Wryly observant journalist and musician
Alan Richie Taylor: July 4th, 1953 - August 3rd, 2014
Born in Raheny, Dublin, Alan Richie Taylor attended secondary school at St Fintan’s, Sutton. He went to University College Dublin to study archaeology but opted instead to make a career out of music. Photograph: Ronan Lang/Feature File
Alan Richie Taylor, who has died aged 61, unexpectedly after a short illness, was one of Ireland’s best-known music and entertainment news journalists. He was also a rarity in Irish music journalist circles – which he entered in the mid-1980s – in that he had previously established himself as a musician of some standing in a succession of critically acclaimed Irish rock bands in the 1970s and 1980s.
Born in Raheny, Dublin, Taylor attended secondary school at St Fintan’s, Sutton. He went to University College Dublin to study archaeology but opted instead to make a career out of music.
Bands of which he was a member of included the Great Saturday Night Swindle (whose sole, eponymous, album was released in 1977 by CBS Records), Rocky de Valera and the Gravediggers, the Rhythm Kings, the Flash Harrys and the Wilf Brothers.
It was with the Rhythm Kings that Taylor found relative success as a musician. With a series of well-received radio-friendly singles, an album (1983’s Setting Fire to my Heart), and a reputation for making walls in compact venues sweat, it was hoped the band would be as successful outside Ireland as it was at home but, as so often happens, their fiery live performances could not be replicated on record.
“Richie had a great knack for writing tight, lean country rock songs and was totally integral to the melodic development of the band’s original material,” said Mark Clinton, former bass player with the Rhythm Kings.
After the band split up in 1983, Taylor embarked on a career as a music journalist – initially with In Dublin magazine and then with the Sunday Press, where he was the paper’s main music critic until its closure in 1995.
His time with the Press saw Taylor at the height of his writing career, as he interviewed major rock and pop stars of the era in various locations around the world.
Widely read Highly respected for his opinion, and recognised as one of the most widely read music writers in Ireland, he was in his element in the Press, both as a feature writer and as a lover of music (Gram Parsons and Neil Young were particular favourites).
“Richie had an easygoing personality but he was not afraid to express strong opinions, and was always dogged in his defence of them,” said Frances O’Rourke, his features editor at the Sunday Press.
“He rarely talked about his life as a musician but we all respected his insider understanding of the music business. He was always professional and kind – a lovely guy and a pleasure to work with. He had a great sense of fun, too – he enjoyed a photograph pinned up behind the features desk of himself with Cliff Richard, which some wag had captioned: ‘Rich . . . Richer’.”
On the demise of the Press group in 1995, Taylor – noted for his gentlemanly nature, wry, subtle humour and acute disdain for the pomposities of rock stars – continued on a highly successful freelance career with numerous Irish newspapers, including the Irish Independent, the Herald, the Irish Sun and the Irish Mirror.
He co-authored (with Irish Times music critic Tony Clayton-Lea) Irish Rock: Where It’s Come From, Where It’s At, Where It’s Going (Sidgwick & Jackson, 1992), and in the same year co-compiled (also with Clayton-Lea) the double album A to Z Irish Rock (Solid Records).
He is survived by his widow, Sandra; three children, Christopher, Líadan and Fiachra; mother, Marion; and sister, Aishling.