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Much more useful to an understanding of the Irish rock scene is Roddy Doyle s comic novel The Commitments, which dissects the brief poignant career of a fictional Dubliner soul-revival band of the same name. The Commitments latch on to the soul music of Sam Cooke and Otis Redding because it sounds more real than what they hear in the local pubs and on the radio, and with the fanaticism of the newly converted (much like U in the United States during the Rattle and Hum sessions) they succeed marvelously, for example altering James Browns

Night Train so that the listed cities make sense on their island. No one laughed, Doyle writes of one performance. It wasnt funny. It was true. Of course the next second the band members are trading insults. At the end of the novel, the few members who havent scattered are organizing a country-punk unit. They are just as committed to the new sound as they were to the old and their

infatuation is contagious. They truly love their new toys, mid- 160s Byrds albums, but the reader is left with the hunch that six weeks later they might be playing power- pop polkas.

This is why it is so hard pinpointing the roots of Irish rock-and-roll bands, because those acquired roots could be different every few months. Had In Tua Nua with Sinead lasted, they could have just as easily developed into a heavy-metal band as a full-fledged folkie outfit. There were paths open in all directions.

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Sinead did not remain long with In Tua Nua. Her fatherprevented her from touring with the group (listening to the music suggests she did not miss much), and that is when she wound up in Waterford. While at that boarding school, she worked harder on her music and began playing in public more regularly, usually in pubs or coffeehouses (often with a supporting guitarist]. Bob Dylan covers were the rule, and early versions of The Lion and the Cobras artier tracks Drink Before the War and Never Get Old also got aired out. She lasted at Waterford roughly a year, after which time she decided she was going to make her living as a singer At her fathers urging, Sinead studied briefly at Dublin s College of Music.

When she was seventeen, Sinead joined a group called Ton Ton Macoute, as its singer She was not atlowed to write for the band. Nobody who has seen Ton Ton Macoute has anything positive to say about them (they did not stay together long enough to develop into anything worthy praising), and that was also the opinion of representatives of Englands Ensign Records when they came to a Dublin rehearsal studio to audition several bands. They were impressed by none of them. Ensigns Nigel Grainge and Chris Hill were, however, taken by Sineads presence and intensity (though not by the songs she performed) and encouraged her At that time Sinead was still painfully shy in front of an audience-and doubly so before an audience made up of two British record-company executives-and Grainge and Hill could see that she would not be saleable unless she became more comfortable in public. Work on it, they told her, and we will be happy to hear you again. Uttering this half-inspiring, half-typical record-company blow-off, they returned to England.

Barely a month later (during which time Ton Ton Macoute quietly dissolved), a more confident Sinead was convinced that she had grown enough to justify a record deal and wrote Grainge telling him as much. She alluded to Grainges promise to help her record demos (demonstration versions of songs for reference use) and wrote that she was ready to come to England. Grainges pledge to pay for her demos existed only in Sineads mind, but she was an ambitious kid who demanded she be heard. Like most rock-and-roll performers with brains, Sinead has subsequently expressed serious reservations about success. But then, like

most who have not tasted the downside of fame, she was hungry for it she wanted what she did not have. Grainge, tickled by her audacity, sent the precocious Sinead a plane ticket and promptly forgot about her.

On the inside of its June 14, 10, cover story on Sinead, Rolling stone ran a photograph of her at Dublin Airport before she left for Great Britain. Sinead still has a full head of straight black hair, she is wearing a denim jacket, and her luggage is on the floor between her legs.

She stands straight, looks toward the camera, and reveals the slightest hint of a smile. She appears confident and worried at the same time. Then you notice that she is looking past the camera, imagining her future. She has no time for this moment she has already moved on.

When Sinead showed up at Ensign s office, a surprised Grainge sat her down and telephoned Karl Wallinger, one of the performers on his roster North Wales native Wallinger, formerly of the Waterboys, was in London piecing together a solo project (which he released under the monicker World Party], and Grainge instructed him to lead young Sinead through the rigors of recording her first professional-level demo tape.

Soon after, Grainge arrived at the demo studio, met a beaming Wallinger, and saw and heard Sinead record a slashing version of Troy,. a riveting announcement of pain in the wake of sexual treachery. (The other three

songs she recorded that day were Jerusalem, Drink

Before the War, and Just Call Me Joe.) The stark performance, just Sineads supple voice and her entry-level guitar, set off an avalanche of terror that surprised both Grainge and Wallinger. Grainge committed immediately when he heard the four demos; Sinead signed to Ensign Records and moved to London (a cold-water flat in Stoke-Newington) for good.

. London

Sin�ad remembers her years in London, woodshedding and writing The Lion and the Cobra, as tonely ones. As Ensigns Grainge told Rolling-stones Mikal Gilmore,

She spent a tot of time hanging around the [Ensign] office, making tea and answering phones. She had nothing else to do, nowhere etse worthwhile to go.

Yet these were two years of remarkable musical growth for her. She developed her wan folk songs into full-fledged pieces and by mid- I 86 she was ready to record them.

