Documentary charting the story of Irish rock and pop music, which is grounded in the very different musical traditions of the two main cities of the island, Belfast and Dublin.
Browse content similar to The Irish Rock Story: A Tale of Two Cities. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!
This programme contains some strong language.
U2 are part of everybody's history of rock music - the biggest band in the world.
MUSIC: Elevation by U2
But they're also part of a less well known story -
how rock and roll changed Ireland.
I watched, as little girl,
a lot of what the conditions for grown-up women in Ireland were
and I wasn't having it.
MUSIC: Gloria by Them
The creation of Irish rock is a 40-year story.
Ireland had a guitar hero...
It was just very rock and roll, but it was very much him.
..and one of the few black rock stars.
And the most bizarre thing - he married Leslie Crowther's daughter, which was weird.
I used to watch Crackerjack.
MUSIC: Teenage Kicks by The Undertones
John Peel's favourite band...
Ah, they were great. How could you not like The Undertones?
MUSIC: Rat Trap by The Boomtown Rats
..a big mouth...
And I just thought "Finally, the Paddies did it," you know?
MUSIC: Mandinka by Sinead O'Connor
..the rare sighting of a female rock star...
..and finally, the biggest band in the world.
We had to work hard, cos we were absolutely the worst band ever.
This is the story of the pioneers of Irish rock -
how they forged an international presence
and helped change Ireland along the way.
MUSIC: Elevation by U2
The birthplaces of Irish rock
are the two capital cities of this divided island -
Dublin in the Republic
and Belfast in the United Kingdom.
Two cities that disagreed on virtually everything,
but united in one goal -
to repel the new sounds of '50s rock and roll
wafting in over the airwaves.
In the 1950s,
the streets of Belfast seemed an unlikely breeding ground
for the blues scene that would emerge there.
The hard-line Protestant ethos of the ruling majority
preferred church to rock and roll.
MUSIC: Come Running by Van Morrison
But in Protestant East Belfast,
a young Van Morrison -
the founder of the Belfast blues scene -
had unique access to the new sounds.
Belfast was a busy international port
where Van's dad worked as a shipbuilder -
and just as in Liverpool and Newcastle,
the port gave the Morrison household access to the R&B records
coming in from the States.
Well, I think we was very lucky,
because we had a great record collection of gospel, blues, jazz -
we just played this stuff.
The first time I heard Ray Charles, I completely just...
You know, it totally just changed my life.
I went out and bought the records immediately.
They were hard to get, then.
You had to go to a specific place at that point, there was...
In Smithfield, there was a shop that got these 45s.
There was no scene yet in Belfast,
but at least the music was being heard.
100 miles south, over the border in Dublin,
it was being strangled at birth.
There, the twin powers of church and state didn't want new music -
they wanted very old music...
..a kind of state-sponsored folk music,
designed to form the bedrock for this new Gaelic and Catholic nation.
MAN SPEAKS IRISH
Not an ideal breeding ground for the aspiring rock musician.
This church-state compact
was an utter disaster
and we were trapped by it.
It was...an appalling fraud on the Irish people.
Frankly, I wish England had never left Ireland.
I think we would have been a lot better off, you know?
We were going to be colonised by someone and as it happened,
the coloniser which took over was the Church
and that was disastrous.
If the Brits hadn't left, that wouldn't have happened.
My dad grew up in the '50s and '60s.
He could remember sermons
in opposition to jazz, you know?
The Catholic Church had so little on its mind in those days,
that they would preach against jazz and rock and roll.
With rock and roll being repressed
by watchful clerics south and north of the border,
a uniquely Irish solution emerged -
MUSIC: Johnny B Goode
The hits of the day, but played by Irish lads,
who toured the ballrooms right across the island.
It was like the circus coming to town.
Everybody saw it - entrepreneurs saw it, priests saw it,
making money for the parish.
There was no drink
and the priests used to oversee that they didn't dance too closely.
And from that moment, it was like a disease spread right round Ireland.
The showbands provided a valuable training ground
for two of the first generation of Irish rock musicians.
The Northern Ireland Protestant, Van Morrison...
..and the Southern Irish Catholic, Rory Gallagher.
It's a dance band, you know?
You do everything, from classic Brothers material to rock and roll,
to pops, to everything.
But it was a good schooling, you know? And you got...
You got your wings there.
If you were playing in showbands, where you had to play
other people's music that you didn't really want to play,
the ultimate goal would be to have a band that would play
the music that you wanted to play.
MUSIC: Mystic Eyes by Them
19-year-old Van Morrison formed an R&B band
and named it after the 1950s horror film "Them".
They got a residency at a trad jazz club called the Maritime Hotel
and so was born the Belfast blues scene.
And we went down and we got to the stairs
and you could hear it on the stairs -
this pounding, electric rhythm.
Really raucous, really loud.
God almighty, you know? It was just... "What's this?"
It was just exciting.
