Todgers, Jukeboxes and Greedy Bastards: Friends Of Phil Spill! #3

Our final clutch of magic moments involving the much-missed Mister L.

Paul Hardcastle

Synth-pop wizard on the day The Rocker gifted him a Rock-Ola.

In 1985, Paul Hardcastle was a riding high on the back of a global mega-hit in the shape of anti-war song 19. Still, the 27-year-old was completely floored when his manager asked if he wanted to work with Phil Lynott.

“I was like, ‘Phil Lynott? Christ!’” says Hardcastle. “This was a guy whose records I used to play when I was at school. He was a hero of mine – I couldn’t work out why he’d want to work with me.”

Lynott had written a solo single, coincidentally titled Nineteen, and wanted to shake things up. “He said to me, ‘I wanna take this is in a different direction. You’re at the top of your game technically right now, so you can help me?’”
says Hardcastle now.

The single was recorded at Camden’s Roundhouse Studios in September 1985, where Lynott set off the studio alarms after revving up a real-life motorcycle to sample on the track. Hardcastle himself supplied the slap-funk bassline, played on Lynott’s famous chrome-plated Fender. “He walked in on me playing it and I though, ‘Shit!’” says Hardcastle. “But he said, ‘That’s fokken great, we’re keeping that on there.’”

While they were working together, their conversations got quite personal. “His one real, massive regret was breaking up with his wife. It was very sad to hear this big guy talk about that,” Hardcastle says. “We also had a proper chat about drugs. He said, ‘Stay away from all that – I wish I’d never seen it.’”

Hardcastle mixed the Nineteen single himself during a two-day session, and Lynott turned up at one in the morning. “He arrived with two leather-clad women and said: ‘Just passin’ through, thought I’d have a listen.’”

A month later, Lynott’s label, Polydor, set up a promo shoot at Phil’s house in Richmond. Hardcastle noticed a jukebox in the hallway, a 1960s Rock-Ola Princess Deluxe. “I said, ‘That’s lovely-looking,’” he tells us. “I didn’t think any more of it.”

Two days later, there was a knock at Hardcastle’s door. Two burly biker types were standing outside with a “present for Paul”. It was Lynott’s jukebox, with a note attached: “Enjoy your jukebox, from your brother Phil.” There was also a note for Hardcastle’s new wife, Delores, along with some flowers: “Sorry for keeping your husband out so late.”

The men lugged the jukebox into Hardcastle’s house. The selection of records was a standard pub hotchpotch – Andy Williams, Barry White. It was also incredibly heavy, which could have had something to do with the fact that it was filled with Irish ten pence pieces – every time you played it, you had to stick a coin in. Hardcastle is unsure of its origins. “I’m saying nothing, but it could have been liberated from somewhere by fellas just like the ones who brought it to me,” he says.

This sturdy beast currently resides in Hardcastle’s studio, where it has been since 1987. These days it contains a stack of his own favourite seven-inch singles – the first one that randomly plays when he fires it up for Classic Rock is the O’Jays’ I Love Music – but it still holds such classics as Pink Floyd’s Money and Hocus Pocus by Focus.

The photo shoot in Richmond was the last time Hardcastle saw Lynott. Thirty years on, he still treasures their brief collaboration. “For all the success on my own, it doesn’t compare to when one of your heroes asks to work with you,” he says. “The jukebox has never been serviced, so perhaps thirty years on is my wake-up call to do so.”

Mark Stanway

Keysman and Phil go walkies.

“During our time together in Grand Slam, Phil and I would often go clothes shopping down the King’s Road in Chelsea. He was always such a cool dresser; everywhere he went he had to look fantastic. He was forever looking in shop windows to check his reflection was good. To me, that made him a total star. Phil always stood out a mile in just about any situation – he couldn’t go anywhere without being spotted and asked for an autograph. They would stop and point, and as long as it didn’t get too out of control, I think he quite liked it.

“We were looking in different shops when I heard that distinctive Irish drawl of his: ‘Ma-a-a-a-a-ark! Ma-a-a-a-a-ark!’ He was so insistent and animated, I wondered what the hell was going on. He was pointing across the road. ‘Ma-a-a-a-a-ark! It’s that dog woman.’ And there she was – Barbara Woodhouse, the TV dog trainer. He was so thrilled he’d seen someone off the telly, a fellow celebrity – it had really made his day.”

Smiley Bolger

DJ and friend of Phil.

“Philip had moved back to Dublin and was living in Glen Corr. His mother, Philomena – even though she had her own gaff up the hill in Sutton – would drop by uninvited and unannounced at any time of the day or night, fussing about, tidying up, dishing out advice and spinning yarns about this, that and God knows what, concerning Philip’s early years and subsequent rise to fame. Johnny Cool and his guests, however, would be up to other shenanigans and trying their utmost to conceal it from Her Majesty. When Philomena would get too overbearing, or Philip’s nerves and embarrassment level had reached breaking point, you would always hear him say – out loud – ‘Ah, ma, leave it out!’ I’m sure it would be pretty much the same to this day, if he was still around this old town.”

Jimmy Bain

Greedy Bastard looks back.

“The last time I saw Phil, we went to the pub together over the period of Christmas [1985] and had what turned out to be a very poignant discussion. At the time, we were still in our thirties and neither of us could quite believe that we were still doing rock’n’roll. When you start out you kind of assume that it’ll all end in your twenties. So we had this long conversation about how fortunate we were, and how the two of us were still working on our musicianship, trying to get better. And then just a week or two later he was gone.

“I was in the States playing a concert when I heard he’d died. It hurt me really deeply. Phil was such an important part of the worldwide music scene, but it was so hard for him to shake off his reputation as a party animal. I think that tarnished him to the very end, despite the fact that he wrote such great, simple songs that people could always relate to. He was a poet as well as a musician.

“To this day, barely a day goes by when I don’t think about Phil. I’ve no doubt that had he not died then he’d still be playing music. It was in his blood.”