Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book
Rate this book
This funky, rude, unpretentious first novel traces the short, funny, and furious career of a group of working-class Irish kids who form a band, The Commitments. Their mission: to bring soul to Dublin!

176 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1987

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Roddy Doyle

135 books1,415 followers
Roddy Doyle (Irish: Ruaidhrí Ó Dúill) is an Irish novelist, dramatist and screenwriter. Several of his books have been made into successful films, beginning with The Commitments in 1991. He won the Booker Prize in 1993.

Doyle grew up in Kilbarrack, Dublin. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from University College, Dublin. He spent several years as an English and geography teacher before becoming a full-time writer in 1993.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
4,283 (27%)
4 stars
7,026 (44%)
3 stars
3,640 (23%)
2 stars
638 (4%)
1 star
161 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 677 reviews
Profile Image for Glenn Sumi.
404 reviews1,520 followers
December 9, 2021
I was going to attempt to write this review in the working class Dublin slang that Roddy Doyle’s colourful characters use, but, ya know, Jaysis, I’d come o’ looking like a fuckin’ eejit.

I’m one of the few people on the planet who’s never seen the Alan Parker movie, and when I was in London last fall, I noticed there was even a long-running stage version of it. But I guess through cultural osmosis I knew what the book was about: the making (and abrupt unmaking) of a north Dublin soul band.

It’s riotously fun, filled with piss and vinegar and great snatches of music, and boy do these characters know how to talk. (No wonder it was adapted for actors to perform.) Slagging each other over a few pints, joking about everything, is a sport – it’s the way they communicate.

I say “characters,” but there’s not a lot of depth to them. (A day after finishing this I devoured the second in the Barrytown Trilogy, The Snapper , and among other things it shows that Doyle can write complex, nuanced characters.) In fact, for half the book I had to keep going back to the page that listed the band members’ names and what instrument they played:

Jimmy Rabbite; manager.
Outspan Foster; guitar.
Deco Cuffe; vocals.
Derek Scully; bass.
James Clifford; piano.
Billy Mooney; drums.
Dean Fay; sax.
And Joey The Lips.

Later they’re joined by three women – the Commitmentettes. And here’s what happens: they rehearse; Jimmy books them first one gig then another; they perform them both; another character (Mickah the bouncer) joins them; they get a nice write-up in a local paper; one player gets interested in jazz; the vocalist (whom everyone hates) gets a big ego; and all the men are attracted to Imelda, one of the backup singers.

So: not much plot. There's a rich sense of social milieu, but mostly this book is about people interacting, bouncing off each other. Here’s a little exchange between the drummer and the vocalist:

– An’ here, you, George Michael. If yeh ever call me a fuckin’ eejit again you’ll go home with a drumstick up your hole. The one yeh don’t sing ou’ of.
He started to pick up the drum.
– The one yeh talk ou’ of.

Touché! And it’s not all salty dialogue. Here’s a little bit of exposition during the band’s first performance:

The ones not from Barrytown studied Mickah [the bouncer]. He wasn’t what they’d expected; some huge animal, a skinhead or a muttonhead, possibly both. This Mickah was small and wiry, very mobile. Even when he was standing still he was moving.

“Even when he was standing still he was moving”: that’s fine writing. Other gems are sprinkled throughout, showing you that Doyle is a novelist, not just a playwright or screenwriter. And he's an artist.

Fair play tha’.
Profile Image for Algernon (Darth Anyan).
1,479 reviews943 followers
December 25, 2015

Have you got Soul? If yes, The World's Hardest Working Band is looking for you. Contact J. Rabbitte, 118, Chestnut Ave., Dublin 21. Rednecks and southsiders need not apply.

I don't think I ever recommended before seeing a movie before reading the book it was based on, but in the case of Roddy Doyle's debut novel I believe this order will enhance the experience. You see, this is a musical novel, and it's done in a combination of dialogue and song lyrics, with minimal stage directions, no descriptive passages and no internal monologues, It's all out in the open and it rocks and rolls with the rhythm of Motown transplanted to the not-so-green suburb of Barrytown, Ireland.

I know the Alan Parker's movie would not exist if Roddy Doyle didn't pen his foul mouthed, irreverent and energetic novel first, but words on paper don't capture in the same way the Irish slang used in all the dialogues and the driving force of "Mustang Sally" or "Chain of Fools". The movie is also an almost line by line rendition of the scenes in the book, which is not surprising, given that the author worked on the script.

So, what it's all about and why do you need to give an answer to the opening question : "Have you got Soul?"
It's about the power of music to cross geographical borders, language barriers and generational gaps and to give meaning and direction to your life. It's not about making money, hitting on the groupies or being famous. It's about shouting as loud as you can your joy, your anger, your dreams and the audience reflecting it all back at you - sitting up and dancing and clapping and singing along with you.

Why Barrytown and why Soul instead of punk-rock or heavy metal or rap? Jimmy Rabbitte explains it to the couple of young local wedding singers who are tired of playing the same old crooner standards:

- The Irish are the niggers of Europe, lads.
They nearly gasped:it was so true.
- An' Dubliners are the niggers of Ireland. The culchies have fuckin' everythin'. An' the northside Dubliners are the niggers o' Dublin. - - Say it loud, I'm black and I'm proud.

