Friday 21 October 2016

Robbie keeps the beat up in Heaven

Robbie Brennan was a legendary Irish drummer who sadly died in April. Our reporter talks to the luminaries behind 'Gig For Robbie' tomorrow night at the Olympia in Dublin

Published 26/09/2016 | 02:30

Grand Slam
Grand Slam

There was no one who knew more about the beat than him. It was sad when former Skid Row, Scullion and Phil Lynott drummer Robbie Brennan's heart stopped beating on April 12 of this year. Hot Press magazine dubbed him, not inaccurately, one of the greatest drummers "ever to whack a snare in Ireland". To celebrate his illustrious life, some of the musicians who played with him - and many who simply just loved him - are playing Gig For Robbie tomorrow night at The Olympia.

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Terry O'Neill, producer of the gig, recalls meeting Robbie when he became Skid Row's drummer in 1968. "I was the roadie. Skid Row were Brush, Phil Lynott, Gary Moore and Robbie. He was an engineer in Roadstone and wouldn't leave his job to go professional until he was sure that he had 'something to fall back on'."

"Over the years we worked together on a few projects and somewhere along the line became close friends," adds Terry.

"I feel honoured and privileged to have been asked to put this show together. It's an opportunity for all the musicians he played with over the years, along with his friends, family and fans, to celebrate Robbie's enormous musical ability. It also gives us a chance to remember the man while at the same time help MQI (Merchant Quay Ireland) to help the homeless."

Brendan Bonass, guitarist with Stepaside, remembers being 18 when he saw Robbie play drums for the first time. "I had no idea then that Robbie would play such an important role in my life. He was Stepaside's secret weapon. We loved Robbie, and hoped he could he make it back to us, but he never did. He was the magic carpet we floated on."

Jerome Rimson, bass guitarist who played with Phil Lynott, Van Morrison and Mary Coughlan, has his own vivid memories of Brennan.

"I first met him through Phil Lynott around 1982, when I came to Dublin from London to record on the first Phil Lynott solo album," he says. "We did some demos etc with Phil, and Robbie and I became fast friends. Later we worked together with Mary Coughlan in a band with Trevor Knight, Richie Buckley and the late Dave McHale. After that we worked together many times over the years with artist such as Bree Harris etc. Robbie was a amazing drummer and one of the kindest people I've ever known."

Pat Egan, legendary music promoter and one of the comperes at Gig For Robbie, remembers while writing for Spotlight magazine and being a club DJ he met Robbie "a couple of hundred times from 1969 to 1979. Always in good form, always a smile, and always laid back. He made his art look easy. He was a kind, modest and caring guy."

Another compere tomorrow night, writer Eamonn McCann, says "Robbie was the only rock'n'roller I've ever known who recognised that cricket was the greatest game under the sun and that Brian Lara was the greatest sportsman of the 20th century."

Perhaps most poignantly of all was what DJ Lee - and his memories of Robbie playing with "so many different bands ranging from the Rootzgroup with Paul Brady to Jerry Lee Lewis that took my breath away every time" - had to say of his late mate: "Throughout all of it, Robbie was a constant, so very dependable, and one heck of a drummer. While his passing may be music's great loss, the legacy Robbie left behind will surely be an inspiration to every aspiring kid who picks up a pair of drumsticks for years to come."

Gig For Robbie: The Olympia Theatre, September 26. All proceeds to MQI (Merchant's Quay Ireland) Helping The Homeless

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