Showband stories… June 26, 2016Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
On EamonnCorks recommendation I’m reading Send ‘Em Home Sweating, The Show band’s Story by Vincent Power. Written in 1990 it’s a remarkably evocative book which outlines the rise and fall of that oddly likeable phenomenon.
What I hadn’t realised before reading it was how relatively short the Showbands period was. Late 1950s at a stretch, through the 60s and then on for a while into the 1970s. Okay, that’s the guts of twenty years but for some reason I had thought of them almost as an outgrowth of the 40s.
What is also fascinating is how they supplanted dances at parochial halls (Power notes how the drop in the latters finances was in no small way a dynamic in the antipathy towards them from the religious). And yet empires were built on them – Albert Reynolds testifies to that. Ballrooms opened (and most were dry – amazingly). The Showbands were – well, kings. Social and sexual mores were changed by them. And they could be extremely good at what they did. They have, for some, an almost hokey image and reputation, and Rory Gallagher, who started out his days with one, made the oddly double edged point that:
I have mixed feelings about show bands. I learned a lot and had good fun, but ultimately, whats the point in being a ‘copy band’?
True. True. To a point. But then again, better a copy band than no band at all, some might say. And there’s always a different resonance to a cover version played live than to a record (that said the ballroom owners controlled the scene to a considerable degree). Of course I lived in Dublin, so it was different from the word go. Except it wasn’t. Power notes ‘Dublin was the dancing capital’. And yet how rapidly it changed. The peak was ’61 to ’66. … Fourteen years later I remember going to the Grove in Raheny (it has its own constellation of websites these days) and the Summit in Howth later before giving up on discos and such like except at college in favour of live music or pubs. At that stage we were dancing to records. The middleman had, as it were, been cut out entirely, at least for the generation coming up.
Power has a neat turn of phrase. For example he writes:
‘De Valera’s pastoral vision was taking one hell of a battering; his “comely maidens” were fleeing the fields and villages for Brendan Bowyer in the nearest ballroom and the “athletic youths” were chasing them chasing him.
An enjoyable and educative read.