July 29, 2011
By Sean Smith
Special to the BIR
One of Massachusetts’s favorite Irish imports, the rock band The Saw Doctors, returns this month for its annual appearance at the Cape Cod Melody Tent in Hyannis, with performances on Aug. 11 and 12. Formed in Tuam in the west of Ireland, the band describes itself as “hell-bent on celebrating, observing, recording, and sometimes poking fun at their own locality, accent, and idiomatic use of language whilst dressing their songs up in their favorite sounds and styles from their years of musical fandom.”
The Saw Doctors appearance at the 2007 ICONS Festival in Canton was one of that event’s high points, as the crowd enthusiastically cheered “The Green and Red of Mayo,” “I Useta Lover,” “N17” and other songs from a repertoire that stretches back more than two decades. The following year, the band was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Meteor Awards of 2008.
Guitarist-vocalist Leo Moran, who, besides fellow guitarist-vocalist Davy Carton, is the only original Saw Doctor, recently took a few minutes during a tour through Scotland to reflect on the group’s longevity, its ties to Massachusetts, and its clever, cheeky ode to 1980s female rock band The Bangles that includes references to pop/rock stars like Bruce Springsteen, Tina Turner, AC/DC, and Bono.
Q. If my math is correct, this is the 25th anniversary year for the Saw Doctors. Are you marking the occasion in any way? Or is it just business as usual?
Moran: I’m not an anniversary man; not fond of counting the numbers—that, to me, seems like something you’d do when you retire. I’d prefer the “business as usual” idea. Our job is to play the songs the best we can so that people can come along to the shows and hopefully say that we’re as good as we ever were. We don’t have any official birth certificate anyway; it’s hard to say whether or not we played a few small gigs in 1986, I really can’t remember.
Q. However long you guys have been together, it’s certainly been a while. When you play live, how far back into your repertoire do you go? Is there a certain period in your music that you end up going back to, or do you try to mix it up as much as possible?
Moran: Songs like “What A Day” and “I Useta Lover” go back to when Davy was in a band called Blaze X, back in 1980-81, so they make regular appearances. Davy does the set-list and it usually spans all the studio albums and a few more. There’ll be a few of the new album in there as well. There are certain songs from the different eras that have resonated and survived the tests of time better than others.
Q. Do you have any special memories of playing in Greater Boston/Massachusetts? You certainly seem to have a loyal following in the area.
Moran: We played our first ever US show in Massachusetts—Tommy McGann, God rest him, brought us over in 1991. We played at his place in Easton the first night and we did The Channel in Boston, too, as well as The Iron Horse in Northampton. Massachusetts has been a serious stronghold of loyal followers for us since then, the Melody Tent being a beautiful showcase for us—but we’ve had exceptional nights in Cohasset, Holyoke, Worcester, Springfield, Lowell and many others, including one at The WaterWorks in Quincy when it rained for the first time in three months. I never saw an audience so happy to be rained on.
Q. OK, I’ve always been curious about “I Want to Touch the Bangles”: What kind of response, if any, have you gotten from the various performers you reference in the song, including The Bangles themselves? Were the bands or individuals flattered at being mentioned?
Moran: We’ve never heard a word from any one of those mentioned, so who knows? The Bangles were guests on a British chat show a couple of years ago and they played the song as their intro music, but we’ve never heard what the ladies thought of it, either.
For more on The Saw Doctors’ concerts at the Cape Cod Melody Tent, see /melodytent.org