Well, Neil's appearance at Trinity College was very successful last night-
There's a reason I'm smiling like a fool- although you can't see it, Neil's arm is around my waist.
Here follows the handful of photos I got and an account of what happened, for those interested...
The talk was scheduled to start at 7.30 and Neil and John Kelly arrived at ten to. John Kelly, an Irish radio and TV host, was interviewing Neil. It was great because they're friends, so listening to them talk was like listening to a normal conversation.
There were two fancy chairs set up in the hall, as you can see in the photo. The bigger chair was meant to be for Neil, but he looked at them and said- "The smaller chair is mine." He sat down and then his bottle of wine had to be moved to the other side of the table.
He was introduced and then he stood up, paper in hand and said he was going to give a speech. It was wonderful. It was about music and writing music. He started by saying how Joby Talbot didn't like being called a musical genius, as he felt it undermined the hard work that went into song writing. Neil though said- "If anyone ever wanted to bestow that title upon me, I think I could find it in myself to humbly accept it." He talked about how he had done many things, such as reviewing books or films and giving talks to colleges like this- he said -"I like giving speeches. It's a chance for me to talk without having someone say "Shut up and just play another bloody song! Also, a speech means there is less time for questions. Especially the stupid questions. Once I was acked "Was that really you on the LUAS last Friday, or was my sister making it up?" I am in fact, an actual human being and sometimes I need to go to the shop."
He then compared what he did as a musician to an architect, Gill. He said he wasn't the type of person who songs come to him, fully formed. He has to sit down and "muck around on the piano everyday, until something happends and you realise one chord change to another is good and to keep it."
He continued- "The creative process for me is religious in itself. When I write a song, I don't know what part of me is writing it- whether it be my brain, my body, or dare I say it, my soul. Whatever it is, song writing is like a piece of sculpture in Gill's studio that has to be chipped away at and the lyric honed and orchestration added, until it is finished, whether is be "A Lady of a Certain Age" or "My Lovely Horse." Thank you."
Neil sat down and John Kelly started to interview him. I swear, we were all laughing from start to finish.
John and Neil are both from Ennisskillen, so that's where the conversation started- Neil's childhood. He talked about growing up in the North, feeling different to his class mates because he lived beside a church-
"My bedroom was right beside the bells. I had to get used to that, them ringing every fifteen minutes..."
and obviously his dad being a rector at the time and the fact that he didn't have a strong Northern accent-
"I've never had a strong Northern accent. I went to boarding school, so did my parents and my grandparents."
John talked to Neil about the school he went to, a famous school, the same that Oscar Wilde and Samuel Beckett went to.
John: "Did that have any effect on you? I mean, were you aware of it?"
Neil: "Well, not really. Beckett was just too difficult and Oscar had only just been written back into the school prize giving list, you know, because that kind of thing was frowned upon for so long... my headmaster, good on him, wrote Oscar back in. Although, we all had other ideas why he liked Oscar so much..."
John: "I thought that Oscar Wilde's florid prose would have appealed to you..."
Neil: "Well, I didn't make the most of it...I did wear a few floral shirts towards the end of my school career..."
Then John asked Neil about music and how that all started to happen.
Neil: "At thirteen, I was listening to U2, REM, Pixies, My Bloody Valentine...all indie- schmindy."
John: "I see though, you're wearing an ELO badge..."
Neil: *shows of his badge* "Yes, I am...by the way, if no one recgnises the band names we're throwing about, shout out!"
One girl did and a discussion of ELO followed, with Neil calling them a great but flawed band.
John asked Neil about the first band he was in.
"Oh, we played covers mainly. Sting. We did a lot of Sting."
The whole audience collapses laughing at the idea of Neil singing Sting.
John goes on to talk about Neil being signed to a label, not going to college and making his first album.
John: "Fanfare for the Comic Muse."
Neil: "Yes. We were still very much an indie-schmindy band at that point. There aren't many copies of it around. Don't buy it."
John: "I have a copy of it. Is it worth money?"
Neil: *gestures at audience* "Any bidders? I have a copy of it, I'll sell it!"
John then asked- "How did you make the jump from that to what your style is now? I mean, you grew up in Northern Ireland on indie music and yet you sounded as if you lived in Paris all your life and had slept with Jane Birkin. How did that happen?"
Neil: "Oh come on, she's twice my age. I've written a song for her and yet, I still haven't slept with her...basically, if you listen to enough Scott Walker and Michael Nyman, read enough E.M Forster and watch enough French films, you end up making Promenade and Liberation."
