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Black 47

Tuesday, April 16, at the Beachland Ballroom.

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If the Beatles had died abornin' in 1962, through the collective stubbornness of John Lennon and Brian Epstein, the '60s wouldn't have been the '60s -- no social upheaval, no counterculture; a free ride for the forces of conservatism and reaction. In short, the decade would've been an extended 1950s, sans the rock and roll.

That's the premise of Liverpool Fantasy, a novel adapted from a play of the same name by Larry Kirwan, the Irish-born leader of the eclectic New York City band Black 47. Never mind that the machinery for big change was already humming by the time the Fab Four hit the Ed Sullivan Show stage. In Kirwan's Liverpool, circa 1987, Lennon is a laid-off dockworker and erstwhile socialist, Ringo Starr is the drummer for Gerry & the Pacemakers, George Harrison is a priest, Lennon's son Julian is a National Front goon, and Paul McCartney is a Tom Jones-style crooner wowing them in Las Vegas.

It's not hard to understand Kirwan's fascination with Liverpool's finest. There probably would have been no Black 47 if there had been no Beatles -- or Bob Dylan or Bob Marley. Without them, it's likely that Kirwan would never have taken up music and would still be stuck in Wexford, Ireland, trying to be the new James Joyce. Instead, Kirwan embraced the guitar rather than the pen and eventually formed his rock/ folk/reggae band in 1989. Since then, Black 47 has inspired audiences with glorifications of Irish revolutionaries, fascinated them with tales of colorful characters populating NYC's Lower East Side, and charmed them with self-deprecating accounts of Kirwan's own sometimes futile stabs at finding true love. This week, the band will be making its first appearance in Cleveland in five and a half years.

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