Outspan and Derek decide to let themselves be carried away by Jimmy's enthusiasm and start a new band, a band that will bring the music of Otis Redding, Al Green, James Brown and Wilson Pickett to the working class suburb of Barrytown.

Jimmy Rabbite knew his music. He knew his stuff alright. You'd never see Jimmy coming home from town without a new album or a 12-inch or at least a 7-inch single. Jimmy ate melody Maker and the NME every week and Hot Press every two weeks. He listened to Dave Fanning and John Peel. He even read his sisters' Jackie when there was no one looking. So Jimmy knew his stuff.

With Jimmy as manager, the newly fangled Commitments start recruiting and practicing in earnest, first in the garage of the only elderly band member ("Joey The Lips was a baldy little bollix nearly fifty."), later in improvised venues in front of a raucous audience. In between rehearsals Jimmy and Joey the Lips educate their fellow band members on the meaning of Soul:

Soul isn't only music. Soul is a double-edged sword. The first side is sex, righ'. - An' the second one is - - REVOLUTION!
Soul is the politics of the people.
Our people. - Soul is the rhythm o' sex. It's the rhythm o' the factory too. The workin' man's rhythm. Sex an' factory.
Soul is - - Dignity.
Soul is lifting yourself up, soul is dusting yourself off, soul is - - Soul is Dignity. - - Dignity, soul. Dignity is respect. - Self respect. - - Dignity is pride. Dignity, confidence. Dignity, assertion. - Dignity, integrity. Dignity, elegance. - - Dignity, style.

Will the Commitments be a success or a failure? Will they be able to overcome their technical difficulties with their new or second-hand instruments, their day job worries, their clashing personalities and their sudden rivalries to become a true Soul Band and score a record deal?

Read the book, see the movie and sing along with them on a journey to "Destination Anywhere", the theme song of the band. Remember them with fondness and indulgence for their invective-ladden repartees and their fallible hearts. The show must go on:

They were all there, their first time together.
Jimmy Rabbitte; manager.
Outspan Foster; guitar.
Deco Cuffe; vocals.
Derek Scully; bass.
James Clifford; piano.
Billy Mooney; drums.
Dean Fay; sax.
The Commitmenttettes : Imelda, Natalie, Bernie
And Joey 'The Lips' Fagan on trumpet.

- - -
[Disclaimer] I must have seen the movie at least ten times before reading the novel, rating it among my top five modern musicals, side by side with "Almost Famous" or "Hair". (Favourite scene - the auditions with the "What's Your Influence?" quiz). I am also a long term fan of Soul, Blues and Classic Rock, among other musical interests, so my opinion is skewed towards a higher rating, but I think it's fair to add that Roddy Doyle has written an excellent debut novel, and that I plan to continue to read his Barrytown books.
Profile Image for Michael.
1,094 reviews1,498 followers
February 8, 2014
A short, sweet tale of the birth and short life of an Irish soul band, full of humor and exhilaration. It feels like that sense of delicious surprise at being able to skate on thin ice. Young Jimmy Rabbitte, unemployed resident of a fictional working class neighborhood of Dublin, Barrytown, gets the brilliant idea that Ireland needs sex machine music like James Brown’s. We get the pleasure of his imagination at work as he puts together his band one by one and works up a repertoire of songs.

The book is short and makes high art out of dialogue, which makes up perhaps 90% of the content. Here is the pitch of self-recruitment by a middle-aged horn player, “Joey the Lips”, who is the only one who has had professional experience playing soul music:
--The Lord told me to come home. Ed Winchell, a Baptist preacher on Lenox Avenue in Harlem, but the Lord told him to tell me. … Ed told me to back to Ireland and blow some soul into the Irish Brothers. The Irish Brothers wouldn’t be shooting the asses off each other if they had soul. So said Ed. I'm not a Baptist myself but I’ve had a lot of time for the Reverend Ed.
Am I in? Joey the Lips asked.
--Fuck, yes, said Jimmy. …

Most of Jimmie’s recruits are old friends, like Outspan for drummer, his best friend from grade school days. A set of three teenaged girls with experience in a church choir are added for backup vocals, including the supremely sexy Imelda. For the vocalist, he picks a stranger who can belt them out, Deco. He has to learn his art:

Deco was on a strict soul diet: James Brown, Otis Redding, Smokey Robinson and Marvin Gaye, James for the growls, Otis for the moans, Smokey for the whines and Marvin for the whole lot put together, Jimmy said.

There are lots of funny scenes as they build up a repertoire in practice and start with venues such as a church bingo hall. They get past the priest by promising to knock drug use (they misspell "Heroin Kills" in their poster backdrop). Soul and Motown funk is well past its prime, but the marvel of their creation slowly gains an audience. Whereas the 1991 movie featured such songs as “Mustang Sally”, Chain of Fools”, “Take Me to the River” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U7CHPM...), the songs featured in the book include “Night Train”, “When a Man Loves a Woman”, and “It’s a Man’s World”. The backups get to lead with “Walking in the Rain”. While the movie puts you in the audience, the book makes you imagine performing the songs and so well that you can hear them in your head.

