Mick Jones Nicked My Pudding is the new digital only (boo!) single release from our favorite Boston hooligans, the Dropkick Murphys. Side-A, the title track, is the classic Murphys we’ve come to know and love – punkie, spunky, shout it out Celtic-punk. The B side is a cover of Black 47’s James Connolly, one of the songs that was my gateway drug into Celtic-rock when I heard it first in 1992, the Murph’s do a very fine job of a classic.
Podcast #117 feature Greenland Whalefishers from their new album Based On A True Story
The Skels – When The Devil’s Whore Arrives
Greenland Whalefishers – Friend-Enemy
Black 47 – James Connolly
The Rumjacks – I’ll Tell Me Ma!
Handsome Young Strangers – Limejuice Tub
Greenland Whalefishers – K Says
Greenland Whalefishers – Darkness
Hugh Morrison – Passing Place
Hugh Morrison – Dance Hall Girl
Finn’s Fury – Auld Triangle
The Mahones – It’s Gonna Be Alright
Your virus free podcast from Shite’n’Onions.
Neck – Every Day’s St Patrick’s Day
The Skels – Have A Drink Ya Bastards
Black 47 – Green Suede Shoes
The Muckers – Let’s All Go To The Bar
BibleCodeSundays – Drinking All Day
Sons Of O’Flaherty – Dead and Gone
The Rumjacks – An Irish Pub song
The Mahones – Shakespeare Road
Big Bad Bollocks – Guinness
Bodh’aktan – Black Velvet Band Featuring Paddy Moloney
Charm City Saints – Dicey Riley
Bill Grogan’s Goat – The Galway Races
Jackdaw – Come out you Black And Tans
The Pourmen – Too Old To Die Young
Murshee Durkin – The Pogues & Whiskey
The Woods Band – Finnegan’s Wake
Irish Whispa – Bold O’Donohue
Pat Chessell – The Mother-in-Law
Greenland Whalefishers – Joe’s Town
The Tossers – St Patrick’s Day
Sharky Doyles – Everybody’s Irish
Kilkenny Knights – Dance!
The Gobshites – Alcohol
Horslips – The High Reel
Horslips – Dearg Doom
Kilmaine Saints – Foggy Dew
The Bucks – Psycho Ceiled In Claremorris
Blood Or Whiskey – Follow Me up to Carlow-Holt’s Way
The Peelers – A1A FLA
The Electrics – Seventeen Bottles Of Porter
Sir Reg – Stereotypical Drunken Feckin’ Irish Song
The Templars Of Doom – Mamma Weer All Crazee Now
February 9, 2013
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!”
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.
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 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 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 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)
January 19, 2013
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 in 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 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 raged so he did not notice a sneaky Viking who suck up on the big B and buried an axe in Brian’s back and that was the end of him.
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 off 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 the 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 old 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.
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.
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.
The Plantation Of Ulster
Being traitors to the crown, all of the lands 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 of 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 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
“Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach!” – “Remember Limerick and Saxon Perfidy”
April 26, 2011
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.
March 30, 2011
Last summer, I was invited down to NYC to meet Jim Lockhart and Barry Devlin of Horslips fame. The boys were over making a documentary for Irish TV based on the travels of Mickey McGowan, whose 19th century autobiography Mór an tSaoil (“The Big Wheel of Life”) documents the hardships of Irish immigrants in the USA and Mickey’s travels from NYC, to the steel mills of Pennsylvania to the Klondike gold rush. Mór an tSaoil was a major inspiration to Horslips on the albums Aliens and The Man that Built America (ok, can anyone say Cornelius Larkin?)
Both Jim and Barry were fascinated to hear about the Celtic punk scene in the US and the ever expanding global scene and one thing lead to another and on St. Patrick’s day, Jim broadcasted a short documentary on Irish national radio on Celtic punk, interviewing yours truly.
You can listen to the full documentary here:
bands featured include The Rumjacks, Belfast, Greenland Whalefishers, Mr Irish Bastards, Black 47 and many, many more.
BTW, I’m the one being interviewed with the sexy voice and the face for radio.
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…
February 4, 2011
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.
August 30, 2012
Black 47’s Larry Kirwan has written a musical set in Civil War era New York during the Draft Riots. The Federal Government hard pressed for army recruits introduced the draft but gave a exception to anyone who could afford to pay $300 to buy their away out. The poor (often newly arrived Irish immigrants) rioted over 3 days burning draft stations and attacking the wealthy Yankee upper class and African-American who they feared would take their jobs if slavery ended. The rioting only ended when Federal troops were bought into the city to squash the riot.
S’n’O – Larry, I know you are the author of many off Broadway plays over the years. Is Hard Times your first musical?
