Andy Irvine & Davy Spillane

Archive: Interview – 1992 – fRoots Magazine

Blood For Bouzouki

Colin Irwin hears of Andy Irvine’s lengthy fascination with East European rhythms.

It as 1968. The year of the assassination of Martin Luther King. Of Enoch Powell predicting “rivers of blood”. Of Manchester United winning the European Cup, Britain’s first heart transplant, the death of Tony Hancock and Bobby Kennedy. Twiggy and Flower Power and the d’Oliviera affair and the Beatles’ White album and the Mexico Olympics and Nixon in the White House and………..all kinds of madness.

No wonder any kid with half a brain and a song in their heart ducked out and hitch-hiked to India….

Andy Irvine, suddenly free of the frustrations of a struggling little life with Sweeney’s Men fancied a bit of overseas travel himself, as it happened. But not to India. Good Lord, no. You couldn’t move in India in 1968 without bumping into either some in comprehensible guru or a zonked out hippy from the Home countries. Sometimes they were the same thing.

No, Andy Irvine fancied somewhere…….different. For that reason and that reason alone he finally settled on Bulgaria, and it might have been Pluto for all he or anyone else knew about it in 1968. Except that it was behind the Iron Curtain and, as our daily newspapers regularly informed us, anyone who ventured beyond it would be instantly arrested, chopped up into little pieces and fed to eight foot soldiers in jack boots and fur hats.

Heavens to Betsy; life in the Sweeney’s Men must have been very tough………

“I suppose I was kinda nervous” Admits our intrepid explore 24 years on. “I had no idea what to expect at all. I didn’t know if they allowed hitch-hikers in or anything, and of course, there was no tourist trade of any kind then. So I rolled up to the border guards not being able to speak a word of the language and wondering if I’d be allowed in. (more…)