- 02 Apr 15
The death has taken place in St. James Hospital in Dublin of the rock scribe John "George" Byrne [pictured centre with Ricky Warwick (left) and Louis Walsh (right)], who began his career with Hot Press...
It's with great sadness that we report the death of John "George" Byrne, a mainstay of the Hot Press editorial team throughout the 1980s and ‘90s who went on to become an equally vital member of the Evening Herald and Irish Independent teams, writes Stuart Clark.
Journalistically he pulled no punches, but George was a great colleague, loyal friend and evangelical about the bands he loved.
A former musician himself who put in stellar service during the punk wars, he was an unwavering Chelsea and Shamrock Rovers fan and the scourge of many a music quiz entrant who couldn't match his encyclopaedic knowledge of everything from Brian Wilson and The Go-Betweens to The Smiths and The Clash. To psych-out rivals, George came up with the wheeze of him and his teammates walking in to where the quiz was being held together, dressed Johnny Cash-style entirely in black.
This incredible recall of rock 'n' roll facts and figures also lead to him compiling questions for a variety of RTÉ radio and TV shows including The Blackboard Jungle and The Vinyl Curtain.
George Byrne stories are legion in Irish media circles and will doubtless be recounted today as we fondly remember our fallen comrade.
George had been on the critical list following a severe stroke last month in his native Dublin. Our sympathies go out to his family, including his sister Andrea, girlfriend Julie, colleagues and many readers who will feel through his incisive and entertaining writing that they know George personally. He will be sorely missed.
"George had his first ever 'professional' review published in Hot Press, as a member of Autobop," adds Niall Stokes. "It was arranged by Jackie Hayden, who of course was with CBS Records at the time. There is always a fear when something like that is brokered that you will be faced with copy that has to be completely rewritten. But no! George - or John as we knew him then – bashed out a fine 'singles page' on the trusty typewriter that would last him for years. I knew immediately that this was a guy who could write – better still that he was a writer – and from there on he became part of the Hot Press team.
"He was a marvellously funny writer and an equally funny character, who had mastered the art of the put-down to an unprecedented level. There will be time for more stories anon, but in truth, he genuinely loved music and had a fantastic knowledge of the history of rock'n'roll in all its permutations.
"In fact it might surprise a lot of people that the first review he actually wrote was of Budgie, in the National Stadium – and that it was a positive one. It was submitted to Scene Magazine when I was editor, and emerged not so long ago during a trawl though files of ancient manuscripts. That review was never printed, but only because deadlines and pressures of space intervened. The connection to the real John George Byrne wasn't hard to make even if he was only 17 or so, when he wrote it!
"It might also surprise people that didn't know him that George was a romantic, who had a marvellously sentimental streak when it came to matters of the heart. But he was also a good and loyal friend, who it was always a real pleasure to spend time with.
"It is part of the Hot Press story that Mairin Sheehy and I had our second child, Rowan, in the summer of 1989. He was premature, which meant a slightly longer hospital stay than usual. We didn't expect a visit, and so we will never forget the moment when George arrived into the ward, wearing his summer shorts, with a big bunch of flowers and a kiss for the mother. It was so far from the stereotypical image of George that most people had, but it is a beautiful one by which to remember him. We will miss you terribly, old friend..."