I didn’t put out a best of 2019 list on St. Patrick’s Day 2020 and the whole world went to shite. So, in my attempt to fix the strange vortex we have been in since, here with no further ado is the Shite’n’Onions best of 2020 (and 2019)
The Top 6:
#1 The Go Set: Of Bright Futures….and Broken Pasts
#2 Greenland Whalefishers: Based on a True Story
#3 The Walker Roaders: The Walker Roaders
#4 The Real McKenzies: Beer & Loathing
#5 The Tan & Sober Gentlemen: Veracity
#6 Bodh’aktan: Ride Out The Storm
Best 30 Year Retrospective:
The Mahones: This Is All We Got To Show For It (Best Of 1990 – 2020)
Another RSD release this year on vinyl is The Pogues, BBC Sessions 1984 – 85, a collection of sessions that The Pogues recorded for various BBC radio shows during their early years. Most, if not all of these tracks were released on 2007’s excellent box set, Just Look The Straight In The Eye and Say Pogue Mahone, and have been floating around on various bootlegs prior to that. Nevertheless, it’s nice to have these songs on vinyl and nice to be able to buy something kind of new from The Pogues.
Tracklisting: Broadcast April 17, 1984 (as Pogue Mahone) – The John Peel Show 1) Streams Of Whiskey 2) Greenland Whale Fisheries 3) Boys From The County Hell 4) The Auld Triangle
Broadcast 9th July 1984 – David ‘Kid’ Jensen 5) Dingle Regatta 6) Poor Paddy On The Railway 7) Boys From The County Hell 8) Connemara, Let’s Go
Broadcast 16th December 1984 – John Peel Show 9) Whiskey You’re The Devil 10) Navigator 11) Sally MacLennane 16) Danny Boy
Broadcast 11th July 1985 – Janice Long Show 16) Wild Cats Of Kilkenny 17) Billy’s Bones 18) The Old Main Drag 19) Dirty Old Town
Celtic-punks first supergroup here! LA based The Walker Roaders consist of a Pogue, James Fearnley (vocals and accordion) and former members of the Dropkick Murphys (Marc Orrell) and Flogging Molly (Ted Hutt, a founding member of the Mollies and later producer). Musically, The Walker Roaders are closer to the Pogues then DKM or FM though even closer to James two post-post Pogues bands, the 1990’s Low & Sweet Orchestra and the more recent Cranky George but with stronger Celtic melodies then either which meshes so well with his north of England grittyness.
“Then the Radiators From Space came out, Television Screen, which was a great single, that was a real inspiration to us” – Bono, U2
Shite’n’Onions very f**kin proudly announces the North American Release of “Trouble Pilgrim”, by seminal Dublin punk band THE RADIATORS FROM SPACE.
The Radiators from Space – The best band you’ve never heard of.Some of you out there in readerland will be very familiar with The Radiators from Space, some of you might know the name and most of you will know squat. I would argue that the Radiators were the most important band in the development of the sound of modern Irish rock – sure there were great Irish rocks bands before The Radiators formation in 1976 – Them, Thin Lizzy, Taste and Horslips and I’m a big fan of all of them (including Them!) and each of them was uniquely influential and laid not only the foundations but also the walls of the house of Irish rock. It was The Radiators who I would argue that all the great and the should of been great Irish bands of the 80s and onward can trace their sound and attitude to – The Undertones, That Petrol Emotion, SLF, Cactus World News, Therapy?, A House, The Fatima Mansions, Blue in Heaven, Sinead O’Connor, The Pogues, The Virgin Prunes, My Bloody Valentine and of course those muckers from Ballymun and Malahide – U2 (and Bono even admits it).
The following feature was written a few years back my friend and Horslips fanatic Lora Templeton and originally posted on the excellent irishrockers.com. My thanks to Lora and Aidan Curran of irishrockers.com for allowing me to reprint.
The Radiators From Space
June 16, 2004 was the centennial of Dublin’s most celebrated literary almanac entry. It would take a bold soul to launch any public venture not in line with the Tourist Board’s agenda for the day. But there were five bold souls – Philip Chevron, Pete Holidai, Steve Rapid, Cait O’Riordan and Johnny Bonnie – who did exactly that, when the Radiators (from Space) hit the stage again after a 24-year absence and re-emerged on the Dublin music scene as the Radiators (Plan 9).
And for the Radiators (Plan 9), this high-energy Village gig was the opening of a new and ongoing chapter in the history of one of Ireland’s most influential bands.
