Like the small handful of others around these parts, it was during their U.K. and Ireland tour supporting Martin Stephenson and The Daintees in 1990 that I encountered Five Guys Named Moe for the first and only time. Between one thing and another, they went to ground pretty much immediately thereafter and, even now, not a whole lot is known about them, bar a skeleton outline. Although the group’s only album – also called ‘Five Guys Named Moe’ – is now available – almost – in it’s entirity on YouTube, the band behind it has been long-lost and is rarely, if ever, either cited or referenced. Given Canada’s reputation as an infrequent source of quality new music, the gaps in this particular story are all the more baffling. The record itself is virtually impossible to find and, try as I have done, I’ve been unable to locate the actual RCA issue via the usual sources. Google them and you’ll be invariably directed to the long-running musical of the same name and/or to a series of cabaret acts peddling scaled back versions of the same thing: so be careful out there.
‘Five Guys Named Moe’ was recorded in Ringsend Road Studios in the heart of Dublin during the Autumn of 1989, produced by Donal Lunny of Planxty and Moving Hearts. But it’s not as if the band is readily recalled by locals either. True to form, Lunny also contributed bouzouki and bodhrán and also enlisted the help of some of his regular wingmen: Ronan Browne plays uileann pipes on one track, James Kelly brought his banjo and Noel Eccles is credited as a hired-in percussionist.
Not that any of this should either deter or mis-lead you. Five Guys Named Moe peddled a terrific line in smart, sinewy pop music, in the margins with the likes of Divinyls, ‘Til Tuesday, Sixpence None Then Richer, The Pursuit Of Happiness and The Lotus Eaters, and with the lyrical whimsy of The Divine Comedy. Twenty-five years later, this seemingly phantom record still holds it’s own.
In keeping with the band’s general anonymity, they never feature either in the annals of live music in Cork, and why would they ? Only a handful of hardy regulars witnessed them open for The Daintees and the band then promptly disappeared into the mist. In terms of sound, tone, look and feel, they are the absolute counter-point to Nirvana. And, for that very reason, they embody every core difference between Sir Henry’s and De Lacy House.
I’ve long thought that De Lacy House never really received the credit it deserved as an excellent live music venue, especially between 1988 and 1994. Against the long-established might of Sir Henry’s, it was at a reputational disadvantage from the off, but promoters like Jim Walsh, the late Des Blair and the other Denis Desmond worked Don Forde’s top floor hard, and with no little sense of adventure. Far from rivalling Sir Henry’s, De Lacy’s complimented it instead, often presenting a far more diverse range of output, reaching across a broad spectrum, from folk and trad to out-and-out indie. And this may indeed have been a weakness as much as it was a strength: one could, quite literally, see anything there.
Personally, I loved the place.
It was there, towards the Grand Parade end of Oliver Plunkett Street, that I saw The Fatima Mansions, Roddy Frame, Power Of Dreams, A House, The Wannadies and numerous others test the support beams beneath the third-storey’s wooden floor. And where I also saw a host of roots acts too, most memorably the excellent Don Baker, a regular there in his pomp. It was where I saw The Fat Lady Sings play to twenty people one Sunday night [most of whom ended up on the stage for the encore] and where I once encountered an uncle of mine at the bar during a set by Thee Amazing Colossal Men: he thought he’d come to see The Wolfe Tones. It was that kind of venue.
And it was in De Lacy House where I’d routinely get the nod on the main door from Tony Hennessy who, when he wasn’t kicking imaginary footballs down Barrack Street or refereeing youth football games [‘careful now lads, 2-0 is the most dangerous lead in soccer’], was easily Cork’s best groomed and most efficient doorman. The stairs may well have been a nightmare for roadies and humpers but the venue itself hosted many a memorable night for punters, and Tony was a fixture for all of the really great shows.
And none more so than on that midweek night in 1990 when Five Guys Named Moe opened for Martin Stephenson to a coven of well-meaning locals. They’d certainly been billed on some of the advance publicity and a couple of standard stills were certainly in circulation, one of which may even have been carried by The Evening Echo. On the night itself they played for no more than forty minutes, performing ten songs at a push, all of them I imagine from their debut album. Myself and my regular companion, Philip Kennedy, were immediately taken with their smart and sassy pop-songs and cutesy stage-banter and, as quickly as we could thereafter, both sought out the record. And, although I’ve given away more copies of it over the years than even ‘A Happy Pocket’ by The Trash Can Sinatras, I still retain one crudely down-loaded version that I absolutely treasure.
