Saturday, 21 March 2020

Celtic Crush Top 100 Songs 2020


Does music influence society or does society influence music?

If you take a look at the Top 20 charts from the 1950’s you might think that Doo-Wop and early Rock & Roll swept all before them; yet Miles Davis captured a moody, dissenting streak that has little to do with the popular image of those placid Eisenhower years.

In Ireland Bridie Gallagher and various Céilí bands were the standard fare as people were forced to emigrate in droves, but musicians were already kicking aside their music stands and forming showbands.

I’ve been hosting and producing Celtic Crush, a three-hour music/talk show on SiriusXM for 14 years now. The show is heard all over the US and Canada, and became international with the advent of the SiriusXM App.

I play roughly 40 songs a show in sets of three and talk about them from a historical, political and social point of view, but as the commentary is improvised the kitchen sink is often tossed in the mix. 

Every couple of years I take the pulse of the audience by inviting them to vote for their favorite Celtic songs.

Broadly speaking these songs come from the music of the 8 Celtic nations and their various diasporas. 

In essence I favor the song not the singer. I’m always on the lookout for what I call future classics - songs from unknowns or singers/groups with niche appeal that I can bring to a broader audience.

This year the audience submitted roughly 250 songs as their listening favorites. 

Given our fractious times I had expected that Celtic Punk songs – of which there are many adherents - would be favored.

Instead, the Top 10 songs tended towards the beautiful and reflective, the lesser known, and often the most melancholic.

In fact I would imagine the #1 song - When You Become Stardust Too by Shay Healy is rarely heard except on Celtic Crush.

It’s a wonderfully optimistic reflection on life and the hereafter and seems to have struck a deeply personal chord with listeners.

As if that wasn’t enough, there was a tie for #2 between two other very reflective tunes.

I devoted a column to Eva Cassidy recently and this is her year on Celtic Crush as four of her songs placed in the Top 100. Fields of Gold her interpretation of Sting’s classic is #2.

Perhaps the biggest surprise at joint #2 is Aisling Gheal from The Poet & The Piper, the mighty collaboration between Seamus Heaney and Liam O’Flynn.

The melody summonses up the devastation of the Irish people during the Penal Laws era but it’s also informed by an untrammeled hope for better days. 

Lest you think the show is funereal #4 and #5 are the irrepressible Whiskey in the Jar by Thin Lizzy and the celebratory Whole of the Moon by The Waterboys. Rounding off the Top 5 is the only overtly political song to make the Top 20 this year, the militant James Connolly by Black 47.

Of interest to New Yorkers, Pat McGuire’s You’re So Beautiful is at #7 and master fiddler Tony DeMarco enters for the first time at #9 with The Best Years of My life.

The perennially popular Pogues score at #11 and #13 with Fairy Tale of New York and Rainy Night in Soho while Van Morrison’s top song this year is Tupelo Honey at #16.

What does all this suggest – perhaps a desire to block out the raucous lies and exaggeration of political discourse with songs that have a deep human resonance and an innate beauty. 

Since two of the three most popular songs are new entries you’d have to say that there’s also a desire for change.

Change would appear to come slowly, however, for I’ve been playing the top three songs for years. 

I wonder what all this says about the state of our society and the coming elections? 

It’s hard to say, but given our original question - Does music influence society or does society influence music? This year I’d have to go with the latter.

To receive the Top 100 write me at blk47@aol.com or visit Christopher Carroll’s Fans of Celtic Crush at Facebook. Celtic Crush can be heard on Sunday mornings at 9amET on The Loft, Ch. 710, SiriusXM with repeats on Tuesday 9pm and Wednesday Midnight.

Monday, 2 March 2020

Wexford's Deep Sea Sailors


Isn’t it odd how the character of towns can change? 

My hometown of Wexford is a case in point. Known originally as Menapia on Ptolemy’s 3rd Century maps, the Vikings didn’t even arrive until 6 centuries later and change the name to Weis-fjord.

