Monday, July 02, 2007

My Night With Brendan Bowyer....

There’s a press in the front room of my family home, an Aladdin’s cave of our lives. If you were looking for a baby photo or an old Savings Certificate the chances are you’d find it in there somewhere. I had occasion about two years ago to slide the door back and unleash onto the floor a combined 159 years of personal mementos. Buried amongst the sheets of first day release Pope John Paul II stamps, library cards and countless other items of tack lay a napkin from Clontarf Castle with the scrawl…To Tiberius, Keeping on Hucklebucking, Brendan Bowyer. It mightn’t sound like the most consequential discovery of all time, but that scrap of paper - an annual present my mother brought back from her pilgrimage like journey to the Castle to see the bold BB - indirectly led to me sitting five feet away from Bowyer in a darkened room in Temple Bar last Wednesday.

It’s not as if anything suddenly acted as a stimulus to send my mind racing back to days of being 1 of 8 in a car on a cross country mission to wedge myself into a dance hall for a glimpse of the Royal or the Miami, spending a week’s wages in the process. My parents hadn’t even met by the time the Royal went to Vegas in 67, I don’t even know how I know that the Royal went to Vegas in 67. Anyway…the note, stick with me on this one, ignited somewhat of an interest in this age when people went to the lengths they went to to partake in a common social experience. I know it probably sounds odd for someone in their mid 20s to feel somewhat jealous about an era when you could go your entire courting life without seeing the music act of the day or be forced to endure a six week wait to get a sniff at the latest cinema release so exclusive was the a place in the one screen dotted in various towns across the country. You’d imagine having grown up in Ireland in an age where access to live music and other forms of popular culture is relatively easy, you miss George Michael once, don’t worry the This Is My Final Tour And I’ll Never Play Live Again Show will soon roll back into Dublin for his 7th show in 10 months.

The “good old days” so often have been the subject of major piss-taking in our house, a topic, the very mention of which for so long instilled in my sister and I a desire to leave a personal shaped hole in the kitchen wall so great was the desire to evacuate the situation. Sitting in the IFI the other evening watching Peter Collinson’s The One Nighters got me thinking about the role these bands played in inspiring people and creating community in those days gone by. The pride evident on the faces of those standing in the lobby afterwards when talking about those young men who had emerged from ordinary backgrounds like there’s as they spoke of them travelling around the country setting the music scene alright. The collective sorrow when Tom Dunphy’s face flashed on the screen and what seemed to be a sense of personal lost at the tragic death of a man none of them had likely ever met. The sense of adulation when Bowyer got up at the end of the night to answer questions from a room, the age of which average well in the 50s but seemed more like a gathering of school girls after stumbling upon an audience with Justin Timberlake.

I grew up equidistant from Brian O’Driscoll and Mark Greaney (JJ72), one a year either side of me in terms of age at school. The notion that my peers might sit down someday and have a conversation about the achievement of either without it degrading into bitterness and begrudgery is inconceivable to me. I hate using the word celebrity because of the abuse it’s been subject to in recent years and what being a celebrity now means. It’s hard to avoid though. It’s hard to dispute that the relationship has deteriorated between the common man and those from around us who’ve gone on to achieve something on a public level. I’ve been trying to think what the main reason may be? Media coverage, the level of wealth bestowed upon people in the late teens/early 20s and the gulf that it brings between them and the common man. Got me thinking too about the sense of ownership we have over Irish celebs and the roll we can boast in their success? Footballers go to England at the age of 15 or 16 to be shaped into the game, music acts (barring U2) head off to the States to record and chase the dream. The only thing that comes close at this stage is provincial Gaelic Games where again people have some sense of connection with the men and women who go out and represent them in the field of play.

Let’s bring back the showbands – they might have been naff but at least they gave us something to believe it!


  1. Thats an interesting post. I have felt much the same on occassion. It seems that there is less innocence in the world today. People being paid stupid amounts of money for playing football or rugby or because they are "Sellable". We seem to have it all now. Everything is easy. But where is the excitement of saving for something special, having to prebook months in advance instead of last

  2. You're completely right Tiberius - in a culture where everything is readily accessable then nothing has value.

    Having The Hucklebuck on vinyl doesn't make me feel old at all! It was my partry piece when I was a kid.