I got to know Larry Kirwan back in 1978, when he and Pierce Turner, as Turner & Kirwan of Wexford, were the house band at the Bells of Hell, one of the two greatest bars (can you guess the other one?) that ever were in New York. The Bells closed in 1979, and Larry and Pierce continued on for a while, making a move into electronica and disco as the Major Thinkers, then each went his own way. For a while, Larry concentrated on his other talent, writing, and produced a play called Liverpool Fantasy, based on the question: What would the world be like if the Beatles never made it? (Larry has since expanded it into a novel.) Then, in the late 1980s, Larry got together with some other superb musicians and formed Black 47, a band that I love despite having once tongue-in-cheekedly described them as “traditional Irish hip-hop thrash metal punk” or something similar. In the video above, they do my favorite of their songs, one about the 1916 Easter Rising, “James Connolly”:
My name is James Connolly, I didn’t come here to die,
But to fight for the rights of the working man, the small farmer too,
Protect the proletariat from the bosses and their screws,
So hold on to your rifles, boys, and don’t give up your dream,
Of a republic for the working class, economic liberty!
I’ve posted before about my visit to Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin, where the surviving sixteen leaders of the 1916 Rising were taken and shot; the wounded Connolly having been tied to a chair to face the firing squad.
Larry has now sent word that, a little over one year from now, on the 25th anniversary of their first gig, Black 47 will disband. As their website notes:
There are no fights, differences over musical policy, or general skulduggery, we remain as good friends as when we first played together. We just have a simple wish to finish up at the top our game after 25 years of relentless touring and, as always, on our own terms.
In their remaining year, they’ll continue to tour, and are working on one final album, Last Call. I will get a copy, and attend as many of their gigs as I can. I’ll report more here from time to time.