Category Archives: Tribute

BEYOND THE FIELDS NEW VIDEO AND TRIBUTE TO ALISTAIR HULETT

The new video from Swiss band Beyond The Fields is a fantastic cover of the Alistair Hulett penned classic ‘Blue Murder’.  Their fine homage to one of Scotland’s finest folk musicians was recorded live at this year’s traditional Grabenhalle Irish Night in St. Gallen, Switzerland on March 18th, 2017. Mixed by Eddy Sloof and filmed by Metunar.
By kind permission of The Alistair Hulett Memorial Trust.

They say it’s easy money
A full page ad in the local rag,
Always nice and sunny.
Come on lad, and pack your bag.
It’s off to West Australia.
Leave the old hometown behind.
Be a winner, not a failure.
There’s money to be made in the Wittenoom Mine.

Day in, day out, everyday they drive us harder.
Day in, day out, they’re getting away with blue murder.

They took me to my quarters,
A stinking bed in an old tin shed.
Got my working orders,
With a lamp, and tin hat on my head.

Day in, day out, everyday they drive us harder.
Day in, day out, they’re getting away with blue murder.

My girl she’s a cook and a cleaner.
Works all day in the canteen hall.
Six days since I’ve seen her.
Some don’t have no girl at all.

Day in, day out, everyday they drive us harder.
Day in, day out, they’re getting away with blue murder.

Sweeps the fine blue dust up.
Tips it into an old wool pack.
Never had a check-up.
If she did she’d get the sack

Day in, day out, everyday they drive us harder.
Day in, day out, they’re getting away with blue murder.

I feel my health is failing
Working down in the thick blue dust.
The kids play in the tailings.
The boss says work, and work I must.

Day in, day out, everyday they drive us harder.
Day in, day out, they’re getting away with blue murder.

For those who aren’t too familiar with Alistair Hulett’s (1951 – 2010) life and work, he was born and raised in Scotland but spent half of his life in Australia. He made a name for himself both as a solo artist and as the lead singer of legendary Australian folk rock band Roaring Jack. Apart from being a gifted singer/songwriter, Alistair was a committed socialist and a dedicated political and community activist. He was indeed one of those artists who consequently used his art trying to make a difference, to fight injustice and exploitation wherever and whenever he could. Alistair wrote songs about crimes against indigenous people, whether it was the British nuclear tests in Australia (‘Plains of Maralinga’) or human rights violations in Papua New Guinea (‘Good Morning Bougainville’). He wrote songs about the Highland Clearances (‘Destitution Road’), detention centres (‘Behind Barbed Wire’), the mistreatment of workers, you name it. ‘Blue Murder’ was one of two songs he wrote about the suffering of those who worked in the blue asbestos mine in Wittenoom, Western Australia. Countless miners and their families who paid with their health and lives after being exposed to lethal asbestos fibres, a health hazard well known to those who ran the mine.
Alistair originally wrote the song for a play while still in Roaring Jack. He eventually recorded it for his third solo album “Saturday Johnny & Jimmy the Rat”, together with folk legend Dave Swarbrick on fiddle!
To find out more about Alistair Hulett and his amazing body of work, visit
http://www.alistairhulett.com

BEYOND THE FIELDS

Eva Wey (Fiddle) * André Bollier (Vocals and Acoustic Guitar) * Marcel Bollier (Bass) * Uwe Schaefer (Mandolin) * Eddy Sloof (Drums and Percussion)

A Celtic folk rock band from the Lake Constance area, playing both acoustic and electric shows. Founded by singer/songwriter Andre Bollier, and featuring classical, folk, jazz and rock musicians from both Switzerland and Germany, the band offers its own distinctive mix of Irish and American folk traditions with rock, punk and other elements.
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OBITUARY: REMEMBERING ERIK PETERSEN

by Dave Hughes

“So tattoo our arms and raise our glasses, call out your name at New Year’s Eve, maybe next time we kneel at a casket, we can say at least the story’s complete”

Erik 2

Folk punk can get a bad rap. Out on the internet there are thousands of bad recordings of badly sung and badly played songs about Things That Are Bad (™). Songs that lack nuance, metaphor and melody. Then there was Erik Petersen. He was different, he was the master of crafting a song around an ancient melody, turning a phrase, and constructing a tale full of metaphor, life, death and everything in between. It breaks my heart to be writing an obituary for Erik, he was one of my heros, he was a friend, and above everything else he was a genius.

Erik was a long time player in the Philadelphia punk scene. His band The Orphans split up in 2000, but not before writing some amazing slices of hardcore (check out The Government Stole My Germs CD from their Raise The Youth anthology). Near the end of The Orphans, a shut down show might mean Erik grabbing an acoustic guitar and playing some unplugged songs instead. There is a show on Youtube from a veterans hall, a young Erik sits on a chair in the middle of a room of punks playing early versions of songs that would go on to be Mischief Brew. Erik, himself, had commented that this scratchy footage was the start of Mischief Brew.

