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Dublin: 5°C Thursday 4 March 2021

‘Those kind of songs don’t come very frequently’ — Christy Moore recalls Joxer’s arrival at Euro ’88

Christy Moore spoke to Miguel Delaney about his famous song.

Christy Moore in Dublin. 'it was the first kind of happy song for quite a long time in the city'.
Christy Moore in Dublin. 'it was the first kind of happy song for quite a long time in the city'.
Image: Johnny Green/PA Archive/Press Association Images

“THE AMAZING THING about that song is that it’s lived on and it’s really popular among a generation that were just being born then.

It was a fluke really, just something I rattled off and proved to be really popular.

I wrote it, I think, within the year following Euro ’88. The actual truth of the matter is that we had a breakdown one night with a puncture and I can remember exactly where we were. We were coming through Portlaoise and, as it happens, the spare was punctured and I was left on my own in the van. Sid went off to try and get another sorted and I just started doodling.

Being in the van I just got this idea of, years ago, going to the Fleadh Ceoil and all the craic and then I kind of related to fellas headed off to Stuttgart on the van. In those days everybody went by van.

It’s one of those songs that just wrote itself. Songs like Lisdoonvarna, Joxer, all those songs they tend to write themselves, they just flow off the pen. Unfortunately, not very frequently. It’s been years since I had a song like that. I suppose the song did capture the spirit of the time alright — unintentionally. If a song was to be written now it would be very different.

We live in a different world now.

I remember one guy at the time remarking, which I really liked, that it was great to hear a song about Dublin which didn’t mention unemployment, heroin or violence. That was what all the songs were about those days and it was the first kind of happy song for quite a long time in the city.

‘He was sitting on the coach with me and he was fully togged off in full gear, jersey, togs, socks’

The Match of the Day tune, to be honest I can’t remember if I started with it or it came naturally. I had been watching Match of the Day since the early ’60s, it was one of my favourite programmes. I used to watch it in black and white over in England and the theme tune is so stuck in my mind, it really is iconic.

As for the moment when Houghton stuck it in the back of the net, I was at home here on the coach. I tend to watch most of my sport on the coach and I can remember it very, very vividly because there was a great friend of mine, a man called Podge Fitzgerald, long since gone, he was sitting on the coach with me and he was fully togged off in full gear, jersey, togs, socks and I can remember my kid being utterly intrigued by this man coming into the house. That’s the way it was and the whole country went mad. It all just exploded.

Houghton: a love story

I heard a great story in a local chemist down here where I am, the woman that used to work there and she said I must tell you a story — since she heard the song — but the story she relates is that she was on holiday in Spain and the match was on in the pub and they were all down there watching it and when the goal went in everyone jumped up and she found herself embracing the fella that was standing beside her and they ended up getting married and had four kids. I thought if Houghton hadn’t scored the goal she never would have met your man.

The stories that are attached to that time are great.

As for that line, that’s the kind of thing that emerged. In the first recording of the song the whole atmosphere was very, very different. The way the line was delivered has I suppose, the way the audience began to react — I didn’t realise the audience would react in that way — I mean the first thing that happens is every time I sing the line ‘dogs howling at the moon’ is all the audience starts howling.

I had no idea that was going to happen, nor did I have any idea they would start roaring when I mentioned Houghton. I mean now it seems obvious but at the time I had no idea. When I’m performing I start to crack up laughing some nights at the way people respond to it and it is amazing when you see a gang of young fellas who weren’t around as I said. I mean it’s the most requested song in the repertoire. If I forget to play it I’m always reminded: “For jaysus sake will you sing Joxer, it’s the only reason I came.”

I’m very fortunate to have written at it and, as I said, those kind of songs don’t come very frequently.

I wish something else would come along. It’s great to get a song that’s a bit of craic and that connects, one with a bit of celebration in it.”

Christy Moore was in conversation with Miguel Delaney

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