Following their 25-year CD anthology The Weather at World’s End: 1997–2022 (Talking Elephant, 2023), Colin Harper’s Legends of Tomorrow release a new single, ‘The King is Dead (He Told Me Himself)’ (written by Colin) – ahead of the Northern Ireland studio supergroup’s first ever concerts, in December.
‘The King is Dead’ features a galaxy of Northern Irish music and media personalities: Mickey Rafferty (The Minnows) on vocals; Dave McLarnon (Shock Treatment) on backing vocals; Colin Harper on acoustic guitar; Linley Hamilton (Irish jazz colossus and broadcaster) on trumpet; Brian Houston (solo artist) on lead guitar; Cormac O’Kane (ex-New Brontës / award-winning recording engineer) on piano; Ali Mackenzie (solo artist/sideman of many) on bass; and Feargal O’Kane (ex-New Brontës / award-winning BBC NI arts TV producer) on drums.
All have recorded as Legends of Tomorrow many times before, and most will be involved in the December concerts, to be filmed by director Barry Devlin for an independent documentary for BBC NI.
About the song:
Colin Harper: ‘Brian Houston is one of my oldest friends in the music world. His early career in Belfast in the mid-90s was sensational – from pubs to headlining the Waterfront Hall within five years. The 90s was a boom time for local music – the dawn of the CD era, venues in abundance, a supportive local media, genuine possibilities for wider success. The 21st century is a much colder, harder place. Brian has kept going for 30 years – a prolific writer and recording artist, a bravura performer and recently a studio owner.
‘Over coffee back in July, he reckoned the odds had become too great – he was probably finished. Covid, Brexit, streaming, diminishing live audiences… It felt like the end of an era – or the closure of a corner shop that’s always been there! I went home and the muse appeared: ‘The king is dead, he told me himself / The time just came to be someone else…’ I’d always called Brian ‘Belfast’s uttermost king of rock’ – and he really was. Give him an audience in a room of any size and he still is.
‘Amusingly, and happily, by the time I’d booked Cormac O’Kane’s studio and gathered a crack team of Legends together, rumours of Brian’s demise had proved greatly exaggerated – in the very brief interim, there he was live on Radio 2, headlining a benefit concert for another local musician and putting the final touches to a new album, which in true fairytale style sounds to me like his best in years!
‘But we went ahead and recorded the song – it has resonance more widely for musicians in the modern era and is perhaps an updated echo of the theme in Bread’s ‘Guitar Man’ (1972), the troubadour who keeps on going when ‘the crowds are getting thin’. In a way, the Legends of Tomorrow are immune – it’s always been music and camaraderie for its own sake, and the session was great fun. I’m not sure Brian knows what to make of it, but it felt ‘right’ to have him play lead guitar on the song – and he does so magnificently.’