"This album is dedicated to the memory of Rachel Corrie who lost her life in Gaza. She stood before an American built, Israeli driven earthmover as she tried to defend a Palestinian home that was about to be demolished. She was armed with a megaphone. The Caterpillar machine drove straight over Rachel killing her in the earth."
Frank Harte moved on as I started to sing these songs.
For many of us singers he was The National Archive. He also was a dear Friend. The phone would ring … "Moore ye bollix, give us that one about the Beeswing" or maybe "how does that one about The Witches go, sing it for me". No one in this wide world has anything like the store of songs that Frank possessed and with this treasure he was most generous. The phone would ring "Get up off your arse and we'll go up to Mullaghbawn and sing a few songs" … He helped me so often, we had such fun and laughter and the tears flowed from all directions.
He was tickled and proud when 4,000 people listened in silence to Planxty playing "The Well Below The Valley" for it reaffirmed all he held dear about our song heritage, that these timeless treasures would outlive all memory of their authors, that the songs of the people still belonged to the people … that the oppressor writes the history while the people write the songs … Frank's departure leaves a gap that only time will fill. He also leaves a legacy of 20,000 songs lovingly gathered, referenced and indexed during a lifetime of song. Many of them have been recorded in a series of 6 CDs with his long time collaborator and friend Dónal Lunny …
How I wish I'd gone with Frank to Mullaghbawn …
Sixteen Fishermen Raving — I was at The Cobblestone one night 12 years ago and I heard Wally sing this. I loved it and forgot about it. Then 11 years later I was at a hooley and a fellow called Cathal Henry came up. "when are you going to sing Wally's Fishermen Raving". I believe in signs and this was a clear direction for me to have a cut at it. I always think of Plunky, a fisherman of Dun Laoghaire, when I sing this. How he would love the turn of this lyric.
Motherland — Yer man Harrelson sends me his films sometimes. He's always offering me parts but I'm too busy at the ballads. He sent me a road movie he made and this song was in it. Then a while later I heard that Natalie Merchant was at my gig in The Hall, Lisdoonvarna and that was another sign, (even if she wasn't there). I suppose it's the concrete that did it for me. As we cut swathes through everything it is inevitable that we will run out. It makes me sad and scared and then the chorus comforts me. Why sing it at all, some will say, if that's the way it makes you feel, if only it were so simple.
Butterfly (So Much Wine) — We went to Leap, near Skibberreen, Co Cork and into Connolly's bar to hear Rennie and Brett (and the brother) for the first time. I just loved their songs and demeanour so we went and got all their albums. Two weeks later I sang this song in DeBarras, Clonakilty and it simply took me to an old familiar place. That's what the Handsomes do, they bring us back on long forgotten journeys and forward on others yet to come … they have a few other songs I'd love to sing sometime.
Magic Nights In The Lobby Bar — I'll never forget it. Declan and I were rehearsing this song and there was a knock on the door and John Spillane walked in. I was mortified but John said "Go on lads sing it". Well it was a dramatic 5 minutes, imbued with the most unique circumstance. It became a special performance as we gave John his song back with all the emotion and music and heart that his song deserves. It happened to me once in Manchester, all my favourite songs and singers were pouring out of the wireless. The next morning the woman of the house said, "that radio hasn't worked for years". The Lobby is gone but the memory lives on.
America, I Love You — When we played Glastonbury last year we heard the man and then in Dublin went to hear him again. Superb. Heard this song and it just summed up what I felt about this great land. Wondered if I could sing it and slowly found a way in. We played in the TF Theatre in Castlebar and after the gig I was waylaid by this tank of a female Texan. She tore into me like nobody's business. You called me a pig, Mr. Moore, I want my money back. The promoter refunded her despite my cries that it was only one song she did not like. No she retorted, there was another one. Who is this Allende guy we are supposed to have killed?
Mercy — I'm writing the lyrics of all these songs down as they have evolved and not as they were written. It is impossible for me to sing in other dialects or idioms. I used to do it as a younger man and the results were often embarrassing. I can no longer stand the pain. Many singers who cover songs tend to use the dialect and colloquial phrasing of the writer. Wally Page understands that I can't do that. I have to sing Wally's work for it turns me on. He writes in the Fairview tongue and I sing in a Moorefield / Luke Kelly / John Reilly amalgam. I urge you to get Wally Page albums. Hear his songs as he sings them. His gigs are special too.