Satisfied, Grainge and Hill were preparing to send her into the studio with producer Mick Glossop.

Two men Sinead met during this period made a lasting impact on her While in London, she found herself orbiting in the same circles as Fachtna OCeallaigh, a fellow Irishman with boundless rock ambitions. Several years eartier

OCeatlaigh had enjoyed a taste of rock success as manager of the Boomtown Rats and Bananarama, and he was as hungry to manage a platinum-plated act as Sinead washungry to be that act. OCeallaigh comes from the personal school of rock managers, believing in his clients with all his soul and doing all he can to protect his charge from real or imagined threats. OCeallaigh was the sort of manager that performers tend to love and everyone else tends to hate. Grainge, who had dealt with OCeallaigh in the Boomtown Rats early days when they were signed toEnsign, all but ordered Sinead not to sign up with OCeallaigh. For Sinead, who wanted a strong manager,this was the heartiest recommendation OCeallaigh could have earned. OCeallaigh believed in her as strongly as

Sinead believed in herself;she trusted him.

Aside from being able to keep the executives at Ensign off-guard and away from Sinead, OCeallaigh had something else going for him connections. U had taken someof the money generated by their platinum album The Unforgettable Fire and the sold-out tour behind it and invested it in their own vanity label, Mother Records, designed to help fellow Irish bands who deserved a wide audience. OCeallaigh ran Mother Records.

Most such imprints are a nearfy inevitable trapping of rock superstardom the Beatles Apple, Princes Paisley Park, Rolling Stones, David Byrnes Fly and Luaka Bop.

Even a second-tier star tike Sting briefiy had his own. It is worth nothing that none of these labels ever survive over the long haul (the few that do, like Paistey Park or Rolling Stones, are not real record labels, just an excuse to put a different logo on a product]. Like most such labels, Mother Records was formed by U with a specific goal in mind.

Record companies built on such narrow visions never succeed. Although U should be lauded for wanting to invest some of their earnings into the scene that launched them, there was no way that such a plan could last. Even worse, the first group U chose to champion on Mother was Cactus World News, a wildly derivative unit whose relationship to U was similar to that of John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band to Bruce Springsteen an empty shad-

ow of the real thing.

At the time, none of this mattered to OCeallaigh. He was in tight with U, the most popular band in Ireland, and the most important pop performers on the island who were not Van Morrison. A head taller than Sinead,OCeaIlaigh was a manager she was ready to look up to -and learn from. The other important man who entered Sineads life in her pre-album London period was her future husband,

John Reynolds. He was recruited as the drummer for Sineads debut record, and although his strongest credit was as stick man for Transvision Vamp, a British version of second-generation American punks Holly and the Italians, Reynolds fit in snugly with the studio group Sinead and OCeallaigh were putting together. Something else must have clicked Reynolds and Sinead began dating soon after

he joined the band. But before she was to enter a studio to record her high-pressure debut album, nineteen-year-old Sinead had one other project a collaboration with a member of OCeallaighs associates, U. The bands guitarist, Dave Evans (known professionally as the Edge), was writing

the soundtrack for a film called The Captive and wanted one of the tracks in this solo project to have a vocal. (U singer Paul Bono Hewson was a Sinead fan as far back as In Tua Nuas Take My Hand.) Sinead fiew to Dublin, OCeallaigh made the introduction, and Evans and Sinead soon began collaborating. It is no exaggeration to label the track they wrote together, Heroine (no relation to the Velvet Underground song with the homonymous title), as a herculean leap above anything Sinead had achieved with In Tua Nua or Ton Ton Macoute. For the first time she was working with someone at least her equal as a writer and performer Sinead would go on to become as much ofa control freak as Prince, but there is no denying that a strong collaborator will force even the most insular rock performer to work harder. On Heroine, Sinead had finally found someone worthy of sharing her talent.

Heroine is built around synthesizers, but the warm sound of these electronic keyboards is an affront to the contrived, soul-free high-tech synthesizers of mid-eighties chart-toppers like Eurythmics. The first word out of Sineads mouth is Afraid, and she pauses for a moment after those initial syllables, as if to suggest that this word is all she needs to say (This is like the introductory line of Roy Orbisons Its Over. Your baby doesnt love you anymore. What more needs to be said ?) But Sineads wistful voice is surrounded by instruments that cushion her more and more with each measure, and she can move on. As with much of Evanss music for U, Heroine. is a mood piece, evocation taking precedence over linear narrative.

Lyrics do not add up to much, but Sineads performance of them is what matters. Her mefismatic cry of Bring me into your arms again,. followed by one of Evanss trademark elliptical guitar lines, is at once affecting and provocative. This ballad never rushes its tempo but keeps building up steam; Sinead sings free and hints at the multi-octave range she would soon explore in detail. Forget soundtrack music Heroine was a formidable pop tune without any visuals to support it. tt was an auspicious debut for Sinead, recording for the first time under her own name; those who heard the song clamored for a full record by her.

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