The band was comprised of co-lead vocalists Meg Lunney and Jonathan Evans [who also wrote most of the songs], backed-up on bass and drums by Tom McKay and Graeme Murray respectively. Founded in Ontario, Canada, the group re-located to London and then onto Glasgow, from where they settled their line-up, attracted local management and signed to a major: in many ways, they are redolent of the intelligent Scottish pop sound of this time. And, in the great traditions of popular music, ‘Five Guys Named Moe’ was released in 1990 to the sound of silence and was dead on arrival.
Apart from a video for the first single, ‘She’s On A Mountain’, and obviously some form of tour support on that Daintees tour, the band was never really a priority-push for it’s label thereafter, a story all too familiar to a slew of Irish bands during the same period. All that exists on-line by way of a history is unofficial fan blogs that clips together a series of short personal testimonies from some of the band and that’s located at Saltyka and Gamekult
The record itself is eleven songs long and, while bearing testament to the classy writing ability – and no little ambition – of Evans, is also a tribute to Lunny’s uncanny knack for delivering real diamonds, whatever the context. While his track record as an innovative player and band leader has been extensively documented, he’s also taken a producer’s credit on a wide range of studio output, from Kate Bush and Elvis Costello to Rod Stewart and The Indigo Girls and a myriad of different points on all sides. The fact that his own on-line biography references Five Guys Named Moe in this company is revealing in itself and, in a mildly pathetic way, affords me some sort of cheer.
Five Guys Named Moe, by their own admission, had been listening to the sweet harmonies of The Beatles and The Beach Boys and, very clearly, to the shared boy-girl vocal approach used so tellingly by Prefab Sprout on ‘Steve McQueen’. While their own record doesn’t [thankfully] attempt to so crudely replicate, those influences are certainly obvious: this is no bad thing and one can hardly fault Five Guys Named Moe for the scale of what they were attempting to do.
They may not have been the biggest or brashest band to ever play De Lacy House but, to two friends who stumbled on them by accident – or was it fate ? – they were certainly one of the most impactful. Even now, all of those years on, the record comes highly recommended.
A wonderful band who we loved touring with
My old mate Willie Knox was their tour manager and as young folks we all got along really well, Willie has a cafe in Glasgows Partick area now called ‘Cafe Rio’ and is still in touch with a couple of the guys! maybe he can put you in touch or pass on your beautiful piece on this great band?
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Delighted you enjoyed the post… and thanks for the info on Willie. Will follow that up. We would really love to get this post onto the guys in the band… just to show that them there is somebody in Ireland who still remembers that gig and that he is still advocating for them after all these years…
Martin [Blackpool Sentinel]
Thanks for your very kind words Martin, which are most appreciated. Some years later, Spring 1994, you returned to Cork and did an acoustic session for our television show, No Disco, which was mesmeric. Hope you’re keeping well. Colm
I’ve got to admit I’m a little jealous that I never got to see FGNM at DeLacy’s. I recently re-discovered the debut album and its absolutely fantastic to listen to again, timeless for sure. I don’t suppose you have any leads on Meg Lunney’s album The Margaret Anns or any of The Miss Bennets music? Thanks for the article.
More than welcome, Kieran. I think we’re all working off of the same leads with regards to Meg’s solo stuff – I know that Martin [Sentinel] was following a good lead in Scotland but we’ve run into a cul de sac. But, this being the internet and the internet being what it is, I’m sure something or someone will turn up eventually bearing fruit and gifts. In the meantime, we still have that super album …
Hi Colm, After I posted on this article last night I went digging around the internet to find more info on FGNM and low and behold I followed a lead and received an email from Meg Lunney’s cousin today bearing fruit and gifts.
I wont share all he said as it was a personal email but I sent him the link to this article and requested he send it to Meg or any band member if he gets a chance.
He mentioned he met Meg in 1998, at the time, she was working on her teaching degree at the University of Ottawa and by the time he met her again in 2013 at a family reunion she was working as a teacher.
He also shared the following:
The Miss Bennets (Meg Lunney, Alex Houghton, Ross Murray, Stuart Watkins) recorded one EP with 4 songs. Three of the songs are streaming on the web:
I managed to download the tracks mentioned above and also said (humorously) to mention the Irish fans still want more.
Hi Kieran. Brilliant detective work. Thanks for that. And thanks for sharing… You’re obviously the reason for the big spike in views for this post. Best….
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Well Kieran, that’s certainly a result. Let’s see how all of this plays out. Stay in touch with us. All the best, Colm.
I’ll keep an eye out for anything and let you know. Thanks
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Hi everyone, I’m so glad to find a real post on the real FGNM 1990’s band!
OK, please consider me as the ultimate fan of FGNM.
