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The Saw Doctors


The celebratory sound of The SAW DOCTORS could be described as a hybrid between The POGUES’ drunken punk and traditional Irish Celtic-roots rock (folk’n’roll!), with a working class ethic thrown in for good measure. Throughout the years in which the band have been active, they almost outsold U2 at one time and were on their way to becoming the second most successful band in Ireland – at least.
Formed 1986 in Tuam, Galway by Irish punk-reggae veteran Leo Moran and former Blaze X man Davy Carton (both had performed together in an embryonic SAW DOCTORS since the late 70s) the line-up at this stage also boasted John Burke, Tony Lambert and Pearse Doherty; an early member Mary O’Connor emigrated to London.
They began their road to stardom when The WATERBOYS’ lead singer MIKE SCOTT invited the small local band for support on their/his UK tour. This happened around the release of The SAW DOCTORS’ debut single `N17’ (produced by SCOTT himself) which was quite successful when imported into Britain. After the tour supporting HOTHOUSE FLOWERS had finished, a second single `I Useta Love Her’ (a rip-roaring track about the perils of Catholic love) generated so much hype that it went straight to No.1 (in Ireland) and stayed there for a further nine weeks – becoming the largest selling Irish record of all time.
The band subsequently re-issued their debut single (which also reached No.1), one of over a dozen great numbers on their humorous and delightful full-length set IF THIS IS ROCK AND ROLL, I WANT MY OLD JOB BACK (1991) {*7}; check out `That’s What She Said Last Night’ and `Sing A Powerful Song’. Following the release of ALL THE WAY FROM TUAM (1992) {*6}, `A Small Bit Of Love’ became the group’s first British hit and went on to reach the Top 30; live favourites from the set included `Green & Red Of Mayo’, `Wake Up Sleeping’ and `Exhilarating Sadness’.
And then something quite unique took place when Lambert quite literally hit the jackpot when in April 1993 his £1m ticket came up on the Irish lottery; it was said he was living in a converted bus at the time but moved to a proper house in County Galway when leaving the band. Understandably The SAW DOCTORS took time out to recuperate; one of their songs (penned before Tony’s big win!) `To Win Just Once’ finally surfacing in 1996 as part of their country’s appearance in football’s European Championship. Early in 1996, the group (with Derek Murray on board as replacement; Anto Thistlethwaite was a brief member) finally issued their third long-player SAME OUL’ TOWN {*6}, a record that advanced their UK cred when it reached the Top 10.
The following year, SING A POWERFUL SONG {*6} (a collection of earlier material) was released to their usual fanfare, as was `She Says’, an EP written for the BBC sitcom Give My Head Peace. The SAW DOCTORS finally achieved some recognition in America when the single `Never Mind The Strangers’, received some airplay. The track was co-written by recent addition, drummer Padraig Stevens, who’d left the group at the time of the single’s release; the popularity surrounding the song was mainly credited to its accompanying Guinness advert. Fourth album proper, SONGS FROM SUN STREET (1998) {*6} sold well enough to hit the UK Top 30, the two founding members (plus mainstay Doherty) adding to the fresh line-up which included John Donnelly and the aforementioned Murray. It would be another three years for the ‘Doctors to return, comeback set VILLAINS? {*5} cracking the UK Top 60 in the autumn of 2001. Post-millennium the band played on regardless of critical disapproval, live sets and DVD’s coming thick ’n’ fast, and just to prove the doubters wrong, a compilation album TO WIN JUST ONCE – THE BEST OF THE SAW DOCTORS (2009) {*7} went platinum almost immediately prompting the band to re-group for a 40th Anniversary Glastonbury gig in 2009; THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF… (2010) {*5} – their first studio outing since 2005’s THE CURE {*4} – kept Messrs Carton, Moran, Thistlethwaite (on bass and sax), Eimhin Craddock (drums) and Kevin Duffy (on keyboards) ticking over nicely, as did home soil Top 10 singles, `I Useta Lover’ (re-issue), `About You Now’, `She Loves Me’, `Red Cortina’ (special acapella 2010) and `Downtown’; the latter highlighting its original singer, Petula Clark.
The SAW DOCTORS maintained their high level of gigs right up to 2013 when they took a proposed year-long break; a break that turned into a three year hiatus before they re-assembled for an appearance on the Late Late Show. Further delays in order to allow Carton to recover from throat surgery put back the tour until late 2017, when it was announced there’d be an album in the not too distance future; incidentally, Moran, O’Neill and Thistlethwaite teamed up with Galway musicians, including Keith Mullins and former SAW DOCTORS sticksman, Eimhin Craddock, to moonlight as The Cabin Collective (`Marrakech’ was issued in November 2013).
A sad footnote to the history of The SAW DOCTORS was in the passing (on 29th April 2018) of lottery winner Tony Lambert, who succumbed to a long battle with heart disease.
© MC Strong 2002/2011/GRD-GFD2 // rev-up MCS Apr2015-Oct2018

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