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Turner & Kirwan of Wexford

From: Wexford / New York

Active: 1972-79

Style: Rock



Pierce Turner's early history is not well documented. He played with the Dublin-based Arrows Showband in Dublin circa 1969-70 and appeared on one of their singles. He also played with Paul Raven AKA Gary Glitter in Germany. His musical partner for most of the 1970s was Larry Kirwan. Both grew up in Wexford Town. They began writing songs together while Turner was still with the Arrows. Another Wexford showband The Supreme committed the first ever Turner/Kirwan composition to vinyl circa June 1970.

Turner & Kirwan sent a demo of a song they'd written about the 1970 disaster in Bangladesh, "We Have No More Babies Left", to Polydor Records in Dublin. Jackie Hayden liked it and signed them for a one single deal. It was released under the name Aftermath in 1971, with "Neck And Neck" on the B-side. This single gained some airplay at the time. It is now very difficult to locate.

The duo moved to New York City in January 1971 and became Turner & Kirwan of Wexford, playing the Irish pubs and clubs around the city. They developed a style which mixed Irish traditional folk music with full-blown progressive rock, creating an odd folk-rock hybrid which when it worked was very effective. They released a single on the tiny Thimble Records label in 1973 featuring a superior re-recording of "Neck And Neck" on the A-side and "When Starlings Fly" on the B-side. In 1974 they privately pressed an LP of live and studio recordings to sell at gigs. This "Bootleg" LP is now very hard to find. It includes a fantastic live version of Ewan McColl's "The Travelling People", best known in Ireland as a hit for The Johnstons in 1966. In 1974 they appeared on Michael O'Brien &am,p; Chris King's 'Eire Nua' LP.

Turner & Kirwan finally released their official debut album in 1977. The LP was released on Polydor in Ireland but is easier to find as the US pressing on the Peters International label, where it was issued as part of the Cosmos series, rubbing shoulders with German and Italian progressive releases, and the first Gary Moore LP. Sealed copies occasionally surface on ebay and are well worth investigating.

Polydor Records Ireland were very keen on the album, advertised it in Hot Press and elsewhere and scheduled "Girl Next Door" as a single. RTE DJ Val Joyce mentioned to Polydor MD John Woods that the proposed single was about a threesome involving two women and a man. The staunchly Catholic Woods was scandalised and, concerned for the labels reputation, he ordered mnaufacturing of the album to stop and all remaining copies to be dumped outside the pressing plant. This explains why the Irish pressing is difficult to locate and also why sleeveless copies occasionally turn up.

During 1978-79 they were the houseband at The Bells Of Hell pub in New York. A live recording of their last ever performance is in circulation. Their set includes unreleased an original ('Father Reilly Says Goodbye') and covers of 'Death of a Clown', 'Lola', the New Riders 'Panama Red', and concludes with a long, climactic version of 'The Foggy Dew' featuring Moog pyrotechnics.

In 1978 they began backing poet/spoken word performance artist Copernicus and they appear on his early redords. Around 1979 they changed musical direction and became the new wave influenced Major Thinkers. For details of these and further projects, see Pierce Turner's entry.


• Neck And Neck (new version) / When Starlings Fly
7" - Thimble Records - TS-006 - US 1973 - no PS, promo and stock copies

• Bootleg
LP - Cabbage Records - TKLPS1984 - USA - 1974 - demo album, blank cover, stickered, 500 copies

Notes: Demo album designed to get the band a record deal. The album came in a blank white cover with a sticker on the shrinkwrap. The sticker read "BOOTLEG TURNER AND KIRWAN OF WEXFORD" and was added by hand by the duo themselves. Few of these stickers have survived. Just 500 copies were pressed and most of these were sent out as demos. The title and track listing sheets shown above were either inserts or were part of the press pack sent out with the album (or it's possible the above were homemade).
The album itself is a collection of live and studio tracks, some of which were re-recorded for the debut LP. Given how little Turner & Kirwan released in their lifetime, it's an essential companion to the debut.
Note: there is no link to the Cabbage Records label active in NYC in the 1980s (Kraut).

Michael O'Brien/Chris King - Eire Nua
LP - Eire Nua Records - EN 1916 - USA - 1975

Notes: O'Brien & King also recorded as Trinity II -- see Pierce Turner for more details. The full lineup is Michael O'Brien (vocals, lead guitar, mandolin, harmonica), Chris King (vocals, rhythm guitar) and Mike Lussen (bass, also appears on the Trinity II LP), with Larry Kirwan (rhythm guitar) and Pierce Turner (Moog). Housed in a glorious Brian Mor O Baoigill cover.

• The Girl Next Door / Warts And All
7" - Peters 900 - USA - 1977 - no PS, unreleased
7" - Polydor Records - ???? ??? - IRL - 1977 - no PS, unreleased
This single was withdrawn, apparently; a Goldisc labs white label was offered on ebay for $100 in April 2008 -- there were no takers.

• Absolutely and Completely
LP - Peters - PILPS 9021 - USA - 1977 - inner sleeve
LP - Polydor Records - 2908 038 - IRL - 1977

• The Book Of The Law / ?
7" - label? - ??? - USA - 1980 - PS?
Details known. By 1980 Turner & Kirwan had already turned into the Major Thinkers (1979-85).

The Arrows Showband

Pierce Turner was briefly with the Arrows Showband in 1969-70, during which time a single was released on the Target label. This is the only Arrows release to feature Turner (on keyboards). Of very little interest outside genre collectors and Pierce Turner completists.

• Mercy / See Saw
7" - Target - 7N17756 - 1969

The Supreme Showband

While neither Turner nor Kirwan appear on this single (as far as I'm aware), it is notable for containing the first ever recording of a Turner/Kirwan composition. Neither the song nor the recording are very good, even by showband standards. The Supreme were a minor league showband based in the Wexford/Waterford area.

• I Can't Go Back To Boston / The Big Bamboo
7" - Release Records - RL.536 - IRL - ca June 1970 - no PS

See also: Aftermath, Larry Kirwan, Major Thinkers, Pierce Turner

Help!: We need your help to complete this entry. If you can tell us more about this band then please do! We welcome any corrections, missing details, connections to other bands, where are they now, etc. We also need photos, scans, copies of releases or live or demo recordings, and any other memorabilia gathering dust in the attic. If you can help, then please get in touch.

thanks to TP McLoughlin

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