The Showband Special
More of a pop collection than a showband album, this was actually a sampler for the Tribune Records label run by Dublin impresario Noel Pearson. Pearson rose from humble origins to try his hand at many ventures before finding success as manager of beat group The Chessmen. In 1967 he launched his own record label and issued a mixture of pop, beat, showband and folk releases by acts including The Chessmen, Danny Doyle, The Newmen, The Pacific, The Arrivals, The Clipper Carlton, The Sands and The Dubliners. In 1969 Tribune issued The Showband Special (also released through Capitol Records in Canada) as a showcase for some of their bigger acts.
Paul & The Deep Set (later known simply as The Deep Set) recorded the song The House With The White-Washed Gable at the same time as Joe Dolan & The Drifters, but it was Dolan who made the charts. It was written by Neil Levenson, producer and principal songwriter for The Creatures. The Newmen were from Ballymena and were closely linked with The Freshmen, whose lead guitarist not only wrote and produced Holiday Girl, but also managed the band. Cork’s The Arrivals released five singles during their lifetime, though only two featured Kevin Kane as lead singer and all were issued through different labels. The Chessmen were represented by two 1968 singles – Cryin’ Time and Bang-Shang-A-Lang, having long since abandoned their beat origins for the showband/pop scene. The Sands, who had their roots in The Miami showband, contributed two of their many Irish top-ten hit covers – Help Me Rhonda and Dance, Dance, Dance. The Pacific were already a well-established showband before they signed to Tribune Records, with featured singers Sean Fagan and Sonny Knowles. By 1969 Knowles had been replaced by Peter Law, but Remains To Be Seen and My Lovely Rose And You were both led by Fagan. Probably the most interesting track on the album was the recent hit recording of the blues-rock Morning Dew by Sugar Shack. The Clipper Carlton were reputed to have been the first showband in Ireland, emerging from a dance orchestra in the late 1950s. By the late ’60s they were enjoying a brief chart resurgence. From Kilkenny, The Black Aces had enjoyed a top-twenty hit with Just Tell Her Jim Said Hello in 1966. While many of these songs fit comfortably under the ‘showband’ tag, the inclusion of sophisticated pop tracks by such as The Sands, The Pacific, The Chessmen and Sugar Shack makes this collection worthy of attention, as does the eye-catching cover artwork (pop heart-throb portraits notwithstanding).
01 Paul & The Deep Set – The House With The White-Washed Gable
02 The Newmen – Holiday Girl
03 Kevin Kane & The Arrivals – Thanks To Love
04 The Chessmen – Cryin’ Time
05 The Sands – Help Me Rhonda
06 Sean Fagan & The Pacific – Remains To Be Seen
07 Sugar Shack – Morning Dew
08 The Sands – Dance, Dance, Dance
09 The Clipper Carlton – The March Hare
10 Sean Fagan & The Pacific – My Lovely Rose And You
11 The Black Aces – Just Tell Her Jim Said Hello
12 The Chessmen – Bang-Shang-A-Lang
As musical tastes changed, the chart success of Tribune Records began to wane, and the label was wound up in 1971. The bands themselves fared little better: The Clipper Carlton and The Arrivals disbanded in 1970; The Chessmen and The Deep Set in 1971; and The Black Aces in 1972. The Pacific moved to Canada and became ‘Dublin Corporation’ in 1971, while The Newmen moved to South Africa the same year but split soon after. Sugar Shack had already broken up in 1968, but drummer Brian Downey progressed from his debut record to become a star with Thin Lizzy in the ’70s. The Sands carried on until 1978, although singer Tony Kenny had left for a solo career in 1972. Among other Tribune acts, Danny Doyle and The Dubliners switched to the short-lived Plough Records, run by Noel Pearson after his first label had ceased. Pearson moved on to theatre production in the 1970s, and in the ’80s made the transition to films producing My Left Foot and The Field.