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April 7, 2021 / rockroots

Sunshine – Dance With Me

As noted in any biography of this band, their history is unfathomable. A group called Sunshine existed briefly in the mid to late 1960s, made up of survivors from the first wave of the Belfast blues scene. Apparently unrelated, Belfast showband Candy began in 1969 before evolving into a pop group known first as Bang and then as Sunshine. That band came to an end in 1973, after which guitarist Stuart Bingham was involved with a group called Tapestry. In 1974 a new version of Sunshine was launched, featuring Bingham, his Tapestry colleagues Irene McIlroy (vocals), Shaun Magee (bass) and Ardy Moorhead (drums), and original Candy/Bang/Sunshine singer Bryce Norrie.

A few further changes as Magee and McIlroy defected to Chips, to be replaced by Trevor England (bass) and Rosie Hunter (vocals), brings us finally to the band that recorded (and autographed) this 1977 single. True to their name, light pop was their stock-in-trade, and they moved within the same orbit as bands like Chips, making the obligatory tilt towards Eurovision contests in the ’70s. ‘Dance With Me’ was a significant hit in the States and Canada in 1975 for the group Orleans – it was written by band member John Hall and his wife Johanna – but was little-known in Europe. Much more interesting is the ‘B’-side written by Bingham – a thumping pop/rocker that bounces along with great vocals and reminds me of the kitschier end of Queen’s output (maybe that’s just me though).

This was something like the third single released by the reconstituted Sunshine, and they apparently ploughed on on the pop circuit and with further singles until the 1990s.

Sunshine – Dance With Me (192 kbps):

  • Dance With Me
  • Evil Eyes

See Also:

Irish Showbands.com: Sunshine

Irish Rock Discography: Sunshine

March 31, 2021 / rockroots

The Clowns – Rockin’ the Trolls

Presumably, The Clowns had no idea that ‘trolls’ would come to mean something else entirely in the internet age. In fact, if it’s hard to know exactly what they are singing about in this 1981 single, it might be because it was written by Dutch group BZN. The lyrics concern a Scottish sailor who warns his audience that the trolls will one day ruin humanity (perhaps they did know what they were talking about after all?). BZN themselves started playing rock ‘n’ roll in the mid-1960s before moving to hard rock for a while, and then back to pop in the late ’70s. After a long career they split in 2007. This was a hit for them in 1980 and, like most of their songs, was written in English.

The Clowns, meanwhile, are a little more obscure. This was the fourth of five singles released on the Polydor label between 1980 and 1983. It will be no surprise to discover that – in the finest Irish showband tradition – The Clowns really did perform in full clown makeup and costumes; cute in theory, sinister in photos. But their exuberance and upbeat pop-rock made them a popular live draw for a time. The original five-piece promoted their debut single on national television, but soon expanded to include Christine ‘Angel’ Delahunty as a second singer alongside frontman and songwriter Padraig O’Rourke. From there, their billing evolved with first ‘Angel’ as featured singer and then ‘Idle Jack’ (O’Rourke himself, maybe?).

This ‘A’-side is a bouncy singalong. ‘B’-side ‘I Never Though I Could’ – written by O’Rourke – is a soft rocker dominated by piano and an insistent synthesizer.

By 1983 The Clowns were winning country music awards from RTÉ, indicating either a change of style by the group or a broad definition of ‘country’ by the broadcaster. It seems the band continued with many line-up changes, but still led by O’Rourke. Although he married Delahunty, he recruited a succession of ‘Angel’s to front the band up until his untimely death in 1997. One of the Angels continued with a solo career for some considerable time after this.