Being the closest town to Britain and mainland Europe it was conquered so often Monty Python and his merry band probably came roaring up the Slaney with divilment on their minds but got stuck in one of the many pubs that used to line the quayside.

For Wexford was always a busy port and its young men sailed the world over.

A majority of these came from The Faythe on the south side of town.

It was there that one side of my family, the Morans, originated. The most renowned was Capt. James Moran, a skipper of one of the old three-mast vessels.

He was my grandmother’s father and sailed often to Odessa in the Black Sea bringing back God knows what. 

Alas on one such expedition he encountered a violent storm off the coast of Cornwall, his ship the City of Bristol went down and all hands were lost.

His two sons, Matthew and John also became merchant marines as did my father. There’s definitely salt water in my blood.

However, Wexford’s young men no longer go down to the sea, as Herman Melville put it Moby Dick.

Certainly many still work on the ferries from Rosslare to Fishguard in Wales or even further afield to Le Harve in France but I never hear of a “deep sea” Wexford sailor anymore.

These men usually sailed off for six months at a time to various parts of the world, be it on tankers out of the Persian Gulf or on the London to Buenos Aires run, to name two routes my father worked on.

After such long voyages the companies would usually give their thirsty mariners a couple of months leave at home.

Did the young men grow tired of such a life, or did wives and girlfriends refuse to put up with such a routine?

As a boy I loved to go with my father to one of the pubs frequented by these deep-sea sailors.

It would usually be in the early afternoon. Two or three of them would already be sequestered at the bar smoking and, more often than not, studying horse and dog racing form.

They would barely acknowledge each other while enjoying their first pint or glass of whiskey, but eventually someone would throw out a question.

“What was the name of that bar in Sydney I met you in, Jem?”

My father’s brow would furrow in concentration before he might reply, “Jaysus, John, it’s on the tip of my tongue, but I can’t for the life of me remember.”

Then some other salt would interject, “There was one night I ran into the two of yez three sheets to the wind in the Rusty Anchor, was that the one?”

Then the floodgates would open and as I sipped my Fanta Orange they’d order up a second round, and a succession of exotic locales would be rattled off, as they wondered if that gorgeous waitress still worked in Sammy’s Bar in Valetta, Malta? Or if Kevin Connors still ran the boarding house on Geary Street in San Francisco, or had Tom Rossiter chucked in the Cunard Line for a job on the oil rigs up off Aberdeen?

Wexford seems like a lesser place without these independent men who took a little piece of the old town with them on their travels and brought back new ideas and the ways of the world upon their return.

Most have passed on now but about 10 years ago I saw one of them sitting on a bench by Wexford quayside. He was old and weatherworn, but still alert and staring out across the harbor.

I could tell he was thinking of his seafaring days for he had a twinkle in his eye, and I fancied he was reminiscing about the gorgeous waitress he had dallied with in Sammy’s Bar in Valetta.

Knowing the type of men these Wexford sailors were - I bet she had fond memories of him too.

Sunday, 16 February 2020

Irish Hunger Memorial


Have you ever been to the Irish Hunger Memorial down on Vesey Street?  It can be a lonely place – not that it’s without visitors – although judging by the Babel of languages few Irish attend during my visits.

Since I often walk down Hudson River Park I tend to feel guilty if I don’t make the pilgrimage. 

Perhaps that’s because my grandfather Thomas Hughes spoke so often about the awful year of 1847 and how his own father had witnessed An Gorta Mór.

I often wonder about the loneliness factor. At first I thought it was due to the profusion of native Irish plants that grow within the walls of the Memorial. 

Grasses, rushes, weeds, heather, and wild flowers transport you back to the fields, ditches, hills and dales of an Irish childhood. Even in the heat of dog days you can almost sense a cool Irish rain falling.

There was a time I wondered if the remains of the nearby World Trade Center provoked the loneliness. But the cool glow of the Freedom Tower seems to have soothed many of the ghosts who roamed that area.

