Thursday 22 August 2019

Television review: Mods and the Rockabilly rebels have found their tribe

  • My Tribe (RTE1)
Rockabilly: Christian and Sorcha on My Tribe
Rockabilly: Christian and Sorcha on My Tribe
Declan Lynch

Declan Lynch

I was very happy indeed, with My Tribe. Happy, too, that it was on RTE 1, when it might have been shunted into RTE 2 or TG4, due to the high rock 'n' roll quotient, and the bit of 'Irish' in it.

But no, it was on the main stage, as it were, and it will be for the next two Mondays. It will be hard though, for the series to keep up the standard set by the first two programmes, which were about aficionados of Rockabilly and of Mod respectively.

These are the 'tribes' of the title, these like-minded souls who are sometimes described as a "sub-culture", though their embrace of what they see as the true path, is more akin to a belief-system, a religion.

I checked out the Mods one, mainly because I saw that it featured Jack Lyons, or "Irish Jack" from Cork, a man known to me for a long time, whose connections to The Who and to the beginnings of Mod are such, the song Happy Jack was apparently written by Pete Townshend with him in mind.

Jack, who worked as a postman in Cork, captured something of the essence of this tribal yearning, as he described the great desire that a person feels, to become a Mod. He spoke about it, in much the same way that a senior churchman might describe the longing in the hearts of young men to have a vocation for the priesthood.

Except with the Mods, the lifestyle and the attitudes and, of course, the music are so much better. Leaving aside the suits and the Lambrettas, in this and indeed in the Rockabilly show, from the prime cuts of Northern Soul to the glories of the Johnny Burnette Trio, we were served with many exquisite sounds.

And there were no apologies, either from the participants or the makers of the programmes - often in such documentaries there will be a slowness, as the action is held up with boring explanations, with allowances being made for viewers who don't get it. Here the energy was never allowed to drop.

So we were drawn into the tribes, we were in no doubt that they had made the right choices for themselves, whereas with most programmes about cultish activity, we may get the feeling that the acolytes have thrown their lives away.

Here it was the viewers who might be inclined to think that they'd thrown their lives away, by not getting in on these acts.

Indeed the rest of us were brilliantly named by a Mod called Paul Mulholland, as "nondescripts". Yes it is our loss, that we did not have the musical taste or the moral courage to make such a stand.

There was a man on Prime Time called Pat Egan who did have the musical taste and the moral courage to become a promoter of gigs mainly by the gods of Rock, when this country was desperately in need of such enlightenment.

He also started a record shop called the Sound Cellar, which is still there on Nassau Street, and which in its subterranean way has also made a serious contribution to the elevation of our culture.

Yet, the reason Pat Egan was on Prime Time, in a piece by Richard Downes, was that he is now a promoter of more middle-of-the-road artists, who in his well-informed opinion would easily sell out the National Concert Hall, but who are rarely permitted within its lofty environs.

With the NCH due to receive about €80m to fund its refurbishment, they are hardly in a position to be turning away any kind of paying customers, but in the case of Pat Egan, that position is utterly egregious.

It does not matter a damn if Pat Egan wants to promote a concert at the NCH featuring only himself playing the spoons, he has still made an important contribution to the arts in Ireland.

He was bringing Rory Gallagher and Eric Clapton, and indeed The Who, to the National Stadium when nobody else was bringing any such thing to any part of this unfortunate country.

To all of us "nondescripts".

Sunday Independent

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