TOM DUNNE is best known today as a jovial presenter on Newstalk radio, but in the late 80s and early 90s his band Something Happens were at the forefront of a burgeoning Irish indie music scene.
Still active today – though infrequently, their shows an ecstatic celebration of what was – Dunne recalls the heyday fondly.
“Getting started at all was our greatest achievement,” he jokes. “It was an incredible dream, getting to do things you only think people like Paul McCartney get to do.
“It was taken for granted back then, for example, that being in a rock band meant doing certain things. We played in the National Stadium, and went to LA to record an album. Those kind of things don’t happen except for really huge bands anymore. Back then you just popped by a different country. It was almost expected.”
Something Happens picked up a huge record deal back then, with the pop-rockers signing up with Virgin to release debut album ‘Been There, See That, Done That’, and making a splash in the UK and the US.
The band even had their own self-penned magazine, writing stories of their times on tour, and once featuring Daniel O’Donnell on the cover. “We had a lot of time on tour, and it was something to do,” Dunne recalls, “getting down all the funny things that happened to us. The Daniel O’Donnell one was definitely a highlight. We used to sell them at shows.”
After several years of touring, the Virgin deal was eventually to turn sour: dropped from the label, Something Happens never reached quite the same heights as they had with their debut release, but continued releasing new music – much of it highly acclaimed – right up until 1997.
“We’d just heard that we were getting dropped, and I walked into the newsagent and picked up NME, and we were ‘single of the week’, which was a big deal back then,” Dunne tells us. “We didn’t know about it. That was an odd week, and we felt a bit lost, I think. We ended up having a very long tail as a band.”
That long tail involved another big contract with BMG, but Something Happens never reached quite the same heights, despite a link with U2 that even saw Bono’s band quote Something Happens lyrics in the track ‘Staring at the Sun’.
Something Happens, though, was a platform, with the band giving all its members the experience to go on and do something else in a related industry. While Dunne has his presenting role, Ray Harman has gone on to be a composer, Eamonn Ryan works for music promoter MCD, and Alan Byrne is involved in the production of the Late Late Show.
“You do a lot of radio stuff as the singer in a band,” Dunne says of his start in his current profession. “I liked what I saw, and I started asking around about working in radio. I started out with Today FM, and just spent an awful lot of time with good music. The band were a great door opening exercise.”
It’s now been two decades since the last Something Happens album appeared, but for all that time, Dunne tells us the production of new music might not yet be over. “It would take a few things coming together to write a new record,” he explains. “Time is probably the biggest hurdle, with us all off doing different things, but we have no trouble writing. I’ve done a lot of other writing. It’s not impossible that they’ll be new music.”
These days, Something Happens still get regular offers to perform, but with both time constraints and no particular need to get on stage, they’re pretty picky about agreeing. “We have a list of conditions,” Dunne explains, “and we wait for people to come to us, we’re not out there chasing gigs. We’ll play when the show suits us.”
“I’ve been down to Leopardstown over the last few years, and it’s a great show, so when they got in touch it made sense to us to head along. Aslan have been raving about it, and it’s always great to get back on stage. They’ll be lots of our old stuff, and a few covers. It should be a great night.” But keep your eyes peeled for more…
Something Happens make their only planned appearance of 2017 to date at Live at Leopardstown, on June 8.