Róisín Ingle: What happened when I asked Johnny Logan about Dickie Rock?

Johnny Logan was probably the first person I fancied. The year was 1980. I was eight

Johnny Logan: in 1980, all over the country, many girls and young women (and of course boys and young men, but we didn’t talk about that in those days) were having ‘feelings’ for him. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

Johnny Logan: in 1980, all over the country, many girls and young women (and of course boys and young men, but we didn’t talk about that in those days) were having ‘feelings’ for him. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

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The other week I wrote what I thought was a funny column about a brief encounter with Matt Damon at an A-Lister’s party, one I wasn’t supposed to be at. My mother, Ann, was not amused.

“People only want to read about the lockdown experience these days, so I wouldn’t try that again,” said Ann with the brutal honesty that can only be delivered by the person who carried you for nine months, no charge.

I took her advice. Or followed her orders, depending on how you look at these things. It’s been Lockdown Central in these parts ever since, full-on coronavirus-column content.

But readers, can I please talk about what happened when I interviewed Johnny Logan? I mean, it’s sort of lockdown-related in that I interviewed him during the pandemic, and, anyway, I am bursting to tell you. And, with incredible serendipity, today, May 13th, just happens to be Johnny Logan’s 66th birthday.

So with fake apologies to my mother, here goes.

The heady combination of gorgeous looks, beautiful voice and European domination catapulted Johnny Logan into many of our hearts, where a little part of him has stayed ever since

Johnny Logan (fans will know his real name is Sean Sherrard) was probably the first person I ever fancied. The year was 1980. I was eight. Johnny Logan was wearing a white suit, and I was allowed to stay up late to watch him sing and win the Eurovision Song Contest with Shay Healy’s composition – one of the greatest Irish songs ever written – What’s Another Year.

All over the country many other girls and young women (and of course boys and young men, but we didn’t talk about that in those days) were having “feelings” for Johnny. The heady combination of gorgeous looks, beautiful voice and European domination catapulted him into many of our hearts, where a little part of him has stayed ever since.

A few years ago I was at a charity women’s lunch in a posh Dublin hotel, and Johnny Logan was the entertainment. My inner eight-year-old and my actual fortysomething self, who’d had a fair few wines by that stage, was ecstatic.

It was brilliant. He did What’s Another Year, Hold Me Now and, I think, Terminal 3. There were issues with the sound, and he kept berating the technician between songs, an amusing sideshow that only made it more “real”.

I floated home, delighted that I’d got so close to a legend of my childhood.

Then, last month, I was asked to try to get an interview with Johnny Logan. I didn’t hold out much hope, because he has a notoriously bad relationship with the Irish press. I emailed his press contact, Tanja Surmann, in Germany, where he was mostly based before the pandemic, and she came back and said, yes, Johnny Logan would be happy to talk to me from his lockdown abode in Ashbourne, Co Meath.

So a few days later I was sitting on my bed talking to actual Johnny Logan by video call. Along with all the usual stuff, there was something personal I wanted to ask. Some cynical people joke about it, but Johnny Logan is “big” in Europe, making a lucrative living doing festivals and sell-out tours, and that’s why he’s mostly based away from Ireland.

This got me thinking about a  podcast interview I had done with showband star Dickie Rock in whichhe talked to me about how his showbiz life had affected his marriage. Dickie admitted he’d been unfaithful but said that his wife, Judy, had forgiven him.

I wanted to ask Logan about how his constant travelling and music career had affected his own marriage. When I mentioned Dickie Rock’s name, it set Logan off on a bewildering anti-Dickie Rock rant, the gist of which was that Rock was not a proper international star, unlike Logan. I eventually brought the conversation around to my real question, about Logan’s marriage, and Johnny Logan told me it was “none of your business”. I nearly died.

I read his email between my fingers. I was convinced Johnny Logan hated me. That he was writing to tell me exactly how much. My eight-year-old self was dying with mortification

I got the interview back on track, but when I finished the call I went downstairs and told my daughters what had happened. They were not happy and gave out to me for my “very nosy” line of questioning while I tried to explain that being “very nosy” was actually part of my job description.

Despite their reservations I included the rant in the article.

A couple of days after it was published, a friend WhatsApped me the cover of the Irish Sun. In a move cleverly designed to increase the gaiety of a pandemically challenged nation, the newspaper had Photoshopped Dickie Rock’s head on to the very well-built body of a boxer.

The headline screamed: “Dickie: ‘I’ll box Johnny Logan’s head off’”. Then, on Morning Ireland’s What It Says in the Papers, a reporter said “Johnny Logan vs Dickie Rock is the only sport we’ve left.”

And then Dickie “Spit on Me” Rock was trending number one on Twitter. As was Logan.

And then, oh then, readers, into my inbox popped an email from Logan himself, forwarded by Tanja in Germany. I read it between my fingers, one hand over my eyes. I was convinced Johnny Logan hated me. That he was writing to tell me exactly how much.

My eight-year-old self was dying with mortification.

The email read:

Please say thank you to Róisín.
It was a very well written honest article. I hope she was happy with the interview
A long and successful career to her and stay healthy.
Seán
Johnny Logan

Logan has since said sorry to Rock, who accepted the apology after the matter was discussed forensically on Liveline on Monday.

So, happy birthday, Johnny Logan!

And sorry, Mum. (Not sorry).

roisin@irishtimes.com