Nips’n’Nipple Erectors are of course Shane MacGowan’s pre-Pogues second wave UK punk band. I bought Bops, Babes, Booze & Bovver originally 20 plus years ago for a lot of money when I first discovered ebay. I’m not sure of the legality of the version I bought but now the album has been re-issued on Rough Trade (300 copies on yellow vinyl) so I assume all is in order here.
The Nipple Erectors (later shortened to The Nips, probably to make the name acceptable to the powers that be at BBC) were essentially a punk – rockabilly outfit with a great sense of pop melody that released two singles during their short existence. Side-A is the Nipple Erectors side, which kicks off with the glorious punk’n’roll King of the Bop, the rocking Nervous Wreck follows (the single B-side) and So Pissed off and Stravondale Rd., N5 from the same session but not then released close out that side. Side-B is The Nips side. Private Eye is Teddy Boy rock’n’Roll dragged screaming through 1977. Gabriella (produced by Paul Weller) is a pop-punk gem and the violent Vengeance (later covered by Dropkick Murphys) is a great slab (or stab) of early punk . An early insight into the genius of MacGowan.
Kilmaine Saints – Wearing of the Green Auld Corn Brigade – Irish soldier laddie The Brazen Heads – Wind That Shakes The Barley Black 47 – Vinegar Hill Barney Murray – Glory, Glory Oh The Battering Ram – Henry Joy The Town Pants – Kelly The Boy From Killanne The Battering Ram – General Munro Shane MacGowan and the Popes – Roddy McCorley The Porters – The Rising of the Moon Neck – Back Home In Derry
The Penal Laws:
So you thought the last 600 years of Irish history was crappy, well those were actually the good ‘oul days. With the Irish Catholic army in France and William light footed elsewhere the fully Protestant parliament in Dublin break every agreement in the treaty using the excuse that the Pope now was recognizing Jimmy Deuce as the rightfully King of Ireland and England, allowing them to consolidate their power and destroy any remaining Catholic power in the country. The laws they brought in were called The Penal Laws and were social engineering at its worst, designed to impoverish and disenfranchise the Catholic population. The modern equivalent would be the apartheid laws in South Africa – and like apartheid they were all about keeping the power and wealth within a select group rater then to force Catholics to convert (as much a apartheid was designed to change skin color) though the laws were structured that if a son of a wealthy landowner converted then he would inherit all the fathers property (sometimes this was encouraged within family’s when one converted and the rest prayed for his eternal soul) ,if there was no conversion then the land was subdivided between all sons. Education, voting and property rights were banned as was carrying of any weapons and the ownership of horses was restricted. Churches were closed and Popish priests would be exacted if caught in the country. Ironically, the Presbyterians in Ulster who supported Willie and held out against Jimbo in Derry were also subject to the Penal Laws – their faith was not recognized at all and while a Catholic priest would be boiled, burned and beheaded if caught in the country his sacraments were still recognized by the state as valid – marriages the Presbyterians minister performed were not though they didn’t have to fear the being anyone’s barbecue – thousands of these dissenters left for North America and within a couple of generations they had their revenge and made life very difficult for the British in the colonies before becoming the original Hillbillies and Red Necks of the American South. “I bet you can squeal like a pig. Yah Fenian bastard!”
Through out the 1700’s thing in Ireland got worse and worse and the Catholic population ground into poverty or left the county for the armies of Europe or education in the Irish Colleges in Paris or Rome. Famine broke out twice in the 1700 yet the Landlord class built large palatial mansions and ruled over estates of tens of thousands of acres with thousand of tenant farmers living hand to mouth eating the only crop that could grow on their miserable few acres that would feed their brood of 25 red headed runts, the potato. If a tenant improved his land then the rent was raised, if another tenant offered more rent for another tenants land then that land went to the highest bidder and the original tenant was thrown off the land. Pretty suckie! If you every visit Ireland make sure you visit Castletown House outside Dublin (Celbridge) and take the tour. The house is the largest house in Ireland built by William Conelly, the speaker of the Dublin parliament who made a fortune through taking over the land of the disposed in the early 1700’s and as the tour guide in the plummy West-Brit accent tells you about the wonderful life of the inhabitants of the big house, stick yer paw up and ask about the Irish in their mud cabin out the back who were paying for the parasites life style – it’s great to watch ’em squirm.
The United Irishmen:
In the 1776 the world shifted on its axis and 13 British Colonies declared independence and Ireland and especially Ulster with its close ties to the Americas (family ties so close that family trees were often just trunks) got cowbell republican fever. Then in 1789 the other country that provided sanctuary to the Irish, France, fell to republicanism. Within 3 years of the fall of the Bastille in 1792 saw the formation of the Society of United Irishmen that combined liberal Protestants in Dublin and Belfast with the Catholic rump with the idea of revolution to bring in democracy to Ireland, leaders of the movement included Lord Edward Fitzgerald – the youngest son of the Duke of Leinster – who started his career as a Redcoat and was shot and left for dead at Yorktown being rescued from the battlefield by a slave, Wolfe Tone (not the group but the man, though they are old enough to have been around then) and Napper Tandy. From pamphlets they moved quickly to revolution and appeals to the new French dictator Napoleon to send troops to Invade Ireland. Ireland moved toward all out revolution. Wolfe Tone tries 3 times to bring the French to Ireland. In 1796, 43 French ships carrying 15,000 men got in sight of Bantry Bay but the “Protestant winds” stopped the landing, there was another attempt in 1797 but again the weather stopped the landing and a third attempt was undertake with 3,000 men but disaster struck and Tone and Tandy were captured at the Battle of Lough Swilly in October 1798 which ended the rebellion (and Tone’s life).
The 1798 Rising:
Skipping back a few months to March 1798 and after a particularly riotous Paddy’s day martial law was imposed (well more due to informers actually) forcing the United Irishmen into action before the French could try to show up again – a small rebellion breaks out in Cahir, County Tipperary that is quickly crushed, then the United Irishmen planed to take Dublin but again the government had a hot line to the plans through Informers. Never the less rebellion breaks out in surrounding counties of Kildare (Barney Murray – Glory, Glory Oh), Carlow and Wicklow (Holt’s Way) and are all crushed quickly and brutally. The rebellion spreads to Ulster and Antrim (Roddy McCorley) and Down and after initial success the rebels are………you guessed it……..crushed. To the south in Wexford the biggest rebellion of all breaks out and under the leadership of the Catholic priest, Fr. John Murphy – who was initially a government loyalist but who turned after witnessing government brutality to his parishioners. The rebels quickly took over the county but defeats at the Battle of New Ross, Battle of Arklow, and the Battle of Bunclody halted the spread of the rebellion outside of the county. The government poured in 20,000 troops and the Irish and the Red Coats with support from German mercenaries met at Vinegar Hill. Despite the splendid leader ship of Fr. Murphy the rebels were poorly armed and trained and up against battle hardened regulars they are encircled and completely routed. Much butchery of the surrendering rebels and their civilian followers followed – Fr Murphy was stripped, flogged, hanged, decapitated, his corpse burnt in a barrel of tar and his head impaled on a spike (not quite water-boarding but almost as bad).
