St Patrick's Day Playlist
Updated: May 4
Picture: Phil Lynott, Dubliner and lead singer of 70s rockers Thin Lizzy
Want the best Irish contemporary and traditional music for Paddy's Day? Or any other day of the year? The Hub draws on its Dublin origins to present the uninitiated with a written guide and Spotify playlist, in a collection even the old hands might enjoy!
Side A (Thin Lizzy to Fontaines D.C.) gets the party started with a contemporary, energetic and balladic hop around the island of Ireland. On Side B (Riverdance to Elvis) traditional music gives a fair repost to the young upstarts with a curated blend of the old favourites and the new. Note: The Hub first broadcast this playlist on Epsom Hospital Radio in March 2020.
Side A: Contemporary
Side A opens with 70s rockers Thin Lizzy's guitar-riff tale The Boys Are Back in Town, inspired by singer and bassist Phil Lynott's childhood memories of his mother Philomena's illegal Manchester drinking den. The 'Boys' in the song are notorious local crime gang, The Quality Street Boys. Derry's finest, Dana, reminds us Eurovision is central to modern Irish music with her 1970 winning entry, All Kinds of Everything. Two contrasting versions of the Old Country!
With or Without You, follows from U2's 1987 The Joshua Tree album, a dreamy work of art produced by Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno. Dreams by Limerick's The Cranberries, the title track on award-winning secondary school Troubles drama Derry Girls, is a poignant reminder of the talent of lead singer Dolores O'Riordan.
Staying in Derry with a different kind of Teenage Kicks , is John Peel-favourite The Undertones' 70s driving punk guitar with eco-warrior Feargal Sharkey's ethereal vocals. The first line of the song - Teenage dreams so hard to beat - is engraved on Peel's gravestone. Contemporary Dublin outfit, Fontaines D.C., maintain the tradition of critic's-favourite punk-fuelled poetry with Big from their debut 2019 album, Dogrel. Lead singer Grain Chatten chants, "My childhood was small but I'm gonna be Big!" in the Dublin vernacular.
To impress an Irish muso mention Rory Gallagher, the patron saint of Irish rock guitar. Then casually declare: "Yeah, but Horslips are the ones!" Bad Penny from the 1982 album Rockpalast is a popular example of Gallagher's craft. The 'A Record A Day' crew recommend Celtic rock's founding fathers Horslips' 1973 album, The Tain. Start with Dearg Doom.
YouTube video: Dave Lee and The Romantiks' 'Said If You Need Me'
Belfast curmudgeon Van 'The Man' Morrison shows his softer side on Brown Eyed Girl. In a bonus track not available on the Spotify playlist and a tonal follow on from Van The Man, are 70s Dubliners Dave Lee and The Romantiks. Their romantic Said If You Need Me, has vocals and production by The Hub's talented lead-singing and guitar-playing uncle, Dave Lee.
Current events remind us the tinder box legacy of history on the island is only a lighted match away from conflagration on today's streets. Making U2's Sunday Bloody Sunday and still-punking Stiff Little Fingers' Alternative Ulster as resonant as ever.
Naughties' North-South combo Snow Patrol and The Script offer united resonant voices with Gary Lightbody on Chasing Cars and former The Voice judge, Danny O'Donoghue, on a
polemic on strength of purpose and character on The Man Who Can't Be Moved.
The Corrs, Drogheda's take on musical siblings, mix pop with traditional airs on Runaway, sung by everyone's favourite pin up, Andrea Corr. Romantic singer-songwriter, Christie Hennessy delivers a passionate love sonnet with Hermione White on If You Were To Fall.
Valedictory notes begin with two 'established and new' combos. Sinead O'Connor's millennium mega-hit reworking of Prince's Nothing Compares to You dovetails with newbie Fya Fox's new single Body, released in February 2021 and featured in a live acoustic set in the current issue of Irish music magazine Hot Press.
