I am drawn compulsively to RTE radio these days, like a junkie to a hit. The financial news for Ireland is so impossibly dire that it is hard to keep away from it. But in recent days when I’ve had my fill on the drive to work I have turned to music, but even there I couldn’t escape it.
Last week it was Paul Brady’s Hard Station album, which I’ve had for years but haven’t listened to in a while. It was first released in 1981 just when Jack Lynch and then Charlie Haughey, also of Fianna Fail, were driving the country to the brink of financial ruin through profligate spending, leaving us in the last of the great Irish depressions.
It was Brady’s first rock album, marking his move from traditional music and I’ve always thought it was his best. The title song chronicles the difficulties of finding work, and the closer on the album Nothing But the Same Old Story…well…how history repeats itself eh?
That song always stirs my blood, the anger and frustration, allied to a typical Irish tendency to stick with what’s familiar no matter how toxic it may be.
It has an urban connection to what I the musical choice of today. This morning, after listening to politicians argue, still unable to agree the budgetary way ahead I turned to another old album, this a classic from the Clash, London Calling. Released in 1979, it again marked a turning point in musical styles addressing the racial conflict, unemployment and drug abuse of contemporary Britain. The title track was inspired by the Three Mile Island disaster I think, but I heard it this morning in the context of successive generations of young Irish people who have been forced to leave the country because of poverty and incompetence.
London’s calling again. And Beijing, and Frankfurt, Birmingham, Liverpool and New York and Boston, and Sydney, and all those other cities of the world which have provided a welcoming home for Irish emigres, desperate for escape and a new start.
The ice age is coming, the sun is zooming in
Engines stop running and the wheat is growing thin…