Ace of Hearts

MOVING HEARTS in the BAGGOT INN, three nights a week - EAMON MC CANN recalls the greatest residency ever.

Ace of Hearts

MOVING HEARTS in the BAGGOT INN, three nights a week - EAMON MC CANN recalls the greatest residency ever.

The Stones at the Crawdaddy Club, the Pogues at Barrowlands, Helen Brady at the Dungloe, The Beatles at the King's Hall, Sinatra at Landsdowne Road, Joe Burke at the Gweedore, the Fleadhs at the Olympia, Springsteen at Slane, John Prine at Tramore, Joni Mitchell in New Jersey, the Undertones at Punchestown,T oyah at the RDS, Siniad at the Olympic, Ella and Oscar Peterson at the Opera House, Bob Marley at Dalymount, but most of all Moving Hearts at the Baggot Inn, 1981.

I was listening to Donal Lunny's extravaganza at the Waterfront a couple of months back when the thought came to me that, apart from Shane Mc Gowan, nothing to newly irradiate the imagination has happened to Irish music sine the Hearts were a wonder. There isn't a venue like the Baggot now, either.

This was the Baggot before it was bought over and dicky-bowed up by the man who made Mick Mc Carthy the manager he is today. It was a ground-level cellar, T-shaped with low-slung ceiling to funnel the sound and for sealing in sweat. It held about 250 maximum for safety, 400 minimum for gigs by the greats.

Moving Hearts began a Tuesday night residency there, which then became Monday and Tuesday, and then Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Three nights a week and always agitated clumps outside trying to blag their way in with fanciful claims that they were friends of Terry O'Neill, or whatever.

Sometimes there's a gig which achieves lift-off for the first time, as on a night I had just elbowed myself into enough space for a crushed ribcage and Christy Moore blasted open with 'No Time For Love' ... "They talk of the law/We talk of apartheid, internment, conscription, partition and silence ... No time for love when they come in the morning .. The sound of the siren, the cry of the morning."

And then a mighty sudden slab of sound made from merging sax (Keith Donald) pipes (Davy Spillane) guitar (Declan Sinnott) and keyboard (Donal Lunny), propelled by a thundercrack of rhythm from bass (Eoin O'Neill) and drums (Brian Calnan), and a shiver of liberation, deliciously dangerous, eddied through the compression.

Mannix Flynn had a nice joke about Moving Hearts as "the political wing of the Wolfe Tones", which needlessly annoyed the band. The Hearts' distinction was to connect rebellion then in Ireland, not to patriot generations complaining from miserable graves, but to the rising of the wretched of the rest of the earth, conveying this precisely appropriately in music at one trad-Irish and metropolitan cool, the virtuoso interweave of pipes and sax epitomising the achievement.

Nineteen eighty-one provided an exact moment to match such music. The hunger-strike had made half the world intimate with men in utter isolation, while in the Baggot, private rapture was experienced en masse. 'Before the Deluge', 'Nancy Spain', 'On the Blanket;', 'Sacco and Vanzetti', 'McIlhatton'.

The great gigs you can't recall song by song, minute by minute. What remains is the afterglow, the inscription on the soul, the quickening of the spirit again as it recalls to mind, the remembered sense of struggle celebrated, vindicated even in seeming defeat by the joyous defiance of the sound from the stage.

It was the time and the place for it. Charlie Mc Gettigan was behind the bar when we infiltrated for the late drink. "It doesn't get better than that", he remarked. And right, it never has.

Eamon Mc Cann, Hot Press Magazine


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