Alan? I never knew your name was Alan! Well, you learn something new about people all the time and that particular encounter with Richie 'Milkboy' Taylor took place in the American embassy in 1987 as the pair of us were waiting for our visas prior to heading off to the States for the first time, to see U2 on their world-beating tour to promote The Joshua Tree, and the woman behind the counter called out his real name. Well, in fairness, 'Alan' isn't really that rock'n'roll, now is it?
I first met Richie in the early 1980s when his outfit, The Rhythm Kings, and the band I was in, Autobop, were sharing a dressing room in RTE for a programme called Non-Stop Pop. They were a no-nonsense lot and I recall sitting around a monitor, cracking up with Richie and lead singer Ferdia MacAnna, having a good laugh at the Virgin Prunes, who were most definitely not of a no-nonsense stripe.
The frequency of our encounters grew after that, whether it was seeing him occasionally serving behind the counter in Freebird Records upstairs in Grafton Street or bumping into him at gigs, as both of us were moving into writing about music at around the same time, Richie first with In Dublin (later the Irish Press, Evening Herald, Daily Mirror and Irish Sun) and myself with Hot Press and the Irish Independent. This is where one got to see the enthusiasm and mischief of the man in action. Hard as it may be for young journalists today to believe, but there was a time when record companies and promoters used to send gangs of hacks on trips in the pointy end of aeroplanes to far-off places and generally let them off the leash provided the story was delivered. It was several such jollies with Richie that provide some of my best memories of him.
On the aforementioned U2 jaunt the pair of us found ourselves wandering jet-lagged and a bit jarred around New York and being freaked out at the increased incidence of broken windows, the steam rising from grates in the street, and the presence of hoodie-wearing gentlemen huddling on street corners was not helping our general mood. A taxi was eventually hailed and, naturally, we were just around the corner from the hotel.
A Billy Joel trip to Detroit in 1990 resulted in a session with Joel himself at the piano, that after a taxi trip to the Motown museum during which we assured the driver that, yes indeed, there were loads of black people in Ireland before we inadvertently began naming them 'That many, huh?' came his considered reply.
A backstage encounter with Small Faces legend Ian McLagan at a Rod Stewart gig in Wembley saw the true boyhood fan in Richie come out and that sheer enthusiasm for what he regarded as proper music never left him. I've seen him groan in despair at having to listen to new acts on the various 'battle of the bands' events when we were judges, but get him talking about Nick Lowe or Dave Edmunds and you'd soon change his mood.
Everybody who met Richie Taylor knew pretty soon who he was and everybody will miss him. One can barely imagine how his wife Sandra and three children must be feeling. Rest in peace, Richie.