Ireland is a special place for all music, but the history of rock music could not be written without the impact it had from this small island, half the size of Wisconsin, and with a similar population.
In the 1950s and 1960s Ireland had a unique dance band format called the Showbands. The showbands became highly popular and were an important part of the social fabric of Ireland. Their success was related to their ability to perform covers of the record charts such as Elvis or the Beatles along with some original music.
While the showbands were very successful and they laid the foundation for the music circuit in Ireland…they were also very structured musically. Creative artists felt constrained. The backlash to this was artists in the late 60s leaving to join or create Beat Bands. These were highly creative artists that were truly the beginning of Irish Rock. Artists such as Van Morrison and his band Them and Rory Gallagher and Taste still are recognized as top bands of their era.
By the 1970s rock bands were forming all over Ireland. Thin Lizzy and Horslips led the charge with U2 forming in 1976. Singer/songwriter Gilbert O’Sullivan had soft pop hits and Northern Ireland became a hotspot for the punk genre with The Undertones and Stiff Little Fingers. In 1975 The Boomtown Rats formed in Dublin.
By the 1980s momentum was full force. U2 went to unimaginable heights of fame. Clannad and Enya rose to celebrity status along with Sinead O’Connor. Gary Moore’s solo guitar career was in full force. The Saw Doctors, Hothouse Flowers, Cactus World News & Aslan became national stars. The Pogues in the UK set their own agenda.
1990s saw the emergence of world music and with that Ireland continued its ascent as a musical powerhouse. The Corrs and Cranberries joined U2 in the charts. The Waterboys, Flogging Molly, Dropkick Murphys & Snow Patrol all toured extensively.
Since 2000 Irish artists continue to produce hits with great singer songwriters such as Damien Rice, Hozier and Damien Dempsey. Bands such as The Thrills, The Script and Two Door Cinema Club continue to tour the world.