True Confessions

Good Vibrations

Sometime in the middle of the 1990s, I spent a week of my holidays visiting the major cities on the island of Ireland. Specifically, I was going to these places to check out their record stores and bookshops. I was based in Limerick, so I made a few day trips by bus to Cork, Galway and Waterford. I also went to Dublin and stayed there with a friend in order to make my first visit to Belfast. This would have been a few years before the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 and I remember a lot of my friends being a bit concerned about me going to Northern Ireland. I wasn’t too worried and was looking forward to visiting the record shops and bookstores I had somehow found out about

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Mixing Pop & Politics

“It’s surprising how quick a little rain can clear the streets,” sang Billy Bragg on a wonderful rendition of The Saturday Boy at Dolan’s last night. The Limerick streets are used to rain, of course, and if they were empty on a Monday night it was because everyone was at the Warehouse to welcome the Bard of Barking to town for the first time. It’s hard enough to get people to come out any night to see a solo singer backing himself on guitar, but it was a testament to his standing that he attracted a full crowd on a cold and wet Monday night in October. I got to Dolan’s early and filled my stomach with some tasty Guinness stew and later washed it down with pints of porter in the Warehouse as I joined some friends to check out the opening act. Paddy Nash hails from Derry and he did a fine job warming up the crowd. He was quite comfortable with the audience and explained that he had walked out on his job in the film industry when they wouldn’t give him the week off to follow Billy around the country. A song called Billy Bragg Jeans was inspired by a story Paddy heard about Billy buying a pair of jeans for a few quid in a charity store. He also gave us a song called Rubber Bullets that was sung from the perspective of a child growing up in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. His best song, and the one the audience enjoyed the most, was called Ballad of a Nobody. This was a witty song that told the story of an average man with an average life and had everybody in stitches as its key line was repeated each time

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Peeling in the Years

John Peel died on this day six years ago and Webbie over at Football & Music has decided to commemorate the great man by getting bloggers and users of social media to put up a track from a Peel session by one their favourite acts. You can read more about it and find out what other bloggers are up to over at Keeping It Peel. Peel started recording sessions in 1967 and these continued right up to his death in 2004. Unsurprisingly, The Fall recorded the most (24) with David Gedge matching that figure as part of The Wedding Present and also Cinerama. Some of the biggest acts from the British Isles such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Sex Pistols, The Clash, Radiohead and U2 never recorded a Peel session, while Lulu, The Shadows, Gerry & the Pacemakers and Terence Trent D’Arby actually did. Many Irish acts made the short trip across The Irish Sea to the BBC studios and today I present a session track from eight of these

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A Legend in His Time

John Peel

On this day five years ago, John Peel was getting ready to present another episode of his radio show. Unfortunately, it would be his last as a heart attack would take his life a few weeks later while on a working holiday in Peru. He had been best known as a disc jockey and champion of the musical underdog on BBC radio. His Peel Sessions gave many bands their first chance of airplay and a load of them went on to have successful careers in the music business. Sadly, I never got to hear his shows as it was not possible for me to listen to BBC radio when he was around. Nevertheless, I’m grateful to him for giving a first chance to many bands that I count among my favourites. For example, he once announced on air that he was feeling a little peckish. A cheeky chappy from Essex heard this and he delivered a Biryani to the studio along with a copy of his demo! He was offered a session straight away and Billy Bragg has become a very respected songwriter with loads of albums under his belt

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