Irish rock group Aslan were tipped at one point to follow in the footsteps of U2 in conquering America. Sadly, Aslan imploded in 1988 on the very day their debut single was due to be released stateside, but regrouped half a decade later and forged a legacy that has seen them become one of Ireland's most popular and enduring acts. Inspired by David Bowie, the Smiths, and the Rolling Stones, Aslan crashed onto the Irish music scene in 1986 with the release of debut single "This Is," an entirely self-funded effort that earned them a record deal with EMI Ireland and would go on to become the longest playlisted track in the history of Irish radio. Following their mid-'90s re-formation, Aslan's music became softer and more melodically mature, evoking the Beatles, Stevie Wonder, and contemporaries Oasis, and their domestic profile continued to rise through the '90s, establishing them as one of the country's most successful touring acts.
Singer Christy Dignam, a classically trained tenor, guitarist Joe Jewell, and bassist Tony McGuiness first came together in 1980 under the moniker Meelah XVIII. Meelah XVIII's greatest achievement was a brief session recorded for Dave Fanning, an influential DJ at national radio station 2FM, but they disbanded before long. In 1983, the three teamed up again with guitarist Billy McGuinness (no relation) and drummer Alan Downey, adopting the name Aslan in deference to the heroic lion in C.S. Lewis' classic Narnia series. Building a strong live following in the then-economically deprived city, the band finally scraped together enough money to issue the "This Is" single in 1986, and quickly followed it with the Smiths-like numbers "Please Don't Go" and "Loving Me Lately" the same year. A short tour of the U.K. that summer led the BBC's Radio 1 to playlist "This Is," and by year's end the group was on the verge of a major record deal. In 1987, Aslan signed with EMI Records and recorded their debut album, Feel No Shame, which included re-recorded versions of those early singles, the following spring. It charted instantly at number one.
Domestic sales of Feel No Shame were enough to persuade EMI to take up the option of a second album and to introduce the group to the lucrative U.S. market. However, on the eve of "This Is"'s release in the States, Christy Dignam was unceremoniously fired from the band, the victim of a rapidly intensifying heroin addiction that would recur periodically into the 21st century. Aslan continued for another couple of months with singer Eamonn Doyle, but it didn't last; they later regrouped as a four-piece under the name Precious Stones. Dignam formed the band Dignam & Goff with former Fast Boys guitarist Conor Goff in 1990, releasing a couple of 7" singles before quietly lapsing into inactivity. In 1993, five years to the day from their acrimonious split, Aslan re-formed for a one-off gig in their native Finglas. One gig soon became a full-blown resurgence, and the following year Goodbye Charlie Moonhead was released via BMG Records, producing the hit single "Crazy World." Both album and singles sold well, but backroom changes led the band to be dropped.
In 1997 Aslan recorded Here Comes Lucy Jones using the band's own resources, and in 1998 EMI released A Shame About Lucy Moonhead, a compilation of selected tracks from the band's first three albums, debuting at number one. In 1999 they released their first live CD, Made in Dublin, on the Rubyworks label to universal acclaim, earning the group its third number one album. While remaining free agents, Aslan allowed EMI to issue their fourth studio album, Waiting for the Madness to End, in 2001, yielding the hit singles "She's So Beautiful" and the affectionate Beatles parody "Love Is All You Need." In October 2005 the band released a three-disc, 48-song compilation entitled The Platinum Collection, and it duly went platinum three weeks later, and in October 2007 the group's fifth album, For Some Strange Reason, was released, featuring "Blood or Diamonds," a collaboration with Damien Dempsey, and the Top Five single "Here Comes the Sun." ~ Dave Donnelly
HOMETOWNFinglas, Dublin, Ireland