Tag Archives: Garth Brooks

Garth Brooks: A Warning In Retrospect

In the way that mushroom clouds are a thing and gaping head injuries are a thing, Garth Brooks was once a thing in Ireland. For a period in the mid-nineties, he was probably the biggest thing of all the things: bigger than Dustin, bigger than Bishop Eamon Casey, bigger than Barry O’Hanlon’s bald spot. He swooped onto the world stage in a dusty haze of snappy, singalong country music, branded with innocuous moral code and sensitive cowboy shtick. Ould wans spoiled by Philomena Begley seized his coattails and hung on for dear life. Married couples took to their fringed boots and started spending every Saturday night clicking their heels in formation with their thumbs hooked into their belt loops. Teenagers – teenagers! – learned the words to Brooks’ ditties and belted them out of car windows and school auditoriums and youth disco dancefloors. No one was safe from Garth Brooks. No one.

Look at him there with the head on him.

And because no one was safe, I was no different. Like all inexplicable crazes, Garth Brooks ended as suddenly as he’d begun, but a couple of notes from ‘Friends In Low Places’ or ‘Standing Outside The Fire’ and still I burst into involuntary playback like a subject chewed up and spat out by Derren Brown.

In the mid-nineties, I was far too cool to ever go line dancing – I even refused to learn the Macarena – and I certainly eschewed such trappings as cowboy boots and tasselled blouses, but even an aesthetic forged in army navy surplus stores and by a weird attraction to Jarvis Cocker couldn’t save me from the magnetic wrench of Brooks’ melodies. It may be partly down to south county Galway society and the heady scent of silage in the air, but Garth Brooks felt like communal madness. I had a copy of his album The Hits – didn’t everyone? – and it nestled beside Pablo Honey and Music For The Jilted Generation on my dressing table. I have no idea where it is now. I can only assume I burnt it during my repatriation ceremony to the land of the living.

Oh, the horror!

It kind of makes sense when you examine the phenomenon with a forced level of detachment. Ireland has long been a slave to folk music and country is like folk music as understood by a Teletubby who fell out of a pickup truck straight onto his head. It’s folk music you don’t need a social conscience or patriotic pride to get in on. You just need to like easy little stories about rodeos and whiskey chasers and patriarchy, all told in metre-perfect rhymes.

What doesn’t make sense is that it wasn’t just Ireland that was enslaved by the honeyed twang of Mr. Brooks, but countries of varied cultures and levels of cop-on. Brazil loved him, as did Australia. The British media were sniffy, but the people were smitten. Garth Brooks was a one-man religion.

And we were, briefly but totally, disciples. What set the Garth Brooks craze apart from all of the other childhood crazes I’ve weathered was that unlike pogs, Saved By The Bell, and those stupid oversized beanies that East 17 used to wear, Garth Brooks was one you could get in on with your parents. Generations were united by a common adoration for the stetsoned one and his warbling tributes to unanswered prayers and sleeping loved ones and cougars he plumbed when he was a teenager. Which may have seemed all facets of creepy, but it is a credit to Mr. Brooks that every passion he ever sang about was declawed as soon as it left his throat. Never before has a singer turned so much everyday mundanity into so much anthemic yodelling into so much lyrical docility. It’s so straightforward it’s genius.

Like Mother Goose, Garth Brooks had universal appeal because there were no stipulations attached to enjoying his work, like the need to have a working brain or a basic understanding of metaphor. Mid-nineties Garth Brooks was as simple and as appealing and as bad for you as apple pie. Why, even Garth Brooks himself has taken great pains to limit the damage done by his perfect universal appeal, by making his music unavailable on most of the social media giants and burying – BURYING – the master for The Hits underneath his star on Hollywood boulevard.

Ponder all ye on what horrors lie beneath

It is my solemn conclusion – the only logical conclusion, really – that Garth Brooks took root because everyone has… a weak spot for country music.

