Belfast, Ireland-based punks The Outcasts have a fair amount of mythology attached to their riotous time together. The group formed in 1977 and after getting rejected by five different Belfast clubs their name took on a more personal meaning for the band and it stuck.
When they finally were able to land an actual live gig, fellow Irish punks Jake Burns, the vocalist for Stiff Little Fingers and guitarist Henry Cluney bore witness to the first few shows played by The Outcasts, which according to Greg Cowen as noted in the book Burning Britain: The History of UK Punk 1980–1984 were “disasters.” Cowan attributes the early lackluster impressions of the band to the fact that nobody in the Outcasts could actually play their instruments. There was also the issue that by time The Outcasts were getting ready to stumble through the third or so song in their set (which at the time consisted of covers of the Sex Pistols, The Damned and The Clash along with a few originals), also seemed to be some sort of signal for drummer Colin Cowan to trash his kit. It wouldn’t take long before The Outcasts would be routinely referred to as “The Band You Love to Hate” by local music journalists.
Despite their seeming inability to successfully play a gig that lasted more than a few minutes (which sounds pretty punk rock to me by the way), the band scored a coveted invitation to open for The Radiators From Space—a band championed by one of Ireland’s greatest musical exports—Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy—and Johnny Thunders. Held at Jordanstown Polytechnic on October 21, 1977 The Outcasts stayed true to their disastrous live track record. Here’s more from Greg Cowan on how that went:
We got the gig because I had written a letter that was published in NME magazine berating English punk band for not playing Northern Ireland. Colin (Cowan) had filled plastic bags with fake blood, which he threw at students in the audience. And Martin (Colin’s brother and guitarist for the band) assaulted The Radiators because he caught members of the band changing their flared jeans into drainpipes (old-school code for “skinny jeans”) before going on stage.
Though I don’t usually advocate the use of violence, I’m pretty sure that if you show up to a punk show wearing flared trousers you’re probably at the wrong fucking gig. Later on the band would start crashing shows by notable groups and musicians like Elvis Costello when he played Ulster Hall in the boys’ hometown in 1978. The band allegedly stormed the stage, grabbed Elvis’ microphone and spit out the self-promotional phrase “We’re The Outcasts, buy our single!” Apparently there were a fair number of punk/football fans in attendance who enthusiastically supported the antics The Outcasts pulled on poor Declan and a short time later they were playing to thousands of fans in Dublin. This affinity for commandeering other band’s shows was continued by drummer Colin Cowan when he disrupted sets by both Graham Parker and the Rumor and The Boomtown Rats. But let’s be honest here—there is a line in the sand when it comes to this pre-Jackass guerrilla music marketing. Sure I give them a pass for making Bob Geldof even grumpier than usual, but you simply do not fuck with THE CLASH. Sadly The Outcasts’ must have missed school the day they taught “Joe Strummer 101” and they set out to crash the stage where the Clash—who they had just supported in Belfast—were playing another show. When they showed up, a group of pissed-off bouncers were waiting for them, and according to Cowen who were ready to beat their “fuck in.”
More of the Outcasts after the jump…