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July 22, 2017 / rockroots

Green Sleeves

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I recently had the opportunity to check out the exhibition currently on display at the National Print Museum in Beggars Bush Barracks. Green Sleeves: The Irish Printed Record Cover 1955-2017 takes a look across all genres of LPs and singles from that time, all either printed in Ireland or for the Irish market. The exhibition displays some record artwork previously featured on this website (that’s not a coincidence!), but the overall presentation is really a revelation in terms of the breadth and diversity of the Irish record cover design and print industry beyond this site’s narrow focus.

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Grouped by genre or by era, the sections are in semi-enclosed spaces that give the sense of moving through a series of time-capsules from the golden age of vinyl in all it’s technicolor / mundane / ambitious / tacky glory.

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Of course this would appeal to me, but anyone who grew up owning and listening to vinyl records will get a kick out of seeing these and remembering the time before MP3s and streaming, when music was as much a physical art form as a background sound.

The exhibition runs until the 1st October 2017 and has free admission (details here).

March 1, 2017 / rockroots

Kids Aid – Children of the World

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Before turning the page on 1980s charity singles, here’s one more. As noted elsewhere on this site, in late 1985 the children of St. Benedict’s School in Colchester were inspired to launch a lottery for the benefit of the Catholic Fund for Overseas Development (CAFOD), coordinated by religion teacher Bob Hastie. Titled ‘Kids Aid’, the prizes included a walk-on part in ‘Dempsey & Makepeace’, a year’s supply of Rolo’s and a day in the BBC’s ‘Dr Who’ studios. The school raised £42,000 through the raffle and then began looking for a promoter for a charity record. In November 1986 Children Of The World was released on the Colchester-based Twink label, run by the local musician of the same name who was known for playing with The Pink Fairies, The Pretty Things and others. The A side of the single was written by music teacher Adrian Queen and produced by Twink at Portwell Studios, Farmyard Studios, Terminal Studios and The Studio, Brussels. Accompanied by members of new wave pop group The Fixx, a choir of 45 pupils of St. Benedict’s School sing an upbeat song with a vaguely reggae beat urging listeners to avoid guilt and regret about not helping the less fortunate in the third world.

On the B side, titled Instrumental / Letters, over an instrumental based on the A side, children read letters from around Britain and Ireland sent in support of the school’s charity efforts and forwarding money from other sponsored events. One writer says they were going to write to Bob Geldoff and Band Aid but didn’t know the address, another that they saw a report about the raffle and record on John Craven’s Newsround, while another notes that there have been no Kids Aid events organised in Ireland yet. The letters are followed by a message from CAFOD highlighting the urgency of famine relief and giving special thanks to St. Benedict’s School.

Kids Aid – Children of the World (192kbps)

See also:

How To Buy: Twink Records

 

January 6, 2017 / rockroots

Project Africa – Reach Out To Africa

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Here’s another charity record from the very charitable Ireland of the 1980s. From what I can gather online, this was a project put together in 1988 by members of Blackrock College as a means to raise funds for the Concern charity. Singer and co-writer Andrew McKimm appears to be a maths teacher, while the choir are ‘The Folk Group, Blackrock College’. It’s probably one of the better charity singles, the lyrics about the guilt of the white man in exploiting the continent having a simple charm and focus that’s missing from some the typical ‘one-line-per-superstar/mass shoutalong’ efforts that marked the 1980s. That said, they did manage to rope in Noel Bridgeman of Skid Row on percussion and Jim Lockhart of Horslips on production duties. The B-side is a slightly different ‘village’ mix of the same song.

Project Africa – Reach Out To Africa (192kbps)

December 31, 2016 / rockroots

The Junkbox Band – Let’s Wash Our Socks For Christmas

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Pajo’s Junkbox. This record was bought partly to serve as proof after a friend, some years ago,  had accused me of completely imagining this 1980s TV show. A complete lack of any online evidence at the time was presumably due to RTE’s policy of not recording their children’s TV output (just ask Zig & Zag), but I see a few surviving clips have since turned up thanks to vintage home videos. In any case, notwithstanding my fully-paid-up membership of Pajo’s Junkyard Gang or whatever the fanclub was called, the ‘zany’ humour of Pajo – a giant rat with a pink mohawk (and not at all related to Roland Rat) – Grabbit, Fetchit and other assorted sidekicks hasn’t translated all that well to this novelty Christmas single from 1987.

With music by Keogh (John?) and Roe, the A-side is a rock’n’roll revival number of the type popularised by Wizzard, Gary Glitter or Shakin’ Stevens in Christmases past, the B-side more of a sing-along nursery rhyme.

The Junkbox Band – Let’s Wash Our Socks For Christmas

December 19, 2016 / rockroots

Fiona – Peace

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‘Fiona’ was Fiona Molloy, a young singer from Derry. Online biographies tell us that she was from a very musical family and in her teens began operatic training under a succession of vocal coaches, including that of Dana. Fiona also learned guitar and joined the Thornhill College Folk Group. In 1975 she was asked by Derry SDLP councillor Danny Feeney and the Peace Women of Derry to sing at a local Peace Rally, and became the musical voice of the Peace People who formed the following year. With Peace People rallies, Fiona performed  throughout Ireland, Britain and Germany. A ‘major recording label’ in London briefly signed her but it was the German Hansa label that eventually released the Peace Song anthem on this early 1977 single.

