- 21 Mar 19
With the UK still inching its way way towards Brexit, and a push to the right being facilitated all over the world by social media companies, the European ideal of peace and harmony between democratic nations is under severe threat. In response, Irish singer-songwriter Francie Conway has released a track, ‘One for Europe', celebrating a continent he grew to know and love. Here, he explains the background...
One of the first loves of my life was Europe.
Can you imagine a young kid from Tralee in 1977, with a guitar and a shoulder-bag, arriving in Amsterdam. I stood with my back to Central Station, looking forward. It was like all my birthdays had come together at once. I was home.
That was the start of my travels and my love affair with Europe. It was there, in different parts of the continent, that I met some of the great friends of my life. I started to explore our wonderful European countries, cultures, music, art, literature, cinema, food, wine – and when the hit records came, that was cool also.
Travel does broaden the mind. I remember, the first time I went to Australia as a member of The Fureys, thinking that if I’d come a few years earlier I might have stayed. However, on my second tour down under, with the Dutch violinist Siard De Jong, I realised that no: Australia wouldn’t ever have satisfied me. I'd miss Amsterdam, Paris, Geneva, Dublin, London, Stockholm and so many more places, just a stone's throw away, far too much. So I guess it was natural for me to write this song, 'One For Europe’.
And yet, the influence of my friend, the late David Richards, is all over the track. Let me explain...
For the uninitiated, David and Erdal Kizilcay worked together in Mountain Studio, Montreux, in Switzerland. In that famous complex, they collaborated with Freddie Mercury, David Bowie, Iggy Pop and many more hugely influential musicians. It was also in Montreux that David Richards met Chris White, when they did a mix of my first album, along with John Woolloff. Chris later returned to Montreux to record the wonderful album New World with the seminal English outfit, The Zombies.
Cut to August, 2018. Vivienne Boucherat and Chris White decided to come to Dublin, to see their friend Brian Wilson, ex- of The Beach Boys, in concert. I suggested to Chris, while he was here, that we try playing one of the games that David had taught me, and which they had used with considerable success when they were working on songs with Queen.
We had a go – and it worked for us too. That day Viv, Chris and I wrote the lyric for ‘One For Europe'.
It was a few days later when Erdal Kizilcay sent me a message out of the blue saying, "Let's work on something together.” There seemed to be some strange kind of synchronicity in play. In response, I sent the freshly-minted lyric to Erdal – and the second part of the journey began.
‘One For Europe’ was recorded with Erdal in Switzerland; with Viv and Chris in England; and with drummer Matt Kelleghan (Moving Hearts), plus musicians from The Rockschool, Ballyfermot, including my son Rory, in Ireland.
And so you might say that the writing and recording of ‘One For Europe’ came about as a result of a series of happy accidents and coincidences.
To bring things full circle, as a member of The Zombies, Chris is being inducted into The Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame in New York this month.
Sadly, David passed away December 2013. But I think David would have loved to see our dove of PL&R’n'R fly. You’ll see what I mean when you watch our social video, which was made by John Hanley and designed by John Reddy – whose incredible work adds an extra dimension to it all.
So let's send out a positive message together in these unprecedented times, to help tip the scales in favour of mutual understanding and close co-operation, to whatever extent we can. And, remember never to take what we have for granted. Others fought for the freedom and solidarity that we enjoy in Europe. It is up to us to keep those ideals alive.
'One For Europe' by Francie Conway is available now.
• In the 1970s, Francie Conway was the main songwriter with the Kerry band, Clutch. He subsequently moved to Holland and lived also for a time in Switzerland. Signed to RCA Records, in 1984, he had European hits with 'To The Edge of Time’ and ‘One Night in Amsterdam’. Many of the songs on his star-studded debut album Wake Up were subsequently covered by artists like Stevie Wright (The Easybeats), Dolores Keane and The Fureys. Following his return to Ireland, Francie joined The Fureys for a time. He has also toured and recorded with Finbar Furey and worked as a producer. One of the founder-members of Ballyfermot Rock School, he is the songwriting coach there. A track sung by Francie Conway, 'Something I Heard’, is included in the new 13-track compilation, The Chris White Experience, released by Chris to coincide with the induction of his band The Zombies into the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame, in March 2019.