Category Archives: Biography

CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW: THE CLANCY BROTHERS AND TOMMY MAKEM- ‘Come Fill Your Glass With Us ‘ (1959)

ST PATRICK’S DAY BLESSINGS BE UPON YOU

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh

(Byan-okht-ee nah Fay-leh Pawd-rig ur-iv)

May those who love us,
Love us.
And those who do not love us,
May God turn their hearts.
And if He doesn’t turn their hearts,
May He turn their ankles,
So we’ll know them by their limping.

Irish Songs Of Drinking And Blackguarding

Sung By Patrick Clancy, Tom Clancy, Liam Clancy, Tommy Makem and Jack Keenan

FREE DOWNLOAD

The Clancy Brothers were a group of brothers who, along with longtime companion Tommy Makem, are without a doubt among the most important figures in Irish music history. Still considered as one of the most internationally renowned Irish folk bands and some have even gone so far as to credit them as being among the main inspirations in the American folk revival of the ’50s and ’60s.

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Bob Dylan claimed in the early 1960’s

“I’m going to be as big as the Clancy Brothers!”

With the Clancy Brothers dominating The Ed Sullivan Show and performing their sad Irish drinking tales and rebellious stories before thousands of people, Dylan’s declaration at the time seemed bold and impetuous. Its opposite came true, of course: Dylan submerged the Clancys’ pointed and poignant folk ballads into his stew of influences en route to rock ‘n’ roll superstardom while the Clancys peaked around 1964, then slowly drifted into a hodgepodge of break-ups, reunions, and greatest-hits CD collections. But in bringing Irish music into American mainstream culture, the Brothers were key figures in the 1960’s folk revival and helped Ireland rediscover its cultural traditions. Every Irish-music movement since then–from the Chieftains to Sean O’Riada, from Van Morrison to U2, from Enya to the Corrs–owes some of its success to the Clancys.

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(Tommy and Liam)

Born in the small Irish market town Carrick-On-Suir, in County Tipperary, Tom and Patrick ‘Paddy’ Clancy were two of eleven children. Their parents, Robert, an insurance broker, and Joan, a housewife, sang Irish folk songs constantly, but neither Tom nor Paddy envisioned a professional music career when they were growing up. They served in both the Irish Republican Army and the Royal Air Force, Pat, a flight engineer in North India and Burma and Tom, an officer in Europe and North Africa. They left Ireland for Canada in 1947 and, after apparently hiding out in the back of a truck, immigrated to the United States three years later. Landing in Cleveland, Ohio, and then Manhattan, the duo pursued show-business careers. In addition to driving taxis and painting houses, they auditioned for acting roles by day and sang by night at clubs and coffeehouses such as the Lion’s Head and the White Horse Tavern. Tom had by far the most successful acting career, landing major Broadway roles and later on going on to appear in television’s Starsky And Hutch, Charlie’s Angels and The Incredible Hulk! Soon they were producing their own plays, at the Cherry Lane Theatre in Greenwich Village, but after three struggling years, they turned to midnight music concerts to pay the bills.

That was the beginning of the Clancy Brothers as they are commonly known. Drawing on their family singing background and their knowledge of Irish drinking ballads and rebellious folk songs, they began to build a small New York City audience. On-stage acting experience also helped. The Clancy’s told funny stories between songs and responded to applause with vaudevillian lines like

“You have very good taste, I must say”.

Soon their younger brother, Liam, and a friend, Tommy Makem, were joining them regularly on stage. Paddy Clancy created his own record label, Tradition, and put out albums of pointed but gentle folk harmonies, including 1956’s The Rising of the Moon, which was recorded around a kitchen table in the Bronx. Liam told CBSNews.com in 2002, promoting his memoir, The Mountain of the Woman.

“The crowds got so wild and they would hoist crates of beer up onto the stage and demand that we drink them. It was a wild and wonderful time… Greenwich Village was an island for people escaped from repressed backgrounds, who had swallowed the directive to be inferior, to know your place, to kowtow to royalty, to hierarchy, and all the other nonsense”

Their timing was impeccable. The Clancys’ Greenwich Village audiences at the time included young folk-music aficionados such as Joan Baez and Bob Dylan, who would later say, in the same article, of Liam Clancy

“For me, I never heard a singer as good as Liam. He was just the best ballad singer I ever heard in my life. Still is, probably. I can’t think of anyone who is a better ballad singer than Liam”

As legend has it, after hearing the Clancys’ version of Dominic Behan’s ‘Patriot Game’, Dylan tinkered with the lyrics and retooled the ballad into his own ‘With God on Our Side’. More than 30 years later, in 1992, the Clancy Brothers would reunite with Makem for Dylan’s recording-anniversary celebration at Madison Square Garden in New York City. They sang ‘When the Ship Comes In’, an Irish ballad Dylan recorded on The Times They Are A-Changing.

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(left to right: Tommy Makem, Paddy Clancy, Tom Clancy and Liam Clancy)

Two major events in the Clancys’ career happened in 1961. First, they received a package from their mother as related by Paddy to the irishmusicweb website.

“It was a very cold winter in New York and my mother in Ireland read about the snow and the frost in New York. And her three sons were in America. So she knitted three Aran sweaters and she sent them out. We had a Jewish manager, Marty Erlichman. He saw them and said ‘That’s it. I’ve been looking for some identifiable costume for you. It’s perfect!'”

The thick, roped sweaters became their trademark–especially when, upon signing with Columbia Records, they wore them on the cover of 1961’s A Spontaneous Performance Recording. The second event was The Ed Sullivan Show, the influential television variety show that gave the Beatles their big break three years later. When a scheduled guest became sick, the Clancys sang for 18 minutes on the air. After that, they were international celebrities, playing ‘Fine Girl You Are’, ‘The Holy Ground’ and ‘The Rambler’ at Carnegie Hall and fancy venues everywhere. Dylan, jazz hero Stan Getz, and a promising young singer named Barbra Streisand were among their opening acts. The Clancys went on to record 55 albums and performed for luminaries such as President John F. Kennedy, a fan, at the White House.

As the 1960s wore on, with Dylan and the Beatles steering popular music away from traditional folk ballads and towards electric rock ‘n’ roll, the Clancys’ star power began to dim. They drifted from traditional signatures such as ‘The Old Orange Flute’ and ‘Whiskey Is the Life of Man’ and began writing and producing their own material. Makem left for a solo career in 1970; Liam left five years later. With Liam’s replacement, the Clancys’ youngest brother, Bobby, the group slowly devolved into a nostalgia act. Makem and Liam Clancy sometimes performed as a duet, and they came together on special occasions (including the Dylan thirtieth-anniversary show) in various singing configurations. But they never approached their early 1960’s star power again. Paddy returned to Carrick-on-Suir to raise cattle with his wife on a farm. Tom died in 1990; Paddy died in 1998. Liam and Tommy Makem continued to have successful solo careers before Tommy passed away on 1 August 2007, at the age of 74, after an extended fight with cancer. Two years later Liam died of pulmonary fibrosis, the same ailment that had taken his brother Bobby. He died on 4 December 2009 at the age of 74 in a hospital in Cork, Ireland.

This is the second album from the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem and is among their most notable efforts. It undoubtedly helped launch the group to international success. As you can tell instantly from the album’s title, ‘Come Fill Your Glass with Us’, the album is a virtual soundtrack of Irish pub life. The recording perfectly evokes the hard-drinking, late-night atmosphere of a working man’s Irish pub.

Tracklist

Whisky You’re the Devil
The Maid of the Sweet Brown Knowe
The Moonshiner
Bold Thady Quill
Rosin the Bow
Finnigan’s Wake
The Real Old Mountain Dew
Courting in the Kitchen
Mick McGuire
A Jug of Punch
Johnny McEldoo
Cruiscin Lan
Portlairge
The Parting Glass

FREE DOWNLOAD FOR THE FIRST 100 PEOPLE. IT SAYS ‘NAME YOUR PRICE’ SO PUT 0p IF YOU LIKE. AFTER THAT IT’S ONLY AVAILABLE BY DONATION. ALL MONEY GOES DIRECT TO THE JUSTICE FOR THE CRAIGAVON 2 CAMPAIGN.

CLICK HERE!

although this album is available for free download if you wish we would appreciate it if you could spare a few pennys or cent’s to donate to the Justice For The Craigavon 2 campaign. Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton are two young Irishmen that have been unjustly convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. We ask you to find out more information on the case by visiting
jftc2.com
www.facebook.com/JFTC2/

and please do all you can to publicise these poor men’s imprisonment.

(listen to the album below just press play!)

COME FILL YOUR DRINKS WITH US ALBUM SLEEVE NOTES

by Patrick Clancy

A group of workmen were tearing down a very old distillery in the south of Ireland. It had not been used for fifty years and was full of birds’ nests. When they reached the vat where the whisky had been stored, they found a small metal pipe leading from it and going into the ground. It had been well hidden. They dug down following it one foot underground till it ended in a small hollow under a tree two hundred yards from the distillery. No one could explain it. The facts end here, but they suggest strange stories of men long ago stealing to that hollow at night and draining off the whisky out of sight of the distillery.
There is no one to tell of the nights of drinking and song that came out of that pipe, But I’m sure some of the Irish drinking songs on this record were sung, as some of them are much older than that distillery. Drinking and singing have been enjoyed by men everywhere and always. As islands were discovered and jungles penetrated, all new found peoples had songs of some kind and had found a way of making intoxicating drink. If you hear a lot of singing from your neighbor’s home at midnight, you just know there is drinking going on.
In Ireland people would gather in the pubs on fair days and market days when their business of the day had ended, to “wet their whistle” and hear n song. A travelling piper, fiddler, singer or fluter would provide sweet music for pennies and a farmer could learn a new song or two. My grandmother kept one of these pubs and learned quite a few of the songs, one of them being ‘Whisky You’re the Devil’, which I have not heard elsewhere. Another one of her songs was ‘Portlairge’, which is a local Gaelic song, and all the place names mentioned are within twenty miles of her pub. The words translate as follows:
— 1 —
I was the day in Waterford.
Fol dow, fol dee, fol the dad I lum.
There was wine and pints on the table.
Fol dow . . .
There was the full of the house of women there,
Fol dow . . .
And myself drinking their health.
— 2 —
A woman from Rath came to visit me,
And three of them from Tipperary.
Their people weren’t satisfied.
They were only half satisfied.
— 3 —
I’ll set out from Carrick in the rooming,
And take a nice girl with me.
Off we’ll go thro’ “The Gap,”
And northwards to Tipperary.
Like Tom and Liam and I, Tommy Makem learned most of his songs from his family, particularly from his mother, Mrs. Sarah Makem, who still lives in County Armagh, Ireland and sings on Tradition Records The Lark In The Morning, TLP 1004. When Tommy sings ‘Bold Thady Quill’, he is singing about a champion hurler from County Cork, whom I understand is still alive. The song ‘Finnigan’s Wake’ gave the title to the famous novel by James Joyce, who was interested in Tim Finnigan’s resurrection from the dead by having whisky (water of life) poured on him during a fight at the wake. The Gaelic chorus of ‘Cruiscin Lan’ (My Little Full Jug) means:
Love of my heart, my little jug, Bright health, my darling.
Most of these songs tell their own story. They are not merely curiosity pieces or antiques; they are still very much alive and are as popular as the drink that inspired them.

More Information On The Clancy Brothers And Tommy Makem

Wikipedia  WebSite  LastFM  Facebook  YouTubeLive

(The story of The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem in their own words)

THE LONDON CELTIC PUNKS ‘STEPPING STONES’ CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW SERIES

This album was brought to you as part of our regular series where we bring you something a little bit different to what you’re maybe use to. Lost or hidden and sometimes forgotten gems from the legends and also unknowns that have inspired and provoked folk music and musicians right up to modern age celtic-punk music. The albums are usually out of print so we can provide a free download link for you.

You can find our Steppin’ Stones page here with the full list of albums to choose from.

ALBUM REVIEW: PLANXTY- ‘Between The Jigs And The Reels: A Retrospective’ (2017)

The word ‘legend’ gets chucked around with wild abandon these days but no other word seems fit to accompany an article on a band that truly were ground breaking and have gone onto have an everlasting effect on Irish music. Put together by Planxty themselves this is the ultimate retrospective of their music coming, as it does, with a DVD featuring over two hours of previously unreleased performances.

planxty-between-jigs-reels

Forty five years after Planxty formed back in January 1972 comes Between The Jigs And The Reels – A Retrospective. The band was made up of Christy Moore (vocals, acoustic guitar, bodhrán), Andy Irvine (vocals, mandolin, mandola, bouzouki, hurdy-gurdy, harmonica), Dónal Lunny (bouzouki, guitars, bodhrán, keyboards) and Liam O’Flynn (uilleann pipes, tin whistle). They released six studio albums starting with Planxty in 1973 and following with The Well Below the Valley (1973), Cold Blow and the Rainy Night (1974), After the Break (1979), The Woman I Loved So Well (1980) and finally Words And Music in 1983. At the time of that debut album their music was quite simply revolutionary and they popularized Irish folk music like no other band from that era.

planxty2

Andy Irvine, Liam O’Flynn, Donal Lunny and Christy Moore

Back in 1972 Christy Moore who was already a star in both the Irish and British folk scene’s had begun work on his second album and grouped around him some of the best musicians Ireland had to offer. His old friend from school in Newbridge, County Kildare, Dónal Lunny was a gifted multi-instrumentalist who had taught Moore how to play both guitar and bodhrán while the London born Andy Irvine of late-60’s Irish folk group Sweeney’s Men was a prominent figure on the Dublin trad scene and who co-ran a folk club with Lunny. Finally came Liam O’Flynn a true master of the uileann pipes. This group gelled instantly and with Christy Moore returned from England Planxty were born. With their bedraggled hair and bohemian image their music they literally took Ireland by storm. For the first time uileann pipes were accompanied by guitar, mandolin and bouzouki while Christy and Andy were possibly the finest singers of their generation. Although labelled Jigs And Reels the scope of the songs on this album is simply breathtaking from stirring tunes of war to gentle balllads and haunting airs. Planxty didn’t just play they also collected these songs saving many from obscurity or even death. Their music bridged the gap between the developing rock music scene in Ireland and the new wave of folk music musician.

There are seventeen songs here and it all begins with the tragic love story of an Irish emigrant to New Mexico ‘True Love Knows No Season’ and Liam O’Fynn’s beautiful piping is sure to send a shiver down the spine of listeners. Andy Irvine belts out the glorious ‘Pat Reilly’ followed by the instrumental ‘Sí Bheag, Sí Mhór’ while Christy returns to the fore to do ‘Follow Me Up To Carlow’ a song that tells of the battles of the Gaels of Ireland fighting the English oppressors in the war that began hundreds of years ago.

‘Băneasă’s Green Glade / Mominsko Horo’ takes us back to Andy’s time living in Bucharest in the 1960’s swiftly followed by the instrumental ‘The Aconry Lasses / The Old Wheels Of The World / The Spike Island Lasses’ and then by ‘The Pursuit Of Farmer Michael Hayes’ as arranged by Christy Moore who still contends that their are several verses missing that he puts down to

“the realisation that it was opening time”

On ‘Accidentals / Aragon Mill’ the heartbreaking main song is preceded by a short acoustic guitar piece that he is joined together by Liam’s piping with ‘Aragon Mill’ which Andy learnt from the North Carolina singer songwriter Si Kahn.

“But there’s no smoke at all
Coming out of the stack
For the mill has closed down
And it’s not coming back”

In Si’s neck of the woods, cotton has always been of paramount importance and closing of a mill brings with it, not only unemployment, but also the end of a way of life, whether it be a cotton mill in North Carolina, Lancashire or Belfast.

“But the only tune I hear
Is the sound of the wind
As it blows through the town
Weave and spin, weave and spin”

‘The Irish Marche’ is an English composition from the 16th century written by William Byrd while ‘The Rambling Siúler’ is from the early-19th century and tells the odd tale of an Irish colonel and the lengths he will go to win fair maid. Having heard a version of ‘The Well Below The Valley’ where Christy is only accompanied on bodhrán it was nice to hear a full band version of this beautiful song. Planxty are back in full on jaunty mood next with another instrumental ‘Junior Crehan’s Favourite / Corney Is Coming’ before Andy sings ‘Roger O’Hehir’, the story of an not very good petty criminal whose career leads to the gallows. Now for that Balkan tune that seems to have ruffled a few reviewers feathers with ‘Smeceno Horo’ Not knowing much about this I’ll just leave the video up for you to decide.

With the album nearing the end perhaps three of the widest heard and better known songs finish the album starting with the stunning Andy Irvine composition ‘The West Coast Of Clare’.

“Sorrow and sadness, bitterness, grief
Memories I have of you, won’t leave me in peace
My mind is running back, to the west coast of Clare
Thinking of you, the times we had there”

The sensitive and definitive version of ‘Nancy Spain’ keeps the momentum building and has since been made famous by Christy during his solo career. Written by Barney Rush who also wrote ‘The Crack was Ninety in the Isle of Man’, which Christy has also recorded. Sadly Barney passed away back in 2014 and this wonderful song brings us up nicely to the album’s end and ‘Timedance’. Commissioned back in 1981 for the Eurovision song contest back when it was big news and back when Ireland use to win it every year! This was, in many ways, a precursor to Riverdance and was for millions around the Europe the first time they had ever heard authentic traditional Irish music and can be said to have had a lasting effect on Irish music’s popularity.

Planxty Re-Union Show, Live at Vicar Street, Dublin. February 2004

Compiled and chosen by the band themselves they could literally not squeeze another minute onto the CD with it clocking in at seventy-nine minutes. The CD comes with a bonus DVD of previously unreleased performances from the RTÉ (Irish Televison) archives that lasts over two hours. The care and attention that has gone into this release is breath taking with an absolute goldmine of recordings, TV appearances and live sets that does the band the justice they deserve. Planxty ruffled a few ‘trad snobs’ feathers when they were around the first time and some of the modern day era trad snobs may find the inclusion of harmonies, compositions, English songs and Balkan tunes somewhat odd but for me it only adds to what is one of the best traditional album’s I ever heard. Planxty were one of the major reasons for the revitalisation of Irish music that led eventually to the development of celtic-rock and then celtic-punk so do yourself a favour and check out this album and find out where we came from.

Buy The Album

TowerRecords  Amazon  eBay

Contact The Band

ChristyMoore  AndyIrvine

ALBUM REVIEW: STEELEYE SPAN- ‘Dodgy Bastards’ (2016)

With the release of Dodgy Bastards, the 23rd studio album of their career Steeleye Span remain one of the most influential names in music. Pioneers of folk-rock, they changed the face of folk music forever. Taking it out of small clubs and into the world of gold discs and international tours. Steeleye Span have remained at the forefront of the genre they helped to define and 38 years later have become an institution in British music.

steeleye span LP

Steeleye Span and Fairport Convention were two of the most successful and popular British band’s of their generation. Both bands made their mark on the music scene by taking traditional British folk material and adding rock arrangements, something that hadn’t really been done before and both featured female singers, Sandy Denny for Fairport and Maddy Prior for Steeleye. Both mixed self-penned and traditional songs but it can be argued that it was Steeleye Span who went on to have a much more lasting effect on the folk-rock scene and indeed on music in general too. At their peak Steeleye Span’s revolving door of members certainly kept their fans on their toes but the one constant in the band has always been the ethereal voice of Maddy Prior that gave the band their identity at all the different phases of their existence. The major difference between the bands was that Fairport came to traditional folk from a rock background, whereas Steeleye Span arrived from the opposite direction.

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Formed at the beginning of 1970 in in Winchester, Hampshire that original line-up included Ashley Hutchings, at the time bassist in Fairport Convention, who had wanted to pursue a more traditional folk direction and so left them and joined forces with future Pogue Terry Wood, who had been in a trad Irish group called Sweeney’s Men, Maddy Prior, who had been in a folk duo with guitarist Tim Hart and Gay Woods (Terry’s wife) to become the starting line up of Steeleye Span. Lasting only one album Terry and Gay soon left and were replaced by Martin Carthy, one of the most respected artists on the folk circuit. While Bob Dylan fought his own fans and the critics to introduce electric guitar into folk music in the mid-1960’s Martin Carthy was instrumental in taking Steeleye Span in the same direction. They may have played folk music but they played it damn loud! Hutchings and Carthy left by the end of 1971 and while the loss of their two most influential members would cripple most bands the ‘Span not only drove on but actually entered into their most successful stage. Tim Hart was quoted as saying that the group wanted to

“put traditional music back into current musical language — to make folk music less esoteric”

New bassist Rick Kemp became Maddy Prior’s husband and in 1973, they added drums for the first time to the band. With the revolving door of players, artists as famous as David Bowie and even Peter Sellers guested on their albums. Their first major hit came with the Christmas song ‘Gaudette’ reaching #14 in the British music charts and in 1975, they released their huge smash hit ‘All Around My Hat’ which charted all over the world and made them big players everywhere. With the coming of punk and new wave in 1977, they took on even more traditional elements with the return of Martin Carthy, and the addition of John Kirkpatrick on accordion. Sadly though they split the following year. However they periodically reunited while pursuing their own projects and the occasional studio album appeared while the group performed at festivals and toured with enough regularity making it confusing whether they were a band that was together or not. They had a strong and large enough fan base that remained extremely loyal to them ensuring that whatever they did they always had an audience to hear it. Of all the ‘Span members it was Terry Woods who went on to have the most success playing mandolin in The Pogues while Martin Carthy may not have had the commercial success of Terry Woods but certainly commanded great respect

“If the English folk revival of the 1960s had a single “father” and guiding spirit, then Martin Carthy was it”

Maddy Prior’s most notable work was her recordings with the respected folk singer June Tabor. Tim Hart released a handful of notable solo outings before retiring to the Canary Islands, where he sadly passed away after a long battle with cancer in 2009.

steeleye-span-band-2

So all this, and that intro could easily have run into several thousand’s of words (have a look at their Wikipedia page here to see how!), lands us in 2016 and Steeleye Span’s new album. Dodgy Bastards is their 23rd album release is a mixture of self penned songs, traditional songs and some original tunes put to traditional lyrics. The group today consists of Prior, Kemp, drummer Liam Genockey, guitarist Julian Littman, fiddler Jessie May Smart, and Andrew ‘Spud’ Sinclair, who was filling in for six-year member Pete Zorn before Zorn passed away from cancer in April 2016. The main inspiration for Dodgy Bastards is taken from the work of the 19th century American Francis James Child. Starting in 1860 Child began to anthologize over 300 traditional ballads from England and Scotland, and their American variants. Their lyrics and his studies of them were published as The English and Scottish Popular Ballads. The themes were often dark and thought not suitable for the times containing such subjects as diverse as romance and half-human creatures or enchantment and forbidden love. The abuse of authority and the depiction of very real historical events and the boldness of outlaws and folk heroes made these songs dangerous to the authorities.