Erik 1Between The Orphans and Mischief Brew there was the Kettle Rebellion. The Kettle Rebellion was a tight three piece of Erik, Jon Foy on Bass and Chris Doc Kulp on drums. They played a style that could be described as Medieval Folk Punk, the kind of hardcore that you’d hear while you strolled through a renaissance fair. An eight track LP was recorded in 2002, but before it could be released, the master tapes were stolen and leaked to archaic MP3 sharing sight Soulseek. In response, Erik scrapped the project. Years later, he stumbled across a version of the master tapes and decided to put it out. In 2013, the Kettle Rebellion LP was finally released through Fistolo on Vinyl, and my own record label, Different Circle Records, on CD.

Erik and Mischief Brew were DIY to the core, and before going on with the story, I have to introduce Denise. Denise was Erik’s wife and partner in crime for over 20 years. Emails sent through to Fistolo would invariably be responded by Denise. She’s a wonderful small package of vibrancy, smiles and energy. There’s also the Pugs, a Mischief Brew article is not complete without bringing up the Pugs. The Petersens rehomed many pugs through the years, and they were a common feature at their American shows. Check out the early recording of Erik playing at a PunX Picnic and you’ll hear one of them, perhaps Garcia, yelping along to Erik’s genius. Up the Pugs.

Erik 4In 2003, Erik released a split record with Robert Blake entitled Bellingham/Philadelphia, and also a more electric EP known as Bakenal. These were the start of the Mischief Brew sound that the underground world would associate with Petersen. It was on the Bakenal EP that the anthem “Roll Me Through the Gates of Hell” first appeared, with it’s rally cry of “I am a leader but you will not follow me” providing the spit and sawdust that anarcho-folk had been looking for. Lyrics from this song would be sprayed across walls around the world, most prominently across the outer wall of the Squat-cum-Social-Centre Knoflook in Den Bosch, Netherlands. Footage of Erik standing on the bar at Knoflook (during their last Europe Tour in 2008) singing Jawbreaker’s Boxcar can be found on YouTube. It’s a moment of pure joy, and testament to how he could command a room with his guitar.

Mischief Brew had a few line-up changes through the years, finally settling on a three-piece core of Erik, Shawn St Clair on Bass and Erik’s brother Chris Petersen on drums. Occasionally they’d be joined by Kettle Rebellion’s drummer Doc on percussion and second guitar duties. They released albums infrequently, but at a pace that was slowly increasing in recent years. The initial full length, Smash The Windows, was released in 2005, with its smash the system electric folk punk featuring guest spots from Stza from Leftover Crack and Franz Nicolay (solo artist and past member of The Hold Steady). Featuring a reworked Kettle Rebellion track called A Liquor Never Brewed and a full band Roll Me Through The Gates of Hell, this is the place to start with Mischief Brew.

From there we got Songs from under the sink (an acoustic collection of ‘forgotten’ old songs), The Stone Operation (a European influenced carnaval of a record) and the latest This is Not For Children (their punk rock roots coming to the fore). In between there was a smattering of EPs, the greatest of these being Eriks side of Photographs from the Shoebox (a split with Joe Jack Talcum). On this EP, you will find Labour Day Massacre, one of the prime examples of Erik’s socially conscious political songwriting.
Erik 3Mischief Brew played a lot of shows in America. From small cafes with acoustic guitars in front of a close crowd,  to an audience of thousands at the NYC Bowery Ballroom with The Hold Steady. They toured Europe twice, the last time in 2008 and were about to start another visit here next week. Youtube is a library of live performances, but that only gives you an impression of what it was like to be there.

I’ll finish this with a story about the last time I saw Erik, Denise and Mischief Brew. I found myself living in Brooklyn in 2013 and feeling quite homesick. Mischief Brew had a show booked at a dive bar called Grand Victory which I had frequented a few times. I went along, expecting a small turn-out and to hear some of my favourite songs belted out. I hadn’t seen them since 2008 when they had played in Glasgow (on borrowed guitars due to a fuck-up by the airline), but soon bumped into Chris and Shawn as if it had been yesterday.

There must have been around 200 showing up to this bar show, DaysNDays and Absinth Rose supported, and it was life affirming. From opening with Children Play with Matches to the closing anarchy of Roll me Through the Gates of hell, I was sweaty, hoarse throated and absolutely elated. I headed to the merch desk to buy a vinyl copy of the Stone Operation, and when hearing my thick scottish accent, Denise automatically recognised who I was and the night truly started. I sat at the end of the bar, unending stream of whisky, with Erik, Denise, Shawn, Chris, Doc and Maria (Denise’s sister). They invited me back to Maria’s flat with them for more drinks and merriment. Erik and Shawn drove ahead with the gear and we stayed at the bar to finish our drinks.

Erik 5By the time we arrived at Maria’s, Erik and Shawn were asleep on the sofas with three pugs dancing around the apartment. The rest of us stayed up a while in the kitchen, drank fruit flavoured beer, and I felt like I truly belonged. I went to sleep on the floor with a pillow that was given to me, but awoke with a blanket over me and a pug on my head. Once we were all awake, we sat around and chatted about life, music, and plans. We ordered burgers, ate, and bid our farewells as I ventured out in the hot Brooklyn sun. I’d lost a day, but gained a life time.