Larry Kirwan – No, I’ve written a number of them including, Days of Rage, Rockin’ The Bronx and Mister Parnell, so I guess I’m an old hand. It’s a bitch of a genre. Plays are tough enough but you have to be totally daft to do musicals, there’s just so much to pull together. I suppose it’s like anything though, the more you do it, the better you get.
S’n’O – Hard Times is set during the American Civil War and specifically during the New York Draft Riots. Can you give the readers a little back ground on the Riots. What caused the riots? And what happened during the riots.
Larry Kirwan – Hard Times is set during the Draft Riots of 1863 but it’s not really about them, per se. Basically, I feel that the US in general, and NYC in particular was changed on July 13, 1863. Up until then Irish women and African-American men lived together and were often married in the Five Points area of downtown NYC. They were called “amalgamationists.” After the burning of the Colored Children’s Asylum the fluidity that existed between different people in NYC was squashed and the US set out on a path of 100 years of segregation and discrimination. That’s the setting for a moment when Stephen Foster meets someone from his past.
S’n’O – What was the inspiration for the play – the New York Draft Riots were possibly the lowest point in the Irish-American experience (arguably something best forgotten)- one group on the bottom rung of the social order turning on the group not yet on the bottom rung while the elite buy their way out of danger yet still make the decisions – is there a message that resonates in today’s political climate? (Anti-immigrant sentiments, racial politics and the Tea Party or class divisions and the Occupy movement)
Larry Kirwan – With the exception of the Occupy Movement all of those things you mention were present in 1863 and I suppose Abolitionist feeling could double for the Occupy Movement. History is never black & white but a million shades of grey. Awful things happened that day but that’s not what the play is about. It’s about five people trapped inside a saloon and how they react to the events happening outside. Stephen Foster, the composer, happens to be one of them.
S’n’O – The music was co-written with Stephen Foster which is a great achievement given Stephen is nearly 150 years dead. Who was Stephen Foster and why was his music so important? What type of stamp did Larry Kirwan put onto the mega hits of the 1860’s? Will Celtic rocks fans enjoy?
Larry Kirwan – Yeah, I should probably have phrased the “written by Stephen Foster & Larry Kirwan” differently but it’s what actually happened. I wanted to use his songs and was able to find a dozen that fitted well with, and moved along, the story. But most of his songs had been frozen and calcified by their treatment in the Victorian years. I wanted to let them breathe again. One of the ways of doing that was to write contrapuntal intros and bridges – in Foster’s era those devices hadn’t been introduced into popular music yet. I had done that quite a bit when Black 47 updated Irish melodies and added new words to them – I always added original intros and bridges to add flavor to the songs and make them more interesting musically So, I knew how to do it. Amazingly – to me at any rate – most of Foster’s songs veered towards Gospel or Irish when unmoored. I think these new versions will make Foster’s songs more palatable to Celtic Rock fans. But who cares what other people think. I’ve always done what I wanted and luckily there’s always been an audience for the end result.
S’n’O – Who is the audience that will enjoy Hard Times – Irish Americans, New Yorkers or is there a wider audience (and message)?
Larry Kirwan – God, I don’t know. I guess I tend not to think in those terms. Let’s just say that Stephen Foster was gifted with a particular genius. I’m not quite sure what it is but when unleashed it tends to move you in the most soulful manner. It’s like being touched by something from another world so I would imagine anyone with a bit of soul will feel it. I know I do. Foster was a complicated person – our first professional songwriter – he died 6 months after the events in Hard Times at the age of 37 with 38 cents in his pocket. I think anyone who has been touched by the music business will identify with the story of this brilliant, tortured man.
S’n’O – Any plans to tour with Hard Times or bring it beyond Manhattan?
Larry Kirwan – Not at this point. It’s an achievement to even get the project up and breathing. I couldn’t have done it at all without the support of the wonderful people at The Cell, including Nancy Manocherian, artistic director and Kira Simring the director.
S’n’O – Cheers Larry! I”m going to try make it down.
Larry Kirwan – A pleasure, John. I think it will be well worth the trip. The six actors are so committed to their roles. I think we’ll create some magic and hopefully re-introduce Foster to a very different world.
Hard Times will be performed at The Cell, 338 W. 23rd St., NYC Sept. 13-30th as part of the First Irish Theatre Festival. For info http://www.thecelltheatre.org
Directed by Kira Simring and produced by Nancy Manocherian of The Cell, performances Sept 13, 14, 15, 19, 21, 22, 24, 27, 28, 29, 30.
Hard Times stars Jed Peterson as Stephen Foster, Erin West as Jane Foster, Almeria Campbell as Nelly Blythe, Phillip Callen as Michael Jenkins, Stephane Duret as Thomas Jefferson and John Charles McLaughlin as Owen Duignan.