Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Top 102 Albums. No. 87 Current Affairs

Top 102 Albums. No. 87
Current Affairs - Johnny Duhan

This is one of the more obscure albums on my list, an album that, as far as I know, has not seen the light of day since it's initial release in 1984. And, on form, we were lucky to hear it then. Johnny Duhan has become very much a part of the Irish songwriting elite, with songs covered by Christy Moore, including The Voyage, which is particularly ubiquitous. That was not the case back in the late seventies / early eighties..

Duhan had originally come to notice as part of Granny's Intentions, a 'beat group' from Limerick who moved to London and released some singles and an album on Deram and flirted with success before they broke up in 1972.

From 1972 to the release of this album, as far as I can gather, Duhan released a few singles and recorded an unreleased album with a short lived band St James Gate and lots of demos towards a solo album and even recorded a solo album which was slated for release and then withdrawn. He also wrote an unpublished novel partly about those experiences.  This may have contributed to the darkness that hangs over Current Affairs.

This album contains what may well be the starkest, most depressing song I have ever listened to. The River Shannon is a song about the prevalence of suicides in the waters of the river. The original version seems unavailable online, as is most of this album. A much warmer, less harrowing version of the song is available on Spotify from a later Duhan album. A pretty depressive teenager, I listened to this song repeatedly. It is one of the only performances of a song about suicide that I know where there doesn't seem to be any desire to comfort or understand. It is just an unflinching iteration of the toll taken.

Another song from the album, El Salvador, was covered by Christy Moore. However, for me the two key songs are the aforesaid River Shannon and Turned to Crime, which was the lead single and the reason I bought this album at the time. It seemed to capture a mood of alienation in an Ireland of rampant unemployment, social exclusion and a heroin epidemic in full flight.

"I was down and out in the city till I turned to crime
Had no job, had no money, now I'm doing fine."

The production sound on this album and some of the solos have always made it something of a mixed experience for me but the quality of the songs overrides any flaws and much of the playing and Duhan's singing is great. It's due a re-release, at least as a digital download. Johnny?


  1. Another new one for me Seamus. i like the tracks you've posted

    1. I'd say this would be new to everyone outside Ireland and the vast majority inside, although Turned to Crime did get a bit of radio play at the time.

  2. I really like the maudlin 'River Shannon'...
    Story of David sounds like something from a 70s musical.

    1. David does have a bit of the musical about it. "Lets chuck everything in"- all those changes in tempo. I think the self prophesying vision of a failed poet is kind of apt, though. It's of its era.
      Glad you like River Shannon. Pity the original doesn't have a digital life. But then, it's nice to have to go to the vinyl stash every now and then.

  3. Slight correction - Johnny did release a solo album before this one. It was called 'Johnny Duhan', released by Phillips in 1982. It's a lovely album - I much prefer it over Current Affairs.