private world of a public face.
week: Cathal Coughlan of Microdisney guides rm round his record collection
record collection says more about you than cash ever can - or is that
American Express? No matter.
A record collection is a ready-made insight into someone's personality;
their obsessions, their prejudices, even their perversions. Flick through
a pile of personal favourites and you'll get straight to the nitty-gritty,
conveniently by-passing the boring getting-to-know-you phase.
Microdisney's Cathal Couglan takes great pride in his stack of gems. It's
a well-catalogued mixture of evergreens, oddities, rarities and embarassments
bound together neatly by his smart new pine shelving unit. There you go!
Just like Cathal himself. Rhyme and reason from disorder and chaos.
is one notable gap in Cathal's record library. Apart from a few records
by the Bothy Band, traditional Irish music is strangely absent from the
native Irishman's stash.
"I was just so pissed off with the academic associations of it,"
explains Cathal in his resonant Cork tones. "The fact that it was
such an institution. Most of it is tedious bookish stuff, whereas the
Bothy Band are unusual in the sense that they've introduced harmonies;
a thing unheard of in a lot of Irish music. I hate Irish cabaret music
which is why I detest the Pogues. I also hate the Dubliners and the Clancy
Brothers. Their style of music is this trivial sing-song crap which I
always find embarrassing, a forced conviviality."
people with more than a passing interest in music have in their collection
a nod towards at least some traditional music. German playwright Bertolt
Brecht's collaboration with composer Kurt Weil is the usual choice; their
songs have been covered by such cult heroes as the Doors ('Whiskey Song')
and Ian McCulloch ('September Song'). Cathal is a fan with reservations.
"I do like a lot of their ideas," says Cathal. "The way
Brecht and Weil had of grabbing hold of the most banal style of music
and using it as a bitter comment about their society was brilliant. But
some Camden hobo in 1988 singing sea shanties as a form of subversion
A short journey down to the second shelf brings us to Cathal's black records.
"Yes I do go in for racism in my record collection," admits
Cathal. "But it does make stuff easier to find."
Among the 200 or so black records on show are huge volumes of Bobby Womack,
New Orleans band the Meters featuring the incredibly talented Neville
Brothers, Lee 'Working In A Coal Mine' Dorsey, whom Cathal refers to as
a "Wonderful man" and Barry White ... BARRY WHITE?
"Yes," says Cathal, holding aloft a copy of 'The Right Night
And Barry White'. "This album is weird. He's come by this way of
updating his songs which involves a ridiculously loud drum. machine and
him 'doing his thing'. Those are the two loudest things on the album and
the strings are merely incidental beside them. There's one great moment
where he's obviously racking his brains thinking of the most sickly thing
to say and he goes ... 'Ooh, your panties, they're blue. It's my favourite
It's so naff it's brilliant."
Hip hop, as this year's big thing, has so far managed to evade Cathal's
otherwise extensive collection ... except for a solitary Mantronix album.
"Mantronix is the only hip hop I've heard that I will have in the
house," states Cathal. "Admittedly the bloody rapper's going
on in the usual way about how wonderful he is and all that crap, but the
songs are so distorted you can't hear what he's saying. In fact, I can't
tell what the f***'s going on in this record. It's psychedelia really."
By-passing Cathal's country music section - featuring ex-Byrd Gram Parsons,
plus stalwart Merle Haggard and Waylon Jennings - we soon find ourselves
in the Sinatra pile.
"His depressing records are unparalleled really," explains Cathal.
I was reading that book about him; the nasty one. If half those things
are true, the man is a monster. But when he was down on his luck he was
able to communicate sadness and sensitivity in a way that few singers
we go, past the grungy Swans records that Cathal's girlfriend won't let
him listen to when she's in the vicinity (very loud and messy attacks
of noise). Cathal keeps a lot of records for their kitsch value. These
include Spandau Ballet's 'Diamond'.
"It sounds like early Seventies overindulgence," says Cathal.
He also has a number of 'weird' Arabic pop records. "They really
seem to wind people up," says Cathal with relish.
Finally we arrive at the singer's prize possession, 'The Songs Of Pope
John Paul II".
"There are some great song titles", enthuses Cathal. "Here's
one. 'Do Not Be Afraid Mary, You Lily'.
I mean, he's really such a bastard. Listen to the sleeve notes 'These
songs should be sung by miners on their way to work, and young people
on the train, or hiking, or while sitting around the camp fire'.
"Jesus, if anyone started singing this shit when I was on the train
I'd pull the communication cord and risk the fine. He's the CIA pope,
really he is."
Like Cathal's songs, his record collection is a celebration of both crafted
excellence and the seedier side of life. Start analysing your friends'
records. You'll soon see which of them are warped.