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.
Jimmy McCarthy, born in Macroom, Co. Cork, in 1953 wrote this song. Others may claim the honours, (and I have come across an imposter or two on the internet) but it is clear to me that he is the guy!
MacCarthy left school at 15 where he was unhappy and became a stable boy at Vincent O’Brien‘s place in Ballydoyle, but after five years between Tipperary and Newmarket, Jimmy returned home to help his father whose bad heart had led to the end of the business. He then made a living out of singing at pubs and was later busking in the streets of London and doing occasional concerts, opening for other singers’ gigs in Ireland.
MacCarthy is best known as a songwriter. Composing since the late 1970s, his songs have been recorded by many Irish artists including Christy Moore, Mary Black, Finbar Wright, Maura O’Connell, the Corrs and Westlife. “Ride On”, recorded by Christy Moore, is one of his best-known compositions. Moore also recorded MacCarthy’s songs “Missing You”, “Bright Blue Rose” and “Mystic Lipstick”. Mary Black, Maura O’Connell and The Corrs have recorded MacCarthy’s “No Frontiers”, while Black has also recorded his songs “Katie”, “Adam at the Window”, “Diamond Days”, “As I Leave Behind Neidín”, “Shuffle of the Buckled” and “Another Day” (Thank you Wikipedia for the notes above.)
I first heard Missing You over twenty-five years ago when Bobby, who used to play with the group, Banter, featured this song as part of his repertoire. He left after a couple of years to return to Belfast. However, I didn’t pick it up until about five years ago. The song, as performed by Christy Moore, was the template for Bobby’s version all those years ago, and I guess I kept to that template here.
Jimmy McCarthy has written some of the most important songs from the folk revival in Ireland from the late-1970s onward. Our group has featured Ride On for at least 25 years and songs such as Bright Blue Rose, Katie, As I Leave Behind Neidin, and No Frontiers feature regularly in the Irish program Sam the Man, Ann King and I host every other Sunday for two hours between 10:00 a.m. and noon. It’s called A Touch of Ireland, and is broadcast on WOW FM 100.7, discoverable on the internet, if you want to check it out. At the moment, COVID has us locked out- but I anticipate we’ll be back in action from end June, 2020, God willing.
I do like to track down originals, so, today, when I heard Jimmy McCarthy’s version (check it out on You Tube) I realised that his was the best version of all! Originals are usually best. If the band, Banter, ever gets together for public performances in the post-COVID dispensation, I think I’ll re-work the arrangement of the song and use McCarthy’s vision as my template. P.S. Wikipedia spells Jimmy’s surname Mac, but I see it mostly as Mc. Take your pick (or shovel, should you prefer…)