1. Gillespie Stanley John Courtney was born in Belfast on July 26th 1950. Also born on July 26th were Aldous Huxley, Jason Robards and Kevin Spacey.
  2. Gil Courtney’s mother, Elsie, registered him with her maiden name— Gillespie—as his Christian name. She initially said that this was done in error but in later years admitted that it was intentional.
  3. Gil Courtney grew up at 166 Tildarg Street, Cregagh, Belfast. Some of the lyrics to the song ‘Partial Aperture’ on the first The Palomar album, Golden Dusk, are often said to have been inspired by the view from the back bedroom of this house. Visible beyond the rooftops are the Castlereagh Hills.
  4. Palomar were known as The Palomar until 1975. Thereafter, they were known as Palomar.
  5. The phrase ‘taking drugs to make music to take drugs to’, later used as the title of a Spaceman 3 album, was reputedly first coined by Gil Courtney during the recording of Golden Dusk.
  6. The front room of the house at 166 Tildarg Street had a silver disc above the mantelpiece. (Although *Golden Dusk *only reached 21 in the UK charts, European sales ensured its silver status.) Gil recalled on a trip home one time taking it off the wall and playing it. ‘And what do you think it was,’ he said when interviewed in 1972, ‘but an Alma Cogan record dipped in silver paint. The paint just flaked off on my hands.’
  7. It is likely that Gil Courtney’s father was not Alec Courtney, husband of Elsie, and clerk at James Mackie and Sons, Belfast. Elsie was five months pregnant when they married. She was of the opinion that the father was most probably a merchant seaman, possibly Spanish, whom she met in Dubarry’s Bar (now McHughs).
  8. 166 Tildarg Street was on the market in 2012. The estate agent’s description pointed out that it was in need of some modernisation. Photos showed empty rooms, bare walls and floorboards. Elsie Courtney’s furniture and carpets had been removed to a skip some weeks earlier.
  9. Gil Courtney’s first instrument was the xylophone. At primary school a new teacher who introduced a musical half-hour on a Friday afternoon was surprised to see one of her pupils playing two xylophones at once. The young Gil Courtney said he was able to remember the tune of something he’d heard on the radio.
  10. Miss Kathleen Hughes, a P7 teacher and church organist, gave Gil Courtney piano lessons in the school assembly hall. She later said that she had never encountered a child with such exceptional ability and whose sight-reading was so extraordinary. When Kathleen Hughes was unable to attend a funeral service owing to illness the eleven-year-old Gil was able to take her place at the organ.
  11. Gil Courtney’s girlfriend, Simone Lindstrom, went on to have brief relationships with Neil Young and Terry Melcher, son of Doris Day. Dicky Griffin of Palomar described Simone as a ‘high-maintenance kind of chick’, while Elsie Courtney said she was ‘Simone with the little turnip tits in the polo necks you could spit through.’
  12. When Gil Courtney was fifteen he began playing with many of the showbands popular in Northern Ireland at the time. He played in groups including The Buccaneers, The Dakotas, The College Boys and The Emperors. Two or three gigs a week would have been common. Ronnie O’Hanlon, drummer in The Dakotas, recalled how they would travel across the province in the back of a van with the equipment: ‘A lot of the roads were bad and you were thrown all over the place. A lot of these places were in the middle of nowhere. The driver’d be thinking where in the name of God are we going down this dirt track and then all of a sudden, out of the dark there would be a dancehall, all lit up.’
  13. On one occasion when Gil Courtney was due to have his music lesson with Miss Hughes there were numerous boxes of sports equipment stacked on top of the piano. Pupils reported that they had never heard her shout before.
  14. The fourth song from Gil Courtney’s solo album, Volonte Blue, was played by Stuart Maconie on his programme *The Freak Zone *on 6 Music on Sunday 16th October 2011.
  15. In the Oh Yeah Music Centre in Belfast there is a small exhibition of Northern Irish pop memorabilia. There is a photograph of Gil Courtney and other members of The Palomar taken outside Gideon Hall’s flat in London. They are dressed in the fashions of the time. To the left there is a photo of David McWilliams and to the right a snap of 60s Belfast psychedelic-blues group Eire Apparent.