For me, it was like being in Memphis or something, or Chicago
and here it was, on my doorstep.
And they were great teen anthems -
Gloria, Here Comes the Night...
Just really great songs.
Within six months,
Them were in the top ten with one of the abiding anthems of British R&B,
the Van Morrison-written "Gloria".
# Lord, you know she comes around
# She's about five feet four
# Right from her head down to the ground
# Well, she comes around here
# Just about midnight
# She make me feel so good, Lord...#
Gloria, I mean, it's an amazing song isn't it, you know?
It's just like an Irish Chuck Berry song in a sense, you know?
It's got the simplicity of Johnny B Goode,
but this is like...
This is Van The Man, doing his thing.
# I want to shout it out every day
# Gloria.. #
I mean, it was great, because up to then,
it was like English, British bands that were happening all the time
and this was the first real Irish band that was happening, big time.
Them had another big hit...
..but Van Morrison soon found the constraints of pop
almost as restricting as the show bands.
By the time we'd got to Here Comes The Night,
to me, that was, you know, going in the direction of making pop records.
That's not really what I wanted to do...
That wasn't what it was about.
So that's where it all started to go haywire.
Van Morrison quit Them
and took the time-honoured Irish path to America,
to launch a solo career.
But in his wake,
the blues scene in Belfast had attained legendary status
and had caught the eye of his fellow showband veteran, Rory Gallagher.
# Everyone is saying what to do and what to think
# And when to ask permission when you feel you want to blink
# First look left and then look right and now look straight ahead
# Make sure and take a warning of every word we've said... #
250 miles south in Cork,
Rory uprooted his newly-formed blues trio Taste and headed north.
# Fireman, please won't you listen to me
# Gotta pretty woman in Tennessee.
# Keep rollin' on
# Keep rollin' on.
# Goodbye, goodbye It's all over now
# I'm movin' on... #
Rory Gallagher came to Belfast in 1965,
equipped with the first Fender Stratocaster
to ever arrive in Ireland.
RORY GALLAGHER JAMS
He has a really great, very visceral kind of approach.
It's very physical, very sort of tactile
and then the other thing was, it was just raw, you know?
It was very improv-based, you know?
There was a groove to what he did that was sort of sexy
and there's not a lot of people that I listened to coming up
that did that in the realm of sort of rock stuff.
You'd find '50s guitar players that did it,
but in rock and roll, it's usually much more straight ahead.
This had a kind of roll to it.
Over the next 30 years, Belfast became Rory's spiritual home
and he became one of its best-loved sons.
Rory sort of regarded Belfast as his second home, anyway.
And the first time I saw Taste,
it would have been '67 in the Maritime
and it was like, devastating.
I mean, when they finished...
I mean, the crowd were just stunned by the whole thing. It was amazing.
CROWD: We want Rory! We want Rory!
I mean, Rory was becoming a bit of a star around the town, you know?
You'd see him around town and people would just recognise him.
But he saw Belfast as a Northern Catholic,
as he'd been born in Ulster, before moving south to Cork.
And in the 1960s, the Catholic minority
were beginning to demand equal rights in Northern Ireland
with the Protestant ruling majority.
Probably from growing up in the North of Ireland,
Rory could see that my father had been victimised,
in terms of getting work in Derry,
cos of the side of the water he lived on.
Obviously, his love of the blues - it wasn't just playing the music.
Rory was reading a lot on civil rights in general,
which was very parallel with the movement in the North of Ireland.
I wouldn't regard myself as a top 20 musician at all,
even though I might be...
I could write a top 20 song, but I wouldn't, but...
I don't think that's important, you know?
# Go on and ask him his name
# Let him try and explain... #
Taste may never have been in the pop charts,
but this was the period of the power rock trio,
led by Cream and Jimi Hendrix...
..and driven by Gallagher's guitar virtuosity,
Taste quickly moved up their ranks.
# Tell the man, lift him up
# Hand him a paper cup
# Take away that gin... #
Taste were a great band in Ireland's bid for...
In an age of guitar heroes, put Rory up there.
I saw him at the Isle of Wight, up against The Doors, The Who,
Jimi Hendrix, Leonard Cohen.
I would put them, at that festival,
top three acts - easy.
We lived on an island, the influences on us were limited
and rock music provided us with a great window on the world.
But we assumed that the gatekeepers of this window
were all either English or Americans.
It was only really when Rory Gallagher came along
that we realised that this world of rock music
could also be interpreted by Irish people
and for a student in the 1970s, that was a very big eye-opener -
that we could have a local Cork musician
who would become a world star.
MUSIC: Leavin' Blues by Taste
The Isle of Wight was Taste's swan song...
..but not before they played Belfast's Ulster Hall one last time.
This was a very different Belfast.
Sectarian hatred had erupted.
The Civil Rights movement had led to violent confrontations
and had eventually been supplanted
by Catholic and Protestant paramilitaries.
There was murder and mayhem on the streets.
