I first met Paul back in 1984, I was DJing at Victoria’s campus radio station CFUV. No Fun was #1 on our charts at the time ...AND they were coming to town!
The show was beyond my expectations and Paul’s guitar solo on their cover of Almost Cut My Hair led me to purchase a [Crosby Stills Nash & Young] LP the following week trying to re-live the high of that experience. Neil did a fine solo ...but he’ was no Paul Leahy!
Fast forward to the next century. I had followed both The Transvestimentals & Pleasure Suit at The Railway a few times as well as The Sugar Refinery and chatted with Paul a bit at those shows.
Fast forward again a few years later - I bump into Paul in uptown New West at London Drugs and from there we started both a professional relationship, as his record label, and a valued friendship.
While first listening to early mixes of All Messed Up, he inspected my decrepit electric guitar and asked if he could borrow it for a bit. About a week later he returned with the guitar re-strung, re-set and totally rebuffed, making special mention that he removed all the blood stains.
About a year later Paul asked me how my guitar playing was going. and my excuse for lack of progress, was that I had moved from the house into an apartment. He then showed up a week later with this groovy Danelectro mini amp thingamajig giving me no excuses. Paul also generously shared design books, another topic we often discussed, and when orphaned one year, Paul kindly invited me to the Leahy Christmas dinner.
As a friend his actions were generous, sincere and caring - his words and advice, encouraging, thoughtful, wise and often humorous. I’m going miss seeing my quiet unassuming friend, in his cap and jean jacket, set down his glass of red wine then disappear - returning a few moments later as the biggest rock star I think I’ll ever get to see — Polly!
Gosh, where do I start?
I guess I have to start with my coming of age in the 80s and seeing No Fun play in Victoria.
Seeing No Fun was a kind of dawning for me; a mix of clever lyrics and melodies combined with Paul’s harmonies, songs and guitar breaks that just stunned me.
You know, I don’t have many guitar heroes… if any?
But Paul has always been a kind of hero to me.
I always loved the way Paul could pull a killer melody out of any song.
He just slayed me with the way he stood there, with eyes clinched and back arched, arpeggio-ed and dampened perfection; just commanding such glorious music from his guitar.
And it was always a kind of gift.
It was always, like, where is this going to go?… Oh, My God! This Is Perfection!
And I love his lyrics and and his delivery.
The way he enunciates his Rs.
I love the way he kisses off his lyrics; “togeth-ah!” “shyow” “ah-ho-oh!” “glahm”…
Always with that divine vibrato and conviction.
The funny turns of phrase he’d write…
He created a different world and it was beautiful.
I guess I just got a glimpse of that back in the No Fun days, but after being in Polly, it all came
to the fore.
Being in Polly was… well, really, it was a dream for me.
I love Paul.
I love the world he creates with music.
He sings beautifully — just the right amount of femme flourish and glam vibrato — with understatement that can bowl you down.
I am listening to Put A Little English On It right now, and it really is an incredible testament to Paul’s mastery of the craft.
Fucking solid and fulsome guitar…
Fantastic lyrics; Put A Little English On It? — come on!!!
That’s so cool!!!
And that guitar?
The Wilted Flower Child?
His songs bring so much joy to my life and I can’t believe I got to play with him.
When I practiced Polly songs on my own I would sing along with them and try to embody them like Paul…
“We will be death’s lov-ah-ha…”
I don’t know if that is an appropriate reference… but it’s a very fond memory that I had.
Anyway, I am rambling.
Getting to know Paul was a gift.
Getting to play with Paul was an honour.
He has given me such joy and inspiration.
Such incredible joy.
I first met Paul in 1982 when I was volunteering at the library of Jarvis Elementary in Delta where my mother was the librarian and Mrs. Leahy was a teacher. Mrs. Leahy would often come into the library to pick up resource books for herself and would inevitably start telling me about her son Paul, so I had actually heard about him for many years before I actually met him. One day I walked into the library looking for my mother and found Paul sitting on the circulation desk. (Apparently he was giving guitar lessons at the school and would often sit beside my mom in the staff room chatting with her). I immediately knew who he was. I think he wore a leather jacket and jeans that day and the thing I remember the most was his unusually thick head of hair. It was below shoulder length and obscured all the features on his face except his nose and mouth. We talked exclusively about me because I did all the talking. I told him all about my involvement in the local music scene, writing for fanzines and promoting our local music. He was very soft spoken, polite and appeared to be mildly interested. It seemed like I was overwhelming him with my enthusiasm. Our conversation abruptly ended when my mother came in and said it was time to go home.
