Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Tribute to Joe Dolan

Happy St. Patrick’s Day. I thought I would mark the occasion by paying a small tribute to one of my favourite Irish entertainers, the late, great Joe Dolan.

Joe’s musical career started in 1964 as lead singer of The Drifters - that’s The Drifters Showband of Mullingar, County Westmeath not The Drifters of “Under The Boardwalk” and “Saturday Night At The Movies” fame (although he might as well have been in the version of those Drifters I saw in Tenerife in the late 1980s as it couldn’t have made it any less authentic - this was the time when there about three different line-ups touring the world).

Joe went solo in the late 1960s and got his international breakthrough with the big ballad “Make Me An Island” in 1969. He followed this up the following year with “You’re Such A Good Looking Woman”, one of my favourite party songs of all time on which he out Jonesed Tom Jones:


There is a fantastic clip of him performing this on YouTube. Unfortunately the person who uploaded it has disabled the embedding facility so you will need to follow this link to see it, but believe me it is worth the extra click:


Joe had many further hits in Ireland and across Europe, and in 1978 became the first Western artist to perform in Russia. He returned the favour by recording a track called “Anushka Balalaika”, about a young girl who dreams of dancing with the Bolshoi Ballet. If you are really unlucky I’ll play it for you one day.

Joe played a couple of seasons in Las Vegas in the early 1980s and continued to have hits in Ireland throughout that decade, after which things went a bit quiet for a while. In a strategy nicked a few years later by Tony Christie, his career was revived in the late 1990s when a charity version (with Dustin the Turkey) of “You’re Such A Good Looking Woman” made number one in Ireland, and he recorded a couple of albums of cover versions of contemporary hits - the fabulously titled “Joe 90s” and the follow-up “21st Century Joe”.

It is from that latter album that today’s second selection comes. Especially for Mr F, here is Joe’s rendition of the Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer”. He doesn’t quite pull it off - I don’t think Joe was genetically capable to creating an air of menace so he sounds more like a psycho cuddler than a psycho killer - but he gives it a good go.


Joe kept touring and recording right up until he died of a brain haemmorhage in December 2007, aged 68.

To finish off here is a clip of the great man in concert doing one of the Drifters’ old hits from the showband era, “The Westmeath Bachelor”:

RIP Joe, and for the rest of you there will be more Irishness to come later in the week.

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