The best of 2014


Running a little late with the list but whatever, great music doesn’t go stale. So without further adieu.

The top five:

#1 The Mahones: The Hunger & The Fight (Part 1)


Twenty five years on and more tour miles driven then the rest of the entire Celtic-punk scene combined, The Mahones on The Hunger & The Fight still have the enthusiasm of a band in the studio for the first time (but thankfully the 25 years and many albums under their belt studio experience).

Read the full review here

#2 Whiskey of the Damned: Monsters are Real whiskey of the damned  

I’ll go out on a limb and say McCarthy has the finest voice in Celtic-punk (and that includes Dave King), maybe Van the Moan threw in a few vocal lessons to boot. Of course a good voice won’t do it alone, the band are tight as f#*k, loud and fast and the songs first class and while still fast and trashy


Read the full review here


#3 Blood or Whiskey: Tell The Truth And Shame The Devil bow

Pissed and angry but still a party. Its great to have’em back.








Read the full review here


#3 Kilkenny Knights: Brady’s Pub Tales download

Honestly not a bad song over the entire almost hour of music and more then a few that could wake the dead and induce them into jig.






Read the full review here


#5 (joint) Black 47: Last Call

#5 (joint) Black 47: Rise Up – The Political Songs B4716CD_lg                   Black 47 Last Call

Black 47 hung up their green suede shoes in November, 2014 after 25 years of hard jigging and gigging. Two albums were released in 2014; Last Call, their final original album, full of fresh and originals ideas and, Rise Up – The Political Songs, a collection of, well, political songs as a reminder of how good this band was.










Rise Up – Read the full review here

Last Call – Read the full review here


The best of the rest (in no particular order):


The Pourmen: Too Old to Die Young









Read the full review here


Finnegan’s Hell: Drunk, Sick And Blue









Read the full review here


Craic: Amongst the Mischief and Malarkey


Read the full review here


Wages of Sin: Queensbury Rules









Read the full review here


Bastard Bearded Irishmen: Rise of the Bastard









Read full review here


The Biblecode Sundays: Live Near Abbey Road (Park Royal)









Read full review here


Bodh’aktan: Against Winds and Tides









Read full review here


Best of ballads and folk:


Irish Whispa: Irish Whispa









Read full review here


The Canny Brothers Band: The Guinness Situation









Read full review here


Hugh Morrison: Scotland is Free










Read the full review here


The Fenian Sons: 617

FSons_Front Cover









Read the full review here

Punk rock shout out

The Hex Bombs: Everything Earned










Read full review here 





Greenland Whalefishers: 20 Years Of Waiting (DVD)












 Read full review here


And a very special shout out.

Radiators from Space: Sound City Beat


Podcast# 69, 999 Years of Irish History (part 2)


Track List:

Kilmaine Saints – Wearing of the Green
Auld Corn Brigade – Irish soldier laddie
The Brazen Heads – Wind That Shakes The Barley
Black 47 – Vinegar Hill
Barney Murray – Glory, Glory Oh
The Battering Ram – Henry Joy
The Town Pants – Kelly The Boy From Killanne
The Battering Ram – General Munro
Shane MacGowan and the Popes – Roddy McCorley
The Porters – The Rising of the Moon
Neck – Back Home In Derry

The Penal Laws:

So you thought the last 600 years of Irish history was crappy, well those were actually the good ‘oul days. With the Irish Catholic army in France and William light footed elsewhere the fully Protestant parliament in Dublin break every agreement in the treaty using the excuse that the Pope now was recognizing Jimmy Deuce as the rightfully King of Ireland and England, allowing them to consolidate their power and destroy any remaining Catholic power in the country. The laws they brought in were called The Penal Laws and were social engineering at its worst, designed to impoverish and disenfranchise the Catholic population. The modern equivalent would be the apartheid laws in South Africa – and like apartheid they were all about keeping the power and wealth within a select group rater then to force Catholics to convert (as much a apartheid was designed to change skin color) though the laws were structured that if a son of a wealthy landowner converted then he would inherit all the fathers property (sometimes this was encouraged within family’s when one converted and the rest prayed for his eternal soul) ,if there was no conversion then the land was subdivided between all sons. Education, voting and property rights were banned as was carrying of any weapons and the ownership of horses was restricted. Churches were closed and Popish priests would be exacted if caught in the country. Ironically, the Presbyterians in Ulster who supported Willie and held out against Jimbo in Derry were also subject to the Penal Laws – their faith was not recognized at all and while a Catholic priest would be boiled, burned and beheaded if caught in the country his sacraments were still recognized by the state as valid – marriages the Presbyterians minister performed were not though they didn’t have to fear the being anyone’s barbecue – thousands of these dissenters left for North America and within a couple of generations they had their revenge and made life very difficult for the British in the colonies before becoming the original Hillbillies and Red Necks of the American South. “I bet you can squeal like a pig. Yah Fenian bastard!”

The Treat of Limerick – not worth the stone it was written on

 No Pope Here

Through out the 1700’s thing in Ireland got worse and worse and the Catholic population ground into poverty or left the county for the armies of Europe or education in the Irish Colleges in Paris or Rome. Famine broke out twice in the 1700 yet the Landlord class built large palatial mansions and ruled over estates of tens of thousands of acres with thousand of tenant farmers living hand to mouth eating the only crop that could grow on their miserable few acres that would feed their brood of 25 red headed runts, the potato. If a tenant improved his land then the rent was raised, if another tenant offered more rent for another tenants land then that land went to the highest bidder and the original tenant was thrown off the land. Pretty suckie! If you every visit Ireland make sure you visit Castletown House outside Dublin (Celbridge) and take the tour. The house is the largest house in Ireland built by William Conelly, the speaker of the Dublin parliament who made a fortune through taking over the land of the disposed in the early 1700’s and as the tour guide in the plummy West-Brit accent tells you about the wonderful life of the inhabitants of the big house, stick yer paw up and ask about the Irish in their mud cabin out the back who were paying for the parasites life style – it’s great to watch ’em squirm.

 File:Front Elevation, Castletown House - - 1008011.jpgCastletown House

A Mud Cabin

The United Irishmen:

In the 1776 the world shifted on its axis and 13 British Colonies declared independence and Ireland and especially Ulster with its close ties to the Americas (family ties so close that family trees were often just trunks) got cowbell republican fever. Then in 1789 the other country that provided sanctuary to the Irish, France, fell to republicanism. Within 3 years of the fall of the Bastille in 1792 saw the formation of the Society of United Irishmen that combined liberal Protestants in Dublin and Belfast with the Catholic rump with the idea of revolution to bring in democracy to Ireland, leaders of the movement included Lord Edward Fitzgerald – the youngest son of the Duke of Leinster – who started his career as a Redcoat and was shot and left for dead at Yorktown being rescued from the battlefield by a slave, Wolfe Tone (not the group but the man, though they are old enough to have been around then) and Napper Tandy. From pamphlets they moved quickly to revolution and appeals to the new French dictator Napoleon to send troops to Invade Ireland. Ireland moved toward all out revolution. Wolfe Tone tries 3 times to bring the French to Ireland. In 1796, 43 French ships carrying 15,000 men got in sight of Bantry Bay but the “Protestant winds” stopped the landing, there was another attempt in 1797 but again the weather stopped the landing and a third attempt was undertake with 3,000 men but disaster struck and Tone and Tandy were captured at the Battle of Lough Swilly in October 1798 which ended the rebellion (and Tone’s life).


 The Capture of Lord Edward

Wolfe Tone

File:James Napper Tandy.jpg

I met with Napper Tandy and I shook him by the hand he said hold me up for chrissake for I can hardly stand.

The 1798 Rising:

Skipping back a few months to March 1798 and after a particularly riotous Paddy’s day martial law was imposed (well more due to informers actually) forcing the United Irishmen into action before the French could try to show up again – a small rebellion breaks out in Cahir, County Tipperary that is quickly crushed, then the United Irishmen planed to take Dublin but again the government had a hot line to the plans through Informers. Never the less rebellion breaks out in surrounding counties of Kildare (Barney Murray – Glory, Glory Oh), Carlow and Wicklow (Holt’s Way) and are all crushed quickly and brutally. The rebellion spreads to Ulster and Antrim (Roddy McCorley) and Down and after initial success the rebels are………you guessed it……..crushed. To the south in Wexford the biggest rebellion of all breaks out and under the leadership of the Catholic priest, Fr. John Murphy – who was initially a government loyalist but who turned after witnessing government brutality to his parishioners. The rebels quickly took over the county but defeats at the Battle of New Ross, Battle of Arklow, and the Battle of Bunclody halted the spread of the rebellion outside of the county. The government poured in 20,000 troops and the Irish and the Red Coats with support from German mercenaries met at Vinegar Hill. Despite the splendid leader ship of Fr. Murphy the rebels were poorly armed and trained and up against battle hardened regulars they are encircled and completely routed. Much butchery of the surrendering rebels and their civilian followers followed – Fr Murphy was stripped, flogged, hanged, decapitated, his corpse burnt in a barrel of tar and his head impaled on a spike (not quite water-boarding but almost as bad).

