Bamm Bamm! Who’s there? Why it’s Dave Grohl barreling through the hotel entrance with a cartoon grocery bag, brimming over with French bread, a sliced loaf and all the necessary vittles. He hails the doorman, crosses the corridor and stops. He then turns around and legs it back the way he came. Baam baam! The process is repeated until Dave – today’s video director, regular singer and songwriter and occasional drummer with Foo Fighters – has built up a sequence of takes. He checks his performance on the TV monitors and volunteers to try the scene one more time. Then he’ll be done, definitely.
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On July 3 1968 they blocked the lower deck of the Craigavon Bridge in Derry and sang ‘We Shall Overcome’. Most likely it was the first time the song had been used on the island for a disruptive purpose. Half a dozen people sat down on the disused railway lines, halting the official opening of this new route for cars across the River Foyle. Thus, they denied the new Unionist Mayor of Londonderry, Councillor William Beattie, his civic role.
Good Vibrations is punk rock theatre in that it makes a significant noise with few resources. Cast members trade roles as Outcasts, cops, urchins and paramilitary boneheads. Like the ingenious folds of a Good Vibes record sleeve, the stage becomes a rock and roll sinkhole, a Derry parlour, a backstreet and a killing field.
When the writing is in him and the urgency is on, he’s busy at 6am and aiming for 600 words before the day starts, proper. That’s when the other job takes over yet when JD Fennell is back in the evening, he’s got the headphones on and the writing recommences. “You’re in for the kill,” he figures. “It has to consume you.”
What a great, hurtling debut this is. Endless shouting and emoting. The urgency level does not relent. Big tunes, related by the criss-cross vocals of Taylor and Lauren Johnson. They namecheck Neutral Milk Hotel They know their Front Bottoms from their Elbow. They have some of that emo vulnerability and Taylor puts out wounded epigrams in the Morrissey manner, but essentially, Brand New Friend are over-brimming with the fizz and the precocity of youth.
We miss Bap Kennedy. There was a tone in his music that will not be replaced. It was an authentic part of the man and there was a grain in his voice that related like Hank Williams, Townes Van Zandt or Gram Parsons. Fathoms of blues. Untold stories between the cracks in the words. His lyrics hinted at the deeps but he wasn’t inclined to put it all out there. You had to trust Bap, and we did.
‘Sunrise’ by The Divine Comedy is a song that begins in the murk and ambiguity of Northern Ireland in the Eighties. Neil Hannon puts out the idea that his birthplace, Londonderry is also known as Derry City. His home is Enniskillen but historically it’s about the mythology of Inis Ceithleann, water and land and ancient footfalls. The singer gives his dues to the different narratives and steers a self-conscious path between them. Then on November 8, 1987 the bomb goes off at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday and there is no easy way to walk that line:
The health is not great and Jackie Flavelle is sore because he can’t load up the gear and go touring with his bass and his comrades in jazz. It’s the life he has known for 60 years. His talk is hepcat jive and north Belfast grit. He cusses often and the eyes are undimmed behind those lenses. Medical procedures will keep him off the road for some time, tethered in Donaghadee. He will be 79 in October. Time to pause a moment and review a substantial life.
Twenty years ago, NME commissioned me to write a cover story about Radiohead and the release of ‘OK Computer’. It was an exciting ask, and the story would involve a visit to Oxford in late May to meet Colin, Ed and Phil, followed by a trip to New York and a ride with Radiohead in a minivan to the Tibetan Freedom Concert on Randall’s Island. Continue Reading…
He counts the birds and recites the enchanted names of flowers. Michael Longley wows at the whooper swan and parses the natural joys on the Atlantic reach of Carrigskeewaun, County Mayo. In recent years, his poetry collections have seemed prolific, yet they also feel precious and rare. Angel Hill appears just ahead of his 78th birthday and it resounds with themes of family, absent friends, migrations, arrivals and generations at their song.