The seeds of destruction of group cohesion emerge fast in the form of Deco’s egotism and everyone’s jealousy over Imelda favoring Joey. Also, the saxophone player Dean is becoming enamored of jazz, “the anti-people music”:
--What’s Dean been listenin’ to? Jimmie asked.
--Charlie Parker. He’s supposed to be good but.
--Good! Joey the Lips gasped—The man has no right to his black skin.
…Those polyrhythms went through Brother Parker’s legs and up his ass.—And who did he play to? I’ll tell you, middle-class white kids with little beards and berets. In jazz clubs. Jazz clubs! They didn’t even clap. They clicked their fingers.

The book was the first of three in what came to be termed “The Barrytown Trilogy”. I’ve had the pleasure of “The Van”, which features a hopeless scheme of Jimmy Rabbitte Sr. to make a business out of a chip van during an international soccer match in Dublin. Again, the beauty lies less in attaining a dream, but in the infectious miracle of believing the dream. My impetus in reading “The Commitments” comes from the 2014 publication of “The Guts”, which features Jimmy decades later milking the nostalgia for old music, this time Celtic Punk, while suffering the slings and arrows of cancer.

Profile Image for TK421.
554 reviews257 followers
April 8, 2013
Back in the day (I always wanted to use that in one of my reviews) my buddies and I from the old neighborhood had a dream. Besides wanting to be starting shortstops for our favorite baseball teams (Red Sox for me) we wanted to reach fame and fortune through music. There was only one hitch: none of us could sing, and none of us could play an instrument. Nevertheless, we moved forward with our dream and started penning lyrics to songs with no music…our muses were more than confused. For the most part, most of us wanted to be the next Def Leopard or Poison, a few of us wanted to enact the Wayback Machine and summon our Dylan or Doors or Led Zeppelin inner spirit. (I personally wanted us to be the next Pink Floyd.) We would stage mock practices, mostly we played Tetris on the Nintendo, and if we remembered discussed what one of us had written. When not discussing our lyrics, we discussed the second most vital component in any band…girls. We were all in agreement that we needed dancers. So, on one foggy day (I can’t really be expected to remember if it was foggy, can I?) we went to all the girls in our neighborhood that were about our age, never younger only older, and asked if they would like to tryout for our band as dancers. Surprisingly, there were a few girls that really wanted to do this. We built a stage in one of our garages and started up a mixed tape and let the girls do their thing. Heck, we were the first version of America’s Got Talent. One by one we told so-and-so that we thought she “just wasn’t what we were looking for” and continued on evaluating the others. This went on for about three or four songs. Finally, when one of the girls clued in that we really didn’t care about their dancing abilities, and were only interested in watching parts of their bodies dance did the fun come to a crashing halt. Our band broke up after that…

I have always loved that memory, and since my wife was one of the girls it makes it all that more meaningful. (She would kill me if she knew I was writing this.) Anyways, I came across this book a few months back while rifling through a stack of discarded books at a used bookstore. I had read Roddy Doyle before and enjoyed his sleek approach to storytelling. Man-o-man did the memories rush back with this one. Here we have a group of kids in Dublin that have one goal of becoming a soul band! A soul band! Like my friends and I, they have no clue on how to start the process. However, they do have knowledge of how to play instruments. So they did what we neglected to do: they hired an outsider to manage them. (If we had done that I may not be writing this review…who am I kidding? I’d still be writing this review.) Through a hilarious romp of what it takes to become a band, Doyle doesn’t sentimentalize the journey. Instead of the schmaltz, he writes about missed opportunities and possibilities with the same lens of innocence that might be portrayed if looking through a blacked-out, cracked window in the middle of the night.

If you have ever, for even a split second, dreamed of being a rocker, this book is for you. And even if you haven’t thought about your name in lights, belting out lyrics that mesmerize the masses, this book is still for you. If anything, it’s a quick read. Go on, give the Irishman a chance…you may even want to see if some of your friends want to dance.

Profile Image for Praveen.
148 reviews280 followers
March 25, 2022
“Ladies an’ gentlemen, let’s hear it for- Yes, Yes, Yes the commitments.- the Commitments- ladies an’ gentlemen.- the hardest workin band in the world- The commitment-bringing soul to Dublin, bringing the people’s music to the people- Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes, The Commitments.”

The last time I was reading something on music was ‘An equal music’ by Vikram Seth, and it had given me variegated feelings. This time again I tried something centered around music and this time I felt as if I have consumed a psychedelic drug. This book was limited in scope, it was almost all dialogues and less descriptive. It was rapid, funny, and discrete. But It imprinted swirling abstract patterns on me. And I liked those patterns. It was a new reading experience. Don’t’ be confused! These patterns were not musical patterns but were drawn by the working-class slang and the dialect used by the characters. These guys made such a lively atmosphere through their dialogues!

A band created by working-class guys is trying to bring soul music to Dublin, in Ireland. They called it the music of people. I see, I am reading a lot of Irish stuff these days, a few weeks ago, I was reading Seamus Heaney. And I noticed that I have liked almost everything Irish so far.

“His plectrum hand danced. Sometimes it was a blur, the hand looked great. The arm heavily budged, the wrist was in charge. He held his guitar high against the chest.”

