The Goo 1
Regular CONOR FARRELL CELEBRATING MEMORABLE ANNIV
ERSARY’S IN MUSIC: THE GRAPE VINYL PLANXTY - 50TH ANNIVERSARY YEAR In Easter 1972, sixties folk icon Donovan embarked on a tour of Ireland. His support act was a little-known Traditional Irish band. The four-piece were apprehensive as they had only formed as a group that January. As the stage lights glared down on them, they nervously struck up the first song. By the time it had finished, the mandolin player heard a terrible commotion from the audience. Assuming that a fight had broken out, he glanced nervously at his fellow musicians, only to see wide grins plastered across their faces. At once, the penny dropped as he realised that this mighty din was an ecstatic audience. The band, who called themselves Planxty, knew they had something, but could not have dreamed just how special that was until they met their audience in the spring of 1972. The folk and traditional music scene had experienced a revival in the 60’s. Sean O Riada is generally credited with kickstarting this with his traditional music collective Ceoltóirí Chualann. From this burgeoning scene would emerge The Dubliners and Andy Irvine’s first band Sweeney’s Men. Christy Moore and Donal Lunny would also start their careers as a duo at this time. THEY DREW FROM A RICH PALETTE OF INFLUENCES REFERENCING SEAN O RIADA, SÉAMUS ENNIS, WOODY GUTHRIE AND BALKAN FOLK MUSIC In Sweeney’s Men, Andy and fellow founding member Johnny Moynihan would hit upon a groundbreaking sound that would become a blueprint for Planxty. The mandolin, although relatively recent in Traditional Irish music, still predated O’Riada’s revival but the Bouzouki had only been introduced to the scene by Johnny Moynihan in the 1960’s. Both men devised a harmony interplay between the two instruments. After leaving Sweeney’s Men, Andy would introduce the Bouzouki to Donal Lunny who was quick to master it and take to the next level. While Donal and Andy were running sessions in Dublin, Christy Moore was enjoying moderate success gigging in the UK. With a record deal under his belt, he came back to Ireland in 1971 to record his second album, Prosperous (1972). For this, he assembled a band, the core of which consisted of Donal Lunny on Bouzouki, Andy Irvine on Mandolin, and Liam Óg O’Flynn on Uilleann Pipes. The chemistry was instantaneous and Planxty was born. Both Andy and Christy were great singers. Christy the charismatic performer. Andy the plaintive troubadour. Both gifted storytellers. Donal was the engine in the band and the glue keeping it all together. His Bouzouki perfectly complemented Andy’s Mandolin creating something fresh and pointing to the future. Andy’s fascination with Balkan folk music added a whole new dimension as featured in the highly innovative The Blacksmith. Adding to this already eclectic mix was the astonishing piper Liam Óg PAGE 42 O Flynn, a protégé of the legendary Liam, like his mentor, was a virtuoso and a traditionalist, so it was no surprise when he faced criticism from some in the trad community for associating with long-haired folkies. But Ennis approved, and that was enough for Liam, along with the realisation that he and his fellow band mates had stumbled upon the secrets of alchemy. By the time Planxty got a record deal later in 1972 they were well rehearsed and were able to record the majority of their live set very quickly. The eponymous debut, Planxty (1973), featured a mix of traditional and modern songs. They drew from a rich palette of influences referencing Sean O Riada, Séamus Ennis, Woody Guthrie and Balkan folk music. They crossed bouzoukis with mandolins, pipes with harmonica and then put a bodhran beat behind it. They mixed it up and did it with conviction and integrity. The first album became the template that changed the course of traditional Irish music and its influence has reverberated down through the decades since and can be heard in the vibrant scene we have today.