There had been quite a harmony.
It was extraordinary to see
how the whole thing so quickly got so radical.
The unique thing was that you had the Ulster Hall,
where Taste were playing, with the unity of young fans...
and at the same time, it was being used as a so-called church
by Ian Paisley at that time.
It just seemed to get worse and worse.
By the end of the '60s,
the blues boom in the divided city of Belfast
had produced two of rock music's most enduring stars -
Protestant Van Morrison
and Catholic Rory Gallagher.
It was time for folky Dublin to catch up.
Rory was huge in Belfast. It seemed to be bigger up there.
You always got the impression that if you went up there,
you'd a better chance of getting from B to A, than from here.
But that changed.
Everything just took off in Dublin.
It was unbelievable.
In the late '60s, Dublin was still a predominantly folky town.
HE SINGS A FOLK SONG
But it moved on from the enforced Gaelic culture
of a decade earlier.
Folk was now fashionable -
and out of this scene came Dublin's first bona fide rock star.
# I am your main man if you're looking for trouble
# I'll take no lip, no-one's tougher than me
# If I kicked your face you'd soon be seeing double
# Hey, little girl, keep your hands off me
# I'm a rocker... #
Philip was one of those guys who believed that...
every morning that you got up, you dressed in leather trousers
and that there was a limousine to take you to Tesco's.
# Down at the juke joint me and the boys were stompin'
# Bippin' and boppin' and telling a dirty joke or two... #
He knew his Irish history.
He could even speak a good bit of Irish
and he was very proud of being Irish,
there's no doubt about that whatsoever.
But he was still black
and he liked being black.
Philip Parris Lynott was born in Birmingham in 1949
to an unmarried 18-year-old Irish girl and a Caribbean father...
..but soon was sent to Dublin.
You see, I'd kept a secret from my parents that I'd had a child -
never mind a black child -
and thank God, they had got a heart
and they told me that they would take him.
It all began in 85 Leighlin Road, Crumlin, Dublin.
Well, I was brought up in a corporation scheme,
where every house looked the same
and the biggest way to get a reputation was to be tough -
and I got myself a reputation!
Philip used to carry a hurling stick in school
and he would just lay into anybody that said anything to him
about being black or "Hey, Sambo, way back home", which he did get.
Phil was at school with me.
The only black guy in the whole school, right?
So everybody knew who he was, you know?
After a couple of years I found out that he played in a band.
It was called The Black Eagles and Phil was great.
He wasn't playing bass, he was just singing,
but he had a great voice and a great presence.
His stage presence was just brilliant.
By his late teens, Phil was a face on a hip Dublin beat scene.
The beat scene in Dublin was traditional stuff,
but with a hippy undertone to it, alternative folk,
and Philip would go down and play and sing folk music
with a lot of these people, as well.
Eric Bell was a Belfast blues guitarist
who'd played with Van Morrison
and when Eric joined forces with Phil Lynott,
Dublin folk met Belfast blues for the first time.
That was how Thin Lizzy started.
If anyone asked Philip, "What do you want to be?"
"Rich and famous."
It wasn't a big, long-winded explanation -
"rich and famous."
So he knew exactly what he wanted.
MUSIC: Shades Of A Blue Orphanage by Thin Lizzy
# And it's true
# True blue
# Irish blue... #
He was a very interesting writer, you know?
The first time I ever heard the word "Dublin"
in a song that wasn't a folk song or a traditional song
was in a piece he wrote.
"I always said that if our affair ended, I would leave Dublin"
and there was a kind of curious validation in that -
just those two syllables being included on a record anywhere.
Once in London, Lizzy signed to Decca records
and Phil set about his task of becoming
Ireland's most famous Irishman.
Philip's trying to belong -
"Look, I'm more Irish than the Irish, you know?
"I'm black, but I'm more Irish than the Irish,
"even though my dad was... whatever the fuck, you know?
"Look, I'm writing your songs for you".
Insisting on a Celtic mythology.
Look at his Jim Fitzpatrick sleeves -
and of course, Philip loved all this.
MUSIC: Whiskey In The Jar by Thin Lizzy
The band hit on the idea of doing
a rock version of an old Irish folk song,
but were struggling with the sound.
Philip put on this cassette and it was The Chieftains
and I suddenly said, "That's what you want -
"traditional Irish pipe -
"try and get it on the guitar."
The chemistry worked.
The mix of Dublin folk and Belfast blues
created a timeless classic, which Lynott desperately wanted.
# I first produced my pistol
# Then produced my rapier
# I said "Stand-o, deliver
# "Or the devil, he may take you
# Musha ring dum-a-doo-dum-a-da
# Whack for my daddy-o
# Whack for my daddy-o
# There's whiskey in the jar-o... #
While Phil Lynott was basking in the glory of his debut
in the British charts...
MUSIC: Brown Eyed Girl by Van Morrison
..across in New York,
Van Morrison was still on a search for his sound,
despite a solo top ten hit.
