The Avondhu - By The Fireside
Songs to cringe (or smile) at...
Back in the mid 1960s when dancing to the showbands was the national pastime, Eileen Reid had a huge hit with ‘I Gave My Wedding Dress Away’ (1964) and thousands flocked to dance halls all over the country to see her come on stage decked out in that famous wedding dress which was subsequently raffled for charity and was won by a 64 year old bachelor.
The Cadets were the first Irish showband to appear on the ITV programme ‘Thank Your Lucky Stars’, sharing the stage with Mick Jagger and The Rolling Stones who, at that time, were relatively knew to the music scene in England.
Less than 12 months before ‘Wedding Dress’ was released, Eileen reached No 1 in the Irish charts with ‘Fallen Star’, a song recorded previously by Jim Reeves. She was the first Irish female to have a No 1 in the charts.
The ‘wedding dress’ song itself, first recorded by American singer Kitty Wells in 1953, tells of the would-be bride allowing her sister take her place and marry the love of her life. While it was The Cadet’s biggest hit by far, it came in for strong criticism from some quarters, because of the lyrics: ‘Tomorrow was to be my wedding day / but I gave my wedding dress away / another will be holding my bouquet / For I gave my wedding dress away / My baby sister wanted him and so she took my place / it’s worth a broken heart to see the smile upon her face’ etc., and it goes on: ‘I saw the lovelight in her eyes / the day she met my Jim / then
I knew that he belonged to her / and she belonged to him’, etc.
The song, or more to the point - the lyrics, became the debate in newspapers and magazines and on many radio shows, the lyrics referred to as being ‘soppy’, ‘stupid’ and ‘condescending’ to women in general. Eileen Reid and the band didn’t mind however as they continued to ride the crest of the showband wave.
Another song to raise the hackles of the Irish public and one that brought strong criticism, including one from Church authorities, was one recorded by Dickie Rock in 1965 entitled ‘Wishing It Was You’ - the guy about to be married the following day and singing to his ‘other woman’: ‘Tomorrow when I’m walking down the aisle / I’ll try to hide my heartache with a smile / ‘Cause when I look at her and say I do / In my heart, I’ll be wishing it was you / Tomorrow when you see me pass you by / please turn your head so won’t see me cry / And just remember when I say I do / In my heart I’ll be wishing it was you’.
The song however, failed to make a dent in Dickie Rick’s popularity, the Dublin crooner going on to have hits with ‘Come Back To Stay’ - Ireland’s Eurovision entry in 1966 and while it finished fourth in Luxembourg, it went on to become No 1 in Ireland’s Top 10. Other hits followed including ‘Simon Says’ and, much later (1972), ‘Back Home Again’.
WITH A DIFFERENCE
And what were people singing in 1969? Don’t tell me you didn’t at some stage sing along with Richie Kavanagh’s ‘Aon Focal Eile’? And yes, you may well have gotten sick of it as it stayed in the top ten in the Irish charts for over six months, two of those months at number one. And while some may have scoffed at it, Richie Kavanagh won an IRMA award for Best Single of the Year and the single is currently the 15th-best selling single in Irish chart history. Adding to the controversy it caused, ‘Aon Focal Eile’ was banned by BBC radio stations and could only be played on other radio stations in the UK after midnight.
Then of course, we had ‘The Langer Song’ in 2004 from Tim O’Riordan and Natural Gas and while some people hated it, it’s safe to say the majority loved it. Conna musician Mo O’Connor was part of the Natural Gas band when the song was recorded and later, it was re-recorded with Sean Ó Sé adding his voice to it in a verse ‘as Gaelige’. One of the verses goes: ‘And our hero, Roy Keane / Footballer supreme / The finest this country and Man-U’s ever seen / And we’d have won the World Cup / But Mick McCarthy fouled up / Roy was dead right to call him a Langer’.