Top Fifty 31: Tír na nÓg – A Tear and a Smile, 1972

[Originally posted in May 2011, the first in this list, and out of sequence here, as are all in this re-posting]


A Tear and a Smile is the Dublin duo’s second album, released in 1972, and is a folk gem, full of Irish lilt in the singing and fine guitar pluck and strum. The self-penned songs are gentle, earnest offerings – melodic, occasional harmony and simply sweet lyrically – and this album is indelibly mixed into the tiedye of my growing up at the time.

Before forming in Dublin, Leo O’Kelly came from Carlow and Sonny Condell from Newtownmountkennedy. Though their next album and later releases included more electrification, this is pure acoustic folk.

Wonderful songs are

Down Day
The Same Thing Happened

So Freely


Lady Ocean

Goodbye My Love

Two White Horses

That’s 7 of the 10 and I am nitpicking the great from the good.

This post is the first in my new venture to account for my top 50 albums. I have no idea if I can confine myself to such a number but that’s the challenge and discipline. Once I have accounted for the 50, I will then rank them. That’ll be interesting.

Then it’s the next 50…..

And I’m not the first nor the last to start this kind of paradoxically perpetual task.


male parent,
so the card half-says,
though not in these words

nor the
Institute of Fatherhood.

Connoisseur of
dad dressing, the
biology of epigenetics:

fathers don’t
and are more
than money,
not on the cards

Dad’s don’t always
do things with

fathers are mothers
mothers are fathers

though maybe not at
for razors
hunting gear
old roll of the dice

And yellow dads,
though that might be

no apostrophe,

dads make mistakes too.

And DadMusic
always the favourites.

Our secular trinity
still postulates difference,
and data-driven ideas
still fool themselves.

My small baseball gloves
were always for my hands

On this day
it’s many things

noting the apostrophe.



I am grinding my teeth
at night
in those deep dreams,
chewing on the days
and days and all
I have shouted
at them.

I feel it in the morning
at breakfast,
in those deep silences
and the not knowing
and the continuing
sense of

Deep Dreams

I have dreamed so deep
its other world holds me
long into waking,

and reading about injustices
I feel as distant as those
who are responsible.

It is the sleep of knowing
but without a power to change
or create any difference,

and the make-believes
I have experienced become
more than transience.

The Subterfuge of ‘Of Mice and Men’

I continue to – as I have since the day of the appalling event – regale strangers, acquaintances and friends about the asshole Michael Gove [an American adjective, its pertinence soon clear] who as the then Education Secretary banned American authors from being set for GCSE English Literature. This meant the most popular exam text of many years, John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, could no longer be set and thus read and studied with both great pleasure and examination success by students.

So today when I again met L out walking the dog, I gave her a copy of Of Mice and Men to read as she had expressed such a keen interest when I recently explained the sad history of its examination demise. I was also able today to explain to L and a friend sitting next to her on a bench, and therefore a new recipient for my wisdom on examination texts, how the current most popular examination text is JB Priestley’s An Inspector Calls, thoroughly English to fit into the myopic thoroughly English sensibilities of the twat Michael Gove [I am also quite happy to apply thoroughly English adjectives to his characterisation] and how there is a wonderful irony in the way this text exposes and attacks social inequalities in society because of how the rich mistreat the poor, something for which the Tory Gove will in reality approve, though he will excuse this inclination by pretending to empathise with the poor in, for example, condescending observations on why those without sufficient money to cope in 21st century Great Britain ‘understandably’ have poor diets as ‘comfort’ food to assuage their sufferings.

In a much more poignant way I made a similar observation about this time last year, here.


Top Fifty 30: Juicy Lucy – S/T,

[Originally posted December 2011]


Juicy Lucy’s eponymous debut album has perhaps the critical acclaim from those who champion the band, featuring as it did the top 20 hit and great Bo Diddley cover Who Do You Love. It’s a great blues-rock album, but it is their sophomore release Lie Back And Enjoy It that introduced the band to me and thus is my favourite. Before moving on to that one I can’t resist posting the inner cover of the band’s first album featuring the wonderful Zelda Plum covered in fruit,


Lie Back and Enjoy It has more occasional but not constant great swamp blues, like second track Willie Dixon’s Built For Comfort with gravel vocals by Paul Williams, ex Zoot Money; guitar by Micky Moody; slide guitar by Glenn Ross Campbell, and that screaming saxophone I so liked at the time played here by the brilliant Chris Mercer. It’s the chugging bluesbeat that propels this funky song. Third track Pretty Woman is more of a country rock number and is perhaps the reason many prefer the first album’s predominately blues selection; and fourth, closing side one of the vinyl, is a light but breezy, slide-driven and band-penned Whiskey In My Jar.