# Heart's a-thumping and you
# My brown eyed girl
# You my brown eyed girl. #
My original intention, where I was coming from, musically,
was rhythm and blues and soul.
I just wanted to break everything down and...
..create my own soul music.
# If I ventured in the slipstream
# Between the viaducts of your dream... #
Once Van Morrison finally got control of his output,
he released a series of albums
that expanded the boundaries of rock music.
# Could you find me? #
They chronicled his own personal journey into the mystic,
but were also shot through with Irish themes,
like exile and redemption.
# Lay me down
# In silence easy
# To be born again
# To be born again... #
A singular, really original,
intuitive and instinctive genius is Van Morrison...
..and he took this bedrock of excellence -
the blues and jazz -
and he married it to this other feeling,
using this...Yeats-ian language.
It was profoundly Irish Van Morrison,
in that he tuned in, instinctively, to language.
Primarily, yeah - I'm an Irish writer and I think that...
I mean, I think... We're preoccupied with the past, because...
you know, we're sort of trying to get to
transcending the mundane existence.
# Down on Cyprus Avenue
# With the childlike visions leaping into view
# Clicking clacking of the high-heeled shoe... #
Like many an exiled Irish artist,
Van was preoccupied with the city of his childhood.
What Joyce did for Dublin, Van did for Belfast.
# Marching with the soldier boy behind... #
There's a preoccupation with the past - it's not sentimental.
I mean, the actual street...
Rather than being like a street with a row of houses,
you're coming away thinking that this is an incredible place,
it must be, it has to be.
I mean, the lives that have been lived in this place
and the things that have happened.
East Belfast is so topographically specific
in Van Morrison's work.
It is probably one of the most extraordinary examples
of imagination acted on by environment
in any art form I can think of.
And yet, it's also the launchpad
for his explorations of wherever he goes
in those extraordinary songs.
Van, I see as a priest.
You know, he's a searcher - all his records,
he's been on a search for God.
I call them sky-rippers - somebody who opens up the sky.
You look through, you know that there are other worlds
and there are other things going on.
And they're able to access something - perhaps psychically -
that other artists don't.
He was the first Irish artist, I think,
that shone a light on the fact that
there is a path one can take towards healing.
One could argue...
that perhaps he hasn't got there.
But what's important was that he showed that there is a path,
that the rest of us could take.
Van's healing journey constantly brought him back
to the idyllic days of his Belfast childhood
and in the process,
he imprinted the street names of the city
on the imaginations of his fans around the world.
But he was singing of brighter times.
In the '70s, other Belfast streets were becoming world famous.
NEWS REPORT: 'Daly's bar, on the Falls Road, was crowded with people,
' waiting to watch...
'..a similar explosion in a pub in the Shankill Road,
'a Protestant pub.'
Then, on 31st July 1975,
the terrorists threatened the future of Irish music itself.
Up to that point, the troopers of the music industry -
the show bands - continued to play the ballrooms
on both sides of the border.
On that night,
The Miami Showband had played Banbridge in the North
and were heading home after the gig,
when they were stopped by a gang of paramilitaries, who began to fire.
I was actually shot with a dum-dum bullet
and a dum-dum is an explosive bullet
and when it went in, into my gut,
it exploded into 13 pieces
and all the other guys were falling on top of me
and I could feel them just thumping on top of me.
I think Brian was dead very quickly.
He had been shot in the back and in the back of the head
and they turned Fran over...
and he was lying on the ground,
he was crying and asking them, "Don't kill me".
They shot him 22 times,
but 17 of those was in his face,
because he was, as you said, a particularly good-looking lad
and Tony had been hit in the back of the head
and in the back and his hands...
..with multiple injuries as well.
And I heard somebody on the road shouting,
"Come on, I got those bastards with dum-dums. They're dead."
The guy didn't fire into me.
He just left.
Three band members were murdered that night
and two seriously injured...
..innocent victims of a complicated game
of false propaganda and collusion.
I mean, that was when a place that already seemed difficult
seemed almost impossible
and you just can't imagine it getting any worse than this.
Belfast had, I think, pretty much ceased to be
a place where musicians would come.
'Well, it's time for me to stop "Messin' With The Kid",
'and hand you over to Rory Gallagher!'
MUSIC: Messin' With The Kid by Rory Gallagher
Virtually no-one, apart from Rory Gallagher, that is.
Now a hugely successful solo artist,
Rory never abandoned his adopted city.
He became a hero to the music-starved Belfast fan.
MUSIC: Goin' To My Hometown by Rory Gallagher
'In an Irish tour,
'I always try and include Belfast and the North of Ireland.
'After all, I lived there for a while
'and I learnt a lot playing in the clubs there.
'So I had a certain home feeling for the place.'
# I'm gettin' lonesome I'm gettin' blue
# I need someone to talk to
'It's always a great audience in Belfast.
'It's a pity almost no-one else goes to play there.'