The Republic of Connaught:
Meanwhile across the country in Mayo, a small advance party of French Solders under the command of General Jean Joseph Amable Humbert land and they are met by the local muckers and the local branch of the United Irishmen. They quickly defeat the yeomanry and march on the 6,000 red coats hanging out in Castlebar. Faced with 1,000 Frenchmen and 1,000 bogmen with pikes (big stick with points on one end) in front of them the Redcoats turn and run and the battle becomes know in local legend as the Castlebar Races – the Redcoats, not pursued a mile or two beyond Castlebar they did not stop running until reaching Tuam, with some units fleeing as far as Athlone in the panic. After Castlebar the French/Irish army tries to march across the country and meet up with rebels in the midlands with the plan of taking Dublin. They made it to the midlands but like all good Irish battle they out on the losing end at the Battle of Ballinamuck. The French troops who surrender got off easily and were exchanged for British prisoners held by the French – the Irish, well those who weren’t killed in battle were executed by Lord Cornwallis orders (he who lost America for the crown). The novel The Year of The French by Thomas Flanagan based on the French landing is highly recommended.
The rebellion was essentially over by October 1798 though some rebels held out in the hill and the bogs and with a small rebellion breaking out (more a street fight) led by Robert Emmet 1803. Emmet was the brother of Thomas a leader of the United Irishmen who managed to escape to New York. Emmet nearly escaped but the old romantic went to see his mott and was caught. He was tried for treason in front of hanging judge, Lord Norbury with his defense lawyer bribed by the crown. After he is sentenced to death the judge makes the mistake of asking Emmet “What have you, therefore, now to say why judgment of death and execution shall not be awarded against you according to law?”.
Emmet didn’t hold back and delivered one of the greatest speeches of history – ask Old Abe Lincoln – but it didn’t do him much good for the mortal world and he was hung, drawn and quartered (hung till your nearly dead, dragged behind horses and then cut in 4 pieces after he head is lobbed off by an axe).
“What have I to say why sentence of death should not be pronounced on me, according to law?
I have nothing to say which can alter your predetermination, not that it would become me to say with any view to the mitigation of that Sentence which you are here to pronounce, and by which I must abide. But I have that to say which interests me more than life, and which you have laboured, as was necessarily your office in the present circumstances of this oppressed country to destroy. I have much to say why my reputation should be rescued from the load of false accusation and calumny which has been heaped upon it. I do not imagine that, seated where you are, your minds can be so free from impurity as to receive the least impression from what I am about to utter. I have no hope that I can anchor my character in the breast of a court constituted and trammelled as this is. I only wish, and it is the utmost I expect. that your lordships may suffer it to float down your memories untainted by the foul breath of prejudice, until it finds some more hospitable harbour to shelter it from the rude storm by which it is at present buffeted.
Were I only to suffer death, after being adjudged guilty by your tribunal, I should bow in silence, meet the fate that awaits me without a murmur; but the sentence of the law which delivers my body to the executioner, will, through the ministry of the law, labour in its own vindication to consign my character to obloquy, for there must be guilt somewhere—whether in the sentence of the court, or in the catastrophes posterity must determine. A man in my situation, my lords, has not only to encounter the difficulties of fortune, and the force of power over minds which it has corrupted or subjugated, but the difficulties of established prejudice. The man dies, but his memory lives. That mine may not perish, that it may live in the respect of my countrymen, I seize upon this opportunity to vindicate myself from some of the charges alleged against me. When my spirit shall be wafted to a more friendly port—when my shade shall have joined the bands of those martyred heroes, who have shed their blood on the scaffold and in the field in defence of their country and of virtue, this is my hope—I wish that my memory and name may animate those who survive me, while I look down with complacency on the destruction of that perfidious government which upholds its domination by blasphemy of the Most High—which displays its power over man is over the beasts of the forest—which set man upon his brother, and lifts his hand, in the name of God, against the throat of his fellow who believes or doubts a little more or a little less than the government standard—a government which is steeled to barbarity by the cries of the orphans and the tears of the widows which it has made.
Lord Norbury— “The weak and wicked enthusiasts who feel as you feel are unequal to the accomplishment of their wild designs”.
I appeal to the immaculate God—I swear by the Throne of Heaven, before which I must shortly appear—by the blood of the murdered patriots who have gone before me—that my conduct has been, through all this peril, and through all my purposes, governed only by the convictions which I have uttered, and by no other view than that of the emancipation of my country from the superinhuman oppression under which she has so long and too patiently travailed; and I confidently and assuredly hope that, wild and chimerical as it may appear, there is still union and strength in Ireland to accomplish this noblest enterprise. Of this I speak with the confidence of intimate knowledge, and with the consolation that appertains to that confidence, think not, my lords, that I say this for the petty gratification of giving you a transitory uneasiness. A man who never yet raised his voice to assert a lie will not hazard his character with posterity by asserting a falsehood on a subject so important to his country, and on an occasion like this. Yes, my lords, a man who does not wish to have his epitaph written until his country is liberated will not leave a weapon in the power of envy, nor a pretence to impeach the probity which he means to preserve, even in the grave to which tyranny consigns him.
Lord Norbury — “You proceed to unwarrantable lengths, in order to exasperate or delude the unwary, and circulate opinions of the most dangerous tendency, for purposes of mischief”.
Again I say that what I have spoken was not intended for your lordship, whose situation I commiserate rather than envy—my expressions were for my countrymen. If there is a true Irishman present, let my last words cheer him in the hour of his affliction—
Lord Norbury— ”What you have hitherto said confirms and justifies the verdict of the jury”.
I have always understood it to be the duty of a judge, when a prisoner has been convicted, to pronounce the sentence of the law. I have also understood that judges sometimes think it their duty to hear with patience, and to speak with humanity; to exhort the victim of the laws, and to offer, with tender benignity, their opinions of the motives by which he was actuated in the crime of which he was adjudged guilty. That a judge has thought it his duty so to have done, I have no doubt; but where is that boasted freedom of your institutions—where is the vaunted impartiality, clemency, and mildness of your courts of justice, if an unfortunate prisoner, whom your policy, and not your justice, is about to deliver into the hands of the executioner, is not suffered to explain his motives sincerely and truly, and to vindicate the principles by which he was actuated?
My lords, it may be a part of the system of angry justice to bow a man’s mind by humiliation to the purposed ignominy of the scaffold; but worse to me than the purposed shame or the scaffold’s terrors would be the shame of such foul and unfounded imputations as have been laid against me in this court. You, my lord, are a judge; I am the supposed culprit. I am a man; you are a man also. By a revolution of power we might change places, though we could never change characters. If I stand at the bar of this court and dare not vindicate my character, what a farce is your justice? If I stand at this bar and dare not vindicate my character, how dare you calumniate it? Does the sentence of death, which your unhallowed policy inflicts upon my body, also condemn my tongue to silence and my reputation to reproach? Your executioner may abridge the period of my existence, but, while I exist, I shall not forbear to vindicate my character and motives from your aspersions; as a man to whom fame is dearer than life, I will make the last use of that life in doing justice to that reputation which is to live after me, and which is the only legacy I can leave to those I honour and love, and for whom I am proud to perish.