I think it’s the view of the gently flowing Hudson that causes the turmoil. How different everything must have looked to the Famine Irish as they came ashore in the 1840’s. 

Docks, slums, tenements, saloons, ship chandlers and all the businesses of a 19th Century port lined the banks of their Hudson. 

How many destitute Irish must have stared at this mighty river with the aching realization that they would never see home again.

Perhaps that’s the particular uaigneas that I channel no matter what time of year I visit the memorial.
It’s a foreign feeling in many ways for I’ve never felt lonely in New York City. 

But then I came by choice – on a raggle taggle adventure with a couple of hundred dollars in my pocket - and never had the desire to move home permanently.

I have been lonely in other cities, in particular Buenos Aires. Back in 2000 I was down there touring with Black 47 and had decided to stay on a few days after the band’s departure. 

The jacaranda trees were in full bloom, and in those days I was entranced by the experimental Tango music of Astor Piazzolla, and the poetry of Federico García Lorca. 

But after an afternoon spent exploring the boulevards and cafes of this cosmopolitan city an existential aloneness swept over me; I knew it would only deepen as the night wore on. 

On an impulse I hailed a cab to the airport, changed my ticket and departed with the band.

How easy that was to do in retrospect. But there was no such recourse for the hundreds of thousands of Famine Irish who piled into New York sick, diseased, hungry, and desperate for any kind of work.

They were despised and hated by the Know Nothings, and feared by many decent New Yorkers because of the diseases they carried from their ravaged country.

How did these rural people  - many of them native Irish speakers - even find work as they grappled with the demands and customs of a city beyond their imagination?

I once heard Pete Hamill remark that an average Famine immigrant saw more people in his/her first hour on South Street than they had their whole lives in Ireland.

Women had it a little easier. There was always need for barely paid scullery maids and washerwomen in the big houses uptown. 

Some men cracked and took to the shebeens, but most persevered and within two or three generations the Famine Irish had moved up in society.

Despite all their sacrifices it’s indisputable that New York is now yearly becoming less of an Irish town – notice the lack of Irish saloons in the five boroughs.

With immigration policies becoming even more restrictive, is the loneliness I experience in the Hunger Memorial less a memory and more a portent of times to come when an Irish accent will be a rarity behind the stick of a New York City bar?

And so it juts out over the Hudson, a memorial to a desperate people who overcame tragedy and discrimination. 

How strange to think that the descendants of those who stayed behind will never get the chance to follow in their footsteps.

Sunday, 2 February 2020

Eva Cassidy


Songs become synonymous with their first great interpreter or with the writer who chiseled out a gem from a stray idea.

Take Over The Rainbow by Harold Arlen and Yip Hapburg. Your first instinct is, “Oh yeah, the Judy Garland song.” And you’d be right, she nailed it as Dorothy in Wizard of Oz.”

Fields of Gold is less well known. Recorded by Sting in 1993 it shimmers with beauty and regret.

It’s hard to imagine anyone improving on Sting’s heartfelt but understated delivery. After all he wrote it and knows whereof he speaks.

And then along came Irish-American Eva Cassidy.

I first caught word of her in musician circles. I never saw her live nor heard or on the radio - just murmurs about her talent in dressing rooms back in the early 90’s.

And then as happens with musicians the murmurs ceased. Every locality has such a talent. You watch a golden-boy or girl blow away an audience, then 20 years pass and they’re doing the same wondrous thing in the same club, but their golden aura is now streaked with grey.

This could have happened to Bruce Springsteen at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park – bad breaks, lazy managers, messed-up record companies, drugs and drink have waylaid so many great talents. And without Lady Luck forget about success.

About five years ago while trawling for songs for Celtic Crush - my weekly show on SiriusXM - I remembered the conversation I’d had about Eva Cassidy in a DC dressing room.

Within seconds I was listening to her version of Over The Rainbow on iTunes. I played it three times so stunned was I by her power and sensitivity.

An inner core of sadness and reflection informed her voice but it was also hard to ignore Eva’s sense of optimism and fragile beauty.

