Larry Kirwan - 2 EPs: Teddyboy (2019) & Heroes/Belfast (2019), plus a single, Stronger and Better (2020)

A couple of posts ago readers were treated to a discussion about Larry Kirwan's recent novel, Rockaway Blue. Now it's time to talk about what he is best known for - making great rock 'n roll.  As he has done twice for Bloggerhythms in the past, Kirwan, the former leader of Black 47, participated in a question and answer session by email. This time he discussed his most recent music, and as always, I thank him for his cooperation.

We're going to talk about three separate releases. Teddyboy (2019) is a five song EP, Heroes/Belfast (2018) is a four song set, and in 2020 the Irish native son released two versions of a one-off single, "Stronger and Better." Then the interview closes with one final question.

TEDDYBOY
I knew Teddyboy was a stage musical but I wasn't able to find anything else about it, so Kirwan was kind enough to fill us in with all of the details. This comes directly from the show's press release. "Teddyboy is a musical written by Larry Kirwan based loosely on a gang of delinquents who adored Rockabilly music and its idols. In an age of grey they paraded like peacocks, defied convention, and helped change youth culture and popular music."

Kirwan elaborated further. "It was a surreal Rockabilly musical from about 20 years ago – using a gang of motorcycle enthusiasts based on some people I knew when growing up back in Wexford, Ireland.

Each of them assumes a famous character’s identity like Eddie Cochran, Buddy Holly, Gene Vincent. There was some interest in it and we professionally recorded about half of the score and performed the musical in a professional workshop. It was received well but some people felt it lacked the focus to make it to Broadway which was the goal. From an artistic point of view I liked it. But something came up with Black 47, I had to go back on the road, and I left the project behind, though I still like it. Some years ago I came upon the tapes, re-mastered them, and put the four songs out as Teddyboy."

Kirwan wrote the book, lyrics, and the music but he did not appear on stage. He sang the part of Buddy Holly on the EP and an excellent female singer, Nikki Gregoroff, took the lead on "Other Side of the Tracks." As Kirwan remembers it she sang on a couple of other tracks too.

Fans unfamiliar with the show's music will be pleasantly surprised at how well Kirwan adapted to rockabilly and the sound of the 60s girl groups. They're not styles that have turned up on Black 47 albums or any of his solo work before, but he sang and played like he belonged on stage alongside Vincent, Holly, and Cochran. 

You can download the whole set from Amazon.


HEROES/BELFAST
The music from Teddyboy is obviously inspired by 1950s and early 60s rock but the music on the four song Heroes/Belfast EP is closer to Kirwan's usual work. Much of it sounds like it could have been intended for Black 47 and I wondered if there was a theme to this set too or if it's just a group of tracks Kirwan wanted to record. Again, information on these songs is scarce.

The rocker explained. "There’s no theme to this EP. It’s just four songs that I’d recorded for different projects and strung them together. The reason for recording the title track is below. I wrote "Second Coming Blues" about Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 election and used some of the imagery of William Butler Yeats’ poem "Second Coming.' I felt it was important to get some kind of response to this event down in song. I had a feeling something big would be coming down the pike during his term and “slouching towards Bethlehem” to paraphrase Mr. Yeats. Little did I know it would be Covid-19. Ah well… "The Bride’s Confession" is a song I wrote for a musical about the war in Iraq which will be either called IRAQ or Desert Rose. It came from a collaboration with oud and violin player George Abud. The band was one I played some gigs with, particularly St. Patrick’s Day 2016 and 2017 in BB King’s and consisted of Thomas Hamlin (drums), George Abud (Oud/Violin) , Coty Cockrell (Keyboards/vocals), Rene Hart (Upright Bass) and Deni Bonet (Violin). "We’ll Never Feel Like This Alone" is a song I wrote for Rebel in the Soul, a play of mine that was produced by The Irish Repertory Theatre."

I find it interesting that Kirwan took David Bowie's 1977 hit, "Heroes" and added his own lyrics to turn it into an Irish political song. He said he choose it because it was about two lovers, one from each side, kissing near the Berlin Wall and he provided this additional response directly from his own blog. "It’s a tribute to David Bowie, and all the brooding joy and inspiration he gave us. But it’s even more for those of us who violently disagree but day by day tear down the walls that keep us apart." You can read his entire blog post here.

Get it from Amazon now. 

STRONGER AND BETTER
"Stronger and Better" (2020) is a one-off single Kirwan issued last year. To quote the press release, "it's a tribute to our heroes, the frontline workers, a lament for those who died needlessly, and a note to those who failed to act."

The multi-talented writer/composer has released two takes of the song on iTunes. One is a solo acoustic version and the other one is with an Irish band named The Gobshites.

Kirwan told Bloggerhythms that the track "was written during the worst of the pandemic as a way of showing some ray of hope that we would come through this. While I didn’t want to get too political I did want to show that I held President Trump very much responsible for a very poor response to the situation."

The Gobshites have been described as "an acoustic, Irish themed, folk-punk band in the style of The Pogues." Kirwan's friendship with the group's leader, Peter Walsh, is how he came to work with them. "I’ve known their founder/leader, Peter Walsh, since he was an EMI Rep in Boston during the time Black 47 recorded for that label. We became firm friends back then and still are. He had suggested that I should initiate a “tribute” album of Black 47 song interpretations. I told him that he could do it and introduced him to Jon Birgé of Valley-Entertainment and voila – After Hours (Pete’s title and a play on Last Call being the final Black 47 album.) Rather than it being a “tribute” I prefer to think of it as other artists’ reinterpretation of the songs. And so far so good! There should be another 14 or so songs in the works as we speak."


AN ENCORE QUESTION
I know The Beatles were sick of being asked questions such as this one so forgive me if you are too. Do you miss playing with Black47 and are there any reunions planned?

"Black 47 was such a major part of my life I’m not sure I can use the word “miss.” It’s an ongoing part of me. I miss being around the band members – we were like brothers – road warriors also. In a way I’d say we were the end of an era - a band who played continually and made our living from it. I’m not sure that style of band could exist anymore. The conditions for it have been destroyed by Covid-19 and they were fading away even before that. I do miss the road life and the fans. We lived to play, to party afterwards, and then on to the next gig. It was exhilarating. And then one day it was over. There are no reunions scheduled. We did it our way. Now it’s over, and onwards to new things. But what a trip! We never did what we were told to do – we just did what we felt was right and to hell with the consequences. We supported Civil Rights in the North of Ireland and resisted the War in Iraq. Both decisions had consequences and we’d probably have had more commercial success without that baggage. But then we wouldn’t have been Black 47. We never did the same set twice in 2500 gigs over 25 years. Hallelujah!!!"

You can still find out anything you want about the band at Black47.com.

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