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The Origins of Aslan

The Origins of Aslan written by Robert Rawson All Rights Reserved © Void Magazine – All Images Rights Reserved © Getty Images © Shutterstock

Throughout the years, a lot of great music has come out of Ireland. You’ve got Thin Lizzy, The Pogues, The Cranberries, U2, Enya, Sinead O’Connor and so many more big names. However, we can’t talk about great Irish music without talking about the Dublin rock giants, Aslan.

Like many great bands, it all started in school. Frontman Christy Dignam and lead guitarist Joe Jewell both met in Patrician College in Finglas. At this time, Jewell was already in a band that was formed in school but they were missing a singer. He gave Christy a ring, asking him if he’d be interested in joining the band and it went from there. At the time before they were Aslan, they were known as Meelah XVII.

As time went on, the band would continue to expand. The line up would consist of the frontman, the guitarist, the bassist, the drummer, the saxophonist and the keyboard player. In an interview for a documentary about Aslan entitled “Please Don’t Stop”, Christy recounts working in Telecom Eireann alongside Joe and feeling that working there was “robbing us of the will to succeed, cause we had something to fall back on”. Christy and Joe then quit their jobs, they let the rest of the band know, recommending that they follow suit. It was here when they officially changed the name of the band to Aslan.

Although, a few members of the band refused to quit their jobs. What Christy then decided to do was to go around and handpick members from smaller-scale bands in Finglas. The first member Christy found was Alan Downey, he was a drummer in a band at the time called “Alien Comfort”. One day, Christy knocked at his door and invited him to join Aslan, an offer he immediately accepted as Aslan had much more of a professional set up than his band did at the time. Next up was Tony McGuiness. Christy says that Tony had a pretty cool, new romantic look to him as a young man so he wanted him in the band for that alone, but once he heard how gifted he was at playing the bass, he decided that Tony McGuiness should play the bass instead of their bassist at the time Mick McKenna and he should play guitar instead. McKenna wasn’t too happy with this decision so he left the band, leaving four people now in the band, Christy Dignam, Joe Jewell, Tony McGuiness and Alan Downey. The final member to join Aslan was Tony’s brother, Billy McGuiness. Billy worked in a bakery and used to bring cakes for the lads when they would be practicing in Alan’s garage. He would be there every day and before he knew it, he was apart of the band doing back up vocals. He then went on to play guitar for the band alongside Joe.

The band would go on to release their demo single “This Is” and be met with great success. It was the same year they released the song (in 1986) when they would be awarded with the Hot Press “Most Promising New Band” award and signed to EMI. The following year, the lads would open for David Bowie in Slane Castle and in 1988, they released their debut album “Feel No Shame”, it went straight to number 1 in the Irish charts and was certified Gold.

Things seemed to be going swimmingly for the band. They were at the highest point of their career so far, but this success would not last for much longer. Frontman Christy Dignam’s drug addiction would become simply too much too much to bear for his bandmates, so the rest of the band made the collective decision to kick Christy out of the band. After this, Christy would go on to continue making music as apart of a duo with guitarist Conor Goff titled “Dignam and Goff” and the rest of the Aslan lineup would continue to make music and go on to rename themselves as “The Precious Stones”.

For a while, it looked like it was all over for Aslan. Dignam and Goff weren’t doing great, The Precious Stones weren’t getting much airplay and people didn’t really care about them as much as people cared about Aslan, the members began to lose passion for the band. Things just weren’t the same. Then, in 1993 something called the “Finglas South Band Show” would bring them back together. The South Band Show used to be big in Finglas but deteriorated in popularity as the years went on. A man who was helping organize the show in 1993 by the name of Robbie Foy decided that it would be great to get Aslan back together to play the show, as the band are of course considered Finglas royalty. The lads accepted the offer and they started practicing. “When we got back to rehearse for the gig, it just felt so fucking good” Christy says and it was then when he left “Dignam and Goff”, he told Conor Goff that he loved making music with him but “my heart was always with Aslan”.

When they did the Finglas South Band Show, it’s safe to say it went more than well. It was their first gig together in five years and after it, Joe Stewart from BMG approached them and asked if they’d like a record deal. Talk about coming back with a bang!

It was under BMG where they released their iconic hit “Crazy World” in 1993 and their sophomore album “Goodbye Charlie Moonhead” in 1994. “Crazy World” did wonders for the band, putting them back in business, with it reaching the number 4 spot on the Irish charts and staying in the charts for three months. It was one of the most played songs on Irish radio in 1993 and it also won a Hot Press Award in 1993 for “Single Of The Year”.

Unfortunately, in 1995 BMG would drop Aslan. This wouldn’t stop the band, as they recorded and released their third album “Here Comes Lucy Jones” entirely independently. In 1998 they then released “Shame About Lucy Moonhead” a compilation album. The project went number one in the Irish Albums Chart and was certified 2x Platinum.

In 1999, the Finglas rockers sold out five nights at Vicar Street. This is where they would record their live album and concert film “Made In Dublin”. The band would continue to enjoy many years of success whether it be getting on the charts, winning awards or selling out venues. In 2012, they released their final album “Nudie Books And Frenchies”.

Just a year later in 2013, Christy Dignam was diagnosed with cancer. A decade later on 13 June of 2023 at 4pm, Christy passed away in his home aged 63. This news shook the nation, Ireland had lost a legend, an icon. Although Christy is no longer with us, Aslan’s legacy lives on as the rest of the band have just recently announced a string of tour dates across Ireland with singer Lee Tompkins taking Christy’s place, it’s safe to say he’s got big boots to fill. A major concert organized by Christy’s family titled. “Christy Dignam: A Celebration” will be held on Vicar Street on 3 May 2024.

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