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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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