The Radiators (from Space) grew out of a succession of early seventies garage bands formed by singer Steve Rapid and guitarist Pete Holidai, notably Bent Fairy and the Punks, and in 1975, Greta Garbage and the Trashcans. The Philip Chevron Band also made their debut in the summer of 1975 at Blackrock Park, Co Dublin. Chevron established contact with Holidai at the end of the year and they begin rehearsing as a new band in the spring of the following year.
With the advent of Chevron (guitar), and then Jimmy Crashe (drums) and Mark Megaray (bass), a truly consistent group emerged as a threat to the moribund Irish music scene and quickly began making history. Band names tried and discarded throughout 1976 included Rockettes, The Hell Razors, Rough Trade, and finally the Radiators (from Space).
In September 1976, as Rough Trade, they recorded a demo for CBS man Jackie Hayden and Horslips drummer Eamon Carr, who had recently launched independent record label, Midnite. Shortly after the session, there was another name change, and the band became officially the Radiators (from Space). In November, Carr played the tape to Roger Armstrong and Ted Carroll at Chiswick Records in London and the band signed a contract with Chiswick. That same month the Radiators made their ‘live’ debut as support to pub-rockers Eddie and the Hot Rods from Essex, England.
In early 1977, the Radiators recorded their debut single ‘Television Screen’ b/w ‘Love Detective’ with producer Roger Armstrong. In Ireland, it was licensed by Midnite to CBS Records and became the first Top 20 punk single anywhere in the world.
‘Both Television Screen and Love Detective outdistance most of the competition. The drumming is a powerful slice of rock’n’roll, the bass is neat and modest and the guitars don’t get carried away in their distorted frenzy. May best of all, the engineering concentrates on the higher frequencies, giving the songs real bite.’ (Charley Waters: Rolling Stone, October 6)
If the entire audience walked out of the Radiators gig at Asgard House, Howth, Co Dublin in January 1978, a sell-out show at legendary Moran’s Hotel, Dublin in March demonstrated how fast the band was rising in the music scene. In June, they performed alongside The Undertones, Revolver, The Gamblers and The Vipers at the University College, Dublin Punk Festival, a show marred by tragic violence when a member of the audience was stabbed and killed. In August, they played at Dalymount Park, Dublin, sharing the bill with Thin Lizzy, Graham Parker and the Rumour, The Boomtown Rats, Fairport Convention, Stepaside, and Stagalee. It was Steve Rapid’s last gig with the Radiators (from Space), although he remained a guiding light over the years that followed.
Singles released in September 1977 included ‘Enemies’ b/w ‘Psychotic Reaction,’ and ‘Sunday World’ b/w ‘Teenager in Love.’
‘No wall-to-wall sneers here, and after all living on the other side of the Irish Sea would justify them a lot more than those who insist on adopting such a stance just to be chic. A hit, I hope.’ (Steve Clark, NME, October 8 )
Following close behind the summer of singles, their first album TV Tube Heart demonstrated that beyond the fast-and-furious punk sound lay a couple of major songwriting talents in Philip Chevron and Pete Holidai. Then, an offer from Phil Lynott landed the band a support spot on Thin Lizzy’s 1977 UK tour, and with this, they left Dublin.
‘That what makes TV Tube Heart stand head and shoulders above so much of what’s currently going down. There’s hardly a song on the album that doesn’t have the kind of claw that sticks in the brain and just won’t go away… a great debut. It’s an album that puts the final stamp on what’s been an astoundingly good year for Irish rock.’ (Niall Stokes/Hot Press October 29)
Within four months of their arrival in London, the Radiators (no longer ‘from Space’) began work on a new album in Soho with producer Tony Visconti. The resulting record Ghostown, released in 1979, remains a unique outpouring of love, frustration, anger and heartbreak. Chevron and Holidai delivered songs that offered visions of Dublin and Ireland trapped in a childhood jam-jar and set free again in exile. The sheer scale of the material could be seen when ‘Million Dollar Hero’ became the great lost hit single, the late Agnes Bernelle performed ‘Kitty Ricketts’ in her West End show and Christy Moore (and later Moving Hearts) covered ‘Faithful Departed,’ adopting it as the perfect song with which to launch his own vision of modern Irish music.
Singles released in 1978 bridged the two albums, starting in April with ‘Million Dollar Hero’ from Ghostown b/w Blitzin’ At the Ritz’ Live, a TV Tube Heart composition. In July, another glimpse of Ghostown with ‘Walking Home Alone Again’ b/w the ‘The Hucklebuck’/’Try and Stop Me’ was scheduled, but cancelled. A remix of ‘Million Dollar Hero’ appeared in September.
