“I’m no longer at the coal mine … and I wouldn’t want to be”

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There are people in the Irish music industry who know where the bodies are buried, but not Pat Egan. He might point you to a field somewhere in the Midlands, but he doesn’t know the exact location. That’s what comes from being one of the good guys, someone who was at the heart of the Irish music industry when there was little or no infrastructure or insight. Wisely, naturally, Egan befriended most and managed to tell the stories.

Now around 70 years old, he wrote his autobiography, Backstage Pass: A Life in Show Business, and while it is not a collection of scabrous memories, it not only provides a perception ( and an eyebrow) behind – the sightings of scenes of some very famous people at work and at play, but also his own opinions on the current state of music promotion, venue rentals and how he managed to swim to ‘to shore before the sharks bite his teeth.

Phil Lynott, Pat Egan and Rory Gallagher: “I knew I liked music, but I didn’t know how to get started”

He became part of the nascent Irish show business in the early to mid-1960s. Having failed to impress his teachers at school, he says he did not have high ambitions as such. “You had your interests, whether it was sports, movies or music. I knew I loved music, and I knew I would have loved to work in it, but I didn’t know how to get started.

He began by writing to a few presenters he heard on his grandmother’s radio. One of them was Ken Stewart, who, in addition to being an RTÉ broadcaster at the time, was also the Irish correspondent for the American music industry Billboard. Upon receiving Egan’s press releases, Stewart “invited me to discuss the music business. At that time, one of the radio shows was sponsored by Chivers Jam, and it was like a Juke Box Jury thing. The presenter would play a few pop songs and a select panel of judges would comment on those. It would have been the very first time I had given my thoughts on music, which at the time was mostly hospital claims and programs sponsored by people like Waltons. When my brother started working he got a radio, the first one we ever had in the house. It was then that I started listening to Radio Luxembourg, which was the start of something very different.

Deejaying

Before he could say “hi, pop pickers,” Egan was juggling occasional radio pundits with DJs at several Dublin beat clubs and writing regularly for Spotlight. While most of his old classmates were in technical college or doing their apprenticeship (“I didn’t want a trade – I couldn’t hold a brush, hammer or screwdriver”), Egan was living a dream that concerned to evolve into a lifelong career. “At that time, the business was full of opportunities everywhere, whether you wanted to have a record store, be a manager, promoter, bar owner, club owner, singer or songwriter.

As it happened, with the exception of the singer and songwriter, Egan turned to all of the above. In the 1970s and 1980s he opened six record stores, was a major promoter of Irish music in the 1980s, owned a pub in Temple Bar and a club near the Liffey, and he has led several Irish music groups. Between all of this and a number of domestic upheavals, he has also worked with such figures as Billy Connolly, Brendan O’Carroll, Freddie Starr, Van Morrison, Queen, Paul McGrath, Eric Clapton, Bob Marley, Marianne Faithfull, Al Martino . , Status Quo, Irish tenors Sir George Martin, Dame Shirley Bassey and Lou Reed.

Pat Egan at his home in Co Kildare.  “I like it, I gain a few pounds, I lose a few pounds.  »Photography: Nick Bradshaw

Pat Egan at his home in Co Kildare. “I like it, I gain a few pounds, I lose a few pounds. »Photography: Nick Bradshaw

Egan’s tales are often fun, but never at the expense of the subject. Fans of Reed and O’Carroll may need to rethink their admiration for them, while the stories of Clapton, Starr, Faithfull and McGrath (to name just four) are filled with drama, tragedy and human fragility. . Of all the people he’s worked with over the years, however, it’s Scottish comedian / actor Billy Connolly – who wrote the book’s preface – who stands out as a favorite. Interestingly, Egan never crossed the gap between “talent” and paid professional. “I never thought of myself as Billy’s friend. He’s an exceptional person in that fame wasn’t something he used badly. He liked things to be done right, and he liked its comfort, but there was no ego in man.

Civility

Egan’s life as a promoter changed dramatically from the 1990s onwards, he says, noting his reluctance to “dive into some of the biggest deals with the biggest bands, which I lost on and on which. I did not build “and his sense of civility. A memoir at his age might mean retirement from the fray, but he’s not yet bowed out. He knows that even though a lot of sites in Dublin are run by “one company and availability is really limited,” he turns to the nostalgia market, which he says “has been totally ignored, a lot of people don’t know. I have no show to go to. He is currently in the process of securing a venue for such shows, he adds, a venue that is neither owned nor operated by one of the country’s two main music promoters, MCD and Aiken Promotions. . There’s still life (and a keen business sense still) in the old dog, then?

“I’m not at the front anymore,” he admits, “and I wouldn’t want to be under pressure these days. I like it, I gain a few pounds, I lose a few pounds, and I love seeing people come to shows and hear the music they connect with. Bottom line: Connection is what it’s all about. I just want to be relevant to a certain part of the market which I know is still there. Withdraw? Never, because that’s what I do.

Backstage Pass: A Life in Show Business by Pat Egan is published by Orpen Press, € 17.99. Royalties from the sale of the book will go to St Audoen’s National School on Cook Street, Dublin 8


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