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19th Jun 2023

Dave Fanning’s comments during Christy Dignam tribute on RTÉ spark controversy

Stephen Porzio

Dave Fanning

“I know this is a time for eulogising but I don’t want to deify the guy either. He blew it royally,” Fanning said of Dignam.

Music journalist Dave Fanning has come under fire from Aslan fans for comments he made about the band’s frontman Christy Dignam following his death last week.

Dignam died on Tuesday (13 June) and a day later, RTÉ’s Today with Clare Byrne did a segment remembering the singer, which included interviews with Frances Black, Imelda May, Ronan Collins and Fanning.

As part of the tributes, Byrne asked Fanning about Aslan appearing on the Fanning Sessions in the ’80s. In response, the music journalist noted that he was not close personally with Dignam but said:

“When they [Aslan] started early ’80s or so, one of the things was to get a Fanning Session. I mean like, you know, it’s public service broadcasting. We don’t deserve praise for it. We should just do it and we did it. 400 bands over 10 years.

“And the point about it is, is that when Aslan did their session near the beginning, they were so pleased and so proud and so like: ‘Wow, this is a wrung on the ladder that we have now reached. We can also use this as a demo tape for record companies et cetera.’

“I’ve no idea what might have happened after that, if we had anything to do with it, but I don’t think we probably did because it’s just a wrung of a ladder.

“Then they got their kind of deal and they were with the record company. They brought out an album. They did well with the single ‘This Is’ and all that happened.”

However, referencing the period between 1988 and 1993 when Dignam left Aslan, Fanning added:

“And then – I know this is a time for eulogising but I don’t want to deify the guy either – he [Dignam] blew it royally.

“He would say later on that: ‘Because I was abused at the age of six by a neighbour and there was this hole in my life for ages so I filled it, not by trying to get high with heroin, but just by filling it with heroin to keep myself away from the memory of it.’ And I remember saying to him: ‘Are you sure about that now, Christy? Are you sure you’re not trying to pull the wool over my eyes?’.”

Fanning went on to highlight that Dignam rejoined the group, after which they had their biggest hit song with ‘Crazy World’.

Dave Fanning

Christy Dignam in 1988

However, the journalist also said: “But it kind of went downhill after that in terms of major success.

“They really were the band for the people. The gigs – they played every gig around the country. You wouldn’t believe the places. All the time from Bundoran to Ballybunion to Bunclody, everywhere and they were really at one with the audience.

“I don’t necessarily think that’s always a good thing. I like a bit of mystique but it worked for them.

“They had a lot of fights and a lot of things went wrong and I think it maybe could have gone a bit better if, I don’t know what, if they just kept their heads together.”

Fanning also said that, in his opinion, Aslan “never made it outside of Ireland” and that “they didn’t mean a thing elsewhere”.

“I mean, what is ‘made it’? A residency at the Baggot in Dublin, a gig at the 3Arena, the five nights in 1999 that they did at Vicar Street and all that. That’s brilliant ‘made it’. That’s fantastic,” the music journalist told Byrne, before later adding:

“I’ll tell you what, they released six albums. I wouldn’t know one song on the last three albums.  I really wouldn’t. They just became the band who played loads of gigs in Ireland, Monday to Friday.

“It really worked well but they just should have done more and didn’t.”

Also on Dignam, Fanning stated: “Somebody said: ‘I’ve never seen a better frontman.’ I have. I’ve seen much better frontmen but that’s the way it is, even in Irish bands.

“I thought Aslan was great. I thought Christy was great but I do think the demons were just as strong.”

Following the segment, many fans of Aslan and Dignam took to social media to voice their frustration with Fanning’s comments.

You can read some of those Tweets right here:

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