Glen210When Glen Hansard was in Tulsa, Oklahoma last September he got a personal tour of the Woody Guthrie Center. And there it was in the archive, a lyrical put-down of Fred Trump, father of Donald and a landlord with questionable housing practices in Brooklyn.

Glen has used the spirit of the words to inform his version of the Guthrie tune, ‘Vigilante Man’. The original dates back to 1940 and pictures the thugs who patrolled California, fighting off the poor incomers from the Dust Bowl states. In the Glen version, the baddies also include Fred Trump and his son, collectively  “rotten to the core”.

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Remembering Frank Murray

December 23, 2016 — Leave a comment

frankmurray210I’m in the King’s Cross district of Sydney, Australia in February, 1990. The Pogues are installed at the Gazebo Hotel and there’s a deal of havoc. Frank Murray, the band’s manager is riding it out. Musicians are arriving, going errant, cussing and misbehaving. Frank has lost a handsome new watch but gained an Aboriginal painting. Later the watch will turn up on the arm of a crew member who was keeping it safe after it had been detached from the owner the night before.

Frank Murray is a mench, a major dude, a high-ranking member of the Murphia. He tells the best stories, sucking his teeth at dramatic moments. He dresses well, like a cast member from Mean Streets. Before taking on the Pogues gig, he was a tour manager for The Specials, Dexys, Elton John and most importantly, Thin Lizzy. He enjoys the life and seems to be uniquely able to sustain the band as a functioning carry-on.

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bullitt200Steve McQueen was a famously tough guy with a daily two hour exercise programme. He had a wiry presence and the stamina to take on the film work with the stunts and the intense car scenes. But there may have been a particular weakness. McQueen had “delicate feet” according to John Rushton, the footwear sage of Wimpole Street, London.

The solution was to wear chukka-style ankle boots. Suede uppers in a wraparound style with a plantation rubber crepe sole. Two eyelets, tobacco brown. Steve wore them on several films, notably Bullitt, but they also featured on The Thomas Crown Affair and even Papillion. Continue Reading…

bap220Bap Kennedy had experienced tough times and lived through an awful era in Belfast. It was not cool to show your feelings so much then. Many people chose to be gruff and inward-facing and there was an aspect of that with Bap. This was compounded by the fact that he was involved in the music industry, where the game face and the shtick were expected. That wasn’t his way.

So he may have seemed awkward at times. Back in the ’80s he sometimes joked on stage, clowning his way though the preacher routine on ‘Pain Heartache And Redemption’. That was less common. His default was tenderness. That’s when he left the restraints of place and circumstance and instead he was lit with grace.

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late-night220Late Night Tales: David Holmes
(Late Night Tales)

‘Johnny Favourite’ was a David Holmes release on the Warp label in 1994, a clanking, 15 minute descent. The title was a nod to Mickey Rourke in the film Angel Heart, a private investigator hired to find the elusive entertainer Johnny Liebling. The journey took Rourke to New Orleans, where he encountered blood and bad magic, lashing him into a voodoo loop, a Faustian buy-out. At the end of the film, Lucifer repossessed his soul and the elevator took him on a terminal ride to Hell.

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cave105Alfredo De La Fé was born in Havana, and then active in the New York clubs from the age of 12. He played with Celia Cruz and Tito Puente. The boy was part of the birth of salsa and his drugs career began at the same time. Ultimately, he was so pinned before a scheduled performance in front of the Pope that he missed the gig. That was 30 years ago and he’s been off the drugs since.

We meet in Bogotá, his adopted home. “Be careful when you visit Colombia,” he says with a wink. “I came on a visit 14 years ago and I’ve never left the place.”

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seamus-heaney200I once spent a messy, dawn moment on the slopes of Dingle with Steve Cooney. The Australian guitarist had been initiated into the ways of Aboriginal mysteries and he explained some of the benefits between puffs on a roll-up.

He said that he was able to experience the spirit and the energy force in the mountains and the rivers and other parts of the landscape. In the Australian Outback, he explained, it felt massive. In Ireland, he said, it was a bit less intense but it was there, absolutely, pulsatingly true.

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Darkling180Come on in if you favour a piece of elegantly cloaked heartbreak, a spooked-out waltz, a deal of silence and maybe some looping fatalism. The Darkling Air provide all this on their debut album, ‘Untamed & Beloved’. There are strings and sense of scale. The vocals are measured and sorely present. The stories often take place offstage, but that won’t stop you becoming absorbed. You will hang with the pauses and hold out for a decent resolution, for a chance that the light may win over.

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66days250

May 17, 1986 and I’m at the RDS Stadium in Dublin for Self Aid, Ireland’s response to Live Aid. Many of the big acts are present, including U2, Van Morrison, Elvis Costello and The Pogues. There is talk about the endemic of unemployment and the evening will end in a woozy farewell to Phil Lynott who had died in January. But the moment I recall most vividly is when Christy Moore performed ‘Back Home In Derry’.

It seemed like everyone was singing that chorus and Christy had the presence to encourage the thousands of voices as they lifted into the spring evening. It was yet another song about Irish rebels being deported to Australia. The tune was borrowed from Gordon Lightfoot but the inescapable truth was that the lyric had been written by Bobby Sands, IRA hunger striker.

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gerardEven when Gerard Dillon is absent from his own paintings, there is still a blue moon, a lonesome Pierrot, misty essence of the man. That’s the Belfast painter in the sky, illuminating the Connemara Lovers who recline under the expanse of indigo, unaware of that looming feature with the lost smile. In the later paintings like Brothers, the carnival is emphatically over and the fraternal bones hold no comfort for the survivor with his head on the soil.

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