In an odd way she reminded me of Padraig Pearse’s words: 
 “The beauty of the world hath made me sad,
This beauty that will pass…”

Eva had taken a song that Ms. Garland had immortalized with her vast unique talent, and transformed it into a churning, though poignant, elegy.

I pressed on and found her version of Fields of Gold. Later on I was to learn that Sting cried when he first heard Eva’s version. As well he might. To discover something new about your own song through someone else’s interpretation is a rare gift.

The fields of barley that Sting first wrote about now glowed in a more golden sunlight, while the west wind that coursed through them had veered east in Eva’s telling bringing with it a cool hint of mortality.

After luxuriating in more of her music I looked up her biography. Imagine the shock to find out she had died almost 20 years earlier. But that she’d become a huge success internationally partly due to Irish radio host, Terry Wogan playing her on his BBC show.

I introduced her to Celtic Crush without fanfare, often placing her in the middle of a three-song set.

I wanted to see how people would react to the “live” Eva; death so often casts an odd afterglow on a performer’s reputation.

The vast majority of my listeners around the US and Canada had never heard of her but they connected almost instantly with the diamond-hard, ethereal quality of her voice. 

She is now one of the most popular singers on Celtic Crush and I never play her without closing my eyes and allowing myself to be swept away by the experience.

She’s also a fabulous guitarist. I often try to block out her voice – no easy thing - and revel in her chord choices and fingerings.

Most of the tracks you’ll hear from her were recorded live at Blues Alley, a small DC club. Many too are from 1996, the last year of her life, when she realized the cancer would not be beaten.

And yet there’s not a hint of self-pity in her voice, just the usual enigmatic beauty powered by a rare spirituality.

When next you need to believe there’s something more to life than mere banal existence, give Eva a listen - you won’t be disappointed.

Monday, 20 January 2020

Boris & Donald - The Terrible Twins


There was a time when it would have been hard to imagine that two men the like of Donald Trump and Boris Johnson could change the political landscapes of the USA and the UK.

How did they manage such a herculean task? They shifted the sympathies of the white working classes of both countries from left to right of center.

The albatross of Brexit may prove to be too big a burden in the UK but in the short term it has delivered many longstanding Labour seats to the Conservatives.

Amazingly this shift has, at least economically, brought the island of Ireland within shouting distance of unity.

Will Loyalists go along with this seeming fait accompli – that’s a whole other question? But with his ability to lie and cajole Boris Johnson may be the one person who can finally silence the echoes of “Ulster will fight and Ulster will be right.”

Is it my imagination or does October 2016 seem more like thirty years ago rather than a mere three?

Cast your mind back to the month before the presidential election that changed everything.

It was then I first began hearing from working and lower middle class communities that “everyone around here is voting for Trump.”

At first it was a trickle but by election day it was all too apparent that many voters had a visceral dislike of Mrs. Clinton and were willing to gamble their ballots on the unlikeliest of Republican candidates, Donald Trump.

In a perfect storm he won the presidency by 79,646 votes in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania despite gaining only 46.4% of the national vote.

My research is decidedly unscientific – emails from friends and activists around the country and visits to various watering holes, but I’m finding that the affection of the working class for the billionaire from Fifth Avenue has if anything deepened.

What’s the attraction? “The economy stupid” is a factor but a shared sense of grievance – an “us against them” factor is bone deep. Add a deep-seated fear that the US is headed in the wrong direction and you have a bond that won’t be easily sundered.

What’s really striking is that the working and lower-middle classes are in general not profiting from the strong economy.

Unemployment is at a record low but “the good jobs are gone,” is the refrain I hear most – replaced by minimum wage positions that provide little hope of entry into middle-class life.

It goes without saying that few from this new nether-class have profited from the amazing stock market gains of 2019.

In fact most bar-owners I speak to long for the good old “shot and beer” days that have been replaced by their former working class customers hurrying home with a discount six-pack to watch Fox News.

