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Freeborn men: the Dubliners & the revolution

This is about the Irish group the Dubliners. Almost every folk musician in Ireland has been in this group, which has been playing for 50 years. I’m talking here only about the band’s first few years, and the impact they had at that time.

There was a revolution going on then, and not just in music. In France the students were about to take to the streets. In America there were race riots, and President John Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jnr were murdered. In Britain a new Labor government came in with everybody’s hopes on its shoulders. And in Ireland the IRA was at the heart of a series of terrorist outrages that killed hundreds of innocent bystanders. The students went back to school, the American protesters got turned on to the large amount of illegal drugs suddenly coming up from South American sources, the British and Irish patched up a makeshift peace that satisfied no-one but which was better than a civil war. Suddenly it was a different world.

The year 1964 was a watershed for popular music. You can divide pop music, and the people who listened to it, into two very different groups, pre-1964 and post-1964, something never possible to that degree before or since. It was bigger than 1900, when ragtime developed into jazz. It was bigger than 1930, when George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Oscar Hammerstein and Jerome Kern were all producing songs at a prolific rate. 1964 was the year pop music changed the world, at least in the affluent West. There had been a similar musical revolution in 1955, when Little Richard invented rock and roll and opened the door to performers like Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry and Fats Domino. But rock was marginalised: Elvis was conscripted (1958), Buddy Holly died (1959), Chuck Berry jailed (1962) and Little Richard entered the church (1958), and the audience for this music dispersed. In 1964 the revolution succeeded, and created, eventually, some of the most lucrative markets outside of war and illegal drugs, and an entirely new collective, an audience who enthusiastically adopted something entirely new.

In 1964 there appeared not one but four revolutionary performers who would never have had an audience before, but who in 1964 were enormously popular, and whose influence is still powerful today. In America Bob Dylan changed the protest song movement from a marginal political one to something that was broadcast on radio stations throughout the world through the release of his 1964 album The Times They Are A Changing, and if that wasn’t enough, later in 1964 he released Another Side of Bob Dylan, in which he expressed his personal feelings in a way never done before in pop music, and in songs that were taken seriously as poetry by mainstream critics. In 1964 the Beatles, who had smashed record sale records the previous year with their albums Please Please Me and With the Beatles, were at the centre of what the press called beatlemania, and their 1964 albums, A Hard Day’s Night and Beatles For Sale, showed them to be among the most prolific and talented pop music composers of all time. The Rolling Stones released their first two albums in 1964, and inspired a rhythm and blues revival still going on, as well as inventing both visually and musically what we call rock and roll today, and in the process were (for a time) the greatest rock and roll band in the world. And in Ireland the Dubliners took Irish folk music, and through the phenomenal impact of their first album, released in 1964, placed it on the pop music charts, something that had never happened before. The Dubliners placed 14 songs in the British pop singles charts (including two number ones) between 1966-1994 and had three top selling albums on the UK album charts.

I’m going to talk about the Dubliners here, because they haven’t had their due as revolutionary performers. Dylan, the Stones and the Beatles are secure in their place, but the Dubliners have a place beside them. Most people are going to ask, “but what’s folk music got to do with pop, or Dylan, the Rolling Stones or the Beatles?” You guessed it. All four artists played folk music. They injected a massive dose of folk music into an increasingly bland pop market left over from the 1950s, and went right back to the roots of music. The Beatles mixed music hall and rhythm and blues, the Rolling Stones turned rhythm and blues into music theatre, Bob Dylan kept crossing musical boundaries, riling his fans yet retaining his prestige, and the Dubliners kicked the fusty old folklorist in the seat of the pants and showed that folk music rocked.

Their impact
The Dubliners are celebrated as one of the most accomplished Irish folk groups, and one of the longest lasting (there’s probably still a version of the group performing somewhere today). They are top sellers, and have a legion of fans around the world. Just to be different, I want to look at them here as pop stars. Specifically, at their influence, on pop music and folk music, not on their sales record (and remember Bob Dylan didn’t break any sales records either, but was one of the most influential figures in popular culture).

Their appearance was startling. It was an era of suits and button-down collars, and if you were well dressed you wore a tie. Crew cuts were in. The Dubliners were hairy. They had twice as much hair as the Beatles, and each of them sported an enormous beard as well. They dressed in outrageously brightly coloured clothes. They broke more contemporary boundaries in appearance than the Beatles and the Rolling Stones combined. But it was in a neat little town called Dublin, and the impact was minimised accordingly.

