The Frank Godfrey reissue programme continues this month with an anniversary special – the new edition of his ground breaking album Shanks. It hits Golden Discs and itunes on the 19 June, almost exactly 30 years after it was first released to widespread critical and commercial acclaim. Its mix of traditional balladry fused with post-disco synth driven pop rock made it as hard to pigeon hole then as it is now.
As with the first five albums in the Godfrey reissue series, Shanks will be available in assorted formats of varying deluxeness, from a remastered version of the original album on two CDs at the bottom end, through to a super deluxe box containing the original album and a companion disc on both CD and vinyl, plus a hardback book, a sealed vial of sung notes, art print and lock of hair. Fifty lucky fans will be delighted to find a hand-reared hen from Boyne Cottage inside their super deluxe boxes.
As with previous reissues, fans’ interest will once again be centred on the unreleased tracks on the companion disc.
This time they are:
The Wolfeen of Narrow West Street
The Ballad of Weight Restrictions on Five Axled Vehicles on the Windmill Road (Live)
Fundalkin’ Now You’re Talkin’
One Man’s Pothole is Another Man’s Opportunity (with St. Peter’s Male Castrato Choir)
The Shank Shuffle (rough mix with overdubs)
Frankly Mister Shankly (duet with Morrissey, thought lost)
Old Man Slapping a Cat (Don’t Judge Jim ‘Til You Know His Story)
Is Clogherhead Like It Used To Be?
Oh If Mother Teresa Wasn’t a Nun (Westgate remix feat. Johnny Logan)
They Said Michael Collins Was a Jew (with the Wolfe Tones)
The Littlest Pinkeen in the Glen/ Yellowbatter Blues (rough orchestra mix)
Cottaging in Donore (early punk version)
Shanks was a huge hit, going platinum 13 times over in the Louth-Meath-Monaghan area, and is widely regarded as Godfrey’s greatest album for its variety of moods and styles. From the traveller tinged epic rock of Food for the Babba, through the tear jerking balladeering on Who Knows the Soul of a Goat? to the heavy funk-rock-synth energy of The Shank Shuffle, the listener is treated to a range of complex sounds and emotions. The album’s stand out track, Cottaging in Donore (Relax There Now), is widely regarded as a companion piece to Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s Relax. On its release, Rolling Stone said the album “only confirms Godfrey’s pre-eminence among the pantheon of musical path forgers”.
From DJ Godfrey to The Councillor to Shanks to ʕ and back to Shanks
Mr. Godfrey’s civic calling has seen him torn between show business and politics for much of his life. Initially a DJ, he is adept at wearing two hats simultaneously and often swaps the two without warning. When not righting the wrongs and wronging the rights in the minefield that is south Louth politics, Shanks (as he is affectionately now known) pursues his other passion, music. His first LP, DJ Shanks Says Move That Booty, was more than the bog standard cover album the begrudgers labelled it. Its pioneering use of sampling got his name noticed amongst Ireland’s 1960s showband supergroups.
His difficult second album, My Man Godfrey: Duets of Love, was a collection (and rockumentary) of lounge duets with the great showband singers including Dolan, Bowyer and Rock. But no two Godfrey albums are the same and he followed this up with 1979s Disco Lonely, which contrasted the highs of dance floor euphoria with the chasmesque downers once the DJ lifted the needle.
Taking inspiration from his hero, Bruce Springsteen, Godfrey shied away from commercial success and returned three years later with a stripped down acoustic album called Nobber (volume one), often referred to as Godfrey’s Nebraska. Nobber was hailed by critics as a modern classic. On its release, Hotpress said “If you want to see inside the soul of a man, listen to Nobber. The singer is obviously in pain but there are traces of a southern Van Morrison for those who see it out until the bitter end.” Commercially, the album flopped though otherwise it was a triumph.
After Shanks was released in the mid 1980s ‘The Councillor’, as his fans began to call him, explored different musical styles as his tireless campaigning and touring brought him into contact with many exotic cultures. Perhaps his most famous collaboration was with the Mbaqanga Johannesburg township group subsequently used by Paul Simon on his Graceland album of 1986. After hearing Godfrey rave about their sound, Simon broke the cultural boycott of apartheid South Africa at the time by both visiting and recording there. That Godfrey steadfastly refused to step over the picket line and only recorded via long distance telephone call is testament to the man’s vast ethical reserves and deep reservoir of integrity. Graceland’s success however, did lead to a bitter rift between the one time collaborators.
Disillusioned with the music industry after the episode, The Councillor took a ten year musical hiatus, focusing solely on local and national politics. Mining this experience bore the politically charged 1995 MTV Unplugged album Cromwell Drank Drogheda’s Blood which was hailed as a tour de force by all who heard it and some who didn’t. But Godfrey wouldn’t be Godfrey if he didn’t pull something out of leftfield and the following year saw an unannounced release and a name change to the symbol ʕ.
The experimental double album, the conceptual For Everything/Against Everything deconstructed both his political beliefs and his relationship with show business, stripping them down and discarding them on the dance floor before building them back up with a fusion of what NME called “rag time meets rave” into a crescendo of thumping bass rhythms and repetitive electro-chanting that made those who heard it dance around a handbag like a bunch of silly pissed women.
The turn of the millennium saw Godfrey explore the links between Drogheda and Turkey in an ill-advised heavily flute and oud based EP called The Star and the Crescent, in which Godfrey falsely posited the theory that the Drogheda’s town emblem was linked to the Ottoman Empire. He followed that up with a concept album about chainsaws with Eminem that earned him a Grammy nomination for best rap accent. In recent years, the worsening political situation in Louth has taken most of Mr. Godfrey’s time.
Godfrey’s current album, First We Take Manhattan, Then We Take Dundalk was released last year. All his back catalogue are now available in digitally remastered form.