We celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day with the fervent abuse of our livers to honor, well, most people forgot what we honor. Hey, we are all Irish on this day because Saint Patrick was…wait…Saint Patrick was born in Scotland. Saint Patrick was born near Dumbarton, in Scotland in 387.
So, why is this an Irish Holiday? Well, Saint Patrick preached and converted all of the Pagan Irish to Christianity for 40 years until he died at Saul, March 17, 461. Introducing a bunch of happy Pagans to Christian guilt would probably explain a lot of the drinking; poor Celts.
That is not what this is about though. This is about praising some of the greatest and most influential Irish musicians that have inspired us, entertained us and gave us many beautiful memories.
1. Van Morrison
Born, George Ivan (Van) Morrison in Belfast, this Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame musician started in the Showband scene in Ireland, playing with the Monarchs. After leaving the Showband scene he went on to international success with the band, Them in 1964. Them had a few hits that included the legendary garage rock classic, “Gloria.”
Them were so amazing that during their almost month long stint at the Whisky a Go Go The Doors were their supporting act on the last week. John Densmore noted in his book “Riders on the Storm,” that Jim Morrison himself was so taken with Van that he quickly studied and learned Van’s stagecraft.
1967 marked the beginning of Van Morrison’s long and legendary solo career. He would go on to record some of the most recognizable, influential and musically bold recordings that the world had ever heard.
2. Thin Lizzy
Thin Lizzy was founded in 1969 by guitarist Eric Bell and organ player, Eric Wrixon (both musicians previously played with Them). The formation was over a drinks in a pub in Dublin where they both shared the interest of starting a band. That same night, as it always is when you’re drunk and have an idea, the pair went to another place to see a band called Orphanage that featured Phil Lynott and drummer, Brian Downey. Lynott and Downey agreed under the condition that Lynott play bass and sing and that they perform some of his own compositions.
The early days of Thin Lizzy were pretty harsh. Their first single release with EMI, “The Farmer/”I Need You”, only sold 283 copies. Wrixon left the band before the single was even released. By the end of 1970 they were signed to Decca Records and recorded their debut album, “Thin Lizzy,” which also didn’t sell that well and didn’t even chart in the UK.
It wasn’t until 1976’s “Jailbreak” album that Thin Lizzy would finally have their breakthrough chart toppers like “The Boys Are Back in Town,” and “Jailbreak.” Lynott would eventually succumb to his Heroin addiction on Christmas Day, 1985, but the influence of Thin Lizzy was to stay. They influenced such bands like, Metallica, Skid Row and many more.
3. Rory Gallagher
It amazes me to this day how so many people do not know Rory Gallagher. He was born William Rory Gallagher, on March 2, 1948 in Donegal , Ireland. Gallagher is probably my personal favorite on this list because of the fact that I love Blues music and there weren’t many better, even Hendrix himself gave ultimate props to Rory Gallagher. Jimi Hendrix was asked in an interview what it was like to be the greatest guitarist in the world. Jimi simply replied, “I don’t know. Why don’t you ask Rory Gallagher.”
Much like many of the musicians of that era, Rory started his musical career in the Irish showband scene while he was still a teenager in 1963. He joined the showband, Fontana. Fontana was a sextet that of course played the popular hit songs of the day. Gallagher began to influence the band’s repertoire, moving them away from the pop hits to doing more R&B and songs by Chuck Berry. They reformed as “The Impact.” By 1966 Rory went back to Ireland and formed Taste. They performed tirelessly during the years of Taste, supporting Cream at their Royal Albert Hall farewell concert and even the supergroup, Blind Faith. They released two albums (Taste and On the Boards) and two live recordings (Live Taste and Live at the Isle of Wight).
After the breakup of Taste Gallagher went on with his solo career and hired Joy bass player Gerry McAvoy which was the beginning of a 20 year musical relationship. The 1970’s brought 10 albums in the decade and two live albums. In 1971 he was rated Melody Maker’s International Top Musician of the Year ahead of Eric Clapton. Through these years he also collaborated with the likes of Jerry Lee Lewis and Muddy Waters on their respective London Sessions. He was even approached by David Coverdale to replace Ritchie Blackmore in Deep Purple, but chose to perform in his own band. The 80’s brought him more of the same.
In the latter years of his life he developed a phobia of flying. He was prescribed a powerful sedative to help with his phobia, but between the alcohol and the abuse of the pills due to his constant touring schedule he ended up with severe liver damage. He died on June 14, 1995 due to a staph infection after the liver transplant.
4. My Bloody Valentine
This Dublin, noise pop, post-punk, dream pop, gothic rock conglomerate has been going since 1983. Not a lot of bands can say that! Not even The Beatles span 4 decades. Yes, they are still going! This band was so unique that they were the pioneers of a subgenre known as Shoegazing. When you make the industry subgenre you, you know that you are influential to someone.
My Bloody Valentine may not be the most successful band on this list, but I guess that depends on your definition of the word success. When your career spans 14 years, suffers a breakup and then another 8 years and still going today and making money you could be successful. They influenced bands like The Smashing Pumpkins, Nine Inch Nails’, Trent Reznor. Excuse me, Academy Award winner, Trent Reznor, Courtney Love, Radiohead and even The Edge of U2. I’d say that is a success!
You have to talk about U2 in a list like this. By not doing so you might commit some kind of crime on Saint Patrick’s Day and the leperachauns might hunt you down, while stabbing you in your eyes with 4 leaf clovers. Despite what people have been saying about them and their free release via iTunes, U2 is arguably the biggest band ever to come out of Ireland.
U2 has been going since 1976, coming into the scene with a post-punk sound. Just 4 years later they found themselves signing with Island Records and by the mid-80’s they solidified themselves as a top international act.
With albums like Achtung Baby, the Joshua Tree and many, many more they have (as of 2010) sold 150million records worldwide. They have won more Grammy’s than any other band with a staggering 22! Let us not forget that they were inducted into the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame in their very first year of eligibility. Despite the moans and groans about their free album on iTunes, by the way not as bad of a thing as people want to make it out to be, they are definitely on the top of the Irish heap. Let us remember how great they were and still are.
There are plenty of Irish born lads out in the rock world that I know, I might here about if I don’t at least make a mention of them somewhere; especially from the U2 Support Hate Group. So, here we go!
The Pouges, Them, Gary Moore, Sinead O’Connor, The Cranberries, The Boomtown Rats, Stiff Little Fingers, Snow Patrol, Flogging Molly, Mama’s Boys, The Undertones, The Virgin Prunes, The Frames, NO the Dropkick Murphys are not from Ireland, Damien Rice, The Horslips, The Waterboys.
This is the point. There are many fantastic Celtic bread bands out there and most of them have been influential in some way, shape or form. So, maybe the Irish really do, do it better!
Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!