Neil Young is arguably the most prolific, as well as the longest-lasting, and hardest-working musician in popular music. His output is so varied that it is difficult to know where to begin to come to terms with his music. He moved from his native Canada to the USA in the mid-1960s and it feels like he has hardly let his guitar down since. In this present century alone he has released 17 albums of new music, along with a series of archival recordings, mostly live, curated by Young himself.
Looking back over four decades to focus on one short period in his career might seem a little odd, in that context. Yet in the opinion of this writer, the three albums he recorded in 1973 and 1974, taken together, amount to his finest work. He himself coined the name by which this period and its music – ‘The Ditch’ – are known:
“Heart of Gold put me in the middle of the road. Travelling there soon became a bore so I headed for the ditch”.
The music made by Young during that time was brought to mind by the release in early summer 2018 of Roxy: Tonight’s the Night Live. This album was recorded straight after he and his band had finished recording the Tonight’s the Night studio album. They went to the newly opened Roxy Club on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles in late September 1973, and played most of the songs they had just recorded.
Tonight’s the Night – released in June 1975, although recorded in August 1973 – is so good I wondered what the live set would have to offer, but it is a revelation. Tonight’s the Night captures Young coming to terms with “losing friends, band members and crew members to heroin” according to music journo Jon Dale, who described the recording process as “a dark occluded affair”.
Many of the versions are even better live than in the studio. Young’s singing, and his and the band’s playing, are much more engaging; witness for example the soulful guitar-playing on ‘Speaking out’ (Nils Lofgren), a beautiful – though haunting – ‘Tired Eyes’ and scorching versions of ‘Roll another number (for the road)’ and ‘Tonight’s the night (Reprise)’.
The first of ‘The Ditch’ records was Time fades away, a collection of eight songs recorded live during a tour of 65 large venues over 90 days, beginning in early January 1973. Young took against this record soon after its release and has refused for years to have it released on CD; “it’s the worst record I ever made” he says. Not so, in fact its honesty and sometimes ramshackle playing offers a way into Young’s deepest feelings. The rawness only adds to what the listener gets out of it.
The third album of the trilogy is On the beach. This received negative reviews on its release in July 1974, but is now recognized as one of Young’s greatest. It is a sobering and sometimes savage pen-picture of America in the dying days of Nixon’s presidency, absorbing and reflecting the awful impact of the Vietnam War and the Manson ‘family’ on the youth of the USA.
But to get back to Roxy: Tonight’s the Night Live, one of the striking things is that the sadness and anger of the lyrics are offset by Young’s sardonic and self-deprecating patter on stage. Surprisingly, in an odd kind of way, this adds depth and humanity to the songs.
The order in which the band play the songs is different to the studio album, and this helps to give Roxy a different vibe:
Tonight’s the Night
World on a String
Come on baby (let’s go downtown)
Mellow my Mind
Roll another number (for the road)
Tonight’s the Night (Reprise)
Tonight’s the Night
Mellow my Mind
World on a String
Roll another number (for the road)
Tonight’s the Night
Incidentally the encore, ‘Walk on’, appeared as the opening track of On the beach.
As the Music Library in Grand is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, we are delighted to be commemorating one of Ireland’s most influential and fondly regarded musicians, the peerless guitarist Rory Gallagher. Indeed, the Music Library was renamed the Rory Gallagher Music Library in 2005 and this summer as part of the Remember Rory programme organised by the library there is an exhibition of a select few of Rory’s guitars and memorabilia such as concert posters that were kindly provided by his brother Donal.
An interesting aspect of the exhibition is a collection of Rory’s favourite crime novels. Many fans may be unaware that he was an avid reader of crime fiction and gained much inspiration from the genre which is reflected in aspects of his music, namely the song Continental Op after the Dashiell Hammett novel. Other favourite authors include Patricia Highsmith (The Talented Mr. Ripley; Strangers on a Train), Raymond Chandler (The Big Sleep; The Long Goodbye), Ian Fleming (Casino Royale; Thunderball), Eric Ambler (Journey into Fear; Epitaph for a Spy) and many others.
