Holly Bough Editors Pick: Cork's No.1 song is a classic... to be Frank!

What is the greatest Cork song of all time? If you thought The Banks would be a banker for No.1, you’d be wrong... EDDIE KIELY explains in The Holly Bough, how a hit from almost 30 years ago topped the poll this year, as voted on by Leesiders.
Holly Bough Editors Pick: Cork's No.1 song is a classic... to be Frank!

CATCHY TUNE: The Frank and Walters at the BBC Elstree studios in London to perform After All on Top of the Pops in January, 1993

ALL together now... “da-da-da ba-da-da-bam-bam-ba da-da-da ba-da-da-bam-bam-ba”.

The catchy sing-a-long After All, recorded in the early 1990s by Cork indie band The Frank And Walters, was this year revealed as Cork’s favourite song in a public poll.

The competition, organised by Cork City Libraries and Creative Ireland, started with a total of 81 songs being nominated by Corkonians, before being reduced to a shortlist of 10 contenders for which people could then cast their vote.

Among the top ten were old favourites and local anthems such as The Banks of My Own Lovely Lee and Beautiful City, while the 81 shortlisted songs featured a plethora from Rory Gallagher, Jimmy Crowley and John Spillane.

But it was After All that was voted No.1, with 5,215 votes, edging out one of the few 21st century tunes on the list, The Langer Song by Natural Gas.

The Frank and Walters are the quintessential Cork band, and even though their biggest hit single may never mention the Rebel County, it has become the quintessential Cork song.

The winner was announced at the Grand Parade Library, where MC Trevor Welch oversaw performances of all 10 songs in the final shake-up.

Unfortunately, the band were not in attendance to hear the fantastic rendition of their hit single performed by the excellent High Hopes Choir, but nonetheless they were thrilled when they heard of the result.

At the time it was penned, the band comprised Paul Linehan, his brother Niall as guitarist, and Ashley Keating on drums.

Songwriter, bassist and vocalist Paul, who describes the song as “a celebration of life and the value of relationships, even when they have their ups and downs”, admitted he was surprised but delighted with After All topping the poll.

“I wrote the song about my girlfriend at the time. In 1992, I was travelling back and forth a lot to London and I wrote most of it over there, but I wrote the chorus back in Cork — but it was just another song at the time.

“The great thing about it is, it can still have legs 25 years later.”

When After All was written, the band were in London making their debut album Trains Boats And Planes. Paul approached the band with a new track.

“I think he wasn’t 100% sure on it, but he played it to us and we thought ‘God, that’s a great track, we should work on that for the album,” recalls Keating.

“We were living in London at the time, we were being typical Irish lads abroad — a bit of homesickness. And it was just a simple love song, it’s boy-girl in a way but it’s also loving where you’re from and missing where you’re from.”

Produced by Ian Broudie of the Lightning Seeds, the song climbed to No.11 in the UK and No.5 in the Irish charts upon its release in 1992.

The Frank And Walters ended up heading to London and performing After All on the iconic weekly BBC show Top Of The Pops.

Rather surreally, the trio had their photo taken back stage with Paul McCartney, who was below them in the charts at the time!

Equally surreally, on the same episode, a video by another Cork band, The Sultans Of Ping FC, was played.

After All has been something of a cult classic on Leeside ever since — and notably was among the local anthems played for the crowds on the night Cork became European Capital of Culture in 2005.

However, it owes its recent resurgence to a cameo on TV.

Billy Murphy sings 'After All' by the Frank and Walters in the season finale of Young Offenders.
Billy Murphy sings 'After All' by the Frank and Walters in the season finale of Young Offenders.

In March, 2018, 25 years after its release, the song featured on the hit Cork-based TV comedy The Young Offenders, and was introduced to a new generation of music lovers. On the back of that, it went to No.1 in the iTunes downloads chart for Ireland.

Paul was quick to acknowledge the impact The Young Offenders had in giving After All a new lease of life, leading to it being sung on The Late Late Show.

“The kids who maybe didn’t know about us suddenly knew about it,” he explains, adding: “The Young Offenders gave the song a whole new lease of life, they did an amazing job and it worked so well in the scene.