  16. Gil Courtney was educated at Harding Memorial Primary School and Park Parade Secondary School.
  17. Gil Courtney used the Hohner Cembalet, the Hammond organ and the Wurlitzer electric piano.
  18. Before its eventual closure in 1969, Gil Courtney and other members of both The Dakotas and The Emperors played Hamburg’s Star Club. They were part of a group of musicians who briefly went to Germany to ‘try their luck’; it was the first time that most of them had been outside Northern Ireland. Gil sent numerous postcards home and Elsie Courtney said that from the spelling and the grammar it was obvious this was a young man who had not spent long enough in school.
  19. In Uncut *magazine’s April 2016 feature, ‘The Quest for Rock’s Great Lost Albums on Vinyl’, Gil Courtney’s album *Volonte Blue *was listed at number 13. At number 12 was Linda Perhacs’ *Parallelograms.
  20. Alec Courtney, Elsie’s husband, always used the name Stanley when referring to Gil.
  21. In 1968 Gil Courtney moved to London to work as a session musician,* supplementing his wages by joining the house bands at the Dorchester and Park Lane Hotels. ‘I never regretted any of my time spent playing in the *palais *bands,’ Gil was quoted as having said. ‘Many of those guys could really play and I learnt a lot.’ During the time that Gil played at the Dorchester, Elsie Courtney and her sister Nan came to London. They stayed in a Dorchester suite, which Gil’s connection in reception had managed to secure them *gratis. ‘It was all fine,’ Elsie remembered, ‘just as long as we always went in the back entrance and up the service stairs and didn’t come down for the breakfast.’ The sisters danced in the grand ballroom when Gil was playing. ‘It was lovely,’ Elsie said. ‘All the crystal lights. There was a conductor. You should’ve seen the way the women were dressed. They were beautiful.’
  22. The first twenty seconds of the song ‘Under the Mountain’ from *Golden Dusk *was used as the title music for an Argentinian football programme for five years in the 1980s. Gil Courtney had a co-writing credit on this and therefore received royalties, along with those for his contribution to several other songs on the record.
  23. For a period of time 166 Tildarg Street was a popular destination for those bands who were playing Belfast and did not want to stay in a hotel. Elsie Courtney had fond memories of some of the people who stayed with her. Her favourite was Steve who could still sing the songs from Oliver!, the West End show in which he performed as a child. She said that he gave a rendition of ‘Consider Yourself’ in the kitchen, singing the final chorus up on the table.
  24. Steve Marriott’s band, The Small Faces, borrowed Gil Courtney’s electric piano when they played the Floral Hall in Belfast. Ian McLagan’s piano was not playing properly. The Floral Hall, an art deco ballroom overlooking Belfast, is now in disrepair and is used to store animal feed for the nearby zoo.
  25. Gil Courtney was 6 feet 1 inch tall. His shoe size was 10.
  26. Gideon Hall from Palomar published his autobiography in 2005. It was translated into nine languages.
  27. Gil Courtney’s work as a session musician brought him into contact with a drummer Kevin Heyward who had recently joined a band with two guitarists he had met through a mutual friend. Kevin Heyward invited Gil Courtney along to rehearse. This was the birth of The Palomar.
  28. Gil Courtney rarely wore any colour other than black.
  29. Alec Courtney did not approve of rock and roll, Gil’s career or the guests who sometimes arrived at Tildarg Street. Elsie remembered him as an ‘old stick in the mud who was happier down at the bible study.’
  30. Gideon Hall was rather scathing about Elsie Courtney whom Gil would occasionally bring over for shows in London and Glasgow. ‘God spare us all from the living embodiment of the oral tradition,’ he was quoted as saying. ‘What are the words guaranteed to strike most dread in me? The motherfucking mother’s here.’
  31. During breaks in session work, Gil Courtney would read paperbacks, usually either Agatha Christie or American sci-fi stories. ‘Simone tried to get me into poetry, Ginsberg and so on, but I never really dug it.’
  32. In his autobiography, Gideon Hall said of Courtney, ‘I daresay it sounds harsh, perhaps it is, but really, was he anything more than a footnote? If even that? The myth of the beautiful loser. It’s tired. It’s tiresome.’
  33. Gil Courtney went on a trip to Marrakech with a group of friends including Brian Jones of The Rolling Stones, shortly before the latter’s death. Popular amongst the crowd was the local kif. Elsie couldn’t remember whether Brian Jones had ever come to Tildarg Street. ‘All these fellas, the girls might have had them on their walls but if they seen what I seen in the morning, dirty pants and them stinking of sweat and what have you, they might have thought different.’
