Originating in the ’60s and ’70s, Irish rock music is loved by millions across the globe, as it is distinctly different and unique as compared to the music played by other contemporary rock bands. Read this Melodyful article to find out more about the most famous and popular rock bands that are into Irish music.
Before the birth of Irish rock, several groups of musicians used to perform gigs or small concerts at clubs, discotheques, pubs, etc. These groups were called the ‘Showbands’, and they ultimately increased the rock music movement in the entire region of Ireland and the United Kingdom.
Fast beats, soothing musical notes, and a hint of typical folk music; Irish rock has evolved tremendously over the last few decades. Right from punk rock, folk rock, and country music, Irish rock bands have truly made their mark in this genre of music. As the decades passed, the music progressed from folk and country to rock and punk. Soon, several aspects of British-style music and Scottish folk elements got merged with Irish songs, and paved the way for numerous changes and alterations in the typical original framework of the compositions.
In the mid-20th century, rock and roll was in its infancy stage in the United Kingdom and USA. Constant tours and shows made it possible for this type of music to reach other shores, and the Irish style was embraced after the ’60s. Thus began a new era, wherein numerous elements were fused, leading to the creation of Irish melodies played in the form of rock. Bands such as ‘Thin Lizzy’ and ‘Horslips’ quickly became famous, and this caused a few side genres to develop, called ‘Scottish Rock’ and ‘Celtic Rock’. Both these have been said to be closely related to Irish rock music.
List of the Greatest and Most Popular Irish Rock Bands Ever
A Celtic punk rock band of American origin playing music that has an Irish influence, Dropkick Murphys was formed in 1996 in Massachusetts, USA. The band has recorded eight studio albums and three live albums till date, and gained a lot of success with ‘I’m Shipping Up to Boston’, which was the OST of the movie ‘The Departed’. Between the period of 1996 to 1998, in the initial stages, the band consisted of four members; Ken Casey on bass guitar and vocals, Rick Barton on guitars, Mike McColgan on lead vocals, and Jeff Erna on drums. The band was named after Dr. John Murphy, who was a wrestler and a sanatorium in-charge. Post 1998, McColgan left the band, and Al Barr was roped in for vocals. They signed up for Hellcat Records, and released several popular songs like ‘Mob Mentality’, ‘Fields of Athenry’, and ‘Walk Away’. Over the years, several line-up changes were made, and the present band members are Ken Casey, Al Barr, Matt Kelly, Tim Brennan, James Lynch, Josh Wallace, and Jeff DaRosa. Their latest album called ‘Signed and Sealed in Blood’ was released in 2013. The musical influences of this band are ‘Sex Pistols’, ‘The Ramones’, and ‘The Pogues’.
A Celtic punk band of American origin, Flogging Molly was formed by vocalist Dave King in 1993. Before its formation, King played in a couple of bands, the most notable being a metal outfit called ‘Fastway’. Later, he wanted to compose a solo album, but was discouraged from playing the Irish style of music. This caused him to leave Epic Records, and in 1993, he formed a band with bass player Jeff Peters, fiddle player Bridget Regan, and Ted Hutt, who played the guitar. They composed music with a distinct Irish style, and the band began to play regularly at a pub in LA, called ‘Molly Malone’. The band was thus named after this pub, and soon Hutt and Peters left the group, as they both got another recording label opportunity. Subsequently, other musicians began to join the band, and the present line-up of Flogging Molly consists of Dave King, Matt Hensley, Dennis Casey, Bob Schmidt, George Schwindt, Nathen Maxwell, and Bridget Regan. This band has released five albums till date, and the latest one is due in 2015. Some of their popular songs are ‘Seven Deadly Sins’, ‘Drunken Lullabies’, ‘Rebels of the Sacred Heart’, ‘Salty Dog’, ‘Far Away Boys’, etc.
