Pat returned to the table clutching the sipper glasses of Jameson’s whiskey. Tash downed hers in one gulp and went back to order a bourbon. Dave took one sniff, turned up his nose and put it back down. Sophie was too busy romancing to notice the situation at all. Maddey, knowing that this could be the straw to break the back of her relationship with Pat, bravely had two or three tastes. It was all she could handle.
All of the whiskey was imbibed that night, but not in a team-building, relaxed way. Instead, it was Pat, sitting alone, forcing himself to finish each glass, grimacing as the fiery liquid slid down his throat and pulled cotton wool over his world.
The band were due to record the next day. At 9am, there were only four people sober. Fortunately, bass is easy enough to play with both eyes closed and under heavy influence, so Pat got the job done. It was the incoherent speech, clumsiness, unkempt appearance and insistence on debating, at length, pointless clauses in his contract with the band that brought him down. Maddey distanced herself from him, though the breakup took a heavy toll on her. Then she made a mistake.
In her distressed state, Maddey made the mistake of asking Dave a question about his guitar. Four hours later, she had heard what amounted to two book’s worth of facts and information about guitars. It was only when she burst into tears that he stopped, made an awkward pun and went off to take a picture of a nearby squirrel. Tash, witnessing the scene, knew her time with PaST MaD was over. She announced her retirement and returned to the beehives of the Dingle Peninsula, where she is rumoured to meditate to this day.
Teenage Dreams had a 12-disc contract with the (back to the old name) Dr SPaM, and their thugs made sure the records were made. However, the rifts between band members meant they refused to set foot in the same room. Sophie and Maddey remained on speaking terms, as did Dave and Pat, but inter-gender relationships remained at an all-time low. Their choice of album cover location, a ruin, said it all.
“XXX Why begs the question; why did it take so long for Dr SPaM to make an album with real emotion in it?” asked Jackie N on her radio program. “Personally, I think it’s the best thing I’ve heard since that bittersweet song of yearning and loss released in the ’90s, ‘Who let my dogs out?’“
Despite the critical acclaim and conversion of a whole new legion of fans, attracted by the gloom and drama, the band dreaded the two disc they had to record to fulfill their obligations. Someone needed to swallow their pride and reunite the band. But with the split between the rhythm section wider than ever before, Pat’s alcoholism wafting from his every breath, and Dave unable to speak for less than 15 minutes at a time, who could it be?
Who else but the creator of every album title to date? Sophie, who had been quietly practicing her wheeling and dealing (Dave’s suspicions were all true), emerged as a master mediator. By using a visual pun, she brought Dave on board, while ensuring Pat had something to lean on and Maddey didn’t have to have either of the boys in her field of vision while the photo (and subsequent recording) took place.
Hold The Fort was more than just a coaster. The band’s attempts to take out their anger via their instruments meant salvos of bass notes flew over machine gun drumming. Guitar tracer fire lit the skies while Sophie’s powerful vocals soared over the band like a blazing phoenix. If not for their long history on the pop charts, it may have been deemed too edgy for the mainstream. As it was, it pushed the envelope and opened the eyes of many a teeny bopper.
In the aftermath of the album’s bombardment of the charts, Sophie pulled out the stops and took the whole band out for a night on the town. Listowel was the chosen venue; “Just one pint.” It was the first time the foursome had faced each other in the four days since their dramas started.
The front page of every newspaper in the land trumpeted the results. “SPAM GO ROTTEN” “SPAM-NANIGANS” “PRESCRIPTION: DISASTER FOR DR SPAM” and “3600 DIE IN THIRD WORLD EARTHQUAKE”. Sophie’s gallant attempt backfired in spectacular fashion; the bar was all but ransacked, the traditional Irish players attacked with their own instruments and Guinness released a press statement distancing themselves from the fiasco.
Sneakily, Teenage Dreams had sent along a small team with microphones, and the cacophony created by Dr SPaM’s night out was mixed to old demos and backing tracks the band had laid down, giving the label a final release. Long-time fans wept in the street, organising ceremonial burnings of the CD and picketing HMV stores promoting the album.
The toll on the band was heartbreaking. Maddey’s car was found in a ditch in country Ireland; no one knows if the fatal crash was accidental or deliberate. Pat, having briefly been seen socialising with Andrew Symonds, developed cirrhosis of the liver and retired to the life of a hermit. Dave’s political aspirations were shattered, and it’s suspected he’s now working under a false name in dodgy Central American drug labs.
While Sophie’s album naming creativity had obviously been lost on that fateful night, her willpower and voice had not. She ditched Teenage Dreams and started her own label, Sophie’s Label. She is now touring shopping centres and working the motivational speaking circuit. If you want to see Sophie, she can be booked from her base in rural northern Queensland.
And there you have it: the unadulterated history of Dr SPaM. I hope you now see this famous pop act in a more realistic light. I hope the story can shed more light on the dangers of stardom, whiskey and Bulmers – not to mention the rocky road of mixing work and relationships. Be warned!