Can the Democrats win the upcoming presidential election? Sure they can. After all, Mr. Trump could self-destruct. 

The ignorance, braggadocio and self-delusion that led to the assassination of Iranian General Qassim Suleimani is never far from the surface. 

Mr. Trump’s split second “kill” decision will inevitably have long-term consequences, but in this current election cycle will probably play out like the patriotic jamboree that accompanied the disastrous invasion of Iraq back in 2003.

If so, Democrats may need a perfect storm of their own to win in November.

They’ll need to turn out the youth vote in unprecedented numbers - a shaky proposition at the best of times. Young people may be aghast at climate change and the world they’re inheriting but they can be ambivalent about voting.

Most African-Americans will vote Democrat but the candidate better provide a riveting Vice-Presidential choice like Stacy Abrams. This powerful campaigner could turn Georgia and galvanize her community to vote in numbers large enough to make a difference.

Suburban women will vote Democrat this year but it’s sobering to remember that Mr. Trump won a majority of white women in 2016.

The bulk of the white working class vote is lost for the foreseeable future but there are those who still long for the old shot and beer days. Peel them off in sufficient numbers and you have the beginnings of a counter-revolution. 

Remember Mr. Trump only won in 2016 by 79,646 votes.

Monday, 23 December 2019

Merry Christmas, Baby


She was my first IAP (Irish-American Princess). Well the first that I lived with at any rate. Tara had somehow made her way down to the Lower East Side from the leafy, lace-curtain environs of Westchester, although she was anything but stuck up. 

Back then I had a regular Sunday gig in the less than ritzy Archway up the Bronx and she fit in there like a fist in a glove. Of course, she was quite a looker so that didn’t hurt with the lovesick Paddies. 

She had beautiful grayish green eyes that would mist over in any kind of conflict or passion; there was much of both in our relationship. The boys said that she could twist me around her little finger. They were right, but oh that twisting could be so sweet.  

Things came easy to Tara. She had succeeded at everything she’d turned her hand to. But she wished to become a successful singer, the rock that many have foundered upon. 

I must have seemed like a good step up the ladder; along with gigs in the Archway and John’s Flynn’s Village Pub, I regularly strutted my stuff at CBGB’s and Max’s Kansas City. 

It was to be a match made in purgatory for both of us. Whatever, as they say, I was in need of some stability and moved into her apartment on First Avenue. 

I always seemed to have “just missed” her parents on their visits to the city. That should have set the bells ringing but I guess when you’re in love… 

Actually, our first major disagreement was over my parents - when I announced I’d be spending Christmas with them in Wexford.

“Our first Christmas together?” She shuddered.

“Well, you can come too.” Although I broke into a cold sweat at the thought of telling the Mammy that we’d be bunking together in the ancestral homestead.

“I couldn’t desert my parents,” she countered as though I was sentencing her whole white-picket-fenced clan to twenty plus out on Rykers.

“But what about my parents?” I countered. And on it went as lovers’ quarrels do until her eyes were so misty and beautiful I feared that her heart might indeed break.

Well, I wrote my Mother a particularly tear-stained letter full of half-truths (God rest her soul, I suppose she knows the full story now). I didn’t dare telephone; I wasn’t man enough to bear two loads of womanly angst. 

In truth though, the part that really hurt was that I would miss the traditional Wexford boys’ night out on Christmas Eve. And so I extracted a promise from Tara that we’d at least tie on a decent substitute.

“No problem,” she said and was good to her word. She was fairly abstemious for those times but, when called upon, could drink like a fish with little ill effect. 

We bought a tree, decorated it, and strung flashing lights all around the apartment. I almost felt like Jimmy Stewart in It’s a Wonderful Life.  Almost! For around 7pm I slipped on my black leather jacket, she dressed up to the nines and off we strutted up First Avenue to get well and truly shellacked.

God knows how many bars we hit, I certainly don’t; but I was feeling no pain by the time we reached Max’s Kansas City. Why Max’s on Christmas Eve? Well Tara liked to make the scene, besides I knew the doorman and got in free. 