As men, my lord, we must appear on the great day at one common tribunal, and it will then remain for the Searcher of all hearts to show a collective universe who was engaged in the most virtuous actions or actuated by the purest motives—my country’s oppressor, or—
Lord Norbury— ”Stop, sir! Listen to the sentence of the law”.
My lord, shall a dying man be denied the legal privilege of exculpating himself in the eyes of the community from an undeserved reproach thrown upon him during his trial, by charging him with ambition, and attempting to cast away for a paltry consideration the liberties of his country? Why did your lordship insult me? Or rather, why insult justice in demanding of me why sentence of death should not be pronounced? I know, my lord, that form prescribes that you should ask the question. The form also presumes the right of answering. This, no doubt, may be dispensed with, and so might the whole ceremony of the trial, since sentence was already pronounced at the Castle before your jury were empanelled. Your lordships are but the priests of the oracle. I submit to the sacrifice; but I insist on the whole of the forms.
Lord Norbury— “You may proceed, sir”.
I am charged with being an emissary of France. An emissary of France! And for what end? It is alleged that I wish to sell the independence of my country; and for what end? Was this the object of my ambition? And is this the mode by which a tribunal of justice reconciles contradictions? No; I am no emissary.
My ambition was to hold a place among the deliverers of my country—not in power, not in profit, but in the glory of the achievement. Sell my country’s independence to France! And for what? A change of masters? No; but for my ambition. Oh, my country! Was it personal ambition that influenced me? Had it been the soul of my actions, could I not, by my education and fortune, by the rank and consideration of my family, have placed myself amongst the proudest of your oppressors? My country was my idol. To it I sacrificed every selfish, every endearing sentiment; and for it I now offer myself, O God! No, my lords; I acted a an Irishman, determined on delivering my country from the yoke of a foreign and unrelenting tyranny, and from the more galling yoke of a domestic faction, its joint partner and perpetrator in the patricide, whose reward is the ignominy of existing with an exterior of splendour and a consciousness of depravity. It was the wish of my heart to extricate my country from this doubly-riveted despotism—I wish to place her independence beyond the reach of any power on earth. I wish to exalt her to that proud station in the world which Providence had destined her to fill. Connection with France was, indeed, intended, but only so far as mutual interest would sanction or require.
Were the French to assume any authority inconsistent with the purest independence, it would be the signal for their destruction. We sought their aid— and we sought it as we had assurances we should obtain it—as auxiliaries in war, and allies in peace. Were the French to come as invaders or enemies, uninvited by the wishes of the people, I should oppose them to the utmost of my strength. Yes! My countrymen, I should advise you to meet them on the beach with a sword in one hand and a torch in the other. I would meet them with all the destructive fury of war, and I would animate my countrymen to immolate them in their boats before they had contaminated the soil of my country. If they succeeded in landing, and if forced to retire before superior discipline, I would dispute every inch of ground, raze every house, burn every blade of grass; the last spot on which the hope of freedom should desert me, there would I hold, and the last of liberty should be my grave.
What I could not do myself in my fall, I should leave as a last charge to my countrymen to accomplish; because I should feel conscious that life, any more than death, is dishonourable when a foreign nation holds my country in subjection. But it was not as an enemy that the succours of France were to land. I looked, indeed, for the assistance of France; I wished to prove to France and to the world that Irishmen deserved to be assisted—that they were indignant at slavery, and ready to assert the independence and liberty of their country; I wished to procure for my country the guarantee which Washington procured for America—to procure an aid which, by its example, would be as important as its valour; disciplined, gallant, pregnant with science and experience; that of allies who would perceive the good, and polish the rough points of our character. They would come to us as strangers, and leave us as friends, after sharing in our perils, and elevating our destiny. These were my objects; not to receive new taskmasters, but to expel old tyrants. And it was for these ends I sought aid from France; because France, even as an enemy, could not be more implacable than the enemy already in the bosom of my country.
Lord Norbury— ”You are making an avowal of dreadful treasons, and of a determined purpose to have persevered in them, which I do believe, has astonished your audience”.
I have been charged with that importance in the efforts to emancipate my country, as to be considered the keystone of the combination of Irishmen, or, as your lordship expressed it, “the life and blood of the conspiracy”. You do me honour overmuch; you have given to a subaltern all the credit of a superior. There are men engaged in this conspiracy who are not only superior to me; but even to your own conception of yourself, my lord; men before the splendour of whose genius and virtues I should bow with respectful deference, and who would think themselves disgraced by shaking your bloodstained hand—
Lord Norbury— “You have endeavoured to establish a wicked and bloody provisional government”.
What, my lord! shall you tell me, on the passage to the scaffold, which that tyranny, of which you are only the intermediary executioner, has erected for my murder, that I am accountable for all the blood that has been and will be shed in this struggle of the oppressed against the oppressor? Shall you tell me this, and must I be so very as slave as not to repel it?
Lord Norbury— “A different conduct would have better become one who had endeavoured to overthrow the laws and liberties of his country”.
I who fear not to approach the Omnipotent Judge to answer for the conduct of my whole life, am I to be appalled and falsified by a mere remnant of mortality here? By you, too, who if it were possible to collect all the innocent blood that you have shed in your unhallowed ministry in one great reservoir, your lordship might swim in it.
Lord Norbury—“I exhort you not to depart this life with such sentiments of rooted hostility to your country as those which you have expressed’.
Let no man dare, when I am dead, to charge me with dishonour; let no man attaint my memory by believing that I could have engaged in any cause but that of my country’s liberty and independence; or that I could have become the pliant minion of power in the oppression and misery of my countrymen. The proclamation of the Provisional Government speaks for my views; no inference can be tortured from it to countenance barbarity or debasement at home, or subjection, humiliation, or treachery from abroad. I would not have submitted to a foreign oppressor, for the same reason that I would resist the domestic tyrant. In the dignity of freedom, I would have fought upon the threshold of my country, and its enemy should only enter by passing over my lifeless corpse. And am I, who lived but for my country, who have subjected myself to the dangers of the jealous and watchful oppressor, and now to the bondage of the grave, only to give my countrymen their rights, and my country her independence—am I to be loaded with calumny and not suffered to resent it? No, God forbid!
Here Lord Norbury told Emmet that his sentiments and language disgraced his family and his education, but more particularly his father, Dr. Emmet, who was a man, if alive, that would not countenance such opinions. To which Emmet replied:—
If the spirits of the illustrious dead participate in the concerns and cares of those who were dear to them in this transitory life, O! ever dear and venerated shade of my departed father, look down with scrutiny upon the conduct of your suffering son, and see if I have, even for a moment, deviated from those principles of morality and patriotism which it was your care to instil into my youthful mind, and for which I am now about to offer up my life. My lords, you seem impatient for the sacrifice. The blood for which you thirst is not congealed by the artificial terrors which surround your victim [the soldiery filled and surrounded the Sessions House]—it circulates warmly and unruffled through the channels which God created for noble purposes, but which you are now bent to destroy, for purposes so grievous that they cry to heaven. Be yet patient! I have but a few words more to say. I am going to my cold and silent grave; my lamp of life is nearly extinguished; my race is run; the grave opens to receive me, and I sink into its bosom.