The next time I met Paul was in the fall of 2011, 29 years later. I connected with him via Facebook through a mutual friend, David Dedrick from my high school. I knew nothing of his life in between. We found out that both our mothers passed away within three years of each other and we talked at length about their illnesses and their deaths. I decided to catch up on his life by asking him an exhaustive amount of questions about anything and everything. He would always say “Corinne, I can’t possibly answer all your questions” and pause before continuing with “I will endeavor to answer your questions.”
Through this line of questioning I was able to learn countless mundane things about him such as: he loves his morning coffee and said it was one of the things in life that he would never give up. Apparently, he would savor his (cooled) coffee every morning for quite a long time on the couch by the window before he’d be ready to face the day. For breakfast he’d have buttered toast topped with cinnamon & sugar or peanut butter. He liked the peanut butter quite warm and melty, to the point where it was running down his hand. Paul kept stressing to me that he was a simple man with simple tastes. He liked cheese and crackers for lunch, apples & bananas for snacks, pizza and lasagna for dinner. His dining out choices were the cold cut sub from the Subway, donburi from the local Japanese restaurants, and omelettes from IHOP. I later learned the reason for his food choices; the oral surgery that he had in 2007 had made food less palatable and harder to move around in his mouth.
We ‘d often talk about music and he himself said that he had very pedestrian tastes in music compared to the eclectic tastes of our friends. In addition to bands you suspected he liked such as Led Zeppelin, Bowie, Queen and Alice Cooper, he also liked Paul McCartney, Kate Bush, The Pretenders, The Psychedelic Furs, Joy Division, Jesus and Mary Chain, the Bay City Rollers, Elton John and the Cocteau Twins. He described to me some of the concerts he attended in the past. At this point I can only remember his stories of Led Zeppelin at the Pacific Coliseum in 1973 and The Cramps at the Commodore in 1992. When I asked him if he could choose to have the voice of any other singer who would it be , I was quite surprised by his answer …Steven Tyler of Aerosmith. I would have guessed Freddie Mercury.
Out in public Paul was pretty quiet. He was most comfortable at home and likened himself to a house cat. I think he just liked to observe and I would say that he measured and weighed his words very carefully before speaking. He avoided drama and certainly didn’t want to attract it either so he always spoke or wrote very carefully with great consideration to the possible outcomes. If he was feeling particularly energetic he’d like to talk about himself; describing the different bands he had played in, growing up in Surrey, his past jobs and what he was doing in his current job. He was quite clever and witty. When I caught on to his jokes I would often snort and he would laugh and then I would laugh. When I was slow in catching on to his jokes, he would be slightly annoyed that I made him repeat it and that I had missed his comedic timing. Paul was fond of word play. The song “Made in Japan”, the Pleasure Suit album title “Put It On” and his compilation box set “The Polly Package” are fine examples. In contrast he had no shortage of corny “dad” jokes either. He would often tell Finn to “eat over the sink like a man.”
Paul was the dearest of friends and I will miss my silly conversations with him between loads of laundry and dishes, photographing him in concert trying to capture his best side and pose, and hanging out at the back of the Grill with him and Richard.
Finn, your dad said many times over the years that you were a very smart young man, that he’s lucky to have such a nice son that doesn’t get into trouble. He’s confident that you’ll be successful in whatever career or education you choose. Kimiko, whenever Paul talked to me about you, he would tell me that you were a very strong and smart woman who is capable of achieving anything she puts her mind to. In mid October when I broached the subject of his mortality asking how you would fare, he said to me “She will be just fine and will get through this and will be able to move forward. She has a lot of support.”
