I started working as a photographer in the spring of 1968. So, I suddenly went from being a penniless ex-student to being plunged into a glamourous world of models, musicians, actors, and advertising and fashion folk – and getting paid quite well for it. Of course I loved it.
Dublin being a relatively small city in those days, there was a lot of mingling between people who worked in various branches of the media and the arts.
That’s how I met the husband and wife musical duo: Terry and Gay Woods. Terry had been in a group called Sweeney’s Men, who are generally credited with kick-starting the whole folk-rock genre in the late 1960’s. The other two guys in that group at the time were Henry McCullough (later with Joe Cocker’s Grease Band, and Paul McCartney’s Wings) and Andy Irvine (later with the now-legendary Planxty). Terry and Gay would play many gigs as just a duo, and later formed The Woods Band. Terry joined The Pogues and has been with them on and off ever since. Gay later formed her own band, Auto-da-Fé, and has been a major influence on generations of Irish women singers like Sinéad O’Connor, who has said of Gay’s music: “I wanted to have a brilliant voice like that – that gave out this amazing almost spirituality …”
Terry and Gay had recently left Steeleye Span, an Anglo-Irish folk-rock band, just after they recorded their first album. They seemed to be leading a more glamourous and exciting life than me. We became good friends, and when they mooted going back to the UK to pursue their careers, they suggested I go with them.
In the summer of 1970, I invited them to my parents’ 25th wedding anniversary party at my family home. At one stage I was helping my Mum in the kitchen and she said, “That friend of yours, Terry, is a very strange young man”. “What’s he done now?” I asked. Mum said “Well, I asked him if was enjoying the food, and he said ‘Mrs Murphy, this ham is really something else’ and I said ‘No, it really is ham’, and he just laughed. What’s the matter with him?” I had to explain to Mum that ‘something else’ was a hipster term for ‘truly excellent’.
Later, Gay sang a beautiful solo song for my parents, which blew everyone away.
So Terry and Gay headed back to London, and I followed shortly after, and joined them at Henry McCullough’s house in Kent where we stayed for a few weeks. We then moved into a house near West Ham’s stadium, where the ‘clientele’ included Frank Murray, later to be manager of Thin Lizzy and The Pogues, and the legendary guitarist Gary Moore. A lot of laughter in that house …
We later rented a small house together in deepest Essex. To this day I cannot remember how or why we ended up there. They started to get gigs as a duo, as they were very highly thought of on the English folk music circuit. I used to drive them to and from their gigs, and I always loved hearing their world-class music. It was magical.
They had known each other since childhood; they’d been teenage sweethearts and then married, so there seemed to be an invisible join between them. Not that there weren’t arguments. I often sat in on their rehearsals, and if they disagreed on something, or one of them couldn’t get a part right, they would start behaving like naughty 6-year olds, pushing and shoving, calling each other really childish names – like “you big smell!”. It was all I could do not to crack up laughing – or they would both have rounded on me!
Through them I met other music business people, including musicians, PR people, management and so on. One of these was BP Fallon who was a DJ and publicist, mainly for bands like King Crimson, Emerson Lake and Palmer, Roxy Music, and T-Rex. And it was BP who got me my first ‘gigs’ in the industry, photographing those bands I just mentioned. He then introduced me to Sounds magazine … and that’s how the whole thing started.