Ireland has so much to offer visitors – a rich history, vivid scenery, vibrant cities, great pubs, and enough stories to keep you entertained for a lifetime. The echoes of a rich musical heritage ring out loud and clear too. If you are taking a ferry to Northern Ireland anytime soon, here is a reminder of some of the greatest bands and musicians from that part of the world, who have added beauty and spark to our musical landscape.
Teenage Kicks With The Undertones
Fronted by the razor faced Feargal Sharkey, five skinny lads from Derry who called themselves The Undertones became a pivotal part of the New Wave movement, largely because the revered disc jockey John Peel adored them. He cited Teenage Kicks as his favourite track of all time, after the band posted him a demo.
Terri Hooley, the legendary founder of Belfast punk label Good Vibrations, heard the future in the biting, frustrated, romantic sound of The Undertones and he was right. His young charges stormed the charts in the late 1970s with a sound which distilled punk verve and pop jubilation.
Van Morrison and Them
Depending on whether you catch him on a good day or a bad one, Van Morrison is a lyrical genius with the voice of a Stax superstar, or he is a disgruntled mumbler filled with disdain for his audience. Let’s be magnanimous here though. The quixotic Belfast performer has covered a huge amount of musical ground and he has done so with flair and individuality – from the scorching R&B anthem of Gloria, which he cut while he was with the band Them, to the solo poetic visions to be found in his seminal album Astral Weeks, to his sure footed chart pleasers like Brown Eyed Girl and Moondance. Pure pleasure.
Stiff Little Fingers
The city of Belfast was no slouch when it came to providing grist to the punk mill. The Outcasts and Rudi were both princes of the underground scene in 1970s Belfast, as were Stiff Little Fingers, who were also on the Good Vibrations Label. SLF covered more political ground than The Undertones and they too were championed by Peel. Their early disc, Inflammable Material, was the first independent record to chart in the UK.
In case you thought the best of Northern Ireland’s musical offering was in the distant past, Snow Patrol prove that theory wrong. The band got together at Dundee University, but several of the lads are from Northern Ireland and they have sold more than 10million albums worldwide. Their melodic indie sound spoke to the Post Britpop audience just like The Undertones did back in the late 1970s.
The Divine Comedy and Neil Hannon
Purveyors of all things whimsical and vaudevillian, Neil Hannon was one of the most distinctive writers to come out of the early 1990s. One minute he was paying homage to the National Express coach line, the next to Chekhov and Wordsworth. There might be something of Noel Coward about Neil, but he is a Derry man, raised in Enniskillen. He even penned that slightly lop-sided theme tune to Father Ted.
The Future is Now
The roster of musical talent hailing from Northern Ireland doesn’t end there of course. Thin Lizzy’s axeman Gary Moore, who gave us the lovely and languorous Parisian Walkways hailed from Belfast. Death metal devotees rate Condemned, who are from Belfast, and Gama Bomb, from Dublin.
The music scene in Northern Ireland is still a hotbed of talent, with many of the great bands from this exciting part of the world yet to be discovered. So while you are there, pop into the local pub or club and find a new act to rave about.