Homer Rock

 Posted by
Dec 312013

He was a great...man! (Batwing Syndrome not represented.)

He was a great…man! (Batwing Syndrome not represented.)

I have lived in Ireland for the last 14 years, but I am originally from Chicago. One thing I’ve noticed from living on this small island is the sense of national pride extended over cultural exports that achieve any sort of recognition abroad. U2 is the prime example from the rock world because of its massive commercial success alongside a sense that they were a proper group (unlike more recent boy band exports) doing it their way and earning some critical accolades along the way (from the likes of Rolling Stone, the UK music press, RnR HoF, etc).

More baffling is the elevated status given at home to the late Phil Lynott (Thin Lizzy) and Rory Gallagher. Personally, I see them both as footnotes in rock history, but in Ireland they are major chapters. To some extent, I get it: there weren’t any Irish rock stars until the late ’60s, and very few in the ’70s, so just the fact that these guys made it to the big time during the “classic” period of rock history is worth recognizing. But it goes much further than that. Gallagher is considered nearly as important as Hendrix, while there is a statue of Phil Lynott on a major street in the center of Dublin.

(To be sure, dying young helps. People are getting sick of U2. Had they died in a 1990s plane crash, there would now be a Lincoln Memorial-esque monument to them in Dublin’s Phoenix Park.)

To borrow from the sports world, this kind of “homerism” does seem natural, but try as I might, I can’t find an analogue when it comes to Chicago or Illinois. There is some sort of Chicago blues museum/foundation there, but rather than being funded by a civic or government organization, it was founded by the daughter of Willie Dixon using funds from her father’s successful legal actions against Led Zeppelin. I don’t think the broad swathe of citizens living in northern Illinois rate Muddy Waters, Smashing Pumpkins, the band Chicago, or Cheap Trick any higher than the rest of the general population does.

Hence the question: Is this musical homerism—overvaluing home-grown artists—in Ireland simply a result of it being such a small country? Or does it exist anywhere (on a local level) in the US or UK?


  30 Responses to “Homer Rock”

  1. mockcarr

    A case can be made for New Jersey doing this with Springsteen. There’s a significant inferiority complex at work there, with respect to the musical hubs of Philadelphia and NYC, and Jersey’s heroes being made stars on the other side of the Hudson or Delaware.

  2. Suburban kid

    “inferiority complex” is a huge part of the Irish homerism too, with “Cool Britannia” right next door and 10 times larger.

  3. 2000 Man

    Cleveland is very much like that. The Raspberries, James Gang, Michael Stanley Band, The Choir and The Outsiders all probably get played here far more than anywhere else. The punk kids all know The Dead Boys, Pere Ubu and Rocket From the Tombs. A few years ago Damnation of Adam Blessing played the big room at The Beachland (holds 400 or more) and they did a show at The Rock Hall a few years before that.

    There may be less of us that still care about Rock, but I ran into some people at the Mexican place in my town the other night and they were talking about buying old Bowie vinyl. I had to chime in and tell the kid he had good taste!

  4. 2000 Man

    Oh, and if you look “inferiority complex” up on The Google it just shows a picture of Cleveland.

  5. It’s the same here in Australia, where mediocre performers get elevated to “national treasure” status.

  6. I don’t think we do this with our rock ‘n roll music from Philadelphia. There’s so little of it: there’s Todd Rundgren, who seems to have had nothing to do with his hometown since the early ’70s, then there’s Hall & Oates, who are fairly beloved but no more here than anywhere else. Beside, Hall & Oates are really a soul act, and that’s where we may fall prey to charges of homerism. I am shocked that people outside Philadelphia don’t all hold TSOP, The Sound of Philadelphia, our ’70s soul empire, in the hightest esteem. I think it skirts too close to disco for some rock nerds’ tastes. In Philadelphia, it’s our main contribution to modern music.

    Philadelphia’s underground/punk rock scene made few ripples beyond hometown heroes the Dead Milkmen. Philadelphia is not kind to its own musicians. We’ve had a couple of cheesy acts like the Hooters, but there’s a severe class-snob divide on those kinds of acts.

    Tomorrow night I look forward to resuming a debate with Andyr’s delightful better half, who’s from Massachusetts. She charges that we only love Hall & Oates’ “Rich Girl” because we’re from Philadelphia. I believe she is geared up to make her case in person, rather than over the Internet, as we did a couple of weeks ago. I am curious to hear how homerism may play into our love of what I think is an objectively great song.