I’m sitting writing this in a flat in Paisley, Scotland, with my Mischief Brew T-shirt (bought at the show in Brooklyn), my “May All We Do Be All For Our Delight” tattoo on my arm, trying to comprehend where we go from here. Erik Petersen soundtracked my last 10 years, gave me inspiration for my own songwriting and journey, bonded me with some of my closest friends, and gave me something to strive towards. No Gods, No Masters, No Setlists.

Fair Well Good Fellow, the tape has slowed down, but the music won’t stop.

Find out more about Erik’s great legacy of songs and other work by following the links-

Facebook  WebSite  MySpace  Twitter  YouTube  Bandcamp

STOP-PRESS

Friends of Erik have set up a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds for his wife and family to help get them through all this without the added worry of funeral expenses and to help them get by in this tough time. All of the money raised will be given to his wife, Denise. The campaign can be found here so donate if you can and if you can’t then please share.

THE POGUES AND IRISH CULTURAL CONTINUITY

BY PÁDRAIC GRANT

Shane MacGowan’s awareness and adaptation of trends in the literary world, along with the narrative quality and structural experimentation of his work, should cement his status as both a musical and literary figure.

The Pogues Continuity Splash

The Pogues (formerly Pogue Mahone, Irish Gaelic for ‘kiss my arse’) were formed in 1982 by a group of London Irish musicians eager to drag Irish folk into a musical world that had been changed and redefined by the advent of punk. This mission was to be marked by success and failure, but by 1996 when they officially disbanded, they had permanently left their mark on both folk and mainstream music.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the band through those years was the extensive influence literature had on their lyrics. Rather than simply drawing on certain works for inspiration, almost every lyric in the Pogues extensive repertoire can be traced to a certain area of the written word.

Shane

Leading this literary charge was main songwriter and ideologue Shane MacGowan, who’d come through punk emboldened by its ideals, but distraught by its mainstream assimilation. The catalogue of songs penned by MacGowan regularly evokes previous writers and styles, often twisted and placed in new frameworks. Indeed, most of his lyrics are as intellectually stimulating when read as poems and stories as when performed as full songs.

From the moment he began penning songs, MacGowan was artistically indebted to his Irish homeland, a fact reflected in both music and lyrics. Literary touchstones spanned the Irish spectrum—Brendan Behan, James Joyce, Edna O’Brien, Flann O’Brien, Sean O’Casey, Frank O’Connor, and James Stephens were drawn from and their influence incorporated into his burgeoning songbook. While the idea of the songwriter-as-poet is often evoked in a clichéd (even insulting) manner to give certain artists ‘credibility’, MacGowan’s awareness and adaptation of trends in the literary world, along with the narrative quality and structural experimentation of his work, should cement his status as both a musical and literary figure.

As the band gained further success and the other members began to substantially contribute to the lyrics, concerted attempts were made to avoid stagnancy. Eventually, the collective focus fundamentally changed in ways that would have massive effects on the group. Extraneous reference points began to dominate, with the music switching to a menagerie of world music styles, and the lyrics drawing from non-Irish, less literary sources. This fragmentation would afterwards be cited by MacGowan as one of the biggest reasons for his estrangement from the other members of the band.

TRADITION REANIMATED

Going back to the band’s formative years, an important reason for the band’s very existence was a fervent desire to reiterate the aspects of Irish folk music that ran contrary to the sophisticate persona espoused by the dominant elements of ‘80s music. From the stale by-products of 70’s AOR who had somehow got through the post-punk safety net (Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel) to the New Romantics with their synthetic music and lifestyle, the Pogues sought to challenge the status quo by injecting a sense of danger into Irish folk, thereby returning Irish folk to the mainstream. This was to be achieved through a heady mix of punk and folk, filtered through a coarse, unrefined aesthetic. And with virtually no electric instruments (Cait O’Riordan’s bass guitar was a notable exception) and a minimalist bass/snare drum kit, the contrast with mainstream instrumentation was glaring.

Despite this, perhaps the freshest aspect of the re-named Pogues was the literary quality of their original songs. Amongst volatile renditions of traditional standards nestled originals composed in the same style, infused with a punk-derived radicalism that brought the band beyond mere rehashed folk. The London-Irish composition of the group meant that its Irish influences were viewed through the lens of cosmopolitan London, and the city would go on to be the focus of numerous songs by the band.

Red Roses For Me

Gaining a reputation through relentless touring, they signed to the independent Stiff Records in 1984. The first album, ‘Red Roses For Me’, was released in October of that year, and was an underground success despite its poor mainstream showing. Critical attention focused on the burgeoning lyrical talents of Shane MacGowan as much as on the music. Taking its title from a late-era Sean O’Casey play, the album offered a demonstration of MacGowan’s continuity with Irish writers past. The Irish identification was even carried onto the album art: A portrait of the band members seated around a painting of John F. Kennedy, a symbol of solidarity with the Irish diaspora across the world.

O’CASEY AND SOCIALISM

Aside from bestowing the album with a name, O’Casey was influential stylistically. The lyrics on ‘Red Roses for Me’ focused on the lives of the 1980s working class in the same way O’Casey portrayed the proletariat of the early 1900’s. A lifelong communist and Republican dissident, his portrayals were combined with his socialist beliefs to demonstrate the inherently political nature of working class life. Similarly, the debut Pogues LP illustrates the impact of wider political processes on mundane reality.

