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Tim Chipping
 

Ranting & Reeling

Tim Chipping’s monthly column

In 1986 a woman in our church offered up a prayer of thanks that Doctor & The Medics were at No 1 with the song Spirit In The Sky. No-one had the heart to tell her that neither the Doctor and his psychedelic revivalists nor the song’s composer Norman Greenbaum had any evangelical intent behind the lyric: “I got a friend in Jesus”. A new dawn of Christian pop was not upon us.

I’m similarly reluctant to cast stones at the success of County Antrim trad band Beoga, who found themselves at the top of the charts thanks to the patronage of Ed Sheeran – the world’s most successful singing man. However gratifying it might be to see some of our own doing so well, the resulting collaboration is unworthy of praise (although many utter the name of the Lord when they hear it).

For the benefit of those who take smug delight in writing “who?” in the comments box under any article about a figure from popular culture, Ed Sheeran rose from a lowly position as roadie for digger-loving novelty hitmakers Nizlopi to sell out three nights at Wembley Stadium – shows he performed with only an acoustic guitar and a loop pedal. This feat is made all the more impressive by the fact that Ed Sheeran’s songs are terrible. That’s just my opinion, but it’s also true.

Whenever I insist that Ed Sheeran writes songs in the manner of someone packing a suitcase in a hurry, a friend of a friend will inevitably admonish me because “He’s a nice guy”. And this does seem to be the case. Not only is his latest smash hit (one of sixteen Sheeran compositions to occupy the UK Top 20 in the same week) inspired by Niamh Dunne of aforementioned folksters Beoga, who also played on the track, but he’s nicely given the group writing credits too, certain to make them nicely rich. What a nice guy.

Ed had to literally argue Galway Girl (not that one) onto his album, so appalled were the record label by the Guinness-hatted, tourist board, diddly-eye-ness they were presented with (he’d originally planned an entire record of Oirish strummings, much to their horror). Sheeran posited that he might be the one to kick-start a popfolk revival; that there was a gap in the market (in an interview with The Guardian, Sheeran calculated: “There’s 400m people in the world that say they’re Irish, even if they’re not Irish”) and that The Corrs made millions peddling this sort of fluff in the ’90s, so it’s worth a shot.

Fortunately for the label, it sold. Unfortunately for any poverty-stricken uilleann pipers out there, Galway Girl (not that one) is as unlikely to inspire Rihanna or Robbie Williams to require your services as Spirit In The Sky was to boost sales of the Good News Bible. Sheeran’s ham-fisted appropriation is more likely to encourage vigilante violence than an upturn in studio session bookings for John McSherry.

And if you’re the parent of a child for whom Ed Sheeran on repeat on Spotify is their new jam, you will by now have concluded that Galway Girl (not that one) is the worst combination of words and noises since that time you stepped on a fiddle in bare feet.

Top o’ the mornin’ to ya’, pop pickers.

Tim Chipping


 

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