Bertie’s pop picks ring in new year and election campaign

Bertie’s pop picks ring in new year and election campaign

He was raised on his mother’s lap listening to How Much is that Doggy in the Window?, did his Leaving Cert to the strains of Sweet Caroline and never missed an edition of Top of the Pops in the days when it was broadcast on Thursdays, writes Paul Cullen

Welcome to the world of Bertie Ahern, Taoiseach and top pop picker.

Fresh from his New Year’s Eve review of the sporting year on Setanta television, Bertie was on RTÉ’s radio arts show Rattlebag yesterday running through his favourite tunes. Who says the election campaign hasn’t started?

His first music choice was Procol Harem’s Whiter Shade of Pale, whose soaring organ intro prompted glowing but non-specific memories of the “Summer of Love” in 1967 and listening to Radio Luxembourg on “257” (it was actually 208 metres).

There was “a certain beat” about the 1960s, whose music has retained its popularity with today’s young people, he told presenter Myles Dungan.

A bit like your own political career, you must hope, Dungan didn’t ask.

Compared to his choice in music Bertie’s choice in books seems nothing so eclectic. For his reads of the year he nominated a three-volume history of Dublin GAA, a memoir by “inspiring but controversial” Dublin footballer Dessie Farrell, and an academic treatise on “the Lemass era”.

Even today the Taoiseach reckons he is “fairly good” at naming the 1960s tunes he hears on the car radio, though for songs from this decade he admits “I wouldn’t have an idea”.

The exception here is Westlife, in which Bertie admits to having a “vested interest” through his daughter Georgina’s marriage to Nicky Byrne. Before selecting You Raise Me Up, he admits to spending most of his Sundays talking about the group’s exploits.

Meanwhile, the previously mentioned doggy song, the first he can remember, reminds him of being “plonked on my mother’s knee” as she tried to cajole the future Taoiseach to eat.

Bertie rounded off his musical selection with a (by no means extraordinary) rendition of Silent Night by Bing Crosby and a confession that he hasn’t missed any of Neil Diamond’s Irish concerts.

No wonder, too, when Sweet Caroline carries such a politician-appropriate refrain as “hands, touching hands, reaching out” and promises that “good times never seemed so good”.

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