There was so much fun in the beginning. The scenes of rehearsals are very funny. One was rehearsing on his drums with a bin lid and a hammer. It was not a bin lid rather it was a tin tray, with a racehorse on it and two days later the horse was worn off. The book is more sort of a play than a novel, a playful play; it will give an added advantage if it is performed. There was a lot of Dublin slang and it will enrich your slang vocabulary if it’s not already well augmented! While all the characters will be rehearsing with their songs and you read it in a flow, I am pretty sure, you will feel their shriek, their groans, and their wails too, emanating out from the speakers along with the soul music, and that will create an enjoyable musical echo, full of sentiments, in and out of YOU. I loved such an echo. At times it was wild revelry.

Though I know, not much about soul music and Jazz music, I could see that through this musical adventure of introducing soul music to a part of Dublin, which they called Barrytown, the author has raised some black and white issues as well. The book could not impress me that much on plot and story, I will still recommend it for the lively and refreshing experience. The book is short and sweet.
Profile Image for Dannii Elle.
2,015 reviews1,405 followers
November 30, 2017
I read Doyle's The Woman Who Walked Into Doors a few weeks ago and found it both a harrowing account of one woman's life, as well as a subversive insight to suburban Irish culture. I was expecting more of the same with his other writing and was, sadly, a little disappointed.

The novel follows the formation of teenage band, The Commitments: through the choosing of band members, the finessing of performance, the highs from the shared passion for music, and the lows after the inevitable in-band clashes. This novel's entire focus is on music, and how it can enrich one's soul and move you, emotionally, the way no other can.

Despite not knowing every one of the band and artist's names that litter this piece, I did enjoy the message it was promoting and thought Doyle did a wonderful job of allowing his characters' passion for music to translate across the page. I felt both the rhythm of this story and the shared beat the individuals within where dancing to, which I can imagine is a terrifically hard thing to transform, from sound to word.

Another thing I adored was how absolutely I felt I understood each and every one of his characters. Nuance of action and dialogue make them all undeniably unique, and yet they also provide an illuminating insight to the culture they are representing. This is Doyle's forte, and his characters are what made for such an enjoyable and hilarious reading experience.

Whilst all these things accumulated to make this a joyful little piece, I finished it with none of the overarching understandings or intense emotions that his other work had given me. I appreciated this book for what it was, and it provided me with a fun hour or two of reading, but nothing to move me beyond the closing of the final page.
Profile Image for HBalikov.
1,716 reviews638 followers
August 15, 2019
This is a very early novel by one of my favorite Irish authors, Roddy Doyle. It is part of his focus on contemporary Dublin life.

It is bawdy, funny, touching, profane, surprising and thought-provoking.

Doyle’s writing style pulls you into a Dublin pub and doesn’t make it easy for you to sort things out. I won’t say much more except the title refers directly to a band that Jimmy Rabbitte is asked to form and manage, composed of young Dubliners. The following selection from early in the book should be sufficient for you to determine whether it is worth your while.

Why did yis form the group? —Well —— —Money?
—No, said Outspan. —I mean, it’d be nice. But I’m not in it for the money.
—I amn’t either, said Derek.
—The chicks? —Jaysis, Jimmy! —The brassers, yeh know wha’ I mean. The gee. Is tha’ why?
——No, said Derek.
—The odd ride now an’ again would be alrigh’ though wouldn’t it? said Outspan.
—Ah yeah, said Derek.
—But wha’ Jimmy’s askin’ is is tha’ the reason we got the group together. To get our hole.
—No way, said Outspan.
—Why then? said Jimmy. He’d an answer ready for them.
—It’s hard to say, said Outspan.
That’s what Jimmy had wanted to hear. He jumped in.
—Yis want to be different, isn’t tha’ it? Yis want to do somethin’ with yourselves, isn’t tha’ it? —Sort of, said Outspan.
—Yis don’t want to end up like (he nodded his head back) —these tossers here. Amn’t I righ’? Jimmy was getting passionate now. The lads enjoyed watching him.
—Yis want to get up there an’ shout I’m Outspan fuckin’ Foster. He looked at Derek. —An’ I’m Derek fuckin’ Scully, an’ I’m not a tosser. Isn’t tha’ righ’? That’s why yis’re doin’ it. Amn’t I righ’?
—I s’pose yeh are, said Outspan.
—Fuckin’ sure I am.
—With the odd ride thrown in, said Derek.
They laughed. Then Jimmy was back on his track again.
—So if yis want to be different what’re yis doin’ doin’ bad versions of other people’s poxy songs? That was it. He was right, bang on the nail. They were very impressed. So was Jimmy….
Jimmy continued. He went back to sex. —Believe me, he said. —Holdin’ hands is ou’. Lookin’ at the moon, tha’ sort o’ shite. It’s the real thing now. He looked at Derek. —Even in Ireland. ——Look, Frankie Goes To me arse were shite, righ’?
They nodded.
—But Jaysis, at least they called a blow job a blow job an’ look at all the units they shifted?
—The wha’?
They drank. Then Jimmy spoke. —Rock an’ roll is all abou’ ridin’. That’s wha’ rock an’ roll means. Did yis know tha’? (They didn’t.)
—Yeah, that’s wha’ the blackies in America used to call it. So the time has come to put the ridin’ back into rock an’ roll. Tongues, gooters, boxes, the works. The market’s huge.
—Wha’ abou’ this politics?
—Yeah, politics.
——Not songs abou’ Fianna fuckin’ Fail or annythin’ like tha’.
Real politics. (They weren’t with him.)
—Where are yis from? (He answered the question himself.)
—Dublin. (He asked another one.)
—Wha’ part o’ Dublin?
Wha’ class are yis? Workin’ class. Are yis proud of it? Yeah, yis are. (Then a practical question.) —Who buys the most records? The workin’ class. Are yis with me? (Not really.)
—Your music should be abou’ where you’re from an’ the sort o’ people yeh come from.
——Say it once, say it loud, I’m black an’ I’m proud. They looked at him.
—James Brown. Did yis know——never mind.
He sang tha’. ——An’ he made a fuckin’ bomb. They were stunned by what came next.

