Ged Graham, writer and star of Seven Drunken Nights, joined The Helix for a chat! He is performing at The Helix with Seven Drunken Nights on Saturday February 26th in The Mahony Hall!
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Interview with Ged Graham by Ken Lawlor
Q. Hi Ged, so have you noticed much difference now [with ticket sales] compared to when previous restrictions were lifted?
A. We’re seeing that right across the board! What we found on the Fairy-tale of New York Tour was that people were holding on to see how the land lies and see if any more restrictions were going to come in but now I think people are feeling much more enthusiastic in terms of bookings & sales are starting to ramp up now!
Q. And have you been gigging much?
A. Yeah! I’ve been really lucky! I started doing my solo dates around about July/August last year and then we did a tour of Seven Drunken Nights in October and then Nov/Dec we were doing the Fairy-tale of New York show and also just doing all of the pubs, clubs and venues as they have been open (in the UK) so I was doing my solo dates and now straight into the tour with Seven Drunken Nights! It has possibly been the busiest I have ever had it in, say, the last five years!
Q. You really don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone, do you?
A. That’s so true! You were so used to being able to jump on a plane, nip over to Dublin or wherever, on the spur of the moment, and when that is taken away from you you start to want to get stuff booked in! I have the next two holidays booked already! I have not even been to the pub with my mates for nearly 2 years and you can lose touch!
Q. Yeah you regret all of those times that you said “ah I’ll give tonight a miss and I’ll see you next week!”
A. All the gigs we’ve missed and I go to loads of gigs! I’m now at home searching online to see what gigs and theatre shows I can get to see this year! I’ll tell you a story, I was in Las Vegas in the early 90s and I went to a show and it was Shane MacGowan and John Prine and I never thought I would get to see those 2 on the same bill! It was a great theatre/club style atmosphere and there was loads of little gigs like that about. There’s a great Irish Scene over there in America! I once played on a festival called The Desert Shamrock festival in Arizona! So many from the Irish Scene at the time was there!
Q Is a show in Las Vegas something that you would like to do?
A. It has been very difficult over the last couple of years with America with regards to Covid and Visas before that. It is a funny place because there is no real in-between when it comes to the Irish music that they like over there. It is either the on-trend and cool stuff like Once by Glen Hansard or Damien Rice, or it is the ‘top of the morning’ Irishness they love. There was a huge showband scene there decades ago but their expectations of Irish music are quite different over there (jigs and reels etc). The Dubliners didn’t really make an impact over there. They performed on the biggest TV show in America (Ed Sullivan Show) but were not allowed to perform Seven Drunken Nights because they considered the song risqué, so they performed Muirsheen Durkin and it didn’t really show off what the band was all about! The Clancy Brothers were more of what the market was looking for so trying to sell Seven Drunken Nights to the American market is quite difficult but we’ll keep on trying!
Q Muirsheen Durkin had that ‘Long Way to Tipperary’/ ‘Top of the Morning’ vibe that you had mentioned too, which is probably why it was used.
A. Yeah exactly and to be honest I can understand it. In my experience, I left Dublin and moved to Manchester when I was 10 years old and you tend to bring your music and your culture with you wherever you move to all over the world and sometimes the most obvious Irishness (Long way to Tipperary) is something that you’re really comfortable with and it may not be “cool” but when you are away from home, anything Irish is welcome. In America when you are 5,6,7 generations down the line it can get very generic and that’s the thing that people can latch on to! Seven Drunken Nights is such a fantastic song but in 60s America it is just something they wouldn’t have understood and wouldn’t have liked on mainstream TV. And it got to number 7 on Top of the Pops in 1967 which was remarkable at the time! I am obviously a Dubliner fan and one of the few things that my dad brought with him when we moved to the UK was his Dubliners records and they were always a constant in our house! We would have the Dubliners, Tammy Wynette and Larry Cunningham so I suppose as a youngster I wasn’t really paying attention but it was working its way into me without me realising. Seven Drunken Nights got banned in Ireland but when it broke on Radio Caroline and it got picked up in the UK, they ended up on Top of the Pops and were rubbing shoulders with the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and the Rolling Stones and they never compromised and kept sounding like the people of Ireland and they also looked really cool. Their music and image was full of integrity and their songs were very urban and about real Irish life and not always about the green fields etc.
Q. And what led to you writing the show Seven Drunken Nights?
A. We were doing a show called Ireland’s call and I knew that that show had almost run its course so I was either going to start auditioning for other shows or do something myself. The Dubliners, as an entity, had ceased around 2012 and this was around the same time and I thought it was a great opportunity to look at this massive body of work and try to re-present it to an audience with that same energy that the early Dubliners had! I didn’t want my kids or a newer generation to see Irish music as boring or ‘plastic’. I want them to appreciate music to makes me enthusiastic. I want to give them a show that will inspire them to seek out the great artists and the other people that were around at the same time like Jim McCann, the Ludlows, etc. This huge heritage of Irish Music.
So I sat down and I was writing out the titles of the songs, what different eras they fell into, what kind of style and the individuals who performed them like Luke Kelly, Ronnie Drew, Ciarán Bourke, etc. and how they approached their songs. I put about 2 years into it before we arrived at the first performance of the show! The response from the audience has been tremendous! They really get into the show and appreciate the enthusiasm we put into it. I love these songs and I’d hate to think of, for example, a great song like The Wild Rover being sung limp in 30 or so years.
Q. The songs seem to represent a lot more than your run of the mill songs on the radio, don’t they?
A. Of course, those songs meant more to my dad, for example, as they were a direct link to his Ireland. He didn’t go back to Ireland for 40 years. Only now, as an older man, I can appreciate that he knew when he left Ireland that there was no going back. All the memories that he had were manifested in the songs and the music means so much more. It puts you in contact with where you come from. That was passed down to me and then I passed it down to my kids. The majority of my friend are of Irish descent and we all have that shared identity and have the Irish craic and play the music etc.
Q. Is there a certain song on the show that you look forward to performing the most?
A. It varies! I have started to do The Rocky Road to Dublin. This is the hardest song I have ever sung and to sing it like Luke Kelly is impossible! It’s purely the breathing and Luke Kelly is one of the greatest soul singers. The passion he puts into the songs, like Scorn Not His Simplicity, (which is in the show as well) written by Phil Coulter, is absolute gold dust. He was such a huge part of the Dubliners story as well as Bill Whelan!
Without The Dubliners I don’t think you would have had Thin Lizzy and U2 and Bono and the Edge always tip their hat to the Dubliners!
Sometimes we can forget just how influential they were!
Tickets available now for Seven Drunken Nights - Here
Tickets: €28.00 plus booking fee