Cover Story: (22) A Proper Sort of Gardener. Maggie Holland or June Tabor
Talking animals, class war and noisy electric folk at Cecil Sharp House’s one day February festival

Binge-listening to Christy Moore: fighting fascists in Spain, singing for Ireland in Germany

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By Colin Randall

Nick Clapham, someone I have met only electronically, posted this photo of his assembled collection of Christy Moore albums at the UK and Irish Folk Music 60s-80s Facebook group.

 

I shared it at the Salut! Live Facebook group - please join it at https://ms-my.facebook.com/groups/2902595146676633/ - saying it was probably time for another of my occasional binge listens to the great man’s music. That time came last night when I finally tired of BBC Question Time.

My nostalgic journey took me from Beeswing to Shine On You Crazy Diamond but ended at the Barrowland venue in Glasgow, where in 2008 Moore and Declan Sinnott played a gig so passionate and engaging that it is impossible to watch extracts without longing to have been there.

The clips I have chosen capture a couple of absolute belters. Viva La Quinta Brigada and Joxer Goes to Stuttgart, each demonstrating not only the consummate performing skills and inspired songwriting we associate with Moore but also the important part his big, participating audiences play.

The Spanish Civil War has been generous in its gifts to culture, giving us masterpieces ranging from Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia to Picasso’s Guernica. Moore’s tribute to Irishmen who volunteered to fight against Franco with the republicans is as instructive as it is melodic, stirring and partisan. 

Horrendous as the Civil War was  - some refugees from Franco’s fascism and brutality ended up in what I have seen described as the world’s first concentration camp, a squalid settlement near the south-western French resort of Argeles - Spain, like much of Europe, is once again showing a taste for far right politics. Will people never learn? 

 

The crowd song along with energy, seemingly knowing every word. One of the clips I found shows Moore following on with Joxer, the superbly crafted story of Irish fans attending the 1986 Euros in Germany. It’s all very jolly, set to Match of the Day’s grandiose signature tun composed by Barry Stoller, as indeed were the fans for the most part.

I  can never forget a German police chief saying: “The  English came in their thousands, got drunk and fought. The Irish came in their thousands, got drunk and sang.”

There is much much more to Christy Moore than a single binge session can get close to reaching. As Bill Taylor has asked on these pages, is there any half-decent song he has not covered? Beeswing, Richard Thompson’s beautiful song about a wayward girl of the 1960s, is a classic example of his respectful, value-added interpretations of the work of others.

But in the unlikely event that you were previously unaware of his existence and wonder what the fuss is about,  the clips I reproduce here are as a good a place as any to start.

 

See also:

* Christy Moore reflects on how his own views developed in tandem with the peace process: https://www.salutlive.com/2022/03/reporting-the-troubles-and-catching-some-wonderful-irish-music-.html
** Christy's eloquent plea for a world menaced by climate change: https://www.salutlive.com/2021/11/christy-moore-clock-winds-down.html
*** Christy's Desert Island Discs choice: https://www.salutlive.com/2007/06/whats_for_deser.html
**** Christy's excellent, welcoming website: https://www.christymoore.com
***** Christy's Shine On You Crazy Diamond, the diamond being Syd Barrett, compared with Pink Floyd's original: https://www.salutlive.com/2019/07/cover-story-41.html

Comments

Bill Taylor

If ever a singer was worth making a fuss about... I was listening for the umpteenth time to my favourite of his albums, Ordinary Man. There's not a single bad track on it and some are outstanding, most notably "Reel in the Flickering Light."

Niall Murphy

Via Facebook

Of course he is every bit as wonderful as you say and there will be a statue possibly even in his lifetime in his hometown.But I always like the story told by Christy himself about a heckler who after a couple of songs into one of his concerts shouted ” For Jaysus sake Christy would ya lighten up” A serious man who doesn’t take himself seriously!

Nick Clapham

Via Facebook (from the Christy fan who inspired this article - see first paragraph)

Joxer and Viva! 2 great tracks. Love the ending to the Barrowlands DVD where the crowd disperse into the Glasgow night all singing Viva la Quinta Brigada at the top of their voices.

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