Category Archives: Book Review

BOOK REVIEW: ‘RUM, SODOMY AND THE LASH’ by Jeffrey T. Roesgen

30 years to the day of the release of Rum, Sodomy And The Lash.

Fleshing out The Pogues second album into a pocket sized, historical and musical mix of fact, fiction and nautical friction. Perfect for yer summer holiday,

Rum, Sodomy And The Lash

 “You can smell The Pogues through the writing”

Today is the 30th anniversary of the release of The Pogues classic album ‘Rum, Sodomy And The Lash’. I dare say that their can’t be that many of us that heard it back then and didnt find it a life changing moment in the way that only music can be sometimes. Easy to forget that The Pogues were the first celtic-punk band and though first album, ‘Red Roses For Me’, introduced the band it was this album that really set off the fireworks!

As Melody Maker said back in the day

“The brightest, most intense moments of Rum…aren’t about particularities of style or delivery. This is, apart from anything else, music to hang on to other people by to stave off brutal fact and the weight of history. While The Pogues make music for drunks as well, probably, as anyone has they’re also dragging an oft-ignored folk tradition into the daylight with an altogether improbable potency… Rum… has soul, if not a great deal of innovation, and somewhere among the glasses and the ashtrays lie a few home truths”

The albums title was suggested by drummer Andrew Rankin who said

“it seemed to sum up life in our band”

and the cover of the album has The Pogues members faces superimposed on the Medusa’s shipwrecked sailors in the famous painting by Theodore Gericault called ‘The Raft Of The Medusa’. Nautical themes abound as well as tales of male prostitution, the Spanish civil war, peace-keeping in the Lebanon and a multitude of stories telling of Irish emigrant life. Jeffrey T. Roesgen has taken these tales and wrapped them up in a book that is half nautical novel and half a history of The Pogues. Though you would expect such a specific book to be aimed squarely at the die hard Pogues fan audience the book actually reads very well. Sure the characters in these songs (Frank Ryan, Jesse James, Jock Stewart, Sally MacLennane etc.,) lend themselves to great story-telling but Roesgen deserves credit for writing a book that would interest maybe not quite anyone but certainly anyone with the faintest appreciation of The Pogues.

Rum Sodomy And The Lash

The story begins with The Pogues arriving on the dock and boarding The Medusa and follows them till they find themselves on that raft suffering

“unrelenting heat and torrents of waves”

A incapable captain and a corrupt French Governor interweave with and drink and fight with band members and the characters from the album.

“An officer rushed over to our group.  He stood before Spider, rigid and ornate, and nodded to the bags and cases at our feet.
“Musicians” said Spider, releasing Shane.
The officer winced and brought up a collection of papers he’d rolled behind his back. He squinted at it. “Your name?”
“Pogue Mahone”
The officer made his eyes slender. “Pogue Mahone?” He fiddled with the sparse whiskers on his chin.
“A Gaelic expression”
“Gaelic?”
“Kiss my arse” Spider shot back.
The officer widened his eyes and poised his head above the group.
We were quiet, looking to our feet.  The officer shifted himself rigid.  He looked to Spider. “Aboard this ship you will be Pogues”

The chapters are short and each part of the story is interrupted by a smaller section explaining how the song came into being. These pop up as they appear in the book and not in the album’s order so having a good knowledge is not all that important, though some of it will sail over of your head I am sure.

Ewan MacColl

Ewan MacColl

The classic Ewan MacColl penned song ‘Dirty Old Town’ receives a chapter to itself. As The Medusa navigates a storm we are told that Ewan MacColl actually hated The Pogues version of his song. In an interview Ewan’s wife Peggy Seeger, a renowned folk artist in her own right, contends that when Ewan wrote the line

“We’ll chop you down like an old dead tree”

he was implying improvement of Salford rather than destroying it. Roesgen quite rightly sees another side to The Pogues version

“In the Pogues performance we have little trouble seeing Shane, with spite seething from his lips, wielding his axe like a banshee, hacking his dismal town to splinters”

Roegson tells a great tale of the story behind the album and brings out the connections between Irish music and punk rock as well as American folk as well. Steering clear of anything too overly dramatic this wee book is worthy of passing the time away one day and is small enough (only 119 pages) to be read in one go. Therein lies the problem though in that you are left gasping for more. So the only possible solution is to pour yourself a generous drink, put ‘Rum Sodomy And The Lash’ on, turn it up loud, sit back in your deckchair and enjoy!

