“I wouldn’t want to enter the music industry today”
We were a World War II family. My two sisters, Margaret and Carmel, and my brother Jim were born during the war. I was born in 1946, the year after the war ended. My father had disappeared in England during the war because there was no work in Ireland — except one night, the night I was conceived. He never came home after that. I have never met him.
The children didn’t have a difficult upbringing because we didn’t know what it was, but my mother had a very difficult time. Fortunately, she came from a very large family and they were very good with her.
My siblings and I were extremely lucky not to end up in a state institution – it’s only because my grandmother was a feisty woman and she more or less told the priest that her daughter’s children Mary were not going to be placed in any institution, they were staying with her. It was quite the thing at that time, because the Church had such an influence on everything. From there, it got a little easier for my mom.
When we started working, we all contributed. Despite the fact that we had nothing, we had a quality upbringing in terms of care and attention, there was always food on the table. I have no complaints. I was the youngest so I got by with things that other people couldn’t.
I have four children of my own now. I wasn’t a very good father when I started out, but I’ve matured over the years and realized the value of family and loving people. I think there is no greater achievement in life than having a strong family. It’s amazing how families, once the father and mother die, tend to drift apart and fall apart because of all sorts of things, whether they’re fighting over a will or taking just different paths in the world – family is number – a value in my life now.
I heard my first record in a boy’s club run by the Jesuits, it wasby Hank Thompson, an American country song. I was probably 8 or 9 years old and this was my first introduction to music. There was no real entertainment business in the 1950s in Ireland. There were theaters and stage shows, but the only way for me to get into the industry would have been to get on stage and dance or sing: I had two left feet and couldn’t sing for save my life.
I fell into the music world after hearing rock and roll on the radio at my grandmother’s house. I thought Elvis Presley and all that was amazing and I was like ‘this is what I’m going to do, I’m going to do something in show business’. I went from being a lesson boy in a large company to being a disc jockey at an old beat club called The Number Five, Harcourt Street.
In the early 1960s, there were opportunities in the music industry. There weren’t many, but I was lucky. I hung out with all the young people who were hot at the time, then I started writing for Spotlight magazine and it all took off from there. I was not a very educated writer. My punctuation and spelling wouldn’t have been great, but I still got the job and wrote about every major band of the day. That’s how I met Rory Gallagher, Van Morrison and Phil Lynnott. Phil was four years apart from Thin Lizzy when I met him. We were hanging around town a lot, chasing girls and buying records and stuff.
The music industry has changed so much in my lifetime. There is no more opportunity there. I wouldn’t want to enter the business today. There is no more variety: there were plays, musicals — there are very few in Ireland now. You have to go to London. And it’s a very difficult apprenticeship to work in London. They don’t let you become a star in these musicals, it’s all about the brand.
The biggest challenge I’ve faced in my life is that I believe in fairy tales, and they haven’t always come true. When that happens, I can get a little discouraged with life. Things don’t always go as planned. The most beautiful girl didn’t always want to talk to me, which probably broke my heart more than anything.
My greatest quality is my loyalty, especially to people who risked their lives for me at the start of my business.
My first memory is around my first communion. I guess it was the first social event of my life. I went to St Patrick’s in Drumcondra and I remember all the boys would go and have a big breakfast after we had our Holy Communion and my sisters would come to meet me afterwards and give me a little present.
The best advice I’ve ever received is from Cork promoter Oliver Barry. He always told me, “When you make a deal, Pat, make sure you take the first 20% on top because there’s a good chance you won’t get anything in the end.”
What surprises me is the human spirit and the kindness of people. There always seems to be someone who will help you no matter what situation you find yourself in, be it a charity, a neighbor or a friend. There is always help.
At 75, I’m afraid of tomorrow. I’m not afraid to die as such, I’ll kind of wait for death until I’m in terrible pain, but I’m afraid of the unknown. Life is a long and winding road, but unfortunately at my age, it’s not that long left.