Big Self from Belfast were among the forerunners of the movement of melodic rock bands to emerge in the aftermath of the punk explosion – especially forceful and strong as a reaction to the Irish troubles. Formed in 1980 as a three-piece, the early line-up of Bernard Tohill on vocals and guitar, Patmo Sheeran on bass, and Michael Morris on drums, was soon augmented by the addition of guitarist Jim Nicholl.
The band’s early music was influenced by their love of reggae, which led them into the Reekus camp via several guest spots on Reekus promoted reggae tours, and this resulted in them being dubbed a ‘green reggae band’, an identity they weren’t very happy with, preferring to think of themselves as ‘Belfast Big Beat’. Their first single, ‘SURPRISE SURPRISE,’ released on Reekus in 1981, and awarded single of the week by music magazine Sounds was one of their few obviously reggae influenced songs. Their second single ‘DON’T TURN AROUND’ received the accolade “Single of the Year’ in Sounds, in March 1982; Dave McCullough of Sounds dubbed them ‘the best thing to come out of Ireland’, and at that time the nearest location points in Big Self’s music were given (by McCullough) as The Beat and PIL. The band was developing a fanatical following for their live shows, as they consolidated their position as the ‘next big thing’ touring with bands such as U2, and The Beat.
Gordy Blair, (ex bass player with both Rudi and the Outcasts) on sax, joined Big Self prior to their move to London in February ‘83, and their line-up swelled to a six-piece with the addition of percussionist Owen Howell. At this stage their sound evolved into ‘a magic potion, coupling a subtly grabbing melange of influences and melodies, and a forceful power that could only be experienced by seeing the band play live’ (Melody Maker). With a publishing deal with Chappel Music and a new single GHOSTSHIRTS, the band were firmly on the path to success, and in the winter of 1983/84 the BIG SELF recorded their album STATELESS in Dublin’s Windmill Lane Studios. Unfortunately, the release of the album was delayed for almost eighteen months due to the collapse of the distribution company, and by the time of its release, BIG SELF had begun to go their separate ways, with Gordy emigrating to Australia to play with the Dave Graney band, and later Bernard and Patmo playing in the Irish based alt. country outfit The Stone Rangers.