I have but one request to ask at my departure from this world; it is—THE CHARITY OF ITS SILENCE. Let no man write my epitaph; for as no man who knows my motives dare now vindicate them, let not prejudice or ignorance asperse them. Let them and me rest in obscurity and peace, and my name remain uninscribed, until other times and other men can do justice to my character. When my country takes her place among the nations of the earth, then, and not till then, let my epitaph be written. I have done.
The Act of Union:
The government in London finally had enough of the mismanagement of Ireland by the Protestant ascendancy in Dublin – they could do a much better job of the mismanagement of Ireland. In 1800 the two parliaments were joined in London and the Dublin parliament dissolved (and any member of the Dublin parliament who disagreed was bought off….cheap)
“Wife, I thought to myself, children forgive me for what I do this night, terrible as it may be, for this is Ireland in the rain of an ungodly time.…Where the dead must go to die” -Ray Bradbury
From Ireland they come. A land of terrible beauty, to use a well-worn cliché. A place forever at war with it’s past, yet eternally connected to it. Forever in love yet combat until the end of time. Yes, to be sure, the story starts with the land itself. A land symbolized by Green. Green everywhere, as far as the eye can see. Even green shadows. This Green land – a symbol of life? What of the contradiction? Green with life, but a history full of death. A land of hope, but a people forced out into exile. Where life itself flourishes. Where the dead go to die. A history filled with heart-swelling victory and even more so with deep seeded loss and regret. A story within a story within a tragedy. And a people more resilient than a people ever were. And out of this land, rebels were born. Within this piece, I want to give a brief history of early rebel musicians like Luke Kelly and the Dubliners, and explore how being Irish has shaped them and the men that have followed in their whiskey-stained boot steps. Devices such as themes of rebellion, freedom, war, drinking, sex and more drinking are prevalent in all of their works. Being an Irishman and growing up in certain circles shapes the way one views life, ones attitudes and beliefs. It is no secret, then, that the rebel Irish musicians who inhabit this piece, whether born to Ireland herself or born of the great Irish Diaspora which history tells us of, have shared experiences that contribute to the uplifting, sad and angry music they make and the uncompromising way they live their lives.
“I started singing folk songs after realizing that they were not as square as I had been led to believe.” -Luke Kelly
Born in Dublin in the year of Our Lord 1940 was Luke Kelly. Luke grew up in the rough, tough-n-tumble dockside area of Dublin. A strong working-class upbringing had a huge effect on this future leader of the legendary folk ensemble, The Dubliners. Luke, at first, rejected the idea of doing folk music. He opposed the idea, thinking, as many do, that folk was simply fluff. Upon closer inspection, however Luke realized the themes contained within the songs were hardly light-hearted material. Luke immediately related to the themes of the Irish folk song, themes any working-class member of Irish society could: drinking, fighting, loving, living and dying. Matt Kelly of the Dropkick Murphys once noted that “folk songs are more punk than most punk bands songs anyway.” And right he was. Luke Kelly and the rough and tumble cast of characters who make up the Dubliners did folk how it should be: from the gut, no bullshit. The response they got was immediate. Their version of “Seven Drunken Nights” made them the toast of the folk scene and concerts everywhere sold out. They were a smash! Hit albums and tours continue to this day. Their status as legends is secured. Not what you expected from a bunch of hairy people who “looked like they’d just been dragged out of a seedy bar via a hedge (backwards) and dropped on London from a very great height” to quote an accurate description I once read.
Terje Oye’s excellent website describes the Luke and the Dubliners influence as follows: “The number of artists that list The Dubliners as one of their major influences and idols, is endless. They have brought folk music to millions of people all over the world, people who never would have been interested at all. That isn’t only because of the folk music, the instrumentals alone, it’s because of The Dubliners, their astonishing voices, their indescribable instrumentals, the wild life style and drinking, late sessions, their enormous beards, their extensive touring, their charisma and characters. It was, and still is to a certain extent, a blend the world will never see again.” Sadly, Luke Kelly passed due to cancer in 1984. The world lost a great man, but the influence left behind remains even to this day. Luke and the lads certainly did bring folk into the spotlight, and proved what attitude, heart and belief could do for a group, and their influence on those who came after looms large over the Irish music scene to this very day. If there is one group that Luke Kelly and the Dubliners could claim are closest to their own hearts, one most true to their own visions and one whose influence among generations of future musicians is nearly as great as their own, it would have to be the almighty Pogues, led by Shane MacGowan.
“We were heavily influenced by The Dubliners who I thought were the band that demonstrated Irish pop music the best.” -Shane MacGowan “A Drink With Shane”
Shane MacGowan was born in Kent, England, on Christmas Day, 1957. Although he grew up with firm Irish roots, his tale differs from Kelly’s in some ways, but the parallels do run deep. MacGowan’s father, Maurice, had grown up in Dublin, and his mother, Therese, had grown up on a farm in Tipperary. Shane actually lived in Tipp during his early years, and spent the summers of his youth there. He was surrounded by traditional Irish music and had many relatives who played instruments such as the banjo, fiddle, accordion, tin whistle, etc. All of this would stay in his memory for his lifetime and would contribute to the masterpieces he later produced with the Pogues. During his early school career, Shane had an acknowledged gift for writing and most other subjects. Shane spent his hours reading old Irish poetry and in time learned to write his own rhymes. He seemed headed for an impressive scholarly career, but it wasn’t to be for Shane, though. He got kicked out of a prestigious private school for illegal drug possession and was bound for greater things.
Before embracing the folk of his childhood, however, MacGowan would come up in the blossoming punk scene of London in the late ‘70’s. Shane became a face on the scene early on after the infamous ‘ear-biting’ incident at a Clash show would land the bloodied Irish teen on the cover of London’s largest newspaper. The energy, violence and power of the punk scene would also leave a lasting impression on the young Shane and he began to harness the creative energy he possessed, with his life-experiences of being a young London Irishman. After a few semi-successful tries and one damn fine group, the Nips, Shane decided to put his two natural musical loves together, Irish folk played with the breakneck energy and bombast of punk rock.
Shane has always acknowledged that his main influence for the Pogues was Luke Kelly and the music he made with the Dubliners. Add to the mix the excitement Shane felt after seeing the Sex Pistols for the first time, and a unique vision was born. “ I never understood why it took me so long to make the connection,” Shane said “I had a mental block that said Irish music was one thing and pop was another.” Spider Stacey tells of going to shows with Shane and going back to his flat, where they would put on Dubliners records and sing along. He recalls Shane playing along at top speed on an acoustic guitar until it suddenly became so obvious that they couldn’t believe they hadn’t thought of it before. Play the folk songs at the Pistols pace, complete with the filth and the fury. The kicked around at various bars in London, using various names like the New Republicans, until they finally solidified the line-up and a name was chosen: Pogue Mahone, Gaelic for “kiss my arse.”
