Wednesday 21 February 2018

Stirring up memories with trip to Penny Lane

For Eddie Naughton and his late friend Christy Egan, the music of the Beatles was the 'soundtrack to their lives'

IF there was any justice in the world then my late friend Christy Egan would have been at one of the most extraordinary Irish concerts of this or any other century -- I'm referring to, of course, Paul McCartney's December gig at the 02 in Dublin.

Though to call it a gig somehow diminishes this great, great show.

Christy was, like me, unashamedly a Beatles fan; and from adolescence into adulthood and beyond, the Beatles music was the soundtrack to our lives.

Unlike me, Christy could play the piano and earned a modest living backing singers in pubs and bars who knew with great screeching certainty that they were Ireland's answer to Neil Diamond, Elton John or Celine Dion, to name but a few.

But, not withstanding this, Christy always managed to pull the night back together again with his Beatles repertoire. The disease that killed Christy three years ago first attacked him (cruelly) through his throat and choked off the voice that gave so much pleasure to so many people over so many years.

It gave truth to the saying that whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad. His favourite Beatles track was Let It Be and when McCartney sat down at the piano at the mid-way point of his super show and played the opening bars of that particular song, the sluice gates behind my eyes opened.

This was always going to be a bitter-sweet moment for me, and so it proved.

From the moment McCartney walked on stage I had been in an emotional state.

He could have played Daniel O'Donnell's entire back catalogue and it wouldn't have mattered -- for me it was the second coming and from the off there was a sense that we were in the presence of something exceptionally special.

Several times I was close to tears with the emotion of it all and the absence of Christy made it all the more poignant.

Though it wasn't the first time musical memories of the Beatles made me cry.

A couple of years back in the famous Cavern in Liverpool's Matthew Street, I was almost overcome as I stood at the empty stage and thought about the days that were no more.

There is hardly an event in my existence that doesn't contain some kind of Beatles reference, no matter how obscure; and in the early days especially, as far as I was concerned, Christy and myself were the undiscovered fifth and sixth Beatles hiding out in Ireland.

One particular event stands out. Back in those halcyon days of the 1960s (yes, I do remember them) myself, Christy and other friends took ourselves off to a Fleadh Ceol in Wexford for a cultural weekend. We sang Beatles songs (to rapturous applause it has to be said) for the entire three days of the festival.

The great revival of Irish music that took off in the mid-1960s was very nearly nipped in the bud that legendary weekend in Wexford by the Beatles gurriers from Dublin.

In the 02 arena McCartney didn't play anything outside of his own brilliant repertoire and it was highlight after stunning highlight, culminating in an almost heart-stopping Abbey Road finale -- and you really had to be there to appreciate it. And had Christy been there, I would have been dragged from my comfortable seat up on the balcony to the front of the stage to absorb every note and inflection.

And oh, how ecstatic he would have been to hear 14,000 voices demanding an encore by way of singing a blood-scalding rendition of the Hey Jude finale.

Beyond magic! After the show we would have found the nearest bar with my brother Liam and my sons Warren and Dylan to reprise the more memorable moments of the concert. And, after closing time, we would have bought a carry out and made our way to my home where we my wife (feigning annoyance) would have joined us.

We would have broken out the Anthology and sang Beatles songs in to the wee, small hours of the morning.

He would have told achingly funny stories (as was his wont) from our teenage years and from escapades in our twenties, and we would have raised a glass or 10 to absent friends including John and George. And then he would happily have gone gentle into that good night.

If there is any justice in this world then the music of Paul McCartney during that most fantabulous night will have taken flight in sound waves out of the 02 to wing its way up over the shivering waters of the Royal Canal, before pausing in the petrified cemetery at Glasnevin. There they would have settled over Christy Egan's grave for a few soul-soothing moments before moving on. As Hemingway has it: "Isn't it pretty to think so?".

Thank you for the music Paul -- and the memories.

Sunday Independent

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