When I formed a band called Transvestimentals from my core group of friends and favourite musician-songwriters, my agenda was simple: Showcase for Paul, alternate platform for Nicole (Steen of Coal). Sure we were in music terms a bit long in the fangs but no matter: we were conscious, mobile (bad backs aside), upright and had all our faculties and there was Rock to Roll, man. The focus shifted more and more Paul's way for the prolific rate of riotous joyful sexy rollicking songs was unstoppable and irresistible. As good as any of the best of Bowie, Roxy Music and Mott the Hoople but with a more knowing self-mockery, albeit gentle rather than vicious.
I was not the first one to harness the raging talent and mysteriously provocative presentation of the best frontman I've ever seen, especially once Paul was seen to be free as a hired guitar-slinger and fantastic song-writer. After our 2nd show no less than 3 local "legends" had told me they intended to head-hunt Paul. Good luck!
Paul and I shared a few things in common. Both of us hated windy weather, promoting ourselves, rude careless disrespectful mean racist sexist idiots, leaving our homes, windy and rainy combo weather, demanding people, going outside, touring, rainy weather on its own, asking for anything, depending on anyone for anything, racist sexist weather, gender-unbending, age-ist people, any type of weather, and windy people
Headhunters of Paul: Sure! Legion!!! And to watch that play out was fun and funny. Those who hitched themselves to the Star of Paul found out that the orbit of the Star revolved around a small apartment, a treasured son, a beautiful smart wife, and a sprinkling of family and community. He was not going to be your ticket to rock-n-roll glammerfame, not your ticket at all. He's not ambitious but he is stunningly talented and thank fuck, he liked to share it with us. To know Paul is to know how to let him be and keep him close in one's heart, like a wolf that likes being near you and sharing food by the fire but not if you never shut the fuck up! Paul thinks a lot of things are funny and he is remarkably funny, but if you weren't listening carefully and letting things unfold, ha you missed it! Too bad, asshole. Learn from your mistakes: its the quiet smart ones not the show-ponies that count, although for a band both can be needed. Not mine. Show-ponies not shown. Paul stayed with the Transvestimentals until I was diagnosed with Parkinsons and folded up our tent.
Thank you Paul, for all the years. All the laughing at rehearsals, the mad lyrics, the truth within them, the melodic elegant raunchiness of your guitar sound and the dress sense! Looking good and sounding good? That is great. Looking bloody fantastic and sounding like everyone's very favourite songwriter and everyone's most giddily thrilling guitarist, well, that is Paul.
Its such a fun record (I loved the youtube of the Sticks doing "Put a Little English on It" btw).
Paul really nailed the idiom in a scary way. Makes my inner Ronson smile. How have I missed this guy til now? Where did he make this record and who played on it? Was Gord N in on this? "Made in Japan" is a better Mott song than a lot of Mott songs. Avoiding copyright infringement with "Roll 'Way the Stone" not "Roll Away the Stone". Guitar by Mark Ralphs! Its dynamite."
"I didn't put 2 and 2 together with the "No Fun" connection but loved them too. I watched some footage online of different "Polly" incarnations and was wowed by his guitar feel. That kind of touch is so fucking rare. When we came across our Murray we became Odds again because he had that feel. We call it "70's hands". It was a no brainer to ask him to join the band. It doesn't happen often anymore. You can tell when somebody actually lives and breathes through the guitar in that particular way. It's a black art. No instructions can teach it. "
I have never been more privileged to play with another musician than in the Transvestimentals with Paul.
I think the highlight was when I first heard "Filthy Chair". The chord progression blew my mind. I realized that I was seeing something special, a true talent who was unpretentious, humble and totally confident (in heels!)
I feel I never appreciated what we had there, a fantastic band with great personalities. I was by far the least talented and wish I pushed harder to make more of that experience. But, I enjoyed it all, and I still play the songs to my much suffering friends as I recount my brush with glam super stardom. I have Valerias TVM band photos framed on the wall above my drum kit, which I'm trying to learn again.
I still remember the first time I encountered No Fun, on Shaw public access and Paul was standing in the middle of King George highway while proposing it be named the Paul Leahy Parkway... I had NO IDEA I would ever be in a band with Paul at that time.
