Three Monkeys Online

A Curious, Alternative Magazine

Recurring Heartworm – The return of Whipping Boy

Slight of frame and grey of hair, Paul Page stands still while Dublin furiously rushes hither and dither. His arms are folded to a city that is far removed from a place he called home as a child of the ’80s, where street football occupied all the hours that the sun shone.

Outside is the smell of stress.

Maybe it lingers in his nostrils as he struggles to order a coffee from a waitress inside. His request for an 'ordinary' coffee only prompts further questions about various extras of a foreign etymology.

It's a quarter to one, the lunchtime rush still some minutes away.“It's flexible”, Paul says of his own lunch break. His IT job is a million miles away from the screech and smell of a gig in St. Francis Xavier Hall, just up the road from the city centre pub he now sits in. It was there, over twenty years ago, Whipping Boy's guitarist discovered his raison d'etre.

“I really got into music when I was about 16 or 17”, he recalls, “and it was like a light switch going off. I remember seeing Echo and the Bunnymen in th St. Francis Xavier Hall. I'd say it was around '’85. It was probably the place to play. I was absolutely blown away by the power four guys could generate on stage and the hold that they had over the audience was just phenomenal.

I went with Myles, the bass player [with Whipping Boy], who is a cousin of mine. I remember coming home from that gig with Myles and saying to him 'we're going to play there someday'. So when we actually got to play there, I reminded him just before we went on stage so it was a nice moment.”

That was then and this is now. What was nice became nasty and bitter as Whipping Boy broke up at the end of the ’90s having just managed to release their third album Whipping Boy. It was a far cry from the critical acclaim which greeted their seminal second album Heartworm (1995), which was fêted with so much praise it became intimidating.“If you want a comparison that does Whipping Boy justice, think of James Joyce and Martin Scorsese-pissed up angry and morose, ready to hit the confessional with all they have got. Dubliners via Mean Streets. Scary. Uncompromising. Magnificent.” [Melody Maker]

The commercial disappointment of Heartworm led them closer to the Spinal Tap nadir, rows over t-shirts, rows with each other (lead singer Ferghal McKee and Page were at the heart of the internal conflict) and 'gurus' advising about this, that, and the other were contributing to their decline. They lost the backing of Sony though they soldiered on to release their self titled third album in 2000.

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