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Glentoran superfan Sam Robinson and Thin Lizzy frontman Ricky Warwick reunite for new tune

Exclusive: Two NI men bonded over love of OVAL outfit

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ON SONG: Ricky Warwick on stage

ON SONG: Ricky Warwick on stage

ON SONG: Ricky Warwick on stage

A Belfast football fan who has published two books about the history of his favourite club has scored big time in a very different writing field, penning rock and roll songs.

Glentoran supporter Sam Robinson has teamed up with Newtownards-born Los Angeles-based rock musician Ricky Warwick to compose a song for his new album, a release which has another sporting connection, to the old Ards TT races.

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Ricky Warwick

Ricky Warwick

�Russell Pritchard / Presseye

Ricky Warwick

Sam's collaboration with Ricky has its roots in a shared passion for Glentoran which goes back 15 years and which has seen the pair co-write 30 songs together, some of which will be appearing on a forthcoming album.

It's a transatlantic partnership which is like that between Elton John and his lyricist Bernie Taupin, who writes the words of the songs while the millionaire musician puts them to music.

"Ricky and I have never sat in the same room working on a song," reveals Sam. "I come up with the lyrics in Northern Ireland and then I send them to Ricky in California and he sets about writing the music."

Sam and Ricky, who has fronted bands like The Almighty, the Black Star Riders and a reformed Thin Lizzy, are co-writers of the title track of Warwick's latest album When Life was Hard and Fast.

A new video to promote Sam and Ricky's song which has Def Leppard singer Joe Elliott on backing vocals, includes extensive archive footage from the old Ards TT motor races in Co Down which ran from 1928 until their suspension in 1936 when a tragic accident led to the deaths of eight spectators in Newtownards.

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HERE WE GO: Sam Robinson and Ricky Warwick en route to a Glentoran game. The pair have collaborated on some 30 songs

HERE WE GO: Sam Robinson and Ricky Warwick en route to a Glentoran game. The pair have collaborated on some 30 songs

HERE WE GO: Sam Robinson and Ricky Warwick en route to a Glentoran game. The pair have collaborated on some 30 songs

The album cover has a photograph of another crash on the 14-mile course which was made up of closed roads linking Dundonald, Newtownards and Comber.

The picture was taken in front of a field on a farm near the Old Mill at Dundonald belonging to Ricky's great great grandfather, a farm on which the singer - who went to school in Newtownards with Eddie Irvine - spent the first 14 years of his life.

Sam says he and Ricky (54) first met as they watched Glentoran at the Oval, adding: "Ricky is, like me, a Glens fanatic. And when he's home from Beverly Hills, he stands with me and about 10 other friends at the games. He's football mad and he's a huge Northern Ireland supporter too.

"However, after one Boxing Day derby game against Linfield was called off because of the weather we went for a few drinks and after I mentioned my love of writing, Ricky out of the blue asked me if I had ever thought of composing lyrics for songs.

"I told him the notion had never crossed my mind but Ricky encouraged me to put some ideas down on paper. And that was the start of it all.

"I was at Island Hill near Comber soon afterwards and thought about my late father who used to go there with me on cycle rides.

"Patsy Cline came on the radio singing Crazy a song which my dad and my mum used to like to play in the house on Saturday nights.

"I started to scribble words down on the back of an envelope and the upshot was a song called When Patsy Cline Was Crazy and Guy Mitchell Sang the Blues.

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Sam Robinson and Ricky Warwick

Sam Robinson and Ricky Warwick

Sam Robinson and Ricky Warwick

"I emailed the lyrics to Ricky and he liked them. For me it was like a dam opening. I was writing two songs a day and we ended up with a double album which went to number six. The whole thing went bonkers."

Ricky admits he felt an immediate connection with Sam's songs.

"It's often difficult to sing someone else's lyrics," he explains. "But it was different with Sam's songs because we had the same sort of upbringing in the same place."

One of the most popular songs that Ricky and Sam linked up on has a Glentoran theme.

Tank McCullough Saturdays tells the story of an era in Glentoran's history in the 60s and 70s when defender Billy McCullough, whose nickname was Tank, was the lynchpin of a legendary Oval team which won a raft of trophies and played in America one summer under the title of the Detroit Cougars.

Says Ricky: "I went to school with Billy's son Patrick and I remember thinking that was really cool. And the song recalls how we all lived for the Saturdays watching Glentoran. Indeed I still get chills thinking about that time even now."

Sam has no major musical background apart from playing a guitar for fun but he was a massive fan of Thin Lizzy and could hardly believe it when Ricky was invited to take the late Phil Lynott's place in the reincarnation of the band.

Adds Sam: "It was amazing for me because I was the wee boy at Grosvenor High School who used to save up my dinner money for three or four weeks to get into Terri Hooley's record shop to buy the new Lizzy record.

"And to go from that to sitting backstage with Ricky and the original members of Lizzy like Scott Gorham and Brian Downey at somewhere like Slane Castle in 2011 was nuts.

"Yet the Glens are still at the heart of everything. I remember Ricky and me racing back from a gig in Dublin to see the Glens playing in Newry.

"And on another occasion Ricky brought his larger-than-life American manager Ace Trump to a game at Dungannon Swifts on the coldest imaginable November afternoon.

"I also do tours of the Oval stadium and I've taken Ricky's colleagues from the Black Star Riders on one of them."

Ricky has also played a number of fundraising concerts and released a DVD for the Glentoran Community Trust and he keeps in touch with what's happening at the Oval on the internet.

The rocker has also taken delivery of Sam's new book One Saturday Before the War (left) which is about Glentoran's winning of the Vienna Cup in 1914 and which was a follow-up to another of his books There's a Green Sward called the Oval about the history of the club's home ground and games played there.

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