The A-side itself is a slow choral hymn, while the B-side is a simpler folk song showing something of the influence of Joan Baez on the young singer. The writing credits are shared by Danny Feeney – whose 14-year-old sister Kathleen had been killed by the Provisional IRA in 1973 – and James O’Hagan, about whom I know nothing, along with a mention of the Heath-Levy music publishing company. Danny’s brother Harry’s account of their sister’s murder also tells us that Danny was “very musical, playing the drums, guitar and involved in several bands”.

Based for a short period in London, Fiona tried unsuccessfully to break into the thriving musical theatre scene of the time but then visited an aunt in New York in July 1977 and “knew that this was where I wanted to be for the rest of my life!” She has lived in the United States ever since and still performs today, mainly entertaining service-members of the US military in Key West, Florida.

Fiona – Peace (192kpbs)

See also:

Fiona Molloy (official facebook page)

 

December 4, 2016 / rockroots

The Concerned – Show Some Concern

After a very quiet year, it must be time to warm up the old engine and see if everything’s still in working order. To ease back in, let’s take a look at a selection of novelty and charity records from the archives, starting with The Concerned. Far be it from me to criticise the good intentions of other people, but it has to said that charity records are usually pretty rubbish, musically speaking. Decide for yourselves if this is the case with this single from 1985.

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The single in aid of famine relief in Ethiopia and Sudan was written by Paul Cleary of The Blades, produced by Bill Whelan, and featured a big selection of singers from the Irish music scene, ably assisted by a brace (if that’s the right term) of RTE presenters. Sure, the major league stars were missing, but there’s still a good range of contributors here, including Clannad, Christy Moore, The Golden Horde, In Tua Nua, Stockton’s Wing, Linda Martin…. well, you can see for yourselves. And if you’ve ever wanted to see a be-suited Pat Kenny pose awkwardly with a bunch of scruffy rock stars, you’re in luck.

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In 1985 there was no getting away from charity records. The year had started off with Bob and Bono at number 1 as part of Band Aid, The Concerned made to the top spot in March, being replaced after two weeks by USA for Africa. A few months later The Crowd reached number one with a record in aid of the Bradford City stadium fire fund, all of which goes to show that, for all it’s many problems, 1980s Ireland was willing to part with generous amounts of money for a good cause despite the questionable quality of the vinyl they got in return.

 

The Concerned – Show Some Concern (192 kbps)

 

 

January 25, 2016 / rockroots

Lemmy

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The Rockin’ Vickers

Is there be a way to say something about that late, lamented ultimate rock star Lemmy and still make it relevant to a blog about Irish rock music? Well it’s a bit of a stretch, but let’s try it anyway! In 1965/1966 those sadly under-appreciated Belfast R’n’B dynamos The Wheels were playing a residency in Blackpool, as part of which arrangement they shared a farm house at Garstang, Lancashire, with struggling local group The Rockin’ Vickers. And just as The Wheels guitarist Rod Demick was from North Wales, so too was The Rockin’ Vickers guitarist Ian Willis (whose father had in fact been a vicar).

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The farmhouse The Wheels and The Rockin’ Vickers shared

The Rockin’ Vickers, as the name might imply, had a typically ’60s gimmick of dressing in a bizarre mixture of religious garb and – as they were very successful in Finland – the Finnish national costume. Demick remembers Them and many other touring bands visiting the farm to party. The time the two groups spent together evidently went harmoniously as, in a newspaper interview from late 1965, the various Wheels were sure, when asked their favourite musical artists, to name-check their little known housemates.

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Both bands would ultimately break up without breaking through, with some members achieving modest success during the ’70s. Willis, of course, would undergo an unlikely transformation to Hendrix roadie, hippie singer with Sam Gopal‘s group, sonic adventurer with Hawkwind and finally, as Lemmy, rock’n’roll legend with Motörhead. Lemmy’s life reads like the evolution of rock music itself, from 1950s skiffle fan all the way to metal aristocracy. He never hid his unhip origins, acknowledging that he had been inspired first by Cliff Richard and Tommy Steele, and he was part of a generation for whom rock’n’roll was more than just disposable entertainment, it was the white-hot essence of youth culture. His macho persona was genuine rather than the stage routine of so many of his contemporaries, and he refused to follow the well-worn path of reformation followed by sobriety and smugness, but what was most remarkable about the man was his sincerity, humility and his sharp humour, in spite of all his success. Music will continue be made and may be vibrant and exciting, but it is unlikely to ever have such cultural significance again, and Lemmy’s passing seems to herald the final closing of that chapter. But we are blessed to have so much fantastic music from that time preserved for us to relive as often as we want and, as someone very cool once said, the only way to feel the noise is when it’s good and loud!

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Wikipedia: The Rockin’ Vickers

Manchester Beat: The Rockin’ Vickers

Garage Hangover: The Wheels