Mick Hanly, |
Wish Me Well
(Gill & McMillan, 2005)
You have heard of the six degrees of separation -- that we all connect to everyone else within six people? Well, I connect to Mick Hanly in three. I was probably the first person to record the guitar playing of Declan Sinnott (on old reel to reel) back at school in Wexford of the 1960s and he is the perfectionist producer with Mick Hanly.
Hanly was born midway through the 20th century and his story as told here is a social history of the second half of the century. Therefore, his story of short trousers, the Christian Brothers, the scholarships to secondary school and the discovery of "Love Me Do" by the Beatles will resonate with many in all parts of Ireland.
The book will also appeal to the writers of songs or stories. Here we have a man with immense talent but also the doubts and the struggles and the hard work and disappointments needed to survive at that craft. Unlike so many writers and performers he tells us exactly how much "Past the Point of Rescue" brought in one particular year. He is also quite hard on himself in revealing that he was far from being an angel. He does not excuse it, as many stars would, as high spirits and "the business."
His writing about family, religion, nature and child rearing will strike chords with many. Here is a strong personality showing his tender side and doing it with sincerity.
If you have experienced his live shows in the past year or so, you will have heard the bones of some of these stories and heard the songs. There is the sadness that his parents died shortly before the success of "Past the Point" ("I Feel I Should Be Calling You"), the learning by heart of Irish poems and meeting a school friend after a gig ("Damaged Halo") and the trials, tribulations and emergence of the stepson ("Shellabookie Boy").
This book is a treasure trove of backgrounds to songs, morsels of social history, family chat and love. It also happens to be a very beautifully produced book with some lovely photographs -- in particular youngsters sliding on an icy footpath. It is a worthy record of the life and work of a great songwriter.