A History of the "Showbands"
This website is an historical archive about the showband era in
Ireland. As a word of introduction it is important to note that the
word "historical" when applied to this subject is a conundrum.
Why, you may ask? The reason is quite simple: very little factual
information about the era exists today. Most of the articles written
during the era were usually part of public relations campaigns which
often oversold the band and their music, often reporting on tours
and albums that never actually happened. Additionally, many of the
current sources of info on the topic (books and articles from former
fans or musicians) are written from a more subjective perspective
and blurred through the passage of time (and occasionally alcohol).
Throughout this site, we have tried to thoroughly research and
validate facts, only to have them disputed by other sources or
sometimes the artists themselves. Because of this, we have tried to
limit ourselves to newspaper articles which help us set names and
dates for certain events. Added to this is the fact that in the
1950's and 60's communications in Ireland were poor and often claims
were made by musicians and managers about their band or music which
was being duplicated a hundred miles away in a different town or
country, hence many bands with the same name existed. especially in
the early days. We have done our best to remain factual and avoid
terms like "best, biggest, youngest, brightest, etc."
In The Beginning:
most people already know, Ireland has a rich and ancient musical heritage. In
fact, Irish traditional music forms the basis for other folk music styles around
the world. Yet, Ireland has also had many successes in other forms of music,
including rock and more recently pop. However, prior to the 1950's, Ireland had
produced little original music outside of folk, traditional and Ceili.
Irish "popular" music was non-existent and purists have argued that
creativity in Irish music, if not dead in the 50's and 60's, was
definitely in a coma. However, I take issue with this view of Irish
music history, as I think the Irish Showbands played an integral
role in forming the foundation on which the success of the Irish
artists that followed was built. For this reason, the Irish Showband
will forever hold a special
place in the annals of Ireland's musical landscape.
The chart above attempts to map the musical
influences that came together between 1950 and 1990 to shape the
course of Ireland's musical history.
In the early 1950's and before, the scene was
dominated by Ceili bands, orchestras and ballad singers. This view
leaves out the rich history of the Irish tenors and assumes that the
Ceili influence includes the traditional Irish musicians from the
earlier part of the 20th century.
Although a direct descendant of the orchestra,
the "showband" also took influences from ballads and Ceili music in
their attempt to be provide an all encompassing repertoire.
The early part of the sixties saw the folk
scene and the showbands running in parallel and they were soon
joined by the Beat Group scene which spread from the UK to Belfast,
Dublin and eventually most of the major towns across Ireland. These
different genres rarely crossed paths, although many musicians seems
to move effortlessly from one to another. As the sixties came to a
close, the Irish music scene was in disarray, mainly due to the
falling off of the showbands and the ballrooms.
Searching for new sounds, Irish music made many
of the changes that have remained to this day. As the folk and
traditional influences came together in the form of bands like
Planxty, a "new traditional" music was born which has set the pace
for all that followed. Likewise, the showband split into the country
and pop scenes, providing the impetus for a host of original bands
that have resulted into today's healthy pop scene featuring bands
like the Corrs and Boyzone. And finally, the Beat Groups matured to
form the vibrant rock scene in Ireland that gave rise to bands like
Thin Lizzy, Stiff Little Fingers, and ultimately U2.
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