In 2013 the noted crime fiction writer and bone fide Rory Gallagher fan Ian Rankin collaborated with Donal Gallagher to produce a novella with illustrations by Timothy Truman inspired by Rory’s music entitled The Lie Factory which was accompanied by a compilation of Rory’s more crime noir related music with a narration by the actor Aidan Quinn. The finished product is entitled Kickback City. This is available to borrow from Cork City libraries along with many of the aforementioned titles from your local library branch or to reserve online here https://librariesireland.iii.com/iii/encore/homepage?lang=eng
Ian Rankin himself praised the wonderful mural by John Coughlan that was recently erected outside the library in a tweet as seen here.
The exhibition of memorabilia will run until the end of August and there will be more talks and performances throughout the rest of the year.
Jack O’Rourke is a singer/songwriter from Cork. His debut album, “Dreamcatcher”, was released in 2016, with its edgy baroque pop, plaintive ballads, noir blues and startlingly honest reflections on the world around him. The album was play listed on national and regional stations. Jack won the prestigious International Song writing Competition for lyrics for the album’s centerpiece ballad, “Silence” (performed live on the Late Late Show), as well as having sell-out shows around the country.
Here is a short performance by Jack as he chats to Sheena Crowley about his plans for the future and plays a selection of his songs.
To view the full interview visit our YouTube channel here.
This recording is part of a special programme of events to mark 40 years of the Rory Gallagher Music Library, 40 years of service to the music loving people of Cork, 40 years of pleasure and enjoyment to library users
The series is about contemporary Cork musicians, old and young of diverse styles and backgrounds. They are invited to do a half hour interview in the music library, followed by a couple of songs. Each episode is professionally recorded, and kept as part of the Cork City Library Music Archive to reflect the musical culture of Cork.
The prog rock group Yes used to be famous (infamous?) for frequently having long tracks that would fill an entire side of an LP. The vinyl version of The Gloaming Live at the NCH is a double album; sides B and D each contain just one track; does this mean they are about to change their name to ‘Is Ea’? A risky thing to do, having such long pieces, but saved by the fact that the music is so fantastic.
The Gloaming have played 24 shows at the National Concert Hall (NCH) in Dublin since 2013, most usually as part of series of concerts in the spring of 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018 – they’ve just finished a series of seven shows there in March of this year.
The Gloaming Live at the NCH is not, however, a recording of one concert, rather a selection made by Thomas Bartlett, the piano player and producer, of tunes and songs from the 2015 to 2017 concerts.
When Planxty revolutionised traditional music in the 1970s it was partly through their choice of instruments, putting uilleann pipes alongside guitar, bouzouki, and mandolin for the first time. The line-up of The Gloaming is also a step change: Martin Hayes, the renowned East Clare fiddle player, is joined by Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh on a fiddle he adapted himself called a ‘Hardanger d’Amore, as well as by the singer Iarla Ó Lionáird from Cúl Aodha, and Americans Denis Cahill on guitar and Thomas Bartlett on piano.
There are so many gems on this record, it is hard to know where to begin:
The album gets off to a lively and lilting start with ‘The Booley House’, a selection of a hop jig, plus reels and slides.
‘The Sailor’s Bonnet’ opens with the title tune played as a slow air, and then picks up showcasing each of the musicians – not least Bartlett on an extended piano piece – as they build to the flying finish. They come close to taking the roof off the NCH!
On ‘The Pilgrim’s Song’ it is Bartlett’s piano behind Ó Lionáird’s singing and Hayes’ fiddle-playing that gives them the space to create so beautifully.
Their version of the famous jig ‘The Rolling Wave’ – and even more so ‘Music in the Glen’ which follows on – features two fiddles doing their very different things, with Thomas Bartlett doing the seemingly impossible and accompanying both while also providing a percussive thump – the Kilfenora Ceili Band featuring Thelonius Monk!
Mid-way through the final track ‘Fainleoig’ the great jig ‘The Holly Bush’ emerges out of the maelstrom created by Bartlett’s huge piano sound. When the jig really gets going it is irresistible. The tempo and sound then soften for Ó Lionáird to sing the beautiful ‘Samhraidh, Samhraidh’.