  34. Golden Dusk *was described optimistically and ultimately accurately by Charles Shaar Murray as a ‘prelude to greatness.’ It received generally positive reviews in *Melody Maker *and *New Musical Express, with critics particularly praising the Gideon Hall / Dicky Griffin-penned ‘Goldline’ and ‘Damascus’. The songs on which Gil Courtney had co-writing credits were noted for their ‘somewhat baroque excess.’
  35. ‘Goldline’ was released as a single. It got to number 34 in the British charts but fared rather better in France. The band had a promo slot on a French television programme in 1972, the first one minute and twenty-three seconds of which can be viewed on YouTube. Gil Courtney for most of this time is just out of shot.
  36. When Gideon Hall’s autobiography was published it was selected by Eason’s for inclusion on their roster for priority in-store promotion. Elsie Courtney was reprimanded by a member of Eason’s staff in Donegall Place, Belfast, for moving some of the Gideon Hall books off the prominent display.
  37. In January 1973 there was a drugs bust at Gil Courtney’s Pimlico flat where a party was in progress. The raid allegedly discovered grass, cannabis resin and Mandrax tablets. Owing to Gil Courtney’s apparent medical problems, a psychiatrist was able to make the case that he should receive a suspended sentence. It meant, however, that Courtney was unable to obtain a visa to tour overseas.
  38. In a Q&A in *Pop Starz *magazine in the same year Gil Courtney answered the following: Favourite food? Ice cream and jelly. Favourite drink: tea. Favourite colour: yellow. Favourite way to spend a day: going for a walk in the park with friends. Favourite type of girl: nice.
  39. In a 1993 interview, Van Morrison was asked if he could remember Gil Courtney. He said no.
  40. Gil Courtney had a phobia of flying which he tried to alleviate through alcohol and drug use. Even a short flight would induce a panic attack. On a flight to France in 1972 he was unconscious when the group landed at Charles de Gaulle airport. He made the return journey by land and sea, arriving in London approximately two weeks later. Elsie Courtney said that she could never understand Gil’s fear of airplanes. ‘Well I don’t know,’ she said. ‘What in the name of God’s the problem? How could you not like it? I love getting on a plane. I love the drinks and the food in the little compartments and I love the air-hostesses and I love the duty-free.’
  41. Gil Courtney failed to turn up for two concerts, one at Glasgow Barrowlands and the other at Manchester Free Trade Hall. The Palomar’s manager at the* time, Lenny Enlander, was dispatched to the Pimlico flat to tell Gil that he no longer had a place in the group. Enlander said later that ‘It was hard to tell if Gil was actually there. Some guy I’d never seen before opened the door. It was like a *tabagie. Smoke-filled. With blackout curtains on every window. I didn’t want to tell him with other people there but Gil didn’t want to leave and they didn’t want to leave. I just said that’s it, Gil. You can’t go on. He didn’t seem all that bothered. But then I didn’t know if he entirely understood what I was saying, if you know what I’m saying.’ Lenny Enlander did not stay in music management. He ended up running a successful imports-exports business off the Great Eastern Road.
  42. The web-based T-shirt business Avalanche Tees printed a limited run of T-shirts bearing the front cover of Volonte Blue *after the feature in *Uncut. These were available on Amazon and eBay later, at a reduced price. One of the T-shirts was sent to Texas.
  43. Studio musicians who worked on *Volonte Blue *were unanimous in declaring the process tortuous. Courtney expected them to work up to twenty hours a day yet there were also periods when he would disappear for hours at a time and they would be left to their own devices. ‘After the, what, fiftieth take, I was finished,’ bass player Mac McLean said. ‘I have worked with some picky bastards but the man was just insane. Charming for sure, but insane. “Play this like a peach being placed on a terracotta tile. In Marrakech.” You know? Impossible.’
  44. Gil Courtney and Simone Lindstrom were described in one magazine at the time as ‘the most photogenic couple in London.’ The magazine featured a photo of the pair in a sitting room with an ornately corniced high ceiling; Simone was in a filmy white dress and reclining on a sofa smoking a cigarette while Gil was crouched in front of her in a black suit. The picture could be regarded as a chilly version of Dylan’s *Bringing It All Back Home *cover. The accompanying article profiled the couple in some detail and stated that Gil Courtney’s imminent solo album was eagerly awaited.