Sean O'Casey

Sean O’Casey

While avoiding overt left-wing sloganeering, the anti-authoritarian approach evident in certain tracks was intensified by the experience of Thatcherite Britain, where harsh monetarism had led to the working class feeling persecuted by the ruling Conservative Party. This sense of injustice was given credence by the Miner’s Strike occurring the same year the album was released, an event that embodied opposition to the implementation of profit-driven neo-liberalism. Under such circumstances, the sense of anger present in ‘Red Roses for Me’ is easily read as a reflection of the labour class’s embittered undercurrent, manifesting itself in several songs on the album.

The opening song, ‘Transmetropolitan’, is a conspicuous example of this attitude. Both tribute to and attack on the city of London, the composition is a contradiction. The music is frenetically gleeful, while the lyrics veer from a celebration of London life to a bitter attack on the pillars of the British establishment:

There’s leechers up in Whitehall
And queers in the GLC
And when we’ve done those bastards in
We’ll storm the BBC.

Whitehall (the home of the British government, the GLC (Greater London Council), and the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) represented the stale powers-that-be, a focus for bitter resentment. That the enemy was the suitably vague “establishment” was a by-product of the band’s punk roots, a recurring and pervasive influence that sat comfortably alongside the anti-authority stance of the writers inspiring the group.

BEHAN AND BLACK COMEDY

Brendan Behan

Brendan Behan

Despite the O’Casey reference in the title and the similarities shared in the portrayal of working class existence, it is clear that Brendan Behan is the dominant influence on ‘Red Roses for Me’. ‘The Auld Triangle’, an Irish standard adapted from the introduction to the Behan play ‘The Quare Fellow’, is the third track on the album and a marked contrast to the rest of what is an ultimately raucous record.  It’s stark, skeletal, and relies primarily on MacGowan’s vocals. The mood is despondent and the lyrics wistful, but lightened by occasionally humourous lines (a literary technique MacGowan adopted in his own writing, which often includes comedic moments in the midst of squalor). This aspect of his songcraft would later be explored and refined on ‘Rum, Sodomy & the Lash’.

‘The Boys from the County Hell’ is the most precise example of punk’s influence on the album. Upping the ante on ‘Transmetropolitan’, it’s a vicious exploration of the alcohol-fuelled violence of the urban London lifestyle (the city termed ‘County Hell’ in a translation bearing the mark of Irish geographical terminology), and a further fleshing out of MacGowan’s songwriting, recalling the unflinching portrayal of violence in Irish tradition. Coming from that lineage, it contains one of his most blackly humourous couplets:

My daddy was a Blueshirt and my mother a madam.
My brother earned his medals at My Lai in Vietnam.

‘Streams of Whiskey’ carries the Behan obsession to new heights, encapsulating MacGowan’s adoration of the man in one song. The lyrics depict a conversation held with Behan in a dream. When asked about his views on the “crux of life’s philosophies”, he answers: “I am going where streams of whiskey are flowing”. This ‘philosophy’ manages to make alcoholism sound almost idealistic—after all, it concerns a person who once quipped

“I’m a drinker with a writing problem”

Flann O'Brien

Flann O’Brien

‘Streams of Whiskey’ is also a buried reference to Flann O’Brien—a pseudonym for Brian O’Nolan, who MacGowan cited as one of his favourite authors in ‘A Drink with Shane MacGowan’.  O’Brien’s ‘The Poor Mouth’ (originally published in Gaelic as ‘An Beal Bocht’) includes a story regarding a mountain with two streams of whiskey flowing at its summit. A brilliant satire of Ireland’s victim mentality, the novel is built on, as with most of O’Brien’s works, an absurdly funny plot and writing style that Shane MacGowan emulated throughout his time in the Pogues.

NEW STRUCTURES

‘Red Roses for Me’ may have received praise for its literate lyrics, but the following year’s ‘Rum, Sodomy And the Lash’ was the moment where the Pogues songcraft truly blossomed. From post-modern character realignment to minutely-detailed narratives, the many facets of Irish literature are explored and amalgamated into a work that reads like an overview of the canon.

Depiction of Cúchulainn by John Duncan

Depiction of Cúchulainn by John Duncan

As the opening track for the album, ‘Sickbed of Cúchulainn’ is a significant song in more than one respect. Not only does it demonstrate the cleaner production and more thought-out arrangements of the record as a whole, but most importantly the progression of MacGowan’s songwriting. As a character, Cúchulainn (a legendary Celtic warrior and son of the god Lugh) was a towering figure in Irish storytelling, regularly recurring in stories up to and including the Celtic Revival of the late 19th century. While The Pogues stick to this tradition, the song that bears his name is a sober modernisation of the monolith; a demonstration of the continuity held with preceding Irish literature, but a strong statement of realist rather than mythic characterisation.