The Battle of New Ross


Vinegar Hill

 The Republic of Connaught:

Meanwhile across the country in Mayo, a small advance party of French Solders under the command of General Jean Joseph Amable Humbert land and they are met by the local muckers and the local branch of the United Irishmen. They quickly defeat the yeomanry and march on the 6,000 red coats hanging out in Castlebar. Faced with 1,000 Frenchmen and 1,000 bogmen with pikes (big stick with points on one end) in front of them the Redcoats turn and run and the battle becomes know in local legend as the Castlebar Races – the Redcoats, not pursued a mile or two beyond Castlebar they did not stop running until reaching Tuam, with some units fleeing as far as Athlone in the panic. After Castlebar the French/Irish army tries to march across the country and meet up with rebels in the midlands with the plan of taking Dublin. They made it to the midlands but like all good Irish battle they out on the losing end at the Battle of Ballinamuck. The French troops who surrender got off easily and were exchanged for British prisoners held by the French – the Irish, well those who weren’t killed in battle were  executed by Lord Cornwallis orders (he who lost America for the crown). The novel The Year of The French by Thomas Flanagan based on the French landing is highly recommended.

The British Army

Robert Emmet:

The rebellion was essentially over by October 1798 though some rebels held out in the hill and the bogs and with a small rebellion breaking out (more a street fight) led by Robert Emmet 1803. Emmet was the brother of Thomas a leader of the United Irishmen who managed to escape to New York. Emmet nearly escaped but the old romantic went to see his mott and was caught. He was tried for treason in front of hanging judge, Lord Norbury with his defense lawyer bribed by the crown. After he is sentenced to death the judge makes the mistake of asking Emmet “What have you, therefore, now to say why judgment of death and execution shall not be awarded against you according to law?”.

Emmet didn’t hold back and delivered one of the greatest speeches of history – ask Old Abe Lincoln – but it didn’t do him much good for the mortal world and he was hung, drawn and quartered (hung till your nearly dead, dragged behind horses  and then cut in 4 pieces after he head is lobbed off by an axe).


“What have I to say why sentence of death should not be pronounced on me, according to law?

I have nothing to say which can alter your predetermination, not that it would become me to say with any view to the mitigation of that Sentence which you are here to pronounce, and by which I must abide. But I have that to say which interests me more than life, and which you have laboured, as was necessarily your office in the present circumstances of this oppressed country to destroy. I have much to say why my reputation should be rescued from the load of false accusation and calumny which has been heaped upon it. I do not imagine that, seated where you are, your minds can be so free from impurity as to receive the least impression from what I am about to utter. I have no hope that I can anchor my character in the breast of a court constituted and trammelled as this is. I only wish, and it is the utmost I expect. that your lordships may suffer it to float down your memories untainted by the foul breath of prejudice, until it finds some more hospitable harbour to shelter it from the rude storm by which it is at present buffeted.

Were I only to suffer death, after being adjudged guilty by your tribunal, I should bow in silence, meet the fate that awaits me without a murmur; but the sentence of the law which delivers my body to the executioner, will, through the ministry of the law, labour in its own vindication to consign my character to obloquy, for there must be guilt somewhere—whether in the sentence of the court, or in the catastrophes posterity must determine. A man in my situation, my lords, has not only to encounter the difficulties of fortune, and the force of power over minds which it has corrupted or subjugated, but the difficulties of established prejudice. The man dies, but his memory lives. That mine may not perish, that it may live in the respect of my countrymen, I seize upon this opportunity to vindicate myself from some of the charges alleged against me. When my spirit shall be wafted to a more friendly port—when my shade shall have joined the bands of those martyred heroes, who have shed their blood on the scaffold and in the field in defence of their country and of virtue, this is my hope—I wish that my memory and name may animate those who survive me, while I look down with complacency on the destruction of that perfidious government which upholds its domination by blasphemy of the Most High—which displays its power over man is over the beasts of the forest—which set man upon his brother, and lifts his hand, in the name of God, against the throat of his fellow who believes or doubts a little more or a little less than the government standard—a government which is steeled to barbarity by the cries of the orphans and the tears of the widows which it has made.

Lord Norbury— “The weak and wicked enthusiasts who feel as you feel are unequal to the accomplishment of their wild designs”.

I appeal to the immaculate God—I swear by the Throne of Heaven, before which I must shortly appear—by the blood of the murdered patriots who have gone before me—that my conduct has been, through all this peril, and through all my purposes, governed only by the convictions which I have uttered, and by no other view than that of the emancipation of my country from the superinhuman oppression under which she has so long and too patiently travailed; and I confidently and assuredly hope that, wild and chimerical as it may appear, there is still union and strength in Ireland to accomplish this noblest enterprise. Of this I speak with the confidence of intimate knowledge, and with the consolation that appertains to that confidence, think not, my lords, that I say this for the petty gratification of giving you a transitory uneasiness. A man who never yet raised his voice to assert a lie will not hazard his character with posterity by asserting a falsehood on a subject so important to his country, and on an occasion like this. Yes, my lords, a man who does not wish to have his epitaph written until his country is liberated will not leave a weapon in the power of envy, nor a pretence to impeach the probity which he means to preserve, even in the grave to which tyranny consigns him.

Lord Norbury — “You proceed to unwarrantable lengths, in order to exasperate or delude the unwary, and circulate opinions of the most dangerous tendency, for purposes of mischief”.

Again I say that what I have spoken was not intended for your lordship, whose situation I commiserate rather than envy—my expressions were for my countrymen. If there is a true Irishman present, let my last words cheer him in the hour of his affliction—

Lord Norbury— ”What you have hitherto said confirms and justifies the verdict of the jury”.

I have always understood it to be the duty of a judge, when a prisoner has been convicted, to pronounce the sentence of the law. I have also understood that judges sometimes think it their duty to hear with patience, and to speak with humanity; to exhort the victim of the laws, and to offer, with tender benignity, their opinions of the motives by which he was actuated in the crime of which he was adjudged guilty. That a judge has thought it his duty so to have done, I have no doubt; but where is that boasted freedom of your institutions—where is the vaunted impartiality, clemency, and mildness of your courts of justice, if an unfortunate prisoner, whom your policy, and not your justice, is about to deliver into the hands of the executioner, is not suffered to explain his motives sincerely and truly, and to vindicate the principles by which he was actuated?

My lords, it may be a part of the system of angry justice to bow a man’s mind by humiliation to the purposed ignominy of the scaffold; but worse to me than the purposed shame or the scaffold’s terrors would be the shame of such foul and unfounded imputations as have been laid against me in this court. You, my lord, are a judge; I am the supposed culprit. I am a man; you are a man also. By a revolution of power we might change places, though we could never change characters. If I stand at the bar of this court and dare not vindicate my character, what a farce is your justice? If I stand at this bar and dare not vindicate my character, how dare you calumniate it? Does the sentence of death, which your unhallowed policy inflicts upon my body, also condemn my tongue to silence and my reputation to reproach? Your executioner may abridge the period of my existence, but, while I exist, I shall not forbear to vindicate my character and motives from your aspersions; as a man to whom fame is dearer than life, I will make the last use of that life in doing justice to that reputation which is to live after me, and which is the only legacy I can leave to those I honour and love, and for whom I am proud to perish.

As men, my lord, we must appear on the great day at one common tribunal, and it will then remain for the Searcher of all hearts to show a collective universe who was engaged in the most virtuous actions or actuated by the purest motives—my country’s oppressor, or—

Lord Norbury— ”Stop, sir! Listen to the sentence of the law”.

My lord, shall a dying man be denied the legal privilege of exculpating himself in the eyes of the community from an undeserved reproach thrown upon him during his trial, by charging him with ambition, and attempting to cast away for a paltry consideration the liberties of his country? Why did your lordship insult me? Or rather, why insult justice in demanding of me why sentence of death should not be pronounced? I know, my lord, that form prescribes that you should ask the question. The form also presumes the right of answering. This, no doubt, may be dispensed with, and so might the whole ceremony of the trial, since sentence was already pronounced at the Castle before your jury were empanelled. Your lordships are but the priests of the oracle. I submit to the sacrifice; but I insist on the whole of the forms.

Lord Norbury— “You may proceed, sir”.