So perhaps surprisingly, given the fame of Hayes and Ó Lionáird, it is Bartlett who is the star of this show, more so than on the two studio records The Gloaming have produced so far. Bartlett – who also performs under the name ‘Doveman’ – has worked with a wide variety of artists, from Martha Wainwright to Ed Sheeran. He plays on David Byrne’s American Utopia which also appeared this year. His jazz-flavoured percussive piano playing is a crucial and defining element in The Gloaming’s sound.
24 gigs at the NCH and surely more to come. That building on Earlsfort Terrace should sport a big banner out front: ‘The National Concert Hall – home to The Gloaming’.
The Vestas: Live at the Library: a series of recorded interviews with contemporary Cork musicians, as part of the Rory Gallagher Music Library 40th celebration.
Jake Kalilec, Leo Mullane and Fintan Mulvihill are three fine singer-songwriters from Cork, who came together whilst studying music in college. They write and perform some of the finest new music on the Irish scene – heavily influenced by soul, blues, pop and jazz styles, reflecting the different influences each of them brings to the group. This gives their music a refreshing and uplifting feel, with appeal to a wide audience. Their catchy melodies and vocal harmonies range in theme from the heartache of lost love to life on the dole. They have supported Damien Dempsey, Declan O’Rourke, Hermitage Green and many more.
Their new EP “In my Head” features soulful original songs that combine moving lyrics with equally moving melodies.
Here, Sheena Crowley talks to The Vestas about their new EP ‘In My Head’
Joe O’Callaghan is well known on the Cork music scene as a master harmonica player and for his high energy performance as one of the best frontmen in Cork. He has gigged regularly for the past five decades and is still going strong.
Joe started out with a band called ‘Boothouse’ in 1970 with band members, Joe O’Callaghan, Declan Pender, Pete Brennan, Ciarán MacCarthy and Dan Sheehan.
In 1977 Bill O’Brien and Joe formed Hot Guitars along with Jeremy Nagle, Pat Lynch, and John Finn. Although the line up has changed many times, the very popular Cork blues/rock band has been gigging for 40+ years. Joe plays harmonica, guitar, sax, and keyboard throughout the set and with his usual gusto on the mic, he entertains the crowd, often strutting along the bar or swinging from the rafters. The audience is glued to such a dynamic personality, following him as he moves through the crowd. They would never imagine that such a vibrant character is known amongst his friends and family as a quiet, reserved man.
Dan Shout is a respected jazz musician based in Cape Town. His professional career spans almost 20 years, with a multitude of local and international performances. In addition to his work as a session musician, Dan lectures part time at the University of Cape Town. He also presents workshops at Jazz conferences, and recently performed in the Cork Guinness Jazz Festival.
He can be seen here playing in The Rory Gallagher Music Library, accompanied by Mo O’Connor, where he gave a wonderful and informative illustrated talk on South African jazz. His latest CD, “In with a Shout” is available for loan from the library.
Mo O’Connor is a former member of Loudest Whisper and the Noel Redding band and is well known in the traditional Irish and jazz world.
Last Thursday on RTE 1 there was a documentary by Cork filmmaker, Tony McCarthy called U2 agus an Arc. It focused on the halcyon days of Cork’s Arcadia Ballroom in the late 70s and early 80s as a venue for visiting English bands like XTC, UB40 and The Specials as well local bands like MicroDisney and Nun Attax. However, it was an up and coming band from Dublin, formerly known as The Hype and now calling themselves U2 that was the centre of attention here.
U2 played the Arcadia 10 times from 1978 to 1980 building up a strong fan base and developing their style and craft onstage to become within a few short years one of the biggest bands on the planet.
The documentary was a fond look back at the how the gigs were organised by Elvera Butler, as part of the Downtown Kampus, which moved from the Science building in UCC to the Arcadia. Although there was no footage of the U2 gigs, there were many striking black and white photos of the band in action on stage in the venue. With insightful contributions from people like John Spillane, Niall Stokes from Hot Press, and Paul Morley from the NME, this is a must see film for those interested in the music scene of Cork in recent years.
It is still available to watch on the RTE player until tomorrow. Go watch it!!!
