Chapter 5

chapter5 Andy and Paul on stage in 1976
Paul Brady had been invited to join Planxty when Donal left in Autumn 1973.

He declined as he was, at that time, still playing with The Johnstons in the USA and he felt a strong commitment to Adrienne Johnston, who later died a tragic death. We asked him again now, to replace Christy and this time, to our joy, he accepted.

Paul gave Planxty a big lift. He didn't bring many songs with him though as The Johnstons had become a bit of a middle of the road band by this time. He did, however, bring his version of Arthur McBride and I always remember the first time I heard it in a Donegal pub. I was blown away as everybody has been since!

1974-75Before Christy left we played for a month in Edinburgh as a five piece. We had been asked to provide the music for a play called The Fantastical Feats of Finn McCool which was to be a part of the Edinburgh Festival and was staged at the Ice Rink—long gone. We had a tremendous time: playing in one place for a month was a luxury we were not used to!

Christy duly left and we went on our merry way with our engine room back. We toured all over Europe but exhaustion was setting in.

By the early summer of 1975, the writing was on the wall: we had to continue because we were now in debt. We had hired an accountant, who shall be nameless, to sort out our Income Tax and without wishing to court libel, I think he took us for a long long ride.

Tempers became frayed and relationships became strained, nothing personal, we were just at the end of our tether.

We did one final tour in France with Malicorne and Jean-Pau Verdier. The music was good. My diaries record that we opened the shows—all round France—and went down as well as ever. Johnny recorded this tour in an extremely funny series of cartoons, with limericks attached, that was entitled The Humours of Planxty. I wish I had a copy today!

Back home, we called a meeting in Des’ office and disbanded. It was a great relief and we adjourned to Madigan’s pub in Donnybrook. We drank to the demise of Planxty, looked at each other and said, ‘’So what do we do now?''.

Planxty had been my life for three and a half years and now I was back in the mean old world again.

Since Paul and myself had struck up a particular friendship we decided to stick together and become a duo. At the same time my old friend Alec Finn had asked me to join De Dannan because Dolores Keane had left. So I was in two outfits at the same time, which I should have known was going to be a disaster.

Frankie Gavin rang me up one day and he says:
"Andy, De Dannan have been offered two TV programmes on RTE in June."
Now I’d already agreed to do a tour in Brittany with Paul and Liam in June so my heart sank. I said: "Oh that’s great Frankie. Do you know what dates in June?" And he says: "Yes, the 15th and 16th."

Right smack bang in the middle of the Breton tour.. ‘’So I said,’’Frankie I’m going to have to ring you back’’. I sat down and I thought ‘’What the hell am I going to do?, there’s no way out of this’’. Much as I liked playing with De Dannan, I considered that what I was playing with Paul was more in my line as a musician.

So I rang Frankie back and I said:
"I’m terribly sorry Frankie but I’m going to have to leave the band."
And I think that’s the only time I’ve ever heard Frankie Gavin lost for words!

Leaving the band like that, at short notice left me feeling pretty bad and I suggested they ask Johnny Moynihan. Johnny was free and had already told me he would be interested. So he stepped into the breach and got me out of a big guilt complex. They made a great record after that, The Mist Covered Mountain.

It’s not very well remembered now that I played in De Dannan, I even recorded with them on an Irish Folk Festival tour in Germany but I don't think I've ever quite been forgiven for leaving the band. Whenever I see biographies of De Dannan, I notice there is no mention of me at all!

Paul and I started off quite slowly but gradually became very popular. I was very much the frontman at the beginning but Paul, who had only ever played in bands previously, quickly gained confidence.

He got married in 1975 and didn't want to live his life on the road anymore. Consequently, I was doing European tours with Mick Hanly and playing gigs at home or short weekend tours in Europe with Paul.

Paul and myself, with Donal and Kevin Burke, made our only album in Rockfield Studios in August 1976. I think I can speak for both Paul and myself, when I say that we are very proud of this album. It takes a long time to be at a distance from something you recorded and listen to it dispassionately. When I hear that album, I can say it's good without fear of being thought of as conceited. I now hear it objectively, almost as if it was someone else.

That was a great time and I look back at those days as being among my best musical experiences.

Nobody who was at those Festivals, like say, on Sherkin Island in '76 and '77 will ever forget them.

We recorded a six part series on BBC-TV in Belfast, called The Gig in the Round. I have these recordings on a Phillips Video format but I have never found a machine to play them on. My first visit to the States was with Paul in 1977. We had a very successful gig in ''Town Hall'' in New York among other concerts.

Touring Europe with Mick Hanly was a scream as well. It wasn't easy being on long tours as a duo. Drive all day together, eat together, play the gig together, drink together and usually find that you're sharing a room at the end of the day. Through all this we had some great laughs from one end of Europe to the other and back again—and played pretty well while we were doing it.