I am charged with being an emissary of France. An emissary of France! And for what end? It is alleged that I wish to sell the independence of my country; and for what end? Was this the object of my ambition? And is this the mode by which a tribunal of justice reconciles contradictions? No; I am no emissary.

My ambition was to hold a place among the deliverers of my country—not in power, not in profit, but in the glory of the achievement. Sell my country’s independence to France! And for what? A change of masters? No; but for my ambition. Oh, my country! Was it personal ambition that influenced me? Had it been the soul of my actions, could I not, by my education and fortune, by the rank and consideration of my family, have placed myself amongst the proudest of your oppressors? My country was my idol. To it I sacrificed every selfish, every endearing sentiment; and for it I now offer myself, O God! No, my lords; I acted a an Irishman, determined on delivering my country from the yoke of a foreign and unrelenting tyranny, and from the more galling yoke of a domestic faction, its joint partner and perpetrator in the patricide, whose reward is the ignominy of existing with an exterior of splendour and a consciousness of depravity. It was the wish of my heart to extricate my country from this doubly-riveted despotism—I wish to place her independence beyond the reach of any power on earth. I wish to exalt her to that proud station in the world which Providence had destined her to fill. Connection with France was, indeed, intended, but only so far as mutual interest would sanction or require.

Were the French to assume any authority inconsistent with the purest independence, it would be the signal for their destruction. We sought their aid— and we sought it as we had assurances we should obtain it—as auxiliaries in war, and allies in peace. Were the French to come as invaders or enemies, uninvited by the wishes of the people, I should oppose them to the utmost of my strength. Yes! My countrymen, I should advise you to meet them on the beach with a sword in one hand and a torch in the other. I would meet them with all the destructive fury of war, and I would animate my countrymen to immolate them in their boats before they had contaminated the soil of my country. If they succeeded in landing, and if forced to retire before superior discipline, I would dispute every inch of ground, raze every house, burn every blade of grass; the last spot on which the hope of freedom should desert me, there would I hold, and the last of liberty should be my grave.

What I could not do myself in my fall, I should leave as a last charge to my countrymen to accomplish; because I should feel conscious that life, any more than death, is dishonourable when a foreign nation holds my country in subjection. But it was not as an enemy that the succours of France were to land. I looked, indeed, for the assistance of France; I wished to prove to France and to the world that Irishmen deserved to be assisted—that they were indignant at slavery, and ready to assert the independence and liberty of their country; I wished to procure for my country the guarantee which Washington procured for America—to procure an aid which, by its example, would be as important as its valour; disciplined, gallant, pregnant with science and experience; that of allies who would perceive the good, and polish the rough points of our character. They would come to us as strangers, and leave us as friends, after sharing in our perils, and elevating our destiny. These were my objects; not to receive new taskmasters, but to expel old tyrants. And it was for these ends I sought aid from France; because France, even as an enemy, could not be more implacable than the enemy already in the bosom of my country.

Lord Norbury— ”You are making an avowal of dreadful treasons, and of a determined purpose to have persevered in them, which I do believe, has astonished your audience”.

I have been charged with that importance in the efforts to emancipate my country, as to be considered the keystone of the combination of Irishmen, or, as your lordship expressed it, “the life and blood of the conspiracy”. You do me honour overmuch; you have given to a subaltern all the credit of a superior. There are men engaged in this conspiracy who are not only superior to me; but even to your own conception of yourself, my lord; men before the splendour of whose genius and virtues I should bow with respectful deference, and who would think themselves disgraced by shaking your bloodstained hand—

Lord Norbury— “You have endeavoured to establish a wicked and bloody provisional government”.

What, my lord! shall you tell me, on the passage to the scaffold, which that tyranny, of which you are only the intermediary executioner, has erected for my murder, that I am accountable for all the blood that has been and will be shed in this struggle of the oppressed against the oppressor? Shall you tell me this, and must I be so very as slave as not to repel it?

Lord Norbury— “A different conduct would have better become one who had endeavoured to overthrow the laws and liberties of his country”.

I who fear not to approach the Omnipotent Judge to answer for the conduct of my whole life, am I to be appalled and falsified by a mere remnant of mortality here? By you, too, who if it were possible to collect all the innocent blood that you have shed in your unhallowed ministry in one great reservoir, your lordship might swim in it.

Lord Norbury—“I exhort you not to depart this life with such sentiments of rooted hostility to your country as those which you have expressed’.

Let no man dare, when I am dead, to charge me with dishonour; let no man attaint my memory by believing that I could have engaged in any cause but that of my country’s liberty and independence; or that I could have become the pliant minion of power in the oppression and misery of my countrymen. The proclamation of the Provisional Government speaks for my views; no inference can be tortured from it to countenance barbarity or debasement at home, or subjection, humiliation, or treachery from abroad. I would not have submitted to a foreign oppressor, for the same reason that I would resist the domestic tyrant. In the dignity of freedom, I would have fought upon the threshold of my country, and its enemy should only enter by passing over my lifeless corpse. And am I, who lived but for my country, who have subjected myself to the dangers of the jealous and watchful oppressor, and now to the bondage of the grave, only to give my countrymen their rights, and my country her independence—am I to be loaded with calumny and not suffered to resent it? No, God forbid!

Here Lord Norbury told Emmet that his sentiments and language disgraced his family and his education, but more particularly his father, Dr. Emmet, who was a man, if alive, that would not countenance such opinions. To which Emmet replied:—

If the spirits of the illustrious dead participate in the concerns and cares of those who were dear to them in this transitory life, O! ever dear and venerated shade of my departed father, look down with scrutiny upon the conduct of your suffering son, and see if I have, even for a moment, deviated from those principles of morality and patriotism which it was your care to instil into my youthful mind, and for which I am now about to offer up my life. My lords, you seem impatient for the sacrifice. The blood for which you thirst is not congealed by the artificial terrors which surround your victim [the soldiery filled and surrounded the Sessions House]—it circulates warmly and unruffled through the channels which God created for noble purposes, but which you are now bent to destroy, for purposes so grievous that they cry to heaven. Be yet patient! I have but a few words more to say. I am going to my cold and silent grave; my lamp of life is nearly extinguished; my race is run; the grave opens to receive me, and I sink into its bosom.

I have but one request to ask at my departure from this world; it is—THE CHARITY OF ITS SILENCE. Let no man write my epitaph; for as no man who knows my motives dare now vindicate them, let not prejudice or ignorance asperse them. Let them and me rest in obscurity and peace, and my name remain uninscribed, until other times and other men can do justice to my character. When my country takes her place among the nations of the earth, then, and not till then, let my epitaph be written. I have done.


The Act of Union:

The government in London finally had enough of the mismanagement of Ireland by the Protestant ascendancy in Dublin – they could do a much better job of the mismanagement of Ireland.  In 1800 the two parliaments were joined in London and the Dublin parliament dissolved (and any member of the Dublin parliament who disagreed was bought off….cheap)

Podcast# 68, 999 Years of Irish History (part 1)

Fiach mac Aodh Ó Broin at the Battle of Battle of Glenmalure (Follow Me Up To Carlow)


Battle of Clontarf

The Prodigals – Boru’s March

Ceann – Blame The Viking

1014 is the best place to start Mustard Finnegan’s history of Ireland. It that year Brian Boru defeated the Danes. For hundreds of years, Ireland was known as the Isle of Saints and Scholars – the image of monks in monasteries; smoking pot, lovingly illustrating copies of the gospels, praying and guiding the heathens in Europe outta of the Dark Ages. Though not  all of that is necessarily the true Ireland. Ireland was made up of a bunch of small kingdoms with kings more like Afghan warlords or the Bloods and Crips – I’m the king of from here to that rock over there and I’m gonna steal your cattle and run back to my ring fort. Ireland had big problem with the Vikings. The Vikings were a bunch of dudes from Scandinavia with helmets with horns sticking out of them who loved to vacation in Ireland and plunder the Irish monasteries and murder the monks. After a few hundred years of this the Vikings started to stay around and started, like all the cities in Ireland and meddled in Irish politics (bit like the EU these days).

Brian was an ambitious sort of fella and conquered one Irish kingdom after another and made them pay tribute to him (this is not like Michael Jackson’s Tribute, Brian would take hostage of the kid of the lesser kings and if the lesser king didn’t do his bidding and pay taxes and send solders when Brian needed them then that was the end of the young fella). Once the Irish were under his heal he went after the meddling Vikings of Dublin. Coming face to face for battle on Clontarf beach on Good Friday 1014 – the Irish warriors kicked serious Viking ass along with kicking the asses of the Dublin Viking’s mates from the Isle of Mann and Denmark – many of whom after the beat down drown in Dublin Bay trying to escape the Celtic axemen starting the long tradition of pollution in Dublin bay. Unfortunately, for Brian, who being wicked old (he was about 73) and was praying in his tent as the battle rage so he did not notice a sneaky Viking who snuck up on the big B and buried an axe in Brian’s back and that was the end of him.