‘The single of this summer… a new epoch in the Radiators story… This should be a complete and utter chart smash. For me the summer of ’78 will always be epitomized by ‘Million Dollar Hero.” (Hot Press) ‘If there’s justice, it’ll chart’ (Record Mirror)
In October 1978, the Radiators, with supporting band Stiff Little Fingers, performed to an unreceptive audience at the Electric Ballroom in London. It would be their last concert in the UK and they returned to Ireland in December.
‘If there is a lesson to be learned from last Tuesday’s performance at the Electric, it is simply that the band’s music has progressed so dramatically that they must now find a new audience to appreciate it.’ (Harry Doherty/Melody Maker Nov 11)
Despite gigs in Dublin, including a one-off conglomerate of the Radiators and Horslips playing as ‘The Meanies,’ Mark Megaray and Billy Morley left the Radiators in early 1979. The summer saw the release of two more singles from the Ghostown album. ‘Let’s Talk About the Weather’ b/w ‘The Hucklebuck’ and ‘Try and Stop Me’ in June, and ‘Kitty Ricketts’ b/w ‘Ballad of the Faithful Departed.’
Ghostown was not released until August 1979 and it bombed commercially. But reviews attested to what would become its enduring significance.
‘It’s a monumental achievement in rock, possibly the most significant Irish rock album ever… its greatness lies partly in the fact that it’s not purely dismissive, that it explores aspects of what it’s challenging and in doing so discovers a language which is all the more moving for the associations it evokes.’ (Niall Stokes/Hot Press August 10) ‘An epochal statement of Irish rock, an utterly indispensable artifact in even the most selective collection of Irish albums… Ghostown is – to utilize that much debased word – a classic. It positively redefines the artist terms of Irish rock… the Radiators rise to the top of the class of ’76.’ (Bill Graham/Hot Press August 10) ‘A magnificent record… full of inspired and memorable urban images’ (Mark J. Prendergast/’Irish Rock’ O’Brien Press 1987)
Four on the Floor, an EP featuring ‘Television Screen,’ ‘Psychotic Reaction,’ ‘Enemies’ and ‘Teenager in Love’ was released in February, 1980. Other singles that year included ‘Stranger Than Fiction,’ produced by Hans Zimmer, b/w ‘Prison Bars’ and ‘Who Are The Strangers’ in July on the Chiswhick label and again ‘Stranger Than Fiction’ b/w ‘Paddy ‘Guitar’ Paddy’ and ‘Who Are the Strangers’ on Mulligan, the Radiators’ Irish label. In September, various mixes of ‘The Dancing Years’ were released and the Radiators made three major Irish TV appearances, including The Late, Late Show. An autumn and winter of gigs throughout Ireland followed.
‘Before a packed audience in the Project, they played a fine set that made a mockery of their fruitless search for gold across the water.’ (Joe Breen/Irish Times Nov 4)
In March 1981, ‘Song of the Faithful Departed’ b/w ‘They’re Looting the Town’ was released. That same month the Radiators cancelled their proposed Irish tour and ceased work on the demos for a third album (to be called Absent Without Leaving). The band formally broke up.
But it was still only 1981 after all, and it would take a few more years before the world was ready for a band expressing a new generation’s view of Irishness. By then, Philip Chevron was himself a member of that band,The Pogues. They went on to tour the world, sell millions of records, craft modern classics such as ‘The Old Main Drag,’ ‘Thousands are Sailing’ and ‘Fairytale of New York,’ and inspire wave after international wave of bands eager to find out what happens when you smash the genres of traditional folk and do-it-yourself rock-n-roll together.
Meanwhile back in Dublin Steve Rapid, the Radiators member who chose to stay behind in 1977 and concentrate on both his graphic design business and building a local scene, crossed paths with Dublin band The Hype, Rapid demonstrated that he had not lost his aptitude for striking band names and The Hype soon became known as U2. Steve (aka Steve Averill) also designed the sleeve of the band’s U23 EP and continues to be involved in their design process to the present day.
Under Clery’s Clock debuted at a one-off gig at Hawkins, Dublin in 1985, when the Radiators reformed for one night only at AID TO FIGHT AIDS, a Dublin charity event. In 1988, the band recorded this song and Plura Belle, another new composition, with Chevron and Holodai producing. Released as a single in January 1989, Under Clery’s Clock was named NME’s Single of the Week in February. That same month, both songs appeared on the digitally mastered CD release of Ghostown.
