OFF THE RECORD: THE YEAR IN IRISH ROCK
[There are numerous mentions of the Pogues and Shane MacGowan throughout.]
YEAR OF THE SPLITS
SOME heavy casualties this year. The Stunning had been hailed by critics in Ireland for at least four years. But the Galway band finally gave up its effort to penetrate a larger market, despite a commercially viable pop sound which could have been perfect for U.S. radio with the proper nurturing. The Fat Lady Sings, from Dublin suffered the exact same fate. The Pogues, after releasing the mostly quite good Waiting For Herb (the band's first Shane-less album), disbanded, to nobody's surprise. [This is totally wrong. This reporter was either horribly misinformed, or was choosing to interpret the departures of James Fearnley, Terry Woods, and Philip Chevron as the Pogues disbanding.] The Waterboys released an odds and sods greatest hits collection (The Secret Life of The Waterboys) in October, and probably sold a handful of copies before they formally announced the band was dead, forever. Lead Waterboy Mike Scott will continue to perform solo. Locally, cellist Sean Grissom left Speir Mor, who have recovered on their own quite nicely anyway. Also, the Eagle Tavern in the West Village, a longtime home of the best in Irish traditional music, closed its doors.
OVERSIGHT OF THE YEAR
TO the Grammys. There were five nominees for Best Movie Soundtrack, and not one of them was that from the film In the Name of the Father, which included very strong performances from Sinead, Bono and Gavin Friday. At least the Oscars nominated the film itself, even if they didn't grant it any awards.
COMEBACK OF THE YEAR
THIS one's a no-brainer: Shane MacGowan. He and his new band, The Popes, released an excellent album, The Snake, which should be available soon domestically. It's MacGowan's first one since 1991, when he was dumped by The Pogues. Keep your fingers crossed for a U.S. visit.
TV MANNERS AWARDS
SINEAD O'Connor made her first U.S. TV appearance since she shredded up Pope John Paul on Saturday Night Live. It was in March on the David Letterman show, and O'Connor gave a moving rendition of 'Thief of Your Heart,' the Bono-penned song she sung on the Name of the Father soundtrack. Although she received a smattering of boos at first, Letterman spoke incredibly highly of her and the audience reaction was overwhelmingly positive. Wish we could say the same for Bono himself, who prompted irate viewers across the land with his way-out-there, cuss-laced introduction for Frank Sinatra at the Grammys.
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
THERE were a lot of choose from in '94, with new album by Sinead O'Connor, Black 47, Therapy?, Rogues' March, MacGowan without The Pogues, The Pogues without MacGowan, Fatima Mansions, Cranberries, Elvis Costello and the Attractions, etc. But the one that really stood out this year, even though it wasn't truly an album of new material, was the live, double album collection from Van Morrison, released in the spring. A Night in San Francisco is as good as it gets, showing that on a night when he's in a willing mood, Van can still tear the house down.
UNLIKE the heat-giving, boggy substance it was named after, Turf, the new disk by Luka Bloom (Christy Moore's kid brother), was totally devoid of any use, purpose or point of interest. He should have called it Frisbee.
BEST WORLD CUP SONG
THE most enduring, if not the best, one remains the one done for the last World Cup, Italia '90, by U2's Larry Mullen Jnr. As for the ones for World Cup '94, there were several out there but none that even came close to 'C'mon Ya Boyz in Green' by Black 47's MC Byrne. It was perfect for the first U.S.-based Cup: done by an Irish American, with an urban, hip-hop beat and in-your-face attitude.
MOST PROMISING NEW ACT
COMPULSION, a mostly London-based group containing Dublin musicians. Their major-label debut CD, titled Comforter, is very satisfying; more on these guys next week.
THE PRINTED WORD
THE account by Johnny Lydon (nee Rotten, of Sex Pistols fame) of growing up Irish in London, entitled No Irish No Blacks No Dogs, was a highly engrossing and informative read. Another book released more recently, a tell-all-and-allegedly-then-some unofficial biography of Shane MacGowan, by lan O'Doherty, is not available in the U.S. yet but has been causing much controversy overseas. And lastly, there was the sycophantic kiss-up to U2 done by the formerly respectable B.P. Fallon. It was a puff piece not to be read on a full stomach.
BEST LIVE SHOW
OF regular-scheduled gigs, it's hard to beat the 'Paddy-A-Go-Go' party on Tuesday nights at Paddy Reilly's, and anytime Pierce Turner plays is always a good time. There were also local shows by The Sawdoctors, The Cranberries, Elvis Costello and others, but for sheer energy and excitement it's been a long time since we've seen anything at the level of last summer's show by the Irish band More Power to Your Elbow. A thousand people or maybe more packed into the unlikely venue of Gaelic Park for a raucous, entertaining night.
MARXMAN, a rap band made of two white guys from Ireland (one of them is Donal Lunny's son) and two black guys from England. The band made an area appearance opening for Black 47 in New York on St. Patrick's Day. Marxman released its debut U.S. album late last year, but it has remained a personal favorite through '94. Look for it.
THE COMPU-GEEKS AWARD
TO Rogues' March, one of a growing number of bands to have a mailbox and an interactive fan base on the Internet computer system. MTV did a segment on the phenomenon, in which they spoke to Joe Hurley and his Rogue-mates. The New York-based band explained how they can now talk to their fans around the globe without ever leaving their computer terminals. How very rock and roll, no?
COUPLE OF THE YEAR
NO, it wasn't Naomi and what's his name from U2. Nor was it Shane MacGowan and Johnny Depp, the later of whom was a guest on Shane's album and played bass for Shane at live shows in Britain. It was instead the unlikely duo of Christy Moore and Daniel O'Donnell. Christy shocked the world (or at least the portion of the world that cares about such things) when he performed on Irish TV with the Donegal crooner. The threat is that there'll be a reunion, on a future record.
TO House of Pain, the Irish American rappers from Los Angeles. They not only released a major disappointment of a second album, they also showed no class in an August episode with the annual West Belfast community festival. H.O.P. agreed to play the festival, deep in the heart of one of the North's deadliest areas, and made a big publicity deal about the bravery of their decision. Then, just hours before, they backed out with hardly anything of an explanation. Never mind 'Jump Around.' just hop on out of here.
PRODUCT PLACEMENT AWARD
LAST year this award went to Sine Cafe, which still manages to get its self-made T-Shirts draped over the backs of celebrities and non-celebrities everywhere, particularly in publicity photos. But for '94 we'll give the award to The Drovers, an independently-signed Irish American band out of Chicago which somehow managed to be featured with major prominence in the Hollywood film Blink, starring Madeline Stowe and Aidan Quinn.
THE BAD TIMING AWARD
TO The Cranberries. Their latest album's first single, which is
a call to end the violence in Northern Ireland, was actually released several
weeks after both the IRA and the loyalists had stopped shooting at each
other. The song, and of course, the album No Need To Argue,
became a big hit anyway.
Your intrepid maintainer is DzM.