# Now let me tell you where I'm going to
# Yes, I'm goin' to my hometown
# Sorry, babe, but I can't take you
# Yes, I'm goin' to my hometown
# Sorry, baby, but I can't take you
# Only got one ticket
# You know I can't afford two
The dates - they'd have to wait until a ceasefire,
which normally happened over Christmas, anyway.
But it was always a fragile peace
and you'd be told,
"Well, no - there's no way you can drive down to Dublin tonight".
He took the risk of being stopped by rogue paramilitary outfits.
But Rory wouldn't take "no" for an answer.
He said "Well, I'm certainly not going to go back
"and play Dublin and Cork and not play in the North of Ireland".
-# Do you wanna go?
-# Do you wanna go?
-# Do you wanna go?
-# Do you wanna go?
-# Do you wanna go, baby?
-# Do you wanna go?
# Do you wanna go? #
There was always this thing about "where did Rory Gallagher come from?"
I remember Taste were one of Maritime bands,
so I always thought he was from here, you know?
There's an example of someone who defied the border
and those difficulties.
I just want to continue playing.
I want to be able to walk into a shop
and buy a bar of chocolate, if I want to,
or go into a bar and have a pint, without being besieged all the time.
I just want an ordinary kind of...
walk down the streets without being recognised sort of life.
Of course, if somebody comes over and says "How you doing, Rory?"
that's fine, but I don't want to get into the Rolls-Royce
and the mansion and the cloak-and-dagger style of living.
Rory Gallagher was actually my first rock gig -
the Irish tour of '74.
He was a home boy and he was dressed as a generic teenager...
he was playing guitar
and he was Irish and he was local
and you could bump into him walking down the street.
Philo was the opposite.
I mean, Phil Lynott was a star, you know?
He was a truly Irish rock star.
Phil Lynott had come a long way from his corporation house in Crumlin.
With a top ten hit in America,
he was providing much-needed glamour to his beloved Dublin...
..with its crumbling economy and rocketing immigration.
I was tired of hearing rock and roll stars saying
how sorry they were for themselves, you know?
Like how they disliked fame and how they were bothered.
I jumped to it, you know?
I was famous, I thought, "Great, the women are after me."
Like, people want to buy me free drink, you know?
And they want to treat me, they want to take me here,
they want to take me there.
Great - and you know, I really went for it, hook, line and sinker.
# Guess who just got back today
# Them wild-eyed boys that had been away
# Haven't changed, had much to say
# But man, I still think them cats are great
# They were asking if you were around
# How you was, where you could be found
# Told 'em you were living downtown
# Driving all the old men crazy
-# The boys are back in town
-The boys are back in town... #
They're a people's band.
Not a critic's band,
not a band that's going to win the record of the year,
but they're a people's band.
That's music that people turn to when they're having a hard time,
when they need a song to lift them up and make them want to fight.
# Dancing in the moonlight
# It's caught me in its spotlight
-It's all right, all right
-Dancing in the moonlight... #
It's Phil's sensitivity in the songs, that I think is
the romance of Thin Lizzy, that most people overlook,
which is why they endure.
Yeah, they're a great hard rock band, but I think it's really Phil's heart
that carries the band through the ages.
# And I'm walking home... #
You'll never find a Dubliner
who would say a bad word about Phil Lynott.
The first Irish person who ever went onto a stage
at Madison Square Garden and said,
"Are you out there?"
was Phil Lynott and it was so fantastic, that one of us...
that any member of this rainy, miserable nation
would ever be given permission to do that.
# The girl's a fool She broke the rules
# She hurt him hard... #
But Phil Lynott's returning rock god act
was only a temporary respite from the grind of Dublin life.
CHORAL CHURCH MUSIC
In truth, little had changed in 20 years.
The power of the Catholic Church remained largely unchallenged.
Political corruption was on the rise
and the economy was in freefall.
Ireland had rock stars, but no rock business.
Come the moment, cometh the man.
There was nothing at all.
There were fans and there were showbands
and therefore, there were no rock gigs and so,
you had to go about setting up your own gigs
and doing your own posters
and creating a sensibility of pop and rock,
doing weird things during gigs.
-# Life pours down into the neon heart
-It's late at night
-# Cement City is all a-spark
-Yeah, that's right
-# The whores are loose and the dames are abroad
-My pants are tight... #
What was great about Bob was he came along and said,
"We're going to take this over.
"We are going to change what happens in the Irish music scene
"and we're going to do it single-handedly".
Bob was the first person who actually ever came along
and sang in an Irish accent, but made it punky and cool, you know?
And that was terribly important, actually,
because whether he meant to or not,
he gave us a sense that it was OK to be Irish,
cos it really wasn't OK to be Irish, you know?
-# I picked her up at the bar that night
-What did you do?
-# I took her home, she didn't put up a fight
-What did you do? #
And they were angry and it was OK to be angry -
anger is still an emotion in Ireland that's looked on
as being terribly not OK -
and especially if you're a girl, you know?
