First Encounters: Barry Devlin and Jim Lockhart
‘We both know where the bodies are buried’
Horslips members and old friends Jim Lockhart (left) and Barry Devlin. Photograph: Eric Luke
Jim Lockhart is a musician, radio and TV producer and a member of Celtic rock band Horslips. Formed in the 1970s, Horslips disbanded in 1980 and came together again in 2009 to play live; it now plays a handful of dates each year. From Dublin, he lives in Rathgar with his wife Frances and family
Barry and I met in Cumann Drámaíochta in UCD. I was knocking out the chords to a Beatles song backstage one day with another northern guy, Mick Friel. My dad was from the North so I had a sort of affinity with Northerners. Barry was a Beatles fanatic and joined in. Before too long we were hanging out together, hatching schemes.
We were both already playing music a bit with friends. As well as the pop and rock stuff we were all listening to, he had a store of traditional songs from around Lough Neagh. I was into traditional songs – that was a hugely influential thing in my growing up.
We had a lot of common ground: I was an only child, he was the only boy in a whole bunch of girls. We had both grown up as earnest, bookish kids and we had read and been influenced by a lot of the same stuff. He was an Eagle comic fan, we’d both had Arthur Mee’s Children’s Encyclopaedia. I’d been an altar boy for years, we shared that whole language as well, we’d occasionally crack jokes in Latin.
We grew up listening to Radio Luxembourg under the covers, so we were very into pop and rock’n’roll. We had an interesting relationship: I was a daft hippy and Barry was a good deal more sensible: he’d temper my extremist attitudes and I’d temper his level-headedness. He had a huge influence on me and we slotted into a wider partnership in the band. We became a band of brothers and we had great fun.
Devlin is an extraordinarily good songwriter, an incredibly hard worker whereas I’m pretty lazy. If it hadn’t been for his drive and vision the band would absolutely not have got off the ground and definitely wouldn’t have stayed together or done a fraction of what we did which was 12 albums in 10 years. We had a ball for 10 years on the road and signs on, since we got back together it’s been brilliant. Devlin and I went back to scriptwriting and TV work after the band split; we’re a good combination, worked well together and still do.
He’s very multi-layered: he presents a flippant jokey face to the world but he’s pretty deep. He’s my best mate and has been for a long time. I had a heart attack a couple of years ago, I’m lucky to be vertical. He was the first person I rang.
Barry’s an incredibly good person: there are things that make him cranky but the right things, the things that should make you cranky.
We both know where the bodies are buried so we can be pretty much open with each other and we are. I can tell him stuff I wouldn’t be able to tell anyone else.
Barry Devlin is a musician, screenwriter and director and a member of Horslips. He produced a number of U2 videos in the 1980s and writes scripts for TV and film. Originally from Ardboe, Co Tyrone, he lives in Dalkey with his wife, Caroline Erskine, and family
I met Jim in UCD. He was part of Students for Democratic Action, had a goatee, a mangy fur coat and runners and was exactly the sort of creature I dreaded and admired at the same time. I was a seminarian; we used to change our gear in a locker room and Jim was sent down to harangue the seminarians about revolutionary consciousness.
I was kind of on the way out [of the seminary], I had had my crisis of faith. I came back to UCD to do my MA, Jim was in his last undergraduate year and we were in Cumann Drámaíochta together. He was its star and I was the stagehand. I got to know him and became a really good friend.
Then I went into advertising, joined Arks agency pretty much the same day as [future Horslips members] Eamon Carr and Charles O’Connor. Arks was asked to do an ad for Harp lager: the director asked, can you play musical instruments? We said yes, but needed a keyboard player. I said there’s this guy, he’ll be on Stephen’s Green; I ran from Harcourt Street and there, crossing the Green, was Jim. We had a great day’s fun, miming together: we wore cravats and hunting jackets with lace at the cuffs, there were girls and drink. One of the extras was Paul McGuinness.
We decided we wanted to be a real prog rock band; we were university and art college students and that’s what they did in 1970. They tended to fuse classical or outside elements with rock ‘n’ roll; we decided to fuse it with trad. We were cordially loathed by people from the trad tradition and many still haven’t forgiven us.
Horslips were on the road for 10 years, started off brilliantly and then struggled, a reverse of the usual process. It was lovely to be in a band, it was only on our last album that we had a musical falling out – every band in the world did, because punk had come.
We all remained friends but Jim remained my good buddy: we’d both got married, our kids are the same age; we’d have BBQs, do all the stuff that you do. He’d started to work in RTÉ and I did a bunch of stuff in RTÉ too. We collaborated on advertising jingles, did the music for Glenroe, had a lot of fun. I’d produced a bunch of demos for U2 in 1978. The first demo wasn’t very good, partly because Larry’s dad arrived in at 1 am and took him home.
I would define Jim as my best friend. If I needed serious advice or comforting, he’d be the first I’d ring and he’d be the first person on to me if there was something up. I think this is the test – we ring each other up for no reason, just to laugh.
Horslips will play at the Sligo Live 2014 festival on Saturday, October 25th, sligolive.ie