“With Spider singing, Shane and Frank Ryan jigged among the band. Ryan hadn’t expected James’s theft and his canonization, but it played into his plan for revolt. And he danced. Together the two men gulped from the jug, embracing amid the music. “Jesse James,” the crowds called over and over, diluting even the music we played”

Buy The Book

Amazon  Bloomsbury  Audible(TalkingBooks)

33⅓ (Thirty-Three and a Third) is a series of books written about music albums, featuring one author per album and published by Bloomsbury Publishing. The series title refers to the speed (33⅓ revolutions per minute) of an LP album and as of June 2015 over 100 titles had been published.

For more information on the series there is a Blog here as well as the Bloomsbury site here

*if you’re interested in The Pogues we have a multitude of great articles on them-

‘From Oppression To Celebration- The Pogues And The Dropkick Murphys And Celtic Punk’ here 

‘A Wee Biography Of Shane MacGowan’  here 

‘30492-London Celtic Punks Top Twenty Celtic-Punk Albums Of All Time’ here

‘Film Review: If I Should Fall From Grace With God- The Shane MacGowan Story’  here

‘Book Review: Irish Blood, English Heart- Second Generation Irish Musicians In England’  here

‘Red Roses For Me And Me’  here

‘Film Review: I’m A Man You Don’t Meet Every Day’  here

The Best Pogues Related Sites

In The Wake Of The Medusa * Paddy Rolling Stone * The Parting Glass * Pogues Facebook Page

For me though the best place on the internet for The Pogues is this unofficial group on Facebook (here) all the diverse views you would expect from a bunch of people who follow The Pogues. Be sure and join up won’t you?

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BOOK REVIEW: ‘Scotball’ by STEPHEN O’DONNELL

a Celtic supporter working in the mainstream media trying to tell the truth about RFC’s liquidation finds out that the people in power not only don’t want to hear the truth but they actually want to hide the truth from the people…

Scotball

This is Stephen O’Donnells second book and the follow up to his critically acclaimed debut Paradise Road (which you can read our review of here) which told the tale of Scottish football prospect Kevin McGarry on his journey through life as he grows from a banter-loving teenager to the sudden realisation of being a directionless 30-something with but one constant in his life: Celtic. Its a great read and one which will bring out a wry smile in any Celtic supporter but with the publication of ‘Scotball’ Stephen has surpassed himself.

Paradise Road

Scotball tells the story of Peter Fitzpatrick. He has spent five years in Prague, enjoying the Bohemian lifestyle and everything that it entails, but he has itchy feet. He has married a local, Czech girl who expresses an interest in seeing and learning about his country so, short of money, he decides to return home to his native Kirkintilloch in the West of Scotland. After moving back in with his parents and reacquainting himself with his old friends, he resumes the career in banking and financial services that he abandoned just before the credit crunch hit. He feels unfulfilled however. His application to host a television programme discussing the hot topics relating to Scottish football is summarily rejected by the national broadcaster, but as the country moves towards the independence referendum he revisits the idea, and this time it finds favour in the new media environment. ‘The Scottish Football Debate’, or ‘Scotball’ is born.

Stephen O'Donnell

Stephen O’Donnell

The show is an instant hit; it tackles the problems relating to the game in a more forthright and intelligent manner than people are used to hearing and reading about in tabloid newspapers and commercial broadcasters. It is considered refreshing and wins praise for being uncluttered by the customary agendas and petty grievances which usually distort and disfigure these types of shows. The programme runs successfully for two full seasons, debating and discussing such previously taboo subjects as sectarianism, declining standards in Scottish football and the pejorative influence of finances and a too powerful media on the game, when the biggest story in the history of Scottish sport begins to unfold, namely the liquidation of Rangers. Gradually the free reign that the show was permitted for open discussion begins to be checked and …well you’ll just have to buy the book won’t you!

Written in Glasgow dialect its still very easy to follow and is full to the brim with moments of humour and pathos and in the light of the tragic defeat of the Scottish Independence vote and the mass media’s blatant propaganda on behalf of the unionists many events in Stephen’s book ring entirely true. Congratulations on a riveting and entertaining read Stephen. In a world of dreadful books written both by footballers (or ghost writers we really should say!) and about football ‘Scotball’ sticks out like a bloody sore thumb!

A Nation On The Page

A Nation On The Page

Stephen O’Donnell was born in Glasgow and after working in Scotland, London and Prague, he has returned home as a full-time writer. Currently halfway through his next book, Stephen is a welcome addition to the Scottish literary scene.