But Bob was angry and that was good, you know?
I had nothing else going.
No exams, no jobs,
no economy, walk.
They're everywhere. The Boomtown Rats here -
a bit of social comment for you. Have a listen to the lyrics of this.
So come the moment, what do you think the songs are going to be about?
We were all in love with him. We all just fancied the arse off him.
He was just the sexiest thing to ever walk the earth, you know?
He was cheeky.
He delivered angry things, but in a funny way.
1977 pop music - that's what we play.
We're the only ones doing it.
And now, this week's number one. As we expected, it's up there again -
Olivia Newton-John, John Travolta and oh, those Summer Nights.
# Had me a blast
# Summer loving Happened so fast...#
It's very hard to describe to people what it was like
when Rat Trap went to number one.
Not just in Ireland...
but in England, it was a great moment, he tears...
On Top Of The Pops,
Bob tears a picture of John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John,
who had sort of... You know, Grease had been at the top of the charts.
It was like pop domination
and here was rock and roll, just biting it on the arse.
Top Of The Pops...
I decided I'd get a special suit for the occasion
and I bought this sort of space-age-y suit and I put an Irish flag here.
Never done it before in my life, never done it since,
but I just thought "Finally, the Paddies did it", you know?
I also tore up John Travolta's picture,
cos that was the end of that period, too.
# There was a lot of rockin' going on that night
# Cruisin' time for the young bright lights... #
Bob Geldof and The Boomtown Rats
were the blueprint for the modern Irish music business.
I mean, Bob had the star quality that Philo had,
that Phil Lynott had,
and they went out there and they took the applause,
whether they deserved it or not
and that taught a young U2
that you had to make your own luck.
Then he said some very important things about Ireland.
I mean, this is the guy who wrote Banana Republic 40 years ago.
We're still dealing with issues of political corruption,
abuse in the Catholic Church...
You know, many, many years before it was safe
to come out and talk about these issues,
Geldof and his band did.
Geldof and his band also bequeathed to Dublin a fledgling music scene.
By contrast, Belfast was a musical ghost town.
'Shortly after two o'clock,
'the bar security guard was held up by a gunman, who planted the bomb...'
'It follows ten days after a similar explosion
'in a pub in the Shankill Road.'
Mid '70s Belfast was a horror story.
There was murder on the streets.
The IRA were blowing our wonderful city apart.
The Loyalist murder gangs were killing poor Catholics
and it was horrific and you just didn't go out at night,
because our pubs had been bombed
and our friends had been shot going home from the pub
and it was a nightmare.
The whole country seemed to be having a nervous breakdown.
The city centre was a no-go area at night,
so punk music only existed in isolated pockets,
within the divided Catholic and Protestant communities.
In the midst of these divisions,
Terry Hooley thought music therapy could be the answer.
On the most bombed street in Europe, in the closed heart of Belfast,
he opened a music shop and called it "Good Vibrations".
The shop became a great meeting place for people on a Saturday.
The next thing, we would get people come in
looking for protection money and stuff.
So that was a bit difficult, but...
Somebody had given me all these country and Irish records,
which we knew that we definitely weren't going to sell.
So I gave them a pile of records, so I did, and they went away!
MUSIC: Big Time by Rudi
# Big time, you ain't no friend of mine
# Big time, you ain't no friend of mine... #
There was something wonderfully anarchic about Terry.
He's always set his face against
the narrow politics of this particular place.
He sets up a record label
and the first thing he puts out is Big Time by Rudi.
It's the revolutionary power of the seven-inch single.
# You've always got some money... #
With a local record label
and a few venues bravely opening up in the city centre,
an enthusiastic punk scene sprung up.
There's an identity for the kids
and a good excuse for Catholics and Protestants to get together.
It's just completely good, as far as Northern Ireland's concerned.
All the stuff that was going on around us -
being searched going into town, being stopped by the British Army,
bombs going off, guns...
You made it to the Harp Bar, you pogo-ed and you had a good time
and hopefully, you got home safe.
We just decided to start a group,
so we borrowed instruments,
we learned a few songs and...hey presto.
# Teenage dreams, so hard to beat
# Every time she walks down the street... #
The next band signed to Good Vibrations
weren't from Belfast at all.
The Undertones hailed from Derry.
# I wanna hold her, wanna hold her tight
# Get teenage kicks right through the night... #
They arrived in their jeans and their parka jackets
and guitars in cardboard boxes with bits of strings
and they started talking and I just didn't have a clue
what they were saying.
HE SLURS IN LONDONDERRY ACCENT
"I think five o'clock, I think..."
And they quietly undid the nuts and they got their guitars out
and Fergal just went "One, two, three, four..." Bang!
-And we went, "Oh, my God".
# I wanna hold her, wanna hold her tight
# Get teenage kicks right through the night... #
Once their first single Teenage Kicks was released,
the band hatched a plot to get it played on John Peel's radio show.
