I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized A Dance You Should Know

A Dance You Should Know

Jeremy Kearney
Dancehall Days: When Showbands Ruled the Stage, Michael O’Reilly, Gill and Macmillan, 326 pp, €29.95, ISBN: 978-0717164608 I was too young for the showband phase of Irish music, which was at its peak between about 1960 and 1966. My only direct experience of a live showband was in 1969 during a family holiday to a seaside hotel at Courtown Harbour, Co Wexford. I was a reluctant teenage participant on this trip and all memories of the holiday have been forgotten except for two things. It was the week of the first moon landing and secondly, I somehow ended up in the local Tara Ballroom where Dickie Rock and the Miami Showband were appearing. I’ve no idea what I was doing there as I knew very little about the showband scene except for the odd programme on television and hearing Brendan Bowyer and the Royal Showband singing the Hucklebuck on the radio. Nothing about the night features in my memory except a compelling vision that on all the walls of the hall were large signs saying “No Close Dancing”. At the time this was mystifying to me for although I was a fairly uncommunicative teenager, I had been to some mixed school parties and a few “hops” at the local parish hall and, in my vague adolescent way, it was clear to me that the whole purpose of dancing was to get as close as possible. However, by 1969, the height of the showband boom had passed and, although there were still plenty of bands and dancehall activity, young people were now getting the latest music from radio and television, with regular music shows on RTÉ. Many were also watching programmes like Top of the Pops and Ready, Steady, Go and listening to the John Peel radio show on the British channels. But looking back, in its heyday the showband phenomenon in Ireland was a quite remarkable phenomenon. In the early 1960s there were over five hundred showbands ‑ and four hundred and fifty dance halls ‑ around the country. The most popular bands, such as Brendan Bowyer and the Royal, Dickie Rock and the Miami and the Clipper Carlton, were playing to audiences of two to three thousand people on a regular basis. Clearly this was statistically a highly popular form of entertainment, even if it was not always musically on the highest level. On one St Stephen’s night it was estimated there were…

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