There was a joke going around at the time of the Good Friday Agreement that even though the IRA had ceased hostilities, the Wolfe Tones never surrendered. In true Irish fashion, the band split in the mid-2000s, with Brian Warfield, Noel Nagle and Tommy Byrne (Wolfe Tones 3) going one way and Derek Warfield (The Young Wolfe Tones) going the other. It’s a toss-up which one is the provisional wing and which is the official.
It means: You seriously considered naming your dog Maggie Thatcher. Then you decided that the poor animal hadn’t done anything to deserve that, and you named it something dignified instead, like Puddles.
The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem
They turned the humble Aran sweater into a fashion statement back in the early sixties, but Tipperary-born brothers Paddy, Tom and Liam Clancy – and their Armagh-born pal Tommy Makem – were trendsetters in more ways than one. They dusted off long-forgotten Irish folk songs, gave them fresh arrangements and sang them with gusto everywhere from the "Ed Sullivan Show" to Carnegie Hall. Makem honed his skills as a songwriter and wrote the modern classic “Four Green Fields.”
It means: You have a fisherman’s sweater in your drawer which you wear all the time – but never on St. Patrick’s Day because that would be too tacky.
Some called them Ireland’s scruffier version of the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, but they were really Ireland’s first super group. The original lineup boasted Ronnie Drew, Luke Kelly, Barney McKenna, Ciaran Burke and John Sheahan, but later incarnations featured Jim McCann, Paddy Reilly and Sean Canon. Drew’s inimitable growl and Kelly’s soaring vocals formed the band’s signature sound, best experienced on classics like “The Monto” and “On Raglan Road.”
It means: After a few pints, you’re likely to belt out a song or two down at the local pub. You know the dirty verses to “Seven Drunken Nights.”
They’re billed as Ireland’s Musical Ambassadors, and that’s no blarney. The group, led by the brilliant and visionary Paddy Moloney, has visited China, collaborated with international superstars, played for Queen Elizabeth and the pope — and have yet to receive an open letter from Sinead O’Connor. They introduced Irish traditional music to the masses, and forced journalists the world over to add “uilleann pipes” to their Word dictionaries.
It means: You pretend to be such a purist that your favorite Chieftains album isn’t “Irish Heartbeat” with Van Morrison. You like to tell people that you remember when a pre-“Riverdance” Michael Flatley toured with them.
The Dervish from Drumlish (seriously, Declan, it would be a good nickname) may not be everybody’s cup of tea. But though the heyday of showbands is behind us, there will always be people who want to dance – and Nerney’s blend of Irish and country music fits the bill. Philomena Begley, Big Tom, Mick Flavin – they’re all ploughing the same fields, so to speak – and the crowds flock to them.
It means: You know which part of “dinner dance” you prefer, which means your prime rib meal gets left on the plate when the band begins to play. You also know which way to turn when jiving.
The former bank employee discovered the music scene during a bank strike in the 60s and never looked back. In addition to performing solo, he was a founding member of Moving Hearts and Planxty. Moore’s ballads are deceptively soft thanks to his soothing voice, but they usually have a sharp edge and pointed political commentary. Best part of a Christy concert comes when he tells off the audience for clapping along.
It means: You’re an ordinary wo/man, nothing special, nothing grand. And you never forget your shovel when you need to go to work.
Keep your Sex Pistols. The Pogues were the real deal – dirty, unshaven, profane, practically toothless and usually drunk. And that was just Shane MacGowan. Like tragic Irish genius Brendan Behan, Shane was capable of creating both breathtaking beauty and heartbreaking sadness in his work. Written in 1987, “Fairytale of New York” captures a time and a place, but it’s also timeless in expressing the loneliness of the immigrant Christmas experience.
It means: Oh, just admit it: you’re a bum, you’re a punk, you’re an old slut on junk.
It’s hard to believe that the Dublin group have been together 37 years – ever since some kid named Larry Mullen Jr. posted a “Help wanted” sign on their school bulletin board in 1976. They’re rock royalty, in the same league as legends like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. Bono has lost the mullet, Edge gained a hat, Adam shaved off that hilarious perm and Larry -- well, he kind of looks the same. But the band’s enduring appeal is the freshness they bring to every album.
It means: You still haven’t found what you’re looking for. And you’re STILL a little jealous of the girl Bono picked out of the audience at Live Aid.
Trying to pick the best singer in the super-talented Black family is like trying to decide between a Ferrari or a Porsche – kind of a toss-up. Mary’s been the most high-profile member of the family, starting out with De Dannan before going on to a successful solo career singing both Irish and adult contemporary material. Signature songs include “School Days Over” and “Anachie Gordon.”
It means: You turn the stereo volume up loud when singing along to “Song for Ireland” because you can’t hit her high notes.
They’ve had more drummers than Spinal Tap, but the Tuam, Co. Galway band has been a constant presence on Irish music scene since they hit big with “I Useta Lover” a million years ago. Davy Carton and Leo Moran handled most of the songwriting duties, producing classics like “Green and Red of Mayo” and “N17.” They’re currently on hiatus, which fans hope will produce a trove of new songs.
It means: You’re a GAA fanatic who probably roots for Maroon and White. You also – against all sensible advice -- have an irresistible urge to climb on top of any trailer hauling bales of hay.
New York’s seminal Celtic rock band is calling it a day in 2014, which will mark 25 years of musical mayhem. The band got its start in 1989 when they played the Bainbridge Ave. strip in the Bronx. Their breakthrough album was “Fire of Freedom,” which spawned the monster hit “Funky Ceili” and led to appearances on late night TV with Conan O’Brien and David Letterman. They made Paddy Reilly’s Pub in Manhattan a must-visit for an eclectic mix of celebrities, punks, Kennedys and scenesters.
It means: You spent many a night squeezed into a corner of Paddy Reilly’s, drinking Guinness and shouting to be heard over “Forty Shades of Blue.”
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