Dodgy Bastards begins with ‘Cruel Brother’ and from the start we have a song about a man who kills his sister! It’s classic Steeleye and starts with just the voices of the band before it kicks off. It’s certainly gentle and even hard to believe that this was classed as folk-rock back in the day but it’s catchy and extremely well played and Maddy’s voice is still as striking as ever. Lasting almost eight minutes it never outlasts it’s welcome and if you think this was gentle then ‘All Things Quite Silent’ takes it down further. Maddy’s voice dominates over a simple backing of guitar and fiddle. ‘Johnnie Armstrong’ is the story of Scottish raider and folk-hero Johnnie Armstrong of Gilnockie, who was captured and hanged by King James V in 1530. Big and gutsy, again it lasts over seven minutes. This is powerful stuff and the words can be dated to before 1724. This leads us nicely into the only song here I knew before, ‘Boys of Bedlam’. Loud and bombastic and with great fiddle and guitar.

(not the version on Dodgy Bastards but still worth a spin)

Recorded by Steeleye before as a simple folk version above here they give it plenty of welly and show those folk-rock credentials loud and proud even including a rap from Alex Prior, son of Maddy and Rick. Unrecognisable next to the earlier version from 1971 album  Please To See The King. The sleeve notes say of the song

“Priory of St. Mary of Bethlehem at Bishopsgate founded in 1247 became the male lunatic asylum known as Bethlehem Hospital or Bedlam in 1547. In 1815 it was moved to Lambeth in the buildings now housing the Imperial War Museum and in 1931 was moved to Kent. The hospital of St. Mary Magdalen was its female counterpart. During the 16th and 17th centuries the man in the moon was depicted as a bent old man with a staff leading a dog, carrying a thorn bush and lantern”

It’s an album standout for me though that’s hardly surprising I’m sure. On ‘Brown Robyn’s Confession’ recent addition to the band Jessie May Smart takes on the lead vocal before the distinct tones of Maddy joins her during the superb chorus. Another unusual tale this time of a ship’s captain and his men who go to sea and encounter a terrible storm. They cast lots to learn who is to blame, and it is Brown Robyn himself who is thrown overboard with him admitting that he has fathered children with both his mother and sister. Before he drowns he sees the Virgin Mary, who offers to let him come to heaven or return to his men. He chooses heaven. Next is ‘Two Sisters’ a murder ballad recounting the tale of a girl drowned by her sister with a great production as it is throughout the album. Accordion is great here and a real foot stomper of a song with Maddy’s voice soaring. The next song is about the dodgiest bastard of them all! A new song penned by Rick ‘Cromwell’s Skull’ clocks in at nearly nine minutes and with a beautiful fiddle solo from Jessie May Smart in the middle.

So now to the title song ‘Dodgy Bastards’ and folk music is jam packed with them and this jig is a full on tribute to them all. Great guitar work and shows exactly what great musicians they all are. Energetic and full of life which is what music should be. No one dies in ‘Gulliver Gentle and Rosemary’ which reminds me of a few songs that became successful in the 70’s/80’s. Them at their most pop friendly they soon return to darker themes with ‘The Gardener’. Nearing the end we have another new song, this time written by Julian, ‘Bad Bones’ in which Steeleye show their humorous side in a story of a right bastard. A totally unrepentant right bastard! The song includes another spoken word/rap and again it doesn’t feel forced or seem out of place. Not many bands could get away with it I tells you. Dodgy Bastards comes to an end with the epic ‘The Lofty Tall Ship/Shallow Brown’, lasting a serious ten minutes. Beginning as a slow ballad before gaining momentum its a is a traditional Scottish folk song about Henry Martin who turned to piracy to support his family. This develops into a beautiful rendition by Maddy of Shallow Brown a West Indian slave song/sea shanty and this then becomes another instrumental that brings the curtain down on this exceptional album with the highlight saved for the end.

(great half hour sampler of the album below)

The album is appropriately titled with its tales of murder, religion, incest, honour killings and tormented spirits and with their 50th anniversary fast approaching it’s simply unbelievable the quality of their work. Their work rate is incredible with Dodgy Bastards their eighth album in twelve years. The stories here are at the very heart of the what we know as Steeleye Span. The album clocks in at a incredible seventy-one minutes and deservedly so as the themes here are not for the short of attention span. Their audience these days may well be the preserve of the middle aged but they show here that they deserve better than to be pigeonholed like that. Constantly innovative and inspiring and as inspirational as ever they need to be heard and any readers here interested in the development of celtic-punk must make Steeleye Span one of their first stops.

Contact The Band

TheOfficialSteeleyeSpanSite  UnofficialSteeleyeSpanHomePage  Facebook  Twitter

Buy The Album

FromTheBand  iTunes  Amazon

Band Members Sites

Peter Knight  Maddy Prior  Gay Woods  Troy Donockley

CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW: THE DUBLINERS- ‘A Best Of The Dubliners’

FREE DOWNLOAD!

The Dubliners are without doubt the best known band in the Celtic music world. Formed in 1962 their first hit single ‘Seven Drunken Nights’ launched them into international stardom. Non stop touring and a stint with The Pogues ensured that the popularity of their music never ebbed. Without them it is highly debatable whether or not celtic-punk would have ever come about as Shane McGowan himself has said.  The Dubliners- The first and original celtic-punk band.

dubs

The Dubliners, now one of the most legendary bands in the world, started off in O’Donoghue’s pub in Dublin in 1962 under the name of The Ronnie Drew Folk Group. Then they were four, Ronnie Drew (vocals and guitar), Luke Kelly (vocals and 5-string banjo), Barney McKenna (tenor banjo, mandolin, melodeon and vocals) and Ciaran Bourke (vocals, guitar, tin whistle and harmonica). In 1963, they played a gig in Edinburgh where they met the head of Transatlantic Records, Nathan Joseph, for whom they started recording. In 1964, Luke Kelly left, and Bobby Lynch (vocals and guitar) and John Sheahan (fiddle, tin whistle, mandolin, concertina, guitar and vocals) were added. When Luke Kelly returned and Bobby Lynch left in 1965, we have what is considered as the original Dubliners, five individualists, five men whose talents were mixed together in a superb blend and just wanted to play and have a good craic. If they only knew what was awaiting them!

In 1967 their major breakthrough came as a result of a coincidence. Their song, ‘Seven Drunken Nights’ which was recorded in one take, was snapped up by a pirate radio station which started playing it along with the Beatles, the Mamas and the Papas, the Who, Kinks and Jimi Hendrix. Suddenly, The Dubliners were a major band, playing all over the world, getting into the charts, and receiving gold discs. Not what you expected from a bunch of hairy people who as Colin Irwin in the reissue of Live at the Albert Hall says

“looked like they’d just been dragged out of a seedy bar via a hedge (backwards) and dropped on London from a very great height”

The seventies started like the sixties ended – wilder touring, drinking and playing. They started doing regular tours, and they were still recording, of course. Then, in 1974, Ciaran Bourke collapsed on stage with a brain hemorrhage, which eventually led to his death. He first, though, recovered remarkably and was back on stage with The Dubliners, but collapsed again. At the same time, Ronnie decided to take a break, and Jim McCann took his and Ciaran’s place in the group.

dubliners

In 1979, Ronnie decided to make a comeback as a member of the group, although he probably never really left it. In the five years, he had recorded two solo albums, and The Dubliners three albums. With Ronnie returning, Jim left, and The Dubs were almost back where they started. Then Luke Kelly became ill, he collapsed on stage with a brain tumor, for which he received surgery several times. He too, made remarkable recoveries, and went on touring with the Dubliners, at the same time continuing his wild and unhealthy lifestyle. Sean Cannon, a long time friend, stepped in for Luke, when he couldn’t be on stage. Sean’s appearance wasn’t that well received by the audiences at the beginning, but he has later turned out to be an important addition to The Dubliners, and their repertoire. In 1984, Luke Kelly died, but The Dubliners, now with Sean Cannon as a member, decided to keep on.

1987 turned out to be one of the best – and busiest – years for the Dubliners. Their long time friend, and guest musician, Eamonn Campbell, brought the group together with the Pogues on the hit single ‘The Irish Rover’. This single took the Dubliners back to the charts, and also gave them a completely new audience; people who weren’t even born when The Dubliners started off. And with Dublin celebrating its millennium in 1988, The Dubliners also received more attention than for years. Eamonn Campbell joined them on regular basis, a move that has turned out to be one of the most important in their history. In 1988 Ciaran Bourke died, after years of pain and difficulties. He always was, and still is very much remembered by The Dubliners, just like Luke Kelly is.

The eighties finished off with rumours that The Dubliners were to retire, probably something that’s always been following the group. However, they didn’t, and celebrated their 30th anniversary in 1992, with a double CD and extensive tour. The nineties brought a tour video from the German tour 1995, and the “shock” news that Ronnie Drew was leaving. He left in December 1995, after releasing a superb album, Dirty Rotten Shame a few months earlier.

dubliners2Now, even the most optimistic Dubliners fans thought it was the end, but the lads decided to convince Paddy Reilly to join them, and they continued their busy touring and recording schedule. This move has also turned out to be excellent. Paddy, not very well known in Europe, had never been touring there, so he too enjoyed the experience, as well as being part of a band. He still, though, does tours in the USA in the winter and summer months. In 2002, they temporarily reunited with Ronnie Drew and Jim McCann, for their 40th anniversary tour but sadly after the tour, Jim McCann was diagnosed with throat cancer and, though he fully recovered, his voice was severely damaged, and has not been able to peform since his illness. Despite this, he regularly acts as MC at folk gigs, notably at The Dubliners reunion shows, and at the 2006 ‘Legends of Irish Folk’ shows (where he also played guitar in the finale).

Leader and legend Ronnie Drew passed away in 2008 meaning the end of the original Dubliners. Before he passed though he recorded with The Dropkick Murphys in a memorable version of ‘Flannigan’s Ball’ therefore passing on the baton to the only group comparable to them in what they mean to the Irish diaspora.

It was The Dubliners (and The Clancy Brothers And Tommy Makem who will be next in our series) pioneered the way for untold number of bands from Ireland and for Celtic music, like the Chieftains, the Pogues, U2, the Fureys and so on. The artists that list The Dubliners as one of their major influences and idols is endless. They brought folk music to millions of people all over the world, people who never otherwise have been interested at all. That isn’t only because of the music, it’s because of The Dubliners, their astonishing voices, their indescribable instrumentals, the wild life style and drinking, late sessions, their enormous beards, their extensive touring, their charisma and their characters. It was, and still is to a certain extent, a blend the world will never see again. The Dubliners brought Ireland to the world in a way that emigration hadn’t, they have brought the world to Ireland, and they have brought people all over the world closer together. When it ended, the world was never going to be the same again.

The Dubliners 1962-2012
Over the 50 years there were 12 people in The Dubliners.  Ronnie Drew (’62-2008), Luke Kelly (’62-84) , Barney McKenna (’62-2012), Ciaran Bourke (’62-74), John Sheahan (’64-2012), Bobby Lynch (’62-65), Jim McCann (’74-79), Sean Cannon (’82-2012), Eamonn Campbell (’88-2012), Paddy Reilly (’96-2005), Patsy Watchorn (2005-12) and Gerry O’Connor (2012).

The surviving members of the group – Sean Cannon, Eamonn Campbell, Patsy Watchorn and Gerry O’Connor, except John Sheahan, are still touring in 2014 under the name The Dublin Legends.

The Dublin Legends 2012-

After the departure of John Sheahan and the official retirement of the name The Dubliners in late 2012, the remaining members of the group – Seán Cannon, Eamonn Campbell, Patsy Watchorn and guest musician Gerry O’Connor – formed a folk band called The Dublin Legends to keep The Dubliners’ legacy alive. The band released their first live album entitled An Evening With The Dublin Legends: Live In Vienna in January 2014. They continue to perform extensively and you can find their web site here.

Tracklist:

1. The Wild Rover (2:50)
2. Medley: Doherty’s Reel / Down The Broom / The Honeymoon Reel (3:36)
3. The Holy Ground (2:26)
4. A Parcel Of Rogues (4:21)
5. God Save Ireland (1:57)
6. A Nation Once Again (1:31)
7. Spancil Hill (4:03)
8. Molly McGuires (2:01)
9. The Old Triangle (2:55)
10. And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda (6:16)
11. Johnston’s Motorcar (1:50)
12. Seven Drunken Nights (3:23)
13. Black Velvet Band (3:18)
14. Free The People (3:08)
15. Van Diemen’s Land (2:15)
16. Dirty Old Town (2:59)
17. Medley: The Maid Behind The Bar / Toss The Feathers (2:18)
18. Lord Of The Dance (2:27)
19. All For Me Grog (2:24)
20. Whiskey In The Jar (2:47)

(listen to the album below and follow the instructions to download for free)

The Dubliners On The Internet

OfficialDublinersSite  TheDubliners  It’sTheDubliners

“They brought folk music to millions of people all over the world, people who were converted to their charm. That isn’t only because of the music, the instrumentals or the stories, it’s because of The Dubliners, their astonishing voices, their indescribable instrumentals, the wild life style, the drinking, late sessions, their enormous beards (I even tried to copy them in the 70’s), their extensive touring, their charisma and the enigmatic characters. It was a blend the world will never see again.  It was an entire package that invented the word unique. How do you top that?Every artist in the world is trying to achieve success by getting their ‘sound’ and being unique.  The Dubliners did it”  –Robert Tallent

THE LONDON CELTIC PUNKS ‘Stepping Stones’ CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW SERIES

This album was brought to you as part of our regular series where we bring you something a little bit different to what you’re maybe use to. Lost and hidden and sometimes forgotten gems from the legends that have inspired and provoked folk music and musicians right up to modern celtic-punk music. Usually out of print so we can provide a free download link for you.

VARIOUS ARTISTS- ‘People Take Warning! Murder Ballads And Disaster Songs 1913-1938’ (2007)  here

EWAN MacCOLL -‘Bad Lads And Hard Cases: British Ballads Of Crime And Criminals’ (1959) here

EWAN MacCOLL AND PEGGY SEEGER – ‘The Jacobite Rebellions’ (1962)  here

VARIOUS ARTISTS- ‘Don’t Mourn. Organize!- Songs Of Labor Songwriter Joe Hill’ (1990)  here

LEADBELLY- ‘Easy Rider’ (1999)  here

VARIOUS ARTISTS- ‘The Little Red Box Of Protest Songs’ (2000)  here

GIL SCOTT-HERON- ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’ (1974)  here

EWAN MacCOLL- ‘Scots Drinking Songs’ (1956)  here

VARIOUS ARTISTS- ‘Protest! American Protest Songs 1928-1953’  here

VARIOUS ARTISTS- ‘Women Folk- Iconic Women Of American Folk’  here

VARIOUS ARTISTS- ‘The Greatest Songs Of Woody Guthrie’ (1972)  here

OBITUARY: REMEMBERING ERIK PETERSEN

by Dave Hughes

“So tattoo our arms and raise our glasses, call out your name at New Year’s Eve, maybe next time we kneel at a casket, we can say at least the story’s complete”

Erik 2

Folk punk can get a bad rap. Out on the internet there are thousands of bad recordings of badly sung and badly played songs about Things That Are Bad (™). Songs that lack nuance, metaphor and melody. Then there was Erik Petersen. He was different, he was the master of crafting a song around an ancient melody, turning a phrase, and constructing a tale full of metaphor, life, death and everything in between. It breaks my heart to be writing an obituary for Erik, he was one of my heros, he was a friend, and above everything else he was a genius.

Erik was a long time player in the Philadelphia punk scene. His band The Orphans split up in 2000, but not before writing some amazing slices of hardcore (check out The Government Stole My Germs CD from their Raise The Youth anthology). Near the end of The Orphans, a shut down show might mean Erik grabbing an acoustic guitar and playing some unplugged songs instead. There is a show on Youtube from a veterans hall, a young Erik sits on a chair in the middle of a room of punks playing early versions of songs that would go on to be Mischief Brew. Erik, himself, had commented that this scratchy footage was the start of Mischief Brew.

Erik 1Between The Orphans and Mischief Brew there was the Kettle Rebellion. The Kettle Rebellion was a tight three piece of Erik, Jon Foy on Bass and Chris Doc Kulp on drums. They played a style that could be described as Medieval Folk Punk, the kind of hardcore that you’d hear while you strolled through a renaissance fair. An eight track LP was recorded in 2002, but before it could be released, the master tapes were stolen and leaked to archaic MP3 sharing sight Soulseek. In response, Erik scrapped the project. Years later, he stumbled across a version of the master tapes and decided to put it out. In 2013, the Kettle Rebellion LP was finally released through Fistolo on Vinyl, and my own record label, Different Circle Records, on CD.

Erik and Mischief Brew were DIY to the core, and before going on with the story, I have to introduce Denise. Denise was Erik’s wife and partner in crime for over 20 years. Emails sent through to Fistolo would invariably be responded by Denise. She’s a wonderful small package of vibrancy, smiles and energy. There’s also the Pugs, a Mischief Brew article is not complete without bringing up the Pugs. The Petersens rehomed many pugs through the years, and they were a common feature at their American shows. Check out the early recording of Erik playing at a PunX Picnic and you’ll hear one of them, perhaps Garcia, yelping along to Erik’s genius. Up the Pugs.

Erik 4In 2003, Erik released a split record with Robert Blake entitled Bellingham/Philadelphia, and also a more electric EP known as Bakenal. These were the start of the Mischief Brew sound that the underground world would associate with Petersen. It was on the Bakenal EP that the anthem “Roll Me Through the Gates of Hell” first appeared, with it’s rally cry of “I am a leader but you will not follow me” providing the spit and sawdust that anarcho-folk had been looking for. Lyrics from this song would be sprayed across walls around the world, most prominently across the outer wall of the Squat-cum-Social-Centre Knoflook in Den Bosch, Netherlands. Footage of Erik standing on the bar at Knoflook (during their last Europe Tour in 2008) singing Jawbreaker’s Boxcar can be found on YouTube. It’s a moment of pure joy, and testament to how he could command a room with his guitar.

Mischief Brew had a few line-up changes through the years, finally settling on a three-piece core of Erik, Shawn St Clair on Bass and Erik’s brother Chris Petersen on drums. Occasionally they’d be joined by Kettle Rebellion’s drummer Doc on percussion and second guitar duties. They released albums infrequently, but at a pace that was slowly increasing in recent years. The initial full length, Smash The Windows, was released in 2005, with its smash the system electric folk punk featuring guest spots from Stza from Leftover Crack and Franz Nicolay (solo artist and past member of The Hold Steady). Featuring a reworked Kettle Rebellion track called A Liquor Never Brewed and a full band Roll Me Through The Gates of Hell, this is the place to start with Mischief Brew.

From there we got Songs from under the sink (an acoustic collection of ‘forgotten’ old songs), The Stone Operation (a European influenced carnaval of a record) and the latest This is Not For Children (their punk rock roots coming to the fore). In between there was a smattering of EPs, the greatest of these being Eriks side of Photographs from the Shoebox (a split with Joe Jack Talcum). On this EP, you will find Labour Day Massacre, one of the prime examples of Erik’s socially conscious political songwriting.
Erik 3Mischief Brew played a lot of shows in America. From small cafes with acoustic guitars in front of a close crowd,  to an audience of thousands at the NYC Bowery Ballroom with The Hold Steady. They toured Europe twice, the last time in 2008 and were about to start another visit here next week. Youtube is a library of live performances, but that only gives you an impression of what it was like to be there.

I’ll finish this with a story about the last time I saw Erik, Denise and Mischief Brew. I found myself living in Brooklyn in 2013 and feeling quite homesick. Mischief Brew had a show booked at a dive bar called Grand Victory which I had frequented a few times. I went along, expecting a small turn-out and to hear some of my favourite songs belted out. I hadn’t seen them since 2008 when they had played in Glasgow (on borrowed guitars due to a fuck-up by the airline), but soon bumped into Chris and Shawn as if it had been yesterday.

There must have been around 200 showing up to this bar show, DaysNDays and Absinth Rose supported, and it was life affirming. From opening with Children Play with Matches to the closing anarchy of Roll me Through the Gates of hell, I was sweaty, hoarse throated and absolutely elated. I headed to the merch desk to buy a vinyl copy of the Stone Operation, and when hearing my thick scottish accent, Denise automatically recognised who I was and the night truly started. I sat at the end of the bar, unending stream of whisky, with Erik, Denise, Shawn, Chris, Doc and Maria (Denise’s sister). They invited me back to Maria’s flat with them for more drinks and merriment. Erik and Shawn drove ahead with the gear and we stayed at the bar to finish our drinks.

Erik 5By the time we arrived at Maria’s, Erik and Shawn were asleep on the sofas with three pugs dancing around the apartment. The rest of us stayed up a while in the kitchen, drank fruit flavoured beer, and I felt like I truly belonged. I went to sleep on the floor with a pillow that was given to me, but awoke with a blanket over me and a pug on my head. Once we were all awake, we sat around and chatted about life, music, and plans. We ordered burgers, ate, and bid our farewells as I ventured out in the hot Brooklyn sun. I’d lost a day, but gained a life time.

I’m sitting writing this in a flat in Paisley, Scotland, with my Mischief Brew T-shirt (bought at the show in Brooklyn), my “May All We Do Be All For Our Delight” tattoo on my arm, trying to comprehend where we go from here. Erik Petersen soundtracked my last 10 years, gave me inspiration for my own songwriting and journey, bonded me with some of my closest friends, and gave me something to strive towards. No Gods, No Masters, No Setlists.

