We all know where the Pogues’ name comes from (Irish Gaelic for something unrepeatable), and that the title of Rum, Sodomy And The Lash is an apocryphal saying attributed to Winston Churchill. So let’s cut the crap and get on with enjoying three fine songs from the band who are credited with inventing Celtic Punk, a genre of music that requires fast and energetic playing of traditional (or traditionally flavoured) Irish music.
The Pogues were founded in King’s Cross, North London, in 1982. Their frontman, Shane MacGowan (not exactly an Adonis and the dentists’s nightmare) claimed that they did their music as they did because he couldn’t believe nobody else was doing it. As a result, there was a small goldrush of bands like The Men They Couldn’t Hang imitating their style as evinced on their first album, Red Roses For Me: but it was the second LP that really broke them, with a move towards more original material mixed with the trads.
One such is Body Of An American (FF 1986 #50), which Shane himself wrote and which was added to the recent re-release of the LP after its first incarnation on Poguetry In Motion.
Cait O’Riordan (who was to leave the band shortly afterwards) sings the next track (FF 1985 #25), an Irish ballad purporting to be the narrative of a rich landowner holding court in the pub.
Pogues, I’m A Man You Don’t Meet Every Day
Finally, A Pair Of Brown Eyes should have been a big hit, but only reached 71 in the UK charts (and FF 1985 #20): I always thought it was a traditional ballad, but that is surely a tribute to MacGowan’s songwriting genius. Great and extremely telling Alex Cox video in Big Brother format here:
Now put down your Guinness and get over here for their greatest song and a perennial Christmas classic (since people seem to need signposting to my ailing sister blog, even in November).
When I was 18, I went to university. Suddenly, it seemed like a whole new world had opened up for me. No parents telling me what to do, I could smoke, I could drink…
So I chose the latter. Today’s post is to celebrate the bands that were never there to accompany my drunken binges, and yet should have been: The Pogues and The Men They Couldn’t Hang. It is also a memorial to the war that was, and should never have been.
Shane McGowan was the dentist’s nightmare, he pissed it up more times than I’ve had hot dinners, and yet his slurred, straining voice always seemed to hit the perfect note. You could sing along with him on the pub jukebox, yet you would never quite get it right. What a vocalist. However, until now, his real message had escaped me.
Sally MacLennane (FF 1985 # 13) should be the number one boozy singalong, an ode to one’s favourite watering hole: ‘Sad to say, I must be on me way/But buy me beer and whiskey, ‘cos I’m going far away‘. The sobering reality (brought solidly home in And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda (FF 1985 #64 (!))) was that this guy was pissing it up because he thought it was the last time he’d ever get to do such with his mates, due to the inconvenience of the 1914-1918 war.
It is easy to be reduced to tears by the latter, in its harrowing story of a WW1 veteran. If that is harrowing, The Green Fields Of France (FF 1984 #3) by The Men They Couldn’t Hang brings the cycle to its desolate, yet logical conclusion: the man is dead, and he is being imagined by a passer-by at his gravestone.
Oh What A Lovely War was a pacifist musical I had the privilege to study: in the film, after the increasing desperation of the jingoistic songs of the first half, at the conclusionThey’ll Never Remember (from which the title of the post comes) plays over a seemingly infinite field of crosses in a nameless graveyard. 90 years on, there is nobody left to remind us just how awful it was. Every day, we recreate that horror in some country. Every day, we display the fact that we have learnt absolutely nothing.
[This is not about making money. War is wrong. You want the Cds containing these songs, you find them.]