- 20 Oct 21
Mary Coughlan revisited her iconic debut album 'Tired & Emotional' as part of the Up Close and Personal series at the Grand Social last night. The Up Close and Personal series is made in conjunction with Aidan Shortall of Up Close and Personal promotions and supported by the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media.
Mary Coughlan arrived on the Irish music scene in 1985 with her debut album, Tired & Emotional. The record transformed Coughlan's life as a mother of three and catapulted her into stardom, making her one of the most iconic musicians in Irish music history. Tracks like 'Double Cross', 'The Beach' and 'Seduced' went on to become highly regarded fan favourites, even decades after their original release.
The venue was buzzing in anticipation of Coughlan's arrival, and after Nolan's brief introduction, she joined him on stage to huge applause.
Coughlan explained how the album happened as a result of the encouragement of her friend Eric Visser – who was a producer and arranger. "I was an old hippie living in Galway," she admitted. She said she was "very happily engaged" and taking care of her three children, breastfeeding her youngest son, running a food co-op, knitting hats, and writing a column for a hippie magazine when Visser encouraged her to record some songs.
"It wasn't on the horizon at all, but the prospect was very exciting," she said.
Accompanied by pianist Johnny Taylor, the first track that Coughlan performed live was her first hit single, 'Double Cross'. The song was written by her ex-husband Fintan, and Coughlan said that she "didn't really understand fully the significance until later." In typically humorous style, she described it as a parting gift from him when they separated. The stripped-back performance showcased Coughlan's voice, emphasising the marvellous talent that first captivated audiences.
Following 'Double Cross', we listened to 'The Beach' before Mary performed another live song, from Tired & Emotional, 'Meet Me Where They Play The Blues', which was originally a New Orleans jazz standard in the 40s. The jazzy tone suits her voice and she revelled in the playful lyrics, "Baby if you're gloomy, come around and do me." The song also came with a beautiful solo by Taylor.
'Delaney's Gone Back on the Wine' and 'Sense of Silence (SOS)' were listened to back to back. By the end of 'Sense of Silence', Mary began to mouth along to the lyrics and closed her eyes briefly. It was a lovely moment, typical of these intimate sessions. Listening to the songs seemed to transport her, and she told the audience afterward, "God, listening back to that stuff brings back memories."
'Nobody's Business' was next, a track with a tango flourish that Coughlan said she used to dance to with her bass player. The upbeat track made Coughlan bop her head, and members of the audience clapped and sang along.
The next performance was 'The Beach', a track written by Visser after Coughlan told him a story about someone stealing women's bikinis and watching other people at the beach. The lights were warm, illuminating Coughlan in a golden glow. Taylor also shone with another spectacular piano solo.
Three more songs were played – 'Mama Just Wants to Barrelhouse All Night Long', 'Country Fair Dance (The Cowboy Song)', and 'Lady In Green'. While the first two were more upbeat and fun to dance and sing along to for both Coughlan and the audience, 'Lady In Green' is a sadder, jazzier song about someone Coughlan knew who had died by suicide. "Why would somebody give it up and die?" she asks in the song.
In between these songs, Coughlan recounted her time in the spotlight, including everything from meeting Freddie Mercury and Sir Elton John at Brian May's 50th birthday party to being backstage with stars who had come just to see her, including Van Morrison, Elvis Costello, and Nick Cave. She called moments like these "absolutely insanity."
Coughlan ended the night on a bittersweet note, talking about the important role that Visser, who now has Parkinson's disease, had in her life. She credits his influence as a major contribution to her music career, saying that she wouldn't have explored music or started singing without him.
"He enriched my life incredibly," she said. And in turn, she enriched ours. It was, all told, a marvellous night that delivered unique insights – and great music.
See more pictures from Mary Coughlan: Up Close and Personal here.