It has to go down as one of the great comedic moments on Irish television: a brilliant acapella rendition of a 25-year-old hit single, led by a psychopath in a vest, whose knife doubles as a microphone and a conductor’s baton.
Billy Murphy, lovable headbanger from the hit TV series The Young Offenders, has single-handedly brought ‘After All’ to number one on one of the iTunes charts, generating extensive airplay along the way, in an age when digital downloads are two a penny and competition for the top spot has never been as fierce.
The performance of ‘After All’ by Billy and his co-stars — after he hijacked a bus by default — and the subsequent surge in downloads, is proof, says the song’s composer, Paul Linehan, of the enduring power of music: “The great thing about it is, it can still have legs 25 years later.”
The Frank and Walters, Paul’s band, were riding high 25 years ago, when they appeared on the world’s most prestigious chart show, Top of the Pops, in January 1993.
‘After All’, about a previous girlfriend of Paul’s, was charting at number 14. Whitney Houston was at number one, with ‘I Will
Always Love you’.
“It was a great occasion — a career high. When I was a young fella, I always wanted to be on Top of the Pops. It was a huge deal. The show was on on a Thursday night, and I remember crashing my bike on the way home one evening, I was in such a hurry to see it,” Paul says.
Dan Linehan, Irish Examiner photographer (no relation), was assigned to cover the Frank and Walters’ Top of the Pops appearance, which was front-page news at the time.
“It was my first trip away from the office and the Frank and Walters were huge, they were really out there in terms of indie rock. I was delighted to be covering it, but when we arrived at the BBC’s Elstree Studio, we were told ‘no cameras allowed’.”
“I had to get a picture so I had a camera hidden under my coat. I was sweating like a pig while everyone else was dancing around. It wasn’t very rock’n’roll.”
Dan tried to take pictures of the band on stage with the camera lens poking through his jacket, but he wasn’t convinced he’d done enough for a page-one.
As luck would have it, on the way out of rehearsals, they came upon the iconic EastEnders set.
“I said ‘Lads, everyone knows Albert Square’ and I got them to pose by the red post box.”
Security arrived to escort them off the set, but Dan had his page-one picture.
The highlight for the Frank and Walters was performing on Top of the Pops the same night as Paul McCartney, whose dressing room was directly across from theirs.
Not everyone can boast of sharing a stage with a Beatle and even fewer can boast of being ahead of a Beatle in the charts.
“I remember he was number 30 at the time with ‘Hope of Deliverance’ and we were number 14.”
The band got to meet Paul and his then-wife Linda, and his daughters, including fashion designer, Stella.
“I remember Linda trying to convert us to vegetarianism. She said ‘Do you know an animal died so that you can eat burgers?’
“We said: ‘Do you know an animal died so that you could wear those leather shoes?’
“We had great craic with them.”
Niall, Paul’s brother, and former band member, remembers telling Linda his mother got her cookbook for Christmas and they were being “slowly poisoned”. At any rate, Linda’s lecture
left its mark, and Niall subsequently became a vegetarian, though “he’s now in recovery”, Paul says.
The band’s outfits on Top of Pops were, well, radical, even for their time: orange polo necks and purple tie-dye flare trousers.
“We bought the polo necks in a charity shop on Castle St and we got the trousers in Leaders on North Main St, I think they were there since the ’70s,” Paul says.
And what of his bowl haircut?
“My mam did my hair. I had tried to get the same cut in the barbers, but he couldn’t do it. My mam had a bowl that fitted my head perfectly and she just cut around it,” Paul says.
“I can’t say I started a trend, but there were fellas around Cork sporting the same haircut on the strength of it. We were anti-fashion you see, and we wanted to highlight the absurdity of it. At the time, fellas were wearing all black, the same black skinny jeans that they are all wearing now.”
The band’s performance on the night was flawless, even if all the pressure was on Paul: he was the only member performing live.
As Evening Echo reporter, David O’Connell, wrote at the time: “The rest is produced on a backing track as the band attempt realistic mimes of what comes naturally. To facilitate the drummer’s (Ashley Keating) efforts at making no noise, his kit is covered with thin layers of cushion.”
David wrote that the band had rehearsed from early morning “like old pros without a hitch, and they took the tedious waiting in their stride before recording for tonight’s slot”.
“For some, like Paul McCartney — the main attraction on tonight’s show — there’s no waiting around, but for the rest, it’s a long day. For all this, you can earn around £140 each in cash — but the real incentive is the massive music audience that Top of the Pops still guarantees every Saturday night.”
Paul says in the end, they didn’t really cash in on that performance, deciding against an immediate tour of the US.
They did do the Féile festival in Thurles that year, but were “sick to death” of touring, having spent the previous 12 months gigging in Italy, Germany and Britain — with support act,
“We were fed up, burnt out. When you gig that much, it takes its toll.”
He doesn’t regret not heading straight to the States, because “our sanity meant more to us”.
“We were overwhelmed by the success, it was just something that happened, you don’t expect to become famous.”
Paul, who “teaches some guitar” these days, continues to compose and record albums and perform — including a special anniversary gig last New Year’s Eve in the Cork Opera House to mark the 20th anniversary of the release of their Grand Parade album. Dan Linehan was there, albeit without a camera under his jacket.
Paul is delighted that ‘After All’ is enjoying a revival. He describes Billy’s rendition as “brilliant”.
Niall, who left the band in 2004 to concentrate on family, says his kids have no interest in his previous career.
“I was driving my 13-year-old daughter to the School of Music during the week and ‘After All’ came on the radio. She didn’t even look up from her Kindle. I’m an embarrassment to her at this stage.”