There’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots gather together to make music? The next batch of posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. Anything’s better than a yawn, I guess. And everything that is not that bloody virus is a plus. At the moment we can’t meet as a group, as we are in lockdown, so I have set out a version of songs that are in our repertoire but which have not yet been recorded. With any luck (and, as three of us are north of 70, we’ll need it!) we will be able to resume our normal practice of meeting weekly and playing tunes, singing songs and generally enjoying the crack.
Come Up the Stairs A couple of years ago I attended a reunion, ninety minutes south of Sydney, in Wollongong of, Seannachie, the band I was part of in the 1970s. It was a memorable weekend starting with folk open-mic at a bowlo in North Wollongong at which I drank lots of Guinness and sang, The Streets of Forbes and Her Father Didn’t Like Me, Anyway. When asked for a few more songs later in the night, I had to demur, for obvious reasons.
I stayed with Joe Brown, the guitarist with the group. The next day we gathered at the house built by Bertie McKnight, the mandolin player. There, also, was Johnny Spillane, the whistle player and Tony Fitzgerald, the main singer of the group who had learned to play the guitar in the decades intervening.
We swapped songs and yarns all day and, after Joe and I returned to his place, he found an old cassette and played this song from circa 1975 which I had learned from a Johnny McEvoy record a few years before. Anyone remember cassette players, apart from us oldies?
I had completely forgotten about it and determined to resurrect it for performance with the group I helped establish in western Sydney in the mid-1990s, Banter.
I placed a flamenco-flavoured introduction before the song proper and provided an outro of rolling chords, reminiscent of the sea- in my fancy- Am/C/F/E/Am/C/F/E/G…/Am… It has become one of the favourite songs in our repertoire. But this is only, as they say, a pale shadow of the live performance.
The song was written by Shay Healy, Irish broadcaster, songwriter, and journalist. He got the 9/8 tune from his mother who was a noted singer of old Irish traditional songs. This explains why so many people think this is an old song, but the lyrics were written by Healy sometime in the 1960s.
A piece of trivia- appropriate, perhaps, for this strange time of COVID lockdown: Shay Healy also wrote Ireland’s winning entry for the 1980 Eurovision Song Contest, sung by Aussie Johnny Logan. The song’s title: What’s Another Year? Oh Really? This year, 2020, will live in infamy- to quote FDR