Larry Gogan has left his mark on all of us
FOR all those who were wishing him well on his retirement from 2FM, there were only happy memories of Larry Gogan. For me it was not so simple.
Because when I think of Larry, like any other sensible person, I think of him as one of the most important cultural figures of the last 50 years in this country — but I also think of the only interview that I’ve ever done, from which I emerged with a physical wound.
It was for this paper, that I set out from my home in Dun Laoghaire on a summer evening towards the end of the last century, to talk to Larry in some pub in Terenure or maybe Templeogue — we did a lot of interviews in pubs back then. In truth, we also wrote up some of those interviews in pubs... we did a lot of things in pubs.
Ah, what could be more pleasant indeed, than to be walking down to the Dart in Dun Laoghaire, contemplating the prospect of a meeting one of the most famously pleasant individuals in the show business? A man who, whenever I had mentioned him in the paper, had taken the trouble to send me a personally inscribed thankyou note?
Nothing could be more pleasant than that, nothing.
And then a dog bit me. In the midst of this reverie, a mad little dog ran out of the gate of this house, and just bit me on the back of the leg. My left leg.
He wasn’t just pretending to bite me, as dogs sometimes do, I could feel this stab of pain. And I can still see the look of consternation on the face of his owner, an elderly man coming out of the house who seemed very angry about what had happened — angry towards me, of course.
But I did not have time to absorb the full implications of the incident, to “process” it, I had a Dart to catch, and Larry Gogan was waiting. Nor could I rightly savour the oddness of the fact that in the books of Roddy Doyle, the family dog of the Rabbitte family is called Larrygogan.
It was only on the Dart, that I realised the extent of the damage — there was essentially a hole in the back of my left leg, and it was bleeding. The little bugger had also torn my trousers. When I got off the train, I must have found some tissue paper to clean up the blood, and I must have got it from a pub — what else was there?
You will note that at no stage did I contemplate turning around and going home and organising an immediate tetanus injection — I had better things to be doing, I could not leave Larry Gogan waiting. I was just worried that he might regard it as disrespectful that I was showing up with the leg of my trousers torn, and blood pouring from a fresh wound.
So I made it to the pub in Terenure or maybe Templeogue, and Larry was of course prepared to abandon the whole thing and to give me a tetanus injection himself if he could possibly manage it, but I felt that a few beers and a while listening to the voice of Mr Larry Gogan would probably get me through the night.
Clearly it worked, up to a point, though to this day I still have a mark on the back of my left leg — the Mark of Larry Gogan, a permanent reminder of the greatness of his contribution. You see, there was his Top 20 show on RTE Radio which of necessity would have some Irish records in it, but which also brought us the sounds of other records which were obviously better than that.
Indeed I have often wondered where old Ireland would be now, were it not for men such as Larry and Gay Byrne who were so comfortable with cultures other than “our own” — Ciaran Mac Mathuna was wonderful, but there was a school of thought which argued that we should be listening to “our own” stuff all the time, whereas Larry in the most unassuming way would play a record by David Bowie and in an instant, that would become “our own” too.
And eventually when Irish music got a lot better, Larry would reverse the process, always ready to slip in a track by a “young Dublin band” looking for a break against the music of the multinational corporations which was dominating the rigidly defined playlist.
None of these things were automatically ordained, it was just convenient that the good music was being played by someone who was quite evidently the nicest man in the business — indeed, you felt that at some level Larry was aware that he had to be extra nice to be allowed to do what he was doing, that he was never entirely sure that he wouldn’t get a tap on the shoulder one day by someone with a name that sounded like Fearfeasa O Maolchonaire, told it had all been a terrible mistake and that it was time for Larry to return to selling bullseyes.
Indeed, it is probably significant that Larry’s people used to run sweetshops, making the lives of young people just a bit brighter — at times making all the difference.
‘I was worried he’d find it disrespectful that I had blood pouring from a fresh wound...’