I was also familiar with the bartender who slid many the shot of watered-down whiskey towards us. And then, through the shroud of smoky darkness, I heard the London accent.  

“Roight!” The spiky-haired ghost in black leather wearily exclaimed.

The platinum blonde next to him droned on as junkies do.

“Roight.” Sid Vicious reiterated whenever a response was expected.

I casually whispered his name to Tara.  

“Oh my God!” She shrieked as though Jesus had just hopped down off the cross and offered to buy a round.

Sid looked up blearily, whereupon Tara flashed him a smile that would have done justice to Marilyn Monroe on steroids. 

“The blonde looks like a piece of all right,” I countered and winked at Nancy Spungen.

“From a bottle!” Tara sniffed just as Sid laboriously hauled himself off his stool and stumbled towards the restrooms; whereupon Ms. Spungen laid her head down on the counter for a wee snooze.

We were still awaiting Sid’s return when Tara looked at her watch and gasped. “It’s ten minutes to twelve.”

“Expecting to turn into a pumpkin?”  

“No,” she moaned, “we won’t get into St. Patrick’s!” 
 
“What for?”

“Midnight mass, of course. What do you think?”

Was she kidding - from Max’s to matins? 

When we arrived at the church off Avenue A, I could tell it wasn’t exactly what Ms. Westchester had in mind. For one thing, the priests all wore shades and spoke Polish. Still, the place was packed and we reverently stood in the transept in close proximity to an ornate candelabra - wax dripping from its many branches. 

Perhaps, it was the heat, though it could have been Max’s watery whiskey; for one moment I was sweating and swaying, the next I was writhing on the marble floor painfully disengaging myself from a myriad of hot waxy candles. There was immediate uproar with many Eastern European ladies screaming at me, and Tara, no doubt, wishing she was safely home in leafy suburbia. 

When I awoke on Christmas morning much of her extensive wardrobe was laying atop me.  She was modeling a matronly gray jacket and skirt, the hem inches below her knees, damn near a foot down from its usual height. 

I leaped from the bed and grabbed my Doc Martens, pink shirt, and black leather tie and jacket.  Unlike my dearest, I had long before settled on an outfit appropriate for my first appearance in Westchester.

“You don’t look well, baby,” she laid a cool hand on my brow and cooed, “You’re just burning up.”

I did feel as though one of those monsters from Alien was ready to hop out of my stomach but I had much experience of that condition.  “No, it’s okay. I want to do this for you.”

She hemmed and hawed before blurting out the truth, “It’s my mother…she wouldn’t like you.”

“What’s there not to like?” 

“Well, your clothes, for one thing. I mean, are you serious?”

And with that, the fight fled from me. I could just picture the whole clan dressed in Kelly green singing Danny Boy around a turf fire - her auld one, no doubt, peering out at me through lace curtains.

Tara took me in her arms whispered that I should go back to sleep, and hinted that on her return Santa might provide some x-rated delights. But I wasn’t that easily mollified and delivered one last parting shot as the door closed behind her, “So what am I supposed to do, have Christmas dinner in an Indian restaurant?”

Well, I didn’t fall back asleep and the hangover was of the galloping nature, gaining ground all afternoon. But the hunger was no joke either and when I eventually sauntered up First Avenue the only places open were of the Indian persuasion. 

A dusting of snow was descending as I stormed into The Taj Mahal. The lone customer didn’t even bother to look up from his book; I sat there glaring at him, cursing all cruel-hearted IAPs and wishing I was home with my Mammy in Wexford.

The snow was swirling around First Avenue and White Christmas was leaking from doorways as I headed back to the apartment. I turned on the blinking Christmas lights and took a couple of fierce slugs of Jameson’s whiskey, turned the Clash up to eleven and rehearsed ever more vicious and vengeful ways of breaking up with Ms. Westchester.

