I have been studying abroad in Ireland since September and it has been an incredible experience. I have been to a lot of cool places in Ireland. Irish musicians have made a big contribution to classic rock. I will be listing contributions from both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Here are 10 musicians, five from each Northern Ireland and The Republic of Ireland. Here are some pictures I took in Ireland. You might recognise the reference to Rory Gallagher’s live album Irish Tour ’74:
Republic of Ireland:
The Boomtown Rats: From Dun Laoghaire. They were made up of Garry Roberts, Simon Crowe, Johnnie Moylett, Patrick Cusak, Gerry Cott, and Bob Geldof. They were influenced by Bob Marley, The Who, The Rolling Stones, The Doors, and Dr Feelgood. Bob Geldof was their lead singer. He originally was supposed to be their manager, but their guitarist didn’t want to sing as well as playing guitar. Bob Geldof went on to play Pink in Pink Floyd – The Wall. Two of their songs went to #3: “Rat Trap” and “I Don’t Like Mondays.” “I Don’t Like Mondays” was inspired by school shooter Brenda Spencer saying that the reason for why she did it was “I don’t like Mondays. This livens up the day.” The band moved to England in 1977 for better opportunities.
Horslips: Formed in Dublin in 1970. Their music combined traditional Irish music with hard rock and elements of progressive rock. This became a genre called Celtic Rock. They released their first album in Ireland in 1972, Happy To Meet, Sorry To Part. The album’s packaging was shaped like a concertina and designed like it too. Where you can really hear the progressive rock influence and fusion with Irish traditional music is on the 1976 concept album The Book of Invasions – A Celtic Symphony. The album’s title is a reference to the book of poems called “Lebor Gabála Érenn” – translated in English as “The Book of Invasions.”
Rory Gallagher: Born in Ballyshannon, Donegal – raised in Cork. He started his music career with the blues rock band Taste. They opened for Blind Faith, but mistakenly were listed on one concert poster as English. They were actually Irish! They even performed at The Isle of Wight Festival in 1970. The very same festival that Jimi Hendrix and The Who performed at. I highly recommend both albums that Taste released in their short career, Taste and On The Boards. Most of the songs on those albums were written by Rory Gallagher. My favourite song by them is “It’s Happened Before, It’ll Happen Again.”
After Taste broke up in 1970, Rory Gallagher started a very successful solo career. Here’s one of my favourite songs from then, “Laundromat”:
Thin Lizzy: Formed in Dublin in 1969. Their first single was written by Phil Lynott, the singer and bassist for the band. It was called “The Farmer.” It did not succeed. Before Phil Lynott was in Thin Lizzy, he was in a band called Skid Row (not to be confused with the American band of the same name with Sebastian Bach). A year later, Thin Lizzy released their first album. “Whiskey In The Jar” from 1972 was their first hit. They put their own hard rock twist on a traditional Irish song. They got a #1 in their home country of Ireland with “The Boys Are Back In Town.” This was their highest charting hit in the US, peaking at #12 and it made the top 10 in the UK.
U2: Formed in 1976 in Dublin. Their first album, Boy, was released in 1980. The band are made up of Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton, and Larry Mullen Jr. They were influenced by punk rock and hard rock. Their first album was very post-punk in sound. Some of their songs have political lyrics and are about events that happened around the time they wrote the songs, such as “Sunday Bloody Sunday.” In the 80s they were one of the top selling acts. In fact, when my grandparents visited Ireland in 1987, they were stuck in a traffic jam due to a bunch of people going to a U2 concert. That’s how popular they were and still are. Here’s one of their songs from 1987, “Where The Streets Have No Name.”
Henry McCullough: Before he joined Paul McCartney and Wings he was in Éire Apparent, a psychedelic band. Jimi Hendrix played on some of their songs. Éire Apparent released only one album. He joined Wings in 1971. Here are a couple of songs with him in Éire Apparent and Wings:
The Outcasts: A punk band from Belfast that formed in 1977. They got their name from being turned down from 5 nightclubs in two weeks. A member of Stiff Little Fingers, Henry Cluney, was even at one of their first gigs. They had a bad boy image. They were signed to two of the best known labels in Northern Ireland, Good Vibrations and It records. A few of their albums made it into the UK Indie Chart. Here is one of their songs:
Stiff Little Fingers: Another punk band from Belfast that formed in 1977. Their lyrics were both personal and political. Around the time these albums and songs were released, it was the height of The Troubles. They were the first indie band to hit the UK Top 20 album charts. Bruce Foxton formerly from The Jam was in the band in the 90s. Here’s a song from their first album Inflammable Material:
Them: Formed in Belfast in 1964. This was the band that launched the music career of Van Morrison. After Van Morrison left the band, they continued to release albums into the early 70s and released one album in 1979. They were very blues rock influenced and were best known for the songs “Gloria,” “Baby Please Don’t Go,” and “Here Comes The Night.” “Gloria” has been covered by many musicians and bands such as David Bowie, Patti Smith, The Doors, Status Quo (as The Spectres), and The Shadows of Knight.
The Undertones: The best known band from Derry. They formed in 1975 They were a punk band. They released their first album in 1979. Their songs were less political and more about adolescence and heartbreak. Their influences ranged from The Beatles and The Small Faces to other punk bands like The Ramones and The Sex Pistols to soul and r&b to glam rock. Compare and contrast these two songs. “Teenage Kicks” is their first single from 1978 and “Got To Have You Back” is from 1983.