The Pogues went from conquering London to conquering the world. It wasn’t long before Shane’s “Poguetry” had everyone from Bruce Springsteen to Tom Waits to Elvis Costello watching in complete awe at the sheer spectacle of it all. The Pogues could go from a drunken, rambling bunch of hooligans to a soulful, even beautiful group making some of the finest Irish music of the last century. And Shane did so under the watchful tutelage of the Dubliners, respecting what had come before and even collaborating with them on occasion. The Pogues, today hold a huge influence over the current punk scene and most every city has a band or two that cover a Pogues tune. They are, more than ever, in vogue. One band that aided in this popularity resurgence is Boston’s own Irish-American mouthpiece, the Dropkick Murphys.
“Until I heard the Pogues, I wasn’t Even Sure If I Liked Irish Music” -Ken Casey
Ken Casey’s Boston-Irish immigrant family experience is in many ways very similar to Luke Kelly’s own. Casey’s father passed away at an early age and his main father figure in life was his Grandfather, John Kelly. Kelly was a union-organizer, working with longshoreman on Boston’s docks. Coming from a working-class upbringing and the struggles of the everyman that accompany it were a large part of Casey’s childhood and were forever intertwined into his psyche. He, like Luke Kelly, used these experiences to tell the personal tales found in Dropkick Murphys songs such as “Boys on the Docks” which was written for and about John Kelly. The Irish working-class experience had shaped the band the Dropkicks are today.
Another parallel to Luke Kelly is that Casey, by his own admission, had Irish folk ‘shoved down his throat’ at an early age and wasn’t sure what he thought of it. At family get-togethers, parties and wakes, it was always the background piece, always propelling life along, for better or worse. I speak from experience when I say that hearing these songs at funerals and wakes, one can begin to associate them with life’s darker moments and sometimes this creates a prejudice of sorts.
In his youth, Casey became involved in the legendary Boston hardcore scene of the early ‘80s, seeing bands like SSD, Jerry’s Kids, DYS, Gang Green and the like. He credits these and other bands of the genre with inspiring him. “I have to say it inspired me into the whole lifestyle which eventually led to the music and making music” Casey said. So punk rock and hardcore was Casey’s earliest love, but what about Irish folk? How did Casey go from a lukewarm feeling about it to the fire he now possesses for it?
Ken Casey says he wasn’t sure what he thought about folk until he heard the Pogues. The Pogues, for Casey and so many others, gave the younger Irish generation a voice. About the folk/Pogues connection, Casey says: “I hated it as a kid,” he recalls, “but it was smashed into my head so much that I gained an appreciation for it as I grew older. Then when I saw The Pogues, I started to make the mental connection between their music and folk music. So when we started the band we figured we’d just combine folk music with punk and see what happened. I think you could take any one of our songs and play it on an acoustic guitar in a pub.” Casey, like Kelly, had to admit to himself that the folk music of his ancestors wasn’t ‘square’ but was a powerful voice of an oppressed people. With some help from MacGowan, Casey embraced it. So, Luke Kelly’s influence shaped MacGowan, who in turn, influenced Casey. The circle remains unbroken from Ireland to London to Boston.
The power and ‘punkiness’ of Irish folk lies in its subject matter and the way it’s delivered. Much of the material that runs through the Dubliners music deals with the Irish struggle for freedom and the wars and loss that accompany it. “The Foggy Dew” “Off to Dublin in the Green” and “Roddy McCorely” all tale tells that no pop song would dare. They celebrate the lives and deaths of Irish rebels. Pride in ones heritage shines through many an Irish folk song as well. Ireland and being Irish is celebrated with a glee only the Irish seem to muster. Luke Kelly covered classic after classic of these type tunes, from “A Nation Once Again” to “The Town I Loved So Well” written by Phil Coulter specifically with Kelly in mind.
Shane MacGowan also celebrated Ireland and it’s rebellion with classics like “The Broad Majestic Shannon” and “If I Should Fall From Grace With God” but he spent many a tune singing the praises and scouring the gutters of his home turf – London. As a young London Irishman, MacGowan gave a unique and slightly different view of the Irish Diaspora. Surely classics like “The Dark Streets of London” “Lullaby of London,” “London, You’re a Lady” “A Rainy Night in Soho” and the rest tell the unique tale of what it’s like for the displaced Irish in Her Majesty’s Kingdom. Shane, too, covered many the rebel song over his recorded career, including “Paddy Public Enemy Number One” and has been doing “A Nation Once Again” live. In his new book “A Drink With Shane MacGowan” he says he regrets not joining the IRA and laying his life on the line for Ireland and Shane always said his mother came from an IRA family. Rebel with a cause, indeed – to get his message across through a folk/punk rebel hybrid.
Likewise, Ken Casey sings the praises of living in Boston and the American immigrant experiences and hardships his family have encountered – again, a uniquely different Irish tale, but with common threads connecting to both Kelly and MacGowan. “Yes, we have Irish backgrounds, but we’re an American band and we don’t go after the Irish-American community as a fan base on purpose. We’ve always had songs about Boston, and we’re spouting off about the Bruins or whatever. We’re carrying the Boston torch with us. Sometimes I think we should get a couple of bucks from the Chamber of Commerce for promoting tourism. We’ve had so many kids from other parts of the country and from different scenes come up to me and say, ‘I’m moving to Boston; it sounds so cool, you have so many different bands,’ and then they move here and it’s cold and people are mean, and they’re like ‘This place sucks, I’m getting out of here’” Casey laughs. Still, it is easy to see that the Boston Irish pride and fierce loyalty burns deep within the Dropkick Murphys.
It’s not all pride, rebellion and war in Irish folk, though. The good times, complete with gallons of booze, is another required tale in the canon. From the Dubliners “Seven Drunken Nights,” “Whiskey You’re the Devil” and ”Whiskey in the Jar,” the Irish make a case for the stereotypes of being the world’s greatest boozers, and Ireland being ‘the birthplace of good times.’ The Dubliners not only sang about boozin’ but also the Church-frowned upon subject of illicit sex as well. They played “Monto” with a wink and a nod, knowing that the Montgomery Street area in Dublin, which it is based on, is notorious for prostitution. Likewise the men saying goodbye to the women in “The Holy Ground” are the sea-bound sailors of Cork and the women they were with, prostitutes.
The Dubliners drinking exploits soon became the stuff of legend. Taking a cue from them in both song and action was Shane and the Pogues. Shane’s songs are full of boozy characters in drunk tanks, of love lost and mourned for over whiskey after whiskey, of drunken priests and fathers, of soiled, drug-addicted prostitutes and the like. Shane, Spider and the rest of the boys also came under much scrutiny for their drinking habits. Friends eventually intervened for fear of Shane’s life, and, according to some, his drinking led to his dismissal from the band. Shane remains as optimistic as ever, acknowledging that he drinks when he chooses and loves to do so. (For those concerned or those who have him as a choice in their local death poll, Shane actually didn’t look too bad the last time I saw him play a few months ago in Chicago.)
The Dropkick Murphys albums are also full of the celebratory drinking song, covering such anthems as “The Wild Rover” and “Finnegan’s Wake” but Casey often times approaches drinking from a cautionary standpoint, having spent early years in barroom brawls and drunken stupors. Songs like “Caps and Bottles” and “Curse of A Fallen Soul” attempt to steer the wayward soul away from mistakes older, wiser men have made, but like the lives of their friends and family, many Dropkick Murphys songs have unhappy endings. Untimely death is a theme of much of the band’s work, and songs like “Noble” are cautionary tales as well as tributes to the deceased. “Yeah, these are people I knew,” Casey says. “I would go to the wakes of guys who died of drug overdoses, and I would see friends there who were drunk or high themselves, and I couldn’t believe it. I just want to tell them they’re going down the same road that killed a friend.”
