Happy Cassette Store Day, all. Currently reeling on the Dig With It tape deck is a 1990 release by the Cranberry Saw Us, indie combo from Limerick. Say it quickly and you might figure the pun, a legacy from former singer and jape-meister, Niall Quinn. His replacement was Dolores O’Riordan, who soon came up with a song called ‘Linger’ and The Cranberries were off.
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1982 and Van Morrison is onstage in Belfast, chasing his rapture across ‘Summertime In England’. A roll call of the poets, the mystics, the romantics and the lightning catchers. More than eight minutes, and not a bit of it surplus. He’s calling out to Coleridge and Wordsworth, Blake, Whitman and Beckett. On saxophone there’s Pee Wee Ellis, sometime James Brown associate and he’s matching the singer’s fever, blowing with abandon. As is his wont, Van revises his lyrics from the recorded version, sending more names into the ether.
I read your book,
Among the regions”.
And then he’s off again, citing RS Thomas and DH Lawrence as the song makes a squalling case for feeling and sensation: it ain’t why, it just is.
You might have supposed that Van and Seamus Heaney were connected. The most prolific writers on the island. The pair of them deep into their sense of place, their local resonances, the names and the townlands, the squelch and the smell of it. Like Kavanagh before them they could find the epic in the commonplace, the small-town Homers. While the poet would find amazement in a water diviner, Van channeled his magic through the transistor radio and the wavelength.
Los Angeles, and David Holmes is in a recording studio finishing off the Primal Scream album. That’s going well but he’s simultaneously working on the soundtrack to the Good Vibrations film, working to a small budget. Some of the songs have been written straight into the script, so there’s no issue with Hank Williams, Rudi, The Undertones and The Outcasts.
That still leaves plenty of space, but the setting of a record shop is the perfect chance to be bold. Why deal in the obvious – your Bob Marley, your English punk – when Terri Hooley’s ears might be resounding to Lee Perry and The Upsetters, to Bert Jansch, The Small Faces or The Saints? So David is grafting each morning on this mission, downloading the new rushes from Belfast and matching them up to the tunes that he keeps filing away.
But there’s an abiding problem with the end title music. It needs to be something iconic – the big sayonara to this emotional story. A possible contender has been ‘Gloria’ by Them, but it’s just not achievable. Then Bobby Gillespie comes up with the genius suggestion.
It’s a BYOC night at Bangor Abbey tonight. As in, Bring Your Own Cushion. The seating may not offer much in the way of luxury, but the concept is still inviting. It’s the work of Open House Festival in Bangor, Co Down and we’re about to witness Farriers with the Arco String Quartet. So we grab a pew and join in the expectancy with 400 other witnesses. The stained glass is illuminated by the weakening light in August, the faux candles flicker and Farriers begin to enthrall.
Last September, the band’s first significant outing with the Arco String Quartet took place in the tiny Picture House at the Ulster Folk And Transport Museum. That was the most special night. Bluegrass and folk tunes with bonus strings and the singular arrangements of Michael Keeney. And if the early Farriers gigs relied on a Mumford-like stomp, their evolving manner has taken on a delicacy also.
When Mick Jones was evicted from The Clash, he didn’t get bitter. His response was a quality band, Big Audio Dynamite and a tune called ‘The Bottom Line’. The lyric declared that “the only thing to do is climb”. And thus he was refortified, ready to rock again.
I guess Tony Wright can relate. He played guitar with And So I Watch You From Afar until November 2011. His final gig was at the Ulster Hall, when he was literally carried away by the audience. Apparently the split was not so gracious, but neither party has revealed much in public. Tony has since returned as VerseChorusVerse, releasing a collection of punk covers last year and now there’s a self-titled album. The tone is mostly affirmative, the regime is bristling folkabilly and the conclusion is that Tony is largely over it.