News has come in of the passing of Mike Waterson. We send our condolences to Ann and all the childer and grand children, to Norma and her family and to all the extended clan. Mike was an old friend whom I did not see often enough since 1972.There was great soul in his singing. Along with Norma, Lal and their cousin John they led the way with that acapella harmony singing that became such an integral part of the Folk Revival. I first heard The Waterson’s sing in 1967.Those early sounds have never left me. Mike taught me “The Lakes of Pontchartrain” which I brought home and recorded with Planxty. Thanks to Mike it is now a part of our national repertoire. He also shared a great version of “Van Diemen’s Land” and wrote “Stitch in Time” which I learned from the singing of his brother-in-law Martin Carthy. I would recommend the early Waterson’s albums to all song birds… Let us remember.
Recently I had the pleasure of recording a one hour programme for RTE TV. It was hosted by Gay Byrne and the focus of the programme was primarily songs. Gay had certainly delved into the repertoire and this led to a good discussion with a dozen songs thrown in throughout. I first met him in 1972 when Planxty guested on his Late Late Show. I subsequently appeared on the show 22 times over the years and a couple of those appearances were remembered for different reasons. The programme will be transmitted on RTE1 on Fri July 29th at 9.30.pm. Hope it works as good as it felt. I played the following tracks;
Leaving of Liverpool
Connolly was there
Yellow Furze Woman
Me and the Rose
Cliffs of Dooneen
I had hoped to sing Joni Mitchell’s “Magdalene Laundry” and “Strange Ways” but did not manage to find my way in to either of them.
The London Feis at Finsbury Park
This gig has been revived after 7 years in mothballs. It was formerly known as “The London Fleadh”. I have some great memories of playing there. It felt like I was returning to a familiar field. It rained heavily as we arrived but the audience were determined to have their day. The Cranberries took to the stage in a deluge of summer rain. They tore into a brace of hits. We were backstage, preparing to follow them, as the rain hopped off the porter loos. We heard that Dylan had arrived and it felt good to be hangin’ out in the same paddock. Did not see him nor hear him but I could sense his presence. I wanted to sing “Pity The Poor Immigrant” (for the day that was in it) but decided against it as Himself was playing directly after us… he might not have heard nor noticed but my instinct told me leave it out. (I recall being told years ago, if it feels alright it’s probably alright, if it don’t feel right -don’t do it!)
We went on at 7.30. The rain stopped for the duration of our set. There were about 40,000 listeners and they gave us a good listen. Many would not have seen us before. We could not have asked for more from them, for everyone gave us a good listen. Of course we also had our own loyal band of listeners, some of whom had travelled hard to make it to Finsbury. These outdoor gigs are so different from our usual setting. The sound on stage can be a challenge but our crew gave us a good sound to work with. Declan stuck with the Fender right through for he could not get the necessary sound from any of the acoustic guitars. The notes were blowing in the wind. I eventually risked some finger pickin’, the sound was good so we did a few softer songs, even picked up the old drum for a rattle, and they seemed to like that. Our last festival experiences were Glastonbury 2010 and Electric Picnic 2008 where we had very little stage sound to work with, heads-down-knobs-to-the-right situations. Outdoor gigs have their own energy and ethos. Some people can have the time of their lives without noticing who is on stage, I know the feeling. We played the following songs, not in this sequence;
City of Chicago
Smoke and Strong Whiskey
North and South
Hiroshima Nagasaki Russian Roulette
Joxer goes to Stuttgart
The Well below the Valley
Black is the Colour
I left shortly after we finished our set; I had to catch a steamer out of Holyhead. as we drove away from Finsbury Park Dylan was blowing his Hohner out into the night, the atmosphere was great, his band were cookin’ up a lovely Saturday night groove as we made for the Kilburn High Road, then on up towards North Wales and Paddy’s Green Shamrock Shore….
We were hacked again last night. Fourth time since we opened the site (back in 2005 I think). A few of our younger readers were quite upset which caused me to reflect upon it. I’m going to suss out if it is possible to prevent it or make it more difficult. I cannot handle the thought of a youngster logging on to this site and being frightened by what appears. It’s very hard to understand the mind set of someone who has sufficient talent with computers and will then put that talent to such negative purpose… like misfortunates who smash bus shelters, break windows, push and shout their way through life, bully and harangue others, kick dogs, stick needles in insects. Such a sad and pitiful way to pass the time…
I had the privilege of being invited to Paul Simon’s gig in Vicar St. Dublin last Monday night… it was a beautiful 2 hours. He was singing like a lark. He was happy on stage as he sang and smiled and boogied and rapped and it was all surrounded by a wonderful band… tight and so musical, focused on the centre of it all. Everyone took solos but always deferring to the kernel of the gig. Accordion, brass, bass drums, 2 guitarists, piano, Hammond, flutes, whistles, percussion, all 8 sometimes singing together, a 50s rock and roll medley, an entranced and enchanted crowd thronged the room. Vicar St is at its best on such nights as this.
Later In Munster…
It’s a week later and I am back here in Cork by The Lee getting ready for tonight’s Marquee Gig. It’s our 7th successive year to play this “big tint”. It has almost become our Summer Solstice. As always I’m feeling quite nervous as I write this, the nerves still play their part as they have done at every gig since 1966.Writing this is part of my therapy, takes my mind off the gig which will start in 5 hours from now. I’ve done all the other bits. I’m in a hotel about 10 miles from the venue. There is a wedding reception going on downstairs, skies are grey with occasional showers. I’m hoping it will hold up, maybe even some evening sun…that would contribute enormously to the evening’s event. I just got word that Kadar Asmal has passed in South Africa. He lived here in Ireland for the last two decades of the Apartheid regime. With his wife, Louise Asmal, he worked tirelessly in The Irish Anti-Apartheid movement. Nelson Mandela called him home and appointed Kadar to a ministry in his first cabinet. Back here we used to call him Peadar Asmal!
Backstage at the Marquee…
Saturday Nights are the same the world over… perfume and after shave on the air, excitement and expectation out front as we warm up backstage with our own wee session. In the dressing room we played Duffy’s Cut, Cry like a Man, Barrowland. Mick Devine gave the 10 minute call… final prep and out we go to face the rebel throng.
North and South
Gypsy of Cork (For Patrick Galvin)
Go Move Shift
Smoke and strong Whisky
Johnny Jump up
Black is The Colour
If I get an Encore
We had a great night as they listened and laughed, sang and clapped, came right down for Joni’s Magdalene Laundry, and remembered when we sang Veronica. Rejoiced in the life and work of Patrick Galvin, partook of “Johnny Jump Up” on the Lee Road…
After the Feis in Finsbury and The Marquee in Cork its back to the bread and butter this week…. a return to Letterkenny after a 4 year gap and into Sligo for a right old Gilhooley. Just finalised the running order for the forthcoming album, Declan is in London doing the final Mastering.
It should be ready by autumn.
Talk to ye soon…
To Mike Waterson;
It’s fare thee well my singing bird you’ll sing forever more
I’ll ne’er forget the times we spent upon The Humber Shore
At each social gathering I’ll celebrate your name
When I heard that song you sang to me “The Lakes of Pontchartrain”.