Pandemic St. Patrick’s Day
Being an Irish American, there are certain things you thought you’d never hear for the duration of your mortal life on this planet. Well folks, never say “never”.
“New York City’s Saint Patrick’s Day Parade has been cancelled.”
For the first time in the history of the metropolis, the Big Apple’s Irish festivities will not be taking place in any capacity this year. Irish festivities, which it must be said, that have taken place in that city with yearly regularity every March 17th since 1762, a time before this country even was one.
In fact, St. Paddy’s Day celebrations have been called off across the globe with even the Emerald Isle’s capital of Dublin being no exception to the current rule of cancellation.
And as we all should be aware by now, the reason behind all the Hibernian haltings? An air-borne illness which despite hearing so much about as of late, has no known cure with no one being sure how it is even being transmitted – the Corona virus. What we do know is the virus is highly contagious and potentially life threatening, with cases of those who have been infected exponentially increasing with each passing day.
With something this dangerous lurking about, it’s no wonder any given gathering of revelling hordes is highly ill advised at the present time.
The only shade of green the Chicago River will be seeing this year will be pea green envy after recalling all the fun festivities from St. Paddy’s Day past.
But instead of societally sulking, how about some stories of St. Patrick styled synchronicity where focus esoterically shifts from “the luck of the Irish” to the “karma of the Celts”?
It all began when I was asked to make a Facebook Top 20 list of my most influential music albums….
Usually I despise these kind of things given 99.05% of the Facebook population isn’t even on the same planet, let alone page when it comes to sharing my taste in music, but it was precisely because of my overbearing musical superiority complex that I agreed to bother with the whole thing at all.
The rules stipulated that every day for 20 consecutive days you had to post an album cover that strongly influenced your music sensibilities at any age, provided you posted only an image with no words and that you had to “nominate” another Facebook friend to partake in the musical festivities each time you posted.
None of which I did.
These were not the influencers of Pauly Pop Music or Amy AM Radio, I was sharing the people that contributed to my overall aesthetic as a musical being, hence I changed the written rules by adding the following:
“I was nominated to post 20 albums in 20 days that have really made an impact on me (at any age). I have been asked to post the album cover, no explanation, and to nominate a person each day to do the same. (Except I won’t be bugging anyone else and I WILL be giving some sort of explanative write-up per album or else Why bother? Am I right?)”
Obnoxious with a healthy helping of rudeness on top, I know, but when it comes to music I gotta be me. Period.
I began posting sometime last week and by the weekend, had received Synchronicity’s first calling card. Not paying attention to what date month it is as of late, this past Friday I suddenly remembered what a game changer the spring of 1983 was for me musically. It was at that time two albums were released which in my non-humbled opinion were clear signs that the Second Coming of Christ had indeed come, I was that blown awayboth.
“Synchronicity” by The Police
and “War” by Ireland’s own U2
It was over the course of those recent 2 days that the world was forced to realize what a threatening global danger this virus was turning out to actually be.
Which leads us to March 16th.
Unsure of which influential album to select next because there were too many to speak of, I began playing some near and dear favorites. I was drawn to “The Queen is Dead” by The Smiths with an uncontrollable urge to play the track “Cemetery Gates”. The song opens with the words:
A dreaded sunny day
So I meet you at the cemetry gates
Keats and Yeats are on your side
Lions and Cobras and Sinead, O My!
A green bolt of genius hit me. I decided that my choice of musically influencing album for Tuesday the 17th would fit the holiday standard, regardless if there weren’t any holiday festivities to speak of.
(Flashback to the week before St. Patrick’s Day, 1988)
I was in Ireland.
It was Spring Break and I was touring the Emerald Isle singing in my school’s concert choir at that time. (By the way U2 was on our flight and we had to wait what seemed forever for the band to be the first to vacate the plane.) We started in the south of the country, in its Lakes Region and rode a bus north towards Dublin before driving west to Galway and the cliffs of Moer. Ireland’s capital has a river called the River Liffey that runs straight through the city and is framed by a number of lovely bridges that are extremely wide. As we approached one of those bridges upon reaching the center of town, there was a palpable surge of excitement in the air. On both sides of the bridge numerous posters had been put up, all with the same image. And from what I could decipher from the bus window, the image was of a bald woman in a blue wifebeater t-shirt??
There were squiggled words written in the lower left and right corners of each poster, but the moving bus made it impossible to read. The hotel we were staying at was just beyond that bridge, so when we finally came to a stop, I asked our bus drive if he knew who the bald chick plastered on the bridge was.