  7. ladymisskirroyale

    San Francisco loves it’s Grateful Dead but manages to ignore others from the area. I mean, have you been to Haight-Ashbury? I hate the Haight, it’s so depressing. The combination of the strung out panhandling kids, tourists, random pools of vomit, tie-dye galore and overpriced shopping makes it a place I avoid. The only reason I go there is Amoeba records, the last NorCal bastion for a great selection of music. And Alembic down the street makes a mighty fine cocktail.

  8. What a load of crap. You’ve got no clue what Rory meant to Ireland in the late 60’s and 70’s, both in the Republic and NI. He was also widely revered in Europe. That he never made it big in the States does not make it a homerism, just a provincialism on your part. Sometimes it’s not about record sales but respect and talent. Something you seem to lack.

  9. 2000 Man

    Whoa, ease off, Milo. It’s just a question posed by someone not from Ireland, asking if we have similar examples in our towns. Making it in the US matters in Rock music. If U2 had had the same success as Rory Gallagher here, no one would think of them at all (in fact, by now they’d have broken up and got jobs). I love Rory Gallagher, and I think Thin Lizzy is pretty ok, but I think I can count on one hand how many people I know that have actually heard Rory. That can name a song or album probably gets down to one finger. So his influence on the Rock world at large is really kind of negligible. It’s very easy to understand why someone not from there would find people even mentioning him these days worth noting.

  10. You know, making assumptions about anyone’s “talent” (in what, you don’t specify) simply because you disagree with a particular element of his broader point is a true sign of your homerism! Not really, but it’s a really lame move on your part, Milo. Take a step back, take a breath, and truly consider the question.

    PS – Welcome aboard. We appreciate your passion.

  11. misterioso

    Great, now he tells me–right after I order the 6-cd Complete Easybeats box set…

  12. misterioso

    As a lifetime New Englander, I say Rich Girl is just terrific. Just for the record.

  13. misterioso

    Not sure, but maybe there should be more of it around here (Greater Boston). There should at least be a Jonathan Richman rest stop off 128, or maybe they can rename the room at the MFA where they keep the Cezannes after him. Certainly there should be a statue of Barry Tashian in Kenmore Square, warning pedestrians to Don’t Look Back. (Perhaps a similar monument to Brad Delp can be raised across the river in Cambridge.) Maybe the Automile on the South Shore can incorporate a Cars-themed amusement park. (“Ride the Ric Ocasek bumper cars!”) Just thinkin’ out loud here.

  14. Suburban kid

    Milo, I do have an idea of what Rory meant to Ireland and NI in the 60s and 70s — that’s what prompted the post — but I can’t fully understand it since I wasn’t here then. And I do realize he has fans around the world. My knowledge of him is limited so you are right to ignore my opinion, but I see him as a follower in the mold of Clapton and Hendrix, not an innovator. Perhaps I’m wrong, but then, I was never trying to establish facts.

  15. I will continue to bang the drum for Midnight Oil until I am (screaming in) blue in the face.

  16. Ann Arbor has Bob Seger. That’s basically all I can think of. And then there are a bunch of famous musicians that went to U of M (most notably Madonna), but we don’t have as big a thing around them.

  17. I love Minneapolis/Minnesota music and still follow the scene as much as I can from the D.C. area.

    Coming of (drinking) age in the 80s, I saw all the indie heroes — The Replacements are my favorite by far, but I still listen to Husker Du, Gear Daddies, Soul Asylum, and Trip Shakespeare — with the latter members eventually forming Semisonic, which had some good tunes beyond “Closing Time.” I also listened to Alexander O’Neal, Sue Ann, and all the Paisley Park stuff from Prince and his stable of artists.

    Another “from” Minnesota artist that I liked was Paulette Carlson of the country band Highway 101 of “Whiskey, If You Were a Woman” fame.

    Dylan is from Minnesota, but not of Minnesota. I did find out that we were both at an X show — at the Guthrie Theater in Mpls. in the early-mid 80s.

    The Postal Service sound alike — Owl City — is a kid from Minnesota who made that big hit in his basement. Mason Jennings is from Minnesota too and has a pretty good national following.

    The new Minnesota artists that I listen to now are Trampled By Turtles, Dessa (an R&B diva), Haley Bonar (a indie pop folkstress), and Polica.

    If it was up to me though – it would be Mats statue in front of First Avenue — near the Twins’ Target Field statue of Rod Carew.