What happened next was a never-to-be-repeated moment.
He phoned up John Peel -
surprisingly, phoned him and got straight through to John Peel.
And I was speaking to a member of the band, The Undertones
who come from Londonderry and the chap I was speaking...
John Peel gave us a heads-up that it was going to be played on the show.
We assembled in John's front room
and then he played Teenage Kicks and then, I think he said,
"That was so good, I'm going to play it again"
and you hear it go back on again.
And it was just great.
So that was unprecedented,
cos we'd been listening to John Peel play from '73, '74 anyway, so...
He'd never, ever done that, at any time.
And he says he thought the singing sounded like Loudon Wainwright...
-I remember that.
..which we didn't understand.
My ambitions were fulfilled very quickly -
making a record, getting it played with John Peel
and getting on Top Of The Pops.
# I've got a cousin called Kevin
# He's sure to go to heaven
# Always spotless, clean and neat... #
How could you not like The Undertones?
A great pop band. I mean, there was no bullshit about The Undertones,
it was just pure pop music, if you like.
Really good. Sometimes sublime.
There was that feeling that something has come back.
That energy again.
Punk didn't knock down the walls,
but it certainly chipped away at a few.
We're just tired of all the shit your ma and da tell you.
It's a load of balls. We live in a stone-faced country,
2,000 people dead, for what?
I mean, who wants a united Ireland?
Who wants to be in the United Kingdom?
It makes no odds to me, like -
I'm still standing on the corner every night
and going down the Harp Bar.
With punk, the youth of Ireland had challenged
much of the island's old certainties and tribal identities.
This song is not a rebel song.
This song is Sunday Bloody Sunday.
Post-punk, rock set out to expose the deep wounds of the island's past
and to imagine a healing.
It was very much the sign of the times - the new Ireland.
Our generation were just sick of the sectarianism.
We were a generation that felt
we were as capable as the rest of the world.
We didn't have to live under this downtrodden history
that we'd suffered from.
It's no coincidence that U2 are synonymous with modern Ireland...
..because they didn't really grow up in the old Ireland.
From around Clontarf, a coastal suburb of Dublin,
they were a mix of Protestant and Catholic,
Irish and English-born.
We were unusual, in that we came from a slightly broader base
than a reactionary Dublin.
If you were a Southern Irish Catholic,
you were inevitably pitted against Protestants, in a way,
and we weren't a part of that.
The mixed thing meant that they weren't exposed
or expected to live up to the Ireland
that we were all told existed.
My thing was, "Kick against it".
They didn't have to kick against anything, cos they thought
they were already living in this modern Ireland.
Even their school spoke to a different Ireland.
All four attended Mount Temple,
a rare Dublin non-denominational comprehensive school.
Mount Temple was set up as an experiment...
..and tried to bring Protestant and Catholic together
and very successfully did.
And Larry put a note on the notice board
looking for people interested in forming a band.
# Oh, no! Man, I just got here
# You got me thinking I'm about to leave
# Some day, maybe tomorrow
# I just don't know, I just don't... #
They would listen very closely to what advice you had
and they would come back a week later and say,
"Well, we've thought about that, that and that
"and we agree with this part, but not everything".
So they were thinking the whole time about
what they could take from what you said, for them.
From the start, U2 looked to America, rather than Europe,
and it was the key to their success.
America would understand Irish passion, you know?
Celtic passion, that would go down in America,
whereas England was all too cool for school.
# In the name of love
# What more in the name of love? #
But it wasn't just a commercial impulse.
Their first American hit, Pride
was a homage to Martin Luther King,
whose message they felt could speak to a divided Ireland.
The theme of Martin Luther King's passive rebellion
was a theme that was complex
and it related to the Irish situation, as well.
So there was cross-fertilisation.
We wanted to make music that represented
the constituency of the people we had come from.
For centuries, the Irish had looked to America for a new life.
For their breakthrough album, U2 repeated the journey,
not as penniless immigrants,
but interested observers.
MUSIC: I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For by U2
The Joshua Tree is a concept album
that paints an Irish portrait of the States
and the Americans loved it.
We connected very much with
that idea of being an immigrant, of travelling west.
It was a way into that version of America.
The Joshua Tree moment happened
because U2 wanted to discover that stuff.
These were young Irish people, discovering America
and thinking about America - thinking about it from the outside, though.
And it is about the America that's inclusive...
..and welcoming to people
and the America that's imperial and punitive
and that's what delivered them to the entire world.
New York City, gateway to a new life
for so many Irish emigres over the years.
Until you've made it here, you haven't really made it.
20,000 people have come here tonight to see U2.
To be here, when the four lads from Dublin
celebrate their conquest of the New World.
MUSIC: Where The Streets Have No Name by U2
# I wanna reach out and touch the flame
# Where the streets have no name... #
The Joshua Tree sold 25 million copies.
