Murdery Mystery released
24 February 1980 Leisureland, Galway
15 March 1980 Second Peel session
16 March 1980 Sense of Ireland festival, London
2 April 1980 Thin Lizzy support, Leisureland, Galway
4 April 1980 Thin Lizzy support, Lakeland Forum Enniskillen
5 April 1980 Thin Lizzy support, Forum Antrim
6 April 1980 Thin Lizzy support, Baymount Ballroom Sligo
7 April 1980 Thin Lizzy support, Downtown Ballroom Dundalk
8 April 1980 Thin Lizzy support, Hillgrove Mullingar
10 April 1980 Thin Lizzy support, Carlton Killkenny
11 April 1980 Thin Lizzy support, The Oyster Ballroom, Dromkeen, Co.Limerick
(original venue The Savoy was cancelled following unrest at The Undertones's gig of February 1980 caused by crowd reaction to heavy-handed security)
12 April 1980 Thin Lizzy support, St. John's, Tralee
13 April 1980 Thin Lizzy support, Cork City Hall
24 April 1980 Good Vibrations concert at Ulster Hall Belfast
8 July 1980 Rock Garden, London
12 July 1980 Moonlight Club
13 July 1980 Greyhound, Croydon
14 July 1980 Hope & Anchor
15 July 1980 Dingwalls (recorded)
20-24 July 1980 Session at Radio Luxembourg Studio
2 August 1980 Downtown Kampus, Cork


• Downtown Radio Session
Recorded and broadcast June 1979 for the Have You Heard Monday night rock show
Broadcast as a Peel Session on 23 November 1979

Notes: Seven tracks in all were recorded for DTR, but only four were broadcast by Peel (those listed above). The titles of the other three tracks are unknown.

• Love Affair / Bus Stop
7" - Good Vibrations Records - GOT-9 - July 1979 - PS

Notes: Recorded March 8th 1979.

• Don't Blame Me / Chit Chat
7" - Good Vibrations Records - ??? - 1979 - unreleased

Notes: Recorded at the same March 8th 1979 session as the Love Affair single. This was the projected second on Good Vibrations which was cancelled when the band signed with Phonogram in September 1979.

• John Peel Broadcast (BBC Radio 1)
Session recorded for and originally broadcast by DTR in June 1979
Broadcast on John Peel's show on 23 November 1979

• Murder Mystery / Heart On The Line
7" - Back Door Records - DOOR-1 - UK - 18 January 1980 - PS, paper or plastic labels
7" - Back Door/Vertigo Records - 6173 707 - France 1980 - differnet PS
7" - Back Door Records - ??? - Sweden - 1980
7" - Back Door Records - Benelux - 1980
7" - Back Door Records - ??? - Japan - 1980 (unconfirmed)
Single of the Week in Sounds and Record Mirror.
Reached #74 in UK charts

Notes: Recorded November 1979 at Downtown Studio, Belfast.

• 1st Peel Session (BBC Radio 1)
Recorded 15 March 1980

• 2nd Peel Session (BBC Radio 1)
Exact date unknown, 1980

Note: the John Peel site lists this session but it may in fact be the November 1979 broadcast on Peel's radio show of the June 1979 DTR session with song titles mixed up.

During 1980 a series of follow up singles to Murder Mystery were announced by Phonogram and then cancelled. The foreign issues show below have all been reported but their existance is unconfirmed as far as I'm concerned:

• Comic Book Heroes / Can't You See
7" - Back Door Records - ??? - UK - 1980 - unreleased

7" - Back Door Records - ??? - Netherlands - 1980 - unconfirmed
• Comic Book Heroes / Fingers
7" - Back Door Records - Japan - 1980 - unconfirmed
• I'm Sorry / True Love Stories / Jenny Jenny
7" - Back Door Records - ??? - Japan - 1980 - unconfirmed
• True Love Stories / Jenny Jenny
7" - Back Door Records - ??? - Netherlands - 1980 - unconfirmed

• various artists - Thru' The Back Boor
LP - Mercury Records - SRM 3849 - USA - May 1980
See Compilations section for full track listing.

Notes: A compilation of Back Door artists. This was the first official release of "Fingers" and "Comic Book Heroes" (apart from foreign singles whose existance is unconfirmed, that is). The album came with a free single by the High Numbers, an early version of The Who. See compilations for more details.

