BAGATELLE singer Liam Reilly – who penned classic song Summer In Dublin – has passed away.
News of the 65-year-old’s death broke yesterday, with musicians from across Ireland paying tribute to the Dundalk native.
In a statement on Facebook, Bagatelle said: “With sad hearts, the family of Liam Reilly, musician, songwriter and frontman of Bagatelle, wish to confirm that he passed away suddenly but peacefully at his home on January 1st.”
Reilly formed Bagatelle in 1978 with drummer Wally McConville, bass player Ken Doyle and guitarist John O’Brien.
While debut single Trump Card flopped, follow up single Summer in Dublin became a massive hit in 1980.
At one stage the song was selling 10,000 copies a week, turning Bagatelle into such local superstars who were asked to support Bob Marley in Dalymount Park and later invited to perform at Self Aid with U2 and Van Morrison.
Other Bagatelle hits include Leeson Street Lady and Second Violin. Solo Liam came second for Ireland at Eurovision in 1990 with song Somewhere In Europe.
He returned to Eurovision as a composer in 1991 where his song Could It Be That I’m in Love, performed by Kim Jackson, which finished placed tenth.
But it was Summer in Dublin which remained his biggest tune. Speaking to author Brian Kennedy for 2020 band biography That Summer in Dublin, Reilly recounts what led to him composing the song: “I remember I went to see The Boomtown Rats in Moran’s Hotel and the support act was this guy singing a Bob Seger song Rock & Roll Never Forgets.
“The next thing I’m walking up Grafton Street, that’s when the buses could come down Grafton Street, with Seger’s song embedded in my brain.
“I just couldn’t stop signing it, so much so that I nearly got creamed by an oncoming bus – the driver abused me from the hilt from his window.
“At the time I was living in number 2 Leeson Street. Shortly after that I got a 46a with my guitar in hand.
“I remember sitting down, minding my own business when I saw this drunk guy in front of me. He was telling me in his infinite wisdom how I should get rich.
“I got home with all the thoughts of the day in my mind and wrote Summer in Dublin in about two hours. Every wordof the song is autobiographical and completely true.”
RTÉ broadcaster and musician Aonghus McAnally was among those paying tribute to Liam. He described him as a “brilliant songwriter and a wonderful legacy of musical memories”.
And Brian Warfield of the Wolfe Tones, who had a number one with the Liam Reilly-penned song, The Streets of New York, described the Dundalk man as a “genius storyteller who had a gift for connecting with people”.
Biographer Brian Kennedy in his Bagatelle biography recounts of the band’s success in Ireland: “Famously, Larry Mullen when he asked John Woods of Polydor Records in Ireland to sign U2, he promised they would be ‘bigger than Bagatelle and dubbed Bagatelle ‘Bags-a-Money’ because of the success they’d had with Summer in Dublin.”
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Bagatelle signed their own album deal, not in the huge offices of a major label but in a branch of Burgerland in Dublin.
Band member Ken Doyle recounts: “Some bands sign million-pound contracts in huge offices with marble tables and record producers who are smoking a fine Cuban cigar. We signed ours over seven cheeseburgers, five packets of chips and a couple of fish fillets in Burgerland”.
But Bagatelle weren’t complaining a three-album deal for an Irish band was unheard of at that time, and showed how much faith the label had in the unknown band.