Friday, January 27, 2012

Pierce Turner: "Ball and Chain (Snakes and Ladders)"


Pierce Turner was one half of Turner and Kirwan of Wexford, the house band at the Bells of Hell from sometime in 1977 to 1979. The band was just the two of them: Pierce played Moog; Larry Kirwan played guitar while using a pedal to strike a drum; and both sang. Their repertoire included some original songs ("Absolutely and Completely", "Father Reilly Says Goodbye", "The Girl Next Door"), arrangements of traditional Irish songs ("Free Born Man of the Traveling People"; a version of the rebel song "The Foggy Dew" ending in Moog pyrotechnics), and covers ("Death of a Clown", "Lola"--they were great Kinks fans--and the New Riders' "Panama Red", which, to their chagrin, a certified public accountant named Stu would frequently and loudly request).

Toward the end of their time at the Bells, they were producing more original material. They added a bassist and a full-time drummer, and changed their name to The Major Thinkers. As such, their music evolved into a kind of post-disco electronica with new wave overtones, done very well. (I still have an unscratched Major Thinkers twelve inch disc.) You can hear them here.

Today, Larry fronts Black 47, and Pierce is a solo artist. His latest is in the clip above (thanks to odriscl for the clip and to Bells/Lion's Head friend Cheryl Floyd for the link) and, in my opinion, shows him still at the top of his game.

Update: Pierce leaves a comment (see link below) on this post which includes the following information:

I will be performing at Joe's Pub on March 3rd at 7pm-I have a new album pending-I'm mixing right now-and I think fondly of those Bells of Hell days.
I hope to see lots of my New York friends there.


Meanwhile, I've found a video clip of "Wicklow Hills", a song that's on Pierce's first solo album, and which I heard him perform live back in 1983. About a month after attending his concert, I was walking along Hicks Street in Brooklyn Heights, my then new home, late at night, when a drunken man came by singing, "Tell everybody I'm going away for ten years; I'm gonna wander, among...those...hills." I bit my tongue to keep from shouting out, "Wicklow!"