As today ends and another begins…with the sad news of Paul Murphy death today I wanted to just pay my own respects to him and his family…
These two Irish men walked into a bar…and that’s how I met Paul Murphy and Cecil Patton. It was sometime in the mid 90s about 1995 ish and the bar was Strikers in Cotteridge…for many years now known as The Roadhouse. I’d got the musical ‘itch’ again after 5 years sabbatical in the real world after the break up of The Love Hounds in 1990. I was looking for a sign…I wanted to get an acoustic based line up together. My old mucka Eric Cox (Desmond Ecka) he was active on the scene (as ever) and said ‘let’s pop over this little bar by the canal opposite where The Breedon Bar used to be in Cotteridge, they have an acoustic night on – lets go and have a look – it’s called Strikers and its the bar area of a Bowling Alley’. So over we went. I’ve got to say…it was a bit of a drag…nothing much on really. It was like what became known as ‘open mic’, but anyway…nothing really was sparking the fire so to say…and we were gonna finish our drinks and get back over Tipton way.
Just then these two blokes came in, one an older guy with greying hair in a donkey jacket as I remember, the other guy a younger man, tall and lean looking and carrying a guitar case. We were just about to sup up our drinks when the younger guy walks up to the stage with his guitar, steps on stage (the back drop on the stage was a long pair of legs disappearing into the roof) and says…’alright you fuckers my names Johnny Was and as you can tell from the way I’m dressed I’m from Belfast, I’m gonna’ play and you’re gonna’ cheer or my big brother behind me (points to the legs backdrop) is gonna’ come down there and kick your ass’! 🙂 lol he then launched into an driven acoustic version of Passenger by Iggy Pop…that was Cecil Patton and we got another round of drinks!
The older guy who came in with him was sitting at the table and kind of heckling him between songs – the banter was flowing between them, then the older stood up at the table in the middle of the room and started this poetic rap kinda’ jive talking blues…this was Paul Murphy…and the song was Shoplifter Talkin’ Blues…we ordered more drinks…they were great and I’d found the spark. At the end of the night I was talking to them – I asked them for a contact number for them…they asked me if I was Special Branch lol…I loved em’ 🙂
We became friends, then one Saturday night I get a call at home from Cecil Patton telling me to get my backside over to Brum Sunday afternoon as ‘something was happening at Scruffy Murphys (the old Pen & Wig by the law courts) but he couldn’t tell me what – just get my arse over’. I was working in a steel works in the Black Country at the time and had to go in 6-12 on the Sunday…I usually had a kip on a Sunday afternoon and told Cecil this. ‘Get your ass over’ he said…’sleep later’. So – when I got back from work on the Sunday…a bit knackered to say the least…I decided ‘sod it I’ll go over and it better be worth it. Jumped in the shower, then jumped the train over…and walked to Scruffys…it was rammed! Cecil saw me and said ‘come down stairs’ (which was easier said than done). Inside I saw Paul – ‘what’s going on’? I said ‘I’ve no idea’ he replied with a twinkle in his eye lol…this was The Songwriters Café, this was the afternoon when Ocean colour Scene turned up with PP Arnold and those that were there will never forget it…oh and Steve Gibbons (bless him) got more pissed as the afternoon went on because Paul kept saying ‘can you just hang on Steve before I ask you to play – have another pint’ lol Steve did…again and again and delivered a ‘loose groove of a song he made up on the spot called ‘Truck Drivin’ Man’ lol well that’s all he sang anyway…it was Steve Gibbons does Johnny Thunders lol I loved it.:-)
I attended the Songwriter Café Sessions most Sundays…playing a few myself and I even co-compared one of the early ones at Scruffys when Paul went over to Dublin to play a support with Ocean Colour Scene. They were wonderful days and I have many great memories of the sessions at Scruffy Murphy’s and also when it moved (through necessity) to the Factotum & Firkin…Open Mic nights are a pale comparison to the Songwriters Café – Paul steering the sessions through and Cecil his sergeant at arms cajoling the crowd along – they were good days.
There were the drinks and get togethers at Paul’s and around the corner at Cecils, the Rowheath Pavillion sessions with Tom Martin, Cecils wedding ceremony / reception at Pauls…lovely, memories.
Then a while later came the sad news of the loss of Paul’s lovely wife Honora to cancer…it was a shock and a tragedy…so young and with a young growing family…but The Murphy’s came through and continued to blossom.
After the sadness of this and with time Paul returned to the scene. I had started promoting some live music nights under the title of The Secret Public Café in Tipton around 1998…later I produced a weekly radio show (2000 – 2002) on WCR in Wolverhampton under the same title. Paul played the opening night of the live music sessions for me – it was a great night and also did a great radio session for me when he recorded his debut album The Glen with Gavin Monaghan.
