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RIP Tony McPhee

As one gets older, one’s teenage heroes start dying. Especially in music, most of them have vanished from the public eye for years – how do they make a living? Then suddenly I read they have died…

The latest addition to this sad list is Tony McPhee of the Groundhogs. Split is one of the few classic rock albums I find it almost impossible to listen to, not because it’s appalling but the complete opposite. It is still so raw and painful, I find it scary. Thank Christ for the Bomb is pretty scary, too – a rising nuclear apocalypse set to music.

The band never ‘made it’ because they had little interest in so doing. McPhee just wanted to make his music his way. The same was true for another great early-70s British guitarist, also no longer with us, Micky Jones.

I saw Groundhogs in their prime in what was then the Locarno Ballroom in Stevenage – a venue more suited to chaps in velvet clip-on bow ties trying to pull girls with eyes like Lynsey de Paul than a brush with the ugly reality of madness (made beautiful in its own way, by art). The gig was cruel and spellbinding.

I did a little research, and was glad to find he seemed to have found peace as he grew older, proud of his family and doing local gigs around where he settled down, in rural Shropshire. He deserved it.


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