Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature

Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature
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Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature
Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature
Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Home : Music : Christy Moore Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature


 

 

CHRISTY MOORE

Arena Magazine  1997 - Phil Cleary

'But I like my music in the open air, So every summer I go to Clare, 'Cause Woodstock, Knock nor the Feast of Cana Could hold a match to Lisdoonvarna'.

Lisdoonvarna, Christy Moore, 1983.

Stumbling across Planxty and Christy Moore in a small theatre in Limerick City in 1973 was as significant to me as whatever it was that happened to St Paul on the Road to Damascus. For nothing I'd known in sleepy Australia could hold a match to the evocative power of that voice and the musical sophistication of Dónal Lunny and Andy Irvine or the historical and political depth of the songs and music I heard from Planxty that night.

Although there was a fair dose of the Irish nationalist in Christy Moore 25 years ago Planxty's songs managed to creep past the circumscribed Fenianism of the Clancy Brothers and the often maudlin folk scene. From the darkly mysterious oral tradition of John Reilly, to the rambling proletarian anthems of Woody Guthrie in songs such as 'The Ludlow Massacre' -

It was early springtime when the strike was on You drove us miners out of our doors ... I thanked God for the mineworkers union And then I hung my head and cried

and 'Sacco and Vanzetti' -

I ain't got time to tell the tale, 'Cause the branch and the bulls are on my tail I won't forget these men who died to show us people how to live

to the poignant beauty of Ewan McColl's 'Go, Move, Shift' -

Born on the common by a building site Where the ground was rutted by the trail of wheels The local Christian said to me 'You'll lower the price of property' ... Go, move, shift

Christy Moore sang to the beat of a different, often international, drum.

Drawing on Ireland's unique musical culture, never afraid to tramp on the excesses of Catholic propriety, and capable of interpreting and delivering songs with remarkable passion, he is a performer like no other.

CASTLEBAR - 1996 - WITH LOUIS DE PAOR

In October 1996 I talked with him before a concert in Castlebar, County Galway. Although more subdued on the question of Northern Ireland and the Nationalist cause than in the days when he was singing songs such as 'The Belfast Brigade' and was demonised as that 'Provo Bastard' by loyalists in the north, the moment he took centre stage his attack on the 'enemy' was as powerful as ever. 

 

In song

At night's end he swept all before him with a eulogy, Warrior Woman, to courageous Irish Journalist Veronica Guerin. So intimate was the song I wanted to join the local branch of the Red Guard and go hunting for the heroin cartel that had shot her dead in broad day-light at a Dublin intersection.

It left the audience believing they'd lost a treasured member of their own family. Just as importantly it re-affirmed for those grappling with this thing called post-modernism, the fundamental collectivism and humanity of everyday life.

In the caravan with Christy in 1996

 

In the '80s the songs finding their way to Christy Moore continued the trend towards diversity and universality begun with Planxty. In 'Biko Drum', 'Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Russian Roulette', 'No Time for Love', 'Allende' (where the good doctor lies with blood in his eyes and the bullets read US of A), 'Remember the Brave Ones', and 'The City of Chicago', (the latter two written by his brother, Luka Bloom), Christy introduced his audience to songs whose poetic form was as good as the best of Bob Dylan but whose political message was unproblematic and collectivist in a way Dylan's could never be.

Interspersed through the political anthems were ditties such as 'Messenger Boy' the love songs, 'Nancy Spain', and 'Black is the Colour' (of my true love's hair) and the 'craic'.

I cry with joy when I listen to 'McIlhatton', a glorious lark to the poitín (potato whiskey) written by hunger-striker Bobby Sands not long before he died in Thatcher's H-block, Concentration Camp. With lines such as -

'There's a wisp of smoke to the south of the Glen and the poitín is on the air, The birds in the burrows and the rabbits in the sky and there's drunkards everywhere. At Skerries rock the fox is out and by god he's chasing the hounds And the only thing in dacent shape is buried beneath the ground',

and a larrikin beat to kill for, any serious drinker who hasn't had the pleasure has seriously missed their calling.

Whilst Christy Moore continues to exude recalcitrance and affirm the great Irish tradition of rarefying heroes and martyrs, fame has come at a price. The big performances at venues such as the Melbourne Concert Hall remain technically flawless, however they lack the intimacy of the village hall in Castlebar and tend to impede the story telling and the gentle narrative so central to his musical tradition. Still there are few performers who can stand before a microphone with only a guitar and a bodhran and so fire the spirits.

As we watch the shallow debate over the Australian 'Republic' unfold it's not hard to understand why our own musical culture has struggled to peep above the global import. In the words and music of Paul Kelly, Kev Carmody, Michael Thomas (Weddings Parties Anything), Deborah Conway, Peter Garrett and a small number of others, the journey into the politics of everyday life, indigenous and otherwise, has taken a form to rival that of the contemporary Irish musical scene.

It seems however that until we resolve the question of who we are, the gurus will be gushing to the sound of Kylie and The Spice Girls and the only person doing the encores will be Christy Moore.


Christy's book, 'One Voice' is discussed in the music section. 


Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature
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