Many Dubliners speak where their mouths will barely move and the only thing that will clearly be enunciated are the consonants placed at the very end of a word. Keeping that in mind, after asking the driver if he knew who the woman whose picture covered practically every inch of the bridge we crossed, I got this:
“O royT, that’s Sh(mumble)O’(mumble)R. Joost made an alB’m anT its (mumble)-Dy bRillianT.”
Which when translated into Americanized English reads:
“Oh right. That’s Sinead O’Connor. Just made an album and it’s bloody brilliant.”
After not being able to understand him telling me her first name (my non-existent Gaelic was rusty back then) or the album’s title I decided to make my way to the bridge before leaving for the country’s West Coast the next day.
Despite almost missing the bus and being left behind, I was able to decipher after close inspection “S(something) O’Connor and the album’s title was “The Lion and The Cobra”. I still couldn’t make out her first name due to thinking the squiggly writing spelling out something like “Susan” or “Sandra. The letter “S” in Gaelic, much like in Hungarian is pronounced with a “Sh” sound, thus Gaelic names starting with the letter “s” are said with a “Sh” sound as in “Sh-awn” for “Sean” and “Shin-ade” for “Sinead”.
The album’s title would eventually ring another bell of familiarity but not over something I had read, rather with something I would eventually sing. They were from the Bible’s Psalm 91 verses 11-13 which was the inner jacket of Sinead’s debut album:
“11 = For He shall give His angels charge over thee, To keep you in all your ways. 12 – In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone. 13 – You shall tread upon the lion and the cobra, The young lion and the serpent you shall trample underfoot.”
After college I decided my voice wasn’t suited for choral music, so I threw all caution to the wind and became an opera singer. However one of the last choral ensembles I performed was an octet written by the great composer Felix Mendelssohn where he set the words from Psalm 91 and set them to music. The piece is called “For He Shall Give His Angels Charge over Thee” which contains the words “the lion and the cobra”.
Before leaving Ireland we came back to Dublin, where I managed to find a record store. They were completely sold out of “The Lion and The Cobra” but they had just gotten a new import by Sinead O’Connor teaming up with a performance artist whose work I admired named Karen Finley. The piece was called “Jump in the River”, the locale where I first learned of Ms. O’Connor and I bought the pricey import on the spot.
Which leads us to the ancient city of Troy….
“The Lion and The Cobra” got a lot of play on college radio with the songs “Mandinka” and “I Want (Your Hands on Me)” becoming underground hits but the piece from that album that left me and my music afficionado friends speechless was a song called “Troy”.
Besides Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”, “Troy” is the best example of a Rock song that is operatic in scope. Lasting for 6 minutes 34 seconds the song is epic complete with orchestrated strings and O’Connor’s voice exploding into triple forte for dramatic effect. Given I would write three separate books about Greek myth the song’s title immediately grabbed my attention by referencing the ancient city of the Trojans.
It was later that I would learn the song not only references ancient myth but classic literature as well with the following lyrics:
“You will rise
The phoenix from the flame
You will learn
You will rise
Being what you are
There is no other Troy
For you to burn”
The lyrics refer to the 1916 poem by the revered Irish poet, William Butler Yeats entitled “No Second Troy”.
The poem tells of the beauty who incited the Trojan War, Helen of Troy but in reality refers to Yeats’ Muse, the woman he unrequitedly loved his entire life, the actress turned Irish nationalist, Maud Gonne.
Yeats was so desperately in love with Gonne, over the course of 20 years the celebrated poet proposed to her five times, being left utterly devastated each time she rejected him.
Wanting to learn more about the Muse of W.B. Yeats, I was shocked to discover Maude Gonne bearing an uncanny resemblance to one Sinead O’Connor.
Not only that, both women were Sagittarians born in the month of December with each being born exactly 100 years apart from each other.
Where Maud converted from Protestantism to Catholicism, Sinead converted from Catholicism to Islam at around the same age. Both women had notoriously famous custody battles for their sons, which both lost and both women were strong supporters for the radical group of Irish nationalists known as “Sin Fein” pronounced “Sh-in Fayne”.
Could this all just be coincidence or is it a prime example of Celtic Karma? That has yet to be determined but at least it was novel enough to occupy a chunk of everyone’s time during this Pandemic St. Paddy’s Day!
In any case, “The Lion and the Cobra” is my St. Patrick’s Day choice for my Top 20 list of most influential albums.