Vikings. Horny fellows coming to rape and pillage comely Irish maidens

The Norman Invasion

Belfast Andi – Irish Ways Irish Laws

After 1014, Ireland went back to it petty warlords fighting with each other over this bit of bog and that sheep over there and all was good and dandy until a woman got in the picture. In 1167, Diarmait Mac Murchada (that’s Murphy in English), King of Leinster (the east bit of Ireland) ran off with Derval (the woman in question), the daughter of the King of Meath (the rich bit of Ireland in them days and these day) and the wife of Tighearnán Mór Ua Ruairc (Terry O’Rourke in English), King of Bréifne (a strip of fields and bogs that ran from Meath to Sligo these days called Leitrim). Tighearnán was pissed of course and with the help of the High King, Rory O’Conner, they ran old Diarmait outta the country. Diarmait being a schemer and a general a-hole approached a Norman Knight called Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke also known by the name Strongbow (Strongbow is much more Knightly and Ciderish name, Richard de Clare sound more like the name of the owner of chain of ladies hair saloons). Diarmait promised Strongbow his daughters hand in marriage, who by all accounts was a pretty hot chick as well as succession rights as King of Leinster if he’d help him out. Strongbow not having much going on as King of England when not hammering the Scots was beating up on his own Knights, took him up on the offer and arrived with his mates (Fitzgerald, Fitzgibbon, Burke, Butler and Prendergast) and the best in 12th century military technology gold pieces could  buy. Shortly there after Diarmait was back being King of Leinster but over olf England, old Henry II didn’t like the idea of one of his knights becoming a king of anything and setting up a rival kingdom so he called up the Pope and asked for the OK to invade Ireland (of course this is the one time the Pope is a bloody Englishman) and once permission given Henry arrives and declares himself Overlord of Ireland.

Diarmait does the dirty deed dirt cheap

Strongbow gets the girl and the Kingdom

The Pale and Beyond


Blood or Whiskey – Follow Me up to Carlow/Holt’s Way

BibleCodeSundays – Clew Bay Pirates

The Dreadnoughts – Grace O’Malley

We can skip ahead to the 1590’s now, the Norman Knight have gone native (more Irish then the Irish themselves) and the English rule is now pushed back to the general Dublin Area – known as The Pale. Ever heard the expression “Beyond The Pale”? Meaning being outside proper behavior, well that was where the wild Irish lived with their new Norman mates, fighting with each other over this bog and that bog and the odd goat.

One of those Chieftains was a woman called Grace O’Malley,  the Pirate Queen who was so fearsome that she show up bare breasted in Queen Lizzy’s court in London to demand the removal of the Queens representative in Connacht.

Grace O’Malley telling Lizzie 1 to stuff it.

The Flight Of The Earls

Black 47 – Red Hugh

Queen Elizabeth was a tough old boot in her own right and took a leaf outta ol’ Brian’s book raising the sons of the Gaelic Chieftains in her court. One of these lads was Red Hugh O’Donnell of the Tyrone. Hugh and his mate O’Neill of Ulster (The O’Neills are the oldest and biggest family in Europe, there is something like 3,000,000 descendants of Niall of the Nine Hostages the original Neill running about, the O’ meaning descended from, talk about virile) played a good game with the Queen. When in her court they played along by English rules and when back home in Ulster they did what ever they bloody pleased. But Lizzie’s henchmen in Ireland keep pushing in on O’Neill and O’Donnell business and enough to piss’ em off that they stopped playing the game and rebelled. The Irish chieftains were able to push the Perfidious Albion almost out of the country but were finally defeated a the Battle of Kinsale in 1601 – Kinsale is as far as you can get from Ulster, being on the south coast in Cork. O’Neill and O’Donnell and most of the other O’s fled the country for Spain and that was the end of Gaelic Ireland.

Red Hugh O’Donnell not looking so red

The Plantation Of Ulster

Being traitors to the crown, all of the land of the O’Neill and O’Donnell went to the crown who decided that the best way to control the Irish was to get rid of ‘em and replace ‘em with good English protestants – this was after the reformation off course.

“Here’s a health to the Protestant Minister And his church without meaning or faith For the foundation stones of his temple are The bollocks of Henry the Eight” – Brendan Behan

This plan didn’t work out so well as most of the smart English with ambitions for advancement went to the America’s and stole the Indians land so in Ulster the numbers had to be made up with low class, lowland Scots. The Irish got kicked out and the planters got the good land (and the natives the views).


Cromwell in Ireland

Flogging Molly – Tobacco Island

The Fisticuffs – Young Ned of The Hill

The 1600’s was an ugly time to live in Ireland. When the civil war broke out in England the Catholics of Ireland, Gaelic and Old English supported the cause of Charles I and took the opportunity to try and get their lands back from the planters – much slaughter followed. With the end of the war in England and Chuck’s head on a spike Cromwell turned his eye on Ireland and took revenge in the Irish for rebelling and waged holy war on the population. Cromwell was by far the biggest Fu#ker in Irish history, his soldiers laid wasted to much of the county, butchering the citizens of Wexford and Drogheda when the garrison of those cities didn’t surrender fast enough. When he didn’t murder you, then he transported you to Barbados to your death as a slave in the sugar plantations or worse to Connacht and eternity as a bogger. Allegedly Rihanna is descended from one of those Irish transported to Barbados…..I told you Cromwell was a fu#ker. Cromwell eventually dies (of malaria of all things) and the Stuarts are back on the throne of England. Cromwell’s body exhumed, hung, drawn and quartered.

Ollie Cromwell, Lord Protector and general bastard. Warts’n’all

 The Battle Of The Boyne

Roaring Jack – The Old Divide And Rule

Hugh Morrison – Ye Jacobites By Name

Prydein – Minstrel Boy

The Tossers – Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye

The Stuarts were bad new. It would have been in everyone’s favor if Guy Fawkes had his way……BOOM! Things calmed down under Chuck II but there are problem when his brother Jimmy II replaces him. Well wee Jimmy was a Celtic support and the England parliament, Huns. They manage to live with him until a son was born and then they realism  the Catholics won’t be going away. Jimmy is given short shift and exiled to France with his daughter Mary and her Dutch son-in-law William of Orange put in his place. Jimmy II raises any army with the support of the King of France and sails for Ireland to join up with his Irish supporters.

James II and William of Orange (only one of these guys was was in Poison)

James manages to set back peace, love and understanding 1,000 years in Ireland when he lays siege to the walled city of Londonderry. The siege is only lifted when Williams ships arrive with solders and supply’s . The two sides play cat and mouse for a little while and finally meet on the banks of the river Boyne on July 12th, 1690. James’ French and Irish army verses Willies Dutch, German, English troops. William wins and James runs away. The most ironic thing about this is the bad history that still abates- the brethren up in Ulster regard this a a victory over the Pope and Popery, yet the Pope was playing politics here not religion and supported the protestant William and most of Williams army was Catholic – the Pope was trying to stick it to the French. With Jimmy gone, the Irish fell back to Aughrim under the command of Patrick Sarsfield, defeat followed and then on to Limerick. The City of Limerick was put under siege (that it still needs to clean up after) but William didn’t want to wait it out and offered a fairly decent treaty – join me or go to France and join the French army. The Irish took the French route and spent the next hundred years dying on the battlefields of Europe for the ungrateful French. With Willie back in England and Sarfield and his men dying for France. The over loards in Ireland we left to their own devices to introduce the penal laws.

Patrick Sarsfield

Patrick Sarsfield

File:The Battle of Fontenoy, 11th May 1745.png

Irish revenge for Limerick at Fontenoy

“Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach!” – “Remember Limerick and Saxon Perfidy”

The Best of 2012

The Best of 2012:


1 Joint) The Radiators From Space: Sound City Beat

Dublin ‘s original punks masterful tribute to the long forgotten beginnings of rock music in Ireland, 60’s beat and garage given a ’77 style kick up the arse. Not exactly Celtic punk but there wouldn’t be any Celtic punk with out these guys (or U2 but we won’t hold that against them) and main man Philip Chevron is a Pogue as is guest Terry Woods. Henry McCullough also guests (he of the guitar on Joe Cockers, A Little Help From My Friends, at Woodstock)

The Review


1 Joint) The Mahones: Angels and Devils

21+ years on the go and The Mahones keep it alive and screaming and as authentic as fu#k. While the band may not as of yet have had the level of success of some of those who followed in their wake, Angels and Devils, puts to rest any doubt who the true masters of Celtic-punks are (and Finny can write a nice mushie love song as well)

The Review


2) The Langers Ball: The Devil or the Barrel

Gone from a two person bands from previous releases to a true contenders with drinking problems.

