Anyone who knows me in person knows that I’m a big fan of The Smiths; the title of this very blog is taken from the name of a compilation of theirs. Earlier this year, my lovely other half arranged a surprise trip to Manchester for my birthday, knowing that I’ve wanted to go for years and traipse the hallowed paths that Morrissey, Johnny Marr, Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce once did.
There are guided tours for this sort of thing, but they didn’t seem to be running in February, or else you needed to have a group in order to book – so we took it upon ourselves to make our own way around the city to see some Smiths-related sites. Manchester isn’t that big and the public transport is great, so it was relatively easy to get around to a few places over the course of a morning. Maybe this post will come in handy for other people planning a similar trip, because there’s not that much sensible info out there.
Originally published in The Irish Times, May 7th 2014
SAY WHAT YOU like about Tori Amos, but you can’t accuse her of coasting through life. Having established herself as both an enormously successful and exceptionally diverse alternative songwriter in the 1990s with albums like Boys for Pele and even dance remixes like Professional Widow, the warm, slightly eccentric musician’s more recent projects may have flown under the mainstream radar. They include a Christmas-themed album (2009’s Midwinter Graces), a classical album released via Deutsche Grammophon (2011’s Night of Hunters) and composing for a musical stage adaptation of 19th century fairytale The Light Princess last year. But make no bones about it: she has been a busy woman.
Originally published in The Irish Post, November 2013
Actual graffiti spotted on a wall in Belturbet, Co. Cavan
IF THERE IS, as they say, something in the water in Cavan, then it has taken one band slightly longer than usual to fully ingest its magical ingredient. Twenty-four years, to be exact. The Strypes may have blazed a trail over the last year, making fans of Elton John, Noel Gallagher and Paul Weller and creating Beatlemania-like scenes in the tents of Glastonbury and the airport terminals of Tokyo alike – but they may have inherited the mantle of ‘Cavan’s most famous exports’ from a different band, if things had turned out differently.
The Would Be’s, the band initially formed by brothers Paul, Eamon and Matt Finnegan in Kingscourt, Co. Cavan in 1989, became the could-have-beens when their fairytale story turned sour. A brilliant debut single (‘I’m Hardly Ever Wrong‘) saw the quintet compared to The Sundays and The Smiths; John Peel played it on his radio show and invited them to London to record a session; Morrissey invited them on tour as his support act and they had A&R men from multiple major labels clambering for their signatures. The future looked promising – until a combination of bad decision-making and youthful naivety saw them sign to an independent label, Decoy Records, who failed to nurture their talent. The dream became a nightmare when media interest dwindled at the band’s failure to progress and release an album.