Those Nervous Animals set out for the summit, skipping base camp entirely.
‘What about that for a band name?’, pipes up Cathal.
Those Nervous Animals?
‘No’, said everyone in chorus.
Keep reading to find out more about the band history…
How Those Nervous Animals got their ridiculous name.
Eddie Lee played fretless bass guitar before ever he tried getting music out of a normal fretted one. That’s definitely the cart before the horse, most bassists will tell you. Like heading off on a trial bike before you learn to ride a push-bike. In a way, it was typical of the approach of the band. They wanted to write classic songs right away, on the first day. Those Nervous Animals set out for the summit, skipping base camp entirely. Difficult parts were often undertaken before simple ones.
Eddie’s dad was Denis Lee, of Cleveragh Road, and Denis owned Morgan and Bourke, the fuel company. They were based down Tobergal Lane: you went down to the right off O’Connell Street, it was opposite where Beezies is now. Barry Brennan and Pádraig Meehan knew each other a while, they were both art students in the College. Crusus was one band they formed. They had written – and even recorded – a couple of songs. But they needed more musicians, and Barry had a tip about these lads – he didn’t know them, unusually for Barry, who knew everyone – who played down the alley.
It was dark and wintry, probably 1981. Barry sported long hair and a long beard, nearly everyone said hello to Barry as he strode down O’Connell Street. The pair listened for a while to the sounds emanating from behind tall steel gates. Not bad. The two lads exchanged looks, then banged on the gates. It took a while for their knocking to be noticed over the racket. They were invited in by Eddie Lee,stepped through a hinged opening, and joined the session. They had brought along acoustic guitars.
Eddie was slapping his fretless. Carl Smith – from Strandhill Road – was belting along on a battered ould set of drums. The two schoolfriends’ repertoire included riffs from The Cure and Level 42. They didn’t do songs. Neither of them sang. Singing didn’t come into it, somehow. There were no mikes or speakers in the room. Just the desk and filing cabinets and folders and invoices for the coal company, the drum kit squeezed into one corner, Eddies bass cab in the other. Only one chair.
Morgan and Bourke sold bags of coal from the yard, and delivered. Barry and Pádraig were a bit older than the rhythm section. They knew Rolling Stones songs. What could be heard of Barry singing above all the noise sounded good. Eddie and Carl listened to Pádraig’s wordy songs. They didn’t agree to form a band straight away.
The Morgan and Bourke connection proved an invaluable one for the new group. They had a temporary rehearsal space and – hey presto – Eddie had the use of a company van – a red Ford Transit, with turfmould all over the floor (Pádraig and Eddie soon started a side business, selling bags of turf in the estates around Sligo). Carl didn’t wind up in the band. He wasn’t into it. He stayed friends with the lads, he used to drum on his chest at parties. Eddie knew a drummer called Cathal Hayden, from Magheraboy.
Cathal named the band. Or thought of the name, anyway. The foursome used to play pool and video games in Beezies, and have lunch sometimes in The Cottage Restaurant. The Cottage was run then by a wonderful lady, the late Joan Clarke. They were getting close to the time for their first gig, over in the Blue Lagoon.
One day, at a table by the door in The Cottage, they were having a typical discussion – about wildlife (Eddie was a biology graduate and Barry was a bird fanatic. He could identify almost any native species of our feathered friends). Cathal, out of the blue, said; ‘But what is the most nervous animal?’ Cathal used to be called Mr Friction, for his acerbic wit. You had to pay attention to tell the irony from the serious. ‘What do you call the little ones who commit suicide en masse..?’
‘Lemmings,’ said Eddie, ‘They’re not nervous, they’re just stupid’. Barry was Master Punner. ‘Pier Pressure, it’s all pier pressure’, said Barry. Pádraig ignored this contribution. ‘Deer,’ said he, sagely. ‘A deer must be the most nervous animal. The first creature in the forest to lift the head and listen to any new sound’. ‘What about that for a band name?’, pipes up Cathal. ‘Those Nervous Animals?‘ ‘No’, said everyone in chorus.
‘That’s a ridiculous name’, said Barry. ‘I like it.’