They were loud. Compared to the Clancy Brothers and most other folk groups then they were deafening. Two banjos, amplified guitar, violin, whistle and accordion and two of the loudest voices on record, and a big hob nailed boot thumping out the beat. A noisy performance begat a noisy audience, and the Dubliners showed themselves able to outshout and outwit even the most outrageous audience. Their live concerts are classics. This style is usually described as “pub folk”: it’s very early folk rock, just before it crossed over entirely into pop via the examples of groups such as Steeleye Span and the Byrds. The Dubliners played protest songs, IRA songs, anti-British songs, and were at times militantly anti-Establishment. They got away with it because they were Irish: but their attitude was a foretaste of that of the Sex Pistols later. They sang “Fuck the British Army” and even if it was printed “F**k” the impact was immense for those times.

The Dubliners recorded their début album at Cecil Sharp House in London in 1963, but their big break came four years later when their slightly risqué version of ‘Seven Drunken Nights’ suddenly crashed into the UK charts after constant airplay by the pirate station Radio Caroline. Another hit that year, ‘Black Velvet Band’, confirmed the Dubliners’ crossover breakthrough and they began to tour all over the world, their sound instantly identified by Drew’s extraordinary, corncrake voice and Kelly’s rough tenor.

The Dubliners have influenced performers such as the Pogues, Hothouse Flowers, Rory Gallagher, Jah Wobble, Bono, Elvis Costello, Billy Connolly and De Danaan, with all of whom they have performed. Fans include Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, John Lennon, Nick Mason, Jimi Hendrix and Christy Moore. Songwriters whose work they have publicised include Robert Burns, Phil Coulter, Ewen McColl and Dominic Behan. This is obviously a group which cuts across such clearly defined genres as folk music. Which is why I see them as pop music performers.

Yet despite that the Dubliners seemed to have had it both ways. They made an impact on the pop charts, created defining versions of folk songs that influenced a whole generation of emerging musicians, publicised the work of several important singer/songwriters and created a performing style that’s been picked up by rock musicians, not just by other folk performers.

At the same time all the Dubliners were exceptionally gifted musicians. Their sound was based on the banjo playing of Barney McKenna, still one of the most gifted players in the world as he has been for the past 50 years. This was augmented by the violin of John Sheahan, classically trained and competition winning virtuoso. Ciarán Bourke, a superb performer on whistle, accordion and harmonica, as well as a more than competent vocalist, has been largely overlooked as he stopped performing so early because of illness. These three created the sound of the Dubliners, rock solid, melodious and vibrant. Both Luke Kelly and Ronnie Drew are more than vocalists, though they are probably still the two finest vocalists in all of Irish music. They both researched and preserved an important part of Ireland’s musical history, and occasionally wrote words and music themselves as well as performing on the banjo and guitar respectively.

I’m a Freeborn Man (Ewan MacColl)
I’m a freeborn man of the traveling people
Got no fixed abode, with nomads I am numbered
Country lanes and byways were always my ways
Never fancied being lumbered.

O we knew the woods, and the resting places
And the small birds sang when wintertime was over
Then we’d pack our load and be on the road
They were good old times for the rover.

There was open ground where a man could linger
Stay a week or two, for time was not your master
Then away you’d jog with your horse and dog
Nice and easy, no need to go faster.

Now and then you’d meet up with other people
Hear the news, or else swap family information
At the country fairs, we’d be meeting there
All the people of the traveling nation.

All you freeborn men of the traveling people
Every tinker, rolling stone, or gypsy rover
Winds of change are blowing, old ways are going
Your traveling days will soon be over.

The albums
The 1964 album The Dubliners featured three outstanding songs performed by Luke Kelly. ‘The Wild Rover’, ‘Rocky Road to Dublin’ and ‘The Banks of the Roses’ remained audience favourites for years. The In Concert album of 1965 had outstanding instrumental tracks ‘The Sligo Maid and Colonel Rodney’, a superb rendition of Dominic Behan’s ‘The Patriot Game’ by Ciarón, Ronnie’s version of ‘The Old Orange Flute’ (you have to be Irish to laugh at the situation described) and ends with all singers taking turns at ‘The Leaving of Liverpool’. In 1966’s live album Finnegan Wakes, Ronnie comes to the fore, with defining versions of ‘McAlpine’s Fusiliers’ (Dominic Behan’s song), ‘The Glendalough Saint’ and ‘Finnegan’s Wake’, while Luke finishes the program with ‘Nelson’s Farewell’, celebrating a patriot who blew up a statue of Horatio Nelson erected in the heart of Dublin by insensitive administrators.

