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Stoker Band / Zarabanda

From: Glasnevin/Ballymun, Dublin

Active: 1977-87

Style: Soul/Funk

Stoker Band Lineup:

Zarabanda sometimes mistakenly billed as Zaraband, began as the Stoker Band named after Bram Stoker, in the Glasnevin/Ballymun area of Dublin's Northside, circa 1977-78. The band was started by siblings Michael and Margaret O'Neill. Michael O'Neill had played in many local bands as both rhythm guitarist and drummer. He was the main songwriter. Margaret O'Neill was a former backing vocalist with DC 9. She co-wrote some of the bands material. Robert Aherne and Ronnie O'Brien had both played in the same band prior to joining the Stoker Band. Drummer John O'Sullivan was found through an advert. This group was the core membership of the Stoker Band / Zarabanda over the next 10 years. The band had several drummers, beginning with John O'Sullivan and ending with Hughie O'Neill (no relation). In between was Blue.... At various times there were other contributors including a Canadian 3 piece brass section, various backing vocalists, drummers, percussionists and sax players.

Hot Press compared the Stoker Band to Steely Dan, Fleetwood Mac, Santana and Ace, and likened lead singer Michael O'Neill to Al Stewart. The band recorded several demos and radio session tracks but never released anything. By 1983 they were Zarabanda, a seven piece band with two female singers who played white dance/soul/jazz-funk a la Shakatak and, as if that wasn't bad enough, were known to cover Bill Withers' "Lovely Day." Luckily this all wore off by the time of their debut single, which is much better than the aforementioned influences might suggest. The second single has been described to me by my spies as "melodic keyboard-driven pop". "One in a million" may have been recorded much earlier, circa 1979. Details to be confirmed. Many other recordings were made in RTE Radio Studios with Barry Lang and Tony Fenton. There were numerous radio and TV appearances including Nationwide.

The origin of the Stoker band name was a common theme in interviews. The band believed Bram Stoker to be among the most creative of Irish writers and yet was relatively unknown. They tried to raise his profile so he would be renowned and appreciated for his talents.

Margaret O'Neill performed with Rocky DeValera and the Grave Diggers on one of their singles and appears in the video.

Michael O'Neill still writes and records, and performs occasionally around Dublin and in summer music festivals. Margaret O'Neill remained in demand as a backing singer (Bronze Dawn and others). Robert Ahearne went on to play with Caravan before moving to the USA and playing in various bands there. Ronnie O'Brien still plays in cover bands in the Dublin area. Rory Pearse eventually moved to an island in the south Pacific where he continues to play.


• One in a Million / On the Run
7" - Vixen Records - FM 013 - 1983 - PS?

• Where The Sun Meets The Ground / On The Run
7" - Vixen Records - FM022 - 1985 - PS?

Notes: Probably never released in PS but initial copies should have had Vixen company sleeve; initial copies also included an invite to see the band perform


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