Glenties, County Donegal
The Saloon Dogs were formed by four ex-members of London-based band The Bogarts – Billy MacInnes (vocals, guitar), Maria Gallagher (vocals), Phil Taylor (drums) and David Longworth (keyboards) – after the band broke up in the summer of 1995. From the start, the emphasis was on music based around acoustic guitar, vocal harmonies and ‘feel’. The Saloon Dogs started practicing in October 1995 and within a few months they were in the studio.
Over the course of two weekends, they had completed an album’s worth of songs, recorded by Keiron Hunter in Dalston, London. The Saloon Dogs recorded ten songs in those sessions, all of them were played live in the studio with various harmonies, lead guitar, keyboard and percussion parts recorded on top.
The songs on Shooting Star, all written by lead vocalist MacInnes, focused on love from a number of different angles. The pastoral contentment of When I Look In Your Eyes and the joyful anticipation of Sunday Morning (with fabulous harmonies from Gallagher) featured alongside the heartbreak of the title track and the humourous You Don’t Have To Be Crazy To Love Me (But It Helps) – which is enlivened by a lovely accordion flourish from keyboardist Longworth).
I Never Thought She Would Ever Make Me Cry featured an African vibe (courtesy of Hunter’s electric guitar part) while Falling Out Of Love had an eerie, echoey old country atmosphere. As its title suggests, We Fight Sometimes focused on the arguments which often feature in relationships, while the jaunty sounding Another Winter’s Morning took a suitably acerbic look at the immediate aftermath of a one night stand. The last song, How Could He Break Your Heart?, found MacInnes offering a shoulder to cry on (garnished with his own harmonica playing and some nifty slide guitar from Hunter).
The band had a strong live following and played many of the more prestigious pub venues in London including the Mean Fiddler acoustic room, The Half Moon in Putney and Upstairs at The Garage. Hunter filled in on bass for the first few gigs – he had also played bass at the recording sessions. Later, Hunter's place was taken by Marcus Nason. When Phil Taylor returned to New Zealand, he was replaced by Mike Johnson on drums and Joe Fay took over from Marcus Nason on bass. The Saloon Dogs broke up in early 1997. Billy MacInnes and Maria Gallagher got married and moved to Donegal and with the release of Shooting Star there are signs the phoenix is stirring in the ashes and 2010 looks like being the year that the band re-emerges.