  18. I really like Trampled by Turtles, although it’s generally not my kind of music. Polica are cool too.

  19. Those are “big” bands! Outside Prince, my Minneapolis rockers cannot compete in record sales.

    I like Mary Lou Lord — I loved all her stuff — wish she would put out more and Del Fuegos. Warren Zanes has got a couple of great solo albums.

  20. I like Kasey Chambers. She signed a 9:30 Club handbill for me on her first tour of the States and seemed so nice and that first album is just great.

  21. diskojoe

    Great ideas misterioso, as a fellow Bostonian. I feel a great sense of pride when I see my friend’s (BW) latest album in the UK music press & seeing him perform on Jools Holland.

    Surburban Kid, how are the Undertones regarded in Ireland?

    Finally, Mr. Mod, I have enjoyed “Rich Girl” by Hall & Oates ever since I first heard it as a high school freshman. A great song.

  22. cliff sovinsanity

    I’m a little reluctant to make a Canada related comment without consulting Northvancoveman but if I step out of line I’m sure he will correct me.
    As far as I’m aware there aren’t any statues or huge memorials for Canadian musicians or singers. Much like Canadian actors we know who they are and we’ll gladly point them out when they do good. The only people who get statues in our country are athletes with hockey players getting the most attention. So to all those planning on making rock pilgrimages to the great white north don’t expect any stautes of Avirl in Napanee, Alanis in Ottawa, Paul Schaffer in Thunder Bay, or Shania in Timmins.
    In fact here’s what happens when Timmins tried to honor Shania..
    The only marginal band I can think of that is held in any major regard is The Tragically Hip. Which is simply because of their overt Canadianism. I mean who else is going sing about Tom Thompson, David Milgaard and Bill Barilko

  23. misterioso

    And how ’bout a statue of the late Ben Orr across from the statue of Bobby Orr outside the Garden?

  24. 2000 Man

    You guys have got to have a Rush statue somewhere. Carved on a mountainside like Mt. Rushmore maybe?

  25. Suburban kid

    The Undertones don’t get the thin lizzy treatment because they didn’t have hits on that scale and most importantly weren’t stars in the UK or US. Teenage Kicks IS recognised as a notable Irish contribution to pop, but the band has had such a low profile since they split up that only people who were young during their hey day would really recognise them as a band.

  26. ladymisskirroyale

    I’d say the Go-Betweens would be worthy of National Treasure status, but I continue to dive for their memories.

  27. hrrundivbakshi

    DeeCee has an entire form of music that is held above the swirling, choppy tide of public appreciation: “go-go” music. I like the stuff, but the rest of the world has never understood it, or wanted to. The “Godfather of Go-go,” Chuck Brown, is so adored here (even in death) that he has a street and a park named after him, and you’ll hear his scraped-the-bottom-of-the-R&B-charts song “Bustin’ Loose” on the rare occasion of a Washington National actually hitting a baseball out of Nationals Park.

    As far as Rory Gallagher goes, you’ll hear no louder an apologist for the man than yours truly, even as I struggle to understand why I love him so much, and his music so seldom. I can’t remember if I ever finally got around to explaining what made Gallagher so great here in the Hall. If I haven’t, it’s because the size of the task overwhelms me. He was, and is, massively important to me — for many of the same reasons the Minutemen are, actually. Talk about a workin’ man’s, DIY, we-jam-econo, flannel shirt-wearin’ ethos! And the fact that Rory played his bizarro “Celtic blues” with such utter commitment and intensity, all the time, every time… well, he was Great. To me, anyway.

  28. hrrundivbakshi

    I went looking for any piece I might have written on Rory Gallagher, but found nothing — other than this reflection, posted during the (very funny) thread that went up in conjunction with the World Cup (of Rock):

    Rory Gallagher is a great sentimental favorite of mine, about whom I’ve been meaning to post for years now. My man-love for the guy is somewhat unusual, since he’s basically a blooz rocker at heart, and not much of a songwriter. But he was a genuinely brilliant, idiosyncratic blues guitarist, and he was possessed of a sweet demeanor and an INSANE work ethic. Plus, really, he was very punk in his own way. All rock, no attitude, beat-up guitar and flannel shirts, jamming econo long before that was considered antithetical to Rock. Everybody’s got a story about Rory being booked at humongo rock festivals, only to show up 15 minutes before the show in his station wagon, wearing clothes he slept in and would likely play in, bassist sleeping in the back seat. And his live shows were *furious*. I just love the guy.

  29. Ladymiss, don’t forget the Zam Zam Club!

Lost Password?

twitter facebook youtube