In 1967 A Drop of the Hard Stuff entered the UK album pop charts (as did the two following albums. The Dubliners had ‘crossed over’). It contained a hit single ‘Seven Drunken Nights’ sung by Ronnie, one of the group’s best instrumentals, ‘Colonel Fraser and O’Rourke’s Reel’, and two outstanding tracks sung by Luke, ‘The Rising of the Moon’, celebrating the 1798 uprising against the British, and Ewen MacColl’s ‘The Travelling People’, from one of his radio programs on the Gypsies. Anti-British material included ‘The Old Alarm Clock’, ‘McCafferty’ and the above mentioned ‘Rising of the Moon’, as well as laments on the treatment handed out to the Irish, ‘The Black Velvet Band’ and ‘Poor Paddy on the Railway’. More of the Hard Stuff included three Dominic Behan songs, including ‘The Old Triangle’, from his brother Brendan’s play The Quare Fellow, sung by Ronnie. Luke’s version of ‘Whiskey in the Jar’ has been popular ever since, and he also contributed a satirical recruitment song ‘Come and Join the British Army’ as well as a defining version of Ewan MacColl’s ‘Shoals of Herring’. 1968’s Drinkin’ and Courtin’ featured some famous songs from Luke, including Ewan MacColl’s ‘Dirty Old Town’ and Robert Burns’ ‘Peggy Gordon’. At It Again of 1968 contained another hit, ‘Seven Deadly Sins, Burns’ ‘Tibby Dunbar’, and a Drew-Kelly composition, ‘The Irish Navy”.

It’s probably easy to dismiss it all now as “Irish drinking songs”, but the mixture was a carefully calculated one, of bawdy drinking songs, some of the best songs by important contemporary songwriters like Behan and MacColl, many of which had social commentary as intransigent as anything Bob Dylan ever wrote, several pro-Irish and anti-British songs, and the whole sweetened by some of the most stirring yet melodious dance music heard from any Irish group.

The Irish are an emotional race, and so is their music. Whether it’s drinking, courting, dancing or feeling outraged, they let it all out. The Dubliners are a good example. They have an audience all over the world, courtesy of the Hunger, which spread Irish families around the globe. Whether you’re Irish, or only 62% Irish like myself, it’s stirring music the Dubliners play, and it’s been good for a long, long time.

The music 
The Dubliners’ music today is available on a confusing selection of compilation albums, many of which contain the same tracks. The only original album available is the 1966 live one Finnegan Wakes. It’s one of their best, with Ronnie and Luke interacting so well with the audience they almost succeed just as a stand up show, before playing any music. The Original Dubliners, a 1993 compilation album on two CDs, contains four of the albums of the late 60s. These two releases are the best current buys.

More information
Aside from my opinions, which are wildly opinionated and probably quite ignorant, I found much of the information here on this site, which has everything you could possibly want to know about the Dubliners: http://itsthedubliners.com. And a big thank you to the writer on wikipedia who knows more about the Dubliners than anyone else on the web. Some lyrics can be found here: http://unitedireland.tripod.com/dubliners_lyrics_chords_and_tabs.html. The information below is summarised from wikipedia entries.