‘This really and truly was the one that got away, one of the most important and enduring LPs in my life… This is outrageously masterful stuff.’ (Carol Clark, Melody Maker Mar 11)
‘The transcendence of its art means that it will endure beyond the wildest aspirations of albums which have sold 100,000 times more. No contest.’ (Panel of 95 Irish music business/media people vote the album #16 of all time/Hot Press Yearbook 1989)
And the music endures, even thrives, beyond its own time. In February 2005,
Ghostown appeared in the Hot Press People’s Choice readers’ poll of the top 100 greatest Irish albums of all time. In April, Brian Boyd of the Irish Times reviewed the Ghostown reissue and reminded his readers that ‘Musically, the album was audacious for its time; lyrically, it’s never been better. Ghostown represents the first time in Irish cultural life that a rock music 33rpm could sit pretty alongside the country’s literary and dramatic outputàquite simply: a monumental artistic achievement.’
The Radiators’ Bloomsday gig of 2004 was not a one-off. The new band, with former Pogues bassist Cait O’Riordan and Those Handsome Devils drummer Johnny Bonnie joining Chevron, Holodai and Rapid, rocked the Oxegen Festival in Ireland soon after. On June 24 2005, they were special guests on U2’s Dublin homecoming show at Croke Park. An EP The Summer Season was released in the same month. Tracks include ‘Hinterland’ a new and stunningly current Philip Chevron song, ‘The Girl with the Gun,’ and ‘live in the studio’ versions of ‘Sunday World’ and ‘Electric Shares.’ An active official website and discussion forum illustrates that the Radiators now have international and second-generation fans as well as the original punk kids who first rocked out to ‘Television Screen’ at Moran’s Hotel, Dublin.
Reissues of earlier albums TV Tube Heart and Ghostown in 2004, as well as news of recording of a much anticipated third album in 2005 show that the band continues to live up to the Sounds magazine pronouncement of ’77 that ‘The Radiators are [still] playing FIVE-STAR ROCK’N’ROLL PETROL.’
It may have taken nearly 30 years for the seminal Irish punk band Radiators From Space to cut their third album, but don’t tell Phil Chevron that they sound any different than before. “To me, it doesn’t sound any different,” says Chevron. To him, even though their debut, T.V. Tube Heart, had a sound more like their contemporaries in the late 70’s punk scene, the fact that their latest, Trouble Pilgrim, has slower-tempo songs and more of a pop sensibility has more to do with their growth as musicians, as well as their changing influences over the years. “When you’re young, you start out playing what you can, and eventually you end up playing what you want.”
And don’t call this a “Reunion Album.” “We really never actually split up,” he says. “We just ran out of road…but it was always the idea that, when the opportunity arose, we would get back together. And we have done a few times before this.” The difference now? Says Chevron: “There isn’t that sort of pressure to return to the hamster wheel of commercial grunt work. We do what we like, without the pressure of having to have a career plan, as such.” And in that spirit, the Radiators have gotten back together several times in recent years. Does the fact that they’re older, and not trying to compete in the same markets as younger bands? “Oh, of course,” he says. “None of us, at this point, have any interest in going back in the factory line. We’re competing with no one.” Chevron, as a member of the Pogues, has toured the world many times over the years. Are the Radiators planning on touring behind this release? “If someone wanted to arrange that, we’d definitely be interested, but it doesn’t seem very feasible at this point.” And as for the gap between the new CD’s release in Ireland and it’s appearance in the States, Chevron says this has more to do with the fact that the band has no plans to try and sign with any major distributors. “The album’s been out there, available for anyone who wanted to release it. We knew that Shite ‘N’ Onions were champions of the album when it was first released. When you own your own masters, which we do now, you have the freedom to license to whoever you want.”
That the album makes references to US foreign policy is only natural, says Chevron, but “America has such a huge footprint on the world, it has to accept people commenting about it.” He points to the fact that Shannon airport is now virtually being run like a US military installation as a reason that someone from Ireland might have cause to make their feelings about the conflicts going in the Middle East known.
The track most likely to get people’s attention this time around is the song “Joe Strummer,” the subject of which should be obvious to anyone with ears. According to Chevron, it’s a kind of musing about what the great Clash front man and solo artist (and, for a brief period, a member of the Pogues) would have to say about the state of the world today. “We started out admiring him, as everyone did at the time, to working with him as our producer, to being mates with him. We introduced him to football.” Strummer’s ability to, as Chevron puts it, “put that point of view across,” makes to world a completely different place for not having him in it.
