Christy Moore – ‘Unique’ Biography (Courtesy the Artist’s site, 2005)
PLUS Still Moving Hearts Article.
In the beginning of this decade I began getting piano lessons from Sister Michael. At 6 I took Christ’s body for the first time. I was half brainwashed with Catechism and discipline and eternal damnation on the horizon.
I saw “Rock Around the Clock” and learned what erections were for. Left the Altar Boys and found the F.C.A. Got long trousers, began to shave, tasted ale, Babycham and Jameson.
Won a County medal for Gaelic, sang solo in the Choir, could be a right little obnoxious bollix or the nicest lad in Ireland. Met Ronnie Delaney on his way home from Melbourne. Daddy died. Fuck it. He was sound.
As I recall today my first gig was in the original Embankment in Tallaght in 1965. I was booked by the late Peggy Jordan to play in this great venue, then being developed by Mick McCarthy (The real Mick McCarthy). I was paid ten shillings. I bought a shirt for 7/6 and went to town on the balance.
At this time the scene that was emerging in Dublin mesmerized me but I found it impossible to get a foot in the door. I had a small repertoire of good songs and I always went down well when I got a chance to sing. But looking back now I was probably not cool enough for the bookers.
I moved to England in ’66 and via work on buildings, factories, oilrigs I ended up on the folk club circuit in Manchester in 1967. My first gig as a professional folk singer was at The Wellgreen Folk Club, Manchester on May 4th. I was paid £6 and I sang:
Rocky Road to Dublin; Verdant Boys of Skryne; Traveling People; James Connolly; Calton Weaver; Dungannon Maid; Enniskillen Dragoon; All for me Grog; Paddy on The Railway; Sam Hall.
On Saturday 6th May I played at The Bury Folk Club near Manchester. I sang some of the above songs plus:
Blackwaterside; Spanish Lady; Carnlock Bay; Spancilhill; I’m a Rover.
The following day I celebrated my 22nd birthday. I was a Folksinger in exile
And I was on the pig’s back.
From ’67 onwards I developed my repertoire and spread my wings the length and breadth of the U.K. In ’68 I did my first radio broadcast in Dublin on Radio Eireann in a hall on O’Connell St. I sang ‘The Galtee Mountain Boy’, ‘Bogies Bonnie Belle’ and ‘The Bunch of Thyme’. On the back of my emerging career in the U.K, the Dublin bookers were starting to give me some gigs. I had many British songs that had not been heard in Dublin before and this worked to my advantage.
Around ’69 I was becoming desperate to make an album. To be a “Recording Artist” was essential if I was to break into the Premier Division of the folk circuit. I was doing well but there was still a way to go. I auditioned unsuccessfully for ‘Transatlantic’, which was the most desirable folk label of the era featuring the likes of Pentangle, Ralph McTell and Hamish Imlach. Subsequently I recorded my first album ‘Paddy On The Road’ with Dominic Behan in Sound Techniques, Chelsea.
I can still savor the feeling of getting that first L.P into my hand. I could not quite believe it. I went to Noel Murphy’s pad in Shepard’s Bush and we listened, me in awe and he being kind and encouraging. 500 were pressed and then it was deleted.
By the end of the ’60’s my ears were focused back on Dublin.
Across the ‘60’s I’d heard The Clancy Brothers, John Reilly, The Dubliners, Luke Kelly solo, and then I began to be influenced by the British folk revival. I heard Sweeney’s Men, Moynihan and Irvine, Mick Moloney, and I was drawn back by the kind of music that was coming from the island.
Having failed my Transatlantic audition I returned once more to the producer Bill Leader who had begun releasing albums on his two record labels, ‘Trailer‘ and ‘Leader’. He liked my idea of going to Ireland to record with musicians I had long admired. In July 1970 Bill arrived in Prosperous, Co. Kildare where I had been rehearsing with Donal Lunny, Andy Irvine and Liam O’Flynn. We recorded work that was subsequently released as “Prosperous”.
We loved what we heard and agreed to re-converge the following year and try forming a band. The band commenced on Monday, 3 January 1972 with a residency at The Mug’s Gig held upstairs in Slattery’s of Capel St., Dublin. For a short while we went under our four names and we briefly were called “CLAD” but then settled on “Planxty”. Our first Planxty tour began at the M.S.G Manchester on April 22nd 1972, which was also the first time that Nicky Ryan ever did our sound. Planxty were on the road.
Over the next two years Planxty continued to tour and became very popular. We recorded three albums; ‘Planxty’, ‘The Well Below The Valley’ and ‘Cold Blow The Rainy Night’. Donal left in ’74 and I followed in ’75. Back solo again.
Looking back I was fortunate to come through these years intact. My work was poor and the sort of gigs I was doing were not memorable. I did a German tour in March 1977, which was a particular low point both personally and musically. The rock bottom of my musical life was Club Stubo, Bremen, Germany on 5th March 1977. The promoter was one mean bastard, God bless him.