Oh, you may think such aural failings don’t apply to you, pouting there in your biker jacket or skinny jeans, but it happened once, and it will happen again. Keep your eyes out, kids. And your ears closed.

(by Lisa McInerney)

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Keep In Touch!

There was a time in the 1990s where the sight of an empty telephone box would prompt me, my brother, my cousins and thousands of other children across Ireland (including a boy in Sligo I had yet to meet) to race into it and frantically search for discarded treasure. The treasure in question here was a rectangular piece of plastic with an embedded metallic chip and a blue stripe across the top. It was, of course, the Telecom Éireann callcard.

Callcard collecting had taken the country by storm. While my collection was proudly blu-tacked to my bedroom wall, the aforementioned boy in Sligo was infinitely more organised, with a far better array of cards, all neatly slotted into plastic sheets and kept in a folder. Seeing as my callcards are now gathering dust in a biscuit tin in an attic in Waterford and that organised boy is now grown up and my boyfriend, I’ve pilfered some of his impressive collection for the purposes of this post.

There were the common and frankly boring ones that everyone had at least two or three of, the ubiquitous horse racing, cottage, Irish dancing and Trinity callcards.

There was the mystical quartet of Irish folklore-inspired callcards, the fairly common Niamh from Tír na nÓg and the Children of Lir ones (while I was taking that picture I involuntarily burst into that song about Tír na nÓg from primary school, you know, the one that goes “Niamh Cínn Ór, SEA! As Tír na nÓg, SEA!” I couldn’t remember any more of it though, other than a bit where you’d shout “Cad a rinne siad!”). More elusive however, were Deirdre of the Sorrows and Oisín returning from Tír na nÓg, as they were the big guns at 50 and 100 units.

Annual competitions were held, where children could submit their designs and the winner would be granted the highest honour in the land and their picture would be made into an ACTUAL CALLCARD. I can’t remember if I ever entered it, but I do remember thinking to myself each time the winner was unveiled that I should have, because I had decided I could have TOTALLY beaten that. Although the one on the top right actually still holds up rather well.

Seasonal callcards were for the committed collectors, as you’d have to wait a full year for the next in a series. As such, there were of course Christmas callcards, which couldn’t quite seem to branch out all that much past their “Santa in a phone box” idea.

Commemorative callcards were kind of a big deal, with big exciting events in the Irish calendar marked the best way Telecom Éireann knew how. The Lovely Girls Competition was no exception.

Limited edition cards marked particularly big gigs, where international superstars would grace The Point Depot with their sparkling presence, including Garth Brooks – around that time in the 90s when Ireland as a whole went a bit mad for Garth, his impressive shirts and line dancing. Also, it would seem that Blink were deemed important enough to get their own callcard. I have a vague memory of a song called “Cello” and I know that they’re the reason Blink 182 had to add the 182 to their name, but other than that I have no idea how the above happened.


It would seem that every so often, Telecom Éireann would get a little low on ideas for new callcards. So what do you do when you’re fresh out of children’s drawings and things to commemorate? Why you issue a callcard of callcards, of course! How very meta of them.

Then there were the RARE callcards. Rumours would abound of how there were only a certain amount printed, or there’d be a version with a misprint or slightly different text or some other tiny detail that would seem insignificant to the public at large. But not to the avid collector, OH NO. The picture above is a selection of the cards which my boyfriend reckons are among the rarer of his collection. Personally, I haven’t a breeze but I do like the Tia Maria one. You’ll notice that it and the Carrowmore Dolmens cards are STILL IN THE PLASTIC. That’s commitment.

And finally, I decided to share my favourite callcard in his collection. Which just had to be the one above, as  the combination of Zig and Zag AND callcards make for the perfect storm of mid-Nineties Irish childhood. I also chose it because I remember the Yoplait ad campaign they fronted and used to love the TV ad for it. “I vant to speak to the yoghurt!” “To the yoghurt?” “Ja, the smooth, creamy yoghurt!”.

Anyone…? No? Oh it’s not just me and YOU KNOW IT.

(by Kitty Catastrophe)

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