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The Reinvention of Jerry Fish
He’s the joker in the Irish music pack, a working class hero who has at once conquered and subverted the mainstream. For his first album in six years JERRY FISH and his MUDBUG CLUB have also roped in some top-tier collaborators including rockabilly queen Imelda May and Carol Keogh.
Peter Murphy, 06 May 2009
“I was only a teenager when I met Jerry at a party. There was a good old sing-song going on in the back of a garden until four in the morning out in East Wall,” Imelda recalls. “Our tastes are similar. Both of us would be very passionate about, for want of a better word, keeping it real. He’s into having an authentic old sound but still keeping it contemporary, and that’s something close to my heart as well. He’s like a mad wizard when you’re recording with him. He just stands there and you sing along and he says, ‘Maybe try it in a ‘40s style. Now I want you to sing it like a madwoman, you’re a gypsy!’ He’s like Ed Wood (laughs).
“Jerry was saying to me that we’re both from working class families, which in music can be quite rare. You get a lot of kids who had garages to play music in, and we didn’t. And as well as that, you’re in smaller houses and you’ve more time together so you listen to stories and have sing-songs more. And I do think that might have had something to do with the fact that you don’t want realism. The whole area I lived in – people would kill me if I turned up (for a show) looking scruffy. They’d say, ‘Oh for god’s sake would you dress up!’
“I’m the last of the children in a large family, so I could spend time with my parents at the end of rearing the kids. My parents are from a different generation and I loved the records and movies they had in the house. They were laughing because I was talking about Norma Shearer or Rosalind Russell, all the old film stars, and they were saying, ‘How do you know about them?’ and I said, ‘I picked them up off you’.
“My mother was a dressmaker and my dad was originally a teacher of old-time dances before he was a painter and decorator. He couldn’t make ends meet when people started dancing on their own in the ‘60s and ‘70s – so he had to pack it in. Looking at the old black-and-white photos of me mam in the fabulous dresses and me dad with the hair slicked back and the tails... it had a lot of romanticism about it. The music and the imagery together painted this fabulous picture for me as a kid – it took you into another world.”