The Review.


3) Kilmaine Saints: Drunken Redemption

US Bagpipes’n’Punk rock at its finest.


4) Bill Grogan’s Goat: Second Wind

Detroit sludge meets Celtic, Danny Boy must be heard.

The Review


5) Greenland Whalefishers: Live At Farmer Phil’s Festival

The Norwegian masters live and raw and on vinyl too.

The Review

The Next 5 in no particular order…


Jamie Clarke’s Perfect: Beatboys

Former Pogues (on the Pogue Mahone album) Paddy-punk meets rockabilly (Paddy’a’Billy?)

The Review


Handsome Young Strangers: Here’s To The Thunder Lads

Colonial punk, the best new band outta Down Under in 2012

The Review


Smokey Bastard: Tales From The Wasteland

Polished yet powerful – Celtic folk punk from the UK

The Review


Nick Burbridge & Tim Cotterell: Gathered

Songwriting master from McDermotts Two Hours solo album – stipped down and scary

The Review


Compilation of the Year:


Paddy Rock Volume 4

What else could it be. Having do a few of these I take my hat off to Mr. Paddy Rock Bowels

The Review


EP’ s worth a holler:


2012 was a great year for short releases and these are the best of ’em:

In no particular order:


Circle J: Diggers

The Review


Bastards On Parade: Shallow waters


Auld Corn Brigade: Our Flag

The Review


Lexington Field: Poor Troubled Life

The Review


Murder The Stout: 6 Track EP

 The Review

Sharks Come Cruisin – Hardtack

The Review

Materdea: Satyricon

Here’s something outta left field – Celtic-progressive-rock from Italy. SATYRICON is Materdea’s second album and its chocker-block full of big contemporary metal riffs and fancy drumming along with operatic female vocals and strong vocal harmonies overlaid with Celtic and medieval teamed lyrics and melodies. The best point of reference I can give is a sound somewhere between Celtic rock originators Horslips and the symphonic metal band Nightwish (we at least their cover of Gary Moore’s OVER THE HILLS AND FAR AWAY- I’m not familiar with the rest of Nightwish’s stuff)

Very well done.

Black 47 @ 21, Part 3

Part 3:
Let’s go therapy style right back to the beginning. You were born in Wexford
town right? (How was your life outlook influenced by being a Townie rather then a Culchie or a Dub? – was it an important distinction to have been from Wexford

Wexford town was a very special place. It was cut off from the rest of the country and looked outward from its harbor. More people had contact with London rather than Dublin. There was huge emigration to the UK but little to Dublin in my formative years. That’s changed quite a bit now. Wexford also had the merchant marine influence – my father was one of those. Most Wexford sailors had been around the world and brought that worldliness home to the narrow, claustrophobic streets and lanes of Wexford. They also brought back their music. My father was into Calypso and Tango music. He was a great dancer.

Wexford was really influenced by teddyboys and early Rock & Roll – Eddie Cochrane, Buddy Holly, Gene Vincent, pre-Army Elvis, as so many young people emigrated to London and then brought back modern music on their Christmas and Summer holidays. There was a very loud jukebox in Nolan’s Ice Cream Parlor on Wexford’s Main Street. We children could hear the reverbed/echo-plexed sounds of Fender guitars and Rockabilly voices leaking out as we passed by or snuck in for a peek at these brightly plumed teddyboys.

But my grandfather owned two big farms – one just outside the town, the other down by the Atlantic Ocean, so I got a culchie upbringing, of a sort, too. I heard many of the very old songs from the laborers on the farm and in the surrounding areas and was influenced by those also.

We were music mad in Wexford. Music, of all sorts – opera, jazz, folk, rock & roll, was a huge part of our lives. I explain it all in detail in my memoir, Green Suede Shoes.

Were you raised in a musical family? Was traditional Irish music something that
you had a lot of exposure to as a child (or was it something to run away from)?

My Grandmother played piano but had given up by the time I was a boy. There were really no family influences though I was related to John Kirwan, a locally famous opera singer. Traditional music – like jigs and reels – wasn’t something that was heard much in Wexford. But the long-song form was very important – something like the Sean-Nós in Gaelic – but in English in our area – tales of battles and heroes. I would later adapt that form in songs like James Connolly, Bobby Sands MP, etc.

Being from the per-MTV generation what was your first exposure to
rock’n’roll and at what point did you go this is what I want to do with my life.
Was there a plan to escape Wexford to NYC and form a band or was it something
you fell into. How was that seen in Wexford?

I was into adventure, rather than making plans. I guess that was the way the 60’s and 70’s influenced you. You just kicked convention and did what you wanted. So, I never really made plans. I just got on a plane one day and landed in NYC – basically to see what would happen. As I’ve just said, the early Rockabilly guys were big influences. I did want to get out of Wexford at a certain point, although I loved it dearly, and still do. I just couldn’t see myself living there all my life. There was also the chance to reinvent yourself in NYC. In Wexford you were always going to be seen as the same person. I saw Midnight Cowboy in the Capitol Cinema in Wexford one night and said, “I want a piece of that.” And that was that. I saved my money, bought a ticket and took to the streets of NYC.

What was your first musical love and who were the bands that made you want to pick up a strat and turn up the volume?

I took up the Strat because Hendrix, Dylan and Buddy Holly played it. That was good enough for me. I still adore Strats. I have a very fancy and beautiful Epiphone – the same one that Lennon used on the roof of Apple for Get Back or Let it Be, but I very rarely play it. I guess I’m a Stratman! Those three guy were big influences as was Lennon, Strummer, but a whole host of others too. I’m not sure I’d go into music right now if I was starting off. Back when I began music was at the cutting edge socially. Now, for the most part, it’s spectacle or entertainment. I also don’t really like “Rock Music.” But I love Rock & Roll – that magic moment when everything comes together and it’s cathartic, like sex. That’s why we change the set every night with Black 47 – to enable us to hit that peak – that electric high. Merely getting out there and performing songs is really nowhere for me. It’s the jolt, the rush that happens when a great band and an audience goes somewhere else, that’s what I’m after every night. The rest of it doesn’t really interest me. I know how to perform and go through your paces, and can with the best of them – but it’s dragging the audience into the electric circle and going somewhere none of us has been before – that’s what music is all about for me. I guess I never really cared too much about success either – though I was lucky, worked hard and achieved a certain amount of it. But it was never the main deal – the high was everything!

In Ireland politics is often a form of conflict, debate and entertainment.
Growing up was your present out look influenced by family views?

Sure, I had a very political upbringing. I was raised by an old Grandfather who had lived the politics of the early 20th Century in Ireland and I ingested it all from him. My parents were actually apolitical. I was a companion to my grandfather – the eldest son in my own family, that’s how it was back then, you went and lived with whatever grandparent had been made a widower. From a very early age he treated me as an equal and would force me to defend any political thought or view that I had. He had seen or known Connolly, Larkin, Michael Collins, DeValera, Sean MacDiarmada and told me all about them. He had left school at 14 and was self-taught but very educated. He had a big house in the old part of Weford and had stocked an actual library of books – he used to buy them at auctions in the old houses of Co. Wexford. So I could study history to my heart’s content. But more importantly, I stored his memories in my brain and can still hear his opinions of say James Connolly – “a little Scottish troublemaker, upsetting the workers.” I loved Connolly though, and still do. I believed in the rights of the working people because I saw the poverty in Wexford and the gulf between rich and poor, educated and un-educated. And those values have stayed with me.

So, emphatically, yes! We’re all a product of our early upbringing – and I probably more so because of the experience of being raised by an old man with a real sense of history.

Gary Moore (1952-2011): An Appreciation

Gary Moore who tragically died last Sunday at the age of 58, while on holiday in Spain was a huge part of my mid-to-late teenage year – between ’85 and ’89 to me Gary was the man. Whether it was playing repeatedly his 1985 hit “Out in the Fields” on Phibsboro ice rink jukebox, spending my Christmas money in the Virgin Megastore buying the ‘Run For Cover’ and “Rockin’ Every Night: Live in Japan” LPs, suffering hours of bad pop videos just so I could see the video of “Over The Hills…..” on some crappy music show on RTE 2 and just generally playing the shite out of his 1987 Celtic/hard rock masterpiece, “Wild Frontiers”. Gary was truly the man! I loved his guitar playing – Gary could shred like no other – he was fast if not faster then ever other axeman out there but his guitar playing was not just a bunch of notes played really fast but a living, breathing extension of himself as he bleed emotion through the strings. Not only could he play, he could write great songs and he was proudly Irish and wore it as a badge of honor.