The Clowns – Rockin’ the Trolls (192 kbps):

  • Rockin’ the Trolls
  • I Never Thought I Could

March 24, 2021 / rockroots

Skid Row – Alive and Kickin’

News of the death of Noel ‘Nollaig’ Bridgeman has prompted this post. A fairly unassuming gentleman by all accounts, with his immaculate ‘celtic afro’ and handlebar moustache he was also that rarity among Irish rock musicians – someone who actually looked like a star. Most of all, though, it was his talent that saw him have an extraordinarily long career as a session drummer through many decades and musical styles. He first made a name for himself in Skid Row alongside singer Phil Lynott, guitarist Ben Cheevers and bassist Brush Shiels. Bridgeman was in and out of the band often throughout its various permutations right up until recent years, and also found time to join Granny’s Intentions briefly during the recording of their great and only album. His CV is far too long to detail here, but suffice to say his story runs through the first thirty-odd years of Irish rock itself and it’s a sad reminder of the diminishing links back to that golden age.

‘Alive and Kickin” was the third album released by Skid Row. It came five years after their landmark ’34 Hours’ LP, but had little in common with its jazz/hard rock vibe. After Gary Moore’s departure Brush and Noel struggled to pick up the pieces with replacements and briefly went their separate ways. By the time this ‘live-in-the-studio’ album was recorded in January 1976 they were joined by Jody Pollard (guitar/vocals, ex-Elmer Fudd), John Brady (bass/vocals) and Dave Gaynor (second drummer). Brush sang and played electric mandolin and harmonica, and a third percussionist – Ian Anderson – was borrowed from Ditch Cassidy’s backing band. This probably isn’t their best record, either as a band or individually, it has to be said, but what it is is a covers album of live favourites played in a party atmosphere.

Skid Row – Alive and Kickin’ (192 kbps):

  1. You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet
  2. Wiped Out
  3. Really Got Me
  4. Tired Of Waiting/Louis Louis/Hang On Sloopy
  5. Mr Tambourine Man
  6. Little Help From My Friends
  7. Summertime Blues
  8. Let’s Dance
  9. Mandolin Medley
  10. Killin’ Me Softly
  11. Me and Bobby McGee
  12. Drift Away
  13. Satisfaction

See Also:

Irish Showbands.com: Skid Row

Irish Showband & Beat Group Archive: Skid Row

March 17, 2021 / rockroots

Keltic Wine (& St Patrick’s Day)

17 March is of course Ireland’s national holiday but, arguably of even more importance, today also marks the tenth anniversary of the Rock Roots blog. Back in 2011 I didn’t expect to get away with sharing old records for more than a few months, so to still be writing new posts a decade later is astonishing. It also makes me wonder if I should have been doing something more productive with my time. In any case, this blog would have had a much shorter shelf life if there had been no interest in it, but it’s now approaching 92,000 clicks from over 43,600 individual visitors. That’s an incredible number for a site that has frequently been dormant for very long periods of time, and it surely says something about the enduring legacy of this music. So a sincere ‘thank you’ to all who’ve visited and commented over the last ten years, and most of all to the musicians who made this little island rock!

For the day that’s in it, let’s revert to stereotype and enjoy a slice of ‘Celtic Rock’.

As a conventional rock band, ‘Topaz‘ formed in about 1970. By early 1973 they had become Keltic Wine to signify the addition of traditional Irish instruments to the mix. At the time, comparisons were drawn with Mushroom in particular, though Horslips were another obvious point of reference. On the evidence of their only single ‘A’-side, their use of electric fiddle as a lead instrument also bears similarities to Fairport Convention. 

The line-up of the band seems to have been fluid to say the least, but was largely based around Roy Fitzgerald (fiddle/guitar/mandolin/recorder/harpsichord) and Richard Fitzgerald (bass/fiddle/whistle/mandolin). A picture sleeve for this single also credits Dick Farrelly (organ/guitar/mandolin/accordian), Paul McAteer (drums/bodhrán) and Topes Curnce (guitar/whistle/flute/uilleann pipes). As can be seen, the sheer range of instruments played by the group is boggling, and they added multi-part vocal harmonies to the mix as well. They prided themselves on a live set of original material and unique covers, and their single from August 1973 showed off two of their own compositions.

