Saturday, September 26, 2009

Working Class Heroes on Film

In an era where any old fool can film something and post it on YouTube, it's a real pleasure to discover this week two hidden pearls from a time when home movies weren't quite so ubiquitous and which, even better, show us glimpses of people from before they became world famous. The short bit of film below shows us Phil Lynott and Brian Downey, later the rhythm section of Thin Lizzy, wandering the streets of Crumlin in 1969, with their band of the time, The Black Eagles. The quality of the film isn't great and neither is the framing and, not surprisingly there's no audio (The Yardbirds' 'Heartful of Soul' provides the soundtrack) but the film is mesmerisingly candid for all the selfconscious posing of the budding rock stars. There's a thrill to seeing any footage of the past in which you recognise things and the old 1940s council houses that flicker into view in the background are familiar to people all over Ireland, we can still see their likes in Limerick, Cork, Sligo, Athlone, Dundalk today, many of them now gentrified out of the price range of the working class that originally inhabited them. But most of all this is about Lynott and his stardom that was to come, the youngster who was to become Dublin's first ever rock star and the first black Irishman of world renown; as Conor McCabe put it in a fine post on Lizzy on Dublin Opinion last year, Lynott

is Dublin. The city seeped from him, from everything he did, from the way he moved and talked and looked. It’s hard to think of Phil Lynott coming from anywhere else but Dublin, and even at that, from anywhere else but a Dublin corporation estate. The city was such a part of him, and him of it.

And this gem of a clip is a great counterpart to the video for 'Old Town' that Philo recorded later in life, before his tragically early death in January 1986. Both remind me of the eerie thrill that befalls the sailor in Kipling's great short story 'Mrs. Bathurst' on his first encounter with the new-fangled thing called the cinematograph.

And the YouTube user MsRiposte, who it seems was a family friend of Phil, has also provided us with footage of Philo playing with Skid Row, including Brush Shiels and Gary Moore, the same year.

A huge thank you to Ms Riposte for sharing these with the world. They are absolute gold. And thanks to Philo's fellow Crumlin man and another great musician, Richie Egan of Jape for spreading word of them on his Twitter feed.