Skid RowGary was born in East Belfast and was exposed early to the guitar by his music promoter father. As a young teen Gary witnessed Peter Green playing with Fleetwood Mac in Belfast and Green’s brand of British blues changed Moore’s life. By 16 Gary had move to Dublin and joined the legendary Skid Row (not the “18 and Life” crap artists) – two major label albums were recorded and US and European tours were undertaken with support to the likes of The Allman Brothers Band and Frank Zappa. After Skid Row fell apart, Gary recorded his 1st solo album, “Grinding Stone”, but a short time later he got a call from his old Skid Row mate Phil Lynott to join Thin Lizzy following the departure of Eric Bell. Gary joined Lizzy as they revamped their sound to hard rock. A single was cut, but Gary was gone from the band within 4 months, right in the middle of the recording of “Nightlife” – Gary’s guitars do made it onto the standout album track, the ballad “Still in Love With You” (Brian Robertson refused re-record the guitars on “Still in Love with you”, Gray’s solo in Robbo’s opinion was just too good). Rumor has it, the departure had to do with Gary’s doing some serious partying.

Thin Lizzy by 1976 were twin guitar, bonafide rock godz and Gary was now quietly pushing the bounds of musical experiment with the progressive rock of Colosseum II and Greg Lake.

In 1977, came a second call from Philo, Lizzy guitarist Brian Robinson had his hand cut in a fight days before a major US tour with Queen. Gary flow out to the rescue. Gary was offered the position full time but declined due to Colosseum II commitments.

1979 came and Robbo was permanently out of Lizzy and Gary accepted a full time gig – the masterpiece Celtic rocker, “Black Rose” was recorded – Lizzy’s most successfully studio album. Gary also released his second solo album, “Back on the Streets”, containing Gary’s first top 10 single, which Phil Lynott co-wrote and provided vocals, “Parisienne Walkways”. “Parisienne Walkways” is a beautiful soulful guitar ballad that with a single note inspired an army of teenagers to start playing the electric guitar and simultaneously caused an army of guitar players to give up playing. Gary then joined Phil in a 3rd project – The Greedies – a punk band featuring both members of Thin Lizzy and The Sex Pistols.

Things were not well though between Gary and the rest of the Lizzy bhoys – and Gary quit suddenly during a US tour. Again, over excessive partying – this time Gary was clean and the Lizzy boys were seriously indulging.

The early 80’s saw Gary building up his solo career, putting together a strong band, working on his singing voice and song writing skills. Gary toured hard and built up a large hard rock/metal fan base in the UK, Europe and Japan. 1985 saw the release of Gary’s first great solo LP, “Run for Cover”. “Run for Cover” saw the burying of the axe between Phil and Gary, Phil joined Gary on two tracks, the Lynott penned “Military Man” and the top 5 UK hit, “Out in the Fields”. After 17 years and a few false starts Gary had now finally arrived. The album was also symbolic as it represented the hand off of the Thin Lizzy legacy from Phil to Gary.

By 1986 Phil was dead. On 1987’s, “Wild Frontiers”, Gary played tribute to his friend and mentor in the only way he knew and produced a masterpiece of Celtic rock. “Wild Frontiers” fielded multiple hit singles and Gary was now a major rock player in Europe.

1989 heralded the release of Gary’s next album, “After The War”, this was an album that seemed to me to have lost the magic of the previous two releases and was somewhat direction less – there was great Celtic metal, “Blood of Emerald’s”, classic metal, “Led Clones” and the American sounding title track. I think there may have been pressure by the label to break America etc. Nevertheless the album was still successful.

The next year Gray do something that at that point of time could have be seen to have been very foolhardy. After 10 years of building up a very successful solo career rock – Gary reinvented himself. He went back to his early teenage inspiration of Peter Green and American blues and released an album of original and blues standards and just for authentic’s sake he was joined by some of the great black American blues artists like BB King, Albert King and Albert Collins. “Still Got The Blues” became Garys biggest release to date and unlike the forced predecessor, “Still Got The Blues” did crack the American market going gold. Ironically, looking back 20 years later what seemed foolhardy or even career suicide was actually a genius move as within a couple of years Kurt Cobain had slew the beast of hard rock and hair metal as we knew it and while most of Gary’s 80’s comrades were relegated to the oldies circut or reality TV, Gary had a very healthy though lower key career playing the blues as a highly respected guitar player without having to worry about still fitting into his leather trousers.

Me, I parted company with Gary after “Still Got The Blues” and followed Mr. Cobain for a while and then switch my focus to The Pogues and their bastard children – though ultimately without “Wild Frontiers” I would not be doing the whole Shite’n’Onions thing.

Gary Moore, rest in piece. You left a great body of work, most of it timeless and were instrumental in the foundation of Irish rock. Slán agus beannacht.

Black 47 @ 21 part 2

Larry, you mention two things that have been consistent in Black 47 songs – politics and historical figures.

With politics, you’ve worn your politics proudly on your sleeve and as you say you “suffered a lot for it from a financial point of view”, do you feel that being so vocal about the North or Ireland painted you as a bunch of “Fellow Travelers” in the eyes of those who control the media outlets in Ireland and basically doomed the bands chances in Ireland for success (when normally the Irish media would be falling over the hottest band in NYC)?

That whole aspect was never anything but a minor consideration. We always looked westwards rather than back at Ireland, we always felt that we were living in the city of Miles Davis, Bob Dylan, Public Enemy and Television. If we looked back at Ireland at all it was to Sean O’Riada and the traditional music people. It’s not that there wasn’t good music coming from there, we just didn’t give it a lot of thought. As regards the politics, we were what we were, and to paraphrase Yeats, Was there another Troy for us to burn? We were political, though we never belonged to or followed any party – we were our own party and felt free to comment as we felt fit. We definitely didn’t feel as if the North of Ireland should be run from London. And we felt that we could present some of the viewpoints of the nationalist population of the North of Ireland. We didn’t agree with internment or trial without jury but, never, in any of our songs did we advocate violence. Neither did we think that you should thank the British Army for occupying Irish streets and terrorizing Irish people. But we were also full square against sectarianism. We always felt that these were very important stands and if they cost you commerciality, so what? That’ what we were and still are. But, really, what would Black 47 be without the political stands? A plain looking Corrs with drinking problems?

And with Irish historical characters you’ve written about – James Connolly, Red Hugh O’Donnell, Michael Collins, Bobby Sands and Robert Kennedy to name a few – what is your thinking when you choose to write a song about someone (are you interested in the person’s life story, what they stood for, to educate, or political idea)? Who else is out there that you would like to write about (Charles J Haughey)?

The characters have to be inspiring and stand for something. They have to really move me as a writer. I don’t write those songs as any kind of intellectual exercise – and they are not characters that I’ve just discovered. Usually, their memory or example or what they’ve stood for has been burning inside me for a long time. And that’s not just in the songs – but in the plays I’ve written also. I spent years working on Mister Parnell and if you really want to get to the heart of some of the characters in the 1916 insurrection then take a read of Blood. They’re both in a collection of my plays called Mad Angels.

But as regards the songs, Bobby Sands MP took me almost 15 years to write. It would have been a breeze to write some kind of trad song and notate his history, but I found it very hard to capture the times and the ethos of the man. I had to find a way inside his head – how does a person decide to make such an ultimate sacrifice? I found that way when I remembered he had a son. That was the link I needed and the song pretty much poured out then. It was actually maybe twice as long on a first draft and I edited it down to its present form. It may be Black 47’s finest recording. Anytime I hear it, I’m instantly back on those streets of Belfast in 1980-81 during the Hunger Strike. Amazing to think that it’s 30 years ago exactly now. I was touring Ireland back then with Major Thinkers.

James Connolly may be our best song because it’s the first of its kind. I had come from a background of writing plays. I wanted to take the Irish Sean-Nos form of traditional singing and bring it into the 20th Century. Not just to recount events as the Sean Nos form did, but to use modern psychology and method acting – where you use Stanislavsky techniques to become the character you’re acting. Instead of merely recounting Connolly’s history, I basically have to become him in the song – an ex-British soldier – and get to the bottom of why he’s about to give up his life for an ideal. I’m often asked what’s the greatest moment in B47 history – people often think it’s playing some prestigious gig or eing on Letterman, Leno, O’Brien; but no, it’s the first time we ever did that song in Paddy Reilly’s in 1990 and the silence that descended on that rowdy crowd, the first time we did it. Everyone in the room knew we had done something different.