‘Hurricane Sailor’ is the above-mentioned example of fiddle-driven rock. ‘B’-side ‘An Fhuiseog’ (which appropriately translates as ‘the lark’) is a gentle instrumental with lots of flute (or is it recorder?) and mandolin. As with so many bands covered here, that was their entire recorded output. And – also as with many bands covered here – the hype would suggest that Keltic Wine had a lot more to offer than just one single. Celtic Rock had only a brief moment in the sun, but what was probably just as damaging for this group’s prospects was their frequent changes in personnel. They split permanently around 1975. Paul McAteer was perhaps the only member to have a lasting career, with Supply Demand & Curve and Barry Devlin among a long list of session credits.

Keltic Wine (192 kbps):

  • Hurricane Sailor
  • An Fhuiseog

See Also:

Irish Rock Discography: Keltic Wine

Irish Showbands.com: Keltic Wine

March 10, 2021 / rockroots

Barry Devlin – Breaking Star Codes

After the break-up of Horslips in 1980, bass player/singer Barry Devlin began work on a solo concept album based loosely around the signs of the zodiac. The result was Breaking Star Codes, released through RTÉ Records in 1983. There was a who’s who of musicians involved in the album, including Greg Boland, Paul McAteer, Brian Masterson and Roger Doyle from Supply Demand & Curve, Garvan Gallagher from Metropolis, Steven Travers and Tommy Lundy of The Crack, Honor Heffernan and Tommy Moore. Most prominent of all was Devlin’s Horslips colleague Jim Lockhart. The album cover featured a painting by Roger Dean, a name synonymous with ’70s prog rock artwork.

The songs are in a soft rock vein, and may not have been what Horslips fans were expecting. Indeed, the self-effacing Devlin writes in the sleeve insert that he would have preferred eight songs but there are twelve zodiac signs to be referenced, and also that the zodiac narrative link through the songs is fairly tenuous. Many years later he joked that the album only sold 14 copies despite making the Irish charts. Nevertheless, fans of his former (and now revived) band may find this of interest. Devlin & Lockhart collaborated again with RTÉ in composing the iconic theme tune to the long-running rural drama series Glenroe. Breaking Star Codes remains Barry Devlin’s only project as a solo artist.

RTÉ promoted the album and filmed a television special titled ‘The Star Codes Project’, recorded in June 1983 but not broadcast until March 1984. Although this remains locked in the vaults for the time being, the promo suggests an intriguing mix of mimed performance and interpretive dance – surely worthy of another airing!

Barry Devlin – Breaking Star Codes (192 kbps):

  1. Twins (Gemini)
  2. Who Can Tame The Lion (Leo)
  3. It’s The Cruellest Sign (Virgo)
  4. Remember You’re A Winner (Aries)
  5. When Two Stars Collide (Sagittarius)
  6. Just Another Line (Pisces)
  7. Let The Scales Decide (Libra)
  8. December 21 (Capricorn)
  9. The Stars Said (Taurus)
  10. Remember A Star (Cancer)
  11. Aquarian Girls (Aquarius)
  12. Love With A Sting In It’s Tail (Scorpio)

See Also:

Irish Rock Discography: Barry Devlin

Wikipedia: Barry Devlin

March 3, 2021 / rockroots

Spice

There’s remarkably little online about early-’70s Dublin group Spice. The Irish Rock Discography suggests that they evolved from ’60s group The Cyclones, and that band member Jimmy Mullen was the uncle of U2’s Larry Mullen. The same site reveals a possible second EP single and a various-artists compilation album which nevertheless featured Spice as the main attraction. I don’t have these, unfortunately (at least not yet). But this first single reveals a laid-back maturity that promises much from the rest of their output. Notably, Jackie Hayden was centrally involved in their career, both as producer and occasional songwriter. He had already overseen a great single by The Urge, and would go on to work on the Falling Asunder project and Reform‘s first album, arranging U2’s first record contract along the way. The ‘A’-side here has a lovely west coast rock vibe, not quite Jefferson Airplane standard but maybe Moby Grape? The flipside is a gentle soft-rock ballad. Both feature some really nice vocal harmonies, and the playing and production are wonderful, especially in comparison to much of what was being released at the time in Ireland.