Fair Well Good Fellow, the tape has slowed down, but the music won’t stop.

Find out more about Erik’s great legacy of songs and other work by following the links-

Facebook  WebSite  MySpace  Twitter  YouTube  Bandcamp

STOP-PRESS

Friends of Erik have set up a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds for his wife and family to help get them through all this without the added worry of funeral expenses and to help them get by in this tough time. All of the money raised will be given to his wife, Denise. The campaign can be found here so donate if you can and if you can’t then please share.

THE POGUES AND IRISH CULTURAL CONTINUITY

BY PÁDRAIC GRANT

Shane MacGowan’s awareness and adaptation of trends in the literary world, along with the narrative quality and structural experimentation of his work, should cement his status as both a musical and literary figure.

The Pogues Continuity Splash

The Pogues (formerly Pogue Mahone, Irish Gaelic for ‘kiss my arse’) were formed in 1982 by a group of London Irish musicians eager to drag Irish folk into a musical world that had been changed and redefined by the advent of punk. This mission was to be marked by success and failure, but by 1996 when they officially disbanded, they had permanently left their mark on both folk and mainstream music.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the band through those years was the extensive influence literature had on their lyrics. Rather than simply drawing on certain works for inspiration, almost every lyric in the Pogues extensive repertoire can be traced to a certain area of the written word.

Shane

Leading this literary charge was main songwriter and ideologue Shane MacGowan, who’d come through punk emboldened by its ideals, but distraught by its mainstream assimilation. The catalogue of songs penned by MacGowan regularly evokes previous writers and styles, often twisted and placed in new frameworks. Indeed, most of his lyrics are as intellectually stimulating when read as poems and stories as when performed as full songs.

From the moment he began penning songs, MacGowan was artistically indebted to his Irish homeland, a fact reflected in both music and lyrics. Literary touchstones spanned the Irish spectrum—Brendan Behan, James Joyce, Edna O’Brien, Flann O’Brien, Sean O’Casey, Frank O’Connor, and James Stephens were drawn from and their influence incorporated into his burgeoning songbook. While the idea of the songwriter-as-poet is often evoked in a clichéd (even insulting) manner to give certain artists ‘credibility’, MacGowan’s awareness and adaptation of trends in the literary world, along with the narrative quality and structural experimentation of his work, should cement his status as both a musical and literary figure.

As the band gained further success and the other members began to substantially contribute to the lyrics, concerted attempts were made to avoid stagnancy. Eventually, the collective focus fundamentally changed in ways that would have massive effects on the group. Extraneous reference points began to dominate, with the music switching to a menagerie of world music styles, and the lyrics drawing from non-Irish, less literary sources. This fragmentation would afterwards be cited by MacGowan as one of the biggest reasons for his estrangement from the other members of the band.

TRADITION REANIMATED

Going back to the band’s formative years, an important reason for the band’s very existence was a fervent desire to reiterate the aspects of Irish folk music that ran contrary to the sophisticate persona espoused by the dominant elements of ‘80s music. From the stale by-products of 70’s AOR who had somehow got through the post-punk safety net (Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel) to the New Romantics with their synthetic music and lifestyle, the Pogues sought to challenge the status quo by injecting a sense of danger into Irish folk, thereby returning Irish folk to the mainstream. This was to be achieved through a heady mix of punk and folk, filtered through a coarse, unrefined aesthetic. And with virtually no electric instruments (Cait O’Riordan’s bass guitar was a notable exception) and a minimalist bass/snare drum kit, the contrast with mainstream instrumentation was glaring.

Despite this, perhaps the freshest aspect of the re-named Pogues was the literary quality of their original songs. Amongst volatile renditions of traditional standards nestled originals composed in the same style, infused with a punk-derived radicalism that brought the band beyond mere rehashed folk. The London-Irish composition of the group meant that its Irish influences were viewed through the lens of cosmopolitan London, and the city would go on to be the focus of numerous songs by the band.

Red Roses For Me

Gaining a reputation through relentless touring, they signed to the independent Stiff Records in 1984. The first album, ‘Red Roses For Me’, was released in October of that year, and was an underground success despite its poor mainstream showing. Critical attention focused on the burgeoning lyrical talents of Shane MacGowan as much as on the music. Taking its title from a late-era Sean O’Casey play, the album offered a demonstration of MacGowan’s continuity with Irish writers past. The Irish identification was even carried onto the album art: A portrait of the band members seated around a painting of John F. Kennedy, a symbol of solidarity with the Irish diaspora across the world.

O’CASEY AND SOCIALISM

Aside from bestowing the album with a name, O’Casey was influential stylistically. The lyrics on ‘Red Roses for Me’ focused on the lives of the 1980s working class in the same way O’Casey portrayed the proletariat of the early 1900’s. A lifelong communist and Republican dissident, his portrayals were combined with his socialist beliefs to demonstrate the inherently political nature of working class life. Similarly, the debut Pogues LP illustrates the impact of wider political processes on mundane reality.

Sean O'Casey

Sean O’Casey

While avoiding overt left-wing sloganeering, the anti-authoritarian approach evident in certain tracks was intensified by the experience of Thatcherite Britain, where harsh monetarism had led to the working class feeling persecuted by the ruling Conservative Party. This sense of injustice was given credence by the Miner’s Strike occurring the same year the album was released, an event that embodied opposition to the implementation of profit-driven neo-liberalism. Under such circumstances, the sense of anger present in ‘Red Roses for Me’ is easily read as a reflection of the labour class’s embittered undercurrent, manifesting itself in several songs on the album.

The opening song, ‘Transmetropolitan’, is a conspicuous example of this attitude. Both tribute to and attack on the city of London, the composition is a contradiction. The music is frenetically gleeful, while the lyrics veer from a celebration of London life to a bitter attack on the pillars of the British establishment:

There’s leechers up in Whitehall
And queers in the GLC
And when we’ve done those bastards in
We’ll storm the BBC.

Whitehall (the home of the British government, the GLC (Greater London Council), and the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) represented the stale powers-that-be, a focus for bitter resentment. That the enemy was the suitably vague “establishment” was a by-product of the band’s punk roots, a recurring and pervasive influence that sat comfortably alongside the anti-authority stance of the writers inspiring the group.

BEHAN AND BLACK COMEDY

Brendan Behan

Brendan Behan

Despite the O’Casey reference in the title and the similarities shared in the portrayal of working class existence, it is clear that Brendan Behan is the dominant influence on ‘Red Roses for Me’. ‘The Auld Triangle’, an Irish standard adapted from the introduction to the Behan play ‘The Quare Fellow’, is the third track on the album and a marked contrast to the rest of what is an ultimately raucous record.  It’s stark, skeletal, and relies primarily on MacGowan’s vocals. The mood is despondent and the lyrics wistful, but lightened by occasionally humourous lines (a literary technique MacGowan adopted in his own writing, which often includes comedic moments in the midst of squalor). This aspect of his songcraft would later be explored and refined on ‘Rum, Sodomy & the Lash’.

‘The Boys from the County Hell’ is the most precise example of punk’s influence on the album. Upping the ante on ‘Transmetropolitan’, it’s a vicious exploration of the alcohol-fuelled violence of the urban London lifestyle (the city termed ‘County Hell’ in a translation bearing the mark of Irish geographical terminology), and a further fleshing out of MacGowan’s songwriting, recalling the unflinching portrayal of violence in Irish tradition. Coming from that lineage, it contains one of his most blackly humourous couplets:

My daddy was a Blueshirt and my mother a madam.
My brother earned his medals at My Lai in Vietnam.

‘Streams of Whiskey’ carries the Behan obsession to new heights, encapsulating MacGowan’s adoration of the man in one song. The lyrics depict a conversation held with Behan in a dream. When asked about his views on the “crux of life’s philosophies”, he answers: “I am going where streams of whiskey are flowing”. This ‘philosophy’ manages to make alcoholism sound almost idealistic—after all, it concerns a person who once quipped

“I’m a drinker with a writing problem”

Flann O'Brien

Flann O’Brien

‘Streams of Whiskey’ is also a buried reference to Flann O’Brien—a pseudonym for Brian O’Nolan, who MacGowan cited as one of his favourite authors in ‘A Drink with Shane MacGowan’.  O’Brien’s ‘The Poor Mouth’ (originally published in Gaelic as ‘An Beal Bocht’) includes a story regarding a mountain with two streams of whiskey flowing at its summit. A brilliant satire of Ireland’s victim mentality, the novel is built on, as with most of O’Brien’s works, an absurdly funny plot and writing style that Shane MacGowan emulated throughout his time in the Pogues.

NEW STRUCTURES

‘Red Roses for Me’ may have received praise for its literate lyrics, but the following year’s ‘Rum, Sodomy And the Lash’ was the moment where the Pogues songcraft truly blossomed. From post-modern character realignment to minutely-detailed narratives, the many facets of Irish literature are explored and amalgamated into a work that reads like an overview of the canon.

Depiction of Cúchulainn by John Duncan

Depiction of Cúchulainn by John Duncan

As the opening track for the album, ‘Sickbed of Cúchulainn’ is a significant song in more than one respect. Not only does it demonstrate the cleaner production and more thought-out arrangements of the record as a whole, but most importantly the progression of MacGowan’s songwriting. As a character, Cúchulainn (a legendary Celtic warrior and son of the god Lugh) was a towering figure in Irish storytelling, regularly recurring in stories up to and including the Celtic Revival of the late 19th century. While The Pogues stick to this tradition, the song that bears his name is a sober modernisation of the monolith; a demonstration of the continuity held with preceding Irish literature, but a strong statement of realist rather than mythic characterisation.

This approach to the protagonist is similar to the proto-postmodernism of Flann O’Brien in novels such as ‘The Third Policeman’ and ‘At Swim-Two-Birds’, which dragged characters such as the mythic Fionn MacCumhaill into a contemporary setting. Thus ‘Sickbed of Cúchulainn’ styles the character not as a demi-god, but in the flawed guise of the socialist IRA leader Frank Ryan. Appearing alongside the singers John McCormack and Richard Tauber, Cuchulainn is an unacknowledged hero, a participant on the losing side of the Spanish Civil War (as was Frank Ryan in reality.) Cuchulainn’s illustrious status in Celtic folklore is contrasted with the more human heroism of the unacknowledged Ryan, an anti-fascist who later faced the ignominy of death in a Nazi submarine. “You decked some fucking blackshirt who was cursing all the Yids” and “We’ll sing a song of liberty for blacks and paks and jocks” serve as MacGowan’s tribute to a man whose heroism was to stand against the fascist tide in an Irish nation still in thrall to the Catholic Church.

That this depiction is in complete contrast to the Cúchulainn of William Butler Yeats may not be coincidental. MacGowan’s opinion of Yeats is derisory at best: “[Yeats wrote] a few classics…but there’s a mammoth amount of work…there’s like books and books and books of his stuff, and there’s about three or four good poems.” (A Drink with Shane MacGowan) The negative sentiments might also be inspired by Yeats’s championing of aristocratic ideas and (later retracted, as the Second World War approached) support for Irish and European fascism, something that was later also criticised by George Orwell.

FIRST PERSON NARRATIVE

Eerily slow-burning after the preceding frenzy, ‘The Old Main Drag’ is a torrid narrative recounting the struggles of a male prostitute in seedy London. MacGowan’s evolution as a lyricist may have been obvious on ‘The Sickbed of Cúchulainn’, but only a truly adept wordsmith could forge the themes of drugs, prostitution, and police brutality into such an easily engrossing story. Accompanied by almost hypnotic musical repetitions, ‘The Old Main Drag’ is replete with characteristic attention to detail:

One evening as I was lying down by Leicester Square
I was picked up by the coppers and kicked in the balls
Between the metal doors at Vine Street I was beaten and mauled
And they ruined my good looks for the old main drag.

In later years, this song would be offered as ‘evidence’ that MacGowan had worked as a hustler. Although it may be a common assumption that realist first person narratives must be based on something experienced by the author, in MacGowan’s case the supposition could have been caused by the debt his style owed to writers like Frank O’Connor. A short story author of great magnitude, O’Connor wrote essentially autobiographical stories in the guise of characters like Larry Delaney, recounting childhood events rich in detail and evocative of the conservative Ireland of the early 20th century.

Frank O'Connor

Frank O’Connor

MacGowan similarly recounted stories heavy on minutia, but as far removed from bucolic rural Ireland as could be possible. When people read the lyrics of songs like “The Old Main Drag”, the easy interpretation was that due to the attention to detail inherited from writers like O’Connor, MacGowan was channelling his real life experiences through the characters in his writing. As with many issues surrounding the Pogues, though, there is no firm answer regarding the truth of these rumours. The sheer number of contradictions is similar to the fog around MacGowan’s eventual dismissal by the group.

BUILDING AN IDENTITY

Another highlight from the album is the quixotic ballad ‘A Pair of Brown Eyes’, one of the more sentimental songs performed by the band. However, like everything MacGowan wrote in this period, it is laced with the typical dark elements that prevent it from becoming merely saccharine. Therefore, while the song laments the “streams, the rolling hills, where his brown eyes were waiting” or “The birds whistling in the trees / Where the wind was gently laughing”, the protagonist is also “drunk to hell”, the setting filled with men who “prayed, cursed, and bled some more”.

In this moment, Shane MacGowan established an identity—one adapted from past writers (the contrast between sweet sentimentality and darker elements, humour intercepting both, a hallmark of Irish writing from Behan to Beckett), but an identity nonetheless. This proved a blessing and a curse, for while the positive comparisons were no doubt welcome, others were beginning to wonder if the Pogues, and Shane MacGowan in particular, had inherited the predisposition for alcohol held by the writers they admired. Press attention would lead to the stereotyping of the band as alcoholic Irishmen (particularly in an infamous Sounds’ article written around the release of ‘A Pair of Brown Eyes’ as a single), a perception made even more believable by other songs, including ‘Sally MacLennane’.  Similar to older folk songs about the return of a person to their hometown (a theme also touched upon in ‘The Boys Are Back in Town’, written by the Irish literature-influenced Phil Lynott), the song is an ode to the joys of alcohol with nearly every verse containing a reference to drinking.

Much of the band’s catalogue is the same, and with their love for writers who also enjoyed a drink (not forgetting their Irish background), it was inevitable that they would be included in the ‘drunken Irish artist’ stratum. In the ‘Sounds’ article mentioned above, Spider Stacy remarked, “I drink to blot out drunkenness”. A quick retort to an over-bearing journalist it may have been, but in the years to come such excesses would prove to be the undoing of the band. But before that point, there was much glory and still more ignominy to come.

‘Rum, Sodomy And The Lash’ was a crucial step forward for the group. Moving on from the lyrically-constrained ‘Red Roses for Me’, which had been somewhat straightforward in its subject matter, the incorporation of differing stylistic approaches made this album a milestone for the incorporation of literary methods into modern Irish folk music. Over the coming years, the subjects would become more expansive, the music more extravagant. Here, the Pogues would achieve the perfect balance of tradition and innovation in their songwriting, the democratic ideal prominent since the beginning would finally flourish, and commercial success would be assured.

NEW DEPARTURES

This phase began with the release of the ‘Poguetry in Motion’ EP in 1986. Comprised of four wildly varying tracks, the EP worked as a bridge between the boisterous folk of before and a new, heavily-orchestrated style embodied by ‘A Rainy Night in Soho’ (significantly, in all respects a masterpiece). Both styles would be followed up on proceeding albums, but the EP is interesting as a microcosm of the band’s musical past and future, and their sense of humour, with the instrumental ‘Planxty Noel Hill’ a swipe at the eponymous musician and member of the folk aristocracy in Ireland.

Taking part in a radio debate with the Pogues, Hill had referred to their music as a “terrible abortion” and as disrespectful to traditional norms. The ‘planxty’ in the title is a traditionally honourific prefix dating back to the 1600s, and serves as a rejoinder to Hill, a tongue-in-cheek espousal of the ultimate traditionalist form. ‘London Girl’ and ‘Body Of An American’ rounded off the release and are notable because of their respective connotations of ‘Red Roses For Me’ and ‘Rum, Sodomy And The Lash’-era material. Clamorous, intelligent, romantic, iconoclastic, the EP was a bookend for what had come before, and a torch-bearer for what was to come next.

Two years later, 1988 saw the release of ‘If I Should Fall from Grace with God’, a new departure in several areas. The lyrics are more far-reaching than ‘Rum, Sodomy And The Lash’, yet remain within the realms of Irish tradition. From the pleasures of a win at the dog tracks to the laments of the Irish diaspora in America, and even the first overtly political songs of the band’s discography, the subjects expand far beyond the character studies and narratives of the first two releases. It even sounds more sprawling, the appearance of a full drum kit and session accompaniment seeming like sheer opulence compared to the thriftiness of before. Two new members make their debuts: multi-instrumentalist Terry Woods (formerly of the legendary folk-rock bands Sweeney’s Men and Steeleye Span) and Daryl Hunt (replacing the outgoing Cait O’Riordan). The inclusion of jazz and indigenous Spanish and Middle-Eastern folk would sound more shocking had they not been woven so brilliantly into Irish music forms, the mock-sitars of ‘Turkish Song of the Damned’ countered by ‘The Lark in the Morning’, a traditional jig that ended the song, and the faux-jazz ‘Metropolis’ and its prominent horns disarmed by mid-tempo folk verses.

J.P. Donleavy

J.P. Donleavy

Commercial success was confirmed with the release of ‘Fairytale of New York’. Written by MacGowan and Jem Finer, it shares both a title and subject with J.P. Donleavy’s novel ‘A Fairytale of New York’, both works regarding the pursuit of the American dream and, tentatively, the experiences of the Irish diaspora. The merits of the song lie in its exploration of relationships and their intricacies, how they span place and era and how external bickering can mask deep affection. MacGowan is accompanied on the track by Kirsty MacColl, in the guise of a woman whose hopes for a life of prosperity lie dead, shattered by the very person who embodied them. The duet examines the dreams, the shattering, and finally the redemption, like a short story where a monumental topic is condensed, and benefits as a result. A technicolour version of ‘A Pair of Brown Eyes’, a romantic song that remains solidly realist (as the input of MacGowan ensured), the song was only kept off the top spot by the poor ‘Always on My Mind’ cover by the Pet Shop Boys. It has since become a Christmas standard, and the most well-known demonstration of the Pogues’ songwriting skill.

POLITICAL MILITANCY

The subject of Irish Republicanism and the conflict in Ireland was a popular focus for folk groups during the ‘80s, a contemporary issue of great importance socially and culturally. The Pogues explicitly explored this for the first time on ‘If I Should Fall’. Grounded in personal conviction and a long literary tradition, the Pogues were unashamedly Republican, and indeed at an early stage held the moniker the New Republicans. These beliefs manifest themselves in the medley ‘Streets of Sorrow/Birmingham Six’. Musically, little links the two songs, but the subject matter is related through its exploration of the ongoing war between the IRA and British forces in Ireland.

‘Streets of Sorrow’, a stark, emotional lament for the war-torn streets of cities like Belfast and Derry, urban areas scarred by the trauma of ongoing war, is immediately followed by the passionate anger of ‘Birmingham Six’, despondency exploding into rage against a Government viewed as oppressive and racist:

There were six men in Birmingham
In Guildford there’s four,
They were picked up and tortured
And framed by the law.
And the filth got promotion,
But they’re still doing time
For being Irish in the wrong place
And at the wrong time.

The Loughgall Martyrs

The Loughgall Martyrs

Naturally enough, the song was banned by the BBC, continuing a torrid relationship between the band and the corporation. As a medley, the song works perfectly: A distillation of the anguish caused by the Irish conflict and the unbridled anger at a British Government the Republicans viewed as the cause of their problems. That the Pogues held controversial opinions was not in doubt. At the time, the only mainstream voices were those of outright condemnation of the IRA on the one hand, or outright silence on the other. In that spirit, there is more than mere protest in ‘Birmingham Six’, with the final verse containing a reference to the Loughgall Martyrs, eight IRA volunteers killed while attacking a Royal Ulster Constabulary police barracks:

May the whores of the empire lie awake in their beds
And sweat as they count out the sins on their heads,
While over in Ireland eight more men lie dead
Kicked down and shot in the back of the head.

Again, there was a literary precedent for the group’s political views, with Brendan Behan, Frank O’Connor, and Ernie O’Malley among the writers who had actively participated in the IRA and expounded upon their views in writing. The theme would be taken up again in later songs like ‘Young Ned of the Hill’ and ‘Rainbow Man’.

POSTMODERN MYTHOLOGY

Another new topic for the band was the role of mythology in Irish life. ‘Sit Down by the Fire’ is a comic take on this tradition:

Sit down by the fire, and I’ll tell you a story
To send you away to your bed.
Of the things you hear creeping
When everyone’s sleeping
And you wish you were out here instead.

The Riders of the Sidhe, by John Duncan

‘The Riders of the Sidhe’ by John Duncan

Lyrically, the focus is on the fairies, or ‘sidhe’, that haunted Irish imagination for centuries, and still persist in popular superstition. MacGowan has long found the idea of parents telling these terrifying stories to children at bedtime as comical, an absurdity built into Irish life for centuries.

The song’s subject matter is interesting because it shows the group exploring the area of folklore (despite its monolithic status pre-20th century, folklore had never been a big concern for the band) while also stepping back from it. This separates such an exploration from the misty-eyed renderings of other more literal folk-rock acts like The Horslips, who had created concept albums based around Celtic mythology. It also continues the motif of postmodernism from MacGowan, the song being a meta-narrative about the telling of a folk tale rather than a simple rendition.

BEYOND IRELAND

While it may have been expected that the band would bask in the critical acclaim of ‘If I Should Fall from Grace with God’, this wasn’t to be the case. MacGowan’s alcoholism had progressed beyond being a mere nuisance, and the other members were becoming disgruntled. Worried that MacGowan was hitting the gutter, just as Behan had before, and more willing to take advantage of the democratic songwriting ideals the band had been founded upon, the songwriting representation from the rest of the band would increase on future albums.

