Sunday 15 September 2019

'I played Robbie this song I'd been working on. It was called Angels'

Ray Heffernan

Songwriter Ray Heffernan on spending Christmas 1996 with Robbie Williams

'I played Robbie this song I'd been working on. It was called Angels'

That's Robbie Williams with my mum Doris. This picture was taken in my mum's house on Griffith Avenue in Dublin 15 years ago.

One of the biggest thrills my two sisters, Mary and Vivienne, ever got was waking up to find Robbie Williams in their house.

"Hi, I'm Robbie," he said, introducing himself at breakfast.

"We know who you are," they screamed, before shooting back upstairs to put their make-up on.

It was one night during Christmas 1996 that I met Robbie Williams in The Globe Pub on George's Street in Dublin.

Myself and my friend were dressed the same with bleached blonde hair, and I assume Robbie thought we were in a boyband. He'd just left Take That and his solo career had stalled.

To be honest, I didn't really know who he was, as I'd just come back from working in Paris, but we clicked talking about music.

After more drinks, and me telling Robbie I was a songwriter, we decided to write some songs together.

We didn't waste any time, starting that night. I got the guitar out in my mum's house and played him this song I had been working on called 'Angels'. I had the first verse, some of the chorus and some of the second verse.

This picture was taken the next night, when we played this new song 'Angels' to my family. We didn't know we had a hit on our hands -- we were too busy partying.

In 1996, Dublin was about the coolest place in Europe, and here I was hanging around with Robbie Williams and, being 23, basking in the glory.

He was instantly recognisable, but hanging out with Robbie took some getting used to. First of all, he had all this cash in his pockets. He carried more cash than I had ever seen, so all sorts of things were possible.

I remember walking into a big sci-fi shop in Dublin which had life-size characters from 'Star Wars'. Out comes the wallet and Robbie bought the original Yoda and two stormtroopers.

Another day, we were walking down Dawson Street, and Robbie noticed a poor old guy begging. Out comes the wallet with 200 quid.

Generally, Robbie was a decent guy. He brought my sisters to a Boyzone gig and was touchingly protective about them.

Later in the week, we ended up going into a studio in Temple Bar and doing a demo of 'Angels'.

It was a success, and Robbie's people later offered me £7,500 if I signed a waiver which renounced any rights I had to the song. I took advice and ended up signing.

That was in April. I thought it would be an album track, but by the next Christmas it was all over the radio, going on to sell millions.

For a long time, I was angry about this, but as you get older you see things differently, especially through my work as an occupational and musical therapist, helping adults and children with autism.

I've always done music on the side and the 'Angels' connection has opened doors to publishing companies and earned me a few quid.

It makes a good story, too, especially when I get to the end. The night after I met Robbie in The Globe, I walked into the same pub and who was there? Morrissey.

Ray's group, The Grand Canal Band, release an album 'New Dress Woven' through Universal Italy next year

In conversation with Ken Sweeney

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