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April 21, 2021 / rockroots

Dreams – The Best of / Singles

The Dreams – or simply Dreams (without the definitive article), as they were on most of their record labels – started out as the new group of a successful beat singer, but arguably ended up as the old group of their famous guitarist.

The Movement from Dublin released two great singles in the first half of 1968, all freakbeat clatter and distorted guitar. Singer John Farrell then made the jump from the beat underground to the more lucrative showband circuit. That might be a little misleading, though, as Dreams were definitely at the sharper end of the spectrum. Unlike the showbands, they released a lot of singles, including many original compositions. It was, however, a showband-style line-up with a brass section and matching uniforms (initially, at least). The rhythm section (Jim Hudson on bass and Dougie McIlwaine on drums) came from local R’n’B pioneers The Kingbees, lead guitarist Eric Bell had flipped between showbands and blues bands in his native Belfast (including, briefly, backing Van Morrison in an ad-hoc line-up of Them), two others (Shay O’Donoghue on organ and Joey Geoghegan on sax) came from beat group The Debonaires. They were rounded out by Mark McCormack on trumpet and added Pat McCarthy on trombone in early 1969. O’Donoghue would take on the role of chief songwriter. In terms of comparisons, the closest on the Dublin scene might have been The Real McCoy, but internationally they had a similar mix of pop and freakbeat fuzz to Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich, while The Tremeloes also had a strong influence on the band.

They got off to a strong start by pairing a frothy Tremeoloes-written pop ‘A’-side with a gothic psychedelic O’Donoghue original on the flip (produced by John Drummond). Follow-up ‘Baby I’m Your Man’ (produced by Bill Somerville-Large) was another original easily the match of anything put out by The Troggs or The Hollies at their height, and Eric Bell’s muscular guitar lifts it above the standard pop singles of the day. This was backed with a frantic cover of a track written by Eddie Grant for The Equals. Third single ‘Sweeter Than Sugar’ was as flimsy as the title suggests, paired with another Tremeloes song. Next was ‘The Casatschok’; weird history to this, as it was originally a Soviet patriotic folk song from the 1930s called ‘Katyusha’ (which subsequently had military hardware named after it). Israeli singer Rika Zarai had an international hit in early 1969 by adding French lyrics, and Dreams tried the same trick a few months later with English lyrics and lots of balalaika (or maybe an approximation on banjo?). It was their biggest hit in Ireland. O’Donoghue’s next ‘A’-side was the smooth pop singalong ‘Don’t Throw Your Love Away’. Both of these were backed with ballads as the band lost something of their initial cutting edge. Prior to that last single Eric Bell left the group for pastures new; he and Them co-founder Eric Wrixen had gone to a gig by The Orphanage (led by the former bass player from The Movement) and poached their singer and drummer to form Thin Lizzy. Bell would achieve lasting fame from being involved in the highly creative first period of that band.

Dreams lost their momentum at this point, and the only other release in 1970 was a compilation album featuring all of their singles plus two unreleased tracks (one of them with Eric Bell ambitiously singing Otis Redding’s ‘Respect’). The charming album cover has the band larking about in a park, Monkees-style, and rather defensively tells us “The Dreams are not a showband. They are a pop group … who could well go on to bigger and better things”. It wasn’t to be, as a few months later they relaunched themselves as the supposedly more progressive John Farrell & The Freedom (apparently having split from Shay O’Donoghue). Just one single emerged, very much in a similar brassy soul-pop style as before. The history gets quite murky at this point, but it seems that O’Donoghue had kept the Dreams name and built a new line-up fronted by Eric Murray and including one-time Creature Liam McKenna. This was the group that put out one more Dreams single in 1971. After that, O’Donoghue seems to have more-or-less retired from recording (he died in 2007; his son now fronts pop group The Script), but Liam McKenna reportedly gathered yet another line-up in 1971 billed as Dreams Rock N’ Roll Circus. The Freedom, meanwhile, ground to a halt, but Farrell had one more single with a soul revue-type group billed as John Farrell & The Groundhogs (nothing to do with those other mighty Groundhogs, though). And that was it; unfortunately the talented but unwieldy original line-up was unable to hold together during changing musical tastes.

Presented here are their album and singles. Yeah, it looks far from complete, but there is of course a massive overlap between the two collections, so that should cover the gaps. Where there are singles tracks they are taken from the original singles, but I’ve yet to get my hands on the Groundhogs 45, so watch this space. Worth noting that this album is a bit of a holy grail (due to the Thin Lizzy connection) and took many years to track down, so enjoy!

Dreams – The Singles (192 kbps):

  • 01 Dreams – I Will See You There
  • 02 Dreams – A Boy Needs A Girl
  • 03 Dreams – Baby I’m Your Man
  • 04 Dreams – Softly, Softly
  • 07 Dreams – The Casatschok
  • 09 Dreams – Don’t Throw Your Love Away
  • 10 Dreams – All Alone Am I
  • 11 John Farrell & The Freedom – I’ve Been Hurt
  • 12 John Farrell & The Freedom – Take A Freight Train
  • 13 Dreams – Julie (Where Has Your Love Gone)
  • 14 Dreams – Let The Earth Be Free

Dreams – The Best of (192 kbps):

  1. Baby I’m Your Man
  2. A Boy Needs A Girl
  3. I Will See You There
  4. Softly, Softly
  5. Sweeter Than Sugar
  6. All I Have To Do Is Dream
  7. Dance In The Light Of The Sun
  8. The Casatschok
  9. Don’t You Ask Me
  10. Don’t Throw Your Love Away
  11. All Alone Am I
  12. Respect

See Also:

Irish Dreams

Irish Rock Discography: Dreams

Eric Bell: Dreams

Irish Showband & Beat Group Archive: Dreams

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