This process was immediately visible on 1989’s ‘Peace And Love’. MacGowan’s declining influence was indicated by the (comparatively) paltry six songs he contributed to the 14-track record. The new songwriting arrangements made for instant change, the first surprise coming with the introductory instrumental ‘Gridlock’. An exploration of hard bop jazz and an uncompromising repudiation of folk, the song differs thematically from anything performed by the band before. However, the song that defines the negative side of this experimentation best is the bizarre Celtic-Caribbean fusion of ‘Blue Heaven’, a reprehensible song with the Calypso pretensions suffocating any melodic inventiveness; a situation that occurs with saddening periodicity in the band’s later catalogue. Even the Irish folk songs sound bland and enervated, an alarming regression from the band’s original desire to invigorate the style.

Despite portraying himself as the arch traditionalist during this era, Shane MacGowan was not, in fact, conducting a one man crusade against the pretentious designs of his fellow band members. He had likewise introduced extraneous influences into the pure folk of before. As noted by Simon Reynolds in ‘Generation Ecstasy’, rumours abound that, having become immersed in the acid house scene, he wished to include a 20-minute appropriation of the genre (titled ‘You’ve Got to Contact Yourself’) onto ‘Peace And Love’. Whether there is any truth to this is again unknown, but what is audible fact is the bizarre Motown stomp of ‘Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah’, released as an EP following ‘Peace And Love. While two collaborations with the legendary Dubliners are included, this appears to be an almost apologetic move. Unfortunately, the cover of ‘Honky Tonk Women’ would require much greater atonement than that.

ENGROSSED IN EUROPE

‘Hell’s Ditch’ seemed like the final break with the Pogues of before. Although containing some fine songs grounded in the same folk stylings (‘Sunnyside of the Street’, ‘Hell’s Ditch’), it sounds uninspiring and even conventional in parts—as pedestrian as the ‘celtic fusion’ peddled by acts like the Saw Doctors or The Waterboys, and not helped by the sterile production courtesy of Joe Strummer. Most substantially, the Irish element was downplayed massively; it was simply another amongst the other myriad styles of ‘world music’.

Jean Genet

Jean Genet

Jean Genet

This extended to the lyrical elements, too, but in a vastly more positive way. MacGowan’s contributions were fresh and informed by a different aesthetic from the Irish folk of before, transporting the narrative style to exotic characters and locales from further afield on the European continent. The title track’s debt to Jean Genet manifested itself in a snapshot narrative, stark prison imagery wrapped in an overtly-sexual veneer:

The killer’s hands are bound with chains
At six o’clock it starts to rain
He’ll never see the dawn again
Our lady of the flowers

Verses describing death and squalor (like those above) are juxtaposed with others like:

Genet’s feeling Ramon’s dick
The guy in the bunk above gets sick

This is a structural trick that jars the listener and underlines the debt to the novel ‘Our Lady Of The Flowers’. In common with the Irish influences of before, Genet celebrated the lowlife, the disenfranchised, and those who refused to conform to societal norms, but in a more explicit manner that questioned the values society encouraged and celebrated.

Federico Garcia Lorca

Federico Garcia Lorca

Aside from Jean Genet, the spectre of Federico Garcia Lorca also informed the album. Like ‘Sickbed of Cuchulainn’, ‘Lorca’s Novena’ deals with modern heroism against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War. Backed by an eerie, dread-inducing combination of heavy bass and martial drums, the song tells of how the homosexual poet met his death at the hands of Franco’s nationalists. It’s not only the horrific circumstances of the poet’s death that justify the sinister vibes, but the wider context of a fascist victory that would ensure the legitimisation of such reprehensible deeds.

The final song of ‘Hell’s Ditch’, ‘Six to Go’, is an aural tombstone to the MacGowan Pogues, a condensed form of all the musical and conceptual contradictions that would contribute to its demise. Concerned with the six counties of Ireland which remain under the political control of Britain, it includes what sounds alarmingly like clichéd tribal chanting, an Africa found by way of ‘The Lion King’ rather than anti-colonial solidarity. In common with other songs of this era (‘Blue Heaven’, ‘Summer in Siam’, ‘Five Green Queens And Jean’), the solid core ends up ruined rather than enhanced by its exotic trappings.

The positive impact of the international influences on ‘Hell’s Ditch’ is confined solely to the lyrics, which flourish and give the Hibernian focus of the first three albums a sense of context, placing Ireland amongst the other great literary nations of the world, rather than resorting to the Irish chauvinism jokingly played up (particularly by MacGowan) in interviews. If the music had gone the same way, perhaps the culmination of stylistic disparity and substance abuse wouldn’t have led to the decision to kick MacGowan from the band as a whole.

After the disintegration of the original line up, the remaining members regrouped to make two further albums: 1993’s ‘Waiting for Herb’ and 1996’s ‘Pogue Mahone’). Yet without MacGowan at the lyrical helm, the collective lacked the cutting edge they had once possessed. Hence, while the two discs have their moments, they lack charisma and the sense of energy that defines the earlier albums, not to mention that they continue the terrible world music flirtations that marred the last two MacGowan albums. However, by the time of the band’s official demise in 1996, their influence was beginning to be felt in a big way.

LANGUAGE AND CLASS

When evaluating their overall influence, the Pogues use of language cannot be ignored, and it betrayed more than a small debt to Irish literature. In his essay regarding Yeats, George Orwell points out the difficulty of equating ideology with a writer’s style. He notes that Yeats’s attempts at simplistic writing appear convoluted, giving the example of the following verse from ‘An Acre of Grass’

Grant me an old man’s frenzy,
Myself must I remake
Till I am Timon and Lear
Or that William Blake
Who beat upon the wall
Till Truth obeyed his call.

William Butler Yeats

William Butler Yeats

Orwell calls attention to the word ‘that’ before William Blake’s name as an attempt at conveying familiarity by utilising forced prosody, a co-option of the language of the lower classes negated by the poet’s aristocratic tendencies. When the Pogues lyrics are analysed in a similar way, the opposite conclusion is clear: the lyrics are unforced and authentic, intelligent but unpretentious. ‘Dark Streets of London’ is an effortlessly figurative example of this

“I like to walk in the summer breeze
Down Dalling Road by the dead old trees
And drink with my friends
In the Hammersmith Broadway
Dear dirty delightful old drunken old days”

The quality of such writing is that it makes the quotidian seem otherworldly through common poetic methods like alliteration. The tongue-twisting last line reads like something written by Gerard Manley Hopkins rather than an extract from a popular music song. Coming at the dawn of their career, such examples would become commonplace for the band, a musical fulfilment of Orwell’s proletarian artistic vision.

IRISH POST-COLONIALISM

Interpreted through the lens of post-colonialism, the band offer an intriguing range of interpretations, and indeed contradictions. Firstly, the very fact that they were composed primarily of London-born musicians would seem to render their status as Irish music icons quite hollow, an easy target as ‘musical imperialists’ plundering the vaults of a rich tradition. This allegation is easily refuted, however, the band’s members were all of Irish heritage, some even born there and with strong connections to the island.

In a more elaborate sense, the very foundations of the group immunise them from such attacks. By attempting to modernise folk, adhering to its roots but emphasising areas neglected by other artists, such as attitude and literary merit, the Pogues (in their early stages at least) helped save Irish folk from becoming a marginal strand of the ‘world music’ scene. This was in marked contrast to other groups, such as Moving Hearts, who from the beginning merged folk with jazz and rock styles. If this interpretation is accepted, then consequently Shane MacGowan’s criticism of the post-‘If I Should Fall’ immersion in world music becomes easier to accept as well. After all, when the theoretical grounding they had started with began to dissolve, the songs became less distinguished and more conventional, consumed within the quagmire of the cultural buffet of world music and generic folk-rock.

The Pogues And The Dubliners

The Pogues And The Dubliners

Another barrier against such attacks is to take the opposite conclusion: the Pogues as the products of an Ireland that has throughout its history assimilated invaders and immigrants into the native society. While historically there had been fierce resistance to such absorption, at certain points the cultures of the native and colonial Irish inevitably coalesced. The greatest manifestation of this was in the Celtic dawn of the late 19th century, when a vast re-discovery of Gaelic Ireland was expressed through modern literary and performance techniques. Writers like Yeats and Lady Augusta Gregory (despite the mockery afforded them from MacGowan) worked to create a distinctly Irish literature, not dependant on wider developments within Britain for inspiration.

Important as an explicitly nationalist rejection of cultural imperialism, the Irish literary revival’s reverberations continued throughout the 20th century. As the 21st century approached, there were intimations that the cultural dependency had been reversed to a certain extent. The post-colonial literary theorist Declan Kiberd writes:

“When Daniel Day-Lewis pronounced his win at the Oscars [for his portrayal of Christy Brown in ‘My Left Foot’] a triumph for Ireland, he effectively dismantled the English-when-they-win, Irish-when-they-lose equation. But he chose Irishness just as much as the Anglo-Normans did before him: in neither case was it forced upon a hapless victim”

This was but one example of the increasing prevalence of Irish (or faux-Irish) content in popular culture in the late ‘80s and into the ‘90s, alongside films like ‘The Commitments’ and productions including ‘Riverdance’. The Pogues’ role in this reversal is interesting, because while in terms of location they were primarily English, they were possibly the most fervent purveyors of ‘Irishness’ amongst their Celtic cultural contemporaries, musically and in content. That it took a band located in England to re-assert Irish music’s place in popular music (rather than confined to the folk sidelines) says a lot about Ireland’s unusual place along the path of post-colonialism, the mass emigration that occurred mainly as a consequence of colonial exploitation has rendered its culture stronger in areas other than its origin. Following their artistic forebears, the Pogues contribution to post-colonialism has been to re-establish Irish identity (in the form of music and text) as having something to offer beyond novelty or the margins, as a vibrant player on the international stage.

CELTIC PUNK AND A WIDER INFLUENCE

Flogging Molly

Flogging Molly

The mid-90’s saw the emergence of a host of (primarily American) bands largely influenced by The Pogues musical, lyrical and conceptual qualities. The fact that this scene has grown so vast as to require an article (or a book) of its own is testament to the inspiration legions of acts have taken from the band, but the two most popular acts, critically and commercially, are undoubtedly Flogging Molly and The Dropkick Murphys.

The former takes their cue from all eras of the Pogues, while including conventional instrumentation like the electric guitar (‘Another Bag of Bricks’ even usurps the Middle-Eastern influences of ‘Turkish Song of the Damned’ in a garishly conspicuous way.) Albums including ‘Swagger’ and ‘Drunken Lullabies’ share thematic subjects with the Pogues, abundant in references to Irish history and politics, including the important role of the Catholic Church. Dropkick Murphys differ from Flogging Molly by mixing their folk with prominent ‘Oi!’ influences. This has led to a blatant espousal of working class socialism more explicit than that ever referred to in Pogues songs. Making visible their debt to the Pogues, the band even had MacGowan appear as a guest vocalist on ‘Good Rats’ from 2001’s ‘Sing Loud, Sing Proud’.

Dropkick Murphys

Dropkick Murphys

While Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphys may be the most important bands deriving stylistic influences from the Pogues, they’re only the tip of the iceberg. The celtic punk scene has spread from its main base in America all around the world, a common motif of the hybrid being Pogues covers, homages, and references, a musical movement equivalent to the Irish diaspora’s diffusion on a global scale. Beyond this scene, the group’s influence has extended to areas more mainstream than the largely underground punk circuit.

On a global level, Irish folk became a visible presence in popular culture by the early 90’s, albeit in watered-down forms like ‘Riverdance’ and ‘The Corrs’, which bore scant relation to the music or ethos of the Pogues. It’s hard to say whether such acts can even be considered as musically influenced by the Pogues, but it is certain that the Pogues chart success the laid the foundations for mainstream assimilation of Celtic music by popularising it in the first place. So while songs like ‘Fairytale of New York’ and ‘The Irish Rover’ can’t be counted as direct influences upon mainstream exports, they can be considered torch bearers for their cultural phenomena.

MacGOWAN’S CURRENT STANDING

So where do the Pogues stand today? While other members of the band made vast contributions to the group and Irish folk, it is MacGowan who remains famous in the mainstream. Portrayed in the press as a stereotypical drunken Irish poet, a boozed-up bohemian associated with other artists known for their excesses (especially Pete Doherty of the Libertines and Babyshambles), he is also increasingly lauded as a genius songwriter by sources as mainstream as the NME and The Guardian.

Since the full reformation of the band in 2001, these laudatory sentiments have only increased, a result of the now-legendary status afforded to the band’s performances. Inevitably, the media has commented on the continuity between his ‘literary drunk’ status and artists of the same vintage who preceded him. MacGowan even doggedly champions Coleridge over Wordsworth, believing the latter’s work to be inferior on an artistic level, but his fondness for Coleridge also lies in the Romantic’s famous use of opium.

It’s a pattern that remains a constant through all the Pogues albums, the championing of the underdog cast aside by society, and that is the role MacGowan has taken for himself. Whether writing in the guise of a person experiencing the euphoria of winning a bet, the solitary child terrified by ghouls of their parent’s making, or the railway workers toiling and dying without recognition, he imparts a personal touch that is ultimately the real affinity he shares with the writers he admires. Frank O’Connor, Brendan Behan, Flann O’Brien, Edna O’Brien, Mannix Flynn, authors MacGowan maintains have lived; the same underclass he immortalises in his own writing. Ultimately, he has emulated them in his own life and gained similar recognition, hailed not only as a musician, but as a legitimate and important contributor to the continuing evolution of Irish writing.

PopMatters

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*originally published on the marvellous Pop Matters web site.

PopMatters is an international magazine of cultural criticism. Our scope is broadly cast on all things pop culture, and our content is updated daily. We provide intelligent reviews, engaging interviews, and in-depth essays on most cultural products and expressions in areas such as music, television, films, books, video games, sports, theatre, the visual arts, travel, and the Internet.

* if you’re interested in The Pogues we have a stack of great articles on them-

‘From Oppression To Celebration- The Pogues And The Dropkick Murphys And Celtic Punk’ here 

‘A Wee Biography Of Shane MacGowan’  here 

‘30492-London Celtic Punks Top Twenty Celtic-Punk Albums Of All Time’ here

‘Film Review: If I Should Fall From Grace With God- The Shane MacGowan Story’  here

‘Book Review: Irish Blood, English Heart- Second Generation Irish Musicians In England’  here

‘Red Roses For Me And Me’  here

‘Film Review: I’m A Man You Don’t Meet Every Day’  here

‘Book Review: Rum, Sodomy And The Lash’ by Jeffrey T. Roesgen’  here

‘The Pogues On Mastermind- The Questions’  here

CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW: THE GREATEST SONGS OF WOODY GUTHRIE (1972)

“I hate a song that makes you think you´re not any good! I hate a song that makes you think you are just born to lose. Bound to lose. No good to nobody. No good for nothing. Because you are either too old or too young or too fat or too thin or too that. Songs that run you down or songs that poke fun at you on account of your bad luck or your hard travelling”

FREE DOWNLOAD

Woody Guthrie

Woody Guthrie was the single most important American folk music artist of the 20th century, in part because he turned out to be such a major influence on the popular music of the second half of the 20th century, a period when he himself was largely inactive. He performed continually throughout his life with his guitar frequently displaying the slogan ‘This Machine Kills Fascists’. His greatest significance lies in his songwriting. Songs like the standard ‘This Land Is Your Land’ and much-covered works as ‘Deportee’, ‘Do Re Mi’, ‘Hard, Ain’t It Hard’, ‘Hard Travelin’, ‘1913 Massacre’, ‘Pretty Boy Floyd’ are all featured on ‘The Greatest Songs Of Woody Guthrie’ in one way or another.

Woody1Woodrow Wilson Guthrie was born in the oil boom town of Okemah, Oklahoma in 1912. He went on the road when only 13 years old after his mother was debilitated by Huntington´s Chorea, a incurable nerve disease which would eventually kill Woody himself in 1967. During the years leading up to the Second World War he was with the refugees of the Dust Bowl on their trail westward, with the migrant workers in the California orchards, in the factories and mines where workers struggled for union recognition to gain better pay and conditions, with the black Americans against the prejudice facing them and during the war he was in the navy. Throughout all these experiences and a life full of tragedy his faith in people and his belief that the ordinary person would win in the end never faltered.

Most of those performances and recordings came after Guthrie’s enforced retirement due to illness in the early ’50s. During his heyday, in the 1940s, he was a major-label recording artist, a published author, and a nationally broadcast radio personality. But the impression this creates, that he was a multi-media star, is belied by his personality and his politics. Restlessly creative and prolific, he wrote, drew, sang, and played constantly, but his restlessness also expressed itself in a disinclination to stick consistently to any one endeavour, particularly if it involved a conventional, cooperative approach. Nor did he care to stay in any one place for long. This individualism was complemented by his left-wing political views. During his lifetime, much attention was given in the U.S. to whether left-wingers or even liberals were or had ever been members of the Communist party. No reliable evidence emerged that Guthrie was, but there can be little doubt where his sympathies lay!
Sadly it was as Woody’s health declined to the point of permanent hospitalization in the 1950’s that his career took off. His songs and his example served as inspiration for the folk revival in general and, in the early 1960’s, Bob Dylan in particular. By the mid-’60s, his songs were appearing on dozens of records, his own recordings were being reissued and, in some cases, released for the first time, and his writings were being edited into books. This resurgence was in no way slowed by his death in 1967; on the contrary, it has continued for decades afterwards. New books are published and the Guthrie estate has invited such artists as Billy Bragg and Wilco in to write music for Guthrie’s large collection of unpublished lyrics, creating new songs to record.

So now you know a little bit more about the man in question what’s the story with the album?Woody2

There are two reasons why calling this album ‘The Greatest Songs of Woody Guthrie’ rather than some variation on the greatest hits idea makes sense. First, Guthrie was out singing these songs before there ever were any Billboard charts to help defiine exactly what constituted a hit. Second, although this album starts with Guthrie himself singing ‘This Land Is Your Land’ clearly his most famous and most popular song, the track shifts to the song being sung by the Weavers. Guthrie sings a few songs and a few duets, but mostly his songs are sung by other artists. So what we have here is a tribute album, originally a double-album now on a single CD, that represents some of the best first and second generation folk singers who followed in the path blazed by America’s troubadour. The first generation would be those artists that actually got to play with Guthrie, which would be not only the Weavers with Pete Seeger (the artist who most closely followed in Guthrie’s footsteps), but also Cisco Houston, Sonny Terry and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott. The next generation is represented on the album by Odetta, Joan Baez, and Country Joe McDonald. Yes, there is an authenticity to hearing Guthrie sing his songs that nobody else can touch, but there is also something to be said for other artists replacing his rawness with more of the inherent beauty of his songs. Whichever you prefer there is a wealth of Woody material out there for you. Happy hunting!

Track Listing:
1. This Land Is Your Land- Woody Guthrie/The Weavers
2. Do Re Mi- Cisco Houston
3. So Long, It’s Been Good To Know Yuh- The Weavers
4. Pastures Of Plenty- Odetta
5. Deportee (Plane Wreck At Los Gatos)- Cisco Houston
6. 900 Miles- Cisco Houston
7. Roll On Columbia- Country Joe McDonald
8. Hard, Ain’t It Hard- Woody Guthrie and Cisco Houston
9. Dirty Overhalls- Woody Guthrie
10. Riding In My Car (Take Me)- Woody Guthrie
11. Ship In The Sky- Cisco Houston
12. The Sinking Of The Reuben James- The Weavers
13. Rambling Round Your City- Odetta
14. Jesus Christ- Cisco Houston
15. When The Curfew Blows- Country Joe McDonald
16. 1913 Massacre- Ramblin’ Jack Elliott
17. Talking Fishing Blues- Ramblin’ Jack Elliott
18. Curly Headed Baby- Cisco Houston
19. Jackhammer John- The Weavers
20. The Great Historical Bum- Odetta
21. Pretty Boy Floyd- Joan Baez
22. Buffalo Skinners- Jim Kweskin
23. Hard Travelin’- Woody Guthrie, Cisco Houston and Sonny Terry

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“A folk song is what’s wrong and how to fix it or it could be
who’s hungry and where their mouth is or
who’s out of work and where the job is or
who’s broke and where the money is or
who’s carrying a gun and where the peace is”

For More Information On Woody Guthrie:

best place to start is the OfficialWebSite * a selection of free music is available at LastFM * Wikipedia * the WoodyGuthrieCenter  is dedicated to celebrating Woody’s life and legacy * Woody100 * the quotes of Woody Wikiquote * The RollingStone articles on Woody * Gerry Adams on Woody Guthrie Léargas *

THE LONDON CELTIC PUNKS ‘Stepping Stones’ CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW SERIES

Part of the ‘Stepping Stones- Classic Album Reviews’ series (click here for the series) where we bring you something a little bit different to what you’re maybe use to. Lost gems from the legends that have inspired and provoked folk music and musicians right up to modern celtic-punk music. Out of print so we can provide a free download link for you.

ALBUM REVIEW: DEXYS- ‘Let The Record Show: Dexys Do Irish and Country Soul’ (2016)

Let the record show that Dexys do Irish and country soul… and do it well too!

Dexys

For those of you not in the know Dexys is the name now used by the band once known as Dexys Midnight Runners who during the 1980’s were quite possibly one of the most popular English pop bands going, having a string of worldwide number one hits, most famously ‘Come On Eileen’ and ‘Geno’. Formed around the West Midlands of England they were together for the years 1978–1986 before reforming in 2003 and shortening their name to Dexys. Their first incarnation produced three classic albums- Searching for the Young Soul Rebels in 1980, Too-Rye-Ay in 1982 and Don’t Stand Me Down in 1985, while their last album as Dexys was called One Day I’m Going to Soar and was released in 2012 and despite the massive 27 year “break” was hailed by fans and critics alike as an outright classic. Two of the things the band became famous for was the never ending line up changes and also musical direction. Formed by Kevin Rowland he has been the only constant throughout the years and it wouldn’t be wrong to say that he is the main visionary and driving force behind the band.

