We finished off Anthems P1 with the wonderful Dubliners “collabing” with The Pogues: so for the sake of continuity, we are kicking off P2 with the Pogue-ish scoundrels duetting with yet another big name from the 80’s; the late, great, Kirsty McColl (yep, Kirsty “There’s a guy works down the chipshop swears he’s Elvis” McColl).
If lilting balladesque soft pop is what conjures up images of Ireland, then musically, the next offering will be right up your street. The vocals & lyrics, however, might be a tad different to what you’re expecting!
Behold, the Irish number one Christmas song, of all time, A song tinged with sadness, (even moreso since McColl’s untimely death) it is held with fond affection by both the Irish and home and the diaspora in America.
A tale of love and disappointment, of faded dreams and jaded hopes, the fag-hag Mc Gowan vocal compliments the richness of Kirsty McColl’s warm yet edgy tone. Both give the song the emotional quality it deserves without falling into soppy sentimentalism.
“Fairytale in New York” is the musical signal that our festive period has begun. It’s only Christmas, when this has started to get airplay on national radio.
The Pogues 1982
FairyTale in New York – Released 1987
Nearing the end of the 80’s now, we have two of the most of the enduring rock / indie songs. First up is a particular favourite of mine, from a band that came on the scene in the Mid-80’s – The Fat Lady Sings.
Lead vocals by Nick Kelly, you’ll probably pick up a touch of Ricky Ross and the Deacon Blue’s here – the two have often been compared. A softly sung, gentle rock tune, it combines light piano chords with a stronger guitar sound for some punch, but the overall effect is an easy pleasant sound, and, a very memorable song that ticks all the right boxes.
The Fat Lady Sings 1985
Arclight – Released 1989
Wrapping up the 80’s for us are a band from Northern Ireland who set the charts alight with this corker in 1989. From the Double Platinum selling album “Songs for the Tempted”, the Top 10 hit single “Mary” became one of the most played songs on national radio. Musically it stood apart from everything else in the charts that year – the distinct vocals & overlapping harmonies, the melancholic strings, the looped 4-chord acoustic guitar riff and the bombastic bass drum.
But it was the lyrics that struck a chord with the listeners with their sorry tale of Mary, her abusive boyfriend and wasted life. You wanted her to have a happy ending….but will she bury the past??
The 4 of Us 1988
Mary – Released 1989
Kicking off the 90’s, we have a very different type of band, and, a very electrifying song! The Stunning, an Irish rock band formed in 1987, have split many times over the years to work on other projects such as, The Saw Doctors, The Walls, even Riverdance, but, happily they are back touring again. One of the most successful live acts of the 90’s, it’s only fitting that the video I’ve selected, is of a live performance from Electric Picnic ’08. This song has everything thrown in, it’s a right rakish musical hotch-potch: not strictly rock, not totally agit, a bit right of alternative, a bit punky for indie, and all that with a touch of brass shoved in for luck. This is one of the big songs of my gen, and is always sure to get a crowd to it’s feet. Ladies and gentleman, may I present,
The Stunning 1987
Brewing up a Storm –
Never released as a single – track 6 of the 1990 album Paradise in the Picturehouse
Next up is the big one – my Anthem of Anthems. An Emotional Fish, a radically alternative rock band signed to U2’s Mother Records in 1989, and lead by the avant-garde Gerard Whelan (aka Jerry Fish of Mudbug Club fame), exploded onto the charts scene in spectacular fashion in June 1990, with this next song. I don’t need to say a lot about this song – it does the talking, and then some, VERY LOUDLY! THIS IS THE STUFF OF WHICH ANTHEMS ARE MADE…
(be warned the pace quickens with each verse!)
An Emotional Fish 1988
Celebrate – Released 1990
Now that the pulse is racing, let’s take things down a notch with a little less shouty, a lot less pumped up, and a bit of a more poppy tune, by the wonderful Something Happens, the lead singer of which, Tom Dunne, has since become a well established DJ with Newstalk radio.
“Parachute” was one of the two big singles (the other was “Hello Hello..”) from their album “Stuck together with God’s Glue” which was recorded in LA. Feted by NME, supporting Simple Minds, and, courting the title of “Ireland’s Next Biggest Thing…” they had huge success in the early 90’s until it suddenly fizzled out a few years later, partly as a result of the collapse of the record label to which they were signed, and partly due to a less enthusiastically received “Planet Fabulous” in 1994. They subsequently released the hilariously titled “The Beatings will Continue until Morale Improves” aka their Greatest Hits. They still play on/off gigs, but sadly no longer record material.
I always really liked this song – I think it’s 100% Feel-Good in a Musical Bottle of Happiness.
Something Happens 1987
Parachute – Released 1990
***FAVOURITE SONG TIME***
In 1991, U2 released what undoubtedly remains, one of their best albums – “Achtung Baby”. My all time favourite U2 production, it contains three of my best loved songs: “Mysterious Ways”, “Even Better than the Real Thing” and this, all time classic.
One – Released 1991
“One” may not be my all time Irish Anthem, that prize went to AEF “Celebrate”; it is however, my favourite U2 song EVER.
It is for me “THE ONE“. Lyrically, it has a stark, morbid beauty. Musically it is majesty deconstructed, sonic melancholia. It has a hugely powerful melody, reinforced by the Edge’s unique layering of (two separate) guitar sections.
One of their more pared back arrangements, it remains one of their most powerful songs, and ranks as one of thes greatest songs, ever recorded.
Funnily, despite the fractious background to the recording, many fans cite it as a favourite love song: to clarify, here is what both Bono and Edge have had to say about it….
Bono “It is a song about coming together… It’s saying, We are one, but we’re not the same. It’s not saying we even want to get along, but that we have to get along together in this world if it is to survive. It’s a reminder that we have no choice”.
The Edge (it is a ) ” … bitter, twisted, vitriolic conversation between two people who’ve been through some nasty, heavy stuff”.
Love song, maybe not; song of a reunification leading to a togetherness, uneasy or otherwise, more likely…
Our penultimate anthem, is a song close to many a Dub’s heart. “Crazy World” by the Dublin band Aslan, is anthemic for many Ath Cliath natives. Wracked by drug addiction, the lead singer Christy Dignam split with the band in 1988; however, following successful rehabilitation, Dignam made a full recovery and re-joined the band in 1992. Aslan have released several hit singles/albums over the decades, and despite Dignam’s current battle with cancer, are still a working band, and tour de force on the Irish music scene.
“Crazy World” is a reflective rocky ballad, recorded when Dignam’s vocals were at their best. It is sung with a raw, honest, sincerity, and it is this heartfelt emotion that resonates even moreso with fans, in light of all the personal tribulations the band have faced and overcome.
“…When the talking is over All the crowd has gone Nothing left I can do Am I ever gonna get through to you..”
Crazy World – Released 1993
Last but not least, we have The Frames, founded in Dublin in 1990 by the wonderful Glen Hansard. Still going strong today, albeit after a few tweaks and reincarnations, they have come along way from busking on Grafton St in the late 80s. “Revelate” one of their biggest hits, released from the 1995 number one album “Fitzcarraldo” (produced by ex-Boomtown Rat, Pete Briquette), is full of snarling guitars and lung busting vocals. A blistering song of dejection; or rejected, misguided, useless love; a love that needs a “revelation”, a light, some guidance to steer it to redemption.
“redeem yourself, redeem yourself”
I leave you with, my final anthem of three generations, the wonderful, passionate, “Revelate” and hope, that you have enjoyed my choices of personal anthems over three decades, three generations, three phases of the Irish music scene.
The Frames 1990
Revelate – Released 1995
Slan libh go leir.