An alternative rock band originating in Dublin, Ireland, My Bloody Valentine was formed by Kevin Shields (guitarist and vocalist), Debbie Googe (bass player), and Colm Ó Ciosóig (drummer), in 1983. The band is known for their unique style of using distortion and pedal effects, and were one of the groups who came out with the music style called ‘Shoegazing’, which consisted of using different types of pitches and digital reverb settings. In the latter years, they released numerous EPs, and their initial songs did not receive much success. They had signed up with Creation Records in 1988, who produced their first few compositions. In 1991, the album ‘Loveless’ garnered substantial success, but its production cost was very high. Citing this reason, Creation Records decided not to produce any more albums of this band. Island Records signed up with them in 1992, and a few more compositions were released. In 1997, Debbie and Colm left the group, leading it to being disbanded. In 2007, My Bloody Valentine was formed again, followed by extensive worldwide touring and the release of their third studio album ‘MBV’. Some of their popular songs are ‘New You’, ‘In Another Way’, ‘Only Tomorrow’, and ‘Nothing Is’.
This band was formed in 1976 in Ireland, and the original lineup consisted of six members; lead vocalist and guitarist Garry Roberts, Bob Geldof on vocals, Johnny Fingers on the keyboards, Gerry Cott on the guitar, Pete Briquette on the bass guitar, and Simon Crowe on the drums. The present lineup is the same, sans Fingers and Cott. In the year of formation, the members shifted to London, wherein their songs were published under Ensign Records. In 1977, their first album ‘The Boomtown Rats’ was released, which received moderate success. Till 1980, with all the band members intact, this group came out with several compositions that became decent hits, mainly in the European regions. After this, Cott quit the band because of a few personal differences, and performed as a solo artist for a brief period. The band continued on with the release of their fifth album ‘V Deep’, which was not very successful on the music charts, as several problems were associated right from its release. In the latter half of the decade, the band split up due to varied reasons, and some of the members started their own individual groups. In 2013, The Boomtown Rats reunited and came up with an album called ‘Back to Boomtown: The Classic Rats Hits’. Some of their best songs are: ‘Like Clockwork’, ‘Looking after No. 1’, ‘Rat Trap’, ‘I Don’t Like Mondays’, and ‘Banana Republic’.
This groups composes rock songs with a hint of Irish folk music, and originated in the early ’90s in Ireland. The band members are all siblings; Sharon Corr plays the violin, Andrea Corr is on lead vocals and also plays the tin whistle, Caroline plays the drums, while Jim play the piano, guitar, keyboards, etc. Apart from Andrea, the others are also on vocals. The band got actual commercial success when they were invited to play for the FIFA World Cup in 1994, and also for the Summer Olympics in held in Atlanta in 1996. Till date, The Corrs have recorded five studio albums. In 1999, they got the Best International Award from BRIT, and got the chance to play with other famous artists like Stevie Wonder, Jon Bon Jovi, Celine Dion, etc. Some of their hit songs are: ‘Radio’, ‘Make You Mine’, ‘Lifting Me’, ‘Breathless’, and ‘Time Enough For Tears’. Apart from mainstream gigs and concerts, this band is also tied up with many charity organizations, and have even played for such institutions for a good cause. Till now, three compilation albums have been released by them, featuring some unreleased songs as well as remixes.
The present lineup of this group includes Noel Hogan on the guitar, Fergal Lawler on the drums, Dolores O’Riordan on vocals, and Mike Hogan playing bass guitar. Its music mainly consists of alternative rock elements with a slight fusion of pop rock and Irish folk notations. One of the most popular bands in this list, ‘The Cranberries’ was formed in 1989 by the Hogan brothers along with Lawler and the then vocalist Niall Quinn. In the next year, Quinn left the band, and the remaining members roped in O’Riordan, who had to give an audition before being selected. This began the band’s upward trend in terms of popularity and success, though it was achieved quite slowly. The first album ‘Everyone is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?’ was successful after a long time post its release. The band went on a tour in Europe and North America, and consequently, in 1994 O’Riordan married the Tom Burton, who was the band’s tour manager. Hit songs like ‘Dreams’ and ‘Linger’ were included in this album. Their second album ‘No Need To Argue’ achieved a lot of platinum status, especially regarding its two compositions: ‘Zombie’ and ‘Ode To My Family’. In 2003, the band split up to concentrate on solo careers, and again reunited in 2009.
