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January 16, 2018 / rockroots

James Young – Ulster Party Pieces

A second post courtesy of WorldbyStorm, admin of the Cedar Lounge Revoultion and supporter of this site.

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Released in 1969, just as Northern Ireland was slipping into the abyss, this record from well-established Ulster comedian James Young makes no attempt to shy away from the sectarian divide. It was a routine his large fan base had come to expect and appreciate though, IMHO, the unrelenting nudge nudge, wink wink, so no more jokes about community stereotypes becomes jarring rather quickly.

The back of the LP is at pains to explain that Young is an equal opportunities joker – his humour takes pot-shots at both militant Catholic Republicans and staunch Protestant Unionists – and that he encourages both communities to laugh at themselves. And anecdotally, it’s said that he retained a cross-community appeal even at the height of the conflict. It does, however, point to an over-riding obsession with religious differences among Northern Ireland society in 1969, and the listener would have to be intimately familiar with the insinuations and innuendos used throughout, like knowing what districts were occupied by which religion, which football team was aligned to which side of the divide, and which 1960s politicians championed which side. The unfortunate thing is that much of the basic premises would still apply to the institutionally-divided Northern Ireland of today, and the likes of the Hole in the Wall Gang are proof of the enduring fixation with the Protestant/Catholic stereotypes.

The most irritating moment for me was when I realised I was getting into a similar mindset and trying to pigeon-hole Young’s comedy as coming from one perspective or the other; which side was he more vitriolic about? So, OK, I’m deliberately going to avoid finding that out, because it shouldn’t be remotely relevant. What I do know about James Young is that he was gay, which in fact probably helped him view the divide from an outsider’s point of view, I know he died of a heart attack at a relatively young age in 1974, and I know there have been accusations of child-abuse made against him in more recent years. Again, none of this is particularly relevant to the content of the record.

Generally accompanied by a traditional-style accordion music, the songs joke about such implausibilities as a Catholic playing for Linfield, a Protestant going on a shopping trip to Dublin, the hilarious notion of a Non Sectarian Football Team and what absurdities would ensue, and an Ireland of the future (1987) where religious differences have come full circle. Most songs are credited to ‘Allen’, including the one serious song, Me Da, in which the narrator, over maudlin piano, reminisces about his deceased father marching in the 12th July Orange parade.

James Young – Ulster Party Pieces (192 kbps)

  1. Clyde Valley
  2. Gerry’s Walls
  3. Me Da
  4. Non Sectarian Football Team
  5. I’m The Only Catholic (On The Linfield Team)
  6. Changed Times
  7. We’re All Ecumenical Now
  8. I Protest
  9. Civil Rioteers
  10. Jimmie, The Belfast Folk Singer
  11. The Wrong Fut
  12. Big Aggie’s Man
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January 15, 2018 / rockroots

The Fontanas – Songs Of The Irish Rebellion

The first of two posts facilitated by friend of the site WorldbyStorm, of the Cedar Lounge Revolution.

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Arguably the most interesting thing about The Fontanas is that they had included a young Rory Gallagher in their ranks in the mid-1960s. This record, however is about as far from blues rock as you can get. The Cork showband found a niche in 1967/1968 recording the sentimental ballads and pub tunes of Ireland’s past, both as The Fontanas and as The Irish Freedom Fighters, though, as the Irish Rock Discography notes, in doing so they set a template for the much more successful Wolfe Tones. The same website considers this album “poorly recorded and with clumsy arrangements”, and it’s hard to disagree, especially on painfully out-of-tune renditions of Upton Ambush and Johnson’s Motor Car. Kelly Of Killane has a decent pop arrangement, while the LP opens with a version of Dominic Behan’s The Patriot Game, a song which, as Behan himself noticed, bore more than a passing resemblance to Bob Dylan’s later With God On Our Side.

What’s probably worth noting is the timing of this album. In the brief window between the 50th anniversary of the Easter Rising and the outbreak of serious violence in Northern Ireland, recording a collection of very old songs about the exploits of the IRA and Sinn Fein during the independence struggle was probably regarded as fairly innocent and innocuous, but in the context of the next few decades, plagued by sectarian conflict, such an LP would have been considered much more contentious and provocative by many. When fighting erupted, the band found their music unwelcome in most venues across Northern Ireland and Britain.

 

The Fontanas – Songs Of The Irish Rebellion (192 kbps)

  1. The Patriot Game
  2. The Rising Of The Moon
  3. The Three Flowers
  4. The Foggy Dew
  5. Upton Ambush
  6. The Men Of The West
  7. Kelly Of Killane
  8. Dan O’Hara
  9. The Minstrel Boy
  10. Johnson’s Motor Car
  11. Shall My Soul Pass Through Old Ireland
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)