Dexys2

Rowland began his musical career in the short lived but popular (to me anyroad) punk rock band The Killjoys who were one of the first original punk bands around the Midlands but in 1978 he wrote a soul song called ‘Tell Me When My Light Turns Green’, which went on to become the first Dexy’s song. They got the band name from the nickname of Dexedrine which was popular as a recreational drug among Northern Soul fans at the time which gave you the ability to dance all night hence the midnight runners! Image has always been important to Rowland and he decreed the band buck the trend for the sharp suits that were popular in the ska scene at the time and band dressed in donkey jackets and wooly hats. A look described as

“straight out of De Niro’s Mean Streets”

The music was impeccable and played to absolute perfection and their debut album catapulted them into stardom. The album cover featured a photograph of a young northern Irish Catholic boy carrying his belongings after having had his home attacked during anti-Catholic riots in Belfast. When talking about the photo Kevin said

“I wanted a feeling of unrest. The photo could of been from anywhere but I was secretly glad it was Ireland”
The lad on the cover was working at the Royal Mail, Belfast, at the time of the album release. Kevin Rowland himself though born in Wolverhampton has always been extremely proud of his Irish roots. His parents came from Crossmolina in Co. Mayo and landed in post war England at a time when work was non-existent in Ireland and hundreds of Irish were leaving home. The cities of England became huge ghettos for the Irish and their children and with the war waging in the north of Ireland and occasionally spilling onto English streets Irish people enforced a code of silence. No outright show of support for the republican movement was shown while at home, in the pubs and churches and anywhere Irish people gathered they shared the songs and stories of home. For many of those second generation born here they couldn’t wait to get away from the Irishness of their parents but for some it was embraced and held dear and Kevin Rowland was one of the latter.

Dexys 3With Searching for the Young Soul Rebels soaring high in the charts suddenly, angered over continual personality problems with Rowland, five of the band members then quit leading to the second incarnation of Dexys Midnight Runners. With just Kevin and the Scots descended ‘Big’ Jim Paterson left they nicknamed themselves the ‘Celtic soul rebels’ and they set about recruiting a bunch of fiddle players that he called the ‘Emerald Express’. Out went the donkey jackets and a new look was adopted that included hooded tops, boxing boots, and long hair but just as quickly a new image was seized upon and leather waistcoats and dungarees were the order of the day. It was described as

“a raggle-taggle mixture of gypsy, rural Irish and Steinbeck Okie”

The first single of the second album was the title song ‘The Celtic Soul Brothers’ and the whole album was a mix of soul and celtic folk that again captured the public’s imagination and provided the band with their biggest hit ‘Come On Eileen’. Again though band politics were at play and again band members were to leave citing Kevin as the reason. On the release of  Don’t Stand Me Down in 1985 only Kevin remained of that first line up and this time wearing ties and pin-striped suits the album though popular with fans did not please their record company and eventually in 1987 with the band down to just three members, Kevin Rowland, Helen O’Hara and Kevin ‘Billy’ Adams, and with Rowland and O’Hara’s relationship ended and drug issues appearing the band finally disbanded in 1987.

Dexys4Kevin Rowland left the band and despite issues with depression as well as well publicised financial problems( including a spell on the dole) and drug addiction he released several solo albums though none were particularly well received he stayed well within the media glare remaining a well known public figure, though mainly for his perceived eccentricities like appearing on the cover of his solo album ‘My Beauty’ in women’s underwear! Reforming the band in 2003 Dexys Midnight Runners began to play and tour occasionally but it wasn’t till 2011 and with the band’s name now shortened to Dexys that they began to record new material leading to the release of their fourth and equally brilliant One Day I’m Going to Soar album.

Thus leading us on to here and on St Patrick’s Day this year Dexys announced they were to release an album of Irish songs. It’s an album which Kevin had always wanted to make saying

“We had the idea to do this album in 1984 or 1985. It was to be called Irish and was to feature songs like ‘Carrickfergus’, ‘Curragh of Kildare’ and ‘Women Of Ireland. Dexys broke up not too long afterwards, so it didn’t happen”

Let The Record Show: Dexys Do Irish and Country Soul features twelve songs and while only half are in fact Irish songs several more evoke ‘Irishness’ in some way and all showcase Kevin’s amazing voice which here is as strong as it has been in decades. This fine album begins with ‘Women Of Ireland’ and slow beautiful fiddle leads onto harmonica and the unmistakable Dexys sound shines through. The song originally titled ‘Mná na h-Éireann’ was written by Irish folk legend Seán Ó Riada (1931–1971) and though performed as a instrumental here does in fact have words. A truly beautiful version that is a great way to start proceedings. And as you will see from the video once again they have gone through a image change and one thing you can’t accuse them off is being sartorially challenged!!

Next up, and to add the country soul of the album title, is The Bee Gees ‘To Love Somebody’. Now for those of you not familiar with The Bee Gees body of work I can guarantee you actually know a lot more than you think. Dexys version begins with some sweeping strings before Kevin’s voice comes out loud and proud and I have to say surprisingly strong and powerful. Not straying far from the tune of the original it is the voice that carries it and carries it well. Another famous song follows in ‘Smoke Gets In Your Eyes’. Written in 1933 by American composer Jerome Kern and lyricist Otto Harbach it has been covered numerous times but again here Dexys give it their treatment. The sweeping strings are back and a wonderful way to record this wonderful song. It builds up but never loses that swirling sound and again Kevin carries the song through and by now we getting an idea of how the album works. We are back in Ireland next for ‘The Curragh Of Kildare’ which starts with a wee spoken poem before Kevin’s soulful voice is joined by female vocals and the two of them work fantastically off each other.

“The winter it has passed
And the summer’s come at last
The small birds are singing in the trees
And their little hearts are glad
Ah, but mine is very sad
Since my true love is far away from me”

The original was written by Scotland’s poet laureate Robbie Burns.It tells the story of a young Scottish woman whose lover is away soldiering for the Queen in the Curragh of Kildare.

We stay in Ireland next with the Nanna’s favourite ‘I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen’. While I would have preferred some more less known covers their is no denying that Dexys have certainly stamped their brand onto these songs and it must be said this is a song I heard as a very young child so brings back some very happy memories for me and I suppose many of us. Though one of the most popular traditional Irish music ballads it was in fact written by an American of German descent, Thomas Paine Westendorf,  for his wife. Rod Stewart’s ‘You Wear It Well’ is next up for the Dexys treatment and although it didn’t ring any bells I soon realised I know it well (it pops up in the movie version of Porridge!). The only song here I feel that doesn’t stand up to the original but in saying that it still works it’s just that Celtic supporter Rod’s version is the best possible by a country mile. Find it on YouTube here and marvel at the Bhoys amazing voice. Word is it that Johnny Cash on wanting to write a song about his Irish roots stuck a pin in a map of Ireland and filled in the gaps around it. ’40 Shades Of Green’ was the result and provided Johnny with one of his biggest hits. Here Dexys play it straight and only the introduction of a trumpet in parts shows the Dexys influence. In all the review’s I have seen of this album so far it is ‘How Do I Live’ they has stood out for most reviewers and though not my favourite is a great version of Lee Ann Rimes country rock ballad from 1998. The only song here I did not know before so maybe that explains my indifference to it while the rest of the album fills me with warm memories and feelings of family and home this, while a strong version, leaves me a bit cold. ‘Grazing In The Grass’ was an instrumental composed by Philemon Hou and first released as a single in 1968 and the following year with words by The Friends of Distinction. By far the most upbeat track here it sticks closely to the soulful original. We are back with Kevin’s roots again with the important Irish ballad ‘The Town I Loved So Well’. Harp accompanies piano and Kevin’s wondrous voice on this personal lament about the war in the north of Ireland, specifically in Derry city, a republican stronghold. Written by Phil Coulter about his childhood in Derry the song begins by telling of the simple life he grew up with till he emigrated and then returned finding how his hometown had become a major British army outpost and become plagued with violence.

“Now the music’s gone but they carry on
For their spirit’s been bruised, never broken
They will not forget but their hearts are set
On tomorrow and peace once again
For what’s done is done and what’s won is won
And what’s lost is lost and gone forever
I can only pray for a bright brand-new day
In the town I loved so well”

Recorded by many Irish music legends Kevin Rowland can now be added to the list and Phil Coulter while being one of the most important singer-songwriters in Irish history had this to say about The Town I Loved So Well’,

“Derry has a great tradition of music and a very proud history being one of the oldest cities in the country. In recent years it’s suffered more than its fair share of pain and heartache, but there’s something special about the place and the people that has helped them overcome the worst of times. Of all the songs I’ve written, this is the one I’d like to be remembered for. It’s my story but it’s also the story of Derry, the town I loved so well”

Another upbeat classic follows with a brilliant take on Joni Mitchell’s ‘Both Sides Now’. Kevin’s voice is again let off the leash and allowed to flourish and the result is again fantastic.

Let The Record Show: Dexys Do Irish And Country Soul ends with ‘Carrickfergus’, another classic Irish folk song. Long one of Kevin’s favourite songs and he’s been performing it for years but finally gets it down on record here for the first time. Named after the town of Carrickfergus in County Antrim in the north of Ireland Kevin’s version lasts near six and a half minutes and epic seems hardly the word to describe it. While the origins of the song are unclear  it has been traced to an Irish language song, ‘Do bhí bean uasal’ which is attributed to the poet Cathal Buí Mac Giolla Ghunna, who died in 1745. Recorded by acts as diverse as The Dubliners, Bryan Ferry and Van Morrison this is as good as it gets. Aye your right, quite possibly the best version I have ever heard. A song I have heard a thousand times but never really listened to. Kevin imparts a passion, sadness and sorrow like no other into this version. The feeling of remorse, the lost years is tangible, you can really sympathise with the narrator for the loss of his love (Ireland, as opposed to a partner?).

The first thought that pops into your head when hearing that a band you love have recorded a covers album is one of disappointment. Disappointment that they may have run out of ideas. Well that may or may not be true (I sense not) and here the choice of songs may not be as wild and as full of abandon as you’d expect them to be you can feel Kevin Rowland’s commitment to the songs in every breath he takes. He injects every track with his trademark intensity and what it may lack in originality, is more than made up for by his passionate and heartfelt voice. Growing up this side of the Irish sea we didn’t have many idols to admire. Many ‘famous’ people came from the same backgrounds as us but felt it better for their careers to gloss over it and don’t make a scene. Well Kevin has never stopped making a scene and here he, and Dexys, are right back on track.  He wears his heart on his sleeve and the passion for his ancestral homeland is infectious. A truly amazing album and not just for Dexys fans either.

Buy The Album

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FILM REVIEW: THE REVENGE OF THE MEKONS (2013)

“the band that took punk ideology most seriously”

Directer: Joe Angio    Release Date: November, 2013  Running Time: 99 minutes

“A loving ode to an unsung band” – LA Times
“Marvelous” – New York Post
“Jubilant” – The Village Voice

Revenge-of-the-Mekons

Emerging soon after the first blasts of UK punk rock, the Mekons went from being a group of socialist art students with no musical skills to the prolific, raucous, rabble rousing progeny of country legend Hank Williams. Formed in Leeds by Jon Langford, Kevin Lycett, Mark White, Andy Corrigan and Tom Greenhalgh they were from the outset highly principled stating

”That anybody could do it; that we didn’t want to be stars; that there was no set group as such, anybody could get up and join in and instruments would be swapped around; that there’d be no distance between the audience and the band; that we were nobody special”

They took the band’s name from the Mekon, an evil character from the Dan Dare comic strip in the popular 1950’s comic The Eagle which briefly resurfaced when I was a kid in the 80’s. Their first single, released in 1978, was ‘Never Been in a Riot’, a piss take of The Clash’s ‘White Riot’ and was a masterpiece of simplistic DIY punk, rock and roll.

The band carried on for several years playing their noisy brand of post-punk rock releasing singles on a variety of labels and their first album, The Quality of Mercy Is Not Strnen, was recorded using a friends bands instruments. Due to an error by the record company art department the cover featured pictures of, fellow Leeds band, Gang of Four by mistake. After The Mekons Story compilation in 1982 the band called it a day, with Langford forming The Three Johns.

They soon returned and began pumping out album after album again on a multitude of labels and even at one time making it onto a major though the resulting album was a commercial flop and though it was loved by the fans they were soon dropped like the proverbial hot potato and cut adrift again.

mekons mekons mekons

click for download link

Over the years and as the band have learnt to play their instruments their musical style has transformed and The Mekons are now as famous for playing country and folk music as well as brief forays into rock and even dub reggae. With around twenty albums to their name plus untold amount of singles and EP’s as well appearances on dozens of compilations they have a massive discography so a good place to start would be Mekons, Mekons, Mekons which you can download by clicking on the record cover on the right. It covers the years 1987-1992 which includes both their punkier days and their transformation into a post-punk, cowpunk or alt-country band (or whatever label the press give them at that moment in time).

Around 1985’s brilliant Fear And Whiskey the first signs of a full on change in style began to show. Taking the outlaw country’n’western of Hank Williams/Johnny Cash rather than the cowboy hat and glitter of Nashville and The Mekons successfully reinvented themselves. Joe Angio’s exuberant film ‘Revenge Of The Mekons’ documents the unlikely career of this genre-defying collective. Following their improbable history- a surprising and influential embrace of folk and country music, forays into the art world and consistent bad luck with major record labels. Featuring interviews with fans, from musician Will Oldham, author Jonathan Franzen to film director Mary Harron and comedian Fred Armisen, ‘Revenge Of The Mekons’ reveals four decades into an ever-evolving career how The Mekons continue to make bold, unpredictable music while staying true to the punk roots.

Mekons at the Poetry Foundation July 2015

Mekons circa 2015 left to right: Lu Edmonds, Tom Greenhalgh, Steve Goulding, Sally Timms, Jon Langford, Susie Honeyman, Rico Bell (not pictured: Sarah Corina)

Critically and cultishly adored The Mekons deserve to be much more well known and this film reveals how, four decades into a still-evolving career, the Mekons continue to make original, genre-defying music while staying true to the punk ethos.

(Q&A and performance with band members Jon Langford and Lu Edmunds following the screening of Revenge of the Mekons in 2015)

WATCH REVENGE OF THE MEKONS

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1. Close any ads
2. Find the proper play button and click on it
3. The film will start playing.

Buy The Documentary

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Contact The Band

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The Mekons On The Web

The 10 Best Mekons Songs here * LastFM * AllMusic * The Mekons Blog here * The Mekons discography reviews here  A Skeptic’s Guide To The Mekons here * Toppermost here

THE POGUES ON MASTERMIND- THE QUESTIONS

Lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhuit!

“For each petal on the shamrock
This brings a wish your way
Good health, good luck, and happiness
For today and every day”

A couple of years ago John Abernethy competed on Mastermind (a English TV quiz show) and had The Pogues as his specialist subject. We know that that the London Celtic Punks bhoys and ghirls are a knowledgeable lot so here’s the questions below. Have a go and see how many you got and I’ll post the answers one week from today!!

Mastermind chair

1. What was the name of the first Pogues song to enter the charts when it peaked at number 72 in April 1985?

2. Who produced the Pogues’ most successful single Fairytale of New York and the album it was taken from If I Should fall from Grace with God?

3. In October ‘86 the Pogues recorded two songs with the Dubliners. One was the Irish Rover making the Top 10. What was the title of the other song that appeared on the B side?

4. Which new wave artist produced the Pogues second album that was released in August 1985?

5. What was the Pogues debut single for Stiff Records that failed to chart when it was released in October ’84?

6. Following a number of promotional appearances, the Pogues first live American concert took place in February 1986. At what venue in New York?

7. What was the title of the 4-track EP that was released in March 1986 featuring among its songs A Rainy Night in Soho and The Body of an American?

8. Who replaced the guitarist Philip Chevron when he missed the band’s American tour in late ’87 because of ill health?

9. During July and August ’87 the Pogues opened for which band in a number of stadium gigs, the first of which was at Wembley in front of a crowd of 70,000?

10. The video of the song Fiesta was filmed in Barcelona in April ’88?. Which comedian directed it?

11. By what name is the tinwhistle player and occasional vocalist Peter Stacy better known?

12. Apart from the annual re-releases of the Fairytale of New York, what was the title of the last release by the band to make the UK Top 20?

13. What was the name of the bass player who left the band in ’86 following her marriage to Elvis Costello earlier in the year?

14. What was the title of the first album of new material released by the band following the departure of MacGowan . It was produced by Michael Brook and recorded in ’93?

15. The Pogues played a benefit concert in Camden in December 1990 for their manager’s daughter after she was injured in a diving accident. What was her name?

John Abernethy got 12 right out of the 15 so see if you can do better! 

soooooo come back exactly one week today and click below and you will be directed to the answers

Mastermind

HAPPY ST PATRICK’S DAY TO ALL

you can ‘follow’ the blog and receive a e-mail every time we post by simply filling out the section that is on the bar on the left hand side under the menu at the top. we post around 6-9 times a month so you wont be too harassed we promise!

HOW THE IRISH AND THE SCOTS INFLUENCED AMERICAN MUSIC

By Erik Devaney

During the 19th-century, song-smiths in southern Appalachia, who had absorbed African rhythms from local slave populations, began fusing these rhythms with elements of celtic folk music, thus forming the basis of the country music genre.

The influence of Celtic folk music in the South began before the start of the American Revolution. As early as 1717, waves of Scots-Irish immigrants were pouring into North America. By 1790, 3 million of these immigrants called America home. The Scots-Irish, also known as Scotch-Irish or Ulster-Scots, were Presbyterian Scots who had previously settled in Ulster as a result of Britain’s plan for a Protestant plantation in Ireland.

Separate waves of Scottish immigration to North America occurred starting in 1725 as a result of the Highland Clearances, while Irish Catholics would not arrive on the scene in great numbers until 1847: a result of the so called ‘famine. Despite their ideological differences, these Scottish and Irish immigrants shared a Celtic musical tradition, which employed many of the same techniques for playing, composing and arranging music. These techniques had a profound influence on that ‘country sound’ we are familiar with today.

SOUND STRATEGIES
cap
The Vocal Harmony Hoe-Down
When two or more singers sing in harmony, or harmonize, the notes they sing are different, while the resulting sound they produce is unified and, typically, pleasing to the ears. Of course, the Irish and Scottish didn’t invent the concept of harmony, but they did have a tradition of using it in group sing-a-long settings. Gaelic-speakers in the Old World were distilling and drinking moonshine and crooning harmoniously, the perfect accompaniment for a bit of Poitín, well before Appalachian ‘hillbillies’ began carrying on the tradition in the New World.

Like their Celtic musician forefathers,  country musicians often employ vocal harmonies in the choruses, or repeated portions, of songs. This strategy helps stress the importance and increase the forcefulness of the choruses while also separating them sound-wise from the verses. Check out the use of vocal harmonies in the choruses of Okie from Muskogee by Merle Haggard and compare it to the use of harmonies in the choruses of the Celtic song, Mairi’s Wedding, as performed by The Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem.

Enter The Drone
If you find that some country or Celtic songs have hypnotic qualities to them, mesmerizing you as you listen, this phenomenon could be the result of a drone. A drone is a note or chord that sounds continuously throughout most, if not all, of a song, providing an underlying, trance-like accompaniment for the song’s melody. Musicians can create drones vocally or with virtually any pitch-controlled instrument. Country musicians, such as  fiddlers and slide-guitarists, adopted droning from Scottish and Irish settlers, who were accustomed to producing drones with fiddles as well as bagpipes.
Listen for the drone in Fiddlin’ John Carson’s song, He Rambled, and compare it to the drone in the Scottish march, The Campbells Are Coming.
LYRICAL CONTENT
Scottish-Irish settlement in America

Scottish-Irish settlement in America

The Sob Story

Listen to a country music radio station long enough and you will hear a sob story: a song about a father abandoning his son (see Walk A Little Straighter Daddy by Billy Currington), a song about a woman abandoning her man (see When I Call Your Name by Vince Gill) or, worst of all, a song about a boyfriend dumping his girlfriend and then letting his new girlfriend drive his pick-up truck, something he never let the old girlfriend do (see Picture To Burn by Taylor Swift). The nerve of that guy, really, what a plum.
Singing sorrowfully about the heartbreaks we suffer in life may not have been a distinctively Irish or Scottish creation, but Irish and Scottish immigrants certainly brought a tradition of sob stories with them when they showed up on the shores of Amerikay. Subject matter included longing for love (see Black Is The Colour), losing children (see The Wife of Usher’s Well) and leaving behind a troubled home only to encounter new troubles abroad (see By The Hush).

The Drinking Song

Before Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffet sang It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere, before Tracy Byrd sang Ten Rounds With José Cuervo and before Brad Paisley sang the utilitarian-titled Alcohol, Celtic musicians were singing drinking songs that put forth similar, contradictory messages: alcohol is evil (see Whiskey, You’re The Devil), but drinking it can be comforting and a quite joyous experience (see Beer, Beer Beer). Homer Simpson summed up the lyrical style of Celtic/country drinking songs beautifully when he toasted
“Here’s to alcohol: the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems”
INSTRUMENTATION
The Fantastic Mr. Fiddle
fiddleThe use of the fiddle in country music pre-dates the use of the guitar. To clarify, a fiddle is, physically, the same instrument as a violin. The difference is perception: most classical violinists get offended when you call them fiddlers, as they consider fiddling to be an informal, inferior type of playing… what a bunch of jerks.
Scottish and Irish immigrants brought fiddles with them to North America and successive generations in the South morphed their Celtic jigs and reels into tunes of their own. Many of the founding fathers of country music, such as Fiddlin’ John Carson, mentioned above, and Eck Robertson, were solo fiddlers. Apart from bringing fiddles and fiddle music to the American South, the Scottish and Irish brought highly energetic and interactive dancing styles to accompany fiddling, which formed the basis for country square dancing.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Banjo
banjoThe banjo does not have Celtic origins.
African slaves brought the tradition of building banjos with them when they were transported to the New World; a tradition that required stretching strings across animal-skin drums.
However, when musically-inclined inhabitants of the Appalachians got their hands on banjos, they used them to play the fiddle tunes that they had learned from the Scottish and Irish.
The plot thickens: in the 19th century, banjos crossed the Atlantic, for a second time, and musicians in Ireland and Scotland began incorporating the African/American instruments into traditional Celtic music. The The Dubliners are a great example of a Celtic folk band that adopted the banjo.