—The Irish are the niggers of Europe, lads. They nearly gasped: it was so true. —An’ Dubliners are the niggers of Ireland. The culchies have fuckin’ everythin’. An’ the northside Dubliners are the niggers o’ Dublin.

——Say it loud, I’m black an’ I’m proud.

(In his GR review, Algernon makes a suggestion that I think has value: “I don't think I ever recommended before seeing a movie before reading the book it was based on, but in the case of Roddy Doyle's debut novel I believe this order will enhance the experience. You see, this is a musical novel, and it's done in a combination of dialogue and song lyrics, with minimal stage directions, no descriptive passages and no internal monologues, It's all out in the open and it rocks and rolls with the rhythm of Motown…”
Profile Image for Kinga.
476 reviews2,158 followers
December 22, 2015
I went into this book knowing nothing about it, not having seen the movie, certainly not having seen the musical and not being familiar with the Irish institution that is Roddy Doyle.

Initially I thought there was a mistake and I somehow obtained the screenplay for the film rather than the novel. Doyle shows a true bravado in his disregard for what we assume to constitute a novel. His narrative is composed almost entirely of dialogues and some diminished descriptions which are no more than stage directions.

Yet, somehow, despite those self-imposed constraints and in just 140 pages he manages to capture the essence of teenage dreams, how they burn and then burn out, how they get lost in arguments and get flooded by hormonal rivers. It’s all there in a story of a few Dublin teenagers who form a band and try to bring some soul into the Irish capital. Make no mistake, though, this is not a novel about sex, drugs and rock’n’roll. It’s a lot more innocent than that. It’s neither glamorous, nor bohemian. It’s just working class. It’s like that Lorde’s song Royals.

Even though the format of ‘The Commitments’ didn’t quite work for me, because I’m attached to the more Dickensian kind of narration, it did manage to extract some emotional response from me. However, I think this is one of the few instances where I think ‘the movie is better.’ And that is without actually having seen the movie.

*Knowledge of 60’s r’n’b and soul music desirable but not essential for the enjoyment of this book.
Profile Image for James.
423 reviews
February 24, 2021
‘The Commitments’ (1987) – Roddy Doyle’s debut novel, the first installment in his ‘Barrytown Trilogy’ (the others being: ‘The Snapper’ and ‘The Van’) and subsequent film version (1991) directed by Alan Parker.

Doyle’s book is a great and very funny debut novel which reads like a Dublin based gritty, urban, Blues Brothers-esque (referenced early on in the book) white soul music fairy tale. ‘The Commitments’ tells the story of a ragtag group of friends, ostensibly led by would be impresario Jimmy Rabbitte and their mission to form a band and bring soul music to Dublin.

Doyle’s book is very much dialogue led (and hence must have made for an easily adapted screenplay) and that dialogue crackles with authenticity and humour throughout. ‘The Commitments’ is lots of fun and shows an obvious love of soul music throughout.

Whilst I am not a huge fan of the film adaptation, I really enjoyed the book and am looking forward to reading the rest of the Barrytown trilogy. The only other Doyle book that I have read – ‘Paddy Clarke’ was many years ago, but felt like a very different kind of novel (and none the worse for that).

Love the ending as well (no spoilers!) – don’t miss.
Profile Image for Janelle.
1,132 reviews138 followers
March 3, 2022
This short book was just what I needed, I laughed so much! There’s a lot of Irish slang but it’s fairly obvious what most of it means. Great characters, the story moves quickly and it was an absolute pleasure to read.
Profile Image for Paul Bryant.
2,179 reviews9,244 followers
December 8, 2011
In the grim north side of Dublin Jimmy decides to put together a band to play soul music from the 60s. His mates think he's mental. They say, But that kind of stuff is sung by... black people. Ain't it? And we're just scummy white kids, ain't we? But Jimmy has a reply to that :

Do you not get it, lads? The Irish are the blacks of Europe. And Dubliners are the blacks of Ireland. And the Northside Dubliners are the blacks of Dublin. So say it once, say it loud: I'm black and I'm proud.

Dean, Jimmy's mate, a little uncertainly: I'm black.... and I'm proud.

Amongst many issues covered in The Commitments is how to cope with a lead singer who has a fabulous voice but who is a belligerent egomaniac with vile manners.

And indeed many other lessons in etiquette are expounded.

Actually, this is one example where the movie is better than the book, however excellent, ribald and racketty a read it is - which is not something I generally say. But seeing the chaotic Commitments forming, fighting, swinging, performing, achieving their brief moment of glory, and disintegrating amongst hurled beer glasses and foul curses is frankly nothing short of glorious.

Profile Image for Trudie.
520 reviews555 followers
October 5, 2021

I decided I needed a good dose of some Irish humour to kick me out of a bit of a reading funk.