U2 were now the biggest band in the world.
We managed to have two songs off that record
that really were genuine top ten hits
and that changed everything, right up to now.
You know, people see us differently, they listen to us differently.
I do think that U2 probably led the idea of Ireland
as being connected to the world...
..which was not my generation.
It fed into Ireland as part of the EU.
It fed into acknowledgement of the Irish diaspora and returning,
it fed into international sporting events...
An outward-reaching Ireland,
as opposed to tightening our inferiority complex.
But there was one missing piece to the Irish rock jigsaw.
Sinead O'Connor used rock
to confront male domination in Ireland
and in rock music itself.
We didn't have a voice, we didn't have independence.
For me, as a young girl, I noticed very, very early that
it was important to become financially independent,
as quickly as possible.
My granny had drilled it into me at a very young age
never to reveal my cash stash to any male relative,
so that one's life wouldn't be controlled by the men -
whether it was your father, or whoever it might be.
And also to get out - to get out of Ireland.
Couldn't wait to get out.
Deliberately never looked behind me, out the window on the plane.
# I'm dancing the seven veils
# Want you to pick up my scarf
# See how the black moon fades... #
You know, in the '80s, you weren't really seeing women who were doing
something very much on their own terms
and then, Sinead comes along
and I think she was 20 when Mandinka came out
and there was this young,
shaved-headed, doe-eyed girl
with this unbelievable, huge,
gospel-y, part-bardic voice.
# I don't know no shame, I feel no pain
# I can't
# See the flame... #
Somebody who was very much in charge of their own destiny,
but just had this almost Amazonian...
one-off-ness about her.
There was nobody you could compare her to.
# I do, Mandinka... #
The passion is coming right up from the earth.
She's like a tree or something.
She's coming straight from the human soul.
We can all kind of feel what she is expressing.
She's like, expressing it for everybody else.
In 1990, Sinead O'Connor's cover of the Prince song
went to number one across the globe.
She became the year's most unlikely pop star.
It bought me, as a woman, enormous financial freedom.
I didn't have to marry anyone,
for any other reason other than I loved them.
I didn't have to be with a fella to offer any reason I loved him.
I could be with any kind of fella I liked.
# Nothing can take away these blues
# Cos nothing compares
# Nothing compares 2 u... #
While the money was very freeing,
being a pop star all of a sudden
and being expected to behave like one
and all that kind of stuff was very, very confusing.
Because it is required, if you're going to be a pop star,
that you're not going to upset the boat about anything.
If someone asks you what you think about Israel,
you've got to say nothing - you're going to change the subject.
If somebody asked you about abortion,
you weren't going to answer the question, you were going to...
play the game, as such.
And that wasn't really in my nature.
# We have confidence
# In the victory of good
# Over evil. #
Fight the real enemy.
It's a weird thing about pouty pop singers.
The last thing they want to do when they get on telly
is to talk about their new record or flog it, you know?
They've got to go, "And another thing!
"And this is wrong, and that..."
All of them. You know, they never shut the fuck up, you know?
It's true, isn't it?
Like, they're always crapping on...
You know, whatever, about me starting off, get Bono going -
Jesus, he never shuts up.
MUSIC: One by U2
Rock music had become so symbolic of a changing Ireland
that when a peace agreement was finally mooted in the North,
the Yes campaign enlisted Bono to help them get their message across.
I just think it's a great time to be here in Belfast
and to be with these men...
who've put aside...a lot.
# You say
# One love
# One life
# When it's one need
# In the night
# One love
# We get to share it
# Leaves you, darling
# If you don't care for it... #
I think that Ireland couldn't have been transformed
without that sort of group of musicians.
U2 and The Rats
and Sinead O'Connor - my sister -
and the earlier people, Rory Gallagher and everybody else.
I think those people changed their country
and their society for the better
and they had a lot of fun while they were doing it, you know?
They made fun legal in Ireland
and for that alone, they should be celebrated.
# Is it too late
# To drag the past out into the light
# We're one
# But we're not the same
# We get to carry each other
# Carry each other
# One... #
Film telling the story of how rock music helped to change Ireland. The 40-year-old story of Irish rock and pop music is grounded in the very different musical traditions of the two main cities of the island, Belfast and Dublin.
This musical celebration charts the lives and careers of some of the biggest selling acts in Irish rock, punk and pop from Van Morrison and Thin Lizzy to The Undertones and U2. From the pioneers of the showbands touring in the late 50s through to the modern day, the film examines their lineage and connections and how the hardcore, rocking sound of Belfast merged with the more melodic, folky Dublin tradition to form what we now recognise as Irish rock and pop.
The film explores where these bands and musicians came from and the influence the political, social and cultural environments of the day had on them and how the music influenced those environments.
With contributions from many of the heavyweights of Irish rock and pop, including U2, Sinead O'Connor and Bob Geldof, it follows their careers as they forged an international presence and looks at how they helped change the island along the way.