Scullion’s self-titled 1979 debut album included abstractions from James Joyce – ‘The Fruit Smelling Shop’. Now, in celebration of Bloomsday, Wednesday 16th June, the seminal folk rock band share a reimagined version of the song as part of The Bloomsday Festival – a unique literary festival happening online for 2021, which is made possible thanks to Culture Ireland, The Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht Sport and Media, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, and the James Joyce Centre.
This reimagining of ‘The Fruit Smelling Shop’ came about because of an invitation to Scullion member Sonny Condell from Darina Gallagher, the Director of The James Joyce Centre in Dublin.
“In my role as director of the James Joyce Centre, I have been overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and appetite for Joyce, his literature, and his legacy, from a truly global audience. As I began to think about another online Bloomsday Festival, in these strangest of times, I plucked up the courage to write to Sonny Condell and ask him if he might be interested in reimaging the Fruit Smelling Shop for this audience. To my joy, Sonny responded positively and immediately set to work.
For Bloomsday 2021, I decided to celebrate Dublin, the place that inspired so much of Joyce’s writing and in his mind, the city that Joyce never really left. The Fruit Smelling Shop captures so much of the extraordinary energy of Joyce’s Dublin. I am so happy to have been a small part of this beautiful new recording.”
This special recording was captured at The Clinic Recording Studios Dublin by David Anthony Curley, and produced by Leon O’ Neill. It features performances by Scullion – band members Sonny Condell, Robbie Overson and Philip King, with strings arranged by Gemma Doherty (Saint Sister) and performed by Crash Ensemble – Cora Venus Lunny on violin, Maria Ryan on violin, Lisa Dowdall on viola, and Kate Ellis on cello.
Sonny Condell reflects on how ‘The Fruit Smelling Shop’ first arrived, back in the late 70’s:
“I think songs come out of the blue, either very quickly or after long and painful period of trial and error, its seems to depend very much on one’s mood. But it is very exciting when things go well and you find you have given birth to something new.
Sometimes when I’m trying to write a song, I get quite tired of my own lyrical ideas and this was the case when I opened at random a page in James Joyce’s “Ulysses”.
Unusually for me I was playing around with a few piano cords at the time, (normally I use the guitar ) I propped open my copy on the piano and started to try fit the words to a developing melody.
‘The Fruit Smelling Shop’ came into being very quickly, it just happened, the cord sequence worked, and the words pushed and pulled me; into a chorus where “Blazes Boylan at the counter….” Seemed to call for a strong C major, then the serving girl’s submissive “yes sir I will sir” felt like an E minor, A minor sequence.
The hard part was done, the atmosphere was all in the wonderful writing of Mr Joyce, then I began to wonder, what right do I have to do this? I still don’t have the answer to that.
But having been asked by the James Joyce Centre to do a new version of the song, has in some way legitimised the creation of the song. I’m very grateful to the James Joyce Centre for their interest and their support.”
Scullion had asked for, and received permission to use the segment when they first recorded the tune in the late seventies. They have now recorded it for the second time, as part of the Bloomsday festivities, and for their new Scullion album set for release this autumn.
A specially commissioned film for ‘The Fruit Smelling Shop’ created by Myles O’Reilly (Arbutus Yarns) is available online via the Other Voices YouTube Channel.
The Bloomsday Festival celebrates Irish writer James Joyce and his famous novel Ulysses set in Dublin city on 16th June 1904. This unique literary festival will once again be online for 2021 but it will aim to inspire and entertain the many thousands of global fans and hopefully gather new audiences for Ireland’s greatest writer.
Now more than ever we need to look to the creative strengths that surround us, our writers, artists, performers, and musicians to guide us out of this pandemic. In Ulysses, James Joyce reminds us of the joy of the ordinary and every day, but also that the local is universal, ‘if I can get to the heart of Dublin, I can get to the heart of all the cities of the world’.
The Bloomsday Festival 2021 has been truly inspired by the response of Irish and international artists, writers, performers, musicians, academics, reading groups, and all who love the works of James Joyce. It seems that Ulysses has indeed some special resonance for these times. As we look towards 2022 and Ulysses 100, the centenary celebrations of this great novel, we hope we can once again welcome everyone back to this great city, and like James Joyce, we will all have Dublin ‘written on our hearts’.
For full details on the festival, visit http://www.bloomsdayfestival.ie/