Formerly of The Dead 60s and The Specials, singer/songwriter Matt McManamon is strongly associated with ska, punk, dub and reggae. His solo work, however, is more deeply influenced by his Liverpool Irish roots than it is by sounds that originate from Kingston and The Black Ark.
“In my late teens and early twenties, learning to sing like Strummer and play like The Wailers became something of an obsession, but I would find that whenever I was left on my own with an acoustic guitar, it was invariably the songs of Luke Kelly and Christy Moore that I would find myself playing. In terms of songwriting, Shane MacGowan is definitely one of the greats and I am proud to be able to call a man of Shane’s stature a friend. Tipping my hat to my hometown of Liverpool, Mick Head of Shack is a huge inspiration too. He is the quintessential songwriter’s songwriter.”
The Dead 60s experienced a short, sharp burst of success which included two appearances on Top of The Pops and festival slots at Glastonbury and Lollapalooza. Tours with Morrissey, Kasabian and their label mates The Coral helped to establish the band and their eponymous debut album charted at number 23 in the UK Top 40 – it would eventually sell over 100,000 copies. The Dead 60s had 5 UK Top 40 singles but ‘Stand Up’, the (brilliant) lead single from their second album failed to crack the Top 50, charting at number 54.
The band issued a press release on 8 February 2008 announcing their split.
Burned out after a bruising, yet not untypical, relationship with the music industry, Matt relocated to the Irish village of Mulranny with an acoustic guitar and grist for the mill in terms of life experience. It was his intention to record a solo album – but the local pubs held more appeal than the local recording studios.
“I got distracted, to be honest. I was licking my wounds after the break-up of the band and a relationship that did not turn out as I was hoping it might. I think to a certain extent I became a bit of a caricature: ‘the guy in the pub who once had a hit talking about past glories.’ That being said, I wasn’t the first Scouser to enthusiastically avail himself of Irish hospitality – and I’m sure I won’t be the last! I was writing songs but I was also living in the past. Having the opportunity to join The Specials was absolutely brilliant as it gave me the opportunity to rediscover the joy of playing live again without any pressure.”
A decade in the making, McManamon’s debut solo album will be released in early 2019. Recorded in Ireland and featuring a cast of local musicians it is a collection of songs that Matt describes as ‘Scally Folk’, brewed in Liverpool, bottled in Ireland, enjoyed all over the world.