Price: £9.99 

ISBN: 978-1-901514-13-1 

Size: 198mm x 128mm 

Binding: Paperback 

Length: 280 pages

Buy The Book

Amazon (E-Book/Paperback available) 

Contact Peter

WebSite  ScotballFacebook  ParadiseRoadFacebook  Twitter

BOOK REVIEW: IRISH BLOOD, ENGLISH HEART: SECOND GENERATION IRISH MUSICIANS IN ENGLAND

By Donal Fallon

Irish blood, English heart: second generation Irish musicians in EnglandSeán Campbell(Cork University Press, €39)ISBN 9781859184615

Irish blood, English heart: second generation Irish musicians in England by Seán Campbell (Cork University Press, €39)ISBN 9781859184615

In the recent excellent ‘Why Pamper Life’s Complexities? Essays on the Smiths’, co-edited by Seán Campbell and sociologist Colin Coulter, a recurring theme was the Irish heritage at the heart of the upbringing of members of the band. Those familiar with the politics and ideology of the band’s much-worshipped front man, Morrissey, were undoubtedly not surprised by a letter from the singer which appeared in Hot Press magazine just prior to the recent royal visit to Ireland. ‘The queen also has the power to give back the six counties to the Irish people, allowing Ireland to be a nation once again’, he wrote, in a letter that lambasted the institution of monarchy. He is one of many English-born musicians of Irish lineage to do so. Who could forget the reaction to Paul McCartney and John Lennon’s respective singles on ‘the Irish question’? It is fitting that Seán Campbell’s most recent work, Irish blood, English heart, should take its title from a song of Morrissey’s. When he opened that song with the words ‘Irish blood, English heart, this I’m made of’, he perfectly captured the dual identity of many in Britain. As Campbell notes in his prologue to the work, the book’s title serves to ‘invoke the dilemma faced by second-generation Irish people, many of whom locate themselves as “half-and-half”’.

One finds a generation who felt neither British nor Irish, unsurprising in the political and social context of the period under examination, which is 1980s Britain. Johnny Marr of the Smith is quoted as saying, ‘I feel absolutely nothing when I see the Union Jack, except repulsion . . . and I don’t feel Irish either. I’m Mancunian-Irish.’ The work focuses on three musical acts, analysing three very distinct styles, personas and backgrounds: the Smiths of Manchester; Kevin Rowland’s Dexy’s Midnight Runners from the Midlands; and the infamous London-Irish punks, the Pogues. Other high-profile figures of Irish lineage are mentioned, such as John Lydon of the Sex Pistols, a.k.a. Johnny Rotten. As an examination of British society in the period, the work provides excellent sociological insight into how the children of Irish migrants saw themselves fitting into, or not fitting into, British life. Shane MacGowan of the Pogues was of the belief that the second-generation Irish of late 1970s London had been ‘split down the middle, really heavily’, with one set of youngsters unashamedly Irish in outlook and culture, while others merely wanted to fit in to the native youth culture. Questions are raised around issues of assimilation or lack thereof, and it is clear that an overwhelming sense of ‘in-betweenness’ existed. As Campbell notes, terms and labels like ‘plastic Paddy’ became derisive allusions to the ‘perceived inauthenticity’ of the second-generation Irish. The second generation knew that they were very different from their parents and the native Irish. One of the strong points of Campbell’s work is his multidisciplinary approach and sources, and in a 1987 social geography essay on the Irish in London he finds a quote which perhaps best sums up the mentality of this second generation, alien to both the English and Irish: ‘Of course we know and enjoy Ireland, but London is our home, our city. We can’t recreate a lost Ireland in the middle of 1980s London.’ The book brings political events of the period into context wonderfully, showing the emergence of strong anti-Irish feeling among sections of British society in response to the rise of paramilitary activity in Britain and Northern Ireland. As Philip Chevron of the Pogues would note, ‘the only politics that counted in the London-Irish scene were the politics of being Irish in a place that was innately racist towards the Irish’. Following campaigns from red-top tabloids, and the implementation of the Prevention of Terrorism Act in the wake of the Birmingham bombing, for a period it appeared that the Irish community as a whole was seen as suspect. As one critic noted of Kevin Rowland’s attempts to ‘reconcile himself with his Irish roots’ on the band’s classic ‘Don’t Stand Me Down’ record, such out-and-out assertions of Irish pride or patriotism were ‘perceived in England as tantamount to wearing a balaclava and carrying a machine gun’.