  45. The artwork for *Volonte Blue *features a striking image of an animal (non- specific) lying dead in the middle of a blue desert. Responsible for the cover was Peter Christopherson of the design group Hipgnosis and later of the band Throbbing Gristle.
  46. The song ‘Tint’, the lead track on Side 2 of *Volonte Blue *was said by Gil to have been inspired by cellophane sweet wrappers.
  47. When Alec Courtney died of a heart attack in 1975, Gil Courtney was unable to return home for the funeral.
  48. The reception Volonte Blue *received was lukewarm. Some critics praised the ‘naif *charm’ of some of its lyrics and others its ‘loosening of formal structures’ but for many listeners it was characterised by incoherence and indulgence. Gil’s health-related issues meant that the tour to promote the album had to be postponed, and then eventually cancelled.
  49. The Palomar’s second album, CCS, regularly makes it on to lists of the top 50 albums ever recorded. Gil Courtney, interviewed in Melody Maker *in 1975, was asked if he had listened to *CCS. After a pause he said, ‘Yes, I have.’ And then he was asked if he thought it was as good as everyone seemed to think it was. Gil took a long drag on his cigarette. And then he slowly exhaled. ‘Yes,’ he said. ‘It’s that good. What else can I say?’
  50. In 1978 Gil Courtney played two shows with The Only Ones.
  51. Gil Courtney returned to Belfast in 1980. It was no longer viable for him to remain in London. He travelled to Stranraer by train and got the ferry to Larne. Elsie Courtney met him at the station at York Road and was alarmed for several reasons. ‘Well, first thing,’ she said, ‘he had no suitcase with him or anything like that, just a plastic bag with a few things in it.’ She was also shocked by his skeletal appearance because at that point in his life he was eight and a half stone.
  52. A three-second sample from ‘Choler’, the third song on Side 1 of Volonte Blue

was used as a loop by the Dutch DJ Lars van Tellingen in 2001.

  1. When Gil was a child, he and Elsie regularly used to visit the waterworks in North Belfast and feed the swans.
  2. Gil Courtney had various food obsessions. Elsie Courtney stated that when he returned to Belfast he only wanted to eat food that was white. After a diet for some months of only potatoes, pasta and rice he then decided he only wanted to eat food that wasn’t white.
  3. In 1989 a student film society at the University of Leeds was making a vox- pop programme to be shown on student network television. The production team stopped random people in the street to ask them what music was important to them and why. The fifth person they filmed on a morning in April was a man, mid-thirties, balding, in a grey jacket. ‘The music that means most to me,’ he said, ‘well, okay, the music that means most to me is without a doubt the music of Gil Courtney who played with The Palomar. His music is for me just, just transporting.’ He paused but the camera was still pointed at him so he continued. ‘It just, what it does is, it just—penetrates to the heart of what it means to be lonely, or in love or to feel a failure and so, and so, at times I’ve found great comfort in his music, well, *Volonte Blue *is what I’m talking about really, not so much any of the other stuff he was involved with at all really, but other times you know I’ve found it exhilarating and a total affirmation of what it is to be alive. And I am not really overstating that, like, I do feel that. There’s warmth there and there’s strangeness there.’ He paused again. ‘That enough?’ The man, embarrassed, laughed, blinked his eyes and put down his head. ‘Okay, I think that probably is enough.’
  4. For Christmas each year Elsie bought Gil a black merino wool crew-neck sweater.
  5. When living again in Tildarg Street, Gil Courtney had a gramophone player and a few records that he played on very low volume. Elsie Courtney said that when you went into the room you wouldn’t even have known anything was playing, if you hadn’t seen the record rotating.
  6. Elsie said that Gil never watched the television. He would only listen to the radio.
  7. Gil Courtney used a EMS Putney VCS 3, generally regarded as the first portable analogue synthesiser.
  8. A group of teenage girls were interviewed in 1971 for a German magazine’s piece on the London music scene. Viv Vallely, 17, said, ‘Of all the guys in all the* *bands the one I like the most is Gil Courtney from The Palomar. He’s not like the singer or anything, he just plays the piano thing, but he’s so handsome. And I love the way he speaks cos it’s Irish and my granny is Irish. He spoke to me and my friends once when we was waiting outside.’