Side two opens with a gutsier return to a rock and blues sound, the Davis/Bramlett Hello L.A. Bye Bye Birmingham [and reading the writing credits from the album sleeve is quite a task as it opens out into six album-sized squares, the inner spread a picture of the band in performance with album details, and the outer using each of the six individual squares to present a member of the band – see below]. Seventh track That Woman’s Got Something is another band-penned number and is an acoustic and authentic sounding blues with Paul William’s vocal growl carrying the song. Eighth is my favourite – and here shouteth the purists in their dismay – a dirty cover of Zappa’s Willie The Pimp, Williams’ vocal sleazy and slithering. There’s some great playing on this with Campbell’s rampant slide and Rod Coombes’ pulsating drums, including solo with Moody echoing on guitar. Playing this song loudly over and over when I got the album, along with and similarly Built For Comfort, they tend to dominate my recall of the album and represent what is best in it. Overall it’s not the most consistently strong or musically memorable of my other selections in this category, but being reminded of the Vertigo cohort, to which JL’s first two releases belonged, it still commanded a place for the amount of playtime it got in my early collection and listening leanings.




The most certain voice
sings a seed into the ground
making it grow
as experienced gardeners
stand around listening
and believing.

It is a song
of one tune over another
like this substance over that
making it bloat or bloom
as a melody you start to hear
without forgetting.

It gets inside the head
like a weed too, not wanted,
not right for a soundtrack
on husbandry and self-help
and inner calm: like
tinnitus sprouting.

Top Fifty 29: Hoyt Axton – My Griffin is Gone, 1969

[Originally posted May 2011]


Released in 1969, this must be about the time I bought the album at Woolworths in Ipswich, Suffolk. It was loose in a scattered luckydip of cheap LPs presented, as I recall, in a chrome display cage. I bought a number of albums at Woolworths around this time and wish I had purchased more: usually completely unknown and selected by cover design and perhaps the linear notes if I bothered to read. So many have become ‘classics’ [though that is a relative term] but certainly a number are rare today.

This album too is inextricably linked to my formative years, two into living in England and having had my American roots and attachments challenged either by direct attack or ridicule [fellow students are a tough crowd, especially when they wear a black school uniform and you turn up for the first day at your new secondary modern wearing baby blue slacks with matching sneakers and yellow shirt with matching socks. I didn’t need to wear the neon sign that flashed Pick On Me]. But the point is by this time I wasn’t alienated by, for example, the anti-Vietnam war song Beelzebub’s Laughter, my Beach Boy sensibilities having been beaten out by then.

There is a strong sense as I listen now that these songs are crafted to reflect their time: the socio/political and even more ethereal themes of the ‘flowerpower’ generation targeted as a commercial rather than wholly committed audience appeal. Sunshine Fields of Love with its evocation of San Francisco backs this up, as clearly do the Country oriented albums Axton produced from ’64 to this date with their more homespun preoccupations.

That said, the drugs lament Snow Blind Friend has its honest and heartfelt core, a song made famous by Steppenwolf as was the other great Axton penned and Steppenwolf cover The Pusher, itself made famous in the film Easy Rider. Indeed, those who know just a little of Axton will probably do so indirectly by these two songs, and perhaps Joy to the World, or by his screen appearance in Gremlins.

Other songs on this album that resurrect powerful teenage memories are On The Natural, Way Before the Time of Towns, Childhood’s End and Revelations. Axton’s singing voice is unique. At times the long notes have the waver of Buffy Saint-Marie but in bass-baritone.

Another great Axton album I’ll mention now is Love Life with stonking versions of Maybeline and That’s All Right. It also includes the beautiful Billy’s Theme from the film Buster and Millie as well as another Axton gem Boney Fingers, with a great vocal accompaniment by Renee Armand. Linda Ronstadt guest-vocals on When the Morning Comes. Perhaps a superior musical album all round, but it just doesn’t have that similar significant place of When My Griffin is Gone in the nostalgic reconstruction of who I am.

Maybe the category needs to be refined to Top Fifty Influential Albums.