At our shows at the Railway, Paul always had a little picture of Finn on his amplifier, a little reminder of what matters.
The light that burns twice as bright is supposed to burn half as long, but that's bullshit. The great ones should last longer.
All my best
I first “met” Paul on Facebook. He liked my posts. I appreciated his good taste. A long time later I realized I had been corresponding with THAT Paul Leahy.
Later, watching him at LanaLou’s, I felt like I had stumbled upon a teenager's bedroom and was watching a boy prance around with a hairbrush. He had a lanky frame. His head tilted down and he looked back in a shy awkward way. He adjusted one amp, then his mic, then another amp, adjusted his peaked hat. He seemed painfully self-conscious. He blew through his lips, turned back to Eric Lowe and David Charan his band mates. He rocked back on his foot, made another adjustment, struck a chord and then BLAM, lightning. Seemingly from nowhere, Paul Leahy glam god appeared! It was then that you saw the lithe black-clad creature with the sloe eyes peering out from under his commander cap as he made Swarovski Crystal out of Bowie’s Diamond Dogs.
In Vancouver, I think it is agreed that no one does Dogs any better. He is glam, he is hot, he is cool, he is a family man and a gentleman. THAT is PAUL LEAHY.
My dearest Kimiko, Finn, and the wonder that is Polly. My heart is with you at this time; sadly, I'm afraid it is broken. Polly, I don't know that you remember me, and obviously in your storied career, there are many people who've had the honour of sharing a stage with you, or adored you from afar — much as I did. In what I consider the greatest of honours, I was able to accompany you on bass at two shows. Rehearsing with you, you never belittled me for my meagre bass playing at the time; instead you were so courteous, so patient, writing out all the chord changes in your songs. I never knew playing in a band could be like this.
You elevated me.
You enthralled me.
You were so gracious, downplaying your talent when I exuberantly would request songs ("How Do You Go"). I felt something like I'd never felt in the music scene before. I have two photos of me in costume (nothing too risqué!) that I treasure dearly, and proudly point out to the love of my life, now my wife, the good times I had playing with my favourite band, The Transvestimentals. I am proud to have been part of something bigger than I'd ever dreamed.
You, sir, are a gentleman in every respect. If I could give some portion of my remaining years to you, I would do so without hesitation, if only to hear you play again. But I'm lucky, because I don't think I'll ever forget a single note, a single lyric, for as long as I live.
With all our love, Justin and Susan Clow
So I'm writing things about Paul, but it's really quite boring... "a person has never before been as humble as he is talented". "Paul's brain works faster and more efficient than ANY modern recording system. If we could have just hooked a few cables up to Polly's brain and uploaded the data into pro tools, we would have ended up with an endless amount of AMAZING material... in a tiny fraction of the time."
I have lots of stuff like that... but I want to contribute something funny, and maybe roast Paul a bit!!! HAHAHA!
his theory of "can I eat 2?" comes to mind right away!!! HAHAHA
As far as a favourite song... I don't have one... I can visualize Paul's vision and hear where I fell short on each track...
Don't get me wrong... I know it is one of the most incredible albums of our age... but being so close to it, I critique my own work far too much to be able to be satisfied . ... although I LOVE LOVE LOVE ANY of the guitar solos!!!!!!!
The "short, but sweet" Saturday boys guitar solo makes me feel like I'm a kid on Christmas every time I hear it!!
Back in the early years of No Fun and I was mixing them, people would always think Paul and I were related. So I can't really remember how it started, but we started convincing people that we were brothers. Well one show I was able to convince some people that we were identical twins and we were born the same size. However when we were kids we were involved in a freak circus accident. Where Paul was stretched and I was compressed.... I remember it getting more and more outlandish as time passed.
The Circus accident in detail... Him and I were pulled into the Clown show, when they pull kids from the audience into a part of their show. They stuffed me into a canon and tied Paul's feet and arms to two clown cars. Wasn't supposed to be real, but that's the accident part. I got shot out of the canon into a wall and shortened. Paul got stretched by the clown cars. The drunken girls at the Rail thought it was a hoot... Penny I think was there too.... Anyway that was long ago. Amazed I even remembered that one... ha!
Don Vito Donatiello