The historical songs have to mean something – Red Hugh O’Donnell from Bankers and Gangsters is one of our best songs – and I’m thrilled to say so because it’s one of our latest. He had been a hero of mine as a boy. But he’s also just a bit too removed in time to be able to interpret him from a 20/21st century psychological point of view. I had given up on him until I took an interest in Ahmed Shah Massoud, leader of the Northern Alliance in the war against the Taliban. He was assassinated by order of Osama Bin Laden on Sept. 10th, 2001. I couldn’t believe the parallels between him and Red Hugh – both nationalist, religious fundamentalists, fighting a losing war, surrounded by powerful enemies. By tacking into Massoud I felt able to channel another tragic and major figure, Red Hugh O’Donnell. I also wished to examine the paranoia of someone far from home who feels he may be poisoned by his enemies – in this case Queen Elizabeth of England. And he was right.

I won’t be writing about Charlie Haughey from a political/historical point of view. But he might fit into the Black 47 slightly rogue’s gallery. Who knows. You never know where the next song will come from. Right now, I’m trying to finish a new novel and a new play, so songwriting is on the back burner.

Swingin’ Utters: No Labels Need Apply (from August 2001)

“We’re a cross between The Pogues and The Ramones – You come up with a title” -Johnny Bonnel ( interview)

Labels. Everyone uses them. Everything has it’s own neat little label. Products are made and shipped each and every day and each one of them fits under a little label. Clothing. Electronics. Books. Food. The music industry is no different. Every band can be neatly summed up by one nice little label. Or can they? Can each band be branded one specific genre?

Well, the Beatles were pop…or were they rock’n’roll? Perhaps punk is more easily classified. Are the Cockney Rejects punk….Oi!….or rock? What about the Ruts? Punk…reggae…rock? And the Who? Mods….rockers….mockers? It seems that one definite label doesn’t always apply neatly to everything. Music is constantly crossing genre lines and in labeling music, we often, quite accidentally, help stagnate it.

Face it kids, labels needn’t apply to every band out there and the Swingin’ Utters are one such band. Eager to avoid the sweeping labels that sometimes are associated with the punk rock scene and the limitations these labels sometimes create, the Swingin’ Utters have branched out into one of the finest examples of music I’ve heard in the last twenty years. The back of the split LP with Youth Brigade describes the band as such: “there will always be a bit of sadness to make you appreciate how fucking wonderful this band is becoming, has been and where they’re capable of taking you.” My sentiments exactly.

Shite ‘n’ Onions is committed to not only informing readers of the current happenings in the Irish-folk-punk-whateverthefuck (or whatever label you want to throw on it) world, but also educating and paying tribute to the forebearers of the current trend. I can think of no other band worthy of success or said tribute then the men who make up the Swingin’ Utters. They are: Johnny Bonnel, singer, Darius Koski, lead guitar, violin and accordion, Max Huber, lead guitar, Spike Slawson, bass guitar and Greg McEntee, drums.

People have always labeled the Utters. In fairness, it is often easiest for a critic to describe a band with labels. Sometimes this helps to generally paint a picture for the reader of what to expect if they listen to a band. I do it in nearly all of my reviews and certainly some of the all-time great bands do fit neatly into a label. Take the 4-Skins, for example. I doubt anyone likens them to Blink 182 or accuses them of ‘inspiring’ the world of, say, techno, or even, for that matter, pop punk. They are textbook oi of course and have written countless genre classics. But then there are other bands that don’t fit as easily into a preexisting category. The Utters…what about the Utters?

Over the years, the label I have seen most associated with the band is the oi or streetpunk label. While certainly not an insult, sometimes this particular label has a tendency to strangle the life and air out of a band, to stifle talent and creativity. And creativity and talent aren’t normally associated with it (I happen to love it, even if it is simple-minded.) “There’s a lot of oi that I love” Max Huber said. “Now, I go back to some of those records and they fucking suck. Seriously. Some of those records are terrible. The Last Resort is so bad.” Darius Koski puts it this way: “I’ve always thought the oi thing was kinda weird. I mean, we all listen to that type of music and we have a lot of friends who are skinheads and blah blah blah and skinheads are in the band, but I’ve never, ever considered us an oi band.”

The Utters, while undeniably influenced by legends of the oi and streetrock sound, like Sham 69, Cock Sparrer and the Business, as well as the ’77 punk of the Clash and Stiff Little Fingers, have evolved into so much more than just a poor copy of the past. Lyrically, the musings of Koski, Huber and Bonnel are far beyond 90% of their contemporaries. They explore real life, as it is, but in an “everyday-sort-of-elegant-hooligan” way. They seem to preach “the stars are best viewed from the gutter, drunken on your back” mentality much like a Joe Strummer, Shane MacGowan, Tom Waits or Paul Westerberg, but with a more lyrical, prosey-poetic style, seemingly influenced by Elvis Costello, Jack Kerouac or James Joyce. Musically, now more than ever, they have carved out their own sound. Over the last few albums, (“Five Lesson Learned” and the newest, simply self-titled, the most) a definite folksy influence has reared its head. They aren’t content with playing in the piss-stained pub built by others – they’re building it themselves and staining it with their own piss. “There’s more to their sound than aping their musical forebearers, enslaved to imitating the indisputable and feared musical drinking champions of the pubs and streets…”

“These guys aren’t post punk or post oi, they’re post Pogues!” -Todd and Money (BYO Split LP Jacket)

So the description reads on the back of the BYO split and it is currently the label I see most associated with the band – “Poguesy.” For those of you not familiar with the Pogues (all one of you) the almighty Pogues are the standard by which all other ‘Irish punk’ (more about this label later) bands are judged. The Pogues combined the fury and aggression of punk and combined it with old Irish songs from singer Shane MacGowan‘s upbringing, added instruments like the tin whistle, the banjo, the mandolin and the accordion (the latter two the Utters both utilize) to create one of the most original, and in my eyes, best bands of all-time. The band doesn’t deny the Pogues greatness and are all huge fans. Singer Johnny Bonnel put it like this: “I don’t think any band that does incorporate this type of instrumentation with the energy of punk should deny a Pogues influence. They were the first band to do this well.”

Certainly, the influence the Pogues currently exude over the streetrock and Oi scene is great, but it is not new to the boys in the Utters. Daruis Koski’s accordion playing skills were showcased on the first album, “The Streets of San Francisco” way back in 1994. Koski, also a classically trained violinist, explains: “There was a bit of accordion on our first record but there would’ve been a hell of a lot more if we had the time and money.” In a sense, the Utters later albums typify the sound they have always wanted to achieve but couldn’t due to lack of funds, studio time, etc. The move from smaller labels to a larger independent like Fat Wreck Chords has helped the band realize the sound it wanted. “Honestly, all of our records would sound a lot more like this one (Five Lessons Learned) if we had the time and money we had on this one.”

“I just don’t want to be pigeon-holed – we are anyway because we’re a punk band – we ARE ALLOWED to play a lot of different styles of music.”-Darius Koski (Flipside Interview)

Labels and pigeon holes certainly don’t appeal to Koski, and the oi label isn’t the only one he’s tiring of hearing. “I actually don’t really like my songs being called Irish songs because I’m not really going for that at all and none of the songs I’ve written have anything to do with Irish culture, at least not purposely. I don’t have a drop of Irish blood in me, I’m half Finnish and half Persian, and that’s it, so I would love for people just to know that I’m not writing Irish songs, not that there’s anything wrong with them but I just get that sooooo much.” I find this attitude extremely refreshing. As I’ve pointed out, the number of bands using the term “Irish punk” or covering old Irish folkies has grown to a large number which has caused many to dismiss it as ‘a trend’. And much of it sounds like shit anyway. When I asked Johnny his thoughts on it, he simply replied “Sounds like crap. Make it stop”

Simply because the Utters utilize the mandolin and the accordion does not make them “Irish Punk.” These instruments have been around folk music and music in general for many the years. The Utters deserve respect for utilizing these instruments and sounds many years ago. Songs like “One in All”, “London Drunk” “A Promise to Distinction” “Fruitless Fortunes” “Mother of the Mad” and “Smokestack Dreams” are all fucking wonderful examples of this bands complete understanding of how to incorporate this folk sound with the energy and brutal fucking honesty of the punk rock genre. It pays respect to the sounds of the folk past as well as raises a fist with the past and present soul of the street hooligan. Makes me want to pour a pint and put on a record.

