Irish rock

Irish rock

Rock and roll has been a part of the music of Ireland since the 1960s, when the British Invasion brought British blues, psychedelic rock and other styles to the island. The Irish music scene in the 1960s and much of the 1970s was dominated by the unique Irish phenomenon of the 'Showbands' which were groups of professional performers who played at dancehalls and clubs across the country putting on a professional 'show' and playing all the American and British hits of the era. In the 1960s this was pretty much the only way a professional musician in Ireland could make a living. Van Morrison and Rory Gallagher started working in Irish showbands, but went on to put Ireland on the rock music map. Van Morrison achieved international success in the 1960s with the beat group Them before launching a very successful solo career that is still going strong in its fourth decade. Rory Gallagher formed the blues rock trio Taste and went on to achieve critical acclaim in his solo career which lasted until his death in 1995. He is considered by many music critics to be among the greatest rock guitarists of all time.


The early 70s saw a growth of Irish Rock music. One band that rose to international prominence was the hard rocking Thin Lizzy, led by Phil Lynott. Another Irish band, Horslips, broke new ground by mixing hard rock with traditional Irish music to create a new genre - Celtic rock. They challenged the idea that an Irish band had to leave the country to be successful. They became the first major rock band to stay based in Ireland instead of moving abroad to chase success. Their highly original music was very successful in Ireland but never achieved much international success. The early 70's paved the way for another band that would remain based in Ireland but would go on to dominate the music world - U2.

In the mid-70s, with a roots revival of traditional music burgeoning, folk rock fusion groups such as Planxty and Moving Hearts as well as singer-songwriters like Christy Moore and Paul Brady rose to prominence.

The late 70s saw the height of the punk rock movement. Irish bands such as Northern Ireland's Stiff Little Fingers and The Undertones as well as Dublin's The Radiators From Space, The Boomtown Rats and the avant-garde The Virgin Prunes were in the midst of the new genre.


The 1980s saw the rise to stardom of the most successful Irish rock band, U2. Since the release of their album "Boy" in 1980, U2 has grown to become one of the biggest rock bands in the world. Now in the third decade of their career they continue to achieve enormous commercial and critical success. Throughout their career U2 have kept their base firmly planted in their home town, Dublin. The band, especially frontman Bono are also well known for their social conscience and their involvement in various international causes. Along with the 1980s came Donegal group Clannad who became the first band to bridge the gap between pop rock music and traditional Irish music.

In the 1980s The Pogues became very successful with their radical new take on the fusion of traditional Irish music with punk rock attitude. This style of 'punked-up traditional Irish music' has also taken off outside of Ireland and the U.K., especially in the United States. Other Irish artists to gain fame in the 1980s were Sinéad O'Connor and the heavy metal group Mama's Boys. Former Thin Lizzy guitarist Gary Moore achieved success in his 1980s solo career but returned to his blues rock roots in the 90's.On the home front, The Blades recorded their much awaited debut Album "The Last Man in Europe" in 1984. The Blades with singles like "Ghost of a chance" "Revelations of heatbreak" were much the kings of the three minute pop song without ever reaching the audience their music deserved.


In the late 80s and early 90s My Bloody Valentine pioneered a new style of rock, Shoegazing, and received much critical acclaim. A new crop of Irish Rockers claimed success in the 1990s including The Cranberries from Limerick, The Frames of Dublin, Therapy? and Ash from Northern Ireland.


In the current decade the music scene remains strong in Ireland. Singer/songwriter Damien Rice has achieved a great deal of success and critical acclaim internationally. Groups such as Snow Patrol and The Thrills have had significant international success. This decade has also produced a number of acclaimed solo singer/songwriters such as Paddy Casey, Duke Special, Damien Dempsey, Declan O'Rourke, Chris Singleton, Cathey Davey, Gemma Hayes, Mundy and Simple Kid. In Northern Ireland Oppenheimer (band), Alloy Mental, and The Jane Bradfords have proved to be underground successes on the international stage.

There are many rock concerts and festivals annually in Ireland, most notably Oxegen, Electric Picnic and the annual concert at Slane Castle.

External links

* [ contains an extensive list of Irish Rock artists]
* [ The Irish Punk & New Wave Discography]
* [ Article questioning the influence of contemporary Irish rock musicians]

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