The Urge (Dublin)

Related: Peggy's Leg

Front: Don Harris, Jodi O'Keefe, Noel Cullen. Back: Bernie Torme and Carl Geraghty

Vocals: Jodi O'Keefe
Lead Guitar: Bernie Torme
Bass: Jodi O'Keefe / Noel Cullen
Drums: Don Harris
Sax: Carl Geraghty
Manager: Shay O'Keefe

Urge guitarist Bernie Torme wrote to us in 2005:

I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed your beat group site, it transported me back all those years to Dublin in the late sixties and early seventies: seeing it I remembered things I've tried hard to forget, but was actually very pleased to remember, utterly fantastic!

Most importantly (for me at any rate) the guy on the top left with the Afghan coat (hippie!) is me, Bernie Torme, guitarist, though I was a bit less pretentious then and was known as Bernard Tormey! The picture was taken in 1971 I think, I left shortly afterwards for England. I subsequently became a punk, released a few singles, joined a band called Gillan with Ian Gillan from Deep Purple as singer, we had three top ten albums and four or five hit singles in the '79 to '82 period in Britain and parts of Europe.

I then played with Ozzy Osbourne following the death of his guitarist Randy Rhoads in an air crash (I was asked to stand in, in the course of which we headlined at Madison Square Gardens). After that I formed my own band, Electric Gypsies, which toured the UK (and also included Dublin's SFX and Belfast's Ulster Hall as special guests to Budgie) a lot and released three solo albums (Turn Out The Lights, Electric Gypsies and Live), played and recorded with Atomic Rooster. I then formed a band with ex Girl and future LA Guns singer Phil Lewis, humbly enough called Torme. I think I played the Marquee more often than any other person on the planet, it paid the bills!

After that I formed a band called Desperado with ex Twisted Sister singer Dee Snider and ex Iron Maiden drummer Clive Burr: that came unstuck due to the record company having a problem with the guy who signed us, and the album got shelved and only saw the light of day for the first time on 3rd July this year. Also released three further solo albums, Wild Irish, White Trash Guitar and Scorched Earth.

I'm currently working in a three piece with ex-Gillan, ex-Mammoth bass player John McCoy and ex-Bruce Dickinson drummer Robin Guy, we're playing a festival in Sussex in a few weeks supporting Gary Moore, I've never met him and he was a huge hero of mine from my teenage years in Dublin, so I'm looking forward to that! All in all not too bad for a kid from Albany Road in Ranelagh! I must've been lucky!

The guy in the picture on top right is Carl Geraghty (sax and flute), who also played with The Victors, and is a brother of Tony Geraghty who was killed in the north with the Miami Showband. Tony is the only guy I ever lent my guitar to (we both played Strats), when he had his stolen when he was with Adolf J Rag and they had a gig at the Osibisa Club on Stephen's Green. Carl was fantastically talented and musically educated and taught me lots.

Bottom left is the hugely talented Don Harris, subsequently with Peggy's Leg. Don was a great drummer and keyboard player, and we played together in our first band when I was 16 and he was 14, called by the very uninspiring name of Wormwood. Wormwood supported Lizzy and Portrait/Elmer Fudd among others at the Countdown Club near Roche's Stores and did various other shitty little gigs around Dublin. I saw on the Peggy's Leg section that Don is dead? That's very upsetting.

The man in the front middle is Joe O'Keefe, aka Jodi Keefe and/or Jodi O' Keefe. Joe was the Urge's original bass player/singer (they had originally been a three piece, original guitarist was called Andy who emigrated to Australia which was how I got the job, and I think the original drummer was a guy called Blue O'Brien). The Urge as a three piece had recorded and released a single called "Listen", which was a big thing to have done in that scene in Dublin at that time. At the time of this picture Joe no longer played bass, he just sang. incidentally, the band was  managed by Joe's brother, Shay. Bottom right is Noel Cullen from Bluebell who played bass and was a lovely guy and as solid as a rock as a bass player.

