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TEN - the Great, but Forgotten, Irish Rock Singles

For the first week of TEN way back in May 1999, eoghan put together a list of 10 (arguably) great Irish rock singles that time is beginning to forget. Ten gems that have disappeared from the airwaves and, most definitely, from record stores shelves. It is not a moment too late, you may add, that we remind ourselves that there once was life, and most definitely soul, before the Corrs and Westlife made us turn our back in despair. So, in no particular order, the roll-call goes....

A House
'Take it easy'

Rocking Chairs
'Stuck in the Driving Rain'

Taken from 1991's 'I am the Greatest' album (produced by Edwyn Collins) this was a wonderful bouncing hook of a single. And then there was the video - take a living room, run around with abandon and joy and destroy everything in it, film yourself in the act. Then sit down and play it in all back, but in reverse. They did just that but they needed a soundtrack - this little number certainly provided it. They were given the "folk-rock super group" kiss of death in some circles. However, the Rocking Chairs - centered around Vinnie Kilduff's uileann pipes & Gerry O'Connor's violin - burst from the starting blocks in 1989 with this killer tune of potent organic beauty. However, unfortunately for them, it seems they proceeded to trip on some untied lace at the 10 metre line....

Microdisney
'Town to town'

Tuesday Blue
'Tunnel Vision'

We thought the mainstream was about to let itself get all gloriously muddied when Cork's wisest climbed the UK charts and airwaves in 1985 with this bit of subdued majesty. But, alas, the momentum was short-lived and ensuing turbulence broke the band's creative forces in two. Cathal Coughlan redirected his muse into Fatima Mansions & Sean O'Hagan mounted the High Llamas. Memorable also for a great simple video -  band on back of vehicle as diverse urban-scapes roll by. It brightened up at least one evening's 'Tube' viewing on C4. Mid-eighties pre-Cranberries Limerick-rock. One of the first singles on U2's Mother label. It was washed with chunky riffs and, very close to naff synthesisers but the chorus was, as they say in Macroom, mighty and marvellous. I remember watching Vinnie Hanly's (RIP) "MTV USA" one Sunday afternoon in 1985 and being pretty impressed to see they managed to even have a (dirty, dark & grainy) video for the song. Irish videos were few and far between back then. They proceeded, however, to pretty quickly to vanish off all radar screens.

U2
'A Celebration'

Jubilee All-stars
'By the end of the night'

It looks like this brash and memorable moment from U2's early career is destined to be kept a secret only for those lucky enough to own this, long since deleted, 1982 single. It was passed over in the selection of tracks for last year's (dubiously motivated) greatest hits album. A real pity because the song has a guitar swing and vocal verve that deserves as wide an audience as their more successful commercial musical diversions. Never appearing on an album, it was released between the 'October' and 'War' LPs. It was accompanied by a rough and ready video that, from Bono's opening 'Shake! Shake!' in Kilmainham jail to the closing shot of an urban youth riding a horse bareback over rubble of derelict Dublin, remains compelling viewing. Essential early U2. When I first played this jewel of 1996 I thought my stereo wasn't plugged it was so lo-fi. It could have been a bad joke - singing seemingly out of key, instruments sounding clumsy and clodded. But something made me play it again. Maybe it was the simple purity of the harmonica at the start. No need for convoluted superlatives here. It just grows with time into some of the most endearing music you could ever here.

Sinead O'Connor & the Edge
'Heroine'

Gavin Friday
'Angel'

From the soundtrack to the appalling movie 'Captive' this was easily one of the most engaging singles of 1986. A young teenage Sinead delivered the lyric in gentle tones that are only now coming back into her voice. Edge and Larry Mullen's painted the landscape. Strangely this is a single that sounds better at 33rpm (I swear). Okay, I know. This one appears on the soundtrack to "Romeo & Juliet" and so doesn't quite make the criteria of "not available in your record stores". But editorial privilege has its vices, one of which is this gorgeous 6 minutes from 1995's bow to vaudeville that was "Shag Tobacco". It didn't do the thang when it comes to sales and Island promptly dropped the man Friday from their rosters soon after its release.

The Pogues
'Haunted'

Power of Dreams
'100 Ways To Kill A Love'

The soul at the core of a beautiful creation such as 'Fairy Tale of New York' may take a bashing every Christmas, but one Pogues song that hasn't had its dignity stripped is 'Haunted'. From the 1986 film Sid & Nancy, its mesmerising vocal is that of Cait O'Riordain, now Elvis Costello's wife. The loose ramshackle rhythm of its backing formed a fragile vertebrae that stands tall even today. Its re-recording in 1996 by Sinead O'Connor with Shane McGowan couldn't capture the quiet desperation of the original. Your only chance of coming across the original is on the difficult to find soundtrack to Sid & Nancy (called 'Love Kills'). A fine example of the literate power pop - strong lyrics and perfect hooks -  that has long been a staple of the Irish acts (Them, Undertones, Ash). Power of Dreams, led by teenage songwriter Craig Walker, sang songs about love, teenage angst, youthful hopes and frustrations in Dublin on their 1990 debut 'Immigrants, Emigrants And Me' produced by Ray Shulman (who also produced the seminal Reading, Writing and Arithmetic in the same year). 100 Ways To Kill A Love has that rare ability of making you to boooooogie like a madman and, also, sit back   and reflect on the tragedy of love at the same time!! Dreams are made of this.... (submitted by Steve McNulty)

Engine Alley 'Infamy'

Okay, we've sneaked in an 11th song....but it's so infectious you'll find yourself volunteering it for quarantine. Aided by Steve Lillywhite as producer, this band of Kilkenny feline beasts managed to surprise the Irish masses without even a hurley in sight. Also famed for their definitive version of the only decent Abba song ('SOS'), they were last spotted doing unplugged sessions around Dublin.

 

Also make sure you check out the other ten lists:
(bullet) ten great film soundtracks
(bullet) ten great one-hit wonders
(bullet) ten great hidden album tracks
(bullet) ten great b-sides
(bullet) ten great debut albums
(bullet) ten great rock & pop instrumentals
(bullet) ten great naff songs of the eighties
(bullet) ten great cover versions
(bullet) ten great album openers

 

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