Little Known Irish Classics (Vol.I)

The following songs are, by and large, little known Irish classics or at least curios. Three things to note: by Ireland I mean the island, I’m not considering politics etc here and since this is the first part I have looked at songs and bands from the 1970s and 1980s.  I have tried to avoid looking at more well known Irish bands and artists such as Thin Lizzy, U2, The Undertones, Stiff Little Fingers, Van the man etc I love them too but wanted to shine a spotlight on a few other acts I like.

Under Cleary’s Clock by The Radiators from Space is a hauntingly plaintive song written by the late Phil Chevron (later of The Pogues). The band were one of Ireland’s first Punk bands however this song is built around an acoustic guitar and tells the story of a gay man waiting for his date (and worrying will he be stood up). They are to meet under Cleary’s clock, which one stood on Dublin’s O’Connell Street. There is an added poignancy to the song as homosexuality was illegal in Ireland and the narrator of the song just wants a lover like everyone else.

Strange Girl by Paranoid Visions. This band have flown the flag for Irish punk long after many had thought it was dead. This song follows a simple enough punk formula of three chords and the truth. However, like the song above it shines a light on the darker side of life and a famous incident in Ireland. The death of a pregnant teenage mother and a child in a graveyard. She felt she couldn’t tell anyone and died alone. Lyrically it gave a kick to the idea that Ireland was a pro-life haven and when I first heard it the infamous X- case was all over the news as Ireland’s long story of abortion denial dragged on (as it still does to this day).

Downmarket by The Blades. These were a much lauded band, so much so that many on the Dublin scene believed that it would be they and not U2 that would become rich and famous. Often viewed as an Irish take on The Jam they were more than just a cheap copy. The lyrics of their main man Paul Cleary put them above many of their contemporaries as he painted many a vignette depicting the Ireland of the late 1970s and early 80s. Downmarket has some funky little guitar chords, a solid rhythm and a horn section. Anyone alive during the 1980s and early 90s will recognise the Ireland of few choices.

Mania by The Outcasts. Legendary Belfast punk band that were involved with the equally legendary Good Vibrations label. I first heard this on the now classic record: Punk and Disorderly: Vol. I. I’m not going to say much more than I seriously love this song, it makes me want to pogo all night long (oh and that beat…)

Caucasian Walk by Virgin Prunes. This group were like the anti-U2 (although it should be said both groups were and are still great friends). This is real post-punk territory. Throbbing drums, pulsating bass, twitchy guitar and two singers wearing skirts (Guggi and Gavin Friday). Definitely avant-garde they tried and succeeded in producing a different type of music..

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  1. What a cracking blog post! You hit the nail on the head with a musical narrative about an Ireland of the 70s and 80s that I’m not sure the rest of the world knew existed.

  2. Thank you kindly 😀

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