Showbands: How Ireland Learned To Party
Presented by Ardal O’ Hanlon The 60’s in Ireland was another country; poor, divided and priest-ridden. The Beatles and Swinging London were nowhere to be seen but out of this musical vacuum arose The Showbands, a uniquely Irish phenomenon. These bands played the hits of the day to the youth of Ireland, hungry for entertainment, in the isolated rural Ballrooms Of Romance, on both sides of the border, every night of the week.
At their peak, there were over 600 showbands in the country, throwing up unlikely home-grown heartthrobs, as they generated huge amounts of money – although the bands, themselves, saw little of the cash. The money was controlled and accumulated by a close cadre of agents, promoters and managers who were masters of strokes, schemes and shady dealings
The Church too made a small fortune. Not only did they own many of the halls, but actually promoted the dances and stood at the door collecting the entrance fees, while keeping a watchful eye on the morals of the nation’s youth.
Ardal O’ Hanlon retraces the steps of these heroic troubadours, across the length and breath of Ireland (with an unlikely stop in Las Vegas) talking to the stars, hustlers and punters of this 15 year long Irish cultural and social phenomenon.
The showbands will never be remembered with the same reverence as the likes of U2 or the nation’s writers but their story tells us more about Ireland, in this period, than their more respected purveyors of Irish culture.