The Establishment – The Unfree Child
The strange story of The Establishment has its roots in the Dublin pop scene at the dawn of the 1970s and ends in the Persian Gulf a decade-and-a-half later. It started with pop group Julian’s Heirs, formed by brothers David Kiely (lead vocals/organ), Michael Kiely (guitar) and Des Kiely (bass) with Liam Littlewood (drums). By 1971 they had renamed themselves Cromwell, with Littlewood making way for drummer Derek Dawson and lead guitarist/vocalist Pat Brady. Soon, further changes would see David and Des Kiely replaced by singer Mick O’Hagan (brother of future Eurovision star Johnny Logan) with Michael switching to bass/vocals. It was this line-up that first gained some recognition, thanks to a 1972 Irish tour supporting Rory Gallagher. By the time of their first single they had become a three-piece, as O’Hagan had left for such groups as Bananas, Sheriff, Romance and The Jimi Slevin Band. Between 1973 and 1975 Cromwell issued their excellent At The Gallop album and five singles, all released through the band’s own Cromwell label and stamped with their distinctive logo. Their sound was a mixture blues rock and pop, and their records have since become highly prized collectors items.
Sometime between ’75 and ’77 Cromwell split, or rather Dawson left, and the duo of Patrick Brady and Michael Kiely rebranded themselves The Establishment. The Unfree Child, released on EMI in 1977, was the first album from the new band. In sleeve notes dated September 1977, Kiely explained the background to the album. At seventeen, with little aptitude for his maths lessons, his teacher gave him a copy of Summerhill – progressive educationalist and child psychologist A. S. Neill’s book about his “free school” in Suffolk and its philosophy of an alternative to the established system of society. The original tracks were inspired by his writings, while the songs of Loudon Wainwright and Jagger/Richard were selected for their “lyrical empathy”. The LP was dedicated to Neill’s memory (he died in 1973); “Consequently, it is a collection of songs about love, children, school, boredom, hatred, freedom, marriage, cruelty, sex, death and similar topics.” Anyone expecting to hear the heavy riffs of Cromwell would be disappointed, but then Cromwell always had a gentler side, as underlined by the fact that an almost identical remake of their 1973 ballad You Hate It To Turn appears here under the name Gay Daze. Sitting On A Fence and The Unfree Child were issued as singles, but failed to set the charts alight. Commercial concerns aside, the album deserves at least some of the attention At The Gallop has received, as it’s an intimate and moving collection featuring some beautifully intricate instrumental work. In 1979, Kiely and Brady embarked on the final phase of their career together when they moved to the United Arab Emirates and recorded one further album.
01 – The Unfree Child
02 – Your Children Are Not Your Children
03 – The Free Child (instrumental)
04 – Careful There’s A Baby In The House
05 – See The Teacher
06 – Sitting On A Fence
07 – How Long Does This Charade Go On
08 – Death Is Really Nothing
09 – Gay Daze
10 – Neill