Trouble Pilgrim may not sound like your classic 1-2-3-4 punk rock album, but the subject matter is as passionate and as pointed as the Radiators From Space have always been. The nearly 30-year gap between albums has only served to ensure that the band put its best foot forward.
Trouble Pilgrim is available in the US from Shite’n’Onions
Interview by: John Curtin – Comedian, Irish Musician, Dork
Flash back to 2001, when the news broke out of a Pogues Reunion Tour. Insanity is a word commonly used to describe the feeling worldwide. I seriously debate flying all the way to London just to see the band play live. (A few freinds made it) At the time, I simply could not afford the trip, so I nervously waited 5 years for the band to arrive on American shores. Again, I back out like a cheap stupid bastard. The tour is a success, and I punch myself for not attending. I then begin to hear rumors of a full blown West Coast Tour in 2007. I await the Portland billing…(And for reasons I cannot discuss) It falls through. Luckily for me, Seattle has confirmed two dates. I order my tickets and dance a drunken jig.
October 17th arrives. I get out of work early and haul ass north to Seattle. Prior arrangements have been made to meet up at a local pub called the Owl & Thistle. We arrive to a series of cheers. The good times are certainly here! (And as we all know, a Pogues gig isn’t complete without a pre-gig pub-crawl.) After an hour or so, the pub is crawling with fellow Portlanders, and our cheery pals to the north, The Canadians. After a few pints are drowned, various footy chants are sprinkled among the Pogues faithful.By the time we’re about to leave, full blown Portland Timbers chants echo across the pub. (WTF?) We also raise a pint to ailing Pogues guitarist Phil Chevron, who could not attend the tour due to his recovery from cancer. Like some sort of Celt-Punk roll call, I bump into various members of The McGillicuddy’s, the Scurvy Bastards, The Dolomites/Rag & Bonemen, and even had a Wages Of Sin sighting!
Eventually, the pub empties out into the rainy streets of Seattle, it’s the middle of Autumn, and a chill is in the air. This does nothing to dampen our spirits, because this crew of misfits are heading to The Showbox SODO to watch the Pogues! Somehow we cut the line and walk right in. The opening band is a guy named William Elliot Whitmore and he sounded great, I was too busy at the bar to get a good view.
Then it was time. Time for me to witness The Pogues for the first time ever. (Sure, I’d seen Shane & The Popes play before, but who am I kidding?) To be honest, I had pretty much written off Shane MacGowan a few years ago, so I wasn’t expecting much. In fact, I was relieved just to see Ol’ Snaggletooth up on stage. (It’s the first night of the tour, mind you!) The band crashes into “Streams Of Whiskey” and a mad rush toward the front of the stage begins. The crowd is hungry. Considering this is the first time The Pogues have ever played Seattle, it seemed appropriate. Within seconds, the leather jackets, the skate punks, the paddycaps, the trads, and the skins, all came together to celebrate the night. Let’s not forget some the older fans a bit further back with their offspring in tow. Showing the wee ones a night they’ll never forget. You couldn’t catch your breath before they steam right into “If I Should Fall From Grace With God” It’s about this time everyone realized how good the band sounds. In fact, The Pogues sound fucking great. Not to mention, Shane, (who was currently sporting a classy tophat) who had not sounded this good in years! “Broad Majestic Shannon” “Turkish Song Of The Damned” Phil Chevron’s smiling replacement, James Walbourne subbed in perfectly. By about the time “Young Ned Of The Hill” comes I simply lose the ability to properly review this show. There’s too much to take in. All those years of wishing, and waiting, have arrived and my fucking god, they have arrived with a vengeance! Overwhelming is an understatement! I am willing to bet serious amounts of money that I had by far, the biggest smile in the entire place that night!
Here’s the set list of the remainder of the show
Pair Of Brown Eyes Boys From The County Hell Tuesday Morning Kitty Sayonara Repeal Of the Licensing Laws Sunnyside Of The Street Body Of An American (Shane dedicating it to Kurt Cobain) Lullaby Of London Greenland Whale fishers Dirty Old Town Bottle Of Smoke Sickbed Of Cuchulainn
Sally MacLennane Rainy Night In Soho DOG
Star Of The County Down (Andrew on vocals) Poor Paddy Fiesta (With Shane And Spider smashing beer trays over their heads!)
And that was that. After two hours, a long term goal was fufilled. I finally saw the Pogues, and again, they sounded fucking amazing. I honestly expected a half-arsed reunion gig, instead I received a full blown kick in the ass. There was a faint buzz in the air. Not only the fans, but also the band. Accomplishment comes to mind.
Again, I must admit, Overwhelming is an understatement.
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.
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)