Petesy Burns: Let's Re-Light His Fire!

Petesy Burns – Outcast, legend, bucket of positive energy, source of earthy wisdom and 70s punk spirit, Motown aficionado and writer of songs, powerhouse drummer, coiled-spring vendor of blistering riffs on guitar and driving bass, a lover of lattés and a teacher of Tai Chi on the beach… a man with a big grin and a beard… an anarchist with humanity.

And now he needs our help.

Anyone who has ever met Petesy Burns will know his many qualities. If you’re feeling down, he’ll take the time to lift your spirits. If you need a band for a charity thing, he’s there.

He’s a very difficult man to pay. If there is something he can do for you, it’s all you can do to get him to take some petrol money, and even then…  

I’ve only known Petesy for a couple of years. In late 2018, I was raging against NI government corruption and hubris, and felt the need to make a punk recording to highlight the problem. I wrote ‘Smash the System’ – but who’s interested in a bourgeois nonentity playing old-school punk? I needed some credibility… and I knew someone who knew Petesy. At that time, everyone was talking about Petesy Burns’ Arse – his latest band. You had to admire the fellow for the name alone! Petesy had credibility to spare and, what’s more, he was happy to lend it and come on the adventure.

We’ve had lots of adventures since – musical, charitable and social. And it’s all been great fun.

In recent times, Petesy – as well as playing in the Outcasts and leading his Motown revue Funk Tank – has been playing in Dave McLarnon’s Sunset (a revival of Dave’s progressive-rock school band from the pre-punk era) and performed memorably with Dave’s Hat Band supergroup at a charity gig in the Pavilion on 13 March 2010, and with Brian Houston’s power trio at the same event. It was the last gig almost everyone there would see or play at all year. Typically, Petesy put huge energy, time and goodwill into rehearsing for and performing at that event and we raised hundreds of pounds for a local Foetal Alcohol Syndrome support group. The previous gig I’d been involved in with him had raised hundreds for a local homelessness charity. This is the sort of fellow he is.

Petesy was due to marry Woodralina this year, but Covid put that on hold. Just as well, because with his gigs and Tai Chi sessions unable to take place, he has had to live on the savings for that wedding. And now the piggybank is nearly empty.

Petesy has never been a burden on the state. He’s a giver, not a taker. He has always lived frugally, within his means. Woody reckons he gets by on around £10,000 a year. That’s quite an achievement in itself. But when circumstances take away your ability to make even that small living and when you fall largely outside the safety net for government assistance, it’s time for friends to step in.

I know many in the music community will be having their own hard times at present. If you can’t afford anything, don’t worry. If you can – please give something!

Woody asked me to help, and I asked Dave to help. Yes, I needed to borrow a bit of that punk credibility again… We filmed a one-take pitch and bit of fun today on a borrowed phone – the spirit of punk in a bourgeois back garden, with one or two musical interludes from Dave, in tribute to Petesy’s involvement in both the Outcasts and Dave’s Sunset band.

The figure of £2,500 will allow Petesy to get by for another three or four months if there is still no opportunity for him to make his living. If we can raise more, then please, let’s do that.

Petesy knows nothing of this – because he would have (wrongly) turned down the help if he knew in advance. But Woody assures me that he will humbly accept the help if it is given. Let’s show some love!

Colin Harper, October 2020


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Colin Harper 
Belfast, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom
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