seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Birth of Brian Downey, Founder & Drummer of Thin Lizzy

brian-downeyBrian Michael Downey, Irish drummer best known as the drummer and a founding member of the rock band Thin Lizzy, is born in Dublin on January 27, 1951. Along with Phil Lynott, Downey is the only constant member of the hard rock group until their break-up in 1983. Downey also co-writes several Thin Lizzy songs. Allmusic critic Eduardo Rivadavia argues that Downey is “certainly one of the most underrated [rock drummers] of his generation.”

Growing up in Crumlin, Dublin, Downey’s early musical influences come from his father who plays in a local pipe band and loves jazz, and also from his 60’s heroes: The Kinks, The Beatles, and The Rolling Stones. In his youth, Downey meets friend, co-founder, and bass guitarist Phil Lynott, who attends the same school. Before forming Thin Lizzy, Downey has been in numerous school bands, beginning with The Liffey Beats, Mod Con Cave Dwellers, and briefly The Black Eagles (with Lynott). He moves on to performing in a local band, Sugar Shack, and then is persuaded by Lynott to join him in another band, Orphanage. Upon meeting guitarist Eric Bell, the trio form Thin Lizzy. Although the line-up of musicians within the band changes over the years, with the exception of Lynott, for the next thirteen years Downey remains the only other permanent member of the band, as well as drumming on Lynott’s solo albums.

After Lynott’s death in 1986, Downey plays in the tribute Thin Lizzy line-up with John Sykes, Scott Gorham, Darren Wharton, and Marco Mendoza, but has been absent from subsequent Thin Lizzy touring bands. After John Sykes’ departure from the group in 2009, guitarist Scott Gorham creates another line-up of Thin Lizzy. Downey, Mendoza, and Wharton rejoin, along with two new members: Def Leppard guitarist Vivian Campbell and former vocalist from The Almighty, Ricky Warwick. This version of Thin Lizzy starts an extensive world tour in January 2010 and continues to tour until early 2013, with new permanent guitarist Damon Johnson eventually replacing Richard Fortus. Gorham has stated that the band members are considering recording new material, and this project eventually emerges under the Black Star Riders name, with which Downey chooses not to be involved due to the pressures of consistent touring.

Downey is a guest at the unveiling of Lynott’s statue in 2005, and drums for Gary Moore at the tribute concert that follows. Downey also appears on Moore’s 2007 album, Close As You Get, and subsequent tour.

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Death of Singer & Songwriter Kirsty MacColl

kirsty-maccollKirsty Anna MacColl, English singer and songwriter, dies on December 18, 2000, at the age of 41 after being hit by a powerboat while on holiday in Cozumel, Mexico.

MacColl records several pop hits between the early 1980s and the 1990s, including “There’s a Guy Works Down the Chip Shop Swears He’s Elvis” and cover versions of Billy Bragg‘s “A New England” and The Kinks‘ “Days.” She also sings on recordings produced by her husband Steve Lillywhite, most notably “Fairytale of New York” by The Pogues.

Early in her career, MacColl signs a solo deal with Stiff Records. She moves to Polydor Records in 1981 but they drop her just as she has completed recording the songs for a planned second album. She returns to Stiff Records however, following their 1986 bankruptcy, MacColl is left unable to record in her own right, as no record company buys her contract from the Official Receiver. She has regular session work as a backing vocalist, and she frequently sings on records produced or engineered by her husband including tracks for Robert Plant, The Smiths, Alison Moyet, Shriekback, Simple Minds, Talking Heads, Big Country, Anni-Frid Lyngstad (of ABBA), and The Wonder Stuff among others.

MacColl re-emerges in the British charts in December 1987, reaching Number 2 with The Pogues on “Fairytale of New York,” a duet with Shane MacGowan. This leads to her accompanying The Pogues on their British and European tour in 1988.

After the contract issue is resolved, MacColl returns to recording as a solo artist and receives critical acclaim upon the release of Kite in 1989. While continuing to write and record, she is also featured on the British sketch comedy French and Saunders.

In 2000, following her participation in the presentation of a radio programme for the British Broadcasting Corporation in Cuba, MacColl takes a holiday in Cozumel, Mexico, with her sons and her partner, musician James Knight. On December 18, she and her sons go diving at the Chankanaab reef, part of the National Marine Park of Cozumel, in a designated diving area that watercraft are restricted from entering. With the group is a local veteran divemaster, Iván Díaz. As the group is surfacing from a dive, a powerboat moving at high speed enters the restricted area. MacColl sees the boat coming before her sons. Louis, then 13, is not in its path, but 15-year-old Jamie is. She is able to push him out of the way but in doing so she is struck by the boat and dies instantly. MacColl’s body is repatriated to the United Kingdom and is cremated after a humanist funeral at Mortlake Crematorium in South-West London.

empty-bench-in-soho-squareIn 2001, a bench is placed by the southern entrance to London’s Soho Square as a memorial to MacColl, after a lyric from one of her most poignant songs: “One day I’ll be waiting there / No empty bench in Soho Square.” Every year on the Sunday nearest her October 10 birthday, fans from all over the world hold a gathering at the bench to pay tribute to her and sing her songs.

MacColl’s collaboration with the Pogues, “Fairytale of New York,” remains a perennial Christmas favourite. In 2004, 2005, and 2006, it is voted favourite Christmas song in a poll by music video channel VH1. The song is re-released in the United Kingdom in December 2005, with proceeds being split between the Justice for Kirsty Campaign and charities for the homeless. The re-release reaches number 3 on the U.K. charts, and spends five weeks in the top 75 over the Christmas and New Year period. It reaches the top 10 for the third time in its history in 2006, peaking at number 6, and charts yet again in December 2007. The song also makes the Top 20 in subsequent years, and has spent more time in the top 20 than any other song.