Cunas Music & Publishing – 329 pages paperback [Publication date: 28.07.2017]
‘The Meaney of Life’ is an autobiographical journey though the life and times of a proud Irishman Sean Meaney.
He’s a passionate music fan who rises above what the music biz in particular, and life in general, can throw at him.
The key to this engaging book is his consistent observational style that draws the reader into the author’s refreshing Candide style optimism, which he encouragingly retains to the end.
There’s a lovely flow that reflects his spontaneous approach to life, as he jumps into opportunities without a long term plan and with an almost naive, but commendable belief that the characters he meets along the way all have good intentions.
He wisely prefaces the book with the oft-referenced Hunter S. Thompson quote about the pitfalls of the music business, as if to both warn the reader and perhaps remind himself of his own travails.
It’s a highly readable book shot through with an honest, observational style that will hold widespread appeal outside the confines of the music scene. Such is his is ability to draw us into a series of his life’s ups and downs that you hardly notice the paucity of photos.
He sets out the books mission statement thus: ”This book is mainly about my trek through the music industry, managing and promoting bands and venues”, but he further frames his own creative efforts with the observation that; “Success comes with a one percent guarantee and it’s something that you wait and hope for.”
Refreshingly, it isn’t always money even success that drives the author, as you get the impression he’s happiest when he’s involved in something he can enjoy and can share with like minded people.
This of course leads to plenty of disappointments and indeed times in his life when it has an adverse effects on his health.
His early years are spent touring the world with the navy – the Ark Royal no less - where he maintains a connection with his passion for music by becoming the ship’s DJ.
A bone crunching mid-sea collision eventually steers him back to dry land, but has an on going adverse effect on his delicate psyche. He stays afloat (pun intended), by becoming a chef in a mental hospital. He also keeps his hand in musically as one half of the mobile Twilite Zone Disco, which actually makes it into Sounds magazine.
But as with his overall restless nature, he’s soon embarking on another career as a DJ known as John Michael for Radio Dublin. The station is run by a shady character whose nefarious activities are revealed later in the book’s coda.
Again this chapter displays Meaney’s ability to draw you into a scenario in which it doesn’t matter whether you know the station or the characters or not.
There’s a backdrop of characters from Jimmy Savile and Irish chart topper Dickie Rock, Brush Shiels and even TV anchorman Pat Kenny, before he finds himself working in a retreat house run by Jesuits, which sound no different from any other haphazard organization: “I would have one Brother telling me that I should bake cakes for the library and someone else telling me not to bother.”
By the mid 80′s he’s back into the music, while helping a band called Eye To Eye, and gets them a booking at the esteemed Baggot Inn, before they fell apart. The usual reasons for this are perhaps something he should have made a mental note of for future reference.
After the death of his hero Phil Lynott (he’s equally moved years later by the death of Rory Gallagher), he moves to West London and throws himself into a live music scene, which some 20 odd years later has all but disappeared.
There’s a humorous recall of passing ships in the night, such as long forgotten bands such as The Chalk Garden (who he tries to manage) and the more high profile Belouis Some.
Thereafter, I must declare an interest, as our paths crossed both a co-promoters and editors of the now defunct Real Music magazine.
Yet more names float in and out of his life, from actress Kate O’Mara and ZZ Top (in a priceless anecdote), to Pickettywitch’s Polly Brown, Dana Gillespie, Rolf Harris, Max Clifford (don’t ask), and later actress Anita Dobson and Brian May.
His high hopes for a new promising band he manages called The Mustard Seeds are dashed by an unforgiving volatile music scene.
The musical backdrop of bands at the time is startling, from Gary Moore, Ry Cooder and Walter Trout, to Roy Harper, Man, Albert Collins and an early tribute band Limehouse Lizzy who he also briefly manages.
He becomes a journalist on the Irish World and sets up the high profile ‘Irish World Awards’. From this point onwards, he plunges into the Anglo Irish music and arts scene, which leads to a significant meeting with comedian/actor Brendan O’Carroll.
As if inspired by his literary surroundings, he publishes books on notable Irish figures such as Liam MacCarthy and Sam Maguire, as well as a self help book on panic attacks.
There’s a highly evocative chapter called ‘Music & Hurling Come Together’ which is a great example of the way his passion shines through his writing. Even the most hard bitten cynic would find it hard not to be enveloped by his recall of collective energy and optimism of the unlikely confluence of hurling and music.
Then there’s the ongoing business relationship with Phil Lynott’s mum Philomena, which leads to arguably his biggest achievement, the Thin Lizzy reformation in Dublin.
With a stellar line-up featuring Gary Moore, Brian Downey, Eric Bell, Jonathan Noyce, Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson, the event drew thousands of people as well as national TV coverage, but almost predictably someone else runs off with the money, though he does manage to recoup some of his costs.
In between times there’s a trip to LA with his new protégés Dizzy Lizzy, which if nothing else proves that that behind all the Hollywood sparkle there’s usually a bunch of disorganised starving musicians with no real plan.
He returns to being an author, penning a handful of other books including one of his own song and lyrics called ‘Mea Culpa’ – But Life Goes On’.
It’s released on his 60th birthday at an event attended by Philomena Lynnott. You suspect that her presence squares the circle for our hero who really wants to do no more than help his musical heroes.
Throughout it all, Sean Meaney retains his optimism, passion and devotion to music. It’s ironic then that his only regret is the fact he made his living outside of music, the very thing that led him to such a colourful life.
A damn good read! ****
Review by Pete Feenstra
David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 30 August 2020.
UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 ( BST, GMT+1) as part of a five hour blues rock marathon “Tuesday is Bluesday at GRTR!”. The show is repeated on Wednesdays at 22:00, Fridays at 20:00). This show was first broadcast 8 September 2020.
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