New book explores Irish pop’s success

by James Hendicott
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For a country as small as our own, it’s widely accepted that Ireland’s music scene, not least in our own capital city, is disproportionately successful.

Naturally, then, a question arises as to why? In a culture where many artists perceive a lack of support, why do acts from U2 to Thin Lizzy, Fontaines D.C to Dermot Kennedy to Hozier, continue to find massive success outside of our shores?

That’s the question Michael Murphy and Jim Rogers are looking to answer in their new book ‘Sounds Irish, Acts Global’. Published by Equinox Publishing, and due out as part of their Music Industry series, the book, penned mostly by Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology lecturer and man at the heart of the Irish punk scene Murphy, explores the question across 13 chapters that take in a chunk of Ireland’s most successful exports.

As well as the more obvious and well-covered acts (see chapters on U2 and their contemporaries The Virgin Prunes, as well as The Corrs, Riverdance, Boyzone, and Westlife), the book does a great job of exploring the less-coveted history of Irish music, glancing back at the 1930s (through a lens of law and order and nationalism), and the 1950s (through Elvis and what is termed ‘Catholic Pop’).

The strength, then, is in the historical diversity and the storytelling nature of Murphy and Rogers’ text, with chapters on teenage influence on the music scene, the rise of Enya outside of the ‘industry’, and Horslips thundering adaptation of trad offering loads of colour. We all know how well Irish music does, but it’s great to see it written down through such a compelling and diverse narrative by authors who, for the latter part of their text at least, lived the experience.

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