Spice (192 kbps):

  • Last Year
  • Looking My Way

See Also:

Irish Rock Discography: Spice

February 24, 2021 / rockroots

Time Machine

You read about bands like The Drifters or Fleetwood Mac; how their managers owned the rights to their successful brand name and could therefore attempt to replace the entire line-up, but you probably don’t expect that kind of thing in County Mayo. Time Machine were formed in Kiltimagh (incidentally, the town that supposedly gave us the word ‘culchie’) in 1969. They were singer Gabriel Henaghan, guitarists Seán Holleran and John Walsh, bassist John Higgins and drummer Paddy Glynn, and they were managed by local teenager Louis Walsh (was he related to John Walsh?). Gigging for about a year, the original members began to drift away, first with Joe Joyce replacing Glynn. Eventually, Holleran and Joyce rebuilt the band as a power-trio in 1970 with bassist Gerard McLoughlin. The band won a respectable following over the next few years, playing nationwide and even – significantly – supporting Status Quo. When the opportunity came to record a single, it was a Quo cover that was selected for the ‘A’ side – Francis ‘Mike’ Rossi’s ‘Railroad’. Producer Bill Somerville Large mixed in some steam-train sound effects for emphasis and the group rip through some tight, punchy boogie-rock. The ‘B’ side was ‘Going Down Down Down’ – written by Don Nix (as ‘Going Down’), but probably owing more to a then-recent cover by Chicken Shack. Here, the trio are even deeper into the rock groove, with distorted sludgy guitar surging like a chainsaw.

This promising first single came out in late 1972 but early the following year the band abruptly split up. Manager Louis Walsh was by now also involved with a Dublin rock group named Freeway, but rather than build up their name recognition from scratch, he persuaded them to rebrand as Time Machine. The ruse was discussed openly in the music press at the time, but nevertheless seemed to pay off as the new band picked up plenty of bookings, including supporting the Quo again. Freeway were singer Austin Smith, guitarist Pat Savage, bassist Sean Creighton and drummer Derek Teeling, but within a few months Smith and Creighton were replaced by bass player Kevin Jennings to restore the trio format. About a year after the first one, a second Time Machine single was released in late 1973. ‘As I Roved Out’ was a tip of the hat to Celtic Rock. And why not, considering the recent success of Horslips and Mushroom, and of Thin Lizzy’s first international hit single. ‘B’ side ‘Leaving Lady’ was the first original composition released under the Time Machine name, a guitar-heavy blues rocker. The single made it into the Irish charts.

The story of Time Machine (click to enlarge)

Whatever the nature of the original group’s split, Seán Holleran and Joe Joyce were performing together again by early 1974 under the name Bratt, along with bass player Tom Mylett. Bratt don’t appear to have lasted long, and the new Time Machine had themselves lost momentum and split in either 1974 or 1975. Louis Walsh was by now preoccupied with guiding the careers of pop groups like Chips, and would go on to make hay with Johnny Logan, Linda Martin and a succession of boy-blands. But there was another twist in the Time Machine story.

Derek Teeling from the last line-up brought the Time Machine name back from the grave a second time around 1978, without Louis Walsh’s involvement. Teeling on drums was joined by singer Annie More, guitarist/vocalist Chris Hand, bassist Tommy Smith and keyboard player David ‘Knobs’ Jameson. A third Time Machine single came out – ‘Never Met Suzi’. It’s not shared here, although the curious can find two of its three tracks online. This final phase was marked out by Rezillos-style high energy new wave courtesy of Hand and slower material from Jameson. This band seems to have petered-out during 1979. So that was it – a group name passed on like a baton through three – or arguable even five – distinct bands. Some talented musicians passed through the ranks but I don’t know that any of them made any more records. The evidence from the first two singles, though, suggests that either trio could have made a great heavy rock album.