This was a little more work than I thought it was going to be, given its almost entirely dialogue ( 50 % actual dialogue and 50% she said, he said, and - ). It's good though, rapid even. It just seems like I have forgotten how to read a book like this, where the characters have the kind of bantering nonsense conversations of everyday life rather than simply being used as pawns to make a grand point or to drive a plot forward.

Being mostly a book about music and specifically " Dublin Soul " - there is also plenty of this stuff :


Which I found super frustrating, as it took me forever to figure out the tune in my head ( maybe I am not a good reader of books about music ?). This is probably the one time I thought I needed an audiobook with a soundtrack.

A few un-PC hangovers from the late 80s aside, this was a fun read. The rest of The Barrytown Trilogy promises to be even better.
Profile Image for Theo Logos.
611 reviews93 followers
March 21, 2023
This book is brilliant craic!
So these fellas and young ones from working class North Dublin are shaped into a band by manager Jimmy Rabbitte (music aficionado extraordinaire) and Joey The Lips Fagan (veteran Soul sideman) to create...Dublin Soul.

Joey The Lips smiles.
— We are bringing Soul to Dublin, Brother, he said.
— We are bringing the music, the Soul, back to the people. —-The proletariat. —-That’s p,r,o,l,e,t,a,r,i,a,t.
—-My friend, said Joey The Lips, we are the Guerrillas Of Soul.

Driven by high octane, wicked profane dialogue of working class Dublin slang, and infused with the rhythms of Soul, this is a powerful and exhilarating novel. It will sweep you along from the inception of The Commitments through their inevitable, premature break up — brilliant craic, all the way.
Profile Image for LW.
336 reviews51 followers
September 1, 2018
WhhWooo Wooo......NIGHT TRAIN !
--->La Band piu' Proletaria del Mondo ,
i Salvatori del Soul...Sì,Sì,Sì...I Commitments!!
Da leggere con Mr Dynamite in sottofondo (da rispolverare "Live at Apollo ")
3 stelline e mezzo,ma ne ho date 4 perché mi ha fatto tornare in mente l'emozione forte di un concerto di James Brown ,quando dalla seconda(!)fila ascoltavo (e ballavo)



Se vogliamo portare il soul a Dublino,non possiamo metterci a fumare l'haschish.
-Ma è solo haschish.
-Ma cazzo,Billy, è la punta dell'iceberg. Dublino è fottuta,è piena di droga.E la droga non è soul.
-E quelli che bevono,allora?
-È diverso,disse Jimmy-Bere va bene. La classe lavoratrice se li è sempre fatti un paio di bicchieri.
-La Guinnes è cibo soul, disse Joey the Lips,-cibo per l'anima

(in questo passaggio c'è la parola più ricorrente del romanzo di R.Doyle ,almeno un centinaio :D
no,non è Billy )
Profile Image for Paul.
2,306 reviews20 followers
April 7, 2020
I've been meaning to read this book since I fell in love with the film many, many moons ago and I have to say I wish I hadn't waited so long. This is an absolute joy of a book; it's so funny and it just lives and breathes. Doyle really makes the reader feel like they're actually there with the characters.

This will resonate with you more strongly if, like me, you've played in a band or two over the years. It reminded me both of why I miss performing so much and also why I don't!

Are you ready to experience Dublin Soul, Brothers and Sisters?
Profile Image for John.
1,110 reviews79 followers
December 12, 2021
A 3.5. I am enjoying Doyle’s humor. The story of Jimmy creating a soul band in Dublin is amusing. The disparate characters and the witty dialogue is funny. What is missing is more background on the different characters. Why is Deco such a prat? His backstory is missing yet he is central to the band’s success.

Joey the Lips does have a backstory and is the reason for the bands success alongside manager Jimmy Rabbitte’s vidion and energy. Now I need to watch The Commitments movie again.
Profile Image for Nancy Oakes.
1,921 reviews721 followers
March 19, 2014
First of all, I've not yet seen the movie that was made from this book, but now I want to. If the movie is at all true to the book, I know I'm going to love it.

Set in working-class North Dublin, the novel begins with teens Outspan, Derek and Ray, who have formed a new band called And And And. Only in existence for three days, Outspan and Derek decide they need help with the band's direction and go to music-manager guru Jimmy Rabbitte, who"ate melody Maker and the NME every week and Hot Press every two weeks." Jimmy "knew his music...knew his stuff alright." After convincing the two that they really should be doing "Soul. Dublin Soul," because it has both sex and politics, and because their music should be "abou' where you're from an' the sort o' people yeh come from," he gets rid of Ray and changes the band's name to The Commitments, with a "Good, old fashioned THE."

The story tracks The Commitments right up to the very edge of success. The group is a mixed bag of musicians and a trio of singers who, with one exception, are learning as they go. And all along, Jimmy Rabbitte, who isn't a musician, works tirelessly -- giving the musicians their own nicknames, trying to get and keep them inspired, finding the band its small gigs, publicity and whatever it takes to make a success of this group, but with the combination of egos and other problems, that's not always an easy task.

