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The 20th anniversary of the death of Luke Kelly is being marked by a double CD The Best Of Luke Kelly, and a week-long tribute Remembering Luke at the Gaiety. The Dubliners are, not surprisingly, deeply involved in both projects, and bandmember John Sheahan here explains all.
Jackie Hayden, 03 Nov 2004
“We don’t normally get involved in mastering albums, but we made an exception with the new Luke compilation after we had taken a High Court action against Outlet Records. That gave us control of lots of original masters so we could control the quality of the finished record. Record companies can be indiscriminate in the way they churn records out and we’ve suffered enough on that front. John D’Ardis in Trend Studios put the older ones through various processes to enhance the sound quality.”
Sheahan admits that listening back to some of the recordings was tinged with sadness, but, he says, “My memories of the recordings were so vivid I could even remember where each track was recorded and even where we sat in relation to each other.”
The work also sparked off fond recollections of the living Luke.
“He was always good with a funny quip. One night on stage during a solo spot, a guy in the audience let a bag of drinks fall with an almighty crash. Luke stopped singing and just said, ‘If there’s one thing I hate it’s a person who can’t hold his drink!’ During another gig, in Galway, I think, a drunk kept interrupting Luke and calling him ‘woolly-head’ to which Luke responded, ‘at least my head’s only woolly on the outside!’”
But Luke Kelly also had a serious side. As Sheahan recalls, “He was an active socialist and a very generous man too, often happily sharing his good fortune with those who were less fortunate. I remember a family who were burnt out of their house in the north. When Luke met them in Mullingar where they were being temporarily housed, he invited them to stay in his own house in Dartmouth Square.”
Luke’s brother Jimmy approved of all aspects of the project. My son Fiachra, who is also Luke’s godson, also had an input. The compilation features the previously unavailable and elusive version of ‘Hand Me Down My Bible’ which Fiachra found on the internet.
Five other tracks have not been released before, including ‘Kelly The Boy From Kilane’ and ‘The Rising Of The Moon’ extracted from the archives of Radio Bremen in Germany. Other previously unreleased recordings are of ‘Montreux Monto’, ‘Maids When You’re Young’ and ‘The Town I Loved So Well’, and you get virtually all of Luke’s most cherished interpretations.”
Sheahan points out that “The Remembering Luke concerts stem from a one-off event last May which went over a treat and will be reprised at The Gaiety from October 24 to 30. The Dubliners will play each night, with former member Jim McCann as compere. Each night will have different guests, such as Ronnie Drew, George Murphy and Shane MacGowan.” b
Remembering Luke with The Dubliners at The Gaiety, October 24 and 25 (with Ronnie Drew); 26 and 27 (with George Murphy); 28 and 29 (with Shane MacGowan). The Best Of Luke Kelly is out now on Celtic Airs.