Microdisney formed in Cork, Eire, in 1980 when Cathal Coughlan (vocals/keyboards) and Sean O’Hagan (guitars) met at a party. After a lengthy gestation period with many members coming and going, primitive recordings and singles releases, the pair moved to London buoyed by hope and airplay from John Peel who referred to them as “the iron fist in the velvet glove”.
After settling on a traditional format of guitar, bass, keyboards and drums, the band began releasing singles which were eventually collected together on We Hate You South African Bastards! (1984). The title was typically inflammatory, and in direct opposition to that of their long-playing debut, Everybody Is Fantastic (1984).
The Clock Comes Down The Stairs (1985) was their first album to feature the classic line-up with Jon Fell on bass and Tom Fenner on drums. The record was birthed in a time of poverty and hand to mouth existence; that it sounds so adept and accomplished as a singular work is a tribute to the focus given to the recording, writing and arranging.
An early clue to their subversive nature, on the surface Microdisney were purveyors of accessible and restrained pop music. This attracted Virgin Records, but the band had a dark edge in Cathal Coughlan’s bitter lyricism.
Their Virgin single debut, Town To Town (1987), dented the lower regions of the charts and was quickly followed by the album Crooked Mile (1987).
However, Microdisney elected to bite the hand that fed them with the near-hit Singer’s Hampstead Home, which was a thinly masked attack on Virgin’s fallen idol, Boy George.
They bowed out with 39 Minutes (1988), by which time the vitriol was really flowing, counter-balanced as ever by Sean O’Hagan’s delicate country guitar.
Despite critical acclaim, Microdisney’s sales had remained disappointingly in the cult bracket.
O’Hagan went on to release a solo album in 1990 (High Llamas) while Coughlan’s Fatima Mansions did much to spice up the late 80s and early 90s.