Performers

Ronnie Drew was the founder of the Dubliners. He was a raucous, ebullient performer with a sly sense of humour, but also a sensitive, deeply intelligent, devoted family man, with an abiding interest in literature, theatre, poetry, world affairs and local politics. The son of a carpenter, Drew was born in Glasthule, a small village about eight miles from Dublin, on 16 September 1934. He attended school in Dun Laghaire. Leaving school at the age of 17, he spent seven years working in a series of jobs including as an electrical apprentice, an assistant in a drapery shop, an electric equipment and vacuum cleaner salesman, a kitchen porter, a hotel elevator operator, and a telephonist for the Dublin Telephone Exchange. He then moved to Spain, spending three years teaching English in Seville and learning to play Spanish guitar. Back in Dublin, a friend, John Molloy, an actor working at the Gate Theatre in the city, suggested Drew perform a spot at one of the shows there. At the Gate he met the banjo player Barney McKenna, while Drew’s interest in Irish folk music was further sparked by seeing colourful folk singers like Margaret Barry and Dominic Behan. Drew then met and struck up a friendship with another singer, guitarist and banjo player Luke Kelly, and they’d go drinking together at O’Donoghue’s pub with Barney McKenna. There they also met Ciarán Bourke, a singer and tin whistle player, and at a time when it was rare to hear live music in pubs, they got special dispensation from the landlord, Paddy O’Donoghue, to play together in his pub. The fiddle player John Sheahan was another regular, and was later inducted into the group. The band initially billed themselves as the Ronnie Drew Group. When Luke Kelly returned to Ireland in 1962 after a foray in England, they changed their name to the Dubliners at Drew’s suggestion, in honour of the James Joyce book Kelly was reading at the time. With their bawdy material, barn-storming delivery and rough accents, the Dubliners built their reputation as a raucous good-time band, having fun on stage and partying hard off it. Drew, however, had an important stabilising influence in his life after meeting Deirdre McCartan, the daughter of an Irish politician. They were married in 1963, and remained a solid partnership until Deirdre’s death in 2007.

Drew left the Dubliners in 1974 and made two solo albums before rejoining in 1979. The emergence of the Pogues, taking clear inspiration from the Dubliners’ direct style, triggered a revival of their fortunes, which gained momentum when the two bands collaborated on the hit single ‘Irish Rover’ in 1987 and Drew’s rowdy singing and rampant humour won over a new generation of fans. In 1995 he quit the Dubliners again, touring with a one-man show, and released the solo album Dirty Rotten Shame. Drew has been involved with a wide range of artists. While his 1995 solo album, Dirty Rotten Shame, featured a duet, ‘Drinkin’ in the Day’, with Bono of U2, he served as a guest vocalist on Jah Wobble’s 1998 album, The Celtic Poets. In addition to touring with De Danaan during a 1996 tour of Europe, Drew performed in Italy with pianist Antonio Breschi in April 1997 and Australia and New Zealand with Donal Lunny in May 1997. He toured in 1998 in a one-man cabaret show, Ronnie, I Hardly Knew Ye. Many of Drew’s recent solo concerts have been collaborations with guitarist Mike Hanrahan. In 2006 Drew was diagnosed with throat and lung cancer. Many of the artists who had taken inspiration from him – U2, Sinead O’Connor, The Corrs, Chieftains, Damien Dempsey, Shane MacGowan, Christy Moore – released a tribute single, ‘The Ballad of Ronnie Drew’, with proceeds to the Irish Cancer Society. It topped the Irish charts. Ronnie Drew died of cancer in Dublin on 16 August 2008.

Luke Kelly was famous for over 20 years as a lead singer for the Dubliners, and as a solo singer and instrumentalist, a scholar of folk music, and a social activist who fought for many causes. He was born 16 November 1940 in the North Wall area of Dublin dockyards. Educated at St Laurence O’Tooles school (the patron saint of Dublin) in Seville Place, he left school at 13 to ride a messenger boy’s bicycle. His family was a large and close one. Luke’s father, another Luke, worked for Jacobs the biscuit people and had a great love of soccer – a love he passed on to his son. In the footsteps of his father, his mother and the rest of the family he went to work in Jacobs when he was 14. He then worked for a while as a docker, a builder, a drain digger and a furniture remover before leaving for England in 1957. At that time he had no thoughts of becoming a singer, but while selling vacuum cleaners in Newcastle he soon developed an interest in music. In London, he met Dominic Behan, Brendan Behan’s brother, who introduced Luke to the folk music of Northern England and Scotland. He was heavily influenced by Dominic’s own songs, and those of Ewan McColl. After two-and-a-half years he shouldered his banjo and went to Paris where he sang in the streets. Arriving back in Dublin in 1962, he frequented O’Donoghue’s pub on Merrion Row. There he met Barney McKenna and Ronnie Drew, who shared in the growing interest in folk music. After he had appeared on a show with other individual members of the Dubliners, the suggestion was made by Ronnie Drew, who was already well-known at the time, that they should form a group.