  9. For fifty years the ‘house next door’, 168 Tildarg Street, was occupied by Arthur McCourt, who was quoted as saying, ‘There is something to be said, I really do believe, for being ordinary and having no great talent at anything. I would really wonder if it would have been better for that fella to have gone into a job just like his father, gone to work at Mackie’s or wherever, got married, had a couple of kids than go like a firework then nothing. In fact worse than nothing cos I saw the state of him. And for what? What’s he got to show, some tunes nobody listens to?’
  10. Late one evening in November 1990, as Gil was making his way to the Co-op on the Cregagh Road for cigarettes, he was the victim of robbery and assault. His wallet was stolen and he sustained a broken jaw and a four-inch cut to the side of his head.
  11. From 1981 to 1996 Gil Courtney had a repeat prescription for opiate analgesics. Elsie Courtney, who was a patient at another GP practice, supplemented this with a supply of Tramadol, obtained despite her own very good health.
  12. Gil Courtney was an aficionado of a magazine entitled *Seven Wonders of the Ancient World *that came out in 1994. Each monthly issue included a scale model of a particular construction. Issues one and two were The Great Pyramid of Giza and the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus. By issue three, however, few newsagents stocked the title, and Elsie Courtney visited numerous shops around Belfast to find that month’s issue. The Lighthouse of Alexandria, issue 4, was found in the newsagent in Queen’s Arcade, minus the model component.
  13. Old bandmate Gideon Hall appeared on the Sunday Times Rich List in 2010, but did not feature in subsequent years owing to poor property investments.
  14. Neighbour Arthur McCourt said that when Gil Courtney died all the life went out of Elsie. ‘That was it for her. She’d lived for the fella. There wasn’t a lot of point for her after that.’
  15. Gil Courtney never learned to drive.
  16. The vox-pop filmed by the students from Leeds University, where a passer- by talked about Gil Courtney, did not make it to the final programme because a passing bus rendered the sound too poor in quality.
  17. In the later years of his life, Gil Courtney would get up at dawn and walk to the centre of the town. When the buses bringing in students, schoolchildren and workers arrived at City Hall he would walk back home again.
  18. The instruments on *Volonte Blue *were the following: harmonica, bass, violin, oboe, guitar, drums, organ, keyboards, synthesiser and mandolin.
  19. In Gil Courtney’s room he always wanted a bare light bulb. ‘I would say to him there’s nice lampshades in the town,’ Elsie said, ‘but he said no, he liked staring up at the filament. He liked the way it glowed.’ She added, ‘I’d rather have the place half decent but Gil was Gil.’
  20. The first record Gil Courtney ever bought was ‘Battle of New Orleans’ by Lonnie Donegan.
  21. When Gil Courtney received his diagnosis he opted not to receive any treatment, since chemotherapy would prolong life by only a few months. In the final days when Elsie could no longer look after him, he was moved to the hospice on the Somerton Road. On his windowsill at the place there was an amaryllis, just coming into bloom, Elsie remembered.
  22. A journalist who interviewed The Palomar just after the release of Golden Dusk *said, ‘Tensions were pretty palpable. Gil was funny and intense and very likeable, but he was unpredictable and in some ways utterly clueless. They— Gideon and Dicky—they were very assured, public school background, with all that entails. Kevin was just the drummer. Gil was hardly the boy from the back streets but he was a destabilising element that they wanted to jettison. And Gil made it easy for them with the way he behaved. Gideon and Dicky, they might have the counter-cultural credentials, but on another day, with another roll of the dice, they could well have ended up in charge of ICI or BP. They were those *sorts of people. The juggernaut that Palomar became would tend to bear that out.’
  23. Gil Courtney’s funeral took place in the Chapel of Rest on the Ravenhill Road. It was attended by only a handful of people, including a former member of The Dakotas and one of The Emperors. Elsie Courtney, in the belief that there would be a record player, had brought a battered and scratched copy of Volonte Blue *but there was only a CD player available. Ronnie O’Hanlon had a couple of compilation CDs in his car, one of which was *Feelin’ Good Vol. 1, free with the Daily Mail. A decision on a track was quickly made. As they filed out of the chapel, ‘Everybody’s Talkin’ by Harry Nilsson was played, the music from Midnight Cowboy.
  24. Gillespie Stanley John Courtney died in Belfast on February 2nd 2001. Fred Perry, Gene Kelly and Bertrand Russell also died on February 2nd.
  25. Gil Courtney’s favourite cigarettes were Chesterfields.