Caught by the River

Caught by the Reaper – Robert Young

Tim Tooher | 11th September 2014

ps5Photo: Douglas Hart

It breaks our hearts to post this, how Tim Tooher managed to write it I don’t know. Beautiful words for a fallen friend:

The news that Robert Young has passed away is horribly sad. His friends will remember him with love and affection and our thoughts will be with his family.

Robert believed in rock’n’roll music. He believed in its power to transform. He loved the myths and he wanted to create some of his own. He wanted to carve his own name into the pantheon of his heroes. He once told me that he felt it his duty as a rock’n’roll guitarist to behave in a certain way and not to let his fans down. His commitment to the cause was absolute.

There’s power in such belief and, at his best, Robert was one of the most exciting guitarists in rock´n´roll. His faith was unquestioning and he immersed himself totally in both the music and the life and, without doubt, he succeeded in adding his own chapter to the mythology. Most people who knew him will have a story about him, about some act of excess or outrageousness, but they’ll remember other sides to him as well. For me, right now what I remember most is Robert the fan and how much he loved the music.

One of my favourite memories of him is from a dressing room after some gig in the late eighties or early nineties. Robert was sitting on the end of a bench, an island of calm, amidst the usual sea of madness. At his feet were two teenage fans, wide-eyed innocents, young boys who’d somehow got the guts up to make their way backstage to meet their heroes.

They’d come in search of inspiration. Primal Scream, at their best, were always a band who were powered by their love of music, and here was Throb, notebook in hand, writing a list for these two boys of records that they would love, records that might touch their lives in the way that they had his. He can have only been eight or nine years older than they were themselves, but they were looking to him for guidance and I’m sure he knew that these boys were essentially him when he’d been their age.

He was passing it on. Passing it on in the way that one generation always has to another, and he couldn’t have looked happier. This was not about evangelical fervour, but simple, honest love. His face was full of joy. He smiled as he remembered each new record to add to the list. Excited for them when he asked them if they’d heard “Forever Changes” and they said they hadn’t. His eyes lit up and his smile cracked broad at the thought of how they’d feel the first time they heard it.

I used to have a picture of Robert that was taken in Sun Studios in Memphis when Primal Scream went there to record Dixie-Narco. It was him with an old mic in front of a picture of Elvis in ’54 or ’55 with the same microphone. He was mimicking Elvis’ expression, copying his pose, glowing with innocent delight at being present at the scene of some of rock’n’roll’s seminal moments. He looked like a little kid whose Christmases had all come at once. I wish I had that picture now. It showed the part of him that I loved most.

It was this love, this commitment that made him such a brilliant guitarist to watch. He played and performed like he knew he was living the dream, fuelled by sheer delight. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, Robert, like so many of us back then, got lost. That’s the problem with rock´n´roll. It’s beautiful, but it’s toxic too.

There’s the music and then there’s the life, and sometimes the life gets in the way, but when Robert was burning bright he was a joy to behold. A true rock’n’roll star.

Postscript: Tim and I first met at a Primal Scream show in Leeds in 1986. I’d been working with the band for a year or so at that time and Tim immediately became a fellow traveller. Over the years he and I shared many good times with Throb and waking up to this news today really has floored me. So huge respect to you Tim for being strong enough to pay respect to your friend with such heartfelt eloquence. (JB)