Intriguingly, when interviewer Brendan Courtney decided to reunite Time Machine for Louis Walsh in about 2005, it was John Walsh, John Higgins and Paddy Glynn from the very first line-up who were selected to deliver an acoustic ‘Proud Mary’.

Time Machine (192kbps):

  • Railroad
  • Going Down Down Down
  • As I Roved Out
  • Leaving Lady

See Also:

Irish Showbands: Time Machine

Irish Rock Discography: Time Machine

Irish Showband & Beat Group Archive: Time Machine

February 17, 2021 / rockroots

Ned Spoone

The Irish Rock Discography reports that the original name for this band was ‘Ned Spoone and the Safari Elephants‘, formed in south Dublin in 1967. That group broke up in 1971, after which a new line-up was put together by guitarist Alan Grundy. Among the new recruits was singer Reg Walker, formerly of the rather good Love Street. It was only this heavy rock version of the Spoone which actually released any recordings – one single each in 1972 and 1973, on the PYE and Play labels respectively. Unfortunately, the first single has so far eluded me, but it consisted of covers of the James Gang’s ‘Walk Away’ and Humble Pie’s ‘Red Light Mamma, Red Hot!’ – both heavy blues rockers, which will give you at least a sense of the where their heads were at.

The follow-up paired another Humble Pie cover with a group composition, but the song titles on the disc label were switched around in error. The production (by the band themselves) is perhaps a little too murky to do them complete justice. Or maybe it’s just this scratchy copy? The guitar solo on ‘Four Day Creep’ comes through loud and clear though, and is worth a listen. ‘Look to your Soul’ is an organ-heavy pop/rock number with some unusual, but presumably intentional, choices in the production; a double-tracked guitar is constantly a fraction out of time with the rest of the instruments, giving a weird echo effect which is both grating and intriguing in equal measure. The group broke up permanently around 1974. Like many bands of this period, a solid knowledge of contemporary heavy rock was not enough to secure a lasting career on the Irish scene.

Ned Spoone – Four Day Creep (192 kbps):

See Also:

Irish Rock Discography: Ned Spoone

Irish Showband & Beat Group Archive: Ned Spoone

February 10, 2021 / rockroots

The Bogey Boys – Jimmy Did It!

Hot on the heels (well, within a year) of their first came the Bogey Boy’s second, and so far final, album: Jimmy Did It! in 1980. And Jimmy does indeed get most of the limelight here, from the great caricature sleeve (by Paul Ellis) to all six original song credits. The remaining songs are made up of two Fleetwood Mac covers and one each from Connie Francis and Sonny & Cher.

The addition of a brass section (not to mention the wonderfully-named backing singers ‘The Pointless Sisters’) on the recording sessions brought a change from the band’s previous output. There’s a laid-back soul vibe on ‘The Word Is Out’ and ‘Who’s Sorry Now’. ‘Long Grey Mare’ (misspelled on the record label) is reinterpreted as easy listening blues, while ‘Stop Messin’ Round’ is stripped back to piano. The rest of the tracks offer melodic AOR, the best of which is ‘Never Let Up’, but only on ‘Do The Buzz’ is there a taste of their earlier rock sound.

