- 23 Mar 21
A pioneering sticksman on the Irish scene, Noel ‘Nollaig’ Bridgeman drummed with Skid Row, Mary Black, The Waterboys, Christy Moore and many more of Ireland’s leading musical lights.
Hot Press is very sad to hear of the death of Noel ‘Nollaig’ Bridgeman.
Having emerged during the Irish beat boom of the 1960s, Noel went on to become one of the greatest ever Irish drummers, a legend in his own studio time. During the late 1960s, he was a member of Skid Row, holding down the rhythm alongside Brush Shiels on bass – in a band that also for a time featured Philip Lynott on lead vocals and Gary Moore on guitar.
When Philip was told he was surplus to requirements, Skid Row slimmed down to a three-piece and were signed to a management deal by Clifford Davis, who also managed Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac, among other successful bands of the era.
Skid Row signed a deal with CBS Records and for a brief time looked like the next Irish act most likely to gain a huge international audience. However, the machinations of the industry got the better of them, and Brush and Noel returned to Dublin.
What followed for Noel was a long and industrious career, working with many of the leading lights of modern Irish music, operating both as a studio session hand and a live maestro, including alongside Mary Black, Christy Moore, with Brush Shiels on his solo adventures and with The Waterboys.
Noel also played and recorded with artists of the calibre of Jackson Browne, Sharon Shannon, Steve Earle, Van Morrison, Mick Hanley, Donal Lunny, The Corrs, The Chieftains and Paul Brady.
Apart from his ability as drummer and percussionist, Bridgeman was a distinctive singer who performed uniquely funky, soulful interpretations of blues, rock and soul classics.
“He was a brilliant musician,” Hot Press editor Niall Stokes said. “And he was also a lovely guy. He was a real, genuine Dub, and a man who never lost touch with those roots. Noel was the embodiment of that line of John Lennon’s: ‘A working class hero is something to be’. He was that and more.
“Noel was a very special player, even if he never flaunted it. He had that thing, which only great drummers enjoy, of being able to nail a groove in a way that gives everyone else who’s playing a platform to build on and a foil to work off. Noel could play anything, from soul and Motown through rock ’n’ roll and the blues to country music and Irish folk. I know that the sad news of his loss will have people searching through their record collections to hear his great work again.
“As one of the original rock ’n’ roll gang who began the process of properly changing the template for musicians in Ireland, we owe Nollaig – and those he worked with – a huge debt. He was an inspiration for so many, through all the musical changes and adventures of the past 50 years. Noel will be sadly missed by everyone who worked with him on the scene. But his work and his music will live on."
Bridgeman also played with The Mary Stokes Blues Band during his time as a supremely gifted working musician.
"It is very sad news,” Mary Stokes said. "We worked with Noel quite a bit over the years, and our harmonica maestro Brian Palm was close to him. They were good buddies. Noel was a genuinely brilliant drummer. And he was a great singer too. He sang in a fantastic Creedence style, full blooded and very warm. Fuck it. Noel will be hugely missed.”
Image credit: pic of Noel Bridgeman courtesy of BP Fallon