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This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… The Zen Alligators August 18, 2012

Posted by irishelectionliterature in This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....
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Was looking for material from another band when I came across some material from The Zen Alligators and given the recent mention of The Horslips by wbs, I figured I’d do the Zen Alligators this weekend. They released a number of singles in the early 80s, were fairly popular although never produced an Album before they broke up.
I always liked the name and used to see posters for them playing the likes of the TV Club. I remember too arriving at a cousins house in the early 80s and being very impressed with her collection of singles which included the Zen Alligators, Tokyo Olympics and other Irish bands with fancy names from the time.
The band contained two ex-members of Horslips, Johnny Fean on guitar and vocals and Eamon Carr on drums.
More at Irish Rock.org

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1. WorldbyStorm - August 18, 2012

Excellent group and great to see this post. Who can that someone be is a classic of its kind – to my ears there was a Dr. Feelgood/pubrock angle to them. Great song (I remember them doing it ‘live’ on the Late Late Show). I was always surprised given by how much they put out on single that they didn’t go for the album. I’m presuming MP3s of their output aren’t around, no?

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2. EamonnCork - August 18, 2012

Great post, excellent group. Who Can That Someone Be is a classic. I suppose the first anyone heard of them was the terrific intro to that song which is some way to come in. I think I saw it on an RTE kids programme called Anything Goes which ran for several hours on a Saturday morning and ran a commendably large amount of videos by Irish bands. Or it may have been on something presented by Dave Heffernan, an incredibly serious young man who hosted some brilliant shows including one called Aspects of Rock which introduced me to all kinds of strange wonders. He’s kind of forgotten now but was a Fanning type hero to the serious young indie fan back then. Or at least he was to me.
After the ZA, Carr and Fean joined up with Charles O’Connor, the Horslips member most people tend to forget if asked the names of the band members in the pub even though he was arguably the most influential, to form The Host who released a good album called Tryal, based on the burning to death of Bridget Cleary, accused of witchcraft by her husband and neighbours at the tail end of the 19th century. Angela Bourke’s The Burning of Bridget Cleary is a classic of Irish history, a great read. In Roy Foster’s biography of Yeats, there’s a bit about the poet getting all distraught about the incident and wondering if this invalidated his ideas about the nobility of the Irish folk tradition. “Don’t worry WB,” said someone to him, “they’re always at this kind of thing in Tipperary.”
I’d say ZA are maybe less Feelgood style pub rock than a continuation of the West Coast American rock style you get on Horslips tracks like Loneliness and Rescue Me from the two albums. I know those songs are considered as a betrayal of their noble Celtic Rock roots but I like them a great deal and think those two albums, particularly The Man Who Built America, stand up very well. They really were very good songwriters.http://youtu.be/m6JLgjMmxz0

That West Coast influence can be seen in these two tracks from Tryal.

Fean subsequently went on to form The Last Bandits with Simon Carmody of the Golden Horde and Nikki Sudden of early Post Punk band Swell Maps. They didn’t last long but this is a really beautiful song and a lost classic of the mid eighties.

IEL’s mention of Tokyo Olympics brings me back.

A very good band, previously DC Nien, and one of a group of bands who disdained the epic rock style of many of their counterparts and went in for a synthy funky feel, the likes of Some Kind of Wonderful, Fountainhead and Sligo’s great Those Nervous Animals whose best song, and one of the best Irish songs of that era, I include merely because my sister’s boyfriend used to be in the band.

I.

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WorldbyStorm - August 18, 2012

Fair point re west coast. And I’d entirely agree re how that aspect of their sound is sometimes undervalued. Loneliness and The Man Who Built America are remarkable songs. But a heap more on those albums are equally good. I only heard the Host back in the day and my memories aren’t vivid so I’ll have to go back and listen.

Tokyo Olympics were class. And DC Nien.

TNA good too.

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EamonnCork - August 18, 2012

Remarkable is the word for it. I’ve always absolutely loved the lyrics of The Man Who Built America and the way the flute keeps coming in as though it’s the persistent ghost of their Celtic Rock incarnation.
Maybe that Concert Hall gig might be worth a jaunt though really the Horslips gig I want to go to would be one in around 1976 in the Mayflower in Drumshanbo or the Kon Tiki in Rooskey. If anyone sees a time machine going for a reasonable price on E-Bay let me know.

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WorldbyStorm - August 18, 2012

Yep. Those songs – well, they’re part of an era. But also they capture, and maybe it is the instrumentation, a real sense of what it was to be away from the country and yet be part of amazing times and events in the US. That sort of double edged sword of not being here/being there, homesick/excitement. TBH the only Horslips album I actively dislike is the last one and even then Guests of the Nation is good in a clunky kind of a way.

I’ll take shares in that time machine!

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3. EamonnCork - August 18, 2012

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Tomboktu - August 18, 2012

That was the first album I ever bought. (Now, there’s a topic for a thread…)

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irishelectionliterature - August 18, 2012

You’ll be seeing a This Weekend I’ll be Mostly Listening to ‘Jailbreak’ by Thin Lizzy soon so 🙂
Bought in Woolworths in Newry at some stage in the very late 70s or early 80s. My brother and I went halves on it. The anticipation as we read the sleeve all the way home to Dublin!

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