Beeswing — I heard Richard sing in the Free Trade Hall in Manchester with a band called Fairport Convention maybe around 1969. I thought they were very good so I went and got pissed. Years after I heard him sing this song and I just had to have it. It chills me to sing this, makes me happy and sad. I want to get mad out of it momentarily but that don't work so I lose myself in Richard Thompson's song and I get out of it. When the anoraks waffle on I yawn and turn the deaf ear. I wish you long and happy days RT.
The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll — There are songsters and there is Dylan. There is a myriad of styles and I know 10,000 songwriters but Dylan stands alone in his field. We will always sing his songs for they are masterpieces of the Art. I cannot think of anything to say about The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll except that Zantzinger is alive and free.
The Magdalene Laundries — I understand the embarrassed sniggers, I see the eyes turn down, I've heard the sharp intake of breath, I've seen the angry glances and I know some would prefer this be left swept underneath the carpet. This is not an option while the culpable stay righteous, while there is a quiet suggestion of denial behind those marble walls, while the abused, the raped and buggered are made to hide in an illogical shame because of the sins of others. It is all there in what they preach, in confession, forgiveness, compassion, recovery, peace of mind. Not everyone wants to hear such a song. Joni Mitchell has written a memorial to all those whom we cast in shame to the sisters, I sing it only in their memory.
ISIS — The principle Goddess of ancient Egypt, Her principle shrines were at Busiris, Abidos and Philae. A statue of ISIS bore the inscription "I am that which is, has been and shall be. My veil no one has lifted. The fruit I bore was the Sun". She was worshipped as a nature Goddess throughout the Roman world and was identified with Juno, lo and Aphrodite. In due course she became an embodiment of the universal Goddess.
ASTARTE — Sometimes considered the Goddess of the Moon. Astarte is the Greek name for the Goddess Ashtorath (or Astoreth). John Milton alludes to Her in Paradise Lost; "With these in troop came Astoreth, whom the Phonoecians called Astarte, Queen of Heaven, with crescent horns".
DIANA — An ancient Italian Goddess identified with Artemis. She was associated with fertility and was the Goddess of hunting and the woodlands. She was largely worshipped by women and was invoked by the Romans under her three aspects. A hymn to Diana reads: "Queen and huntress, chaste and fair, Now the sun is laid to sleep, Seated in thy silver chair, State in wonted manner keep".
HECATE — Goddess of the lower world, of Magic, ghosts and witchcraft. Represented sometimes as a triple God with three bodies back to back and the heads of a horse, a dog and a boar Her offerings would consist of black lambs, dogs and honey which were sacrificed to her at crossroads.
DEMETER — She was the mother of Persephone and was the corn goddess of Greek legend. Identified closely with the Roman God Ceres, she was the Goddess of fruit crops and vegetation.
KALI — Calcutta takes its name from Kali-ghat or the steps of Kali, by which her worshippers descended to the waters of the Ganges. Kali and Siva were the Goddesses of death and destruction to whom the thugs sacrificed their victims. Her idol had red eyes, four arms, matted hair, huge fang like teeth and a protruding tongue, (not the sort of mot you'd like to meet on the way home from the pub!). Kali, or Durga, is a Hindu God.
INNANNA — Principal Goddess of the sumerian Pantheon in ancient Mesopotamia. Daughter of sky god An and of moon god Nanna, her name means — Queen of the sky. In one of many myths she descended to the under-world and claimed its ruling. She was also called Ninsianna as the personification of the planet Venus. Her symbol is an 8-pointed star.
Peace In The Valley Once Again — A song from Brett and Rennie Sparks of The Handsome Family. I sang this for a tycoon recently and it wrecked his buzz. Beyond the Liffey Valley and the Dundrum concrete centre waits another time, just as night follows day and grass follows hay. In the greater scheme it will take Nature an inst to regain all the land consumed by this current pest of golf clubs and shopping centres.
Changes — In 1978 I had a visit from Eamon McCann of Derry who brought me a cassette of songs by the late Phil Ochs. Ochs had been a contemporary of Dylans. This song has always stayed with me. I love to sing it. "Changes" has passed rigorous testing for a number of my own contemporaries dislike it. There is a flawed rendition on the recent box set. I had no intention to record it again. It just seemed to happen. I include it here for I know that some of you love the song as much as I do. There is a story that Phil Ochs came to Ireland in the late 60s and, having performed on The Late Late Show, was "made to leave" Dublin rather hurriedly. I have not been able to get to the bottom of this story. He did spend some time with Victor Jara in Chile prior to Jara's murder by the forces of Pinochet, that great friend of Baroness Thatcher.