|PAUL BOYD: A Personal Tribute|
|Written by Mark Ashby|
|Wednesday, 18 January 2017 18:58|
Websites are well used to publishing obituaries. And journalists are well used to writing them. They are something of an occupational hazard. After all, people die all the time. It is, to use a well-worn phrase, "a fact of life". We’re born, we live, we die. Often, however, said obituaries are about someone famous: they’re often pre-prepared, written in advance and updated on a regular basis, in readiness for said personalities to depart this mortal coil. Thus, they often are impersonal. Based on other people's experiences (only occasionally your own brief encounter thrown in). It’s a completely different prospect when you find yourself not only writing in unexpected circumstances. When it comes to writing about someone you actually know… well...
Photo courtesy of No Hot Ashes
Paul Boyd, a man whom I have had the privilege of knowing, on and off, for the past 30 years, died from cancer on Tuesday. He was the bass player with No Hot Ashes, a band he joined in 1983. Now, many Über rockers will not be familiar with the name No Hot Ashes. But, there will be those who are… The band’s story is told elsewhere (eloquently on their website and, even more so, in singer Eamon Nancarrow’s hysterical and insightful book, ‘Holywood Star’). After a long hiatus, the band reformed for what was supposed to be a one-off charity gig in the autumn of 2013… they went to tour with the likes of Foreigner, FM and UFO and played festivals such as Download, Ramblin’ Man and Steelhouse… OK, you’ve got them now…
To be honest, I didn’t know Paul was ill. I don’t think many outside his family and close, very close, circle of friends, knew that he was ill. But, to be honest, that summarizes the measure of the Paul Boyd I knew and encountered over the years. He was a private man. A quiet man. Except when it came to music… then he could pummel out a bass line capable of shaking any venue to its foundations.
Every time I met Paul, he had a smile on his face. He was always the first to say hello, thrust out his hand and welcome you into his precious company. There is an oft over-used phrase about someone being “one of life’s gentlemen”: it is something that could never be said too often about the Paul Boyd I knew and respected, both as a person and an artist.
He was passionate about his music, as you will see from the tribute from his bandmates at the end of this piece. He was a perfectionist: everything had to be done to his highest standards; and, believe me, he set those very high indeed. For many years, while NHA were inactive, he played in another Belfast band, the now defunct WorldsEnd. I went to many of their gigs: in fact, I promoted their last ever show. Paul was always the first one to the venue, making sure everything was just right, talking to the promoter, the sound guy, everyone, about what needed done and by whom. But, at the same time, if for some reason those standards which he set himself couldn’t quite be achieved, he’d shrug his shoulders, strap his bass across them and go “OK, let’s get on with the show…” The music came first.
I learned about Paul’s death at shortly after 4pm today. I was just about to leave work, when I decided to check my Facebook updates one last time. And there it was… a post from another friend, the hugely talented producer Frankie McClay, another man whom I have known and respected for more years than either of us probably care to remember. I literally fought back the tears as I read his beautiful but heartbreaking words:
“In my long career in the music industry I have met and worked with thousands of people, and I’m still friends with hopefully all of them. But every now and then someone stands out. Not as a musician but as a person. He was a quiet and gentle man but I couldn’t get enough of his company. Paul was a total pleasure to be around, and how bad I feel at the moment can only be a measure of what I thought of him.”
Those words echoed my feelings at that tragic moment in time. And, to be honest, as a journalist, I can put it no better. That was the measure of Paul Boyd.
On behalf of myself and Carolyn, our deepest sympathies to Paul’s family, band mates and many, many friends. I am sure the Über Rock family will join us. I leave the final words to his bandmates in No Hot Ashes:
Photo courtesy of No Hot Ashes
“It is with heavy hearts that we have to announce the passing of Paul Boyd. He was the bassist and founding member of No Hot Ashes, but more importantly a son, husband, father, grandfather and friend.
“Paul was a well-respected member of all the communities he touched and within the band he was an essential part of the sound and direction we took. As with many bass players he was dependable and softly spoken, yet made his presence felt when necessary.
“His bass playing was subtle but at the same time powerful, his vocal harmonies were essential and gave our songs a touch of class, his ear was always tuned to perfection and his eye took many great photographs.
“The loss his family and friends are feeling right now is deep. From the band’s perspective, the cruellest blow is that our first proper album is just about to be released, one we are all immensely proud of and will be dedicated to his memory.
“We know it is a good one as it passed Paul’s quality control, he tested it on every device he possessed and he was ‘satisfied’. In fact he loved it and was really looking forward to playing it live and getting the buzz from our fans’ reactions.
“The band wouldn’t be the band without Paul and his parents. In the early days, we used to rehearse in their shed at the back of the garden. It was big enough to have a small stage and PA and there we honed our skills to make us one of the best melodic rock bands in Belfast during the early 80’s.
“Paul was much respected in Belfast’s music scene and what we can take comfort from is that he actually experienced the taste of success during the past two years. Since the band’s reunion we’ve played the gigs we’ve dreamt of playing, supported artists we never thought possible and met some wonderful people from the world of rock. We’ve also had some great laughs, even more than usual.
Thankfully Paul was there to share this with us and his years of hard graft and thousands of hours of practice were rewarded with some quality moments under rock’s spotlight.
“It was cancer that took him and far too quickly for many to say goodbye properly. We’d like to say thank you to the NHS and staff at the Ulster Hospital who gave him comfort and peace during his final days.
“Paul died on Tuesday 17th January 2017. He will be missed greatly by all, but his legacy carries on in our memories, in our hearts and in the recordings he made. God bless you Paul Boyd.”