The book is mostly dialogue, in dialect and given without quotation marks, using only ----- to denote a change in speaker. Mixed in and noted in all caps are song lyrics as well as the transcription of the instrumental parts of a song such as The Four Tops' "Reach Out I'll Be There" -- "DONG CADDA DONG CADDA DONG CADDA DONG." It's a stylistic maneuver that brings a lot of energy to the page and had me playing the songs in my head while reading. The songs are also revamped to fit and unite a Dublin working-class audience, part of Rabbitte's original political vision.

I liked this book immensely. While very short, there's a lot going on here: the making of the band and the various personalities and conflicts involved after it comes together, and humor and irony that in more than a couple of spots had me laughing out loud. I think though, for me, it was all about what Jimmy Rabbitte developed in these teenagers -- which at the very least is a measure of self respect and a desire to be better than they are -- and the idea that when shit happens, you have to get up, dust your boots off and make things work for yourself. I'm sure there's much more, but as I'm so fond of saying, I'm an ordinary reader, not a lit major. Most definitely recommended.
14 reviews
December 17, 2008
brilliant! though you end up thinking in an irish accent
Profile Image for Kuszma.
2,150 reviews141 followers
October 8, 2019
Elindultam reggel ügyintézni a messzi-messzi Pestre ezzel a könyvvel, és egy kék busz, valamint (oda-vissza) hat villamos alatt el is olvastam. Ráadásul a hat villamosozásból négy meglepően rövidkére sikeredett. Amúgy meg nagyon jó választás volt: Doyle könyve egy felettébb eklektikus barrytown-i társaság krónikája, akik zenekart alapítanak – tulajdonképpen nem több, nem is kevesebb, mint pár próba és koncert leírása. Botegyszerű. Az egésznek a savát-borsát az elképesztő nyelvi humor és a bőszen sorjázó, frenetikus jelenetek adják, amiket Doyle érezhető élvezettel önt az olvasó lába elé – igazi ír muri, ahogy azt itt Európa kevésbé ír felén elképzeljük. De azért többről van itt szó, mint szimpla mulattatásról – mert ez a történet ezek felett még szép is: itt van ez a rakás szedett-vedett dublini tahó, akik megmerítkeznek a zenében, és a soul határtalan ereje (hozsanna néked, James Brown!) a boldogság addig elképzelhetetlen csúcsára transzportálja őket. Komolyan mondom, megható. Igazi jóhangulat-könyv. Ha nem csináltak volna még belőle filmet, azt mondanám: fognak.

(És hát külön főhajtás M. Nagy Miklósnak, aki lebirkózza a lebirkózhatatlant: sikerrel lefordítja ezt a kócos dublini szlenget. Nem mondom, a „kötözköcc” típusú szómagyarítások eleinte furcsák voltak, de ahogy hozzájuk képzeltem ezeket az arcokat, máris működni kezdett a mágia.)
Profile Image for Howard.
Author 7 books87 followers
March 6, 2008
This bracing, funny, honest, and charming first novel tracks the brief existence of The Commitments, a working-class Dublin band bent on bringing soul to the people. Fortunately for Outspan and Derek, who've decided to form And, And!, And, a syntho-pop cover band (as soon as they get the money to buy instruments, anyway), Jimmy Rabbite consents to be their manager. Jimmy's the sharpest industry observer in northern Dublin ("Jimmy had Relax before anyone had heard of Frankie Goes to Hollywood and he'd started slagging them months before anyone realized that they were no good"), and is able to turn the band to soul. Renamed the Commitments, Jimmy adds to the band - among others - the three Commitmentettes; and a pro, Brother Joey "The Lips" Fagan, a balding, motherly horn-player old enough to have fathered the rest of the band. Brother Joey, who's played with everyone from James Brown to the Beatles, takes over the band's musical training to great success, and is soon sampling the nonmusical talents of the Commitmentettes, much to the disgust of his frustrated younger colleagues. After a lot of amusing preparation, the band gains recognition in local pubs and the music press. But Deco, the band's talented but oafish singer, lets success go to his head, and despite an offer to record, friction breaks up the band. We leave Jimmy, Outspan, and Derek as they realize that what Dublin really needs is a country-western band. Brash, human, smoothly executed, and seemingly authentic, full of youth, energy, and good humor, this is a quintessential garage-band romance - and a fine and promising debut.
Profile Image for Thom.
1,551 reviews46 followers
October 23, 2020
On goodreads, 320 people listed this as "fiction" and 96 as "Irish literature", which tells you something. Roddy Doyle's first book is a pretty quick read, telling of the rise (and fall) of the "World's Hardest Working Band" in Dublin.

Total time to read: 1.4 hours. Length of the film: 1.98 hours. Then again, Ted Chiang's short "The Story of Your Life" is definitely shorter than 2016's "Arrival". For a first novel, this is awesome, and two more were written in the "Barrytown Trilogy" - the other two also made into films. If language bothers you, I understand he also wrote eight books for children. I haven't read 'em, so no guarantees.