After they established a secure base in Dublin in places like the Abbey Tavern in Howth, Luke and the Dubliners made a record, which was released in England, boosting their popularity and creating a demand for them elsewhere in the world. Very shortly they were touring the U.S., Australia and New Zealand. The heady mixture of instrumentals from John Sheahan on fiddle, banjoists Luke and Barney McKenna, whistle player Ciaran Bourke, along with Ronnie Drew’s and Luke’s singing, soon put the Dubliners to the forefront of the international folk and ballad circuit. Throughout this time Luke diversified his interests and found time to act and write poetry. One of his best-known performances was in Brendan Behan’s play, Richard’s Cork Leg. Luke was married to Deidre O’Connell, a method actor who opened her own theatre in Dublin, the Focus Theatre. Some of his likes, he once said, were Beethoven, violin concertos, reading and staying up late, as well as, of course, ‘good black stout’. He also said: “Everything fascinates me”. Luke Kelly died in a Dublin hospital on 30 January 1984. He was 44 years old. Ronnie Drew and Barney McKenna were with Luke when he died. He had been in a critical condition following a brain tumor operation. In 1980, Kelly had the first of several major operations after collapsing in Cork. In April 1981 he collapsed again during a performance at the Embankment in Tallaght, Dublin. Luke Kelly left a widow, Deirdre, and he also left countless thousands of friends – many of whom only knew him through concert or record – who have followed his career with the Dubliners for over 20 years. He’s the kind of singer the listener forms a personal relationship with, even if they’ve never seen him or met him.

Dominic Behan (Irish: Doiminic Ó Beacháin) was an Irish songwriter, short story writer, novelist and playwright who wrote in both Irish and English, one of the most influential Irish songwriters of the 20th century. He was born in inner-city Dublin into an educated working class family on 22 October 1928. His father, Stephen Behan, fought for the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in the Anglo-Irish War. Dominic was the brother of Brendan Behan. His mother, Kathleen, was a collector of songs and stories. Behan became a member of Fianna Éireann, the youth organization of the IRA and published his first poems and prose in the organization’s magazine Fianna: the Voice of Young Ireland. In 1952 he was arrested in Dublin for leading a civil disobedience campaign in protest against the ruling government’s failure to tackle unemployment and other critical economic issues. Dominic Behan married Josephine Quinn, the daughter of John Quinn, a cabinet maker from Glasgow. They emigrated to England where Behan had been working for the BBC, writing radio scripts, mainly for the Third Programme. His play Posterity Be Damned, 1959, dealt with republican activity after the Civil War of 1922–23. An autobiographical novel Teems of Times (1961) was received to critical acclaim. His autobiography, Tell Dublin I Miss Her, was also published in 1961. A biography of his brother appeared in 1965, My Brother Brendan.

It was as a songwriter that Behan excelled. He was a prolific composer and had more than 450 songs published during his lifetime. His songs were very popular in Ireland and also among the Irish living in England, songs such as ‘The Auld Triangle’, ‘The Patriot Game’, ‘McAlpine’s Fusiliers’, ‘Avondale’, ‘The Merry Ploughboy’, ‘Famine Song’ and ‘Liverpool Lou’. In 1958, he released The Singing Streets: Childhood Memories of Ireland and Scotland on Folkways Records along with fellow folksinger Ewan MacColl. Dominic died at home in Glasgow, aged 60, on 3 August 1989 of pancreatic cancer, shortly after the publication of his critically acclaimed novel The Public World of Parable Jones. He was survived by his widow and two sons, Fintan and Stephen. He was cremated, and his ashes were scattered at the Royal Canal, Dublin near his birthplace.

Ewan MacColl was born James Henry Miller on 25 January 1915 in Broughton, Salford, Lancashire to Scottish parents, William Miller and Betsy Hendry. He was a folk singer, songwriter, socialist, actor, poet, playwright, and record producer. He was the father of singer/songwriter Kirsty MacColl, and husband of theatre director Joan Littlewood, and later of American folksinger Peggy Seeger. In 1936 Miller and his wife Joan formed Theatre Union. In 1946 members of Theatre Union and others formed Theatre Workshop. Jimmie Miller had by then changed his name to Ewan MacColl. During this period MacColl’s enthusiasm for folk music grew. Inspired by the example of Alan Lomax, who had arrived in Britain and Ireland in 1950, MacColl also began to collect and perform traditional ballads. Over the years MacColl recorded and produced upwards of a hundred albums, many with English folk song collector and singer A.L. Lloyd. The pair released an ambitious series of eight LP albums of more or less the complete Child Ballads. MacColl also produced a number of LPs with Irish singer songwriter Dominic Behan, brother of the playwright, Brendan Behan. In 1956, MacColl caused a scandal when he fell in love with twenty-one-year-old Peggy Seeger. MacColl, who was twenty years older than Peggy, was still married to his second wife, the dancer Jean Newlove (b. 1923), the mother of two of his children, Hamish (b. 1950) and Kirsty (1959–2000).