The connection between Irishmen like Kelly, MacGowan and Casey and the various forms of folk music they all chose to communicate their stories with isn’t accidental. The Irish, on their home turf, in London and in America, have been treated as less than human. Starvation at home, and no work and horrid conditions in London and America equaled some of the hardest immigrant experiences ever encountered and the music itself was a release. The music spoke of common themes of rebellion and loss, rebellion and success, love and death and glory – all real life themes the Irish encountered. All real life themes to help keep their chins up. Music, as a medium, is powerful, but it acts as a medicinal device as well. It helps heal the soul in times of woe. So, it became, naturally, the voice of the working-class and the oppressed. Irish folk has always celebrated the underdog. From the IRA soldiers fighting against British oppression in “The Patriot Game” or “Johnson’s Motor Car” to the young immigrant arriving in New York scared and bewildered in the Wolfe Tones “Streets of New York” and Shane MacGowan and Ken Casey are insuring that this is not soon forgotten.
Coming from Irish backgrounds, and sharing traits and experiences dictated by heritage and history, it is no surprise then that the three ‘Irish Rebel Musicians’ evolved the way they did – honest and uncompromising, with a ferocious lust for life in it’s good times, and all the while keeping the faith strong during the bad, and, most importantly, retaining their uniquely Irish visions. So, it seems, that the “land of terrible beauty” which has a history so steeped in pain and loss, has produced generations of Irish sons, both at home and displaced, who are and were dedicated to seeing the music of Ireland preserved for eternity.
I’ve been a fan of The Pogues and have been going to their shows since the mid 80’s. Holy shite! I was going to write a review of their show last year in Las Vegas, but I didn’t get the chance. I’m glad about that now, however, because I just saw one of their best gigs ever. No shit.
Here is what happened…..
I was on tour with my band (The Mahones), and had a night off from our St. Paddy’s tour of the USA and Canada when we happened to land in DC the night of The Pogues show there. We drove from Virginia, where we had played the night before, and scrambled to get passes – we did thanks to some of our friends. We got there just as the first pick hit the strings. Perfect timing.
Then lads blasted out of the gates with ‘Streams of Whiskey’, ‘If I should Fall from Grace with God’, ‘The Broad Majestic Shannon’ and ‘Turkish Song of the Damned’. Four direct blows to the face that left us all hot and sweaty in no time! Next up was the classic ‘A Pair Of Brown Eyes’, and Shane had everyone in the crowd arm-in-arm singing “and a rove and a rove…”. The vibe was now set for the night. The old classic ‘Dark Streets of London’ was next – the boys were now dipping into the very old stuff. Fuckin’ fantastic and it just gets even better with age, I’ll tell you that much !!
Up next is the band’s other front man, Spider. He pulled out their big hit ‘Tuesday Morning’ and got the crowd rocking! Shane then returned for ‘Sayanora’, (one of Hell’s Ditch’s best) and then made his way into an acoustic version of ‘Kitty’ off Red Roses for Me. The band then returned in full force to get to get the ball rollin’ (yet again) with ‘Sunny Side of the Street’. At the point, the house was nothing but smiles, as if we all knew that this gig was a special one – even the band themselves were all smiling. I must say, the lads are looking fantastic in their fedora hats and cool suits. Crazy!!
Next up was ‘Repeal of the Licensing Laws’ (an old original instrumental by Spider), which is a classic Irish Punk jam that has not only set the template for Irish Punk as we know it today, but is covered by many bands. Amazing. Maybe one day they will do ‘the Battle March’ ? Anyways, Shane then returned with ‘Body of an American’ and ‘Boys of the County Hell’…and the place went nuts. It’s not over yet folks!
Spider then took center stage again for a cool acoustic number call ‘Love You Til’ the End’. Now, I thought this was a new song, but my friends tell me it’s not. Anyways, this song was a great track and had radio hit written all over it. Very cool indeed. Where is it from?
Next up is Phil Chevron. I never really knew about Phil and his other work in the past, but always knew he wrote the classic ‘Thousands are Sailing’, which should be a play, by the way. As a musician, I never thought much of his guitar playing (I’m a Pete Townsend fan), but after seeing The Pogues in Las Vegas last year with a stand-in guitarist, I have definitely changed my tune. Not only is he a great guitarist, and the only guitarist for The Pogues, at that, he is the heart of the band !! Welcome back Phil. You were missed more than you know.
Shane returned once again to take the band home. The old classic ‘Greenland Whale Fisheries’, the audience favorites ‘Dirty Old Town’, ‘Bottle of Smoke’ and ‘Sick Bed of Cuchulainn’ were blasted out to bring this show to its finale – and what a finale it was. The crowd went wild as if Ireland had just won the World Cup (one can dream) and off they went! You know they are coming back:) !
There they were, hands in the air, like the champs they were that night. ‘Sally Maclennane’ blasts out of the PA system and the place goes ape shit. I was lifted off of the ground but I just didn’t care. Beer was flying through the air and I could not have been happier. What a party! Next up was my personal favorite, ‘A Rainy Night In Soho’. This song in the most romantic song in the world and it comes from The Pogues. Go figure (I actually got on my knees and proposed to my wife Katie while they were playing this live in Las Vegas 2 years ago). Love that fucking song! Wow! Sorry got sidetracked…Where was I ? Oh Yeah, then came one of the best Irish Traditional songs ever, ‘The Irish Rover’ a.k.a ‘The Dog’. What a great ending. Off they went again like the fucking Kings they are, and yes, the crowd was still going nuts. Yeah baby !!!!
Well, guess what?! The shows wasn’t over yet! Out they came again, this time with Andrew Rankin up front, and off they went into that old trad classic ‘Star of the County Down’. Andrew sings like Tom Waits on Jamesons, and the Darryl Hunts Gibson SG slow bass groove shook us to the bone. Master musician Terry Woods and multi-instrumentalist Jem Finner picked out the melody with precision and were off! Shane returned to center stage, this time to do ‘Paddy On the Railway’. This song is so much fun to enjoy from the mosh pit, with its slow verses and fast choruses – its like a self-contained party concealed in one song, and one of my favorite traditional Irish songs of all time. Then, the shit hit the fan one last time, and it was time to Fiesta! Jem pulled out the saxophone -people were jumping, spinning and throwing the last of their drinks in the air as if the New Years ball had just dropped in Manhattan. You should have seen James Fearnley throwing that accordion around! Punk accordion like you wouldn’t bel ieve! It was like a bomb went off. With one last wave good-bye, the band was off. What a fucking show! I was standing there at that point covered in beer, soaked in sweat, kind of drunk, and happier than a pig in shit. Now that’s what I call a concert! No ‘White City’, ‘Young Ned of the Hill’ or ‘Fairytale of New York’…but it doesn’t matter. Best fucking gig ever. Hell Yeah !!!!