This approach to the protagonist is similar to the proto-postmodernism of Flann O’Brien in novels such as ‘The Third Policeman’ and ‘At Swim-Two-Birds’, which dragged characters such as the mythic Fionn MacCumhaill into a contemporary setting. Thus ‘Sickbed of Cúchulainn’ styles the character not as a demi-god, but in the flawed guise of the socialist IRA leader Frank Ryan. Appearing alongside the singers John McCormack and Richard Tauber, Cuchulainn is an unacknowledged hero, a participant on the losing side of the Spanish Civil War (as was Frank Ryan in reality.) Cuchulainn’s illustrious status in Celtic folklore is contrasted with the more human heroism of the unacknowledged Ryan, an anti-fascist who later faced the ignominy of death in a Nazi submarine. “You decked some fucking blackshirt who was cursing all the Yids” and “We’ll sing a song of liberty for blacks and paks and jocks” serve as MacGowan’s tribute to a man whose heroism was to stand against the fascist tide in an Irish nation still in thrall to the Catholic Church.

That this depiction is in complete contrast to the Cúchulainn of William Butler Yeats may not be coincidental. MacGowan’s opinion of Yeats is derisory at best: “[Yeats wrote] a few classics…but there’s a mammoth amount of work…there’s like books and books and books of his stuff, and there’s about three or four good poems.” (A Drink with Shane MacGowan) The negative sentiments might also be inspired by Yeats’s championing of aristocratic ideas and (later retracted, as the Second World War approached) support for Irish and European fascism, something that was later also criticised by George Orwell.

FIRST PERSON NARRATIVE

Eerily slow-burning after the preceding frenzy, ‘The Old Main Drag’ is a torrid narrative recounting the struggles of a male prostitute in seedy London. MacGowan’s evolution as a lyricist may have been obvious on ‘The Sickbed of Cúchulainn’, but only a truly adept wordsmith could forge the themes of drugs, prostitution, and police brutality into such an easily engrossing story. Accompanied by almost hypnotic musical repetitions, ‘The Old Main Drag’ is replete with characteristic attention to detail:

One evening as I was lying down by Leicester Square
I was picked up by the coppers and kicked in the balls
Between the metal doors at Vine Street I was beaten and mauled
And they ruined my good looks for the old main drag.

In later years, this song would be offered as ‘evidence’ that MacGowan had worked as a hustler. Although it may be a common assumption that realist first person narratives must be based on something experienced by the author, in MacGowan’s case the supposition could have been caused by the debt his style owed to writers like Frank O’Connor. A short story author of great magnitude, O’Connor wrote essentially autobiographical stories in the guise of characters like Larry Delaney, recounting childhood events rich in detail and evocative of the conservative Ireland of the early 20th century.

Frank O'Connor

Frank O’Connor

MacGowan similarly recounted stories heavy on minutia, but as far removed from bucolic rural Ireland as could be possible. When people read the lyrics of songs like “The Old Main Drag”, the easy interpretation was that due to the attention to detail inherited from writers like O’Connor, MacGowan was channelling his real life experiences through the characters in his writing. As with many issues surrounding the Pogues, though, there is no firm answer regarding the truth of these rumours. The sheer number of contradictions is similar to the fog around MacGowan’s eventual dismissal by the group.

BUILDING AN IDENTITY

Another highlight from the album is the quixotic ballad ‘A Pair of Brown Eyes’, one of the more sentimental songs performed by the band. However, like everything MacGowan wrote in this period, it is laced with the typical dark elements that prevent it from becoming merely saccharine. Therefore, while the song laments the “streams, the rolling hills, where his brown eyes were waiting” or “The birds whistling in the trees / Where the wind was gently laughing”, the protagonist is also “drunk to hell”, the setting filled with men who “prayed, cursed, and bled some more”.

In this moment, Shane MacGowan established an identity—one adapted from past writers (the contrast between sweet sentimentality and darker elements, humour intercepting both, a hallmark of Irish writing from Behan to Beckett), but an identity nonetheless. This proved a blessing and a curse, for while the positive comparisons were no doubt welcome, others were beginning to wonder if the Pogues, and Shane MacGowan in particular, had inherited the predisposition for alcohol held by the writers they admired. Press attention would lead to the stereotyping of the band as alcoholic Irishmen (particularly in an infamous Sounds’ article written around the release of ‘A Pair of Brown Eyes’ as a single), a perception made even more believable by other songs, including ‘Sally MacLennane’.  Similar to older folk songs about the return of a person to their hometown (a theme also touched upon in ‘The Boys Are Back in Town’, written by the Irish literature-influenced Phil Lynott), the song is an ode to the joys of alcohol with nearly every verse containing a reference to drinking.

Much of the band’s catalogue is the same, and with their love for writers who also enjoyed a drink (not forgetting their Irish background), it was inevitable that they would be included in the ‘drunken Irish artist’ stratum. In the ‘Sounds’ article mentioned above, Spider Stacy remarked, “I drink to blot out drunkenness”. A quick retort to an over-bearing journalist it may have been, but in the years to come such excesses would prove to be the undoing of the band. But before that point, there was much glory and still more ignominy to come.

