One who possibly redefined the Covent Garden Seal of Quality, but who has been unforgivably lost in time...was Michael O’Shea. I remember exiting the darkness of Covent Garden Underground and being drawn to the 'other-worldly' sounds emanating from this individual. O'Shea was improvising on - and hunched over - what I learned was his home-made musical instrument - the Mo Cara (Gaelic for 'My friend'). Stories about the eccentricity of his 'performances' are part true and part myth - he did sometimes play in high heels, stockings, a pleated skirt with a matching turban...and with ping pong balls in his cheeks or a dead Salmon under his arm...I will leave the myths
Photos by Clive Boursnell
Covent Garden: The Fruit, Vegetable and Flower Markets: Images from Fruit, Vegetable and Flower Markets
by Peter Ackroyd & Clive Boursnell
I have garnered a few biographic details from his album cover and other sources. Michael Oliver O'Shea was born in Newry, Northern Ireland in 1947, but grew up just across the border in Carlingford, Co. Louth in the Irish Republic. he left school to join the British Army aged 17 - a short-lived relationship that ended when he went AWOL for two years, was court-martialed and subsequently jailed. Further biographic details are taken here from Wilson Neate at AllMusic:
In the mid-'70s, he went to Bangladesh as a volunteer, returning with dysentery, hepatitis, and a sitar. While convalescing he learned to play the sitar and then busked around Europe and the Middle East. Back in London, O'Shea busked with the Mo Cara, the bizarre sight and sound of the instrument instantly attracting crowds. In early 1980, he was spotted by a talent scout for Ronnie Scott, who was fascinated by the Mo Cara's mix of East Asian, South Asian, and Irish sounds. Scott offered the Irishman a residency in his club's prestigious Downstairs Room and became his agent. This led to his opening for Ravi Shankar at the Royal Festival Hall and he even played on a Rick Wakeman project, although his contribution was subsequently discarded. Despite encouraging signs, O'Shea's career did not take off and he returned to busking."
One year after the invitation O'Shea appeared unannounced at the studio ...saying his horoscope augured well and duly recorded his album on 7th July 1981 (produced by Wire’s B.C. Gilbert & G. Lewis, engineered by Eric Radcliffe & John Fryer) and this emerged untitled as Dome 2.
A little later 1982, O'Shea worked with Tom Johnston and Matt Johnson (The The) on a projected album, but sadly nothing came of it.
Sadly, O'Shea's work is no longer commercially available and I have uploaded just two pieces from the album. The final track here is the album's 15-minute masterpiece, No Journey's End - it is said that those present at the recording were 'reduced to tears by its unearthly beauty'