*The year beside each act is the year they formed

I know what THE anthem of my gen is, but it’s not my favourite song……out of this list, there will always and only ever be THE “ONE”.

That was the song of my “never-stop-all-energy -isn’t-life-the-biz-where-are-we-goin’-next?” period; it came from THE ALBUM of my early adulthood, of my isn’t life wonderful period, and THEY were THE BAND of my “youth culture”.

“…..we’re one, but we’re not the same…..”

The anthem was what I wanted to hear when I walked into a house party, the latter was what I was listening to on my Walkman – er, remember them?


There are anthems for each generation of Irish youth – and today I’d like to focus on those of the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s.  Pick and choose what you’d like to listen to out of my anthemic pick n mix.  Please explore and hopefully enjoy, what I consider to be, some of the best songs of our modern musical heritage!

Now, I’m too young for the 70’s anthems to really mean anything to me, in a, “I was there” kind-of way.  “Thin Lizzy” the first big Irish band to make it outside of these shores, were “before my time” as they say.  Before my time, and, far too hard a sound for this Abba loving child.  Phil Lynott (RIP) was a musical icon of his day.  A Dub of mixed race, adored and scorned in equal measure, a talent equal to that of his peers, guitarist, vocalist, lyricist – he had it in spades.  Who will forget that sublime collab with Gary Moore – “Parisienne Walkways”, or, the musical poem for Lynott’s first born daughter, “Sarah”, both beautiful, soft, romantic, wonderful songs.  Or indeed, the heartfelt poppy “Old Town” with it’s sweeping piano bridge and heraldic trumpet backdrop.

But it will be for this huge anthemic Irish rock song, that the Lizzy and Philo will always be remembered.  The guitar says it all!  A vibe for Philo.

Thin Lizzy 1969

Whiskey in the Jar – Released 1972

For any of you who haven’t heard any Thin Lizzy or Phil Lynott I would heartily recommend you hit iTunes for some best of material.

Next up, one of Ireland’s greatest trad-rock groups, Horslips, led by the supremely talented Barry Devlin.  There isn’t anyone in Ireland that doesn’t know of “Dearg Doom” and when it’s played at parties, festivities and festivals, the floor and the air fill in unison with the sounds of feet and voices, dancing, clapping and singing to what many would call, one of the biggest celt-rock anthems of our time.  Here you go………..(Just don’t look at the clothes!)

Horslips 1970

Dearg Doom – Released 1973

And now we move into the 80’s, though the next band has it’s roots firmly in the 70’s.

Arguably one of the greatest bands in the world, U2 were formed in the kitchen of a north Dublin suburb in 1976.  I won’t bore you.  There’s too much to say.

U2 feature three times (ish) in this Celtic musical menagerie.  They are my band, my youth and rock legends of my lifetime.  The first of three kicks off here with a song written and released at a time when we (Irish) thought we’d never see an end to the “Troubles”.  This song, musically powerful and lyrically incendiary, brought raw heightened emotion to every Irish gig at which it was played.

Thankfully, those days are behind us now.  But for many of us, this song will always remind us of what was for this island, a very black period in our modern history.  “Sunday Bloody Sunday” was our anthem, our call to all sides in this nonsensical war to stop the bloodshed, cease the violence.  It was hair-standing-on-back-of-neck-stuff!

This clip is from their 2001 headline at Slane Castle, for which I was lucky enough to have a backstage pass, and the memory of which will stay will me forever!  #NOMORE

*The black and white clips in this video are actual footage from the Derry “Bloody Sunday” 30/1/1972. Some might find these scenes upsetting.

U2 1976

Sunday Bloody Sunday – Released 1983

And now back to more traditional, lighter and fleet footed entertainment.

On 30th April 1994 Ireland hosted the 39th International Eurovision song contest, and, for it’s main interval act, RTE commissioned Bill Whelan, Anuna, the RTE Concert Orchestra and an Irish dance troupe led by the internationally renowned Michael Flatley and Jean Butler (Production by Moya Doherty & John Mc Colgan) to produce a traditional euro-friendly offering. The result was the phenomenon that was Riverdance, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Though not exactly an anthem, it has become without exception our cultural international calling card.  Sit back and enjoy…

Bill Whelan with Anuna

Riverdance – Released 1984

Goosebumps eh?  What a roar…what an ovation!!!  #ProudMoment

Oddly enough, in contrast, our next anthem was produced by a band who were not in fact, wholly Irish. Founded by the Scotsman Mike Scott in 1983, it comprised of what I call the Paddy Joke men.  In my childhood, the big jokes doing the classroom rounds were based on the mythical foursome of “Paddy Irishman, Paddy Englishman, Paddy Scotsman and Paddy Welshman”.  These “Paddies” were in essence, what made up, The Waterboys.  Living in Ireland, adopted and loved by the Irish, they released “The Whole of the Moon” to huge critical acclaim, receiving non-stop airplay on radio and in discos alike.

It’s a classic, which won Scott an Ivor Novello, and which to this day remains their greatest hit and biggest crowd pleaser at live gigs.

“I pictured a rainbow,

You held it in your hands…”    rainbow

The Waterboys 1983

The Whole of the Moon – Released 1985

Very 80s!

Next up our second entry featuring U2 frontman Bono, in a hauntingly beautiful duet with the wonderful Clannad.  Clannad, from Donegal, are made up of the hugely talented Ni Bhraonain& Duggan families.  Gaeilgeori, they originally specialised in trad-folk, moving over time, into a more ballady-soft-celtic rock pop which has won them several international awards including a BAFTA and an Ivor Novello.

Again, it’s not an anthem as such, but I think it exemplifies soft-Celt-Rock at it’s best and if you like what you hear, invest some time in their legendary UK hit, the “Theme from Harry’s Game”, sung entirely in Irish.  It is fair to say, that Clannad hold a very special place in traditional Irish hearts!

Clannad 1970 (with Bono)

In a Lifetime – Released 1986

I fell in love with that song the first time I heard it.  I hope that you enjoyed its melodic sound, the wonderful voice of Maire Ni Bhraonain, and, the beautiful scenic shots in the video.

On 6th March, 1987, the homes of Ireland were tuned into the longest running chat show of all time, “The Late Late Show”, which was holding a tribute night in honour of Irish trad/rebel band, “The Dubliners”.  With an interesting mix of eclectic music types making up the audience, it featured interviews, reminiscences, old footage, tribute covers etc., and THEN this happened…

The Dubliners 1962 (with the Pogues)

The Irish Rover – Released 1987

The Pogues had taken a traditional Irish Folk song and “punked” it up.  Collaborating with the inspirational Dubliners was a masterstroke and the result was a feast of rebel-rock at it’s best.  The musicianship on this track is outstanding, and the vocals ragged, rough, and rasping, give the lyrics a sense of urgency in this tale of wild exaggeration of the plight of the stricken vessel “The Irish Rover”.  This song will bring any room to it’s feet, just watch your ankles, as legs tend to fly.  An anthem for “the craic”, it remains one of the most popular Irish songs in the traditional mould of the 80’s, still enjoying frequent airplay today.

We’re now half way through our list of 70’s, 80’s and 90’s anthems…..take the time go back to listen to any you may have skipped over.  It will give you a sense of our youthful progress through the decades.


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