‘Rum, Sodomy And The Lash’ was a crucial step forward for the group. Moving on from the lyrically-constrained ‘Red Roses for Me’, which had been somewhat straightforward in its subject matter, the incorporation of differing stylistic approaches made this album a milestone for the incorporation of literary methods into modern Irish folk music. Over the coming years, the subjects would become more expansive, the music more extravagant. Here, the Pogues would achieve the perfect balance of tradition and innovation in their songwriting, the democratic ideal prominent since the beginning would finally flourish, and commercial success would be assured.

NEW DEPARTURES

This phase began with the release of the ‘Poguetry in Motion’ EP in 1986. Comprised of four wildly varying tracks, the EP worked as a bridge between the boisterous folk of before and a new, heavily-orchestrated style embodied by ‘A Rainy Night in Soho’ (significantly, in all respects a masterpiece). Both styles would be followed up on proceeding albums, but the EP is interesting as a microcosm of the band’s musical past and future, and their sense of humour, with the instrumental ‘Planxty Noel Hill’ a swipe at the eponymous musician and member of the folk aristocracy in Ireland.

Taking part in a radio debate with the Pogues, Hill had referred to their music as a “terrible abortion” and as disrespectful to traditional norms. The ‘planxty’ in the title is a traditionally honourific prefix dating back to the 1600s, and serves as a rejoinder to Hill, a tongue-in-cheek espousal of the ultimate traditionalist form. ‘London Girl’ and ‘Body Of An American’ rounded off the release and are notable because of their respective connotations of ‘Red Roses For Me’ and ‘Rum, Sodomy And The Lash’-era material. Clamorous, intelligent, romantic, iconoclastic, the EP was a bookend for what had come before, and a torch-bearer for what was to come next.

Two years later, 1988 saw the release of ‘If I Should Fall from Grace with God’, a new departure in several areas. The lyrics are more far-reaching than ‘Rum, Sodomy And The Lash’, yet remain within the realms of Irish tradition. From the pleasures of a win at the dog tracks to the laments of the Irish diaspora in America, and even the first overtly political songs of the band’s discography, the subjects expand far beyond the character studies and narratives of the first two releases. It even sounds more sprawling, the appearance of a full drum kit and session accompaniment seeming like sheer opulence compared to the thriftiness of before. Two new members make their debuts: multi-instrumentalist Terry Woods (formerly of the legendary folk-rock bands Sweeney’s Men and Steeleye Span) and Daryl Hunt (replacing the outgoing Cait O’Riordan). The inclusion of jazz and indigenous Spanish and Middle-Eastern folk would sound more shocking had they not been woven so brilliantly into Irish music forms, the mock-sitars of ‘Turkish Song of the Damned’ countered by ‘The Lark in the Morning’, a traditional jig that ended the song, and the faux-jazz ‘Metropolis’ and its prominent horns disarmed by mid-tempo folk verses.

J.P. Donleavy

J.P. Donleavy

Commercial success was confirmed with the release of ‘Fairytale of New York’. Written by MacGowan and Jem Finer, it shares both a title and subject with J.P. Donleavy’s novel ‘A Fairytale of New York’, both works regarding the pursuit of the American dream and, tentatively, the experiences of the Irish diaspora. The merits of the song lie in its exploration of relationships and their intricacies, how they span place and era and how external bickering can mask deep affection. MacGowan is accompanied on the track by Kirsty MacColl, in the guise of a woman whose hopes for a life of prosperity lie dead, shattered by the very person who embodied them. The duet examines the dreams, the shattering, and finally the redemption, like a short story where a monumental topic is condensed, and benefits as a result. A technicolour version of ‘A Pair of Brown Eyes’, a romantic song that remains solidly realist (as the input of MacGowan ensured), the song was only kept off the top spot by the poor ‘Always on My Mind’ cover by the Pet Shop Boys. It has since become a Christmas standard, and the most well-known demonstration of the Pogues’ songwriting skill.

POLITICAL MILITANCY

The subject of Irish Republicanism and the conflict in Ireland was a popular focus for folk groups during the ‘80s, a contemporary issue of great importance socially and culturally. The Pogues explicitly explored this for the first time on ‘If I Should Fall’. Grounded in personal conviction and a long literary tradition, the Pogues were unashamedly Republican, and indeed at an early stage held the moniker the New Republicans. These beliefs manifest themselves in the medley ‘Streets of Sorrow/Birmingham Six’. Musically, little links the two songs, but the subject matter is related through its exploration of the ongoing war between the IRA and British forces in Ireland.

‘Streets of Sorrow’, a stark, emotional lament for the war-torn streets of cities like Belfast and Derry, urban areas scarred by the trauma of ongoing war, is immediately followed by the passionate anger of ‘Birmingham Six’, despondency exploding into rage against a Government viewed as oppressive and racist:

There were six men in Birmingham
In Guildford there’s four,
They were picked up and tortured
And framed by the law.
And the filth got promotion,
But they’re still doing time
For being Irish in the wrong place
And at the wrong time.

