Bankers and Gangsters

Song Bios

  1. Long Hot Summer Comin’ On
    At the first hint of the dog-days back when CBGB’s was vital and no one gave a damn about anything but the moment, there was an ineffable feeling that something was careening to an end. Gasoline Gomez was torching the Bronx and the East Village; the streets smelled like garbage and we quenched our thirst from frosted glasses with the bums in Milano’s on Houston. Lester was full of energy, while Tom and Richard traded licks that ripped like barbed wire across the Bowery and who could have dreamed that Captain Kristal’s punky purgatory would one day become just another haberdashery.
  2. Celtic Rocker
    I always resisted being pigeonholed and limited to this genre. But what the hell, it just won’t go away and I suppose we have a lot to be responsible for in popularizing it. Like every other original idea it inevitably became a victim of its own clichés. In any case, this is what it looks like from the stage with a couple of shots aboard; might as well take it to the cleaners. And what better way than to Dave Davies and Keith Moon the bejaysus out of it!
  3. Bankers & Gangsters
    It still amazes me that its high priests almost brought capitalism to its knees. Now I’m not one who feels that remuneration or bonuses should be limited – that’s what the big C is all about, so good luck to the Street and all its workers. But come on, guys, did all your smarts and sense go out the window? I mean debt is one thing, daftness another and what about moral hazard and other high falutin’ free market concepts? The craziest thing is no matter how much the White House or the Tea Partiers fulminate, we’re heading back to business as usual.
  4. Izzy’s Irish Rose
    The Jewish people ran the music business when I first landed in the US. Yet, I never sensed any notion of proprietorship. If you had the goods, they threw the doors of the store open. Was that an echo of a turn-of-the-century alliance between the two peoples? We share so many things – humor, melancholy, and a love for the word and the crazy harmonic. This song is a salute to Vaudeville days when the Wild Irish Rose danced a polka down the Bowery with the Tailor from Vilna while sharing dreams and hopes as only the dispossessed can do.
  5. Rosemary (Nelson)
    She was an inspiration to so many. She valued justice and the rule of law. She gave her life for her beliefs. I didn’t want her to fade away. Nor did I wish to celebrate her in some god-awful Irish dirge. That’s why I portrayed her through the eyes of those responsible. I hope her family understands. I did the best I could.
  6. That Summer Dress
    Rob Sabino used to come see us play in the Bronx. He was a cool guy, an amazing musician and the keyboard player for Chic. I might never have appreciated that kind of music but for him. Out in Hampton Bays while playing the happy hours I dreamed of writing a song like this – a hymn to summer that would bring knowing smiles and fill the dance floor. A bit late in the day but life’s like that, isn’t it?
  7. Red Hugh
    He was my boyhood hero but I could never capture him in song. His era was just too distant. And then I became intrigued with the fiery Ahmad Shah Massoud, leader of the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, and it all clicked. Both were fundamentalists, battling much stronger armies on the borders of great empires, with time running out and modernity encroaching. The traditional Irish ballad salutes heroism and does it well. My brief is flawed humanity, so herewith young O’Donnell at the Spanish Court staring out into the darkness from his sweat-soaked bed – his head rattling with paranoia, egotism, fear, resolution and the misplaced certainty of redemption.
  8. Wedding Reel
    This is perhaps my favorite reel. In the midst of despondency it grabs me by the scruff of the neck and fills me to the brim with hope. The song I fashioned around it is a tribute to the Irish countrywoman’s spirit and the banter I used to hear as a boy while picking fruit every summer on the farms of South County Wexford. I didn’t have to explain the saucy sexuality of the woman protagonist to Ms. Fee. She knew it by heart and stepped right into that character. Fine girl you are, Kathleen!
  9. One Starry Night
    Wexford had a lot of tinkers (travelers) in my day. They kept to themselves and only congregated in numbers for weddings and wakes. I had just hit adolescence and was mad for pop music but had some trouble reconciling “moon in June” lyrics with the uproar of puberty. And then I heard a tinkerman sing to his people about Molly Bán and her passion for two men. The song stayed with me down the years in fractured form until I was lucky enough to hear Sean Tyrell’s version; but by then I’d already imagined where Molly might have fled to. And so I set out to find her with the aid of a counter melody and some extra words. I hope you’ll cherish her like I do.
  10. Long Lost Tapes of Hendrix
    My compadre, Gabe Hannon, once related the bones of this story to me over breakfast in Dublin, Ohio. Yes, indeed, Noel Redding did abscond with the tapes of Hendrix’s last gigs and took them to West Cork as collateral for royalties owed. Gabe helped him get a mortgage and the tapes were in turn held as surety by a sympathetic bank manager. The actual story is even wilder. But then truth is always stranger than fiction in wet and windy Ballydehob.
  11. Yeats and Joyce
    I wrote this song on the subway from BB Kings on St. Patrick’s Day 2009. Words and melody just flowed out and I scribbled like the drunken madman I was the short distance to Canal Street. The next morning I could barely read what I’d written but I didn’t need to – the song was burned into my memory, as are all the nights I waltzed around the crossroads of the world. Thanks Willie and Sunny Jim.
  12. The Islands
    I grew up looking at the Saltee Islands off Wexford’s south coast. In times of trial I’ve always held on to their salty memory. The song is about loss and the things you leave behind. Without even knowing it, you take people for granted and feel they’ll always be there; then one day they’re not and you come face to face with the worst three words in the world – “it’s too late.” And, of course, it is.
  13. Bás in Éireann
    Thomas Keneally and I have been writing a musical for many years. In the play, set in the 1840’s, this piece is sung by four women sentenced to transportation to Australia for small crimes. They might as well have been sent to the moon as to Botany Bay. And yet these women triumphed for they went on to help create the great country of Australia. Thanks to my dear friend, Christine Ohlaman for her help on this song and Rosemary (Nelson). And to my wonderful sisters, the Screaming Orphans for their contributions to this, Bankers, Izzy and Summer Dress.