A chairty CD gathering together Wexford's best rock, pop and indie acts from the late seventies and eighties which show there's no better fertile environment for creativity than the gloom and oom of recession, emigration, dole queues and spiralling mortgage interest rates. As the archive pictures reveal, the haircuts and fashion styles have not aged well, but most of the music stands up to the test of time.
'Dreamers & Corner Boys: Rock Pop Indie Wexford Bands 1978-1989' is a 20 song collection from an extraordinary decade in Wexford music, by any standards. It includes recordings by the shining stars of the era (The Roach Band, Pierce Turner, Larry Kirwan, Cry Before Dawn, Paul Bell) alongside some super-talented bands who were not favoured with a major recording deal but contributed in spades to a vibrant music scene in eighties Wexford.
'These recordings have been taken from various sources, old cassette tapes, vinyl and CDs. Sound quality may vary'. It's a tribute to the perseverence of Ger Byrne and the rest of the committee who jumped through hoops to get the record/publishing company permissions to use some of the tracks and had dusty attics torn asunder for long-lost demos.
The project brings to CD many tracks that may otherwise never have made it to the format and were previously only available on vinyl or cassette tape. It revives memories of sweaty nights in Wexford Arts Centre and a number of venues that don't exist anymore: Imperial bar, The Shambles and the County Hotel in Anne Street, for example. And, indirectly, it pays tribute to behind the scenes contributors who enabled a Wexford music scene to survive and thrive.
Peple like Mike Odlum of Cooleycall Studios in Bridgetown, Denis Collins in teh Arts Centre and Declan Lowney who, as a producer in RTE at the time, made it possible for Wexford acts to access some important TV exposure.
One of the striking features of this set is the diversity of material. Another is the number of very successful names who burst forth from Wexford and put the town on the international music map.
Just why Wexford succeeded in this refard where other towns did not is maybe difficult to explain. But it surely has something to do with geography: Wexford's proximity to Wales and the fact that the majority of people travelling throug the town are off the boat and not from another Irish town has long meant an exposure to wider influences. And, while we have had some outstanding traditional musicians and country performers, Wexford's never been a hotbed of trad, compared to counties on the Western seaboard, not a centre of country 'n' irish excellence compared to the counties in the midlands and up into Donegal, leaving rock, pop and indie to fill the vacuum.
Proceeds from the sale are going to a cause that probably doesn't get enough attention and is not widely publicised. Ichthypsos affects as few as one in 300,000 people (in its most severe form), and there are sufferers in Wexford. A rare genetic skin condition, it can cause excruciating pain thanks to cracking of the skin, and complications can be life threatening. Money raised through 'Dreamers & Corner Boys' will go to the Ichthyosis Support Group to fund research and provide support to those affected through literature and educational conferences.
Dreamers & Corner Boys features almost every band of note from Wexford's rock and pop scene of the late seventies and eighties, and also some of the Wexford exports who achieved success abroad.
One obvious omission is three-piece Out Of Uniform who recorded one memorable two track tape ('Turning In Circles', 'Primary Innocence'). Unfortunately, no copy could be unearthed, so if you have one it's a real rarity ... and the band probably want to buy it back.
Dreamers & Corner Boys could have been an eighties compilation, but that would have meant omitting The Roach Band and that was simply not an option.
Billy Roche and his band not only drew up the blueprint, but laid the foundations on which an entire Wexford music scene was built. In the final few years of the seventies they brought their brand of bluesy powerpop to venues all over Ireland, attracted an RTE TV crew to Wexford for a special feature (check it out on Youtube) and released two singles: 'Shamrock Shuffle' and 'Italy'. Sadly, neither are included on this CD, but the song 'Werewolf' captures their sound.
The Roach Band had a group of disciples and a regular Sunday morning Imperial Bar support act in the near legendary Black Arthur and the Undertakers, the only band on this CD who never recorded in their brief career. Their inclusion is made possible through a new song, 'Boppin' Down The Bog Road', written by original member Niall Lacey who performs it with former Black Arthur bandmates Mick O'Brien and Pat Hayes, Tony Hall completed the original lineup. Post Black Arthur, Mick, Par and Tony went on to form Cry Before Dawn with Brendan Wade. Niall Lacey would go on to play with Tru'penny Opera. After the demise of the aforementioned Out Of Uniform, Vinnie Doyle went on to replace Mick O'Brien as Cry Before Dawn bassist. CBD frontman Brendan Wade later teamed up with Paul Bell o nthe successful Wild Swans in the nineties but Bell, who first came to attention outside of Wexford as a founding member of The Lookalikes, is included on the CD fronting Zerra 1, his London-based band who released a number of singles and two albums in the eighties. Paul Bell's brother Shay also features on Dreamers... as part of The Beatless (who also included Out Of Unofirm's Boris Carroll on drums). There are other examples of a tangled web of inter-band relationships. Mick Odlum and Des Gaffney of The Roach Band are also included as The Bantu Bottle Company who first and only single 'Teach The Children' was created using milk bottles and other everyday objects as musical instruments.
Many of the demos and singles featured on the CD were recorded at Odlum's Cooleycall Studios in the idyllic setting of a farmhouse near Bridgetown where Paul Spencer, also of the Roach Band, was sound engineer. Spencer had a spell as guitarist with Cry Before Dawn after the departure of Tony Hall in the early ninetines.
Ian 'Mocha' Moloney was consistently one of the best vocalists on Wexford's rock scene in the eighties and he features on two bands here: Prime Suspect and Twilight Dreams. The bands also shared the same guitarist, David Vaughy, and drummer, Declan Roche.
There are also two entries for Niall Jordan and Mick Ringwood who, with Brian Moore, delivered a compelling electronic sound on Elektron, and then formed The Third Mind as a duo.
Ger Byrne, one of the main movers behind the 'Dreamers & Corner Boys' compilation, played bass with Prime Suspect and later Dorchadas, the only folk/trad outfit to be included. Paul Molloy also played with Dorchadas and contributed to Tru'penny Opera.
One of the most fondly remembered bands of the era, Tru'penny Opera drew their ranks from Wexford and Enniscorthy and were fronted by Mick Egan who later released a wealth of original as a solo artist.
Egan had the task of perparing much of the material for Dreamers & Corner Boys in his studio. He wrote the closing number 'Take Care Of Me' especially for the project with former Tru'penny Opera band- mate Noel Quaid, and it's performed by an Ensemble that includes Pat Hayes, Niall Lacey and Conor Kenny, as well as Egan and Quaid.
Pierce Turner and Larry Kirwan, Wexford's finest music exports, were signed to Polydor as a duo in the seventies, a time when few Irish acts has recording contracts. They left these shores for New York where they played as Turner And Kirwan of Wexford, before forming The Major Thinkers.
It's a pity the Thinker's 'Back In The Eighties' single didn't find its way on to this CD (for the name alone), but Turner and Kirwan are well represented, with key songs that reference Wexford, from their subsequent careers: 'Banks of the Hudson' from Kirwan's celtic rockers Black 47, and Pierce's 'Musha God Help Her' which was later recorded by Christy Moore.
If anyone can help me locate a copy of this CD please get in touch.