The Loughgall Martyrs

The Loughgall Martyrs

Naturally enough, the song was banned by the BBC, continuing a torrid relationship between the band and the corporation. As a medley, the song works perfectly: A distillation of the anguish caused by the Irish conflict and the unbridled anger at a British Government the Republicans viewed as the cause of their problems. That the Pogues held controversial opinions was not in doubt. At the time, the only mainstream voices were those of outright condemnation of the IRA on the one hand, or outright silence on the other. In that spirit, there is more than mere protest in ‘Birmingham Six’, with the final verse containing a reference to the Loughgall Martyrs, eight IRA volunteers killed while attacking a Royal Ulster Constabulary police barracks:

May the whores of the empire lie awake in their beds
And sweat as they count out the sins on their heads,
While over in Ireland eight more men lie dead
Kicked down and shot in the back of the head.

Again, there was a literary precedent for the group’s political views, with Brendan Behan, Frank O’Connor, and Ernie O’Malley among the writers who had actively participated in the IRA and expounded upon their views in writing. The theme would be taken up again in later songs like ‘Young Ned of the Hill’ and ‘Rainbow Man’.

POSTMODERN MYTHOLOGY

Another new topic for the band was the role of mythology in Irish life. ‘Sit Down by the Fire’ is a comic take on this tradition:

Sit down by the fire, and I’ll tell you a story
To send you away to your bed.
Of the things you hear creeping
When everyone’s sleeping
And you wish you were out here instead.

The Riders of the Sidhe, by John Duncan

‘The Riders of the Sidhe’ by John Duncan

Lyrically, the focus is on the fairies, or ‘sidhe’, that haunted Irish imagination for centuries, and still persist in popular superstition. MacGowan has long found the idea of parents telling these terrifying stories to children at bedtime as comical, an absurdity built into Irish life for centuries.

The song’s subject matter is interesting because it shows the group exploring the area of folklore (despite its monolithic status pre-20th century, folklore had never been a big concern for the band) while also stepping back from it. This separates such an exploration from the misty-eyed renderings of other more literal folk-rock acts like The Horslips, who had created concept albums based around Celtic mythology. It also continues the motif of postmodernism from MacGowan, the song being a meta-narrative about the telling of a folk tale rather than a simple rendition.

BEYOND IRELAND

While it may have been expected that the band would bask in the critical acclaim of ‘If I Should Fall from Grace with God’, this wasn’t to be the case. MacGowan’s alcoholism had progressed beyond being a mere nuisance, and the other members were becoming disgruntled. Worried that MacGowan was hitting the gutter, just as Behan had before, and more willing to take advantage of the democratic songwriting ideals the band had been founded upon, the songwriting representation from the rest of the band would increase on future albums.

This process was immediately visible on 1989’s ‘Peace And Love’. MacGowan’s declining influence was indicated by the (comparatively) paltry six songs he contributed to the 14-track record. The new songwriting arrangements made for instant change, the first surprise coming with the introductory instrumental ‘Gridlock’. An exploration of hard bop jazz and an uncompromising repudiation of folk, the song differs thematically from anything performed by the band before. However, the song that defines the negative side of this experimentation best is the bizarre Celtic-Caribbean fusion of ‘Blue Heaven’, a reprehensible song with the Calypso pretensions suffocating any melodic inventiveness; a situation that occurs with saddening periodicity in the band’s later catalogue. Even the Irish folk songs sound bland and enervated, an alarming regression from the band’s original desire to invigorate the style.

Despite portraying himself as the arch traditionalist during this era, Shane MacGowan was not, in fact, conducting a one man crusade against the pretentious designs of his fellow band members. He had likewise introduced extraneous influences into the pure folk of before. As noted by Simon Reynolds in ‘Generation Ecstasy’, rumours abound that, having become immersed in the acid house scene, he wished to include a 20-minute appropriation of the genre (titled ‘You’ve Got to Contact Yourself’) onto ‘Peace And Love’. Whether there is any truth to this is again unknown, but what is audible fact is the bizarre Motown stomp of ‘Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah’, released as an EP following ‘Peace And Love. While two collaborations with the legendary Dubliners are included, this appears to be an almost apologetic move. Unfortunately, the cover of ‘Honky Tonk Women’ would require much greater atonement than that.

ENGROSSED IN EUROPE

‘Hell’s Ditch’ seemed like the final break with the Pogues of before. Although containing some fine songs grounded in the same folk stylings (‘Sunnyside of the Street’, ‘Hell’s Ditch’), it sounds uninspiring and even conventional in parts—as pedestrian as the ‘celtic fusion’ peddled by acts like the Saw Doctors or The Waterboys, and not helped by the sterile production courtesy of Joe Strummer. Most substantially, the Irish element was downplayed massively; it was simply another amongst the other myriad styles of ‘world music’.

Jean Genet

Jean Genet

Jean Genet

This extended to the lyrical elements, too, but in a vastly more positive way. MacGowan’s contributions were fresh and informed by a different aesthetic from the Irish folk of before, transporting the narrative style to exotic characters and locales from further afield on the European continent. The title track’s debt to Jean Genet manifested itself in a snapshot narrative, stark prison imagery wrapped in an overtly-sexual veneer:

The killer’s hands are bound with chains
At six o’clock it starts to rain
He’ll never see the dawn again
Our lady of the flowers

Verses describing death and squalor (like those above) are juxtaposed with others like:

Genet’s feeling Ramon’s dick
The guy in the bunk above gets sick

This is a structural trick that jars the listener and underlines the debt to the novel ‘Our Lady Of The Flowers’. In common with the Irish influences of before, Genet celebrated the lowlife, the disenfranchised, and those who refused to conform to societal norms, but in a more explicit manner that questioned the values society encouraged and celebrated.