Two post-punk bands collide at the close of Side A with A Rainy Night in Soho by The Pogues and Dublin City Skies by Fontaines D.C.. The two songs neatly capture the twin themes of the Irish condition: Nostalgic exile for the diaspora versus the good and bad reality of living at home.
Side B: Traditional
Side B starts with four songs that in their different ways reinvigorated traditional Irish music.
YouTube video: Jean Butler and Michael Flatley reimagine Irish dancing at the Eurovision 1994 interval debut of Riverdance
The 1994 Eurovision interval introduction of Riverdance at The Point Theatre, Dublin instantly transformed the global image of traditional Irish dance and music. Together, Michael Flatley's and Jean Butler's energetic Broadway show choreography, "a magical dance partnership with principal dancer Jean Butler" with composer Bill Whelan's clever music and lyrics, spawned an enduring phenomenon.
Seo Linn, a youthful foursome from the Dublin area mainly singing in Gaelic, has brought new energy to a format some might say has had an age profile problem. The band: Stiofán Ó Fearail - Guitars, Vocals; Daithí Ó Ruaidh - Keyboard, Synth, Saxophone, Harmonicas, Whistle, Vocals; Kevin Shortall - Accordion, Percussion, Vocals; Keith Ó Briain - Bass, Mandolin, Guitars, Percussion, Vocals. Their tight, intuitive musicianship and lusty vocals are perfectly showcased on the modern makeover of Óró, a traditional independence song and staple of Irish school singing.
The jazzy notes of 80s band Moving Hearts, notably on their acclaimed 1985 album The Storm, brought a new sound to traditional music while spawning a generation of leading names. Instigators Dónal Lunny (bouzouki) and Christy Moore (vocals, guitar and bodhrán), of Planxty, wanted to explore linking contemporary and traditional music. The group performed to packed audiences at the infamous Baggot Inn on Baggot Street, Dublin and at more exotic venues like the Montreux Jazz Festival. Featured here is The Titanic (built and launched at the Belfast shipyards of course) from their Live in Dublin 2007 album.
Heady post-punk-folk north Londoners, The Pogues, brought a diaspora bard in the vein of hard-living writer Brendan Behan to Irish music with singer-songwriter Shane McGowan. Thousands Are Sailing is a stirring example of The Pogues' exile-poetry-to-music.
Christy Moore appears solo in a raucous rendition of Lisdoonvarna written for the 1978 Eurovision about the then Glastonbury of traditional music in the musical enclave of north Clare on the Atlantic West.
The Dubliners, the bedrock of any traditional music collection, feature in two songs about the two big cities on the island. The Black Velvet Band tells of an ill-fated encounter on the streets of Belfast and Molly Malone is synonymous with 'The Dirty Ol' Town' of Dublin.
YouTube video: Angeline Ball as Molly Bloom on Howth Head in the film Bloom
The bonus track, not available on Spotify, on Side B is Molly Bloom's earthy soliloquy from the book Ulysses by north Dubliner, James Joyce. Molly tells us how she entices her lover to propose to her on Howth Head, a lovers' peninsular retreat with panoramic views over the city, Dublin Bay and the Dublin and Wicklow mountains. A natural addition would be Kate Bush's voicing of Molly's soliloquy in This Sensual World.
Two Gaelic songs follow, first Seo Linn's new release Siúil a Rún then Clannad with the hauntingly beautiful Buachaill ón Éirne. Clannad and Bono, from U2, team up on the mega hit In a Lifetime.
Christy Moore takes us towards the close of this sonnet to the homeland with a song about the post-Civil War years in the southern United States, Lakes of Pontchartrain, featuring one of several beautifully sung harmonies on this collection.
Luke Kelly, from The Dubliners, sings a poetic Song for Ireland written by English folk-singing husband and wife Phil and June Colclough following a trip to the Dingle Peninsula. Finally, Elvis Presley gives as a good a rendition of Danny Boy as you will ever hear.
You can listen to The Hub's Paddy's Day playlist by clicking on the link below.