In 1978 I made my first visit to Long Kesh Prison. Planxty reformed and began to rehearse for the ‘After The Break’ album. The original four members were augmented by Matt Molloy. In January 1979 we began to rehearse for our longest tour. It commenced in The Hammersmith Odeon, London on Saturday, April 15th and finished in The Stadium, Dublin on Monday 11th June. We performed 54 concerts in 8 countries and arrived home pretty wrecked. Financially we would have made a lot more money had we just played the first date in London and the last date in Dublin. There were some good moments on the tour but for me personally it was a very difficult time and the tour was very badly organized. I was playing solo again
I’d learned a lesson in the early ‘70’s. The first time I left Planxty I had no solo career to return to and I vowed never to become entirely immersed in a band again.
I’m confused about the year 1980. My diary is blank until the 11th of April when I played in Liberty Hall, Dublin. I think that I was being booked by a man called Brian Molloy at this time. I was starting to play more dates in the Occupied Territory.
I went to Italy with Planxty in July finishing up at Nyon festival in Switzerland. I recall playing ‘No Time For Love’ with Planxty around this time and always felt it was the best version. Carnsore Point was a highlight of the year. I also played a week in Dublin’s Olympia Theatre with Planxty.
’81 was busy, lots of gigs as ‘Moving Hearts’ came together. We started our first national tour at The Seven Oaks, Carlow on February 16th 1981. Mad year. Throat surgery, dental problems, managing and singing with The Hearts and also keeping Planxty meetings and solo stuff together. Seems like Mayhem.
Across ’82 I was playing with Moving Hearts, Planxty, and doing solo gigs. I’d also begun working with Mattie Fox who became my manager later. I feel exhausted just leafing through my diary. I was spending a lot of time in recording studios. Went to see ‘Fitzcaraldo’ at I.F.T on November 11th, a night off!!
The ‘80’s were mad, very productive but stone mad. Mad productivity. Producing madness.
Maybe I got a bit carried away there, nevertheless I’m finishing my essay on the 1980’s here.
I’ll continue through for I feel that down the road I’d like to be a bit more connected to those who want to hear the songs but live in places that I’ll never get to. Its unlikely I’ll make it back to Warnambool or Sausalito so I’ll forge on with my foyer notes.
I remember the nineties alright. I recorded ‘Smoke And Strong Whiskey’ in Westland. It’s a strange album. I fell out with some of the musicians I’d rehearsed with and had to re-convene. The album always sounds too fast to me.
My old label put out a compilation the same time as ‘Smoke And Strong Whiskey’ and it fairly sunk the album but that’s the way those people think, so fuck ‘em (although I must admit it’s a good album!).
’King Puck’ was recorded in Ballyvourney and I used to visit Peader and Geraldine O’Riada for healing cups of tea and honey sandwiches. I got to play with Neil McColl and Máire Breathnach. Got the old ‘Rose’ down at last and also vowed never again to wear make-up no matter what the photographer told me. I still blush when I see the shaggin’ snaps.
Nancy died in 1992 but I still talk to her and I miss her too but she’s not gone too far away. I was finally cut loose from my moorings.
‘Live At The Point’ was a nightmare in the making for I regarded three different sets of gigs at the venue and mixed them all. It was arduous but also rewarding, educational, humbling and sometimes great fun. ’Graffiti Tongue’ came next and some of the early work was wonderful. Inis Meán and Passage were special but back in Ballyvourney it got very lonely. This is the loneliest album I ever made.
I realise I’m only writing about albums here but down the road I’ll fill in some gaps. I’ll tell you all about the real life after ‘Graffiti Tongue’, there was ANOTHER compilation. Yes the fucking ‘Collection Part 2’. There’s a story here too but I won’t tell it just now – only to say that it was the multinationals again. The suits were pressed into my face once more. I didn’t record for three years after ‘Graffiti’ but then I discovered again that the process of recording songs should be enjoyable – that it could be (even) fun. Me and Leo Pearson down the garden banging ‘Traveller’ together. Fuck it but ‘twas a healing balm. Young Lunny came in and played bouzouki backwards while The Edge was a welcome guest.
There’s another ten years up the spout.
Well we had 10 sacks of rice, a container of beans, all our money in silver and gold and not a shaggin’ thing happened. All the greedy promoters lost a packet on their rip off gigs and the hungry hoors of publicans who put on big cover charges got their tight arses burnt. Y2K me bollix.
Into 2000 and I did not one gig all year. It was all book stuff. Finishing off ‘One Voice’. Corrections, re-writes, photos, proof reading, it was all new and kinda’ exciting. Did book signings all over Ireland and also in London. Good fun. Had a few weird experiences in London. Lunch with The Financial Times was quite superb.
