I Figured It Out: Clannad vs Clannad

Unless you're a fan of world music and/or Enya, few people probably remember the Irish Band Clannad, whose heyday was most definitely the late 80s and early 90s. Awareness of them on the other side of the Atlantic probably peaked with the Daniel Day-Lewis film The Last of the Mohicans, which featured their theme for the movie: 'I Will Find You.'

Then Enya went solo. Music shifted. That whole weird moment where bands like Enigma and Lorena McKinnit saw actual radio play in America seemed to pass. But as all things with one's youth, bands like that stick in your head. I mean, it's just how youth works. You'll have these random bands and random songs that just rattle around your head and whether you like it or not, it has an effect on your musical taste- even if it's only on a peripheral level.

So, I'm sitting there, doing laundry and a weird fragment of a song popped into my head. I went to the Googles to see if I could figure out what it was and searched 'Clannad' expecting to find the Irish band and it's discography at my fingertips. Instead, I found this.

Yes, apparently in the intervening years between the late 80s and early 90s of my youth, a Japanese visual novel named Clannad had also appeared and spawned an anime franchise of it's own including a television show and it straight up dominates the Googles. A straight-up search for 'Clannad' without any qualifier to differentiate that you're looking for the band takes you three pages of search results before you actually begin to get into the music. It was the strangest thing I think I've stumbled across in a long time, because I had no idea that it was a thing. I'm not trying to say that it shouldn't be a thing- and I'll admit that I'm not as plugged into the world of anime as other folks out there are, but it was for sure one of those 'I Was Today Years Old When I Learned' moments.

So that threw me for a loop but didn't actually deter me from trying to figure out the song. A consult with the Parental Unit and guessed that it was either one of two song. Either the theme from 'Last of the Mohicans'. (Nope.) Or the theme from 'Harry's Game.'

Okay, if you've never heard of 'Harry's Game' that's probably understandable on this side of the Atlantic Ocean. Since it was from all the way back in 1982, it might be understandable if you're on the other side of the Atlantic as well. Based on a 1975 novel of the same name by Gerald Seymour, it aired as a miniseries on ITV in 1982. You'd think that something that was supposed to be the 'theme' for Harry's Game would figure more prominently throughout the mini-series- and for sure, the composer may well have incorporated elements of it into the overall score, but the song itself plays at the end credits where the titular character, Harry, definitely loses whatever particular game he's playing.

This is the song that broke Clannad through on the international stage- and in an even more fascinating twist of things, I initially saw it claimed as the first Irish-language song to chart in the UK, but the refrain actually uses non-lexical vocables from English folk music, so I guess it's not actually a purely Irish language song? (Mind a little blown here.)

Second little explosion of interest: they wrote this in a couple of hours. How crazy must it have been for them to look back on what followed from this one song and think, 'hey man, we wrote that sucker in a couple of hours.' The verse in the song is adapted from a Connacht Irish proverb, 'Everything that is and was will cease to be' which underlines the movie's point about the futility of violence used for political ends.

Honestly, I can't think of a song from a movie that went on to be more impactful and have more success than the movie itself. I think part of that is probably the era in which the miniseries/movie was released. Distribution wasn't what it is today at all-- and they snuck the song into another Northern Irish themed movie, Patriot Games just to push it out again when that movie came out as well. Today, I'm sure this would have been a Netflix/Hulu/Amazon Prime thing with huge production values, which reflects both the increasingly global nature of the entertainment that we watch as well as just the shrinking world we live in today. ('Derry Girls' on Netflix is  good example of this, I think. Might not be as resonant for some, given the time elapsed since the Good Friday Accords, but it'll will resonate quite deeply for others.)

I've never seen the movie/mini series and honestly, I kind of want to check it out now, though I have no idea how to do that or if it's hiding anywhere online. If the clip above is anything to go by, it's dark. And it's also a sobering reminder that the world we live in used to be very different and very dangerous indeed, though it's nice to think that there are kids hitting college right now in Northern Ireland who have never known anything but peace.


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