Biography All Music GuideWikipedia
Group Members: Andy Irvine, Andy Irvine & Paul Brady, Andy Irvine & Davy Spillane, Donal Lunny, Matt Molloy, Bill Whelan, Matt Molloy, Paul Brady and Tommy Peoples, Christy Moore, Paul Brady, Nollaig Casey and Arty McGlynn, Liam O'Flynn, Matt Molloy And Sean Keane
All Music Guide:
Along with groups like the Bothy Band, Planxty helped to usher in a new era for modern Celtic music. While their sound remained rooted to traditional music, the band's virtuosic musicianship and high-energy delivery reflected modern influences, while their unique vocal harmonies and instrumental counterpoint were unprecedented in Irish music.
The founding members of Planxty -- Christy Moore, Dónal Lunny, Liam O'Flynn, and Andy Irvine -- initially came together to provide instrumental accompaniment for Irish singer/songwriter Christy Moore's 1973 album, Prosperous. The sessions proved so inspiring that the musicians agreed to continue working together. With the release of their debut single, "Cliffs of Dooneen," the new band attracted international attention. An equally memorable, self-titled album, affectionately known as the "Black Album," followed shortly afterwards.
Despite its success, Planxty was plagued by a series of personnel changes. Following the release of the band's second album, The Well Below the Valley, Lunny departed for the Bothy Band and was replaced by Johnny Moynihan, who had previously played with Irvine in Sweeney's Men. Moore followed after the release of the band's third album, Cold Blow and the Rainy Night to resume his solo career, and was replaced by singer/songwriter Paul Brady. The loss of Moore and Lunny was devastating and, shortly after releasing their fifth album, The Woman I Loved So Well, Planxty disbanded in 1981.
The seeds for Planxty's resurrection were planted in late 1983. In addition to the original members, the re-formed group featured ex-Bothy Band and future Chieftains flute player Matt Molloy and keyboardist and future Riverdance producer Bill Whelan. Fiddlers James Kelly and Noelle Casey were added for the first album by the reunited group, Words & Music. The renewed energy petered out quickly. By 1983, Lunny and Moore had gone off to form a more electric trad-rock group, Moving Hearts.
Planxty is an Irish folk music band formed in the 1970s, consisting initially of Christy Moore (vocals, acoustic guitar, bodhrán), Dónal Lunny (bouzouki, guitars), Andy Irvine (vocals, mandolin, mandola, bouzouki, hurdy-gurdy, harmonica), and Liam O'Flynn (uilleann pipes, tin whistle). Subsequently, Johnny Moynihan, Matt Molloy (flute), Bill Whelan (keyboards), Nollaig Casey (Fiddle) and, briefly, Paul Brady were also members. The band was formed in 1972, and quickly revolutionized and popularized Irish folk music, touring and recording to great acclaim. The band broke up twice, first in 1975 and again in 1983. The band reunited again in 2003. Their final performance (to date) was in 2005.
Formation and first run
Christy Moore and Dónal Lunny had been friends since schooldays, Lunny having taught Christy how to play both guitar & bodhrán. Before the formation of Planxty, Lunny had been playing shows in a duet with Andy Irvine. Liam O'Flynn was playing in public and on the radio, and was well respected in traditional folk circles. All members were familiar with one another’s work to varying degrees, but were first brought together to record Moore's second solo album, Prosperous, which was recorded during the summer of 1971 in a house in the village of the same name.
Shortly thereafter, the four joined forces to form Planxty, recording their first single on January 18, 1972, appearing together on RTE's The Late, Late Show soon after, and playing their first show on March 6 – a 30 minute set at "The Mugs Gig" on a bill that included balladeer Paddy Reilly. The band assumed a weekly residence at The Mugs, began rehearsing, and started playing live around Ireland. The group's first major performance - opening for Donovan in Galway - was a huge success. Neither the audience nor the band knew what to expect, and both were pleasantly surprised. Irvine, unable to see the audience through the glare of the stage lights, was worried that the crowd might be on the verge of rioting. It took him several minutes to realize that what he was hearing was the expression of their enthusiasm. A rough quality recording of the song "Raggle Taggle Gypsy" from this concert was included on the 2004 retrospective, The Christy Moore Box Set, complete with the audience's reaction.
Planxty’s first single, Three Drunken Maidens, was released by their manager Des Kelly’s label, Ruby Records, reaching #7 in the Irish charts. The next single, a re-recording of The Cliffs of Dooneen (previously recorded for the Prosperous album) made it to #3. Two full albums followed (Planxy and The Well Below the Valley) and the group’s increasing popularity led to heavy touring throughout Ireland, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Northern Europe.
Tired of constant touring and wishing to explore other musical avenues, Dónal Lunny left the band in July, 1973. He would eventually end up a member of The Bothy Band. Johnny Moynihan, who had played with Irvine in Sweeney's Men joined at this point, playing mandolin, bouzouki, fiddle, and singing. This line up, with contributions from Lunny, would record Planxy’s third album, Cold Blow and the Rainy Night.
Next to leave was Christy Moore, in the spring of 1974. Moore had a desire to return to his solo career and perform from a larger repertoire of songs. The split was amicable, and while Paul Brady was recruited to fill the gap in the spring of 1974, Moore stayed on with him in the band until October. After his departure, the Irvine / Moynihan / Brady / O’Flynn line up toured extensively, but released no recordings before playing their final show in Brussels on December 5, 1975.
