The greatest injustice in Irish Eurovision history?

All Kinds of Everything often credited to Phil Coulter - but Ballymun’s Derry Lindsay wrote it with colleague

 

Up until recently, Wikipedia had stated that the writer of All Kinds of Everything was Phil Coulter, and if you asked anyone who the writer of that song was, many people would give that same incorrect answer. (Coulter has, of course, written or cowritten several Eurovision entries, including 1967’s Puppet on a String, and 1968’s Congratulations).

Derry Lindsay, who cowrote All Kinds of Everything with fellow Dubliner Jackie Smith, remains sanguine about his fate, and as he sips from a too-milky latte in a Dublin city-centre cafe, he fails miserably to come across as an embittered songwriter time forgot.

“I’m not sure I had the skills, to be honest,” he says, when asked if he regretted just one of his songs penetrating the public consciousness. “Maybe the subsequent songs just weren’t good enough.”

The way Lindsay (now 74, but looking much younger) tells it, he was a “penniless compositor who transferred, for a while, to penniless songwriter”. He and his mates, influenced in the mid-1950s by the skiffle sounds of Britain’s Lonnie Donegan – and absorbing tales of musicians in his “weekly gospel”, the New Musical Express – racked up random gigs around his Ballymun turf. As the very candid Lindsay puts it now, “We were all useless. I was always a background guy. I could sing, but I knew I wasn’t going to be a star.”

Despite that, he longed to be a songwriter. By the mid-1960s, Lindsay had some moderate success with an original song, Turn out the Light, which was recorded by Dublin beat group The Creatures. Hopes were high for the song, but with lyrics deemed too risqué for radio (“Turn out the light dear, let’s see what you can do / You say all right dear, I’m gonna take my cue”), RTÉ banned it.

A disappointed Lindsay soldiered on. Pragmatic to the last (“I didn’t have any of the level of creativity that Lennon and McCartney had; I was in love with the music, I was a listener”), he knuckled down to work as a typesetter, and as the 1960s drew to a close he was happy to leave the musical memories in the past. However, a colleague, Jackie Smith, had previous form in the Irish music business as a member of the showband the Continentals. Together they concocted a plan to write something for the National Song Contest (devised by RTÉ producer Tom McGrath as a vehicle to select Ireland’s song entry for Eurovision).

Smith came up with the line “All kinds of everything remind me of you” in the typesetters’ caseroom at their place of work on Aston Place, Lindsay recalls. “I thought the phrase worked, and the cadence of the melody worked, so that was good.

“The big thing in the song for me was the lyrics. We weren’t getting anywhere, initially. It was like something out of Alice in Wonderland – “cabbages and kings”, that sort of nonsense. One Sunday, we went over to Jackie’s house, and I was sitting on their garden swing, a bit bored, and suddenly it clicked – ‘Things of the night, things of the day’, and so on. It took us several weeks to get it beyond that, but it was a job of enjoyment at that point. We worked at it most days.”

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Duly completed, All Kinds of Everything was delivered to RTÉ in December 1969. It joined about 500 other songs, a pile that was shaved down to 20 and then further pruned to the final eight that would compete with each other for the opportunity of representing Ireland at the 1970 Eurovision Song Contest.

The first Lindsay knew about his cowritten song being selected was when a letter from RTÉ popped through his letterbox. “It informed us that the song had been selected, asked us to keep our mouths shut about it and to present ourselves at Montrose.”

Lindsay and Smith were surprised to discover that the chosen singer for their song was a teenage girl, “because in the writing of it, Jackie and myself had sung it to ourselves so many times we had almost presumed it was going to be sung by Danny Doyle or one of the showband guys. So when Dana appeared on the scene, our jaws dropped. I had met her the summer before in Clontarf Castle, and her then manager, Tony Johnson, was introducing her around. He was a tough guy, awkward, and in Clontarf Castle Dana was singing rebel songs. She was technically good, but she was still at school.”

Teenager or not, Dana’s involvement wholly benefited the song, Lindsay says. And then along came Phil Coulter. His formidable presence in the Eurovision in the late 1960s had prompted him to be viewed as the man with the golden touch, and Lindsay acknowledges that Coulter’s orchestration of the song – as well as his organising of a UK-based arranger to write the eight-bar introduction – afforded it immediate recognition. “Because of that intro, everyone knows what the song is before we hear Dana.”

Coulter subsequently went on to sign the song’s publishing rights on a 50-50 split with Lindsay and Smith. “We knew a little about the business, and so we argued a bit about the 50-50 split, but went ahead with it regardless,” Lindsay says with a trace of regret. “To be honest, we didn’t think it would make a penny.”

Everything and nothing

The song made more than a penny, and All Kinds of Everything also began Ireland’s record-breaking run of Eurovision wins. For Lindsay, however, it effectively marked the end of his songwriting career. “Jackie and I worked on songs after, but we didn’t do anything decent. The chemistry, ultimately, wasn’t there. I went on to be promoted at work, and I suppose I just didn’t have the mental interest for creative things after that.”

Retrospectively, Lindsay says, he endured periods of not being sure about the quality or worth of All Kinds of Everything. “It went out of fashion a few times, I suppose, and it’s probably out of fashion now. It’s good enough if you don’t hear it too often.”

Regrets? A few to mention, for sure, but what about royalties? Not anywhere near enough to retire on, even back in the song’s radio-friendly heyday. “At one stage, it was turning around £4,000 a year,” Lindsay smiles, “but that’s dropped to about €2,000-€2,500 now. It still pays a few bills and it’s tax-free.”

And if the muse should ever strike again, and he wrote another song that he thought had a chance – what does he think he would do?

“Contact my solicitor!”

  • The Eurovision Song contest semi-finals take place tomorrow and May Thursday. The final is on Saturday

LINDSAY’S EURO VERDICT: BEST AND WORST IRISH SONGS

Three best Irish Eurovision songs . . .

  • Red Hurley When (1976): “I love ballads and this was a great one – a little underwritten and arranged, if one was to be critical, but Red had a lovely, melodic voice. I was very disappointed the songwriter, Brendan Graham, did not win with this, which in my opinion is streets ahead of his song Rock’n’Roll Kids.”
  • The Swarbriggs It’s Nice to Be in Love Again (1977): “In its era, this was modern, melodic and the right sort of song entry. I was disappointed it did not win. Any time this is played on the radio, it’s always worth a listen.”
  • Johnny Logan What’s Another Year (1980): “A lovely song. Johnny looked and sounded great, and it was a worthy winner. That said, I felt Johnny lacked a little stage personality, which despite his good looks and powerful voice, limited his appeal.”

And the worst . . .

  • Jedward Lipstick (2011): “This was another effort at using a gimmick – in this case a visual singing and dancing pantomime act with stupid hairdos who could not sing any better than average party singers. RTÉ seemed to think the Louis Walsh-orchestrated teenybopper craze for them might be repeated in the contest, but everyone I know with any interest was nearly (but not quite) as embarrassed by this lot as they were with Dustin.”
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