The Bogey Boys – Jimmy Did It! (192 kbps):

  • 01 – The Word Is Out
  • 02 – Blind Eye
  • 03 – Who’s Sorry Now
  • 04 – Never Let Up
  • 05 – Bang Bang
  • 06 – Long Grey Mare
  • 07 – Do The Buzz
  • 08 – Trouble
  • 09 – The Emigrant
  • 10 – Stop Messin’ Around

See Also:

Irish Rock Discography: The Bogey Boys

February 3, 2021 / rockroots

Maxi, Dick & Twink

In the mid-1960s members of the Young Dublin Singers were auditioned in the Gaiety Theatre (by either producer Fred O’Donovan or owner Eamonn Andrews), in a search for backing singers for studio recordings by the showbands and pop groups of the day. The Young Dublin Singers had their origins as the school choir of St Louis Convent in Rathmines. Three teenage girls were chosen and it was soon suggested that they should become a pop group in their own right. They were Irene McCoubrey (known as ‘Mac-C’ or ‘Maxi’), Barbara Dixon (‘Dick’) and Adele King (‘Twink’).

…helpfully posing in name order…

As Maxi, Dick & Twink, they toured Ireland and the UK between 1967 and 1970 and continued to be employed as session singers. They also recorded the singles ‘Things You Hear About Me’ and ‘Tangerines, Tangerines’. At the end of 1970 the trio were invited to join Irish pop group The Bye-Laws on an extended tour of Canada, billed collectively as ‘The Toybox‘. The grueling tour was a disaster and broke the girls’ professional relationship; Maxi and Dick left the tour in early 1971, while Twink continued as a featured singer with The Bye-Laws for a few more months.

Back home, singing star Brendan Bowyer left the Royal Showband to set up his own group, ‘The Big 8‘, and Twink sang with this and the spin-off Paddy Cole Band for the rest of the decade. Twink also had solo projects and was in the running to represent Ireland in the 1972 Eurovision Song Contest. She went on to become an all-round entertainer and an institution in Irish panto. Dick briefly sang with the Royal Showband before moving to Canada, where – now using her married name Barbara Law – she became an actress and released a pretty decent disco album (Take All of Me) in 1979. Maxi joined folk singer Danny Doyle’s Music Box but, like Twink, had parallel solo ambitions and was the Irish representative in the 1973 Eurovision (notwithstanding some last-minute wobbles). Her entry, ‘Do I Dream’, was released in multiple European territories by Decca Records. Follow-up ‘Young Love Is Afraid Of To-Morrow’ [sic] was co-credited with her imaginatively-named backing band, Maxi and Company. By 1978 Maxi was back with a new trio, ‘Sheeba‘ – as detailed elsewhere on this site – and subsequently became a prominent DJ on Irish radio.

Given the later success of all three singers, it may be surprising that only one brief reunion was staged, during a 1982 episode of Twink’s eponymous TV series. But their vocal harmonies actually worked really well together – check out ‘The Sweet Eye’ or ‘Catch The Bride’s Bouquet’ in particular. Unsurprisingly, Euro-pop is the general theme running through these songs, with ‘Things You Hear About Me’ and ‘I Got Dreams To Dream’ probably the the most Eurovisiony of all. There’s some great production and orchestral arrangements in the mix too. Pick of the litter, though, is ‘Tangerines, Tangerines’ – irresistibly upbeat, with hip staccato guitar and delightfully gibberish lyrics.

Maxi, Dick & Twink – The Singles (192 kbps):

  • Maxi, Dick & Twink – Things You Hear About Me
  • Maxi, Dick & Twink – Catch The Bride’s Bouquet
  • Maxi, Dick & Twink – Tangerines, Tangerines
  • Maxi, Dick & Twink – The Sweet Eye
  • Twink – It’d Take A Miracle (live INSC)
  • Maxi – Do I Dream
  • Maxi – Here Today And Gone Tomorrow
  • Maxi – Do I Dream (live ESC)
  • Maxi & Company – Young Love Is Afraid Of To-Morrow
  • Maxi & Company – I Got Dreams To Dream

See Also:

Irish Showbands.com: Maxi, Dick & Twink

Irish Showband & Beat Group Archive: Maxi, Dick & Twink

Wikipedia: Maxi, Dick & Twink

And although it’s arguably beyond the parameters of this site, do yourself a favour by visiting Dick’s disco: