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Beat and Ballads '65

By Gay Byrne (from the 1965 RTE Guide)

The trend, they said. What was the trend? The trend, I said by unbelievable wisdom, was really a lesson. That's what 1965 taught us - a lesson: one which should be noted by everyone engaged in the Irish pop record business. The lesson is that it is a business - a tough, treacherous and unpredictable business. Not one to be just dabbled in, in your spare time, while you happen to have nothing else to do. Not a business for the haphazard, the hasty, the sheer-joy-of-it crowd and the let's-have-a-bash brigade. A business which requires thought, effort, hard, persistent  work, ingenuity, shrewdness and money.

Two years ago the novelty of having our own Irish showbands on disc was so great that the fans rushed out and bought them regardless. It didn't really matter what the song was like or the arrangement, or the production. They were our own and they wanted, and got, our support.

But now the honeymoon is over. Mr. Wilson and his Labour government learned it in their first hundred days: the lesson for the Irish showbands was underlined in the last hundred days of 1965.

They won't buy it anymore just because it's home-produced; if you don't deliver the goods, they'll go for something better. 

At a time when Brendan Bowyer, Derek and the Freshmen and Brendan O'Brien were wandering around the Irish Top ten list trying to find a home (with The Wonder of You, La Yenka, and I Love You More Today respectively) along came Ken Dodd and Chris Andrews to bounce their way through the field and make the Number One spot in two short, swift moves, leaving all the other runners floundering and confused somewhere in the rear. 

And this at a time when both Dodd and Andrews were not available for personal exploitation over here, and the two Brendans and the Freshmen were pushing their wares in every ballroom in the country and on television. The reason the foreign discs made it is simple: they were better records.

And what about all the rumours that Irish showbands were "about to break" on the British record scene? A few of them got the chance, took it and that was the last we heard of it. And that's what I mean about competition: in isolation, the Irish discs may sound pretty good, but alongside the efforts from across the water the defects show up so clearly. I have gone through this experience every Tuesday for the past three months in BBC trying to select at least one Irish showband record to include in a record programme. There were very few of them I could honestly stand over and say they deserved their place in the show against the British products. So they didn't get in.

It's not that the individual performance by any individual singer was better; it wasn't. But the overall sound and idea behind the record was so far in advance of ours.

To break into the charts in England and very soon even to get a showing here, is going to demand of us blood, sweat, and tears. And cleverness. And money. Let's hope we can stop hoping for the best in 1966 and get down to it.

That's the trend as far as I'm concerned.

(This article, originally published in 1965, appeared in the 21st anniversary edition of the RTE Guide on December 3, 1982.)

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In Loving Memory of Grant Gallagher: Sept. 21, 1990 - Nov. 18, 2006