The Plattermen – Old Devil Wine
In 1960 four brass players from Omagh – Ray Moore, Leo Doran, Billy McGinty, and Pat Chesters – started The Platters Paramount Showband. Recruiting country & western crooner Brian Coll, and changing their name because of the American doo-wop group of the same name, by the mid ’60s The Plattermen were a major draw on the showband ballroom circuit. From 1965 on they released a string of country and pop ballads including I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen, and in 1966 – in an adaptation of Roger Miller’s England Swings – they paid tribute to the scene by singing that “Ireland swings like nowhere else can, swings to the sound of the big showband. Pixies and Freshmen, the Capitol too, maybe the Plattermen’s the band for you.”
Times were changing however, and their music began to lose its appeal. In 1967 bass player Rob Strong and guitarist Alan McCartney joined, and the following year Brian Coll left to be replaced by singer Simon Scott. The Plattermen began experimenting with a more contemporary sound; while Scott would continue to sing pop and ballad material, Strong became the driving force in the group by singing heavier soul / R’n’B tracks. By 1970 they were being hailed for this new direction with the release of the Strong-fronted single Smiling Faces (a cover of the Traffic song). The band themselves declared in a magazine announcement, “In ’71 We’re Goin’ Kinda Heavy”, and when they released an album in 1972 it bore the legend “File under Rock” – the band clearly keen to prove they had turned a corner.
That album – actually their first, notwithstanding a 1970 greatest hits collection of their singles with Coll – was Old Devil Wine, recorded in Dublin and released through the local Dolphin Records label. It was in marked contrast to their earlier material, with mostly original songs owing a debt to the brass-led soul blues rock sound of Blood Sweat & Tears more than anyone else. The track African Wah Wah was credited to The Plattermen’s John Trotter, although it’s clearly a straight cover of Santana’s Soul Sacrifice (albeit spiced with the addition of Trotter’s violin), but this aside, the album has come to be very highly regarded among collectors of both Irish music and rock music in general. The fact that it has never been re-issued has caused it to become among the most expensive Irish rock records.
Following on from their album, The Plattermen made one final attempt to cross over into the rock scene by releasing a UK single under the band name Hammer in 1973. Rock Off, on the Vertigo label, failed to break the charts and despite their enduring popularity The Plattermen split in 1974. Oddly, the name was appropriated by a completely unrelated band fronted by cabaret singer Rock Stewart (real name Willie Loughrey) around 1975, who continued to perform for decades calling his backing group The Plattermen. Rob Strong went on to achieve some success as a solo artist in the 1970s and ’80s.
- Old Devil Wine
- Play To-Day, Play To-Day
- African Wah Wah
- Love Song
- Gimme That Wine
- Cat’s Eye
- Country Boy Blues
- That’s It
- You Don’t Love Me
- Help Me Doctor Jesus
- I’m Goin’ Home
- Tawny Wine
- Hammer – Rock Off
- Hammer – Rock ‘N’ Roll Band
- Brian Coll & The Plattermen – I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen
- Brian Coll & The Plattermen – Ireland Swings
- Brian Coll & The Plattermen – I Ain’t Crying Mister
A sample of Rob Strong’s 1980s solo material. That’s It, from 1984, is not the song that was on Old Devil Wine (for some reason my copy has a weird warp at one point causing the sound to slow waaay down for a few seconds – I tried to fix this but made a bags of it). You’ve Lost… / Turn It Up was released in 1986. Hollywood Nights was recorded live and is probably an edited version from a same-titled 1986 live LP. It was released in 1987 and was backed by the song Instant Concept (recorded 1985), credited to Secret Lives – this presumably has nothing to do with Strong beyond them being label-mates, and it would be hard to find a more thoroughly ’80s song; it hasn’t dated well. There’s plenty more to Rob Strong’s soul/blues solo catalogue, and he’s still performing to this day.
- That’s It
- I Won’t Open My Eyes
- You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’
- Turn It Up
- Hollywood Nights
- Secret Lives – Instant Concept