Formed in the early ’70s, this band is sometimes known as one of the founders of Irish rock. They are one of the pioneers of Celtic music, and are widely known for their fusion of rock elements with traditional Irish melodies and progressive notations. The present band members include Charles O’Connor (mandolin, slide guitar), Jim Lockhart (keyboards, flute), Eamon Carr (drums), Barry Devlin (bass guitar), and Johnny Fean (guitar, banjo). In the initial years, a guitarist called Declan Sinott was also a part of the band, but soon quit because of personal reasons. He was later replaced by Fean. Till date, the band has released ten studio albums, four live albums, and three compilation albums. In 2013, their biography called ‘Tall Tales’ was published, which was written by Mark Cunningham. The group played numerous gigs, both in Ireland and elsewhere, but disbanded in 1980. In 2009, The Horslips reunited and decided to play a couple of shows, and after being well-received, post their reunion, they still perform occasionally. Some of their famous songs include ‘Hall of Mirrors’, ‘The March’, ‘Dearg Doom’, ‘Flirting in The Shadows’, and ‘Sword of Light’. The Horslips can be said to be one of the oldest Irish-origin bands to exist in current times.
Founded in 1982 by guitarist and vocalist Shane MacGowan, this band has been a heavy influence on other groups playing similar style of music. With a typical Irish flavor to their music, The Pogues have released seven studio albums, four live albums, and several compilation albums. Formed in the King’s Cross area in London, they become a forerunner in the genre of Irish music, and regularly play in Ireland and the United Kingdom. The present band members are Peter Stacy (vocals), Shane MacGowan (vocals and guitar), James Fearnly (accordion, mandolin), Darryl Hunt (bass guitar), Andrew Ranken (drums and percussion), Terry Woods (mandolin), and Jem Finer (banjo, saxophone). During the foundation years, MacGowan, Finer, and Stacy were in another band called ‘The Millwall Chainsaws’. Fearnly, Ranken, and a bass guitar player called Cait O’Riordan soon joined the group. A guitarist called Philip Chevron joined in 1985, and the band received moderate success after that. Around this time, Woods and Hunt also joined the band. After releasing a few albums, the last one titled ‘Pogue Mahone’ was not very successful, and consequently, the group disbanded in 1996. They reunited again in 2001, and have been active ever since. Some of their best songs are ‘The Battle of Brisbane’, ‘A Pair of Brown Eyes’, ‘Fairytale of New York’, ‘Tuesday Morning’, besides others.
Founded by Mike Scott, The Waterboys consisted of musicians from numerous regions, most notably from Scotland, Ireland, New York, and England, and have inspired scores of other bands and musicians like U2, Eddie Vedder, and Radiohead. Till present, more than seventy musicians have played in the band; most of them remained for just a single composition or a few albums. The band’s music can be said to be a fusion of Celtic and Irish-origin tunes with some rock and roll elements. A hint of progressive rock music is also present in some of their compositions. The present band lineup consists of Mike Scott on vocals, piano, and guitar, Steve Wickham on the mandolin and electric fiddle, Marc Arciero on bass guitar, Ralph Salmins on the drums, Melvin Duffy playing the guitar, and James Hallawell on the keyboards. The members also changed depending on the tours and concerts. The band broke up in 1991, but reunited again in early 2000s. In the interim period, Mike Scott produced a couple of single albums. Some of their popular songs are ‘December’, ‘Savage Earth Heart’, ‘Life of Sundays,’ ‘In Search Of a Rose’, ‘The Crash of Angel Wings’, ‘Don’t Bang the Drum’, etc. Till date, they have released ten studio albums, eleven live albums, and numerous other singles.
A punk and hard-rock band, Thin Lizzy was formed in 1969 by Phil Lynott and Brian Downey, in Dublin, Ireland. They have released twelve studio albums till present, and most of the groundwork was done by Lynott, as he was the front-man of the band in their initial years. This group were critically acclaimed in the ’70s and ’80s, and they influenced many musicians ,including Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan. Apart from playing hardcore rock, their compositions also have a hint of Irish folk music, along with few ‘Blues’ elements. In 1971, the group released their first album titled ‘Thin Lizzy’, but it did not garner much success, and scored moderately on the music charts. The next few albums also failed to make a good impact, with few exceptions like the single ‘Whiskey in The Jar’. In 1976, the band released their sixth album ‘Jailbreak’, which finally became quite successful, and the composition, ‘The Boys are Back in Town’ became a hit song. The present band members are Brian Downey on the drums and other percussion instruments, Marco Mendoza on bass guitar, Darren Wharton playing the keyboards and vocals, Scott Gorham on the guitar, Ricky Wharwick on lead vocals, and Damon Johnson playing the guitars. The band split up in the early ’80s, but reunited in 1996.