Many of MacColl’s best-known songs were written for the theatre. For example, he wrote ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’ very quickly at the request of Peggy Seeger. The song became a #1 hit in 1972 when covered by Roberta Flack and won MacColl a Grammy Award. In 1959, MacColl began releasing LP albums on Folkways Records, including several collaborative albums with Peggy Seeger. MacColl’s song, ‘Dirty Old Town’, inspired by his home town of Salford in Lancashire was written to bridge an awkward scene change in his play, Landscape with Chimneys (1949). MacColl had been a radio actor since 1933. By the late thirties he was scripting as well. Between 1957 and 1964, eight of these programs were broadcast by the BBC, all created by the team of MacColl and Parker together with Peggy Seeger who handled musical direction. MacColl wrote the scripts and the songs, as well as, with the others, collecting the field recordings which were the heart of the productions. MacColl himself wrote over 300 songs, some of which have been recorded by artists such as Planxty, The Dubliners, Dick Gaughan, The Clancy Brothers, Elvis Presley, Weddings Parties Anything, and Johnny Cash. In 2001, The Essential Ewan MacColl Songbook was published, which includes the words and music to 200 of his songs. After many years of poor health he died on 22 October, 1989 in Beckenham.

Dubliners partial discography
1964 The Dubliners
The Dubliners is the debut album by The Dubliners. It was produced by Nathan Joseph and released by Transatlantic Records in 1964. The line-up consisted of Ronnie Drew, Barney McKenna, Luke Kelly and Ciaran Bourke. The original LP title was simply “The Dubliners”. When Luke died and the magnitude of his contribution was realised, the record company changed it by adding ‘with Luke Kelly’ to the title.
1965 In Concert (Live)
In Concert is a live album by the Dubliners, released in 1965. By the time the Dubliners had recorded their second album live at the Cecil Sharpe House in December 1964, they had become a quintet. Luke Kelly had temporarily left the group and Bobby Lynch and John Sheahan had joined. This was to be Lynch’s only recording with the Dubliners, as he left the group when Kelly returned. Sheahan has been with the group ever since and in latter years has become their manager.
1966 Finnegan Wakes (Live)
Finnegan Wakes is a live album by the Dubliners. Recorded live at the Gate Theatre on 26 and 27 April 1966 and produced by Nathan Joseph, this was the Dubliners’ final recording for Transatlantic Records. But it was also their first to feature their first established line-up of Ronnie Drew (vocals/guitar), Barney McKenna (tenor banjo)/mandolin), Luke Kelly (vocals/banjo), Ciaran Bourke (vocals/guitar/tin whistle/harmonica) and John Sheahan (fiddle/tin whistle/mandolin).
1967 A Drop of the Hard Stuff 
A Drop of the Hard Stuff was originally released in 1967 on Major Minor Records. The album reached number 5 in the UK album charts, and stayed in the charts for 41 weeks. The album title is both an allusion to hard liquor, particularly Irish whiskey, and to the musical difficulty of the fourteen songs chosen for the album, which emphasize the considerable depths of talent of the group, from the intricate fiddle and banjo work on ‘The Galway Races’ and the reels, to the impressive a cappella rendition of ‘Limerick Rake’.
1967 More of the Hard Stuff
More of the Hard Stuff was originally released in 1967. The line-up consists of Ronnie Drew, Luke Kelly, Barney McKenna, Ciaran Bourke and John Sheahan. True to its title, five of the songs concern hard drinking. Three of the songs were written by Dominic Behan. The album reached number 8 in the UK album charts in 1967, and stayed in the charts for 23 weeks.
1968 Drinkin’ and Courtin’ 
Drinkin’ and Courtin’ was originally released in 1968. The line-up consists of Ronnie Drew, Luke Kelly, Barney McKenna, Ciaran Bourke and John Sheahan. Two tracks are instrumentals. Five of the songs are comic. It reached number 31 in the UK album charts in 1968.
1968 At It Again
At It Again was released on the Major Minor label in 1968. It featured ‘The Irish Navy’, a satirical song with lyrics co-written by Ronnie Drew and Luke Kelly and set to music by John Sheahan. Barney McKenna and Ciarán Bourke also feature on the album. It was re-released under the title Seven Deadly Sins.
1969 Live at the Royal Albert Hall
Live at the Albert Hall was their last recording for the Major Minor label. Recorded in 1968 and released in 1969, it contained live versions of some of their recent hits as well as a version of ‘Whiskey on a Sunday’, which had been a big hit for Danny Doyle. The rebel ballad ‘Off to Dublin in the Green’ was issued on early pressings of the album, but was later dropped. The album features the original band members.
1969 At Home with The Dubliners
At Home with the Dubliners was the first album that the Dubliners made with producer Bill Martin & Phil Coulter. Their contract with Major Minor had ended at this point and they signed with EMI-Columbia. Some rare pressings feature the tracks ‘Bold Princess Royal’ and ‘The Beggarman’. The former can only be heard on YouTube, while the latter is available on the box set Best of the Original Dubliners. The album cover is of the Dubliners sitting in front of the fireplace of the back room (known as the Tap Room) of The Wren’s Nest Public House, Strawberry Beds, Chapelizod, Dublin 20, Ireland.
1970 Revolution
Revolution is the title of the tenth album by the Dubliners. It was their second to be produced by Phil Coulter. This was a landmark in their career. Their sound had developed and Coulter, as well as playing piano on the record, had brought in other instrumentalists as well. The album featured ‘Scorn Not His Simplicity’, a song that Coulter had composed about his own son, who had Down’s syndrome, as well as a poem penned by Luke Kelly entitled ‘For What Died The Sons Of Róisín?’.
A further 21 albums 1972 – 2010, and 22 compilation albums.

