Jimmy Fagg

Sitting in the pub in front of the Joanna, lank, stringy hair, crazy eyes and devilish smile: Jimmy Fagg was on old fashioned pub comedian with a sharp and biting wit. Those in the know would buy him a drink on entering the pub to spare themselves being savaged by his jokes.

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He was a regular fixture in many East End pubs in the 60s to the early 80s. He was often billed as Mad Jimmy Fagg. He had a weekend residency at the Imperial Crown in Bromley-by-Bow and was well known in pubs such as the Red Lion on Exmouth Market. Both these pubs, like Jimmy, are now sadly long gone.
Though not a poet he was a brilliant in your face comedian. Many of his songs came from music hall. There was a great mix of popular songs, jokes and ‘recitations’ in music hall and both punk and ranting kept a fair bit of the tradition of earthy, working class humour.

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He’d belt out songs like ‘What A Wonderful Fish The Sole Is’

What a wonderful fish the sole is
What a wonderful fish are soles
I must relate I am partial to plaice
When served on a dish as rissoles

What a wonderful fish the sole is
Like salmon they swim in shoals
But the sweetest of fish
When placed on a dish
Are soles, are soles, are soles.

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I Want To Go To Heaven For The Weekend was another song he’d belt out, songs that’d get the pub singing along drunkenly.
Ranters were often from the same working class culture and had the same in your face edge. The pub in the 70s and 80s was the focus of the community, this was before the TV and interweb isolated us. Handling rowdy crowds was part and parcel of your job. I’ve often advised young poets to get out and gig in pubs and with bands. Personally speaking, having come up through the ranks doing poems in pubs and gigs with the likes of the Angelic Upstarts, poetry audiences hold no fear for me at all.

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Jimmy Fagg in 1961

Jimmy Fagg learnt his craft as a musician in the Royal Marines. It was said he’d twice been up for mutiny. As unruly as ever.
In the 80s he was spotted by the young wave of comedians who made up The Comic Strip Presents and appeared in many of their TV comedies: The Bullshitters: South Atlantic Raiders: Part 2 Argie Bargie!, GLC: The Carnage Continues, Oxford, Spaghetti Hoops, Les Dogs, The Crying Game, Detectives on the Edge of a Nervous Breakdown, Space Virgins from Planet Sex, Queen of the Wild Frontier. Although an older face than the likes of Rik Mayall, Ade Edmondson and Peter Richardson he was often the most anarchic.

He also appeared in films, Eat The Rich being the one I remember best. Better yet he played a pub pianist in the early Channel 4 Isle of Dogs drama Prospects. He plays through a fight started by a character played by mate Perry Benson. Jimmy also appears in Minder, both made by the much missed Euston Films.

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4 thoughts on “Jimmy Fagg

  1. mistermanning

    I remember my dad and his mates swapping cassettes of Jimmy’s performances out and about in Working men’s clubs when I was a kid. Whether these were legit or bootlegs I don’t know. I do do however remember the look of disdain on my mums face when the cassettes were put on in the car and the filth and the fury spewed out of the speakers!

    Reply
  2. John

    I used to see him at the Imperial Crown where he was a regular Friday to Sunday in the 80’s. Generally Sunday was never a good session as he was usually drunk as a skunk. Always sang the same songs. Whitechapel fair, the Cow song, the sole song to name a few. Overall always a great laugh.

    Reply

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