Examiner column January 13th
It started life as a once-off musical collaboration, an eclectic group of artists came together to record a legendary concept album.
In a marathon session in an isolated castle they laid down the tracks of a recording that would go down in history, The Long Good Friday: Eternity and a Day. It was an immediate and soaraway success for Northern Shower and was lapped up by millions of fans in Ireland, North and South in the coming months. But like a lot of new bands, the gigs and the touring and lifestyle eventually wore all the hope and optimism down.
Now a decade later, the Northern Shower has returned to try that difficult second album. As it happens, they hope to finish recording it by the end of March, just in time for Easter. And its working title? What else but The Long Good Friday II: From Here to Eternity.
Like the first, it is high risk though somehow in our bones we feel they can pull it off.
There have been some changes in the band’s line-up since then. Creative differences led to David Trimble walking out several years ago and he is now pursuing a solo career. The Clancy Brothers sound of the SDLP sounded a bit dated so they drafted in The Beards, former punk traditionalists who have been experimenting with a more mellow sound over the past few years.
And just to give it a bit of Northern soul fizzle, the producers went looking for the Reverend Righteous, a cult figure who has been doing the rounds of the Northern circuit for decades. His controversial all-action stage show has made him into one of those figures who you either love or hate, but you just can’t ignore him. The producers got very excited when he arrived. Though he can no longer belt them out like he used to, his booming voice, hip-hop lyrics and complete unpredictability gave the Northern Shower the edge the producers were looking for.
But will it work? They’ve certainly come up with a strong list of ditties.
Children of the Devolution. A couple of numbers from the Police. I Fought the Law and the Law won. Power to the People. Stuck in the Middle With You. Come Out Ye Black and Tans. And a reworking of the Beatles LP, Devolver.
Yes, it would be fatuous to suggest there has been no creative tension between the stars, and yes, there have been a few stand-up rows over lyrics.
But at least there has been some links to the past for you nostalgics out there. Unbelievably, the Bert and Mr Tony are still there a decade later and still providing the same chorus line. They may have both lost their youthful boyband vigour since then and we may have all tired of their voices. But there’s no doubting their ability when it comes to a song and dance routine, especially the Bert’s tried and trusted ‘man in the anorak’ cameo which goes down a treat every time.
And now we come to a critical phase of the project. They have been working hard on the choreography aspects, with Mr Tony and Hugh Orde both coming in to do pre-planned star-turns during the week on MI5 and plastic bullets.
But despite the efforts to keep the whole creative project going, it’s sometimes hard when you are dealing with such a collection of massive egos, oh, I’m sorry I lost the run of myself, sensitive souls.
And The Beards meet today to decide whether they’ll continue with the project or call it a day.
“It’s just the chemistry, man,” an insider told us. “These cats. They just ain’t gelling. The vibes are not good.”
But you must remember that The Beards survived the worst excesses that went with their punk traditionalist lifestyle. Unfortunately, a hell of a lot of others weren’t so lucky.
Unlike the Reverend who still has weekly residencies in venues throughout the North, The Beards have sacrificed everything for this one project.
Having taken at least two years longer than they thought, and having gone woefully over budget, they had to take a short break around Christmas 2004.
Then they did a quick money-making album, Beards and Balaclavas: The Greatest Hits, which did wonders for their bank balance (€40 million reputedly) but led to accusations that they had sold out creatively.
Anyway, they are now back on track, and rehearsing furiously to get this project finished on time. Yes, it is difficult when they and the Reverend do separate rehearsals. Nobody is even sure if they’re singing out of the same hymn sheet.