6. PLANXTY REFORMS
I was involved in a car crash in August 1977 and Paul had to play a big Festival in Holland on his own. I think this was when he began to realize that he could do it alone. We never really split up but after he told me his new plans, we played together less and less. We remained good friends though and last played together at our respective children's school about nine years ago. It was a huge success as the audience had been our audience 14 years before!
By late 1978, Christy was playing with The Christy Moore Band, Donal was in The Bothy Band (which was in the process of breaking up), Liam was playing solo and I was either touring with Mick or playing solo too. Christy saw it as a good time to recreate the ''Original Planxty''. Liam and myself agreed wholeheartedly. I think we had both been hoping for this moment for a couple of years. I know I had. Donal was in a bit of a tricky situation as he felt a responsibility towards the other members of The Bothy Band.
Eventually, he was persuaded and brought the truly great flute player, Matt Molloy into the band with him.
We set about starting all over again…..
Things were different. Looking back at it, we had all grown up by this time. Life was not as freewheeling as it had been. Mortgages had to be paid and children fed.
Still we felt that we could pick up where we had left off and a monster tour was planned for the Spring of 1979. We even had Nicky Ryan back doing the sound. We had a new Manager in Kevin Flynn from County Sligo, a man with a quick brain and a quicker tongue. If there was ever a competition for the number of words spoken in 20 seconds, 'Lofty' Flynn would surely be the winner!
That was one mammoth tour. I remember we played our try-out gig at ''The Meeting Place'' in Dublin, a pub that held about 60 people and, two days later we opened the tour at the Hammersmith Odeon that held about 3,000! It was a nervous start.
The tour went on through Britain and Germany, France, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, Holland and finally, Ireland: 45 gigs in 58 days.
We finished in Dublin and the following week we were in the new 'Windmill Lane' studios to record After the Break.
Matt stayed till the Autumn of 1979 when he was asked to join The Chieftains. I think Matt felt more at home in a band that played tunes almost exclusively and though we lost him with regret, I think we realized he would enjoy himself more in The Chieftains.
The endless touring schedule had changed a bit since the old days. No longer were we permanently on tour and for the rest of 1979 there was a 10 day tour of Ireland, a short European jaunt and a wonderful weekend at the Nyon Festival in Switzerland. I even found time to do a Dutch tour with Donal and a German tour with Mick Hanly. I also recorded my first solo album at the end of 1979, Rainy Sundays … Windy Dreams.
The old days certainly never came back - how could they? - but we still had some fantastic times.
There's a difference of opinion among a lot of people regarding the music played first time around and the music played in this incarnation. Many more people seem to be trapped in the time warp of the Black Album than the After the Break period. Personally, much as I cherish the memories of the original band and its music, I find the music we played on After the Break, The Woman I loved so well (my all time favourite Planxty album) and Words and Music to be more satisfying.
In March 1980 we went to Kilkee Castle Hotel in County Kildare to rehearse for the next album and tour. We brought with us Noel Hill on Concertina and Tony Linnane on Fiddle—''the twins''. They weren't really in the band but we rehearsed a few numbers with them to great effect. Listen to some of the songs and tunes on The Woman….
I had been an advocate of widening the perspectives of the band for a while and when we came to record ''Woman…'' we asked Bill Whelan to bring in his Fender Rhodes piano. I wasn't in the studio at the time he recorded a riffy accompaniment to a set of jigs but when I heard it next day, I was very excited.
We were back to being a quartet for the next tour. A wonderful tour, playing Italian castles.
I was still keeping my hand in in the duo stakes. I was now touring Europe with Gerry O'Beirne, one of the best Guitar Accompanists that I ever played with. We continued the tradition of long extensive tours that I had set up with Mick Hanly.
After one of these tours, I went into a recording studio in Northeim, Germany to record an album called Folk Friends 2—others had already made number one. Assembled were my old friends Jack Elliott and Derroll Adams, Alex Campbell, Dick Gaughan, Dolores Keane and John Faulkner and many others. That was some week! Alex was trying to stay off the drink but I don't think anybody else was shy of a few! We recorded in different combinations and I recorded Thousands are Sailing with Dick which would lead to our making an album together a year later. Parallel Lines.
In August, Planxty played for a week at the Olympia Theatre in Dublin. We were a six piece band now, having added Bill Whelan on Keyboards and Nollaig Casey on fiddle. Nicky was still doing the sound and he recorded each evening's performance which was to have ramifications a little later.
Planxty began to play less and less. I can't remember why, maybe this was the time that Christy and Donal began to get involved with what would become Moving Hearts. I do remember that the two bands were operating at the same time for a period in 1982. Planxty even played the acoustic version of ''No time for love'' which was a big hit for The Hearts. I wonder what it sounded like? I bet I have a tape of it somewhere….
I decided to head on down to the Balkans on a sentimental journey. I set out early one May morning in my Renault 12 Estate—a far cry from the sunburnt thumb of 13 years before. Visiting the old haunts in Bucharest and Ljubljana and spending time in Skopje, the Pirin Mountains and the Black Sea. I blundered into a war exercise in Bulgaria and was arrested and held at gunpoint for an hour. The people of the village were crowing at the nervous squaddy who had been sent out to arrest me, ''He's only a tourist, let him go!'' I found myself talking to the young soldier as if he was a dog, I mean I knew he couldn't understand what I was saying so I tried to convey my innocence by inflection and smile. We built up a strange friendship during the hour we waited.
When the Commanding Officers arrived in a jeep—and they were much more threatening—
they wanted to take a picture of me for some reason but the camera didn't work. They let me go and as I drove out of the village, I waved at the Squaddy who waved back. Strange experience. I never felt afraid. I was innocent! Nothing happens to you if you're innocent.
I met up with Gerry in Vienna and we played the Vienna Folk Festival. It was run by a friend of mine called Milica and for the few years it ran, was one of the best.
Gerry and I began our connection with the US in 1981.
Kevin Burke had been living in Portland, Oregon since the Bothy Band split up and he put a tour together for us in the Pacific North West. I had always wanted to see this area. It had been a firm favourite of Woody's and I was not disappointed. In the years that followed I came to love being in Portland and Seattle and taking time off to explore the Oregon Coast, Crater Lake, The Olympics and the Cascades.
Planxty did the odd tour in 1982 and finally decided to make an album in October.
This time we asked James Kelly to play on it.
James had nearly been asked to join Planxty in 1973—I think as a consequence of our having played with Rene Werneer at the Cambridge Festival. The general consensus was, at that time, that he was too young! More likely we were afraid of what his father—old John Kelly—would have said!
Words and Music was recorded for WEA. I rarely listen to it and when I do, I'm always a bit surprised at how much I like it. I don't think this was a very happy time for me with the obvious demise of Planxty imminent.
However, we had one more shot in our locker! Bill and Donal wrote a three piece suite which became known as Timedance and was commissioned for the Eurovision Song Contest as the interlude entertainment. We recorded it well in advance and I think I watched it in Budapest!
It had dancers, it had a drum kit, a bass guitar. It had chord sequences in the last part that Planxty would never even have dreamed of ten years before! It even had a Bulgarian 9/16 rhythm at the beginning of the second tune. With its archaic unaccompanied flat set of Uilleann Pipes in the first section, it wasn't a bad musical history of Planxty and the music its members had performed.
Christy and Donal drifted away into Moving Hearts full time and Liam, Bill and myself found ourselves left with the Planxty name.
We used to meet and discuss the future of a new band.
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