We quite often had a complete horn section (reminiscent of Rob Strong's Platterman) at clubs like the Osibisa which would be organised and arranged by Carl. Carl left the band soon after this picture and we carried on as a four piece for about a year and then Don left or got sacked (I don't remember), we did a couple of semi-abysmal gigs with Blue O'Brien and then I left (or was sacked, I don't remember!) and went to England. I don't know what happened The Urge after that.

- Bernie Torme

Bernie Tormé
Born: March 18th, 1952 / Died: March 17th, 2019

Bernie Tormé, who has died from complications arising from pneumonia aged 66, was a prominent figure in Britain’s punk and blues rock scene over four decades.

Tormé played with Gillan, the band formed by former Deep Purple singer Ian Gillan between 1979 and 1981, and had a successful career with a number of other bands.

Perhaps his best-known role was a brief but dramatic cameo in 1982 when he stood in at short notice for Randy Rhoads in Ozzy Osbourne’s band after the guitarist was killed in a plane crash. Tormé was summoned to Leesurg, Florida, to join the band and Osbourne credited him with helping to save his career. Such was the chaos surrounding the tour, which had already been marked by the notorious bat-biting incident and the singer’s subsequent on-stage collapse, that the setback caused by Rhoads’ death had threatened to tip Osbourne over the edge. Sympathising with his family, the singer described Tormé as a “gentle soul with a heart of gold”. His wife, Sharon Osbourne, recalled that he “helped Ozzy and I at a time of great need and we will never forget that”.

His brief spell with the band was a fraught one that Tormé recalled years later as a “heartrending horrendous and stressful experience” which still gave him nightmares.

Tormé was born Bernard Torméy in Ranelagh in Dublin in 1952 where his father, Brian, ran a well-known auction rooms on Ormond Quay. He was educated at nearby Gonzaga College, where the ethos chafed as his countercultural interests began to emerge. He was studious nonetheless and went on to UCD, where he graduated with an honours degree in Ancient Greek, one of only two students in his year.

Always musical, he was largely self taught, and his teenage years were spent in his bedroom at Albany Road, developing his guitar skills. Tormé cited key influences at the time as Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix and Rory Gallagher, whom he came to know. He recalled that his first gig was playing for a Girl Guides dance in Kilmainham in the 1970s. He went on to front a number of Dublin-based outfits including Wormwood and the short-lived Sauroktonos (in a nod to his classical studies, named for Apollo Sauroktonos, the god who slays lizards) before leaving for London and the burgeoning punk rock scene.

He formed his own band, touring with the Boomtown Rats, then at the pinnacle of their career, before joining Gillan, with whom he enjoyed considerable chart success, with three top 10 albums in the 1980s.

After splitting from Gillan he returned to leading his own band before spending time with Dee Snider’s Desperado. Later he teamed up with former Gillan bassist John McCoy in a series of projects.

Tormé was most at home with tight blues rock outfits, telling one interviewer, “my basic template is still the three-piece blues rock thing, Rory Gallagher, Cream, Hendrix, Blue Cheer, Mountain, the original three-piece Grand Funk Railroad, early Thin Lizzy with Eric Bell, and the Irish Skid Row with Gary Moore, all that vintage three-piece stuff, heavy as shit but very blues based. I love all that. It’s what I do best”.

Tormé had a stammer and channelled his thoughts and feelings into his music, according to Hot Press publisher Niall Stokes. “The amazing and beautiful thing was that when he clambered on stage, and stepped up to the microphone to sing, it all poured out without the slightest inhibition,” says Stokes.

Tormé was a quiet, thoughtful figure whose moderate habits stood in contrast to those of many of his contemporaries, happiest at home surrounded by his family, his books and his beloved cats. In addition to touring and recording, he ran a studio in Sittingbourne in Kent, his home for 20 years and owned his own record label.

He is survived by his wife Lisa Varder, and their children Jimi, Eric and Tuli, and his sister, Cliodhna Murphy.

- Irish Times | 13 April 209

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