Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

Stories from the radio

Aslan have never enjoyed a great rep in certain quarters. You can chalk this down to many things, from the band’s music (brilliant, catchy pop songs which get played to death on the radio are not everyone’s cup of tea) …

Mon, Mar 7, 2011, 09:33


Aslan have never enjoyed a great rep in certain quarters. You can chalk this down to many things, from the band’s music (brilliant, catchy pop songs which get played to death on the radio are not everyone’s cup of tea) to their longetivity (sticking around for nearly three decades is quite staggering, in fairness), but there’s no doubt that their lengthy innings means that there’s a lot of fantastic tales to be told. I remember interviewing back in 1998 or 1999 and they were fantastic value, just one cracking story after another.

In many ways, then, interviewing the band’s Christy Dignam and Billy McGuinness was an easy gig for Miriam O’Callaghan on yesterday’s Miriam Meets show. She just had to make sure the microphones were on, point the duo in the direction of another anecdote and away they went without any need for the presenter to stick her oar in.

While O’Callaghan’s Sunday morning show often suffers from fluffy whimsy and a feeling that the host has to induce the guest to tears at least once, this episode was never going to fall into that trap. Dignam and McGuinness covered the whole nine yards of Aslan’s existence, from the early days playing the Revenue Club, rehearsing in a pig-sty and throwing in decent jobs as a baker and telephone engineer to the era of signing a record deal, partying every night away and Dignam’s heroin addiction right onto the band splitting up and getting back together again.

There were no punches pulled when it came to discussing such issues as Dignam getting fired from the band he founded – the others left this dirty deed to their then manager Danny Kenny while they dodged the singer in a studio across town – or how he dealt with his addiction. It was an open, honest and brutally raw hour of radio and made you realise that there’s one hell of a documentary in Aslan’s topsy-turvey crazy world. I just hope (and assume) someone is working on it.

Patricia, Mary and Mary-Lou Too was the title of a brilliant post-general election 2007 on three female candidates who ran (ultimately unsuccessfully) for the Dail in Dublin Central. Dogfight: Conor and Charlie was this election’s offering on that front, documentary maker Ciaran Cassidy following Dublin South West Fianna Fail dudes Conor Lenihan and Charlie “Mr Tallaght” O’Connor as they battled for their political lives.

Cassidy’s time with the candidates produced radio gold. What stood out was the reaction the pair received on the doorsteps. There was plenty of the anger we kept hearing about during the election campaign, as people reacted to finding two of the gobshites responsible for the mess we’re in, smirking away at their front door. That there was only one reported incident of threatened violence against this pair of doofuses is a credit to the maturity of the voters of Dublin South West, who instead took their savage revenge at the ballot-box.

What also stood out was the pair’s reaction to this anger. There were lots of laughs, jibes and slaggings as the Fianna Failers failed time and time again to realise just why the constituents were so outraged. There was no empathy, no understanding, no sympathy of the situations they were hearing about because Lenihan and O’Connor just didn’t get it and have been insulated from the hardships and hard choices which faced their constituents (and will continue to be, as you can see from this piece listing their pensions and redundancy payments). For them, it was a bad day at the office and, sure, they’ll be back again in a few years time. For the voters, this was a cold, calculated, completely warranted response to 14 years of Fianna Fail incompetence.

If those compiling Fianna Fail’s post-game blame report needs something else to analyse, this documentary should be compulsory listening. Of course, given the pig-headed arrogance displayed to the bitter end by the fired pair and their failed peers like John O’Donoghue and Dick Roche, there’s every chance that the reduced rump of Fianna Fail diehards is still wandering around, scratching its collective head, trying to work out what just happened. Having a new leader who did a good line in looking pious and saying sorry at every juncture was just not good enough in the end. Having candidates like Lenihan and O’Connor rolling around the constituency like they were to the manor born was not what the voters wanted. As the documentary showed, the writing was on the wall from the very beginning of the campaign, if only the party and its candidates had bothered to look.