Cecil played in a band I had called the Gentlemen Bandits for a while around 2001…great laughs and good times. Then as is life…we all drift away a little on our own paths dealing with life’s twists and turns…Then and similar to now…we had the tragic loss of Cecil in 2006…a tragic loss at an early age…it knocked everyone for six!
Occasionally me and Paul did gigs together…too rarely looking back now… one that sticks in my memory is a show at the Little Civic in Wolverhampton in 2006 when he supported me at a gig when I released the GOJO’ MUSIC EP that Martin Stephenson had produced…he was on form as ever.
As we all know Paul then gained a lot of well earned credit for his work and his profile rose via his own solo performances and also him teaming up with the brilliant Destroyers…it all clicked into place for him…and his creative juices as ever were flavouring many other cups…via acting and writing.
We were both performing at Glastonbury in 2007 (in the mud) I saw The Destroyers and we had a drink after…him in a Chinese style silk jacket and trousers…and wellies…with his granddaughter in his arms we both saying …’well here we are in our own way’ :-).
Paul asked me to co-compare with him a bit of a Songwriters Café re-union he put together one night in Dec 2008 in a place just off New St which I did…Simon Fowler played and Daniel Rachel came up from London. We went back to Paul’s after the gig talking into the early hours…I remember him talking about cooking everyone an Ulster Fry in the morning…but I can’t remember if he did lol :-)…
I didn’t see much of him for a few years then…both keeping busy doing our own thing etc etc, then last year I attended the Peoples Assembly protest march in Brum in July…and saw Paul in the crowd. I sneaked up behind him and said ‘Murphy you old agitator fancy seeing you here’ lol 🙂 to which he replied ‘Gary O’Dea the man that calls a spade a fuckin’ shovel’ lol and with that we went and had a pint and put the world to rights for an hour or so. He invited me over to his birthday party at his house…I’m so glad I went it was a lovely day. He talked about the next series of the Tree House sessions and would I do one…’of course’ I said…he gave me a promo flyer regarding the new project he was working on ‘Where Were You When Che Died’? I’m looking at it on my shelf as I write this…I also have a post card he sent me many years ago with the following poem on…it’s a poem I love…and it has a coincidental link to the title of my new album FLY. The poem is Dreams by Langston Hughes (1902-1967)
Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die,
Life is a broken winged bird, that cannot fly
Hold fast to dreams, for when dreams go,
Life is a barren field frozen with snow.
…we arranged to meet in Digbeth when Jeremy Corbyn came to speak on his Labour Leadership campaign…we met…but I noticed he seemed quite frail…but we walked to the centre were Corbyn was speaking and he was outside – he shook hands with us…I hope Jeremy knows he met Paul Murphy…Paul then came to see my solo gig at The Blue Piano Bar in September…it was then he told me he had cancer…I gave him a big hug and a kiss…but I felt like someone had kicked me in the stomach…he told Pete Millington as well – Pete’s another long time supporter of local music and arts for many years – we both spoke of the sadness of the news.
However…what I’m going to remember and cherish…is not only the great warm memories of having him as a friend for 20 years…but I’m going to remember that interview he did on BBC Radio London on the 29th Dec on the death of his old mate Lemmy…if you heard it you’ll all know what I’m referring to when I say ‘it’s a brilliant example of how plastic melts when it comes into contact with real heat and fire’ lol 🙂 the presenter is a guy called Dotun Adebayo who keeps pushing Paul to talk about Lemmy ‘firebrand’ legacy – sex and drugs and rock n roll and all that, where Paul says (more than once) that Lemmy was a many facetted character and had many sides to him, Paul talked about Lemmy as a thoughtful guy, a guy that sat listening to folk songs as well as loads of other music, but no – this guy kept wanting Paul to talk in a kind of negative way…to which finally Paul say’s ‘well as I’ve tried to explain…he wasn’t just that hard rockin drug haggled growler, he had other sides to him…but yes he could also tell you to FUCK OFF as well’!! lol lol at this the presenter goes into political correctness meltdown and takes Paul off air for swearing lol lol it is hilarious. If anyone has a recording of it please post it…it’s no longer available on the BBC ‘listen again’ lol lol 🙂
Paul…you were a ‘real person’ not an act…the real deal. I’m so glad you coloured in a few pages of my life. I bless the day I met you and Cecil…god bless both of you I hope you’re having a pint together and with your lovely beloved Honora as well. You’ve left a great legacy Little Big Man…a lovely family and hundreds of friends…Birmingham and the local music scene has been mourning today…I hope ‘god looks after those that help themselves from supermarket shelves’.
One Love Mr Murphy X
Pic 2: Cecil Patton
Pic 3: Oldest swinger in town…Paul showing my youngest son Liam (right of pic) his rope swinging technique bless him