Truly, there's nobody like Philip Chevron
A measure of the man's greatness is that he has been largely ignored by Official Ireland, writes Declan Lynch
ONE of the organisers of the Testimonial concert for Philip Chevron at the Olympia Theatre on the 24th of this month told me recently that it hadn't turned out quite as they had imagined.
Having assumed, in the way of these things, that about half the musicians on their wish-list would have other plans, and that the arrangements could get complicated, it turned out that almost everyone said "yes" immediately.
Indeed Christy Moore, who has included Chevron's Faithful Departed in his repertoire for many years, and who really couldn't make it on the night, went and organised a testimonial of his own with a gig in Whelan's.
Now the main logistical issue is just finding the right order in which to bring on Horslips, Shane MacGowan, Paul Cleary, Paul Brady, Declan O'Rourke, Johnny Duhan, Damian Dempsey, Mary Coughlan, Duke Special with Fiona Shaw, Luka Bloom, Terry Woods, Hot House Flowers, Camille O'Sullivan and the Radiators with whom Chevron started, changing the course of rock 'n' roll at his first attempt.
Fans such as Joseph O'Connor, Roddy Doyle, Patrick McCabe and Aidan Gillen will say a few words. Chevron himself aims to make a contribution on the night. His recent announcement that he has inoperable cancer has triggered this response from Phil's friends and admirers, who have known for a long time that there is nobody like him.
There's nobody like him ... usually those words would just make a pleasant noise, but in this case they have a precise meaning.
Philip Ryan of Santry became Philip Chevron of the Radiators from Space, the same Chevron who, still a youth, would work with Agnes Bernelle on the music of Brecht and Weill, who would help to create the Radiators' second album Ghostown, a work of such originality and accomplishment it left The Pogues in no doubt that, when a vacancy arose for a guitar player, in Chevron they were recruiting a man of some importance.
They were also getting his song Thousands Are Sailing, another that has entered the canon, but above all they were getting a man of tremendous grace and style and good-heartedness, the sort that every band needs because he is the only one who is liked by all the rest of them, all the time.
I have known Phil since around 1980, when to me he was already an Irish rock