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29th Jul 2017

Here’s Why Aslan’s ‘Made In Dublin’ Is One Of The Greatest Irish Albums Ever Recorded

James Fenton

The ever-changing nature of musical trends means that sometimes a band or album we adored during our formative years gets pushed to the back of our minds as the years go on. While they’ll always hold special places in our hearts, newer (though not necessarily better) acts come along and swipe our affections away from those we held dear. 

The songs we used to play on repeat lay idle in our minds but all it takes is one experience for us to be swept off our feet once more to our younger days. One such occasion happened a few weeks back when I managed to catch Radiohead’s magnificent Glastonbury set live on BBC and spent the next few weeks reacquainting myself with the likes of ‘Paranoid Android’, ‘High And Dry’ and ‘No Surprises’.

A few weeks before that, I watched the sensational Oasis documentary ‘Supersonic’ and remembered just how much of my childhood and teenage years were shaped by Definitely Maybe and (What’s The Story) Morning Glory

More recently however, I managed to catch RTÉ’s fascinating documentary This Is Christy (which is available to watch on RTÉ Player) about the lives and times of Christy Dignam and his Aslan band mates.

The programme served both nostalgic and educational purposes for me. While I’m very familiar with the huge success and popularity the band enjoy here at home, I wasn’t aware of just how close they came to cracking America. “We fucked it up”, as one member of the band put it. 

Anyway, the whole thing was an enjoyable watch and it took me right back to my early teenage years at the beginning of the millennium. While Aslan are fellow northsiders, originating in Finglas and Ballymun in the early 80s, ironically I first became aware of them on a family holiday in Corfu in 2001. 

A group of Dublin lads, probably in their early 20s, were staying at the same apartments as us and night and day their ghetto blaster would be blaring Made In Dublin from the poolside, the balcony, the bar and anywhere else they were allowed to bring it. Dubs on holidays, wha?

By the end of our two week stint, I was hooked and made sure I got myself a copy of the album upon my return home. 

Made in Dublin was recorded at one of Aslan’s iconic shows at Vicar Street in 1999 and the combination of Christy’s distinctive voice and the contribution of a string orchestra and a lively Dublin audience who are encouraged to join in on every track made for a phenomenal hour or so of live recording. 

In total there are 13 tracks on the album, and I can guarantee that most people will be familiar with the big two: ‘Crazy World’ and ‘This Is’.

I don’t know what it is about ‘Crazy World’ but I reckon I haven’t listened to the actual album version on Goodbye Charlie Moonhead half as much as I listened to the live version on Made In Dublin.

When the crowd join in for the final chorus it just sounds like the song was made to be played for a live audience. 

The same with ‘This Is’ as the reaction to the opening bars in the below clip will testify. The sheer ecstasy that greets the opening drumbeats and how the crowd opens the song without the assistance of Christy seems like being there would have been an almost spiritual experience. 

It all reaches a rousing crescendo towards the end when Christy asks the crowd to use “the bloke in the white t-shirt… that chap there…” as a dividing point to create a two-tiered crowd participation finale. 

Whenever I listened to Made In Dublin on CD, I always wondered what the fella in the white t-shirt actually looked like and sure enough he makes an appearance in the clip of the amazing rendition below. 

While the two aforementioned songs are perhaps Aslan’s most famous, pretty much every song performed that night in Vicar Street is a classic and I truly believe that ‘Gotta Make It’ is one of the most underrated songs to ever come out of Ireland. 

The way it starts off slowly with Christy’s characteristically honest lyrics declaring “you really fucked up this head of mine, what’s in your heart is a waste of time” before it builds towards a roaring finish, you’ll be shouting every word along with him after a few listens. 

‘This Time’ and ‘Down On Me’ are other highlights as well the more upbeat ‘Pretty Thing’, ‘Lucy Jones Part 1’ and ‘Lucy Jones Part 2’. 

Flawless covers of ‘Angie’ by the Rolling Stones and ‘Wish You Were Here’ by Pink Floyd play their part but really I’d recommend gathering some friends and sticking the whole thing on full blast before heading out for the night.

I was obviously too young to be there on the night but have seen Aslan on a couple of occasions since. While they were great shows they never really lived up to ‘Made In Dublin’. But I suppose that’s what happens when you enjoy something so much!

In many ways I’m still that doe-eyed teen who first stumbled across ‘Made In Dublin’ in Corfu and that’s reflected in the fact that the changing face of music technology has passed me by. If I fancy listening to a tune I usually stick it on Youtube. None of that Spotify or what have ya for me. 

Since watching This Is Christy on RTÉ a few weeks back, I’ve been streaming Aslan songs non stop and if anyone in the office sees me with headphones on they’re probably unaware that I’m having an auld Made In Dublin reminiscing session (hey, it helps me work). 

I still buy CDs to listen to in the car on regular occasions (you can get some absoulute classics for next to nothing). 

Aslan’s Made In Dublin has taken pride of place on my old shelf in my mam’s gaff for about a decade and a half now and the next time I head over you can bet that I’ll be dusting it off and taking it with me. 

I never thought sticking on that RTÉ documentary would bring me such nostalgic joy and should this current obsession wear off I’ll make sure to revisit it at least once every year or so. 

Memories of Made In Dublin made in Corfu. Sure where else would you get it?

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