Now listen up Paddy Punks: all I can say is that there is no question that The Pogues are the best Irish Punk band in the world and always will be. I’ve seen all the bands including The Dropkick Murphy’s, Flogging Molly, and my favorites, The Mahones (shameless plug lol) etc……., but none of them even come close to the talent and the songwriting of these crazy bastards from Ireland. Terry Woods once told me that The Pogues should get back together and take their crown back. Thank God they did. Not only have they taken back their crown, but they have their heavyweight belts to boot. “The Irish Punk Clash”. No one is better or more important to this genre of music. So, please don’t break up again lads. We need The Pogues in this crazy world more than ever now. Thank you for a great show. Can’t wait until then next one. The Kings have returned, and long live the Kings. Cheers to that !!!!
Review by: Finny McConnell – Singer, Guitarist and Songwriter for The Mahones
I’d never actually managed to see the Pogues before. Even after Shane was booted out. I never seemed to be in the same place as them at the same time. I’d seen Shane McGowan and The Popes supported by Stiff Little Fingers before, which was a night to remember. Shane was about an hour late taking the stage that night. His opening very drunken, very slurred comments to the crowd were “It’s great to be back here in Wolverhampton!” Which would’ve been fine had we not been 80 miles away in Nottingham! So with memories of the great man’s gaff in mind we set off for the Big Smoke… the dirty old town that is London. The gig in our adopted town of Birmingham had sold out before we even knew about it.
My cohort on the day was one Rich McCormack, singer and guitarist for old skool punkers DOGSHIT SANDWICH and head honcho for PUNK SHIT record label. Now Rich comes from a small village in the middle of the Republic of Ireland and came to these shores after the Pogues had split. So here’s two mad-keen Pogues fans who’d never got to see ‘em first time around and we’re heading down to the hell that is London. We drive 115 miles down the motorway followed by some late Friday rush hour city driving to get across to the South of the Thames. We get to the place we’re staying at with only a vague set of directions then jump in a taxi to Brixton (one of London’s nearest equivalents to bits of the Bronx, Oakland or South Central LA). After a quick toss of a coin we pass up on a jar or two at the nearby cheapest Irish pub in London and head straight in to the Academy for some very expensive beer from cans. I head for the tiny bar with the huge queue and slow bar staff whilst Rich heads for the large toilets with the larger queue. As the young lady behind the bar siphons the last drops of ale into our ‘plastic’ glasses and Rich finishes siphoning the last drops from the proverbial python we hear the first strains of Stream of Whiskey. Not bad timing considering the distance we’d traveled.
Now, unfortunately we have tickets not for the downstairs drunk-as-fuck, leap about Punk rock Ciledah, but for the upstairs-seated balcony. But, hey, was that going to stop people dancing? No bleedin’ chance!
By the time we get up to the balcony there’s no sign of the great poet, and that sets the scene for about the first half of the set. Shane limps on, sings a song or two and then limps off again whilst the band do a song without him. I later asked an acquaintance about this and he assures me that three nights earlier Shane had no limp. He couldn’t have fallen over in a drink riddled stupor at sometime between could he? Well, looking at the state of him that night I should say that he wasn’t sober for the whole of the tour. The small amount of banter with the crowd was indecipherable at best but the songs… well they were as clear as he ever gets. That great tumble of slurred words that fall out of his crumbling-tombstone toothed mouth is just as great ever. Who cares whether he can sing or not. It’s one of the most distinctive voices in music and also the ultimate singalong voices. And singalong the crowd did.
We get a blast through all the greatest moments that the Pogues have to offer and then some. They seem to play early on several songs that I wasn’t aware of and some old trad songs interspersed with the likes of “Turkish Song of the Damned”, “Misty Morning, Albert Bridge”, “White City”, “Repeal of the Licensing Laws”, “Waxies Dargle” and then saving the best until last we get some of the best from what I consider to be their greatest moment… “Rum, Sodomy and the Lash”. “Dirty Old Town” slows the crowd for a moment. Their legs are rested and their lungs take over as they bellow that great folk song written by Kirsty Macoll’s father back in the faces of the band. We get “The Sick Bed of Cuchulainn”, “Sally Maclananne” and “A Pair of Brown Eyes”.
The greatest moment of the night has to be the sound of couple of thousand drunks singing “Fairytale of New York” which I swear almost drowned out the band. “This one’s for Kirsty!” and for Kirsty we sang! Glasses and hands are held aloft and voices half shouted and half drawled the greatest Christmas song ever. If they didn’t hear us in New York City then I’d be amazed. I didn’t catch the name of the young lady who sang Kirsty’s parts but she sure did it justice.
A couple of encores give us an old trad song that I didn’t recall hearing before followed by the greatest party song of all time… “Fiesta”. Ever seen the video? See those weird mosaic Mediterranean seats and buildings in the background? Well that’s in the Gaudi Park in Barcelona. I was there a few months earlier and with the combination of beer, my jumping imagination and that song I was temporarily transported back there. Brandy and Half-Corona indeed! And then… the song that they couldn’t have left out… “The Irish Rover”. It’s over. That’s it. Rich turns to me and tells me exactly what I’m thinking. “I wish we had tickets for Tomorrow night”. Hell, yes!
Out into the streets of London we go armed to the teeth with Pogues t-shirts and hooded tops and music spinning around our heads along with the animated chattering of a couple of thousand drunks. All there is to do now is dodge the drunks, drug dealers and pigs in riot gear and make our way back to our hosts with our tales of glory.
Come to think of it, maybe I HAVEN’T ever seen Shane play with the Popes. In all the times I saw performances by the legendary songwriter, he stood apart from the band and the audience alike, dribbling out lyrics as they came back to him, showing no sense of ensemble performance, stage presence, or the intelligent and elegiac lyricist who made the Pogues my favorite eighties band. Never did I see him dance about, beat the drum-set whimsically, or clown with a towel on his head and a necktie in his head.
Resisting the urge to ape some Dublin vernacular after the amazing show I just saw at Washington, DC’s nine-thirty club would be harder if Shane hadn’t impressed me so thoroughly. Articulate and dynamic, Shane owned the songs he covered as masterfully as those he wrote. Hank Williams’ “Angel of Death” and Ewan MacColl’s “Dirty old town” both afforded hiim opportunities to sing on key and he made them his own by holding their notes with tuneful conviction.
Likewise, material he coathored with the energetic Popes fared well because they all had some kind of understanding that he was no longer some poster child for irish intemperance and they were no longer a backup band, lucky enough to record with a legend who could get them gigs; rather, they rallied to champion rousing (and rowdy) numbers like “Mother Ma Chroi”, “Donegal Express”, and “More Kicks Than Pricks”. If some of my old favorite Pogues songs were missing from the setlist, I minded less because I knew that the catalogue of the present band was earning it’s audience, chord by rambunctious chord.
Still, the auld ditties never came amiss to my sentimental ears, and hearing Behan’s Auld triangle sung in the clearest voice I have ever heard from Shane nearly brought tears to my eyes, and the exquisite buzz of the “Sickbed of Cuchulain” managed that, even as it made me dance. missing songs like “A Pair of Brown Eyes” and “Sally Maclenane” number among those I’ve often heard live. Rarer treats like “Body of An American” and “Bottle of Smoke” made this show extra special. Seeing them performed with such robust enthusiasm and good humor took this performance to a new level.
