1970s Ireland: Where would we be if Dana hadn't won the Eurovision?
Boomtown Rats on the ‘Late Late’
For many Irish teenagers, a key musical moment in the 1970s came when The Boomtown Rats appeared on Top of the Pops after their single Rat Trap knocked Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta off the No 1 spot. But Ireland’s moral guardians were outraged when Bob Geldof went on The Late Late Show and mouthed off to Gay Byrne about “getting laid”.
“The Boomtown Rats were a rhythm and blues band when I saw them first, doing Dr Feelgood,” says Mac Anna. “But they came on a wave of punk, and they did it brilliantly. The energy of punk was the reason I started a band in the first place. Suddenly everything was possible. It was do-it-yourself: if you wanted to be in a band, you could be in a band. If you wanted to hijack the name of the founder of the State and use it as your stage moniker, you could do it.”
The 1970s, says Ferdia Mac Anna, was when young writers and journalists, including Roddy Doyle, Colm Tóibín and Fintan O’Toole, now of this newspaper, began to find their voice through writing for ‘alternative’ publications. “Suddenly there were a lot of ways you could express yourself. A lot of avenues for getting your work published. If you wanted to know what was going on, you bought In Dublin, Hibernia and Hot Press, and if you wanted to hear good music, you listened to the pirate radio stations. And if you wanted to know what was happening in the underground, you walked around and asked people. So it was a word-of-mouth culture, and a lot of it was portrayed though the writings of a generation who came through In Dublin and other publications.”
Dana wins the Eurovision
On March 21st, 1970, a pixie-faced teenager from Derry swept to victory at the Eurovision Song Contest, and swept Europe off its feet. Dana was the innocent embodiment of Ireland, and her song, All Kinds of Everything, was the perfect jingle, tempting prospective tourists with promises of snowdrops, daffodils and dew.
“Everyone was proud of her,” says Mac Anna. “She was this pretty little thing on a stool and people thought she was wonderful. She’s spent a lot of time since then trashing her own image.
“Up to then we had felt isolated from the rest of Europe, and we didn’t really have a sense of being part of the wider world. If Dana hadn’t won the Eurovision, I’m sure we would still be speaking Irish and wearing báiníns.”
“Aer Lingus sent out a plane to bring her back,” says Barry Devlin. “Dana and the pope: they both got planes, and I think Dana’s plane might have been even bigger than the pope’s.”
Carnsore anti-nuclear protests
In August 1978, young people packed their sleeping-bags and roll-your-own tobacco and made the pilgrimage to Wexford for the first antinuclear festival at Carnsore Point, headlined by Christy Moore.
They were there to protest against plans by then minister for energy and commerce Des O’Malley to build a nuclear power station on Carnsore Point, but musician and broadcaster Ferdia Mac Anna reckons most were there for the beer, the babes and the wacky baccy. “The hippies were lovely around the time of Woodstock, but after that it got stale. It’s great that there was a protest movement, but, like the Green Party, give the hippies any power and they make a balls of it.”