Breakups and reunions
After the breakup, Brady released an album with Irvine, followed by a solo album, before moving into pop music territory. Moynihan retreated into obscurity, continuing to perform occasionally, but rarely recording. The original four members of Planxty, however, continued to encounter each other socially, on the stage, and in the studio. This eventually led to a reunion in 1979, encouraged by music promoter Kevin Flynn, who would become their manager. They were joined this time by Matt Molloy, who had been a member of The Bothy Band with Lunny. Starting rehearsals at Molloy’s home on September 19, 1978, this lineup would resume touring in 1979 and record the album After the Break. Molloy would leave the group to join The Chieftains shortly after the album was recorded, and remains with them to this day.
In February 1980, two musicians from County Clare began performing live with Planxty: concertina player Noel Hill and fiddler Tony Linnane. The six-member line up of Moore, Irvine, Lunny, O’Flynn, Hill and Linnane were joined by Matt Molloy and keyboardist Bill Whelan and when the band went into the studio in the spring of 1980 to record the album The Woman I Loved So Well.
The band began touring as a four piece the summer of 1980, joined in the fall by Whelan, and later by a young Cork fiddler, Nollaig Casey. Shows around this time would feature the four piece band for the first set, with Whelan and Casey joining in for the second set. This line up played a week of shows at the Olympia Theatre in Dublin on 18–23 October 1980. The shows were all taped for a potential live album. The tapes eventually saw the light of day as the unlicensed 1987 release “The Best of Planxty Live”. This line up, augmented by a full orchestra & rhythm section, would record “Timedance” in 1981 as part of the Eurovision Song Contest. Timedance was the genesis for what Whelan would later develop into Riverdance.
The six-piece Planxty continued to tour, but the band began to drift apart. Liam O’Flynn took on a project with Shaun Davey, The Brendan Voyage. Moore & Lunny, eager to experiment with a rhythm section and a different, more political, song set, formed the band Moving Hearts. Lunny also kept busy producing albums by other bands. The original 4-piece line up played their last show together on the 24 of August 1982, at the National Stadium in Dublin. Nevertheless, with Whelan and Casey still on board, the band recorded one final album in the fall of 1982, Words And Music. The album also included contributions from fiddler James Kelly and Moving Hearts bass guitarist Eoghan O’Neill.
The divided attention of two bands proved too much, and in 1983, Dónal Lunny and Christy Moore left to concentrate on Moving Hearts. Irvine, O’Flynn, and Whelan decided to continue the band, retaining fiddler James Kelly, and also recruiting Arty McGlynn of County Tyrone on guitar and Galway’s Dolores Keane on vocals and a plethora of traditional instruments. Irvine would later dub this line up “Planxty-Too-Far”, as the line up and musical focus (now more dominated by Whelan) was too far removed from what Planxty had been. A tour of Ireland in spring of 1983 would be the end of the group, with planned fall shows never materializing.
Twenty years later, Paddy Dougherty, owner of the Royal Spa Hotel in Lisdoonvarna and cofounder of the Lisdoonvarna Festival, encouraged the group to reunite. He arranged for their use of the dining room for rehearsals which led to a one-off show in front of 200 people on the 11th of October, 2003. Pleased with the results and the experience of playing together again, the original Planxty would stay together for almost two more years, which led to additional shows in Dublin, Belfast and County Clare in 2004, and London in January 2005, and the release of the Live 2004 film and album. The band remained a four piece, with Christy handling occasional keyboards. To date, there has been no further reunion. Christy Moore has said he would not participate in another reunion, but has given his blessing to the others to use the Planxty name.
Broadcaster and journalist Leagues O'Toole documented the band in the biography The Humours of Planxty, which was published by Hodder Headline in 2006. O’Toole had earlier worked on a documentary about the band for the RTE television show No Disco, which Christy Moore credits with inspiring the reunion.
"Planxty" is a word used by the classic harper Turlough O'Carolan in many of his works, and is believed to denote a tribute to a particular person: "Planxty Irwin", for example, would be in honor of Colonel John Irwin of Sligo. "Planxty" is thought to be a corruption of the Irish word and popular toast "sláinte", meaning "good health". Others claim that the word is not Irish in origin but comes from the Latin "plangere," meaning to strike or beat. Alternatively, its origin may stem from the Irish phrase "phlean an tí" meaning "from the house of". During the penal law era of Ireland's history, songs sung in Irish were outlawed, and it is believed that the use of the phrase "Planxty", followed by the name of the composer, was to disguise the composer's true identity ("Planxty" being logically assumed to be the first name of the composer), while still giving them credit for the song. Another possible explanation is that it is derived from the Latin Planctus, a medieval lament. Regardless of its origin, the moniker, which replaced the provisional "CLAD" (Christy - Liam - Andy - Dónal), turned out to be a good fit, as O'Carolan's music would play an important part in the band's repertoire. (see "Influences", below).
A formative influence on Planxty and in particular on Christy Moore was the singing of Irish Traveller John "Jacko" Reilly who hailed from Boyle, Co. Roscommon. It was from Reilly that Moore learned "Raggle Taggle Gypsy", which was recorded for the first Planxty album, in addition to "The Well Below the Valley," which appeared on The Well Below the Valley. Christy later dipped into Reilly's songbook again for an updated version of the lengthy ballad "Lord Baker," which was featured on Planxty's 1983 album "Words & Music". ("Baker" appears to be a mondegreen for the "Beichan" of earlier versions.) Jacko Reilly died in 1969 at the age of 44, shortly after being found beneath his coats in the top room of his dwelling in Boyle by Tom Munnelly, who had originally collected his songs for archiving.
The music of Turlough O'Carolan appeared on a number of Planxty albums (including the B-side of their very first single), often played by Liam O'Flynn on the pipes. Much of this music first came to the attention of the band through the work of seminal Irish composer Seán Ó Riada and his group Ceoltóirí Chualann.