Van Morrison gets the band back together - after 54 years

Van the Man recently rolled back the years with The Monarchs. Here are a few other first acts that need a reboot

Few of those who turned up to last weekend’s charity gig at the Holywood Yacht Club outside Belfast expected to witness a piece of rock’n’roll history. The gig was to remember the late Billy Deane and to raise funds for the Marie Curie hospice in east Belfast.

The line-up included such acts as Inis Mor, the Alan McKelvey Blues Band, The Leah McConnell Band, Lee Hedley’s Ram Jam, George Jones and Friends and the Pikestone Preachers. Admission was a tenner and that included “quality hot snack food” as well. All in all, a good Saturday night out in Co Down and far better than whatever was on the telly.

What the people who turned up to the show didn’t realise in advance was that Van Morrison was going to show up and play some tunes. Morrison was there to play with some of his former bandmates from The Monarchs, the Irish showband he was part of in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

On the tiny stage in the Yacht Club, Morrison stood alongside George Jones, Billy McAllen and Roy Kane to play as The Monarchs for the first time since they toured Germany in 1963. The set included tracks such as Sweet Little Sixteen (in honour of Chuck Berry) and Jesse James.


While Morrison went on to have huge international success first with Them and then as a solo star, The Monarchs are obviously more than just a footnote in his back-pages, judging by this surprise gig. It does make you wonder if more stars of today should go back and play with their pre-fame acts, providing there’s enough of them still around to make it onto the stage. Here’s a selection of acts we’d happily pay a tenner to see in the Holywood Yacht Club (or somewhere else for that matter) with or without the quality snack food.

The Nosebleeds
Some members of the Manchester punk band may have come back together in recent years, but we're more interested in the version that was around in the late 1970s. Any band that featured Morrissey before he went on to form The Smiths, Billy Duffy before The Cult came calling and The Durutti Column's Vini Reilly is well worth seeing again.

Seona Dancing
You know Ricky Gervais as the comedian from The Office and Extras, but he had a previous life as a pop performer and a member of this 1980s new wave band alongside Bill Macrae. The band signed a deal with London Record but rock'n'roll fame did not follow. They were big in the Philippines, mind.

The Co Kildare band produced a series of singles and EPs in the 1990s, but they're of far more note for what happened after their demise in 1998. That split produced a solo star in the shape of Damien Rice and one of the most consistently fascinating Irish bands around in Bell X1.

Uncle Tupelo
Here you'll find the pre-Wilco Jeff Tweedy initially alongside Jay Farrar and Mike Heidorn who then went on to form Son Volt. They produced a clutch of great records, especially debut album No Depression.

Girls Tyme
Before she was Queen Bey and even before Destiny's Child came along, Beyoncé Knowles was a member of a Houston-based girl band called Girls Tyme. It's unlikely that she'll ever want to go back there, but a look at their 1993 appearance on US music TV talent show Star Search will show what the world missed out on.

Steel Mill
The band that Bruce Springsteen called home from 1969 to 1971 before The E Street Band came along. Future E Street Band members Steve Van Zandt, Danny Federici and Vini "Mad Dog" Lopez also served in the Mill alongside Springsteen.