Campbell has made great use of the archives of many influential music magazines, like Uncut, NME, Hot Press, Q, Melody Maker and other publications to the fore of youth and musical subculture in the UK and Ireland. It is within the pages of a much less mainstream publication, Sinn Féin’s An Phoblacht, that Campbell unearths a gem in the form of that publication’s praise for the Smiths: ‘With names like that who could doubt their antecedents?’ For a band often considered quintessentially British by many musical critics, Johnny Marr’s claim that ‘The IRA wanted to get up and make some speeches before we went on’ during a tour of the North is a surreal insight into how their anti-establishment ethos was viewed by some republicans at home. Migrant experience and feelings of alienation come to the fore in this work, a highly valuable study of the Irish diaspora and the often forgotten ‘second generation’ in England. The book makes a strong and welcome contribution to cultural history and popular musical history, of course, but it triumphs within the field of Irish studies. It is perhaps a quote from Q magazine’s ‘100 Greatest British Albums’ special in 2000 that best captured the unusual nature of the Irish community. Including the Pogues among those featured, Q noted that ‘being white of skin and Western European of culture, Britain’s Irish are the invisible immigrants’. When confronted by Melody Maker in 1985 on his Irish ethnicity, in response to the interviewer’s noting that ‘you were born in England’, Kevin Rowland retorted that ‘just because you were born in a stable doesn’t make you a horse’. Irish blood, English heart is a study of just some of the talented young musicians who emerged out of Britain’s largest migrant community yet lacked a clear sense of identity themselves. This sense of alienation and ‘in-betweenness’ was to prove central to the work, and appeal, of these great musicians.

Donal Fallon is one of the editors of the great blog ‘Come Here To Me’, a blog of Dublin life and culture. Literally tons to read so don’t delay and get your ass over to the site now. I cannot stress that enough, alright… http://comeheretome.com/.

BOOK REVIEW: PARADISE ROAD by STEPHEN O’DONNELL

review by Bedford Falls

Paradise Road by Stephen O'Donnell

The last couple of years have given rise to the power of football fans on the internet, and the bampot blogger in particular. Celtic fans have led the way here, having long since established a plethora of quality sites which cater for every facet of the club’s diverse support.

In the last 6 months it feels as is there has been a rush to bring out books on all things Celtic too. From highbrow quality journalists getting in on the act to self-financed and self-published efforts: as you can imagine the quality varies. However, we have to celebrate Celtic fans looking to add to our rich heritage with books which put the club at the focal point of the story.

In Stephen O’Donnell’s Paradise Road (which I keep bloody thinking of as Paradise Lost) we have a fine addition to the growing canon of literature celebrating Celtic’s rich past.

The story follows erstwhile Scottish football prospect Kevin McGarry on his journey through life – so familiar to man -, as he grows from a banter-loving teenager to the sudden realisation of being a directionless 30-something with but one constant in his life: Celtic. But through the chronologically delivered narratives we learn that Celtic has been anything but constant itself.

Anyone who started supporting Celtic in the mid-80s has evolved with the club. Its metamorphic change from a dying institution in a ramshackle stadium to a pristine business with £££s dominating the fans’ mind more than the fare on the pitch at times has been remarkable. People of this vintage will feel a particularly close affinity with O’Donnell’s central character.

The Kirkintilloch lad narrates to us stories of his ‘best years’, inevitably with Celtic’s travails always providing the canvass on which his life is drawn out. There are stories of girls dumped for football, girls met because of football and him being dumped by a girl because of football. You get the gist.

new LONDON CELTIC PUNKS stickers available from  http://30492shop.moonfruit.com/shop/4580412915/stickers/6838693

new LONDON CELTIC PUNKS stickers available from
http://30492shop.moonfruit.com/shop/4580412915/stickers/6838693

Paradise Road is to all intents and purposes a collection of witty anecdotes weaved together into a fine novel. The timeline is mid-80s to present day (almost). Through this period we see McGarry grow frustrated with the commercialism of the game. His yearning for the camaraderie of the smoke-filled bus to the match, or terracing, or smuggling booze into the game marks him out as a whimsy character always craving something that he can’t quite get. McGarry wants emancipation; he just needs to find out what it is he needs to break free from.

And thus it becomes clear that Paradise Road is a character novel based around Celtic, not the other way round. McGarry’s journey could easily be told against the backdrop of an obsession with music, for example.

What makes it relevant to us as Celtic fans is how O’Donnell skilfully explores the changing political and economic landscape that accompanied Celtic’s own rebirth following McCann’s takeover. McGarry is an observant narrator often going on tangential rambles about one thing or another. These breaks add a richness and intelligence to a novel with a fair few laughs at the crude end of the scale too.

There are also breaks from McGarry’s first person narrative. In a style very reminiscent of Irvine Welsh, O’Donnell treats us to stories as seen through the eyes of characters close his main man and he brings the central threads together in a closing chapter in the beautiful city of Prague.

Paradise Road is a fantastic read. The short, sharp chapters make it easy to devour and the affinity most Celtic fans will feel with Kevin McGarry is palpable. But this is not a book about Celtic fan, Kevin McGarry. This is a book about Kevin McGarry, Celtic fan. The difference is small but the impact is great. Well worth a read.

Buy The Book

Link to the ebook on Amazon: http://ow.ly/iXozn

Link to the paperback on Amazon: http://ow.ly/iXoYr

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