Began talking to Declan Sinnot about playing some songs. Then we played at his 50th party and Donal joined in. Then all Decky’s gear got robbed and Donal and I did a benefit (The Stolen Guitars Gig) and Decky joined in and we had a great gig on Wednesday 30th August 2000. Next thing we were recording ‘This Is The Day’ in Kilkenny in January 2001 and we decided to do some gigs on the back of that. These got recorded and are released as ‘Live At Vicar St.’
I’m back in front of the lamps and it feels good, so lets see where we go from here.
Article - Still Moving Hearts
In the beginning he was the man in the van, a guitar-playing troubadour living the life of his hero, Woody Guthrie, albeit over a different stretch of water from his home. Later he was the voice of two of Ireland's most inventive, best loved bands, Planxty and Moving Hearts.
When, later still, Christy Moore reassumed the one man and his guitar role he was just the man. No van - this time he was travelling first class and instead of playing to mere dozens of people a night, every night before dossing in his sleeping bag behind the driver's seat, he was holding thousands in the palm of his hand.
The image of himself as some sort of crowd control expert amuses Moore. This is, after all, the man whom Donal Lunny famously described as a 'storm in a t-shirt' and 'a most unlikely bank clerk', which is what Moore was before a bank strike liberated him to go off in search of fame and notoriety.
The fame took a while to come along, but as he moved from being navvy on the road, oil rig and meat plant hand to simply Paddy on the Road, the title of his first album, for long languishing neglected in a record company vault, notoriety was his for the taking. And he took it.
Many a nip slipped between cup and lip during the time in the 1960s when Moore "lived in Scotland but didn't have an address", his 'care ofs' tottering between Hamish Imlach's legendary perpetual party, several flats in Edinburgh and a folk music commune in Kirkcaldy, with Gerry Rafferty amongst others.
In his book, One Voice - My Life in Song, published in 2000, Moore recalls some of his hairiest moments, when the struggle to make ends meet wasn't helped by the 'take' ending up in a landlord's till and his attempts to keep body and soul together were undermined by a habit of baring his soul to the wrong listener and having his body pummelled by her gallant true love.
Later, all manner of Dutch, Lebanese and Peruvian courage helped Moore get onto the stage before he cleaned up his life in the 1980s.
By this time he had helped to turn Irish traditional music from old hat for hicks into a hip, current and exciting music form. In 1971, returning home from his sojourn in English and Scottish folk clubs, Moore began working on some songs with guitarist and bouzouki player Donal Lunny, uilleann piper Liam O'Flynn and Andy Irvine on mandolin and mouth organ.
The result, Prosperous, was a triumph for Moore and the beginning of Planxty, who went on to great success, converting rock fans to Irish traditional songs and tunes with album such as 'The Black Album and The Well Below the Valley, before going their separate ways, Moore, his replacement Paul Brady and O'Flynn to solo careers, Irvine eventually to Patrick Street and Lunny to the Bothy Band.
Old school pals, Lunny and Moore reconvened in Moving Hearts, where rock, jazz, funk, Irish jigs, and national and international politics coalesced in an invigorating, outspoken pot pourri which resulted in attention from the not so secret police as well as exuberant, teeming audiences at their Dublin gigs.
Although their time together with Moving Hearts was short - Moore left after the band's second album, Dark End of the Street, Lunny and Moore were to work again often over the years. Before Moore became established as one of folk music's most riveting solo performers, he and Lunny toured together as a duo and Lunny produced Moore's 1980s albums such as Ordinary Man, Ride On and Voyage, a trilogy which underlined Moore's growing popularity with songs such as Lisdoonvarna, Delirium Tremens and Mystic Lipstick.
Moore's albums were now earning gold discs and his concerts attracting thousands. He was a star. With adherents cheering his outspoken views and demanding he sing the song they knew him for, the song they had come to hear him sing, his gigs became like a bear pit.
"I lost some of my audience over the last few years or so that I didn't really miss," he says of his crowd control talents. "People assume that they own you because you've sung a certain song. They want everyone to know that they've come to hear that song and I used to worry that they'd get annoyed if I told them to shut up. But I think if you're honest on stage, you can overcome any problem. I just said, 'Look, I can't compete with you.' Songs can change from concert to concert, they take on new meanings, but you can't be subtle if everyone's clapping and banging their feet."
Gradually the strain of big time performances took their toll on Moore and in One Voice he finally conceded defeat. His nights of sweating in his trademark black t-shirt in front of an audience were over.
He would still sing, still write songs because he's still developing as a songwriter. His 1996 album, Graffiti Tongue, was his first to feature songs all of which he has either written or co-written. Recorded almost entirely solo (his daughter Juno added some backing vocals), it has been likened to a newspaper in its content.
There are hard news items such as Minds Locked Shut, dealing with Bloody Sunday; lighter features or columns such as the leg-pulling, witty On the Mainland; even an obituary, for Rory Gallagher. "There's no sports page, though," says Moore, tickled by the analogy. "I like that. It satisfies my romantic view of my work. I always saw myself as a carrier of the news."
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