The news that at the end of 2016 sales of vinyl records had reached a 25-year high is, on the face of it, surprising. It is not too long since we were told that all physical formats, including CDs, were dinosaurs and that in the era of downloads and streaming, they would disappear. It hardly needed to be mentioned that vinyl’s day was done.
So what are we to make of the end of year figures from the UK?:
In fact vinyl sales have been increasing for eight consecutive years.
All this talk about downloads and the disappearance of physical formats has obvious implications for a public music lending library, such as the Rory Gallagher Music Library [RGML] on the Grand Parade, Cork. How could the RGML continue to collect and make available music for its patrons, if the major companies just stopped producing? If there was no economic basis for the popular music business, could there be a future for a music lending library?
Stephen Witt’s 2015 book How music got free: the Inventor, the Mogul, and the Thief is a compelling account of how the technology to enable virtual or digital music developed, and of how it became increasingly difficult to charge for it. Jonathan Taplin’s newly published Move fast and break things is equally compelling but from a very different angle.
The story begins with a German inventor called Karlheinz Brandenburg. An engineer by profession, he never expected or intended that illegal downloading would evolve from the creation of the mp3 which he had developed in the early 1990s – the ‘mp’ stands for Moving Pictures Experts Group. Mp3 technology is reliant on our less than perfect hearing for its success – it compresses sound to about 70 – 75% of the quality of a CD, but our ears seem happy to accept it. The first ever mention of mp3 software, and what it was about to unleash, was in May 1997, in a report on file sharing among students in Stanford University. A student put 110 music files on his personal web server, and in no time more than 2,000 people each day were visiting, representing more than 80% of the University’s outgoing traffic.
When legislators and moral guardians – usually self-appointed – sought to protect teenagers from what record companies wanted to sell them, the mighty dollar almost always had the muscle to win out. Ironically, but unsurprisingly, when a later generation of teenagers started to share files, the legislators were slow to listen to the complaints of these record companies.
The story of how music got free pits huge companies against small fry. There are now only three major record companies – the so-called ‘Big Three’ of Warner, Universal and Sony – who between them control a shocking 80% of the record industry. Huge companies also control technology development. As the music business struggled with what illegal downloading was doing to their profits, the ingenuity of US big business seemed to offer a way out: Steve Jobs of Apple, who strongly disapproved of file-sharing, developed iTunes “whose calm white interface and slick expensive iconography promised to cleanse the world of sin” to quote Witt.
As for the small fry, those who tried to make music free have included a very disparate bunch: Brandenburg who did not foresee where his invention would lead; employees of CD-production plants and distributors who were happy to make a few bucks through bootlegging; idealist file-sharers; hackers doing it because they could; those who saw an opportunity to make a few bucks; and even the Pirate Party who got elected to some Northern European parliaments and even the European Parliament on an anti-copyright platform.
For music libraries, and music librarians, the experience of community-oriented file sharing is interesting, for example the so-called Oink Pink Palace. Created by a self-effacing Englishman named Alan Ellis, the file-sharing service grew incredibly quickly, reaching 100,000 ‘members’ by 2006. According to Witt, Ellis “mandated civility of discourse . . . He seemed at times to promote an almost utopian vision, except his utopia actually worked. The result was illegal, of course but it was also something of great value”.
He did not charge; it was done apparently for the love of the music and the principle of sharing. Not only did the record companies not get their share, neither did the artists. The record industry could hardly let this continue, so he was tracked down, arrested and prosecuted. Whatever one might think about the huge recorded music industry going after a small fry like Ellis, one could legitimately ask Ellis and his co-sharers “how is a musician supposed to earn a living, if everyone is downloading for free?”
Jonathan Taplin looks at this issue – how to ensure fair payment for digital music – from a very different angle, that of the musician and artist. Taplin, still active at 70, started out as a young man working as Bob Dylan and The Band’s tour manager, and then became a movie director.
Levon Helm was the drummer in The Band. For years after the group stopped touring and recording he would make about US $100,000 a year on royalties from their records. “He made a living,” says Taplin. “Then Napster hit in 2000 and he got throat cancer the same year and it made his life a living hell.”