Further Reading:
Ceolas: Celtic Music Instruments
Thanks For The Music: The Fiddle in Country Music
BluegrassBanjo.org: History of the Banjo
Who Are The Scotch Irish?

* Erik ran a fantastic web-site called ‘The Bard Of Boston’ which you can check out here even though he stopped publishing a few years back I hope you stick check it out  as some of the articles are extremely interesting and Erik is never dull. You can contact Erik here via his web-site.

ALBUM REVIEW: ‘JOY OF LIVING: A TRIBUTE TO EWAN MacCOLL’ (2016)

Fearless and uncompromising Ewan MacColl’s influence is still felt far beyond the folk world. We owe him a lot… more than we can ever imagine.

Joy Of Living

Regular readers of the London Celtic Punks blog will all know how much we like Ewan MacColl and we have regularly featured him within these pages. Though long gone Ewan’s massive volume of work lives on and only the other day were we raving about the Irish-American celtic-punk band 1916 and their amazing version of another Ewan song (sadly not featured here) ‘Hot Asphalt’. Ewan’s songs were uplifting whether proclaiming love or war or peace. He wrote about things that would now be forgotten about and has kept their memory alive. He gave birth to a folk revival that continues to this day, many years after his passing, that remains in great health. The songs he wrote and championed are still being played and explored and adapted and still being made great. Ewan MacColl’s musical legacy is, to put it simply, just out of this world. We owe him a lot… more than we can ever imagine.

Ewan was the Scots-born son of a Gaelic-speaking mother and Lowland father from whom he inherited more than a hundred songs and ballads. He worked as a garage hand, builders’ labourer, journalist, radio scriptwriter, actor and dramatist. After the end of World War II Ewan wrote and broadcast extensively in Britain about folk music. He was general editor of the BBC folk-music series, ‘Ballads and Blues’, and frequently took part in radio and television shows for the BBC.

Ewan MacColl 1His folk song publications included ‘Personal Choice’, a pocket book edition of Scots folk songs and ballads, and ‘The Shuttle and the Cage’, the first published collection of British industrial folk songs. Eventually he was ousted from the BBC due to his socialist beliefs. He wrote many songs that have become folk (and celtic-punk standards) the most famous of course being ‘Dirty Old Town’ popularised by The Dubliners and then The Pogues. It is wrongly assumed to be about Dublin but it is in fact about his home town of Salford in Manchester. He is also famous for writing one of the greatest ever love songs ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’ which he wrote for his second wife, the influential American folk singer, Peggy Seeger. He was also the father of Kirsty MacColl who of course guested on The Pogues enormous Christmas hit ‘Fairytale Of New York’. After many years of poor health Ewan died on 22 October 1989 but it can be safely said of him that his songs and influence will live on forever. Comparable only to Woody Guthrie in more than one way.

This fantastic double album marks 100 years since Ewan MacColl’s birth and the album has been produced by two of Ewan’s sons, Calum and Neill, and features a wonderful bunch of diverse artists from right across folk, rock, pop and celtic music. Disc one begins with, for me, one of the stand out tracks with Damien Dempsey singing ‘Schooldays Over’. The only song here we have heard before nevertheless it is more than welcome. Made famous by the late great Luke Kelly’s version with The Dubliners Damien is no stranger to Ewan’s work and does him truly proud.

This is followed by a track from one of the most influential figures in folk music today, Martin Carthy and is the first of several and several individual contributions by the Waterson-Carthy family. He performs the unlikely tale of a fish delivery man in ‘I’m Champion At Keeping ‘Em Rolling’. The Unthanks may sound like a rock band but are in fact two sisters (Unthank is their great surname) who perform a gentle lullaby ‘Cannily, Cannily’. Tracks from legends old and new follow from Seth Lakeman and Marry Waterson and Bombay Bicycle Club are up next, BBC famously include one of MacColl’s grandchildren, Jamie. They contribute a moving version of ‘The Young Birds’, a song written back in 1961 to commemorate a tragic plane crash that killed 34 London children of whom some were known to MacColl’s oldest son, Hamish. Another artist we are familiar with here is Dick Gaughan who contributes ‘Jamie Foyers’. Dick is an influential Scottish musician, singer, and songwriter who was a founding member of the famous celtic band Boys Of The Lough. Martin’s daughter Eliza Carthy, ‘Thirty-Foot Trailer’ and Chaim Tannenbaum, ‘My Old Man’, are up next before honorary Irishman Steve Earle presents a new take on a song that needs no introduction ‘Dirty Old Town’, except to say that it does sound like the spirit(s) of Shane MacGowan were present at its recording.

The first discs last song is from Jarvis Cocker and the erstwhile Pulp front man gives us a amazingly beautiful whispered version of  ‘The Battle Is Done With’. I am sure it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but its great to hear something that just isn’t a straight cover of Ewan’s work.

Ewan MacCollDisc two begins with the most famous of Ewan’s compositions and Paul Buchanan vocalist of 80/90’s Glasgow indie band The Blue Nile croons beautifully through the ‘First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’. Ewan wrote the song for Peggy Seeger and it became an international smash hit in 1972 sung by Roberta Flack. On hearing this version it made me wonder how Shane MacGowan would have mastered it. Paul Brady will be a name known to many and his version of ‘Freeborn Man’ shows Paul to have lost none of his talent in a career that spans right across modern day Irish folk music. Another travellers song follows and Norma Waterson provides us with a fauntless rendition of the gypsy’s plight in ‘The Moving On Song’. Karine Polwart’s version of ‘The Terror Time’ is again beautiful, and Martin Simpson, The Father’s Song, is up next before the ultimate Irish living folk legend, and former band mate of Paul Brady in Planxty, Christy Moore appears with ‘The Companeros’. Again yer man has lost nothing and its a stunning version. Now there’s one name missing from this album so far and he’s up next. It must be written into law that Billy Bragg must appear on any folk compilation and whatever you think of him he gives us a really nice but angry copy of ‘Kilroy Was Here’ which strips Billy back to those early days when he was at his best. Folk siblings Rufus and Martha Wainwright play the magnificent ‘Sweet Thames, Flow Softly’. A small gentle snapshot of life before Kathryn Williams, ‘Alone’, and David Gray brings the whole project to an end with one of Ewan’s best but sadly little known songs, and album title, The Joy of Living.

As you may expect traditionalists might not appreciate some of the versions here but this enhances, rather than detracts and all the various strands of Ewan’s political and musical life is represented here. This double album does not pretend to be the ‘be-all-and-end-all’ as with an artist with such a massive repertoire it would be impossible to please everyone but it does provide a gateway. Collections like this serve only one purpose. That is to steer listeners away from the modern day versions to the original source and with Ewan their is plenty to catch up on. We have included some links at the bottom where readers can find more information and free downloads so I hope you take the opportunity to. It is impossible to calculate the range and influence of this remarkable singer and song-writer but we can rest assured his memory lives and this album is a great testament to him.

“My function is not to reassure people. I want to make them uncomfortable. To send them out of the place arguing and talking”

Disc 1
1. Damien Dempsey – Schooldays Over
2. Martin Carthy – I’m Champion At Keeping ‘Em Rolling
3. The Unthanks – Cannily, Cannily
4. Seth Lakeman – The Shoals of Herring
5. Marry Waterson – The Exile Song
6. Bombay Bicycle Club – The Young Birds
7. Dick Gaughan – Jamie Foyers
8. Eliza Carthy – Thirty-Foot Trailer
9. Chaim Tannenbaum – My Old Man
10. Steve Earle – Dirty Old Town
11. Jarvis Cocker – The Battle Is Done With

Disc 2
1. Paul Buchanan – The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face
2. Paul Brady – Freeborn Man
3. Norma Waterson  – Moving On Song
4. Karine Polwart – The Terror Time
5. Martin Simpson – The Father’s Song
6. Christy Moore – The Companeros
7. Billy Bragg – Kilroy Was Here
8. Rufus & Martha Wainwright – Sweet Thames, Flow Softly
9. Kathryn Williams – Alone
10. David Gray – The Joy of Living

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Official Ewan MacColl Sites

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For more on Ewan MacColl the internet is awash with sites but trust us and head straight to the official sites but also to Wikipedia as well as this tribute from the Working Class Movement Library here. You can listen to some of his music for free here on LastFm.

We have a regular series ‘Classic Album Reviews’ where we feature records from the past that have had influence far beyond their years. Ewan (of course!!), Leadbelly and several compilations have featured so far and all come with links to free downloads. You can check out the full series here.

(Just to prove Ewan’s work lives on here’s the aforementioned 1916 from New York with their recent  version of the classic Ewan song ‘Hot Asphalt’)

ALBUM REVIEW: THE DEAD MAGGIES- ‘Well Hanged’ (2015)

Raucous cow punk and folk punk mixed with haunting murder ballads, timeless story telling and foot-stompin’, heart pounding rhythms from a bunch of beer swilling, shanty singing, flannle shirt wearing, mohawk-bearing musical peasants.

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The Dead Maggies come from Tasmania, the island at the bottom of Australia. As is the way with these kind of places a different kind of culture and existence develops to the ‘mother’ country. Found 240 km (150 mi) to the south of the Australian mainland almost half of the country is still in the same natural state it was when the British invaded back in 1803 and christened the island Van Diemons Land. At the time the land was populated by the native Aboriginal people but within thirty years, a time known as the ‘Black Wars’, they were wiped out by a combination of infectious diseases brought by the invaders, to which they had no immunity, and acts of genocide carried out by the British army. Martial law, disease and resistance to British rule saw the Aboriginal population fall to just 300 at one point from around 5,000. Historians have described it thus

“The colonial government from 1832 to 1838 ethnically cleansed the western half of Van Diemen’s Land and then callously left the exiled people to their fate”

Tassie, as its known to its residents, was used primarily as a natural prison state to house convicts brought from Britain and Ireland convicted of crimes that ranged from murder and assault to stealing sheep or even bread. These penal colonies were run on extremely harsh lines and many many convicts died or went mad at the barbaric hands of their jailers. It was in Tasmania that the government implemented a shift from the physical (i.e. whipping) to more psychological punishment. A structure of punishment called the ‘Silent System’ was implemented where prisoners were hooded and ordered silent. This was supposed to allow time for the prisoner to reflect upon the actions which had brought them there but instead resulted in many of the prisoners developing mental illness from the lack of light and sound. Eventually this led to an asylum being built right next to the Prison. Many prisoners, though also escaped and roamed the land as bandits and highwaymen. Giving rise to ballads and songs in their honour and it is to this tradition that The Dead Maggies get their inspiration from.

Dead MaggiesThe Dead Maggies already have one record behind them, the excellent , ‘The Dead Maggies Sing About Dead People’ in which they do indeed sing about dead people. Seven songs where they tell the history of the various sad endings of colourful characters from Tasmania’s history. Now this to me is what celtic-punk or folk-punk is all about. Now I love songs about getting pissed on Guinness as much as the next person but I need just a bit more sometimes and its bands like The Dead Maggies or, the sadly recently deceased, Chicago band Kevin Flynn And The Avondale Ramblers that are passing down and keeping our history alive and relevant. The history of the rich is there for all to see but the history of the poor and the downtrodden and the defeated in war or battle was passed down mainly in song and my oh my Tasmania is a well stocked pit for The Dead Maggies to mine from.

(you can have a listen to the whole of The Dead Maggies debut album here simply by pressing play on the Bandcamp player below)

Formed in 2013 shortly after the death of our beloved (!) despot Margaret Thatcher, The Dead Maggies have taken the scene by storm. The Australian celtic-punk scene is second to none and The Dead Maggies stand out proud amongst the many other brilliant bands in it. Mixing the fascinating folk story of Tasmania as well as the energy and the attitude of punk the band have come up with their own genre ‘Tasmanian Convict Punk’ and it suits them far better than calling it celtic or folk punk ever could!

‘Well Hanged’ kicks off with ‘Black Mary’ a rollicking great tune that from the first sounds of the ocean will have you bouncing on  your feet.

Great vocals atop of equally great music and a story that tells of open revolution in the early days of Van Diemons Land.

“No bush ranger we But guerrilla army. In open rebellion Against the machine”

It’s the story of Mary Cockerill, ‘Black Mary’, who along with her partner Michael Howe and an army of over one hundred bushrangers in the early 19th Century nearly brought down the Tasmanian government in open warfare. The interesting thing about The Dead Maggies is their ability to meld celtic, country, bluegrass, folk into something that very clearly defines themselves. ‘Tommy Pieman’ is a perfect example of all these influences coming together in a story of cannibalism that I’m sure you can pick up from the songs title! ‘Matthew Brady’ was a notorious 19th century bushranger born in Manchester in 1799. He was transported in 1820 and constantly rebelled while in Tasmania against the treatment meted out to the prisoners. He received over 400 lashes over time and eventually escaped but was captured two years later trying to sail to mainland Australia. He was executed in 1826 and was known as ‘Gentleman Brady’ due to his impeccable manners whilst robbing from the rich.

“Don’t rape any women, Don’t steal from the poor, But as for the rich… you can fuck them all”

A fantastic tune with lyrics really worthy of your time. In 1830 ‘Mary McLaughlin’ was the first woman to be executed in Tasmania. A convict, she was assigned as a servant and within two months she had been impregnated by

“a person of better education and higher rank in society than herself”

After her baby was born and found dead she was charged with murder. Pronounced guilty, she was sentenced to both death and dissection. Even in death she found no peace. The song introduces the clarinet into proceedings for the first time and though not yer typical folk punk instrument it certainly works and fits in well with what The Dead Maggies are up to. ‘Billy Hunt’ sees the band in full cow-punk territory with a country’n’western song that would put the shits up any Dolly Parton fans! Again the story told is both gripping and engaging and this time shows that its not all doom and darkness in the Maggies world. Billy Hunt was a convict who hit upon the great idea to disguise himself as a kangaroo and attempt to hop to freedom. His plan was brought to an abrupt end when a soldier decided to shoot the large boomer. Billy was then forced to reveal his true identity.

“We said you’ll just get caught again you stupid Billy Hunt”

‘Jørgen Jørgenson’ is the tale of a Danish adventurer who became the ruler of Iceland for a short time. He was accused of piracy, jailed for theft and eventually was transported to Tasmania after a death sentence was commuted.

He married an Irish convict in 1831 and died in the Colonial Hospital on 20 January 1841. A pirate, a convict, a king and a drunkard. The song is a riot of folk-punk instruments and as fast as you like. The great video was filmed aboard The Yukon, a fully restored Danish tall ship that sails upon the Huon Valley in Tasmania. As says vocalist/guitarist GT Mongrel

“He was an adventurer who wrote his own legends while drinking, gambling, spying and pirating, he took on armies. He took on whole countries. He faced the executioners block and survived. He lived life as hard as life can be lived. He was a punk.”

‘Ghost On The Hellfire Bluff’ steams past you in a frantic 90 seconds while ‘Tin Miner’ brings in a spot of celtic-ness with the banjo leading the first half of the song until accordion takes over and the song swirls and builds up into a angry pissed off polemic against the treatment of the miners. The albums shortest song ‘Snakebite’ starts off slowly but soon builds up and with the clarinet out of the box again and before you know it it is gone in just 76 seconds. ‘Truckdrivers Last Waltz’ reminds me somewhat of the great Paddy McHugh And The Goldminers (well worth checking out this fellow Aussie band. Writer of the saddest song EVER written here). A jazzy, accordion led mess of a song where all the bands influences clash together with both gang vocals and GT’s vocals as powerful as ever. ‘Savage River’ has the band in Tom Waits-y country and the album comes to a suitable sad end with ‘Bound In Chains’. A hauntingly beautiful tale telling of those poor convicts ripped from home and transported across to the other side of the world to a foreign environment to be treated worse than slaves and be worked to death.

“I would rather die than wear those chains”

The uileann pipes come together with the band’s usual fare and again The Dead Maggies hit just the right spot in this emotional ballad tribute to the losers in their countries past.

Twelve tracks that explore the lives, battles, deaths and loves of ordinary people. The people whose history is being written out of the books. The history children don’t learn at school. History that is an embarrassment to the people who rule us and who are scared stiff of the inspiration it could once again provide to the ancestors of the original folk these stories are written about. Music to dance to, love to, cry to and rejoice. The Dead Maggies provide all this in spades and by telling of the dark and oppressive past of Tasmania that history will never leave us. Bands like this should be an inspiration to us all in the celtic-punk scene. Story telling is at the very core of our music. We have a glorious past and if indeed our music has any connection to the past we are forced to retell it in song. Thanks to The Dead Maggies for doing that and doing it so well.
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you can find a host of other amazing Australian bands on the ‘Folk ’Til Ya Punk Records’ web site here.

Here’s the bands official video tour diary of their journey through Europe last year. Look closely and you’ll see quite a few London Celtic Punks cheering them on!

CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW: EWAN MacCOLL- ‘Scots Drinking Songs’ (1956)

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Ewan

2015 marks the 100th anniversary of the legendary Ewan MacColl’s birth and although ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’ and ‘Dirty Old Town’ remain his biggest ‘hits’ he also wrote and recorded hundreds of traditional songs baring the experience of the working class. A huge body of work that demands to be heard. We have often featured Ewan on these pages, much to the chagrin of some who don’t see what he has to do with celtic-punk, but here we like to introduce a bit of history and context into proceedings. Good old Wikipedia states

 “celtic punk is punk rock mixed with traditional celtic music”

so as much as the punk bands have influenced the music it is really the folk and traditional music of our parents and grandparents generation that have really  made celtic-punk what it is today. In this series of ‘Classic Album Reviews’ we have seen their have been musicians who would put Ozzy Osbourne to shame with tales of their excess, or dazzle you with their wordplay, stories of sadness and joy and of rebellion and death and of remembrance and much much more. All music that has had an untold influence on modern music. We would ask you to take a chance. Check out this music from another era and remember at the time this was the music that your parents AND the government did not want you to hear!

Ewan MacColl

EWAN MacCOLL was the Scots-born son of a Gaelic-speaking mother and Lowland father from whom he inherited more than a hundred songs. He worked as a garage hand, builder’s labourer, trade union organizer, journalist, radio scriptwriter, actor and dramatist. MacColl wrote and broadcast extensively about folk music and frequently took part in radio and TV shows.

Of the songs he included in this album, MacColl recalled

“I can remember as a child being allowed to stay up at Hogmanay parties when a dozen Scots iron-moulders and their wives would settle down to serious drinking. ‘A Wee Drappie O’T’ would be sung with everyone joining in the chorus with maybe a few English friends looking a bit embarrassed at this display of celtic emotion and the beer jugs would be circulating freely and whiskey bottles would empty at an alarming rate. In between the songs the company would argue the merits of Edward Clod’s ‘History of Creation’ and Volny’s ‘Ruins of Empires’ and then as the singing became more and more rough I would be sent off to bed. As these junketings often lasted for a whole week I had plenty of opportunities to learn the songs”

‘SCOTS DRINKING SONGS’ ALBUM LINER NOTES

It has been observed that the pattern of social drinking in Scotland corresponds roughly to the three movements which comprise a pibroch[1]. First, there is the leisurely philosophical discussion, argument or monologue during which the theme of the evening is stated. The second movement consists of a set of variations in the form of repeated patriotic utterances and the last movement is a scherzo in which amorousness and bawdiness are combined to show the national prowess in a sport which, as far as we are concerned, has all the competitive features of international football. The first movement is non-melodic; being confined to pure talk. The second movement is a synthesis of talk and patriotic song and the third and longest movement is wholly song.

Scots licensing laws have done their best to destroy this ancient pattern by making singing in pubs an offence and, wherever possible, by segregating the sexes. The legislators appear to have operated on the basis of the good old Calvinistic maxims that women are the root of all evil and that singing and licentiousness are interchangeable words. However, what is lost in the pubs is gained in the family circle and many a child who might otherwise have grown to ignorant maturity has learned some of the more interesting and pleasurable facts of life from listening to songs sung by Auntie Mag and Uncle Alec at a Hogmanay (New Year) party.

As in Italy, love is the great theme of Scots folk song but, unlike Italy, it is the act of love rather than the emotion which is celebrated. John Knox might rave against the sins of the flesh and numerous Holy Willies might rant against evildoers but the commons of Scotland had a healthy, realistic attitude on love which no amount of Calvinistic preaching could pervert. True, there were the prying elders and the cutty stool to be faced after the act but the joys of love and the body’s needs outweighed all such considerations.

The frank expression of physical desire in Scots folk song has been a subject for dismay with collectors and anthologists for more than two hundred years. Only David Herd’s collection (“The Ancient and Modern Scots Songs,” 1769) escaped the embalmer’s knife of polite hypocrisy. Bishop Thomas Percy, famed for the “Reliques of Ancient English Poetry,” offered to clean up Herd’s collection but Herd, being an honest man, refused and published the songs as he had found them.

Since that time, the majority of Scots collectors, apparently unaware of the fact that babies are not found under cabbage leaves, have divided their time between attempting to castrate the muse and apologizing for Herd and the lower classes’ capacity for lovemaking.

The fig leaf of Calvinism cannot disguise the virility and appetite of the Scots muse and under the influence of a few drinks the fig leaf disappears through the window and the muse, with a smacking of lips and a bellow of laughter, proceeds to celebrate the most universal of man’s pastimes.

SIDE ONE—

1. WE’RE A’ JOLLY FU’: This centuries-old song lends itself to interminable improvisations and is a great favorite at all-male drinking sessions where the fantasy tends to become exclusively sexual after a while.

2.  THE CALTON WEAVER: The linen mills of the Calton district of Glasgow have been gone these fifty years but this song is still well known among those who take their drinking seriously. Alf Edwards accompanies me on the concertina.

3.  WHEN SHE GAME BEN SHE BOBBIT: I learned this from William Miller of Stirling. The Laird of Cockpen, though largely a mythical figure, is the questionable hero of scores of Scots songs and ballads. A brushed up version of this song was made by Robert Burns but the folk song anthologists have, without exception, avoided the older and broader versions and made use of Lady Nairn’s admirable little song The Laird of Cockpen in which the original ribaldry is replaced by a rather pawky humor.

