Sally will be parking her Mustang in Israel next month when the Dublin- based soul group The Stars from The Commitments – featuring members from the film band – returns to the Holy Land.
The film The Commitments became an unexpected cult classic after its release in 1991. Featuring a cast of unknown Irish musicians portraying an unknown bar band built on the American soul classics of the 1960s, the film and its music struck a chord with viewers, and the band, especially vocalist Andrew Strong, turned into overnight stars.
Twenty-seven years after the release of the novel The Commitments, which inspired the film, the movie is still a widely loved success, with a musical adaptation currently playing on London’s West End. Both the novel and the stage production were written by Irish author Roddy Doyle, who also assisted in writing the film’s screenplay. The film soundtrack has sold more than 12 million copies, and the band members have been touring worldwide in various configurations. The Stars from The Commitments currently includes two of the original cast members – Dick Massey, who played drummer Billy Mooney; and Kenneth McCluskey, who starred as bassist Derek Scully.
Their four shows in Israel – the first two at Zappa Tel Aviv on March 6, and the other two at Zappa Herzliya on March 7 – mark the Irish group’s first return to Israel since 2007 when they performed at the Jerusalem Rocks! Festival, which included performances by Hadag Nahash, Arrested Development and The Black Eyed Peas.
In a recent interview with The Jerusalem Post, Massey discussed the film’s success and its status 23 years later.
“We weren’t even sure it was going to go into the cinema,” Massey said with laugh.
It was at the film’s premiere in Los Angeles that the cast of the cult mega-hit realized just how popular their movie had become.
“They stopped Madonna from going in so she wouldn’t steal our spotlight,” the drummer recalled.
The idea to form a tribute band was sparked by demand by fans for a tour, Massey explained.
“Everybody asked us when we were going to tour, and we’d have to explain that it was not a real band,” Massey said.
It was only one year after the film’s release that the Dubliners embarked on their first small-scale tour around the United Kingdom, which sold out within hours.
What has kept Massey with the band for this long? “It’s great fun,” he said. He explained that as a drummer, getting to travel the world and do what he loves had always been his dream. He was 11 when he got his first set of drumsticks and used the back of a chair to create a beat. A little while later, he acquired his first drum set.
Having grown up influenced by early hard rock groups, specifically AC/DC, ZZ Top and Led Zeppelin, the drums were Massey’s ideal instrument and “just something I really liked.”
After the film’s release, the original members of the group from the film went their separate ways to pursue their own careers. However, several have performed with The Stars of The Commitments, such as Andrew Strong, Johnny Murphy and Robert Arkins.
Since the start of the band’s career, The Stars from The Commitments has played with true heroes of the soul genre, such as Wilson Pickett, James Brown and BB King, which Massey recalls as one of his greatest experiences with the band. Ironically, his character in the film was the first to leave the group, while now, over 20 years later, Massey is one of the two original members still touring.
“It’s amazing how things evolve,” Massey said. “One thing leads to the next... 20 odd years later, we’re coming to Israel.”