• Where's Julie? / Lip Gloss Factor
7" - Back Door Records - ??? - UK - 1980 - WLTP - does this exist?

Notes: I'm not convinced this actually exists. When WLTP copies were offered for sale on the net, the story was that this single was recorded in June 1980 for Phonogram but it's release was cancelled due to litigation (by whom?) but that WLTP copies exist with handwritten labels credited to the Tearjerkers and housed a plain white sleeve. Some of these WLTP copies [reputedly 10?] are signed on the sleeve by Nigel Hamilton . . . which is odd as he'd didn't play on it! As far as I'm aware, the June 1980 recording date suggests this would have featured Greg Lindsay on drums. In any case, I suspect this is unsleeved editions of the Paul West single (see next item). If it's a genuine Back Door test pressing, it should have a DOOR matrix number.

Paul West - Where's Julie? / Lip Gloss Factor
7" - Blue Rhythm Audio - NIX1 - 1982 - PS
K7 - Blue Rhythm Audio - CBR10 - 1982 - cassingle

Notes: This contains the same June 1980 recordings as above, issued in 1982 on Howard Ingram's Blue Rhythm Audio label under the name Paul West. In fact the A-side is credited to Paul West & His Mood, and the B-side to the Paul West Rhythm Squadron.

• DTR Session
Recorded Autumn 1980 by the Ingram/Rawson/Huntley/Lee lineup.

• Dave Fanning Show Session (RTE Radio 1) Recorded in Donnybrook in 1981 by the Mullawley/Hamilton/Peters/Wright/Lathe lineup
Was 'Chit-Chat' recorded during this session?

• Fool / Comic Book Heroes
7" - Vixen Records - FM 003 - UK - 1982 - PS

Notes: Re-recordings done at Lombard in 1982 by the Mullawley/Hamilton/Peters/Wright/Lathe lineup plus original Tearjerker guitarist Brian Rawson. 'Heroes' is misspelled on the front cover

• s/t
K7 - Gray Records - GRC-1 - 1983

Notes: A bootleg cassette of the aborted/incomplete 1980 LP "The Grey Album"

• Everybody Wants To Shag...The Tearjerkers
K7 - ??? - NHMC1 - 1989
CD - ???

Notes: Recorded live during the Tearjerkers 10 date tour of Ireland supporting Thin Lizzy between April 2-13, 1980. These soundboard recordings are drawn from two gigs but the exact details are unknown to me. The original cassette was housed in a cover with artwork taken from the Magic Roundabout animation series. The banana cover was created for the CD issue which was sold online for a couple of years and then deleted.

• various artists - Bloodstains Across Northern Ireland Vol.2
LP - boot - UK - 1998
See Compilations section for full track listing.
Possibly taken from July 1980 sessions for the "Grey" LP.

• As and Bs Collection
CD - NHM TJ01 - 200?

Notes: Complete official release discography mastered from vinyl. Privately pressed. Sleeve notes by Nigel Hamilton as follows:

• Good Evening Sligo!
CD - NHMTJ05 - 200?)

Notes: Recorded live during the Tearjerkers 10 date tour of Ireland supporting Thin Lizzy. Recorded at the Baymount Ballroom, Sligo on 6 April 1980. The recording is taken from the soundboard and is excellent quality. It was recorded during the same tour as the "Everybody Wants To Shag" CD but on a different night. From the sleeve notes by Nigel Hamilton:

• Comic Book Heroes (The Studio Album)
CD - Blue Rhythm Audio - ??? - 200?

Notes: The band began investigating the possibility of issuing the long lost Tearjerkers album in 2004, consisting of the studio recordings made at Parkgate and Downtown Studio. It was announced as forthcoming, in conjunction with Blue Rhythm Audio, in 2005 and again set for 2007 release but it has not materialised.


We need your help to correct and/or complete this entry. If you can provide more information about this band, have scans, photos or any other memorabilia we can use, or spare copies of any releases, then please get in touch.

Last update: 18 April 2013.

See Also: Cobra, Detonators, ETC ETC, Nigel Hamilton, Paul McIlwaine, P45, Radio City, Speed

External Links: The Tearjerkers website, Tearjerkers website

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