4.  THE LAIRD OF THE DAINTY DOON BYE: It is strange that Professor Child did not include a version of this traditional ballad in his collections for it was already of considerable age when it first appeared in print in Herd’s collection in 1776. It is still a prime favorite with good company. I learned it from Jeannie Robertson of Dundee.

5.  BLOW THE CANDLE OUT: Originally an English song, but now widely sung throughout lowland Scotland. It has been popular in various versions in the bothies for the best part of three quarters of a century. In this and all other numbers employing the guitar I am accompanied by Brian Daly.

6.  DONALD BLUE: The drunken wife is a popular subject in Scots folk song and, indeed, Scots classical literature, too. It was from songs such as this one and The Drunken Wife of Galloway that the 16th and 17th century poets like William Dunbar and Sir David Lyndsay of the Mount took their fabulous heroines.

7.  THE BREWER LADDIE: A ‘cornkister’, this song has been popular in the North East for at least the last hundred years. The forsaken and jilted heroes and heroines of the bothy ballads do not die for love; instead they meet their misfortunes head on and, with a good deal of sound sense, start looking around for another sweetheart.

8.  WE’RE GAYLY YET: This is sung at the height of the party, when the drink is flowing freely and all the barriers are down. I learned this from Samuel Wylie of Falkirk.

9.  A WEE DRAPPIE O’T: This is the work of Robert Tannahill (1774-1810), the cotton weaver bard of Paisley. Like many other Scots workers of his time, he was inspired by the example of Robert Burns to write poems and songs in the language of his workmates. At least three of his songs have become part of the. Scots tradition. This one belongs to that part of a drinking session which is characterized by the first glow of good fellowship and a good deal of philosophizing.

10.  THE CUCKOO’S NEST: The veneer of Calvinism is wafer-thin as far as the Scots working class is concerned. A few drinks are all that is needed to set the company singing songs like this one. I learned it from Jeannie Robertson.

SIDE TWO—

1. GREEN GROW THE RASHES, O: In spite of Burns’ remaking of this old song, the old version continues to be sung fairly widely. Both the original and Burns’ song would be likely to turn up at most any drinking session.

2.  THE DAY WE WENT TO ROTHESAY, O: In rural Scotland they still sing The Tinker’s Weddin’ O, but in the towns the tune has become fixed as part of Urban folklore and the saga of a rough weekend in Scotland’s most popular resort will bring down the house at any south Scots ceilidh.

3.  THE BONNIE LASSIE WHO NEVER SAID NO: This is a real song of low life, one of the great corpus of such songs which inspired Burns’ folk cantata, The Jolly Beggars. The scene is a drinking howff (part pub, part brothel). A man and a harlot make a night of it and when the woman passes out the man robs her. The choice of gin as the liquor suggests that the song is the product of the early eighteen hundreds when every town in Britain had its ‘Gin Alley’. It is unusual for any other drink than whiskey to be celebrated in a Scots song.

4.  THE MUCKIN’ O’ GEORDIE’S BYRE: This is probably the most well known song in Eastern Scotland and no “boose-up” is complete without at least one rendering. I know it from the singing of Jimmie MacBeth of Elgin.

5.  JOCK HAWK’S ADVENTURES IN GLASGOW: This is a bothy song set to a tune dear to all bothy singers, The Guise O’ Tough. The basic bothy theme of the ploughman being taken-in by the rich farmer is altered slightly and becomes the ploughman taken-in by smart city folk. The general bothy pattern is, however, the same; as always, the ploughman implies that nobody is to blame but himself.

6.  THE BRISK YOUNG LAD: Here is a song of rich, native humor. The boisterous chorus makes it a natural for a boozy gathering. I originally learned it from my mother and later collated the text with the one found in Herd’s collection.

7.  I WISH THAT YOU WERE DEAD, GUIDMAN: Here is another song that first appeared in print in Herd’s collection. It is still popular at masculine drinking sessions at which a number of verses are sung which never get into print.

8.  THE WIND BLEW THE BONNIE LASSIE’S PLAIDIE AWA’: A great favorite in the bothies, this ballad has appeared in a number of printed collections usually somewhat cleaned up for popular consumption. It is a typical example of the Scots’ genius for calling a spade a spade, Presbyterianism notwithstanding.

9.  ANDRO AND HIS CUTTY GUN: Burns described this as “one of the bonniest and certainly one of the most vigorous of our old songs.” As a record of a drinking party it is certainly unequaled in Scots national music.

1 The dictionary defines pibroch as: “A wild, irregular form of martial music played by Scottish Highlanders on the bagpipe, consisting usually of an air with profusely ornamented variations.”

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For more on Ewan MacColl the internet is awash with sites but trust us and head straight to Wikipedia for the basics as well as this tribute from the Working Class Movement Library here. You can listen to his music for free here on LastFm but for absolutely everything you need to know then check out the Official Ewan MacColl Website here.

“My function is not to reassure people. I want to make them uncomfortable. To send them out of the place arguing and talking.” – Ewan MacColl

Part of the ‘Classic Album Reviews’ series (here) where we bring you something a little bit different. Lost gems that have inspired and provoked folk music and musicians right up to modern celtic-punk music. Usually out of print so we can provide a free download link for you.

THE BEATLES AND IRELAND

Never forget that The Beatles were, at heart, an Irish band. Everyone can see and hear that. Listen to Starkey’s half-on-the-rim, half-on-the-drumhead Mersey drumming and you hear the sound of Gaelic beat. Sing along with ‘All Together Now’, ‘Ob La Di, Ob La Da’, ‘Luck of the Irish’ or ‘I Will’ and you find yourself lost in Irish melody. The very Celtic James Paul McCartney and John O’Leannin never abandoned their Irish roots. The folk songs that heavily influenced them gave their music a magic- the mystique of Celtic origins.

Liverpool is often called ‘The Capital of Ireland’ and with the Irish comprising almost 80 per cent of its population, why not?

By Seán Mac Mathúna

“Well it was Sunday bloody Sunday
When they shot the people there
The cries of thirteen martyrs
Filled the Free Derry air
Is there any one amongst you
Dare to blame it on the kids?
Not a soldier boy was bleeding
When they nailed the coffin lids!”

In my opinion, John Lennon should be recognised as the greatest Irish singer ever. His California-based biographer Jon Wiener after all said that Lennon

“thought of himself as Irish”

The Irish roots of the Beatles has not yet been fully acknowledged, despite the fact that both Lennon and McCartney had two Irish Grandparents. Incredible then, considering how well known the Irish roots of the world’s most popular duo of songwriters – they are for some strange reason, not listed for example in ‘The Guinness Book of Irish Facts and Feats’ by Ciarán Deane.

John

John

The Beatles came from Merseyside – an area around the city of Liverpool which has the largest Irish population in England, mainly as a result of the exodus of people from Ireland during the Great Famine in the 1840’s. Early in their career, the Beatles had played in Ireland three times: in Dublin and Belfast in 1963, and once again in Belfast in 1964. It was after the split of the Beatles in 1970, that both Lennon & McCartney began releasing songs about the Irish question, all of which were all banned by the BBC. Paul McCartney wrote ‘Give Ireland Back to Irish’ which became a hit single in 1972, and Lennon wrote ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’, and ‘The Luck of The Irish’, both of which were on the album ‘Some Time In New York City’ that was also released in 1972.

Paul

Paul

On one hand ‘The Guinness Book of Irish Facts and Feats’ informs you, for example, that the Socialist anthem, ‘The Red Flag’ was written by Jim Connell from Co. Meath in Ireland, and under the heading ‘Top-selling contemporary Irish and Irish-related popular music artists’ it lists U2, Van Morrison and Bob Geldof. Under the heading ‘The London Irish’, it lists John Lydon from the Sex Pistols (whose father is a Gaelic speaker from Co. Galway), Boy George, Elvis Costello and The Pogues but nowhere is either Lennon and McCartney, or the Beatles mentioned.

Lennon, like another famous son of Ireland, Che Guevara Lynch, was more Irish than for example than President Kennedy, but l suspect that the main reason why they have not received proper recognition is because they were regarded as dangerous revolutionaries. John Lennon for example sang about and expressed outright sympathy with the Republican movement in his song ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’.

George and Ringo

George and Ringo

Lennon’s grandfather, John (Jack) Lennon was born in Dublin in 1858, and like many Irish people after the Great Famine of the 1840’s, when Britain allowed over a million Irish people to die of starvation, emigrated to Liverpool to seek better prospects of employment. There Jack married an Irish woman called Mary Maguire and started a family. Sadly, their children, including Alfred, were orphaned early on and grew up in Liverpool orphanages. As his father Alfred Lennon walked out and left him at the age of 5, Lennon never knew either of his Irish grandparents or anything of his Irish roots. This is probably because he was raised by his mother’s family, the Stanleys, who were Welsh. In later years he became increasingly interested in his Irish ancestry and in 1975, John give his second son the name Seán, the Gaelic version of his own name.

George Harrison had the strongest ties to the Emerald Isle. Louise French Harrison’s (1911-1970) dad was Irish, this providing George with a rich source of Irish ancestry. George had a very interesting family tree. Louise French Harrison’s family were descendants of French knights who had settled into Ireland during the Middle Ages. Because of the influx of Franco-Irish settlers, the surname ‘French’ (formerly spelled ‘Ffrench’ until John French Sr.’s generation) was given the Franco-Irish. George, who did indeed resemble his maternal grandfather (Louise French Harrison would say in a 1965 interview in a fan club newsletter that she thought George looked like her dad) embraced his Irish heritage. People who knew the French and Harrison families personally have said that Louise French was very much a homebody who loved her family and delighted in visiting her relatives in Ireland. George’s sister, Lou, has supported this claim and in the book ‘George Harrison Living In The Material World’, readers are treated to delightful picture taken in 1955 of George, 12, Harold Sr. 46, Harold Jr., 21, Lou, 24 and Peter, 15 on a ferry. The Harrisons made numerous trips to Ireland and George was as well rooted in the Emerald Isle as he was in England.

The Irish Question

WingsHowever, while Lennon and McCartney had not focused upon their Irish roots during their years as members of the Beatles, it definitely attracted their attention after the break-up of the group. This had coincided with the emergence of a civil rights movement in the North of Ireland, which was to prove the catalyst for both Lennon and McCartney to write songs about the Irish question. What triggered this was the massacre by British troops of 14 unarmed civil rights protesters in Derry in 1972, which became immediately known as ‘Bloody Sunday’. McCartney, who had just formed his new group Wings, released the hit single ‘Give Ireland Back to the Irish’ just four weeks after Bloody Sunday on February 25th 1972. The BBC banned the song, and as a result of the controversy and censorship, Wings concerts in the UK were picketed and the brother of Wings guitarist Henry McCullough, a native of Derry, was beaten up by loyalists. Shortly after this, Lennon recorded his song about the incident, ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’.

Sunday Bloody Sunday

“Well it was Sunday bloody Sunday
When they shot the people there
The cries of thirteen martyrs
Filled the Free Derry air
s there anyone amongst you
Dare to blame it on the kids?
Not a soldier boy was bleeding
When they nailed the coffin lids!

Sunday bloody Sunday
Bloody Sunday’s the day!

You claim to be majority
Well you know that it’s a lie
You’re really a minority
On this sweet emerald isle

When Stormont bans our marches
They’ve got a lot to learn
Internment is no answer
It’s those mothers’ turn to burn!

Sunday bloody Sunday
Bloody Sunday’s the day!

You anglo pigs and Scotties
Sent to colonize the North
You wave your bloody Union Jack
And you know what it’s worth!

How dare you hold to ransom
A people proud and free
Keep Ireland for the Irish
Put the English back to sea!

Sunday bloody Sunday
Bloody Sunday’s the day!

Well, it’s always bloody Sunday
In the concentration camps
Keep Falls Road free forever
From the bloody English hands

Repatriate to Britain
All of you who call it home
Leave Ireland to the Irish
Not for London or for Rome!

Sunday bloody Sunday
Bloody Sunday’s the day! . . .”

It was during this period that Lennon began to identify himself as Irish and began to openly support both the Troops Out movement and the Civil Rights movement in the north of Ireland. For instance, in his 1974 ‘Walls and Bridges’ album, Lennon included a booklet contained a history of the Lennon name, in the form of the entry from ‘Irish Families, Their Names, Arms and Origins’ by Edward MacLysaght. The name Lennon is an anglicised form of ‘O Leannain’ which historically has been common in counties Fermanagh and Galway. The entry ends with

“No person of the name Lennon has distinguished himself in the political, military or cultural life of Ireland (or England for that matter)”

under which John wrote in his own handwriting

“Oh yeah? John Lennon!”

However, in an updated version ‘More Irish Families’ (Irish Academic Press, Dublin, Ireland, 1982), MacLysaght writes:

“LENNON: Since the 4th edition of Irish Families was published John Lennon, an outstanding member of the Beatles group, assassinated in 1980, has become well known outside Ireland not only as a talented musician but also for his connection With the peace movement.”

The FBI Files On Lennon’s Irish Political Links

John LennonIn February 2000, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) released files that indicated that they had investigated links between Lennon and New York-based Irish Republican activists in the 1970s. These are part of a 300-page Lennon file which the FBI had resisted releasing since his murder in December 1980. Altogether, 80 pages were released after a court settlement with Professor Jon Wiener, a California-based Lennon biographer and author of ‘Come Together: John Lennon In His Time. Wiener said that the files include “the first solid evidence” that the FBI had an interest in Lennon’s involvement in Irish issues, as prior to that he had not been aware of the FBI’s connecting Irish Republican activists to Lennon in New York. It goes without saying that both MI5 and MI6 would have also had an interest in Lennon and his political activities, and would have shared information with the FBI and the CIA in this regard. In fact, Wiener says a further 10 documents still held by the FBI were “almost definitely” compiled with the help of MI5. The FBI claims that these 10 files are “national security documents” which originated with “a foreign government” (i.e. Britain). Wiener thinks that this probably has something to do with surveillance of Lennon’s political activities in the UK as well as his arrest for possession of cannabis in 1968.

john lennon2Lennon had got involved in Irish politics before Bloody Sunday in January 1972. He supported activists protesting against the policy of internment without trial, which was launched by the British army on 9th August 1971, and resulted in 342 people being arrested without charge in brutal dawn raids that netted very few IRA members, but for example led to the detainment of several members of the civil rights movement. The net was cast so wide and recklessly that within 48 hours 116 people had been released. However, 14 were “selected” by the British army and the R.U.C. to undergo a series of “experiments” in sensory deprivation and other forms of torture. It resulted in Britain being found guilty of using torture by the European Court of Human Rights for the second time, the only country in Europe which has this distinction (the other occasion was the torture of Greek Cypriot resistance fighters in the 1960’s). Internment and the massacre at Bloody Sunday were the main reasons for many in the Nationalist community taking the decision to join the IRA and fight back. Lennon appeared at an anti-internment rally in London in August 1971, where he was photographed holding a newspaper that read: ‘Victory For The IRA Against British Imperialism!’ When asked how he reconciled his support for nonviolence with his sympathy for the IRA, Lennon stated:

“If it’s a choice between the IRA and the British Army, I’m with the IRA. But if it’s a choice between violence and non-violence, I’m with non-violence. So it’s a very delicate line.”

The FBI files also include an informer’s account of a meeting on February 6th, 1972, at the Irish Institute IN New York, just seven days after Bloody Sunday. According to the FBI informer, some of the proposals included procuring weapons for the IRA, whilst another called for the boycott of British goods. But one thing that caught the FBI’s attention was the willingness of Lennon to offer to perform at an “mass demonstration” organised by the Socialist Workers Party. The demo however, occurred sooner than expected. The next day (February 7th) in a rally in Manhattan organized by the Transit Workers Union. Lennon joked how “the police were particularly cooperative as most of them were Irish”. He then said that “The purpose of the meeting was to show solidarity with the people who are going to march tomorrow in Northern Ireland” Referring to his Irish ancestry, Lennon told the crowd

“My name is Lennon and you can guess the rest.” He added that his native Liverpool was “80% Irish.”

Then along with Ono he sang “The Luck of the Irish,” which was his second song written in reaction to Bloody Sunday.

The Luck Of The Irish

“If you have the luck of the Irish,
You’d be sorry and wish you were dead
You should have the luck of the Irish
And you’d wish you was English instead!
A thousand years of torture and hunger
Drove the people away from their land,
A land full of beauty and wonder
Was raped by the British brigands!
Goddamn!
Goddamn!

If you could keep voices like flowers
There’d be shamrock all over the world.

If you could drink dreams like the Irish streams
Then the world would be high as the mountain of morn
In the Pool they told us the story
How the English divided the land,
Of the pain, the death and the glory
And the poets of auld Eireland
If we could make chains with the morning dew
The world would be like Galway Bay

Let’s walk over rainbows like leprechauns
The world would be one big Blarney stone
Why the hell are the English there anyway?
As they kill with god on their side!
Blame it all on the kids and the IRA!
As the bastards commit genocide
Aye! Aye!
Genocide!

If you had the luck of the Irish
You should have the luck of the Irish
You’d be sorry and wish you were dead
And you’s wish you were English instead!
Yes you’d wish you was English instead!!”

At the time of the rally, Lennon was already in contact with the office of Irish Northern Aid, in New York, an organization which raised money for the families of prisoners and supports Sinn Féin. Furthermore, he assigned all the royalties from ‘The Luck Of The Irish’ to Irish Northern Aid. Although it has been claimed by the former MI5 spy David Shayler that Lennon secretly funded the IRA at the time, this was denied by Yoko Ono, who was said to be upset by newspaper reports that MI5 allegedly had “proof” that Lennon had given money to the IRA according to The Sunday Times. Whatever the controversy about Lennon’s involvement with the Republican movement and his support for Irish freedom, the fact is, he considered himself Irish and therefore should be recognised as such. As ‘The Guinness Book of Irish Facts and Feats’ points out

“Irishness is not limited to the Island of Ireland”

The Great Famine in the 1840’s forced out millions of people over the decades that followed it, including John Lennon’s own family. From these people, there are over 60 million people worldwide who consider themselves Irish by heritage (43 million of which are in the USA). Lennon and McCartney have always been thought of as Britain’s greatest songwriters and performers of the 20th century – it is a shame that Ireland has not bestowed this honour on them as well as one of Erin’s most famous sons from the Irish Diaspora.

*this article first appeared in FLAME. articles available on-line here 

FLAME- Silence is the luxury of the oppressor

That’s why we’re back to make a noise . . .

BOOK REVIEW: ‘RUM, SODOMY AND THE LASH’ by Jeffrey T. Roesgen

30 years to the day of the release of Rum, Sodomy And The Lash.

Fleshing out The Pogues second album into a pocket sized, historical and musical mix of fact, fiction and nautical friction. Perfect for yer summer holiday,

Rum, Sodomy And The Lash

 “You can smell The Pogues through the writing”

Today is the 30th anniversary of the release of The Pogues classic album ‘Rum, Sodomy And The Lash’. I dare say that their can’t be that many of us that heard it back then and didnt find it a life changing moment in the way that only music can be sometimes. Easy to forget that The Pogues were the first celtic-punk band and though first album, ‘Red Roses For Me’, introduced the band it was this album that really set off the fireworks!

As Melody Maker said back in the day

“The brightest, most intense moments of Rum…aren’t about particularities of style or delivery. This is, apart from anything else, music to hang on to other people by to stave off brutal fact and the weight of history. While The Pogues make music for drunks as well, probably, as anyone has they’re also dragging an oft-ignored folk tradition into the daylight with an altogether improbable potency… Rum… has soul, if not a great deal of innovation, and somewhere among the glasses and the ashtrays lie a few home truths”

The albums title was suggested by drummer Andrew Rankin who said

“it seemed to sum up life in our band”

and the cover of the album has The Pogues members faces superimposed on the Medusa’s shipwrecked sailors in the famous painting by Theodore Gericault called ‘The Raft Of The Medusa’. Nautical themes abound as well as tales of male prostitution, the Spanish civil war, peace-keeping in the Lebanon and a multitude of stories telling of Irish emigrant life. Jeffrey T. Roesgen has taken these tales and wrapped them up in a book that is half nautical novel and half a history of The Pogues. Though you would expect such a specific book to be aimed squarely at the die hard Pogues fan audience the book actually reads very well. Sure the characters in these songs (Frank Ryan, Jesse James, Jock Stewart, Sally MacLennane etc.,) lend themselves to great story-telling but Roesgen deserves credit for writing a book that would interest maybe not quite anyone but certainly anyone with the faintest appreciation of The Pogues.

Rum Sodomy And The Lash

The story begins with The Pogues arriving on the dock and boarding The Medusa and follows them till they find themselves on that raft suffering

“unrelenting heat and torrents of waves”

A incapable captain and a corrupt French Governor interweave with and drink and fight with band members and the characters from the album.

“An officer rushed over to our group.  He stood before Spider, rigid and ornate, and nodded to the bags and cases at our feet.
“Musicians” said Spider, releasing Shane.
The officer winced and brought up a collection of papers he’d rolled behind his back. He squinted at it. “Your name?”
“Pogue Mahone”
The officer made his eyes slender. “Pogue Mahone?” He fiddled with the sparse whiskers on his chin.
“A Gaelic expression”
“Gaelic?”
“Kiss my arse” Spider shot back.
The officer widened his eyes and poised his head above the group.
We were quiet, looking to our feet.  The officer shifted himself rigid.  He looked to Spider. “Aboard this ship you will be Pogues”

The chapters are short and each part of the story is interrupted by a smaller section explaining how the song came into being. These pop up as they appear in the book and not in the album’s order so having a good knowledge is not all that important, though some of it will sail over of your head I am sure.