If this review strikes the reader as too personal an experience to give the reader a fair idea of what (s)he might have heard for himself, consider how personal Shane’s writing tends to be; whether moping into a pint glass over jukebox songs about love or celebrating an epecially good run of odds in “Bottle of Smoke”, these are songs which bear singing along because everyone in that club demonstrated a sense of personal communion with Shane. Everytime is the first time when dealing with an erratic genius who could come back from decrepitude and the loss of a longtime girlfriend, and we got some first class entertainment in the bargain. That’s as personal as it gets, and his offer to name a street, he’ll name you a bar and walk miles to buy you a jar rang true at every turn.
Had been looking forward to this one for a while and was pleased to find out that it was in the Wulfren Hall and not it’s bigger and less intimate sibling that is the Civic Hall as I’d suspected. We arrived late on in the evening having stopped in a couple of local hostelries for a meal of Arthur Guinness’ liquid lunch rather than pay the exorbitant £2.80 a pint (that’s approx. $5). Because of this we missed the support NECK whom I’m not a huge fan of anyway. Unfortunately at all the other gigs on the tour except ours, support also came from THE FAMILY MAHONE, hosted by singer and drummer Mark Radcliffe; one of the UKs top Radio DJs. Check ‘em out if you like Pogues type drinking songs. Supremely good and funny as hell live.
So we missed the support and got pissed on cheap stout. Looked like a few people in the venue had done the same. Quite a few drunks and quite a few Glasgow Celtic t-shirts too. Average age was about 32 so at 35 I didn’t feel too old.
Well now… gigs in the UK seem to be starting earlier and earlier these days. Great for the kids… great for getting the last bus out of town. Not Mr. Tombstone Teeth himself though. He made us wait and I’d guess that there was a fair bit of teasing judging by the occasional band-just-walked-onstage cheers coming from the auditorium. We made the wise decision of hanging around in the bar until the first chords strike out at which point we find a comfortably empty corner.
First think I notice is how well Shane looks tonight. He appears to have lost some weight since I saw him last July. He’s not even drunk!!! In fact so sober is he that he stands throughout the set even though his chair is present. Last time I saw him at the Holidays in The Sun punk festival he remained seated throughout although he’d didn’t look like he’d be capable of staying in the chair so pissed was he.
The venue is all but sold out tonight so at a guess they’re playing to about 500 people. This hall has notoriously bad sound problems but these have the good grace to stay away tonight so all instruments and vocals sound crystal clear. Well, as clear as Shane is these days.
We get a heavy biased Pogues set tonight with only the Donegal Express and maybe three of four other tracks (none of which I recognise but guess that they are post The Snake Pope tracks.) An early showing of Dirty Old Town is dedicated to Kirsty and results in the usual arms aloft singalong. A fine moment as always.
There’s no way I can remember all the songs played since I was well on my way to being one over the gallon at the time. What I do remember is thinking how lacking in spirit it all sounded. Almost as if they were just going through the motions. I think this was in some part to do with the sound levels though it struck me towards the end just how much that tin whistle sound can raise a tune from good to great. Such a powerful instrument in the right hands. Don’t get me wrong… this wasn’t a bad gig. It just wasn’t a great gig. It had some great highlights, for me two of my favourite songs; “Sally Maclennan” and “Wild Cats of Kilchulan”. One thing I would have enjoyed would have been the spine tingling version of the “Auld Triangle” that he played at HITS. We also get “Pair of Brown Eyes”, “Broad Majestic Shannon”, “Turkish Song of The Damned”, a number of other Pogues greatest hits and the only really low point of the gig was a murdered version of another of my all time favourite songs. It was on the way back from a piss break that I heard a song “unknown” to me. It was only in the fade out chorus that I finally realised they were covering “Me And Bobby McGee”. Absolutely ghastly! His voice was so slurred that it was virtually incomprehensible.
So! What a night… it was a gig that had everything. The good, the bad and the downright fuckin’ ugly. Enjoyable as ever but not at his best. Review by Mark (Rock ‘Em Dead Records)
A far as soccer songs goes this ain’t too bad, kind of middle of the road (middle aged) rock with a big locker room chorus. Better then anything Man. U. or Liverpool or the Huns ever released.
The story of the Lisbon Lions is much better. It’s the story of 11 scrappy Glaswegians who had reached the final of the premier soccer club championship, “The European Cup”. The first “British” club ever to do so thirty five years ago now. Facing them on the football pitch was the Italian powerhouse Inter Milan, previous winners who were expected to destroy Celtic. Inter Milan’s tactics were to score quickly and then defend the remainder of the match. True to form Milan went one up in minuets and retreated into their defensive bunkers.
Celtic played a very different style of football to the Italians. Where the focus was on ATTACK, ATTACK, ATTACK for the full 90 minutes. Celtic manager Jock Stein believed that the only place Celtic should defend was the inside of the opposition’s penalty box. Celtic’s high pressure cracked the Milan defense once (Tommy Gemmell) then twice (Steve Chalmers) giving them a fantastic victory for Celtic, Scotland and Football.
The b-side will musically be of much more interest to S’n’O readers. Shane MacGowan joins the Celtic Chorus with the first original MacGowan release in a long time. True to form the music is a rip-off of the melody of “Kelly the Boy from Killane”, the style is still that Country’n’Irish sound of “Crock Of Gold” and Shane sounds positively blotto. Certainly not a classic MacGowan but still nice to hear something new(ish).
After a very long wait, we finally have an official live album to add to our collections. Shane MacGowan and The Popes have released “Across The Broad Atlantic” (at least in the U.S., Europe will have it in February I believe.) The album was recorded live on St. Paddy’s Day last year in New York AND Dublin! How the hell can that happen, you may be asking? Well, according to the liner notes in the album sleeve, Thanks to an outbreak of foot and mouth disease, the official Paddy’s Day in Dublin had to be moved from March to May and Shane became the first ever Irish performer to be able to celebrate Paddy’s Day on stage in both New York and Dublin in the same year! Yeah, like Shane needs TWO Paddy’s Days in one year to celebrate! As many of you would expect, the album is sometimes spotty. The crowd sounds like it may have been diluted down in the studio a bit, but unlike a few bootlegs, you can actually hear the band in between tracks.(Too bad you can’t understand just what the hell Shane is saying on a few of ’em!) The Popes sound solid throughout the album, but Shane sounds like he may have been drinking warm whiskey out of a dirty ashtray on one or two tracks. He even sings “Fairytale of New York” with his mother, and let’s just say it’s …..a bit off key. Some of the standouts on the album are the eerie “Angel Of Death” the last song Hank Williams wrote, also “Body Of An American”, “More Pricks Than Kicks”, and “Streams of Whiskey” I especially enjoy the great echo effects from Shane when he gives his typical banshee howls during some of the songs. It is definitely about time we can own a “real” live album, although some bootlegs are a better quality show, just not a better quality recording. I also heard a rumor that another live album is in the works from The Pogues. I guess it’s a Show from 1991 in Switzerland, that will be released as another “official” live album. That’s great guys!! How ’bout an “official” album with some unreleased tracks on it?