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Emmet Spiceland was an Irish band formed when brothers Brian Byrne and Michael Byrne of the Spiceland Folk Group joined forces with Donal Lunny, Brian Bolger and Mick Moloney's Emmet Folk Group around 1968, after Mick left the group, forming a quartet.
Emmet Spiceland hold a special place in Irish music history as the first of their kind, bringing what was, at the time, a modern sound, to the previously stiff and conservative national airwaves. They were known for beautiful harmonies, pin-up good looks, Mod style and previously unheard of contemporary arrangements of Irish classics.
The band enjoyed screaming Beatlemania-style scenes at public appearances after a number of chart successes, with the single "Mary from Dungloe" hitting number one. The single was taken from their album, The First featuring songs by Shay Healy and Christy Moore, with orchestral arrangements by Phil Coulter. (Christy Moore praised the band in a documentary of his life, accompanied by footage of a performance at the All Ireland final at Croke Park in Dublin.)
The band's management employed marketing and poster campaigns said to be ahead of their time, with band members in glamorous settings not common to the day. The success of their song "Mary from Dungloe" inspired the creation of the Mary From Dungloe International Festival which is still going strong today.
Brian Byrne went on to further fame in London's West End with Jesus Christ Superstar and Joseph, amongst other successes. Michael's interests took him toward the visual arts, following up an unfulfilled desire to attend art school in his teens. Donal Lunny moved on to now legendary projects such as Planxty, Moving Hearts and The Bothy Band. He's produced, played and arranged for the likes of Kate Bush, Paul Brady, Elvis Costello, Rod Stewart, Indigo Girls, Clannad, The Waterboys, and Baaba Maal.
Michael and Brian Byrne are from a family of musical and performing talent; their father, Tommy Byrne won the Feis Ceoil three years in a row in the 1930s. He was a celebrated Irish famous boy soprano at the age of thirteen and trod the boards of such intimidating venues as the much loved Dublin Theatre Royal and Irish radio.In 1967, Michael and Brian Byrne had won the Wexford Ballad Contest, in which Emmet Spiceland had taken second place the year before. Relations Clannad have credited the brothers' success with inspiring their interest in performing. Younger sisters, Moira, Paula, Louise and Anne known as "Jeep" spent a lot of time on UK television in the 1980s, making appearances on many of the biggest entertainment and variety shows of the day. Known for their close harmonies they were guested on such programmes as "Parkinson" "Wood and Walters" Starring with Victoria Wood and Julie Walters. "The Richard Stilgoe Show" to mention a few. They were likened to "ABBA" and "Manhattan Transfer" a very successful American group of that time. The next generation have continued the tradition with Michael's sons Hollis, Phelim, Oisin and Goldmund Byrne, and Donal Lunny's son Oisin.
Hollis Byrne and Oisin Lunny's 'Marxman', amongst other more conventional hip hop, sometimes blended Irish influences into the music. Oisin's father Donal performed with the band, as did Sinéad O'Connor, Davy Spillane and DJ Premier and Guru of GangStarr. The band appeared on Top of The Pops, The Word and numerous other shows of the day and enjoyed chart success with 'All about Eve' and 'Ship Ahoy'. The band toured with U2 and Depeche Mode. More recently Hollis worked on 'Offside' with producer DJ Bungee for a darker more authentic hip hop sound.
Goldmund Byrne spent time as a regular on New York's East Village music scene, developed a loyal following in Germany and has spent a lot of his life working in the music and entertainment industries, including A&R for The Cure's Fiction Records, DJing for radio and developing music for film. Phelim Byrne spent a lot of time on MTV with 'Day One', along with Donny Hardwidge, on Massive Attack's Melankolic label. Amongst other achievements, the band featured on the soundtrack to Sarah Michelle Gellar's 'Cruel Intentions'. Oisin Byrne spent time performing with Roni Size as an MC.
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