Bob Dylan partial discography
1962 Bob Dylan
1963 The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan
1964 The Times They Are a-Changin’
1964 Another Side of Bob Dylan
1965 Bringing It All Back Home
1965 Highway 61 Revisited
1966 Blonde on Blonde
1967 John Wesley Harding
1969 Nashville Skyline
1970 Self Portrait

The Beatles discography
1963 Please Please Me
1963 With The Beatles
1964 A Hard Day’s Night)
1964 Beatles for Sale
1965 Help!
1965 Rubber Soul
1966 Revolver
1967 Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
1968 The Beatles (aka the White Album)
1969 Yellow Submarine
1969 Abbey Road
1970 Let It Be

Rolling stones partial discography
1964 The Rolling Stones (UK)
1964 England’s Newest Hit Makers (US)
1964 12 X 5
1965 The Rolling Stones No. 2
1965 The Rolling Stones, Now!
1965 Out of Our Heads (US)
1965 Out of Our Heads (UK)
1965 December’s Children (And Everybody’s)
1966 Aftermath (UK)
1966 Aftermath (US)
1967 Between the Buttons (UK)
1967 Between the Buttons (US)
1967 Their Satanic Majesties Request
1968 Beggars Banquet
1969 Let It Bleed
1971 Sticky Fingers
1972 Exile on Main St.
1973 Goats Head Soup

©2011 Original material copyright Phillip Kay. Images and other material courtesy Creative Commons. Please inform post author of any violation.

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5 comments on “Freeborn men: the Dubliners & the revolution

  1. Paul James
    Saturday, 22 August, 2015

    Phillip
    This is insightful writing about Luke Kelly and Dubliners. For example your point about him being able to establish a personal relationship with those who never met him is most significant. Be keen to talk to you more about Luke and Dubliners as I am writing a chapter of a book that refers to them.
    Cheers

    Paul

  2. Cattia Salto
    Saturday, 2 May, 2015

    wow, sono senza parole..

  3. phillipkay
    Sunday, 15 January, 2012

    Thanks John, good to meet another fan. Great how alive Dubliners music continues to be when so much later music has dated.

  4. John Dillon
    Sunday, 15 January, 2012

    Great piece..I’m a lifelong Dubliners fan and this is brilliant!

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