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Tax, Drugs and Rock 'n' Roll

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Product Details
ISBN: 9781915306593
Author: Damian Corless
Format: Paperback

Tax & Drugs & Rock'n'Roll is the story of how an influx of British pop stars in the early 1980s was a significant catalyst in the miraculous transformation of Ireland from poor, downtrodden and insular to rich, confident and outward looking. In the space of a dizzying decade or so, the country was turned upside down, seeing itself very differently and being seen in a new light by a bedazzled and somewhat bewildered watching world. Status Quo's Francis Rossi set the ball rolling, closely followed by Sting and Andy Summers of The Police, but it was with the arrival of a cluster of younger freshly-minted MTV superstars that Ireland got itself a new English colony, and far from attracting hostility from the natives, these settlers were warmly embraced (well, mostly).

Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Spandau Ballet and Def Leppard were amongst those who landed into a crumbling wreck of a capital city. Dublin's killer smog was an international embarrassment, while the River Liffey's once majestic Georgian waterfront now gaped like rows of sooty, broken teeth. Physical isolation and the Troubles spilling from the North had choked tourism to a trickle.

Ireland's top radio show opened each morning with the despairing wail of host Gay Byrne that "The country is banjaxed". The MTV stars hadn't come for the atmosphere or the creature comforts. They'd come for the tax breaks, to endure a ho-hum year of exile beyond the grasp of the UK taxman.

What they found confounded their low expectations. Holly Johnson told author Damian Corless of the time Frankie Goes To Hollywood ran a village pottery shop for a day as a favour to its elderly owner Alice. The store enjoyed its best sales ever (although mostly of egg cups).

Spandau Ballet judged local talent contests in tough suburban pubs. Francis Rossi and Def Leppard frontman Joe Elliot gave Corless similar reasons as to why overcast, downcast Ireland made for a much better tax haven than far-flung islands in the sun. Finding themselves thrown together in Dublin, the Frankies, Spandaus and Leppards became good buddies, making Dublin's Pink Elephant an unlikely rival to Studio 54 as the world's nightclub with the most celebrities per square metre, or so the New York Times raved anyway.

When the three bands combined their football talents to take on Dermot Morgan's ShowbizXI in the summer of 1986, a profound change was already blowing in the Irish wind and they were part of it, not least in spreading the word to the rest of Planet Pop that Ireland was open for business, while at the same time opening Irish eyes to the boundless new horizons beyond their lonely shores. By the time Rolling Stone's Ronnie Wood threw his stellar housewarming party less than a decade later, Ireland's culture, society, economy and self-image were changed beyond recognition, with music as the beating heart of that change. By the mid-1990s the 'sceptic isle' of 'police and priests' berated with feeling by Bob Geldof in 'Banana Republic' had, to a remarkable extent, been bundled into the dustbin of history.

Of course, virtually all the heavy lifting in uprooting and overthrowing the old order had been done by natives on the warpath like U2, Sinead O'Connor and the mutinous young people of Ireland. They're all here between the covers. Suddenly, everything went Whoosh!

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