August 2017 update: no apologies for reposting this. Good banter, great singer and song ......
It was only a matter of time before Salut! Live's Song of the Day series reached Christy Moore. Today's the day ...
Salut! Live readers with long memories, and readers of The Daily Telegraph with even longer ones, will know of my "sleeping with Christy Moore" confessions. My story was topped the other day when the American harper Bonnie Shaljean, who lives in Ireland, added this comment to a threat at Mudcat after talking to the Irish singer Packie Byrne about the rotten news that Mike Waterson had died:
Packie ... reminisced about some of his early memories of the Watersons, whom he first met in the mid or late 60s. During one festival they were all being put up in the same house. Not only the same house, but the same BED, as it turned out. For years afterwards Packie boasted about how he had "slept with the Watersons" and there were those who added up two and two and got five.
My anecdote was from the same book of bedtime stories. It happened long, long ago. Christy had just performed at the Liffey folk club in Darlington and was entitled - and welcome - to a bed at the home of the organisers, the musical Sheehan family.
The Sheehans are great friends of mine and it was customary for Mrs Sheehan to turn a blind eye as I waited on each such occasion until it was too late to get a lift or bus home before timidly asking whether there might be room for me. There wasn't, not that night. But Christy kindly, and I should say without hint of lust, offered to share his.
So I was able to say that I'd slept with the great Irish troubadour and showman on the very first night we met.
I could even add that the earth seemed to move: he was a bulky man in those days and the shifting of weight in the bed produced a number of sharp creaks and sighs from the mattress, springs and board.
All of which has precious little to do with my choice of a song from Christy's terrific repertoire. The usual problems.
What to choose? Ride On, North and South of the River (co-written by Bono, who supplied backing vocals on the recorded version), Cabaret, Lisdoonvarna were all candidates.
I chose Smoke and Strong Whiskey not just because it is an excellent song coasting a sharp critical eye over Irish social and political ills, but because it also, for me represented a mellowing maturity in Moore's writing and outlook.
On the same album that he was championing the cause (in a way even the Telegraph allowed me to describe as very decent) of the Birmingham Six, wrongly convicted of carrying out cowardly, murderous pub bombings, the battle-scarred old republican was seeing another, darker side to the "organisation".
He acknowledged to me in an interview that his approach had undergone some change.
I respected him for that, and for the further examples his work would later offer. And it is, in any case, a song worthy of highlighting a brilliant and enduring career. Christy Moore was hardly a nobody that Saturday evening we first met 40 years or more, but he was - by his own admission - a drunk and remained one for many years. The way he pulled himself together was extraordinary and I respect him for that, too. And let no one dream of suggesting he slept his way to the top.
* The clip above replaces the original, which YouTube tells you 'no longer exists'. You can buy the album of the same name from which this song was taken by visiting Salut! Live's Amazon record link. I will also add it to the featured albums in the right sidebar.