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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

One person’s useless tat is another’s stuff of dreams

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Dave O'Connell

A Different View with Dave O’Connell

The world is divided into two kinds of people; those who like to live in a world of clean, white lines and minimal clutter – and those of us who just love accumulating stuff.

Stuff covers a multitude, which – depending on your perspective – might be alternatively defined as either the souvenirs or detritus of your life.

Books, match programmes, concert ticket stubs, seashells, Dinky cars, beer mats…it’s all stuff that one person wants to treasure and the other, invariably, wants to throw straight out in the bin.

And it’s at the core of a fair percentage of domestic differences too – ‘it’s my stuff’; ‘don’t move my stuff’; ‘your stuff is taking over the house’ – because, for every hoarder, there’s an aspiring Marie Kondo who wants to take minimalism to new heights.

Attics are invariably full of stuff that hasn’t seen the light of day in years; old cardboard boxes of childhood toys, suitcases packed with dusty photo albums, boxes of video cassettes for which there is no longer a VCR; clothes that you didn’t want but also didn’t want to throw out – and it’s only a matter of time before they’re back in fashion and you’ll have shed the three stone it would take to close the zipper.

Overall, it’s the kind of stuff that you hoped you’d get back to and wallow in nostalgia, years after you consigned it to the darkest recesses of the eaves.

Those who abhor clutter have a different approach, working on the basis that – if you have stuff stored in a box and you don’t open that box for three years – you don’t need that stuff anymore.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Sense of belonging that brings it all back home

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Dave O'Connell

A Different View with Dave O’Connell

It was a chat with a ‘Galwegian in exile’ that brought it all home to me; although now domiciled in the capital for more years than he’d lived in the west, he was delighted to bring his Dublin-born daughter to the All-Ireland Football Final wearing her maroon jersey.

To be honest, she’d probably have gone to Croke Park dressed as Elsa from Frozen because it was just a day out – but Daddy couldn’t have been prouder if his eleven-year-old came on for Damien Comer with five minutes to go.

The sense of place is understandable when it comes to ourselves as born-and-bred Galwegians, because while you can change where you live as often as you like, even if you wanted to, you can never change where you’re from.

But trying to impose your own geographical heritage on the next generation is alternatively seen as understandable and a little selfish at the same time.

It’s a topic for discussion in our own house on occasion because while the two lads grew up in Galway, they were in fact born in Dublin – and if they want to pull my chain, all they have to do is remind of that fact.

My reply is a tired and stock one, to the effect that although Jesus was born in a stable, nobody ever suggested that made him a horse.

The more serious point is that you are shaped by your formative years rather than the maternity hospital of your arrival – and those years were spent in Galway.

Galway is their point of reference for sport and music and school friends and nights out and pubs and college – and almost everything else that really matters.

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

Gaeltacht days – and a rite of passage to remember forever

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Dave O'Connell

A Different View with Dave O’Connell

A scholarship to Irish College wasn’t so much a backhanded compliment as an inverted acknowledgement of your grasp of the language – in other words you got one because you were bordering on useless, or to put it more diplomatically you’d benefit more than the rest from a couple of weeks of immersion in your native tongue.

Only it then transpired that the experience of three weeks in the Gaeltacht taught you that going there had a small bit to do with learning Irish for sure – but a whole lot to do with growing up, or at least beginning that blossoming process.

And you would do all this in an atmosphere as alien to your small teenage self as free elections are to the people of Russia; céilís, cispheil, comhra agus craic – as well as an Irish language version of the Streets of London written and taught to us by Art Ó Dufaigh that still lives in the memory bank, even longer than Ralph McTell’s original.

The truth, when you get there, is the realisation that three weeks in the Gaeltacht is a little like a week at the Galway Races or the Rose of Tralee; just as the horses or the Roses are ostensibly the reason for going, they’re really just the hook to get you there.

And so it is that you go to the Gaeltacht to learn the language but you come home having learned so much more.

My Gaeltacht summer was at the tail end of the seventies with three weeks in Beal a’ Dangan and céilís in Nestor’s Hall, brought there in a bus by a young man called Máirtín Tom Sheáinín who would go on to enjoy a stellar career as a broadcaster – particularly presenting Comhrá – but was back then a knacky driver with a dream, traversing windy roads in pitch darkness.

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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