This group formed in Scotland, but consists of four Irish musicians. The band was formed in 1994 by founder members Gary Lightbody, Michael Morrison, and Mark McClelland. Their music style is alternative rock, and may consist of interim indie pop or pop rock elements. The present members of the band include Nathan Connolly on the guitar, Johnny McDaid on the piano and guitar, Gary Lightbody on vocals and the guitar, Paul Wilson on bass guitar (from Scotland), and Jonny Quinn on the drums. In the initial years of about a decade or so, their first few albums did not garner much success, but this changed after they joined up with the large recording label ‘Polydor Records’ in 2002. In 2003, the next album titled ‘Final Straw’ was a worldwide hit, ultimately achieving platinum status. Their fourth studio album ‘Eyes Open’ was even more successful than the previous ones, and it had one of their well-known compositions called ‘Chasing Cars’. Till present, they have recorded seven studio albums, and have composed many songs as contributions to some films and other artists. Other famous songs of this group are ‘Chocolate’, ‘Hands Open’, ‘Called Out In The Dark’, ‘Take Back The City’, etc.
This group was formed in 1977 in Belfast, Ireland, by founder members Jake Burns, Brian Faloon, Henry Cluney, and Gordon Blair. They first started playing in a band called Highway Star (named after the famous Deep Purple composition), during their teenage years, and mostly played cover songs. Later, the band name was changed to the present one, after Blair left it to join another group. They have recorded ten studio albums, seven compilation albums, and numerous live albums till date. The current lineup of the group consists of Ali McMordie on bass guitar, Ian McCallum on the guitar, Steve Grantley on the drums, and Jake Burns on lead vocals and the guitar. Their first album ‘Inflammable Material’ released in 1979, and gained substantial success on the music charts. After this, the members decided to shift to London, which caused Faloon and Colin McClelland (the band manager of that time) to leave the group. Ali McMordie also left the band, as he decided that he could not give full-time commitment to it. He was replaced by Bruce Foxton, who played for more than ten years. McMordie rejoined in 2006, and the resulting lineup change was pretty successful during their tours. After recording four albums, post their formation, the group split up in 1982, but came back together in 1987. A few of their famous songs are ‘One Man Island’, ‘State Of Emergency’, and ‘Die And Burn’.
One of the biggest and most popular bands till now, and surely the most famous one in this list, U2 was formed in 1976 in Dublin, Ireland. They signed up with Island Records after their formation, and released their first album ‘Boy’ in 1980. The present band members are The Edge (David Evans) on the guitar, keyboards, and vocals, Bono (Paul Hewson) on the guitar and vocals, Larry Mullen Jr. on the drums and percussion, and Adam Clayton playing bass guitar. They have recorded twelve studio albums, five compilation albums, and one live album, till date. Their fifth album ‘The Joshua Tree’ was the most successful one, further elevating the band’s status. Having sold more than 150 million records, this band was included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005. Their music style is very different from the others, and post ’90s, the members started using and experimenting with unique electronic and distortion effects. Post 2000, they reduced the usage of such effects in their songs, and composed in a more conventional manner. On the awards front, they have won about 22 Grammy Awards, 8 BRIT Awards, 15 Meteor Island Music Awards, 6 MTV Video Music Awards, besides others, till now. Some of their well-known and popular songs are ‘Magnificent’, ‘Beautiful Day’, ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’, ‘One’, ‘Where The Streets Have No Name’, etc.
With the beginning of the current decade, several bands like ‘Time is a Thief’, ‘The Hertz Complex’, ‘Kasper Rosa’, ‘Keywest’, etc., are the new ones on the music block. With such fresh talent acing the ranking charts, Irish rock bands are definitely undergoing numerous changes, and are expected to increase their number of fans in the subsequent decades.