He also talked about his love of French films- "At the time, I was watching lots of French movies...anything that was longer than three hours, I was interested in. I had a much longer attention span back then."
John talked to Neil about fame and being a popstar and then threw it open to the floor for questions- which were classic.
"Do you have a favourite part of what you do? Do you prefer the studio or playing live?"
Neil: "I love it all. I can't understand people who say they're retiring from the stage- I just go, "Why?". I love song writing too. That's my career and my hobby. I'm a lucky man."
"Do you have any regrets about Father Ted?"
Neil: "Regrets? FUCK OFF!!!!" We all cheer and laugh. "That was the single greatest piece of luck to ever come my way."
They then asked him how long it took him to write the theme tune.
Neil: "Well, I was recording Casanova at the time and I just went, "That'll do" and put it aside, so I spent no time on it actually..."
"Is there any song that ever caused friction with your dad? Such as "Don't Look Down" or "Eye of the Needle."?"
Neil: "No. My dad loves Don't Look Down, he thinks it's hilarious. No, there's nothing he doesn't like. As for "Eye of the Needle"...I don't think he's ever actually listened to "Regeneration." There were things my mum didn't like though...I gave her a copy of Casanove when it came out. She brought it with her in the car and she and dad parked at the back of the church, the windows down and the music turned up lous, so she could hear the lyrics. But the longer the CD went on, the volume went down and the car windows went up..."It's very blue." she said to me. BLue??" Neil shrugs his shoulders. "No, the only thing that she didn't like was me posing naked for Cosmopolitan."
Neil: "I posed naked for Cosmopolitan."
John: "I missed that."
Neil: "Where were you?"
John: *looking at Neil in utter disbelief*
Neil: "It was the centrefold and it was tastefully done. It was like the cover of a Prince album, you know..."
John: "Are we talking about the same Cosmopolitan????"
Neil: "yes, Cosmo. They do a pull out section of naked men every month and well, I was desperate to get into the magazines and would do anything..."
John: *eyes continuing to widen. The audience is in stitches.*
Neil: "I had to shave my legs...it's ok, it grew back." *he starts to pull up his trousers. John is still stunned.*
"I also had long hair and a beard so, I looked like Jesus. I think my mum was only upset because I didn't tell her and she had to find out from other housewives..."
John: "Please tell me we have this on the slide here..."
They took more questions and as John said- "does anyone want to try and top that???"
I asked a question. I was sitting in the front row. Nervous.
"Do you think the move from London to Dublin affected your songwriting?"
Neil: "No. "
Me: "I mean, are you the kind of person who is affected by their surroundings?"
Neil: "Well, Im very happy in my space now, so I think it has only affected the quantity, I write more, but I don't think that it has affected the content."
"Why is there so much horse imagery in your songs?"
Neil: "There is???"
The girl then goes on to list all the different songs that mention horse, ponies and stables. We are laughing so hard and Neil is laughing so hard that he is doubled over.
"I don't know. My mum keeps horses. I see them all the time. I like them."
John: "Are there any psychology students here?"
Neil: "I like dogs too. I'm a doggie person. I like cats. But I'm allergic to them."
"Why did you use that clip in To Die A Virgin?"
Neil: "It's just mu sense of humour. also, i keep not getting sued by people for using things. I haven't paid for any of the samples I've used."
"What do you love about Paris so much?" asked a girl who had a thick German accent.
"Well, its architecture. and it was great that it didn't get bombed."
They wrapped things up then. We appluaded and Neil stood up. I got up, hoping to go over to him. A woman beside me, got ahead of me though and hugged Neil.
"You stole my idea!!" I exclaimed. I was disappointed. I didn't expect competition from others!!
But Neil came over- "Hugs for all!!!" he said and hugged me. I was ecstatic.
"Would you mind if I got a photo with you?"
Neil: "of course not, but could we do it outside, I'm dying for a cigarette>."
Me: "Hey, that'll improve the picture."
We go outside. Neil is accosteed by others, including someone giving him a bunch of flowers. Why didn't I think of that???
I talked to John Kelly for a bit and then went over to Neil.
I posed for the photo with him. My friend took the picture and while she was taking Neil had his hand firmly on my waist and I kept thinking- the night just couldn't get any better. I had my hand resting on the small of his back. He is sooo small and charming and lovely. I was star struck. I tried to get out a few words.
"I think you're a great song writer. My favourite song is Charmed Life."
"Also, you turned me into a Scott Walker fan, thanks. "
He smiles. "If I only do one thing in this life..." Then he was accosted by other fans, all female. One even gave him a note. "Will I read this now or...?"
So, all in all, what a night.
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