Friday, October 31, 2008

Tony Bailie's "Ecopunks" blog.

Irish cultural criticism-- via a blog aptly titled as that's his newest novel-- of a type dear to my own heart: poet ("Coill," from Lapwing Publications), journalist ("The Irish Times" in Belfast), and novelist ("The Lost Chord," from Lagan Press). Tony combines many interests I share, and that's how I met him on the Net! He searched over a period the mystical philosopher John Moriarty, the band The Fall, Francis Stuart, Northern Irish punk, and Irish electric folk such as Horslips: he found that "Fionnchú" had posted on more than one of his own favorites.

I note on his "shelf" Hugo Hamilton's new novel "Disguise," on my wish list, still awaiting publication in overseas. We share our admiration for the Pogues, and I see along with Mozart's Requiem such finds as Liam Ó Maonlaí's innovative CD "Rian" and Horslips "The Táin" and all the ones from the Undertones-- even their last LP? I had even linked here to his own interview a while back with Moriarty. So, after finding me over the years in repeated googling, he contacted me. We've been corresponding about tapas, Gnosticism, and Valley Girl accents ever since.

One of the pleasures of this blog is the few, but loyal, readers I have linked up with in cyberspace. The odds of finding out who you can muse with about learning Gaeilge, thrillers featuring unhinged loyalists, ties between ancient Éire and India, folk-rock from 1970s Ireland, or modern-day misled wannabee Druids prove slim, when navigating the line at the corner market or office water cooler. So, I count a few among my blog links to people I have never seen, or whom I've only met in person after a web friendship. Today I add Tony's "Ecopunks" to this shortlist.

I find it another coincidence that the name of his feckless and dashing protagonist in "The Lost Chord," rock-folk's Gino Mongan, shares the "tinker" surname and Connacht origins of my great-great grandmother. It's a very old name even by Irish standards, from Manannan Mac Lir, and tied to early sagas. Gino recalls Rory Gallagher-- about whom Tony blogs-- and of course Phil Lynott, but his creator also told me, as I found when reading about his band Dúil's immersion into the trad scene midway in their rock career-- many halls of mirrors opening into the adventures of Horslips here as well.

Reviewing "The Lost Chord" on my blog last summer and also on the British and U.S. Amazons, I admired its avoidance of the pitfalls of the rock-star saga. It captures the mood, rather, of the sidekick, the aftermath of a near-brush with greatness, the recollections of one who backed up the prancing celebrity in his spotlight. His just-up, spot-on blog gives the first chapter of that book. It's there alongside a piece on Rory, the Moriarty interview, as well as ones with John O'Neill of Derry's Undertones, NI punks Rudi, and Terri Hooley, Belfast pioneer of the bands' original label Good Vibrations. I see by labelling my own post now how many phrases I have in common with Tony's "Ecopunks." See for yourself! This link's also at your right-hand side.

Re: Image. Personally, the only one of Tony's first five entries so far, I never got into Rory, but I recognize his impact. My first friend in grad school had been a Mormon missionary, at the height of the Troubles, in both Limerick and Belfast. Along the way through his Irish itinerary, one door opened to him: that of Rory's mother herself. As one who never could, unlike the Edge, play the blues, I guess I must stand aside for those better gifted in this intricate, mythologized genre. The new Harper's Magazine, apropos, has a fine article by John Jeremiah Sullivan, "Unknown Bards," about collectors, scholars, and critics of the Delta varieties of the blues.

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