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the Pale

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A Whiter Shade of Pale

A link with Jimmy Page

Thanks to Geoff Welch for drawing our attention to this news from January 2006: (Bertie Ahern is the Taoiseach  – head of government – of the Republic of Ireland)

Bertie's heroes go back to '60s, except Westlife  (Edel Kennedy, Tuesday 3 January 2006)

What do Westlife, Neil Diamond and Bing Crosby have in common?

Answer: They can count Bertie Ahern among their fans.

The Taoiseach has also revealed that the 1960s are his favourite musical era and that he pays little attention to current pop music – except Westlife, of course.

Recalling growing up in Dublin in the '60s, he yesterday told RTE's radio arts show, 'Rattlebag', that music was a big part of his life.

"I suppose our class at school used to divide a bit between whether you were a Beatles or a Rolling Stones fan," he said.

However, he named Procol Harum's Whiter Shade of Pale as his favourite song of all time, saying it was linked to his memories of being a teenage boy.

Another favourite is You Raise Me Up by Westlife, though he admitted he is a little biased in choosing it – his eldest daughter Georgina is married to band member Nicky Byrne. "I spend most of my Sundays talking about Westlife," he said laughingly.

His other musical favourites include Sweet Caroline by Neil Diamond and Silent Night by Bing Crosby.

But the 1950s hit, How Much is That Doggie in the Window by Patti Page, holds a very special place in his heart. "It's the first song I can remember," he said. "My mother used to sing it to me."

Speaking about his favourite books, he plumped for history and the GAA. A recent book about the life and work of Sean Lemass is among his preferences, as well as Dessie Farrell's memoir of his eventful time with the Dublin team, Tangled Up In Blue. He also spoke of the recent changes to tax exemption for artists, and supported Finance Minister Brian Cowen's decision to cap tax-free earnings at €250,000.

"I think what we've done is fair and reasonable and I don't think it will affect too many people," he said.

Caroline O'Doherty in The Irish Examiner commented thus:

Taoiseach's music megamix topped by canine classic
It was his big chance to impress arts lovers but Taoiseach Bertie Ahern made a dog's dinner of it by revealing a taste in music to make the critics whimper.

After being given a stage to present himself as highbrow and cultured, Bertie declared one of his all-time favourite songs to be  How Much Is That Doggy In The Window.

The Taoiseach was solo guest on RTÉ radio's discerning arts programme, 'Rattlebag', where presenter Myles Dungan, more accustomed to hosting acclaimed authors and award-winning composers, found himself instead playing a kiddy classic.

He was also forced to spin a disc of
Westlife's recent release, You Raise Me Up, which Bertie, father-in-law of Westlife member Nicky Byrne, dutifully described as "encouraging and uplifting."

The Taoiseach also threw into the mix Neil Diamond's Sweet Caroline which he said was "a good sing-along song." But he redeemed himself when he admitted to a youthful Saturday evening addiction to The Monkees TV show.

Bertie, who has in the past claimed the green of republicanism and the red of socialism, also revealed his true colours when he picked as another of his top tunes, A Whiter Shade of Pale.

In doing so he may have explained what influenced his own baffling brand of Bertiespeak as the puzzling song by strange sixties band, Procol Harum, contains [sic] mystifying lyrics such as: "If music be the food of love then laughter is its queen and likewise if behind is in front then dirt in truth is clean."

The Taoiseach recalled getting hooked on the song when was a wild child leaving-cert student in 1969 "when I was forcing myself to study or being forced to study by my parents".

The Taoiseach declared his favourite books of recent times to be a three-volume history of the GAA in Dublin, a biography of Sean Lemass and last year's release, Tangled Up In Blue, by Dublin Gaelic star and all-Ireland winner Dessie Farrell.

He ended by choosing a 70-year-old recording of Silent Night by Bing Crosby. But if the Taoiseach's choices were more eclectic than electric, he at least provided a good excuse.

He said How Much Is That Doggy was the first song he ever remembered hearing and his late mother used to sing it to him when he was the ripe old age of three and she was coaxing him to eat his dinner.

In picking it, he echoes the choices of another well-known political leader who also voted it her all-time favourite. She went by the name of Margaret Thatcher.

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