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A Different View

Musical poets mangle words to make it all fit

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A Different View with Dave O’Connell

Music fans of a certain vintage only have to hear the first few notes of Toto’s classic smoothie, Africa, to be swept back to some glitter balled disco and the slow set that would determine if this was to be a night to remember or forget.

But once the nostalgia or the nightmare has settled, you might try to work out what the hell it’s all about – because, apart from the fact that Toto want to bless the rains down in Africa (and who wouldn’t) it’s as clear as a post-match interview with Giovanni Trappatoni.

“The wild dogs cry out in the night/As they grow restless, longing for some solitary company” – that’s fine….African dogs crying out because they want to be on their own.

But then our hero needs something that rhymes with ‘solitary company’ – this “I know that I must do what’s right/As sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti.”

And a generation of young men who wouldn’t know the Serengeti from the Seven Dwarfs bellowed Toto’s pretentious poetry into the inner ear of some poor unfortunate teenage girl who was doing her damnedest to wrestle her way out of his vice-like grip.

A couple of decades on you wonder just what Toto were thinking – particularly in an era when the height of lyrical sophistication involves being up all night to get lucky.

Did the boys swallow an atlas at an impressionable age? Or were they too simply trying to impress the opposite sex with their knowledge base that saw the Serengeti as an obvious follow up to ‘solitary company’?

The initial idea for the song came from the perspective of “… a white boy trying to write a song on Africa, but since he’s never been there, he can only tell what he’s seen on TV or remembers in the past.”

But clearly he’s a man of the world – albeit from the confines of his own bedroom – and was anxious to include more geographical references than you’d find on the weather forecast.

Of course it’s unfair to single out Toto for what is, after all, one of the anthems of our youth – and it’s better than the ‘I’ve got soul, but I’m not a soldier’ doggerel passed off by the Killers.

As someone wittier than I once said, the obvious follow-on to that is ‘I’ve got ham but I’m not a hamster’.

But the golden era of pretentious lyrics was back in the glory days of bands like Procol Harum and the utterly impenetrable Whiter Shade of Pale or Al Stewart and the Year of the Cat.

A fandango is a Spanish dance and one presumes a light version of it means you’re not heavy on your feet – but how do you skip one? Would it be by turning cartwheels across the floor? And that’s clearly bound to make you seasick, even if the crowd are calling out for more.

The Year of the Cat is about a chance encounter with a nubile young woman who tells you that she came in the Year of the Cat, which is a revelation on so many levels.

Neil Diamond struck up a conversation with a piece of furniture for his entry: “”I am!” I said/To no one there/And no one heard at all/Not even the chair.” It should have surprised him more of course if the chair had answered him back.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

No great rush to mend the error of your ways!

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Dave O'Connell

A Different View with Dave O’Connell

It was St Augustine who famously petitioned in prayer: ‘God, make me good – but just not yet’. It’s a sentiment that one Sister Mary Joseph took to whole new levels, because after spending her first 61 years as a high-living heiress, she spent the last three decades as a cloistered nun.

And she closed one chapter to open another one back in 1989 with a party for 800 of her closest friends at the Hilton Hotel in San Francisco – so many guests that the hostess carried a helium balloon all night, with the words “Here I Am” so that people could find her amid the throng.

The next day the former Ann Russell Miller flew to Chicago and joined the Sisters of Our Lady of Mount Carmel as a novitiate, spending the rest of her life as Sister Mary Joseph of the Trinity.

Or as one of her 28 grandchildren put it: “It was like The Great Gatsby turned into The Sound of Music.”

Her recent obituary in the Times painted quite the colourful picture of a lover of the high life turned Holy Roller.

“She smoked, drank champagne, played cards, spent five hours a day on the telephone and, as an expert scuba diver and enthusiastic skier, travelled around the world.

“She had a season ticket to the opera, was a high-society patron of many charitable causes and drove her sports car at such reckless speeds that, according to her son Mark, ‘people got out of her car with a sore foot from slamming on an imaginary brake’.”

Because if ever a life could be described as a tale of two-thirds of high living and one-third of contemplation, this was it; the mother of ten who enjoyed the casual company of celebrity friends like Nancy Reagan and Bob Hope opted for an order which allowed her one visitor a month – and even then no touching given the two rows of iron bars between them.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Online games will always give way to world of pure imagination

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Dave O'Connell

A Different View with Dave O’Connell

When we were young and Wimbledon came on the telly for two weeks, we’d all rush out to hit a tennis ball off the wall and imagine for an hour that we were Jimmy Connors or Bjorn Borg.

On the odd occasion when we saw live football on TV – the World Cup, the FA Cup Final, or Jimmy Magee covering another false dawn for Ireland at Dalymount Park – we took to the footpath and pretended we were Johnny Giles or Georgie Best.

Jumpers for goalposts, games that went on for hours, fly-goalkeepers, next goal wins – a world of entertainment for the price of a plastic football.

Now when it’s half-time in Sky Sports’ fifth live match of the weekend, the kids still want to play their own version when it’s over. Except they do it on the PlayStation so they never have to leave the comfort of the couch.

Even if we re-enacted the World Cup indoors back in the day, we did it with Subbuteo – so we still got more action and exercise than today’s kids, even if it was just a flick of the fingers.

But in the absence of video games, we did all this with nothing more than our vivid imaginations on a field of dreams that was otherwise a concrete car park or a patch of grass.

We pretended we were Mick O’Connell or maybe Mikey Sheehy (but never Brian Mullins or Jimmy Keaveney) as we fielded balls majestically out of the clouds – even if reality would suggest we hardly left the ground.

It was a world of our imagination where we supplied our own running commentary; these days, FIFA 21 does it for you.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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Connacht Tribune

We’re at our most sure-footed when we find common ground

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Dave O'Connell

A Different View with Dave O’Connell

When two Irish people meet, they have thirty seconds to find someone they have in common or both of them will die.

It was a Tweet that made me smile recently – but then, thinking a little more, it’s actually so, so true.

We seem lost if we can’t make a common connection, as if six degrees of separation is about three steps too far.

Of course, we’re spoilt in Galway because you’ll never ever meet someone who doesn’t know Michael D; they were either lectured by him, they canvassed for him, they sat beside him in Terryland Park, they chatted with him at the Arts Festival before it had a tent, or they’ve been to a garden party at the Áras.

And once the pressure is off because you’ve made one connection, the rest will flow like soup off Alan Dukes’ fork, as Johneen Donnellan once observed.

It’s a small county in the scheme of things so it shouldn’t be any wonder that we’re well connected – from school or college or work or extended family or geography, we’re a stone’s throw from everyone else.

Half of Mayo, of course, knows Joe Biden – and never has a man had so many fourth cousins once removed (if it gets much worse, he might have to have them forcibly removed) since he got the keys to the big White House.

We can’t claim to know Barack Obama, but half of Galway knows Billy Lawless, who hosted the former Chicago senator in his acclaimed restaurant – we knew Billy as a politician or a publican, in Trigger Martyn’s or the old Twelve in Barna. So that’s close enough.

We’re also familiar with Pat McDonagh, who doesn’t just own Supermac’s; he also owns the Barack Obama Plaza in Offaly. So that’s a second Presidential connection to someone we’ve never actually met.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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