She must have forgotten her keys for, at first, I didn’t hear her knock above Strummer’s bawling. I strode over to the door, angrier than any Old Testament prophet. She stood there, face flushed from the cold, snow in her hair; she was expecting my fury and accepted it with grace. She smiled gently, her grayish green eyes misting over, and I barely heard her murmur, “I missed you so much.”

She reached up, held a sprig of mistletoe over my head and kissed me as if for the first time. And when she whispered, “Merry Christmas, baby,” all the fight fled out of me and young love in all its passion returned.

Hollywood Here I Come


I once woke up outside Bakersfield hungover and disoriented. I should have known exactly where we were as hometown hero Merle Haggard had just come on the car radio. 

We had intended to visit LA but the back seat of our car went on fire somewhere in the Mojave Desert so instead we pressed on for our ultimate destination, San Francisco.

If that all sounds a little vague, that was the mood back in the GPS-less mid-70’s whilst doing one’s obligatory Keroauc On The Road trip from Brooklyn to the Wild West.

My friend, Bob Schwenk and I had contracted to drive a brand new Audi to the City on the Bay for a very unlucky stockbroker who was relocating there. 

We hit black ice some hours out of NYC, barely missed a state trooper and collided with a jackknifed truck on Route 80.

After managing to beat a reckless driving charge, a very large auto mechanic stood on the hood of the brand new Audi with a sledgehammer and beat it back into some kind of shape, then bound it with a huge metal chain and off we went. 

Let’s just say it was not a happy day for the stockbroker when we chugged down the driveway of his lovely Mill Valley residence.

I did finally make it to LA in some triumph in the early 90’s when Black 47 was the next big thing. 

Funky Ceilí had just been deemed the most played song on Alternative Radio when EMI Records flew Chris Byrne and yours truly out to do two solid 10-hour days of radio interviews. 

Now anyone can have a great time talking about themselves for an hour or so, but try doing it 10-hours straight two days in a row! It literally drove us to drink, not an unknown destination in those years.

Soon thereafter, the whole band and crew were flown out to do the Jay Leno Show. What an hilarious, salty guy – offstage - and then so staid the minute the cameras rolled!

I didn’t care, George Foreman was also a guest and being a boxing fanatic I couldn’t believe I was shaking hands with the man. His hands, by the way, were incredulously large and soft.

Hollywood was like a dream, but then Elliot Roberts was our manager and Elliot knew everyone – from the busboys all the way up to God. He never introduced me to God but just about everyone else.

Speaking of God, Black 47 always stayed at the Continental Hyatt (Riot House) on Sunset Boulevard, wherein lived Little Richard. At that time he was the self proclaimed King - and Queen - of Rock & Roll.  

Imagine a punk kid from Wexford hanging with this jewel-bedecked legend packing a large bible under his arm. 

He appeared to be preaching a mixture of fundamentalist Southern Christianity and equal opportunity sexuality – a lethal combination.

One of the Black 47 members after encountering him in the elevator famously noted, “I didn’t know whether he wanted to save me or… (I’ll leave it to your imagination.)

Ah, there was nothing quite like the dying days of Rock & Roll hedonism on Sunset Boulevard when men were men and sheep were nervous.

Hollywood was the land of opportunity. I got a call one day from a Vice-President of Fox TV wishing to buy the rights of Liverpool Fantasy, a play I’d written about The Beatles – if they hadn’t made it.

I made a huge mistake by asking Elliot Roberts to negotiate the deal. Elliot, without ever reading the play, stated straight out to the Vice-President that Liverpool Fantasy was a big-screen movie and that we were merely dropping by as a courtesy while on our way to gather offers from the major studios.

The Fox guy offered 50 grand on the spot as a good faith payment with more to come and a definite shooting schedule.

We passed. That was Southern California for you – the golden land of missed opportunity.

But hey, I’m ready for another shot. I just need to find a brand new Audi drive away and locate my well-thumbed copy of On The Road.

With a GPS this time there’ll be no stopping me. Hollywood, here I come!