“We couldn’t have wished for anything better and it definitely moved the song up a notch in people’s minds.”

In the series finale, loveable rogue Billy Murphy, superbly played by Shane Murphy, hijacks a bus and gets everyone on board to join in a memorable sing-a-long that is already regarded as an iconic TV moment.

“We were blown away and thought it was brilliant, for a song that is over 25 years old, to suddenly get a new lease of life was absolutely fantastic for the band,” added Ashley Keating.

However, The Frank and Walters’ relationship with The Young Offenders didn’t end with the hapless Billy Murphy’s outstanding rendition of After All.

As we all know, the debs ball is a rite of passage for every Irish teenager, so it was only natural when The Young Offenders gang attended their debs that the Cork indie outfit joined as the band and played out the ending with a performance of After All. It is a song that has travelled the world and there is no doubt it has and will continue to catch the ear of music-lovers both home and abroad.

Justifiably so, according to Cork’s 96FM Select Irish presenter Michael Carr. “After All is on one hand an exercise in indie-pop simplicity — from a three or four note intro to a wonderfully basic sentiment in the lyrics — yet on the other, it’s one of the most well-crafted pop songs that’s ever been written in this country,” said Michael.

Red FM presenter and producer Dave MacArdle echoes these sentiments. “From the opening guitar lick, the quick pound of the drums and straight into its infectious swing... Sweet, simple, pure, universal and inclusive — who can’t relate to those sentiments! Who can fail to sway and smile in an instant?

“Then that mid-song lift reminds you of what’s to come right at the end, the pure joy of the sing-along — maybe even a bit of air punching too — da-da-da ba-da-da-bam-bam-ba da-da-da ba-da-da-bam-bam-ba”.

MacArdle, the presenter of the popular Dave Mac Drive, added: “Last time I played it on Red FM I asked ‘what is it about this song’ and amongst the answers was, ‘when you hear it you feel good’.” This may account for why Cork’s favourite song has had such a far-reaching and cross-generational appeal, but according to Carr: “There’s a a reason why songs like this endure and stand the test of time, and that’s down to no small measure of song writing genius.

“‘Timeless classic’ just about does it justice.” Almost 30 years after The Frank and Walters gate-crashed the charts with their seminal hit, the melodic song continues to remind listeners that good tunes simply never go away.

After all, it is Cork’s favourite song, and is without doubt one of Ireland’s greatest pop songs.


"If you have to ask, you're not from Cork"

FOUNDED in 1989, The Frank And Walters were named in honour of two eccentric Cork characters.

One of those who voted for After All as their favourite Cork song hailed it as “an anthem and theme tune for Cork, enshrined in Cork’s music history”.

Another said: “Memories from teenage years singing along with friends, and recently at a wedding, all my cousins arm in arm singing along... classic Cork.”

Others remarked that the song and band are “Cork institutions” while one said: “The band have provided the soundtrack for the change from good ol’ times to a modern and vibrant Cork city that has stayed close to its Rebel roots. This song provides the beat as we make that transition.”

Another commented: “It’s more than a simple love song, it can also be about love of place and sums up how so many of us feel about Cork.” One simply stated “If you have to ask — then you aren’t from Cork.”

PROLIFIC: John Spillane
PROLIFIC: John Spillane

Of the original 81-song longlist, troubadour John Spillane led the nominations with 10, followed by veteran folk singer Jimmy Crowley on seven, while rock legend Rory Gallagher had six nominations and soulful singer-songwriter Mick Flannery five.

However, one issue with the 81-song longlist was the distinct lack of female artists; just four. There were also some quirky choices — Ball And Chain by U.S DJ Romanthony has no connection to Cork, but was a huge hit in the city’s clubs at the turn of the century.

Cork city senior executive librarian Patricia Looney explained the idea for the competition came from the boundary extension in 2019, which saw the city expand into the county, aling with a few rumblings of discontent.

“There was a lot of talk of people not wanting to join the city and feeling they were losing something, but there is something that unites us all in Cork and it’s our shared interest in music,” she said.

“I mean, The Banks Of My Own Lovely Lee is as much an anthem for somebody in Ballincollig or somebody in Castletownbere as it is for someone from the heart of the city, so that’s where the idea for the vote came from."

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