Ewan MacColl

Ewan MacColl

The classic Ewan MacColl penned song ‘Dirty Old Town’ receives a chapter to itself. As The Medusa navigates a storm we are told that Ewan MacColl actually hated The Pogues version of his song. In an interview Ewan’s wife Peggy Seeger, a renowned folk artist in her own right, contends that when Ewan wrote the line

“We’ll chop you down like an old dead tree”

he was implying improvement of Salford rather than destroying it. Roesgen quite rightly sees another side to The Pogues version

“In the Pogues performance we have little trouble seeing Shane, with spite seething from his lips, wielding his axe like a banshee, hacking his dismal town to splinters”

Roegson tells a great tale of the story behind the album and brings out the connections between Irish music and punk rock as well as American folk as well. Steering clear of anything too overly dramatic this wee book is worthy of passing the time away one day and is small enough (only 119 pages) to be read in one go. Therein lies the problem though in that you are left gasping for more. So the only possible solution is to pour yourself a generous drink, put ‘Rum Sodomy And The Lash’ on, turn it up loud, sit back in your deckchair and enjoy!

“With Spider singing, Shane and Frank Ryan jigged among the band. Ryan hadn’t expected James’s theft and his canonization, but it played into his plan for revolt. And he danced. Together the two men gulped from the jug, embracing amid the music. “Jesse James,” the crowds called over and over, diluting even the music we played”

Buy The Book

Amazon  Bloomsbury  Audible(TalkingBooks)

33⅓ (Thirty-Three and a Third) is a series of books written about music albums, featuring one author per album and published by Bloomsbury Publishing. The series title refers to the speed (33⅓ revolutions per minute) of an LP album and as of June 2015 over 100 titles had been published.

For more information on the series there is a Blog here as well as the Bloomsbury site here

*if you’re interested in The Pogues we have a multitude of great articles on them-

‘From Oppression To Celebration- The Pogues And The Dropkick Murphys And Celtic Punk’ here 

‘A Wee Biography Of Shane MacGowan’  here 

‘30492-London Celtic Punks Top Twenty Celtic-Punk Albums Of All Time’ here

‘Film Review: If I Should Fall From Grace With God- The Shane MacGowan Story’  here

‘Book Review: Irish Blood, English Heart- Second Generation Irish Musicians In England’  here

‘Red Roses For Me And Me’  here

‘Film Review: I’m A Man You Don’t Meet Every Day’  here

The Best Pogues Related Sites

In The Wake Of The Medusa * Paddy Rolling Stone * The Parting Glass * Pogues Facebook Page

For me though the best place on the internet for The Pogues is this unofficial group on Facebook (here) all the diverse views you would expect from a bunch of people who follow The Pogues. Be sure and join up won’t you?

TRIBUTE TO BALLYDOWSE…AND FREE DOWNLOADS!

Ballydowse were an American Christian celtic-punk band that sang about social and economic injustice.

Ballydowse

(1998-2003)

Ballydowse were a celtic punk rock band from Chicago, Illinois with a rare mix of both anarchist and religious ideas infused into their music. Formed from the ashes of streetpunk/Oi! band Crashdog many of the group’s members were from the Jesus People USA commune. In addition to the group’s Mekons/Pogues-style celtic punk influences, the group also drew influence from world music such as klezmer and Tibetan throat singing. Ballydowse released two fantastic albums both engineered by the legendary producer Steve Albini. Their debut album was entitled ‘The Land, the Bread, and the People’ and was a home place for many who found common cause with certain elements of Christianity while rejecting the American right wing bias so prominent in the church at the time. Their second album ‘Out Of The Fertile Crescent’ continued this trajectory with a growing Eastern European flavor. The group’s political activism over the economic sanctions on Iraq in the 2000s, prison reform, death penalty and the short-comings of capitalism was unique among Christian bands of the time. They are credited with being at the forefront of the hardcore Christian music scene. Sadly Ballydowse disbanded in 2003 but don’t let those cocky corporate music execs keep you from hearing quality music. Let’s prove them dead wrong, join the revolution, and turn the world upside down. A double dose of Ballydowse is a great place to start to get your motor running, heart pounding, brain thinking and your spirit soaring.

“Holy Father we all want bread,

Both from heaven and your fields so green.

I know your grace is man’s first need,

But I can no longer hold the pain I’ve seen.

I am my brother’s keeper and that I’ll always be.

I’ll not turn my back be he stranger of blood

And embrace a life of greed.

I am my sister’s keeper and that I’ve always been.

Every day I’ve left her out in the streets”

from ‘The Land, The Bread And The People’

Ballydowse- 'The Land, The Bread, And The People'  click on the record sleeve for your download link password: freepunk77

Ballydowse- ‘The Land, The Bread, And The People’ (1998)
click on the above record sleeve for your download link
password: freepunk77

(click on play below to hear the entire album)

Ballydowse- 'Out Of The Fertile Crescent' (2000) click on the above record sleeve for your download links password: freepunk77

Ballydowse- ‘Out Of The Fertile Crescent’ (2000)
click on the above record sleeve for your download links
password: freepunk77

(click on play below to hear the entire album)

The Band

Facebook  Bandcamp  YouTube

there’s an extensive interview with Andrew and Brian from the band here on the web-zine ‘The Phantom Tollbooth’.

if you’re interested in Christian celtic-punk then go here for a big section on it from the ‘Celtic Folk Punk And More’ web-zine.

*any links don’t work simply leave a comment and we will update them.

FILM REVIEW: THE MOLLY MAGUIRES (1970)

“maybe its my Christian heart but I never could stand the sight of a man carrying a cross”

The Molly Maguires

Growing up in England the opportunities to express pride in your Irish roots were very few and far between. The rare moments would come along, we had St Patrick’s Day, Celtic, our pubs and clubs and church and lets face it very little else. On the TV we were a figure of ridicule and nightly we were informed that the people sat right next to us in our living rooms were thick and stupid and steeped in superstition or dangerous and drunkards or trying to bring down the rule of law and that ordinary folk should inform the authorities of anything suspicious among the Irish community. Innocent people were sent to jail with little more evidence of guilt than their accents or their family backgrounds. With that going on in the background we learnt our history at home and among our family, friends and neighbours but one of the defining moments of my childhood was watching The Molly Maguires as a kid. It ticked all the necessary boxes for a young 2nd gen Irish lad with a identity crisis. Not only did it portray the Irish outside of Ireland and showed how badly they were treated and exploited but, and most importantly of all, how rather than except their fate and roll over they resisted that oppression and fought back, even though eventually it end in tragedy. The Molly Maguires were a secret society of militant Irish Catholic coal miners who resisted violence from the mine owners with violence themselves. The film is based on real events and the gripping story is a sympathetic and accurate depiction of the struggle for justice of the Irish-American miners.

CREW

Cinematography- James Wong Howe * Director- Martin Ritt * Music- Henry Mancini * Producer- Paramount Pictures

CAST

Sean Connery as “Black Jack” Kehoe * Richard Harris as Detective James McParlan/McKenna * Samantha Eggar as Miss Mary Raines * Frank Finlay as Police Captain Davies * Anthony Zerbe as Tom Dougherty * Bethel Leslie as Mrs. Kehoe * Art Lund as Frazier * Philip Bourneuf as Father O’Connor * Anthony Costello as Frank McAndrew * Brendan Dillon as Dan Raines, Mary’s Father * Frances Heflin as Mrs. Frazier * Malachy McCourt as The Bartender

Running time 123 minutes

“You either end up on the gallows or coughing your lungs out, what’s the difference?”

With the Great Hunger still vivid in the minds of the newly arrived Irish immigrants to America as they spread across the country, many of them washed up in Pennsylvania coal country where they became miners. The mine workers were treated abysmally and most died young of diseases picked up in the mines or in the ghetto’s that surrounded them. The years between ‘Black 47’ and the depression of 1920-21 saw great turmoil in industrial America. Violent confrontation between workforces and bosses over poor working conditions and even poorer wages, as well as the threat of workers uniting in trade unions, were common in the cities and the coal fields that fuelled them. The promise of work for the unskilled and a better life drew large numbers of Irish people to north-eastern Pennsylvania. The choice for the poorest of the Irish poor was the coal mine. They came mostly from west Ulster and north Connacht. The Irish didn’t confine themselves to coal but to get the black gold to New York and Philadelphia they also dug canals as well as building embankments, tunnelling and laying track. But more than anything, the Irish dug coal. A Mayo-man looking round a coalfield is quoted at the time as saying

“Do you mean to tell me that this is America?”

In 1880, the ‘foreign-born’ accounted for 23% of the region’s population and Ireland was the birthplace of 41% of those, the figure underestimates the Irish as many would have been born in America, England and Scotland. It is thought well over 30% of the regional population would have been Irish. These were dark times of persecution for Irish Catholics and they were not to get better by crossing the Atlantic. These were the men and women who built America. A people who had escaped poverty and death only to find a world where they were still enslaved the only difference being the company had replaced the empire.

The Molly Maguires

We have no idea exactly when The Molly Maguires came into existance but they gained prominance in the mine fields in the years around 1860. They were a militant secret cell within the open catholic organsisation the Ancient Order of Hibernians. With no organized labour movement to speak of it became the Mollys who were the only protection those miners had. Protection was needed from anti-Catholic and anti-Irish discrimination, more than any other race they were used as scapegoats on whatever stage their enemies deemed fit. Irish working men started organising together while the, predominantly protestant, mine owners organised a paramilitary force to take them on. Violently breaking strikes and trade unions. Strikers and activists were sacked and evicted, their jobs and houses given to scabs, and ‘troublemakers’ often attacked and killed. In return the miners engaged in sabotage. Mines were flooded, breakers burned, stores dynamited and trains derailed. Mine bosses, superintendents and foremen, generally of English, Welsh or German extraction, were intimidated and killed and blacklegs and informers in the Irish community were ruthlessly punished. The rebellion came to an end with the execution of twenty people rounded up as Molly Maguires. They bravely went to the scaffold without betraying themselves or their comrades. The majority of the twenty had links to the same part of Ireland in west Donegal. At the time and right up until modern times (possibly around the time this film was made) the twenty men hanged as Molly Maguires in north eastern Pennsylvania were either valiant defenders of labour or

“the most noted band of cut-throats of modern times”

That controversy has ended and its clear now to all that the hanged men were innocent victims of a terrible miscarriage of justice.

So the stage was set in 1969 with radical politics and a vision of a better life for all not just a distant memory for a film to be based on The Molly Maguires to be made. In 1967 Director Martin Ritt was making ‘Hombre’ in which Scots-Irish actor Sean Connery’s then wife Diane Cilento was cast. Ritt had the idea for The Molly Maguires and asked Connery what he thought. Connery was interested but it took over four years to get the film off the ground. Both director Martin Ritt and screenwriter Walter Bernstein had been blacklisted by major studios in the communist scare of the 1950s.

leader of the Mollys Jack Kehoe

leader of the Mollys
Jack Kehoe

The film is dirty and relentless and coal dust gets everywhere.  It was filmed in the abandoned Pennsylvania coal town of Ecksley, a place where the Mollys were active in their day, that adds credibility and authenticity to the picture. The colliery still stands along with the Emerald House pub, the company store and all the Mollys homes. A frighteningly impressive Sean Connery plays Jack Kehoe, the leader of the Mollys, while Richard Harris plays James McParlan. Kehoe is suspicious of McPharlan when he arrives to work at the mines but over time he begins to trust and allows him to join the Mollys and take part in their activities. Unbeknown to Kehoe, McPharlan is in fact working for the Pinkerton Detective Agency and has been sent to infiltrate and destroy the Mollys. The film is basically a clash between two ways of life. McPharlan who is willing to sell out and betray anyone to rise in class and Kehoe who puts the interests of his community first and is prepared to sacrifice all for the benefit of others. As McPharlan states in the film

“I’m tired of always looking up. I want to look down”

The history of Ireland has unfortunately been plagued with informers. People seduced by wealth or promises of land and power or simply those with no conscious they are rightly despised by all  to but we Irish have a special disdain for them. The story as told in the film sticks closely to the truth of what happened and is as gripping and well made a piece of radical cinema as has ever been made. From the soundtrack to the costumes and location and acting the film is dazzling and is today considered a masterpiece, and deservedly so, which makes it incredible to think it bombed so badly upon release. It put paid for a time the idea that either Connery or Harris would make leading men. In the critics minds the wordless 15 minute prologue as well as the decision to not let Sean Connery speak until 45 minutes into the movie couldn’t have helped.

Maguire1

Connery and Harris

There were no ‘Marquis of Queensbury’ rules in early industrial America. Decent people sometimes did terrible things. They still do. It is the way of the world. The Irish fought oppression first with dynamite and powder and then with political power. Soon the Irish were to rise to all levels of political influence and the old guard were dispensed with. Martin Ritt thought the films financial failure being down to audiences being unable to decide whether Jack Kehoe or Jim McParlan was the hero.

“They should have understood, that Kehoe, who was a murderer, was the hero of the film”

In another interview Ritt acknowledged that life was changing and some of the decent values that America was built on were also changing.

“I wanted to show that the villain in the film was the informer, a man who wormed his way into the graces of his fellow workers and then turned them in. To me that is a villainous act. And in the American tradition, an informer is a villainous person, although those ethics have been somewhat undermined by the hysteria of the communist scare”

In 1970, Middle America couldn’t accept Kehoe as the hero he has now become. As the films ends and with McParlan’s true identity revealed, he visits Kehoe in prison. It is a significant moment between the two of them, ending a relationship based on trust and bringing to the fore the differences between them. The final image that imposes McParlan against the gallows he has helped to build emphasises that we have an awful lot to be grateful for free men that will stand against oppression and fight back. Their is no Hollywood here. What the Mollys gave was their all. Their is no romance just two solid hours of an uncompromising and heartbreaking look into what working people have had to endure. Our job now is to make sure those conditions never return.

(the following clip is the final scene of the movie so don’t watch if you haven’t seen the whole film!)

Molly Maguires SoundtrackThe Molly Maguires Soundtrack

Composed, Arranged and Conducted

by Henry Mancini

For the film, composer Henry Mancini composed one of his finest musical scores, filled with jaunty Irish tunes and roaring dramatic evocative themes. Whether depicting early morning at the mines (the astonishing opening cue) or the resistance activities or the blossoming love affair, Henry Mancini’s score is right up there with his greatest soundtracks including such masterpieces as Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Charade, Days of Wine and Roses, Hatari!, Two For The Road and many others. amazingly it doesn’t appear to be available on CD anywhere.

Tracks

(click on the tracks in green to hear them)

Theme from The Molly Maguires (New Day in 1876)
The Mollys Strike
Main Title
Room and Board
Sandwiches and Tea
Work Montage
Pennywhistle Jig
A Hard Day’s Work
On Your Knees
Jamie and Mary
Trip to Town
Strike Two/Strike Three
The Hills of Yesterday
There’s More
The Mollys Strike Again
A Suit for Grandpa
Kehoe Lights Up/The Last Strike
The End

Buy The Film

plenty of places on the web or try Amazon  AllYourMusic as a last resort!

The Soundtrack

is out of print but since this article came out I have been sent a download link for it. Rather than put it here I will include it as a comment as these things have a habit of being taken down. So check the comments and download this rather brilliant album.If it does disappear leave a comment and we’ll try and upload it again.

Molly Maguires statue by Zenos Frudrakis in Molly Maguires Memorial Park, Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania, USA

Molly Maguires statue by Zenos Frudrakis in Molly Maguires Memorial Park, Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania, USA

INTERVIEW WITH WILTSHIRE BAND MICK O’TOOLE

Well here’s a first for the London Celtic Punks web-zine… we have for you a video interview with Mick O’Toole a five piece southern cider swilling folk band from the deepest darkest Shire! The latest in our ever growing roster of bands we love.

Mick O'Toole

Now it wasn’t intended to be like this no. I expected a reply by e-mail but I had seriously misjudged how lazy they are and instead they done a video (anything to get out of typing)! Anyhow on reflection it seems a lot more fun and it had me creasing up. So grab yourself a big cup of tea and a packet of biscuits and settle down to hear the who, where, why, what, when and how of Mick O’Toole.

Sooo pretty much all you need to know about the Bhoys for now. You can check out their great EP ‘Deep In Cider’ by simply clicking play on the Bandcamp player below. OR the lads are playing in London next Saturday in Camden or in Kingston on Sunday with our good mates The Lagan and Matilda’s Scoundrels. Both gigs are free…yes *FREE* so you have no excuse to miss them! You can check out the event page here

You can read our review of their excellent second EP ‘1655 Pitchfork Rebellion’ here.

(from left to right)  Arron Heap, Mandolin and Vocals Tyler Shurmer, Guitar and BV's Johnny Edwards Vocals, Banjo, Accordion and Penny Whistle Guy Shergold Bass and BV's Jamie Squires Drums and Bv's

(from left to right) Arron Heap, Mandolin and Vocals
Tyler Shurmer, Guitar and BV’s
Johnny Edwards Vocals, Banjo, Accordion and Penny Whistle
Guy Shergold Bass and BV’s
Jamie Squires Drums and BV’s

Contact The Band

Facebook  Bandcamp  ReverbNation  YouTube  Twitter

‘THE SPIRIT OF WALFRID’ CELTIC CHARITY COMPILATION ALBUM OUT NOW

For Celtic Supporters By Celtic Supporters

Brother Walfrid

I tell you the Celtic Family never ceases to amaze me. While one bunch of supporters has come to the aid of a Celtic fan arrested unjustly in London recently (here) another has released this compilation album to help out several charities all close to the Celtic heart.

The album has been organised by The Celtic Network on the belief that

“if you run a site for Celtic fans it is important that charity and good works are promoted alongside the football”

There are seventeen songs, some of which have been recorded and/or written specifically for this album, uniquely produced by a set of football supporters and by Celtic supporting bands and artists. The music itself is mostly of the Irish kind and The Celtic Network is hoping to donate £5 from every sale to the nominated charities. The idea of a ‘charity’ album is nothing new, however I think this may be one of the few to be produced by football supporters, so if that is the case this album maybe a wee bit unique. Fortunately The Celtic Network supports both good causes and Celtic supporting bands and artists, which gave a good starting point for this fund raising project.

If you can, please show your support for The Celtic Network and all of the artists who have given their time and effort to produce the album and the wonderful charities who will benefit from your generosity.

Full Track Listing:

  1. Willie Maley – Charlie And The Bhoys
  2. Colours – The Wakes
  3. They Built Paradise – Bible Code Sundays
  4. Viva La Familia Celtic – Billy No’Well
  5. The Midfield Man – Dusty Bhoy
  6. The Immigrants –  Gary Óg and The Exiles
  7. Home From Home – Paddy Ryan
  8. The Spirit of Brother Walfrid – Hutchy
  9. Tell You This – Closure
  10. Inter Milan – Charlie And The Bhoys
  11. The Uncrowned King of Football – The Wakes
  12. Maybe It’s Because I’m An Irish Londoner – Bible Code Sundays
  13. Invisible – Billy No’Well
  14. Here’s To You Tommy – Dusty Bhoy
  15. Freedom – Gary Óg and The Exiles
  16. My Heart Is In Ireland – Paddy Ryan
  17. In Paradise – Hutchy

The good causes to benefit are:

(click on the charity name to go direct to their site)

Band and Artists are:

(click on the band name to go direct to their site)

you can buy the CD or the Download from The Celtic Network web-site here for just £7.50 or £6.

Join The Celtic Network

Facebook  WebSite  Twitter

The Celtic Network ‘for Celtic Supporters, by Celtic supporters’. We aim to provide a free alternative to mainstream media, promote Celtic fans sites and support good causes be it large charities or individuals.

BROTHER WALFRID

“a football club will be formed for the maintenance of dinner tables for the children and the unemployed”

Brother Walfrid4

Andrew Kerins was born on 18th May 1840 to John and Elizabeth Kerins (nee Flynn) in Ballymote, County Sligo in the north-west of Ireland. His parents were poor farmers and devout Catholics. When Andrew was just 5 years of age the Great Famine (Irish: An Gorta Mor) struck Ireland. Lasting for seven years this was a period of mass starvation, disease, death and emigration. During this horrendous time in Irish history more than 1 million people died from disease and starvation and a much larger number emigrated from Ireland to avoid the same fate.

Many of those who left headed straight for the large industrial cities of Britain like London, Liverpool, Manchester, Edinburgh and Glasgow. The conditions that met them there were often little better that those they had just left behind in Ireland.

Andrew survived the famine. However, coming from a poor family, he would have known hunger and witnessed countless scenes of indescribable pain and suffering, the memories of which would stay with him for his lifetime. Andrew went on to study teaching and in 1864 he joined The Irish Marist Brothers Teaching Order taking the name Brother Walfrid, after Galfrido della Gherardesca, an eighth-centuty saint from Pisa, Italy.

Brother Walfrid3

In the early 1870’s his Order sent him to the East End of Glasgow. There he taught at St. Marys School and the Sacred Heart School where he was appointed headmaster in 1874. In 1884 Brother Walfrid set up the Poor Childrens Dinner Table charity, also known as ‘Penny Dinners’ whereby for a penny (or some bread and ha’penny) a child could get a nourishing meal. To fund his charity Brother Walfrid would arrange exhibition football matches.

On 6th November 1887 Celtic Football Club was formally constituted at a meeting in St. Mary’s church hall in Forbes Street, Carlton, Glasgow, by Brother Walfrid with the purpose of alleviating poverty in the East End of Glasgow by raising money for the charity he had started three years earlier, the ‘Poor Childrens Dinner Table’. A circular was issued declaring that

“the main object of the club was to supply …. funds for the maintenance of the dinner tables for the needy children in the missions of St Mary’s, Sacred Heart and St Michael’s”

In 1893 Brother Walfrid was sent by his Religious Order to London’s East End where he continued organising football matches to support his charity work. This time the beneficiaries were the poor children of Bethnal Green and Bow.

Brother Walfrid died on 17 April 1915 and is buried in the Mount St. Michael Cemetery in Dumfries.

Brother Walfrid

In 2005, a fine sculpture of Brother Walfrid was unveiled outside Celtic Park to commemorate the major part he played in the founding of the club. The chair of the Memorial Committee, Eddie Toner, observed ruefully that modern football has been taken over by many of the values and philosophies that Walfrid would undoubtedly have opposed. The memorial would act “as a humble reminder of the club’s origins”.

For more On Brother Walfrid visit this recommended web site here.

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