Back to this book, I think it's worth reading. The film is excellent, with actual music instead of text describing the music - a major plus. I'm fairly sure I read the book before seeing the film, but I don't recall much of it - a strike against. With this (re?)read, I note that the ending is slightly different - but now I need to rewatch the film to confirm. Both subsequent books - The Snapper and The Van - are also excellent. I'll go with 4 stars out of 5 for now.
Profile Image for Bee.
14 reviews
December 23, 2014
To be fair I may be the wrong audience to appreciate this book, maybe I need to be from Ireland or have been in a band with a bunch of people who didn't like eachother where only half of them cared about the music but it has become a matter of principle rather than enjoyment to finish this book. It has been the novel equivalent of sitting in a basement listening to a teenage band dink around, swear (admittedly all the eejits, jaysis and arses did make the setting come through loud and clear), argue, objectfy females and occasionally play music. I am sorry Roddy Doyle I had seen and enjoyed the movie growing up and was looking forward to reading this and gaining new insight into the characters, especially Jimmy but it didn't happen for me. I found the characters even less defined and harder to connect to than in the movie and difficult to spend any significant time around. It may be all on me but I didn't 'get it'.
Profile Image for Christine Bonheure.
561 reviews218 followers
May 25, 2020
Was ooit ferm onder de indruk van de film, haalde twee weken geleden nog eens de even fantastische cd uit de kast en besloot eindelijk het boek te lezen. Ik wist trouwens niet dat dit het debuut was van Roddy Doyle! Heb genoten van dit prachtige tijdsbeeld over de muziekscene in Dublin eind vorige eeuw. De manier hoe Doyle erin slaagt de muziek op papier te krijgen is fenomenaal. Alle songteksten staan in hoofdletters in een speciale lay-out, BEE BOP BA LOOOOOOOOOO BA, SHE’S MY BEEEEY BIIIIIIEEEE. Je zingt echt in gedachten én soms luidop mee met de kaskrakercovers die The Commitments en de vrouwelijke Commitmentettes brengen. De humoristische dialogen zijn zalig. Mijn tip? Mocht je dit willen lezen, lees dan de originele versie. De vertaling staat vol Nederlandse uitdrukkingen die we in Vlaanderen nooit gebruiken. Sfeervol gedol onder vrienden is dan ook zeer moeilijk te vertalen.
Profile Image for Maija.
85 reviews
August 31, 2017
Onpas ensiluokkaisesti toteutettu äänikirja!
Lukijalla on oikeanlainen aksentti ja hän jopa laulaa!
Voisin kuunnella saman tien uudestaan.
Profile Image for Barbara.
1,649 reviews26 followers
October 12, 2014
A classic. Now the Doyle is writing about middle-aged Jimmy Rabbitte in The Guts, it is essential to go back and remind ourselves of the young Jimmy. In the late 80's, Dubliners were still underemployed, and things were cheaper. They had to be. No one had any money! I have always loved this story of a Dublin soul band. I'd forgotten how short-lived this group was. But while they were together, they had a terrific time. Ireland and Dublin have changed dramatically in 25 years. Ireland boomed and became a nation of new immigrants from Eastern Europe, Latin America and Africa. I wonder what young people who never knew the "old Dublin" would make of this story of a group who describes "Irish as the n----rs of Europe and Dubliners as the n-----s of Ireland and northside Dubliners as the n-----s of Dublin".
Profile Image for Chiara Carnio.
273 reviews8 followers
October 24, 2022
Dublino ha bisogno di soul? Ci pensano The Commitments!
Al pianoforte: James the Soul Surgeon Clifford, il chirurgo dell’anima
Alla batteria: Billy The Animal Mooney
Al basso: Derek The Meatman Scully
Voce: Declan Deco Blanketman Cuffe, l’Uomo della coperta
Al sax: Dean Good Times Fay
Alla chitarra: L. Terence Foster (per tutti gli altri è Outspan)
E alla tromba il grande - in realtà bassino - Joey The Lips Fagan!
Ai cori le Commitmentettes: Sonya, Sofia e Tanya!

I Commitments è il primo capitolo della pentalogia di Doyle dedicata a Berrytown, cittadina inventata quantomai verosimile di un’Irlanda anni ‘80. La forza del romanzo d’esordio del dublinese sta tutta nei dialoghi tra i ragazzi che compongono il gruppo soul, fatti di un linguaggio colorito e divertente. Ed è la foto della periferia nord della città, non esattamente ricca, perché l’Irlanda è la parte più nera dell’Europa, Dublino la più nera d’Irlanda e la zona nord la più nera di Dublino. E quindi non c’è posto migliore per il soul.
Si segue la nascita del gruppo e il suo declino; essere un gruppo non è mai semplice, soprattutto se non si va oltre i propri limiti personali.
Dopo averti fatto sorridere, Doyle ti lascia con un po’ di amarezza, ma con una grossa dose di soul addosso. Perché anche l’amicizia è soul, dopotutto.
Profile Image for Terris.
993 reviews50 followers
March 6, 2022
I loved this! It was cute, funny, and felt very authentic. The language is rough, but since that is the way the characters would really have talked to each other, it felt genuine.
It was fun to see how this group of teenagers/young adults got a band together and how everything worked out. I'm guessing there are similar stories of "band beginnings" (and endings) all over the world.

Read this one for a laugh and enjoy!
Profile Image for Márta Péterffy.
167 reviews8 followers
January 13, 2020
Megkedveltem az írót, de számomra ez az a könyv, ami filmen jobb;)
M. Nagy Miklós fordította magyarra, nem volt könnyű helyzetben-megértem-de mégis nehéz magyarul olvasni, egyszer nekilátok angolul.
A filmet és a zenéjét nagyon szeretem, az énekes fiú ma is koncertezik, nézegettem interneten.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 677 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.