While the Utters no doubt love the sounds of acoustic folk/punk, it is Johnny Bonnel and Daruis Koski’s side band, The Filthy Thieving Bastards, that really opened the floodgates for Pogues comparsions. I, myself, at first, used such comparisons. They seem to sound a helluva lot like the toothless one’s old band, in spirit and in execution. In some ways, this seems fair -Johnny’s voice has always been compared to MacGowan’s (a compliment if there ever was one) and my friend thought “One in All” was Shane. They do use similar instrumentation. Lyrically, however, Darius and Johnny aren’t singing about ‘The Broad Majestic Shannon’ or “The Sunny Side of the Street” nor are they musing about spending time in a disheveled bar in Cork. They simply are singing songs that relate to their own lives, propelled along by a spirited soundtrack, which happens to include mandolin, accordion and acoustic guitar. So, the more one thinks about it, the less it becomes “Irish music” or “Irish Drinking Songs.” No lyrical connection to the Emerald Isle and, as previously stated, the Irish weren’t the only ones to utilize mandolins or accordions. Old folkies, country artists and bluegrass boys did as well, and as Daruis said, these are also among the Utters influences. “I love traditional music of all kinds. I love traditional American country music, bluegrass, etc and also the Irish stuff but I’d prefer the Pogues over the Dubliners or the Clancy Brothers anyday.” Johnny adds “I listen to both the Dubliners and the Clancy Brothers but some of the other older stuff wears thin on me…old bluegrass shit is a little more toward our liking in the Utters.”

When asked about the Filthy Thieving Bastards origins, Johnny said, “Darius and I wanted to do some acoustic numbers as a stripped down Pogues rip-off band that just sort of snowballed into a great writing outlet for me. We wanted it to be only acoustic to separate it from the Utters, but I cheated, I’m sorry, no more electricity” he jokes, (like he’s the anti-Bob Dylan, taking flack for going from acoustic to electric) referring to the two electric cuts on the album. The FTB album is excellent. There is something more genuine about it than most of what floods the ‘folk/punk’ market. It has a “lived in” feel, like a Faces-style “old raincoat” which will never let you down. Johnny and Darius have obviously logged the time in the hangover poems they recite, and have looked the future in the eyes with pride, and, maybe a bit of heartache.

Todd: How much do you drink as a band? Johnny: More than anyone would want to know”

A common-theme that does run through both the Pogues albums and the Utters/FTB is the love of a good night out on the booze and the consequences the following morning. The Pogues had “Streams of Whiskey” “Sally Maclennane” “Bottle of Smoke” “Boat Train” “Gartloney Rats” and many, many others that sang the praises of booze, and the Utters are second in line, with many a good tale themselves. Songs like “London Drunk” “The Black Pint” “Brazen Head” and “The Green Glass” all lend a sympathetic ear toward the life of a drunken rogue. However, they seem to have just as many that explore the weariness that it all brings as well, the morning sickness, eyes matted shut, dehydrated hell and the coming down of it all, just like Shane himself did with the Pogues. It not all red roses, and the seedy, un-rosy view of it all is explored as much as the good times, because, life is equally both singing and puking, and the Utters sing about real life as it is.

It is well known and well documented that the Pogues crew (Shane and Spider the most) were hardcore imbibers. Shane’s drinking binges alone now rank along side his idle Brendan Behan (who died in his 40’s due to drink) and that of Welshman Dylan Thomas. Both were geniuses to be sure, but both lives cut far too short. The seeming contradiction of both the tragedy and elation of the drink is how it is – it’s just like that sometimes. And it is documented as such by poets like Huber, Koski and Bonnel. Max explains “you could say I’m miserable now because I drank way too much last night. And I’m drinking again. You’ve got to have some vice.”

The Utters backpages are full of boozy tales the Pogues may even envy: tales of drinking in Spain and showing up for shows with mouths and clothes stained red from anight on the puke. Johnny’s drunken night fairly tale on the mountain, where he pissed himself and went to Taco Bell, paid with a piss-drenched dollar bill, actually led to the bands first moniker “Johnny Peebucks and the Swingin’ Utters.” I asked Johnny, given the band’s hard-earned rep for fondness for drink, who might win in a band drink-off, the Pogues or the Utters. “Give ‘em the nod for Shane alone” was his reply. Maybe…..well, most likely, but ones thing seems certain, the universal theme of the underdog drunk and the daily upheavals he faces seems to have secured itself a place in the Utters music and attitudes.

Labels. Darius and the Utters have grown tired of them. As Max states: “The labels and the banners are meaningless. For us, it’s either good or bad.” Don’t classify them. Just listen and enjoy the sounds of a band making some of the best music around these days. It’s “something different than straight 1-2-3-4 punk rock” as Johnny explains. This band doesn’t conform to a label – The Swingin’ Utters are, simply, the Swingin’ Utters.

By Sean Holland

Black 47 @ 21 – an in-depth interview with Larry Kirwan (part 1)

2011, Sees Black 47 reach legal drinking age – 21 years old – so we thought we’d buy founder and front man Larry Kirwan a large glass of Paddy’s and ask him to reflect on the last 21 years – the highs and lows of the band, politics, life, Ireland and America.

So Larry, if you knew what you know now back in 1989 would you do it again or would you have high-tailed it back to Wexford, to Bridie and the bank?

No, John, I’d do it again. Going back to Bridie and the bank just wasn’t an option anyway. There are things I would do differently in life, but in general I would do most things the same as regards Black 47. When you look back from a distance you see that your influences and experiences pretty much ineluctably pointed you in the direction that you took anyway. We always tried to do the right thing with Black 47 whether it was politically or pragmatically advantageous, so I feel okay about that. But in a way, as the Dead put it, it’s been a long strange trip – so much so that you just have to shake your head about it sometimes.

Seriously, 21 years together is a huge achievement for any band and especially having kept a pretty consistent line-up (4 out of 6 members are original) and having done the major label dance and surviving been hung out to dry by them – that would have crushed lesser bands – what keeps the band together, fresh and relevant today?

Well, again that comes from the array of influences and experiences. Most of us came from an improv background so we’re very used to making every gig a very different experience. Besides each member came from a very varied musical background. We’ve never done the same set twice in over 2200 gigs – no one knows just how many gigs we’ve performed but I would say it’s under 2300. That would set us pretty much apart from most rock-based bands. But it also means that each gig is a very different experience. So that tends to keep you fresh – even when you’re fatigued.

Chris Byrne (uilleann pipes) left the band in 2000 and Joseph Mulvanerty has been with us since then. That was the big change. But in the early days we didn’t have a bass player and most of our replacements over the years have been with that instrument. Back in the early 90’s we might use a bass player or not, depending on different circumstances. When we didn’t use one, Fred Parcells (trombone) and I (guitar) would hone in on our bass notes, so even that was a different experience and each of us still taps into it from time to time on stage.

I always expected that we’d get “dropped” by a major label and we did – but twice. I had a major label deal before with Epic in a new wave band called Major Thinkers, so I was in some way prepared for the hurly-burly of it with Black 47. We set up the band so that we could operate independently of the system. Daniel Glass, who signed us to EMI, got fired and we got the boot with him – all very normal – but we didn’t miss a beat. I remember the evening we got called into EMI to be told the awful news, and Chris and I went off and did a show with the band and barely mentioned it.

What amazed me was that Danny Goldberg signed the band within a year. We hadn’t let the grass grow under our feet but went straight into the studio and self-produced Green Suede Shoes. Danny heard Bobby Sands MP from the CD, was totally moved by it and straight away offered us a deal with Mercury. Then he got fired and we were adrift again. I think Dickie from the Bosstones might have told me we were caput with Mercury – they were on the same label – but again it didn’t take a feather off me. If you dance with the devil, you have to be prepared for a little heat. The trick is to continue to do your own thing and let the big company help you in whatever way they can. A lot of good money was wasted but we were always in creative control.

As regards relevant – well, we were always political, so whether it was the British problem in the North of Ireland, or the invasion of Iraq, we were very involved and took major stands. That doesn’t necessarily make you popular, and we suffered a lot for it from a financial point of view, but it sure as hell keeps you on the cutting edge. My real amazement is just how little other bands and musicians were interested in these long simmering events. From a sheer creative and songwriting angle, you couldn’t beat those two conflicts for drama, heartbreak and sheer cussedness – the backbone of powerful songwriting.

Then again, our people were getting hurt in Belfast and Baghdad, so we felt we had no other choice but to get involved. I wouldn’t have felt right about myself if I’d just been writing about Bridie and the bank. Besides, political writing has some major rewards: James Connolly was and still is a breakthrough in songwriting; I never hear Bobby Sands MP without being transported back to the streets of Belfast in early 1981. And I only have to play a track from IRAQ and the feeling of those crazy years from 2003-2008 comes tumbling back. Many American troops feel the same way.

All of these things help keep you fresh and, up until now anyway, relevant. I guess the day that ends, the dance will be done – but until then…

To Be Continued.