"Writing about music is like dancing about architecture." Elvis Costello
On Improving the Original
You probably know the basic story of Rock and Roll. It’s an amalgam of musical styles including gospel, jazz, boogie woogie, rhythm and blues and country, and it unquestionably originated within the borders of the USA at large, although a more specific location is fiercely debated (don’t question Cleveland’s claim if you’re anywhere near Ohio). So then, here’s a question: If it originated here, why is it that the Irish and the Scottish can pull it off better than anyone else? I don’t really know the answer to that, but somewhere in the circuitous journey across the pond something was added to the mix that finished the recipe, that enabled it to reach places so deep in the soul you didn’t even know they existed. Kind of like if you’d invented scrambled eggs and then someone came along while you weren’t looking and added a splash of tabasco; the first product would be very tasty, the revised recipe would be like, “Holy Mother of creative cookery, this is amazing!”
Not that I’m dissing any American artists here, and this is all very subjective, but there have been so many times when a song by a band from Edinburgh or Dublin has produced in me a deep, unspoken “unnh!” (that’s Gaelic for “I’m deeply touched”) that I’m figuring there must be something to it. Whether you agree or disagree, here’s a selection of performers and songs to experiment with.
The Pogues / If I Should Fall from Grace with God
The band was formed in London but one listen to original frontman Shane McGowan’s Irish whiskey-soaked snarl and you’ll know where his breeding comes from.
The Waterboys / A Church Not Made with Hands
A Scottish band that helped make the 80’s tolerable and influenced other anthemic-styled rockers.
U2 is the quintessential musical success story, scrappy Irish rockers turned into a megalithic musical/politico juggernaut, but they still can get back to their roots, as this 2014 homage to a uniquely American band proves (and turns my theory a little on its head at the same time).
Van Morrison / Tupelo Honey
With arguably more soul in his little finger than the entire roster of some record labels, he may be the Godfather of Irish rock.
The Jesus and Mary Chain / Always Sad
The newest song on the list (Feb 2017) shows the McBrides from East Kilbride still have what it takes.
There are so many more artists and bands that we could name here but for space, so do a little digging and see what you find. In fact, click on the list below to get started, and then visit your local branch library or our online catalog to find copies of all of the above.