February 11th 1986, is not a date which immediately jumps out at you screaming of its historical importance.
According to records the weather that day was 3.9 degrees Celsius. It was a dry day. It was a cloudy day.
The most popular film in cinemas at that period was Steven Spielberg's The Colour Purple (spelt correctly) starring Oprah Winfrey. Top of the charts was the wonderful seminal When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going by Billy Ocean and the Iran Iraq War, which had started on 22nd of September trundled on killing hundreds of thousands until it's eventual end on 20th August 1988. It was a war which was manipulated by greedy imperialist Western forces in the by now copyrighted "we didn't do anything to cause this" whilst being caught red handed pulling the trigger.
In Dundalk however on this date one of the greatest bands in the history of popular music drove into town to play a show, that band was Manchester's The Smiths, a bunch of skinny pasty white lads of Irish decent who had met on the streets of Salford under the slate grey skies of Northern England.
Apparently the owner of the Fairways Hotel in Dundalk (which is still standing of course) knew the manager of the Smiths and so on their tour of Ireland, beautiful Dundalk became one of the stops.
There have of course been memorable concerts by remarkable artists in Dundalk, one only need think of people like Eric Clapton, Johnny Cash, Gorkys Zygotic Mynci, Therapy, The Magic Numbers and of course Crystal Swing and Richie Kavanagh, to touch upon the famous feet that have threaded the boards of Dundalk's once thriving music scene.
The setlist the band were to play that night reads like one penned by an obsessive pimply faced fan (all Smiths fans were obsessive and pimply faced) and the night ended with Morrisey holding his microphone towards the audience as they sang every word back at him.
The gig is also notable for being the last time the Smiths would ever perform in the Republic of Ireland and it was one of the final concerts bassist Andy Rourke would play with the band as his hithero hidden heroin addiction became obvious when the lack of the drug on these shores forced him to endure cold turkey and Morrisey twigged what Rourke had been keeping it from him.
This short note about the Smiths gig in Dundalk back in 1986 points towards a larger picture, which is one of change, the inevitable result of both time passing and the transient nature of human existence and the economic and social constructs we allow to dictate and order both the world and our own personal existences.
Avoiding the seductions of rose tinted glasses, it seems to me that this would be as good a point as any from which to enter the story of Dundalk over the past 30 years and use it to help us understand how we got to where we are today.
With this in mind I am eager to get in touch with anyone who attended this Smiths gig in the Fairways on February 11th 1986.
Also if anyone has a copy of the Bootleg recordings of said concert please contact me as I would be very interested in talking to you.
You can reach me on firstname.lastname@example.org or through the kind people at the Democrat. I look forward to hearing from you.
In the cinema now
The BFG: Steven Spielberg directs this adaptation of Roald Dahls legendary novel.
The BFG stands of course for Big Friendly Giant and Mark Rylance gives a truly magical performance as the titular big lad, rendered through state of the art motion capture technology.
It is a performance of great warmth and nuance but also one that captures and portrays the underlying melancholia inherent in the source material. Support comes from new kid on the block Ruby Barnhill and her performance will not put a stop to her ascent in the movie world. The BFG is a 24 foot tall giant who has superhuman hearing along with other abilities such as immense speed.
His primary task in life is the collection and distribution of good dreams to children, when he meets the stories protagonist Sophie (Barnhill) who lives in a girls orphanage run by an evil old bat called Mrs Clonkers, his primary task becomes being her friend and help her escape her horrid life.
Based on an adapted screenplay by Melissa Mathison who also wrote ET, this film shares that other films magical sense of wonder and playfullness which Spielberg has lacked in similar work like his misfiring Peter Pan film Hook.
There is even a sly reference here to that iconic image of ET's fingers reaching out to his human friend, shining like a guiding light.
The peculiar dialogue and vocabulary of the Giant is faithful to the original material and Rylance takes great pleasure in saying things like "snozzcumber", "whizpopping", "hippodumplings" and "frobscrabble."
Its almost like stream of counciousness James Joyce for 8 year olds. I mean that in a good way, as only it could be meant.
Spielberg has clearly learned the lesson from his dip into animation with the good, but not great, Tintin, there what the film lacked was the warm heart of humanity, easily lost in motion capture and computer graphics, here the beating heart remains intact and Rylances BFG is as real as you or me.
If you have kids bring them to it, if you don't have kids go anyway.