I’ve got some graal for you and i’ll be happy to share with you : Miss Bennets album, and also Margaret Anns. I can do some copies for free and send you the CDs but you have to give me a physical address. You can drop me a mail at email@example.com (0 for zero)
I’ve got some other stuff (bootlegs of demos, and a few other things).
The band obsess me since the release of the album and here’s my great secret ambition : to meet Jonathan, Meg, Tom and Graeme, to interview them about the album, and to make a documentary about the making of this fantastic album.
But I need help for that !
I’m in touch with all the guys except Meg Lunney, but she has a facebook :
So maybe together, we could have the energy to do the popumentary for the 25th anniversary of the release of the FGNM album, entitled :
Five Guys Named Moe : the story behind the album and the band !
Please, guys, drop me a mail.
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And so the story continues…
There’s been a healthy discussion on FGNM over the past week at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/286935938901/permalink/10154187396518902/
I decided to start a Facebook page in honor of FGNM at: https://www.facebook.com/five.guys.named.moe.canada
Maybe if we can get more people on the page and discuss the band and share it would be great. I like yourself Jack am a fan and only this week re-bought the LP as I hadn’t listened to it in a while. I’d introduced FGNM over at the Paddy McAloon page and people also purchased copies this week from eBay. There’s a revival going on.
I love your idea of a 25th popumentary, I’m a musician and documentary maker so I’m on board with you if you need any help. See http://www.completecontrolfilms.com/
Loved reading your article at http://www.gamekult.com/blog/jackmarcheur/?blogcategoryid=11541
All the best
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Hi Jack and Kieran. Awaiting with interest any output a possible collaboration between you might result in. And so the story continues….
Jonathan is a musical genius (imo), and he’s now working on his first album in 25 years. Solo! Get excited!
We’ve done some music together – artist name is Rosie June.
A taste – https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=cTOYJf48ymY
Keep an eye out for his new work, though. It’ll be worth the wait 🙂
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Thanks for joining the FGNM conversation. Really looking forward to Jonathan Evans solo album. Please keep us updated here when you can. I really like this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hLn21DOcbLw of yours.
Hey what happened to the discussion? I saw FGNM at Fat Sams in Dundee – can’t remember when but thought at the time they oozed class. The friend I went to see it with bought the tape at the gig but it went missing and recently I managed to download a copy of it but still look for it on vinyl.
Still an album I go back to listen to (amongst others).
Thanks, Scooter. To me, its certainly stood the test of time alright. All the best, Colm.
A Five Guys Named Moe unplugged version of the yet unreleased track You Might Save Me Now on Canadian TV show MuchMusic. This track was later recorded on Meg Lunney’s solo album The Margaret Anns (1998) – Sourced via YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCFHuRrTKi5_ny6omwGpMaGg
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Absolutely brilliant find, Kieran. And most appreciated. GRMA. Colm.
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A Five Guys Named Moe unplugged version of the yet unreleased track You Might Save Me Now on Canadian TV show MuchMusic. This track was later recorded on Meg Lunney’s solo album The Margaret Anns (1998) – Sourced via YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CKEqdsBD6Ns
I got a mint vinyl copy from here https://www.discogs.com so it is still possible to get hold of. All the better listening to on vinyl.
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Great band i remember chatting to some of the members at Tower studios wen the band i was in was rehearsing the female singer was friendly and chatty didn’t know of there music then just thought they were another band but hey thats my wee story of the band
Thanks for sharing Henry. And that is a nice wee story of the band….
Hi, I see I am quite late to this thread. I used to frequent their shows before Meg and Graeme were in the band – their very early days in Ottawa, Canada. I was a student at University of Ottawa and we’d go to the market to check out their stuff. I loved every song. Always thought they were destined for fame. Was heartbroken it ended after one album. Eventually got to know Tom and Jonathan. Loved their creativity, intellect, charm and angst. Wkharris@shaw.ca
Thanks very much for reading, Wendy. And thank you for the note. Colm
Hi, I see I am quite late to this thread. I used to frequent their shows before Meg and Graeme were in the band – their very early days in Ottawa, Canada. I was a student at University of Ottawa and we’d go to the market to check out their stuff. I loved every song. Always thought they were destined for fame. Was heartbroken it ended after one album. Eventually got to know Tom and Jonathan. Loved their creativity, intellect, charm and angst.
I saw them supporting Martin in Edinburgh in 1990, and immediately bought the tape (which was long lost). I found this page a few years ago (and bookmarked it), which led me to the YouTube songs, so now I have the album again 🙂
I spent >years< trying to find them. So happy they are still appreciated.