Taplin’s first aim in the book was to understand how Helm and people like him, creators of the music which attracts fans in the first place, lost out so much, while the big companies that were exploiting that music made billions. Taplin “thought of it as a culture war”; “but once I came to look into it I realised that it was really an economic war.” Taplin’s book makes a passionate case for the rights of the creators, and deserves the widest readership.
So, if we are facing an increasingly digital world, yet seeing increased sales of vinyl, what does this seemingly contradictory picture mean for the Rory Gallagher Music Library and public facilities like it? What is the future, for music creation, record production, music libraries, and the consumption of music product? Is it best summed up in that phrase from the Hollywood mogul William Goldman “no one knows anything”?
One thing for sure, not for a moment can the RGML sit on its laurels. Its future, like the future of public libraries generally, depends on trying to figure out what is around the corner, and being clear on what has to be done so that we can stick to our principles.
It is impossible to be absolutely certain what form the Rory Gallagher Music Library will take in 10 or 20 years time, because of the changing nature of recorded music and how the public access it. Flexibility will thus be key for this section of the Library. What can be said is that space will always be required for:
continually growing music collections in all genres and in all relevant formats: CDs. Vinyl, DVDs, scores, books;
the informational and reference role of the Rory Gallagher Music Library for all aspects of musical culture in the city, and its support for the music curriculum.
Space will be required for classes in music appreciation and instrument tuition, and rehearsal, and a regular calendar of live music performances and gramophone recitals.
Space will also be required for enhanced permanent display of music heritage items, e.g. Rory Gallagher, Aloys Fleischmann, Cork Choral Festival, and material relating to Cork musicians, composers, bands, etc.
Witt fesses up that a few years back he sold his collection of more than 100,000 mp3 files and bought a subscription to Spotify. “What I’d thought of as my personal archive was just an agglomeration of slowly demagnetizing junk”. The book ends with his description of how he took the collection to be destroyed. Music librarians cannot help but wonder if that is what is in store for all physical collections of recorded music, if everything will be virtual, held on a cloud, in the future?
Way back in September 1990 I attended my first Iron Maiden concert. I was a fifteen year old Heavy Metal Fanatic and this was a big deal for me. I remember vividly the sense of excitement and the feeling of camaraderie as we walked in our thousands—clad in denim and leather and the obligatory white sneakers—along the quays towards the old Point Depot.
Twenty seven years later, I’m partaking in the same pilgrimage and the air is charged with that same sense of anticipation. It’s a beautiful day in May and Dublin is swarming with metal fans. Loud rock music is blaring from Lanigans and other pubs along the quays as we make our way to the venue. The mood is high and the atmosphere is that of a carnival.
Maiden are known for their elaborate stage shows and The Book of Souls Tour does not disappoint. The stage is beautifully decked out in Mayan themed imagery that matches the artwork of the latest album to the finest of details. The video intro which leads into IfEternity Should Fail, the opening track from The Book of Souls, is enough to drive the capacity crowd into near frenzy and by the time the band hit the stage, the 3Arena is a cauldron of noise.
The set list is one of the best in recent years and classics like The Trooper and Wrathchild sit nicely alongside new tracks like The Book of Souls and The Red and the Black without interrupting the flow of the show one iota. Children of the Damned was one of the highlights of the night, in my opinion and the version of Powerslave was absolutely masterful. Death or Glory from the new record is fast becoming a fan favourite, evidenced in Dublin by the thousands of voices singing along with Bruce Dickinson, who takes the opportunity to show that he doesn’t take it all too seriously, singing the whole track while wearing a monkey mask. Those who know the song will know why!
All the necessary elements needed to make up a great Iron Maiden show were there: Steve Harris machine-gunning the front row with his bass, Bruce Dickinson ping-ponging about the whole stage like a man half his age, the scrap between Eddie and Janick Gers, and a huge, brooding Baphomet overshadowing the band during The Number of the Beast.
The fact that Iron Maiden, after so many years of recording albums and touring around the world, can still fill huge venues and present a set list containing nearly fifty percent brand new material is incredibly impressive. It demonstrates how relevant the band still is to the world of rock music and how committed and hard working they are as musicians. Their fans of course realise this and that’s why Maiden are still at the apex of the metal pyramid. Here’s hoping that there will be another album and another tour.