Federico Garcia Lorca

Federico Garcia Lorca

Aside from Jean Genet, the spectre of Federico Garcia Lorca also informed the album. Like ‘Sickbed of Cuchulainn’, ‘Lorca’s Novena’ deals with modern heroism against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War. Backed by an eerie, dread-inducing combination of heavy bass and martial drums, the song tells of how the homosexual poet met his death at the hands of Franco’s nationalists. It’s not only the horrific circumstances of the poet’s death that justify the sinister vibes, but the wider context of a fascist victory that would ensure the legitimisation of such reprehensible deeds.

The final song of ‘Hell’s Ditch’, ‘Six to Go’, is an aural tombstone to the MacGowan Pogues, a condensed form of all the musical and conceptual contradictions that would contribute to its demise. Concerned with the six counties of Ireland which remain under the political control of Britain, it includes what sounds alarmingly like clichéd tribal chanting, an Africa found by way of ‘The Lion King’ rather than anti-colonial solidarity. In common with other songs of this era (‘Blue Heaven’, ‘Summer in Siam’, ‘Five Green Queens And Jean’), the solid core ends up ruined rather than enhanced by its exotic trappings.

The positive impact of the international influences on ‘Hell’s Ditch’ is confined solely to the lyrics, which flourish and give the Hibernian focus of the first three albums a sense of context, placing Ireland amongst the other great literary nations of the world, rather than resorting to the Irish chauvinism jokingly played up (particularly by MacGowan) in interviews. If the music had gone the same way, perhaps the culmination of stylistic disparity and substance abuse wouldn’t have led to the decision to kick MacGowan from the band as a whole.

After the disintegration of the original line up, the remaining members regrouped to make two further albums: 1993’s ‘Waiting for Herb’ and 1996’s ‘Pogue Mahone’). Yet without MacGowan at the lyrical helm, the collective lacked the cutting edge they had once possessed. Hence, while the two discs have their moments, they lack charisma and the sense of energy that defines the earlier albums, not to mention that they continue the terrible world music flirtations that marred the last two MacGowan albums. However, by the time of the band’s official demise in 1996, their influence was beginning to be felt in a big way.

LANGUAGE AND CLASS

When evaluating their overall influence, the Pogues use of language cannot be ignored, and it betrayed more than a small debt to Irish literature. In his essay regarding Yeats, George Orwell points out the difficulty of equating ideology with a writer’s style. He notes that Yeats’s attempts at simplistic writing appear convoluted, giving the example of the following verse from ‘An Acre of Grass’

Grant me an old man’s frenzy,
Myself must I remake
Till I am Timon and Lear
Or that William Blake
Who beat upon the wall
Till Truth obeyed his call.

William Butler Yeats

William Butler Yeats

Orwell calls attention to the word ‘that’ before William Blake’s name as an attempt at conveying familiarity by utilising forced prosody, a co-option of the language of the lower classes negated by the poet’s aristocratic tendencies. When the Pogues lyrics are analysed in a similar way, the opposite conclusion is clear: the lyrics are unforced and authentic, intelligent but unpretentious. ‘Dark Streets of London’ is an effortlessly figurative example of this

“I like to walk in the summer breeze
Down Dalling Road by the dead old trees
And drink with my friends
In the Hammersmith Broadway
Dear dirty delightful old drunken old days”

The quality of such writing is that it makes the quotidian seem otherworldly through common poetic methods like alliteration. The tongue-twisting last line reads like something written by Gerard Manley Hopkins rather than an extract from a popular music song. Coming at the dawn of their career, such examples would become commonplace for the band, a musical fulfilment of Orwell’s proletarian artistic vision.

IRISH POST-COLONIALISM

Interpreted through the lens of post-colonialism, the band offer an intriguing range of interpretations, and indeed contradictions. Firstly, the very fact that they were composed primarily of London-born musicians would seem to render their status as Irish music icons quite hollow, an easy target as ‘musical imperialists’ plundering the vaults of a rich tradition. This allegation is easily refuted, however, the band’s members were all of Irish heritage, some even born there and with strong connections to the island.

In a more elaborate sense, the very foundations of the group immunise them from such attacks. By attempting to modernise folk, adhering to its roots but emphasising areas neglected by other artists, such as attitude and literary merit, the Pogues (in their early stages at least) helped save Irish folk from becoming a marginal strand of the ‘world music’ scene. This was in marked contrast to other groups, such as Moving Hearts, who from the beginning merged folk with jazz and rock styles. If this interpretation is accepted, then consequently Shane MacGowan’s criticism of the post-‘If I Should Fall’ immersion in world music becomes easier to accept as well. After all, when the theoretical grounding they had started with began to dissolve, the songs became less distinguished and more conventional, consumed within the quagmire of the cultural buffet of world music and generic folk-rock.

The Pogues And The Dubliners

The Pogues And The Dubliners

Another barrier against such attacks is to take the opposite conclusion: the Pogues as the products of an Ireland that has throughout its history assimilated invaders and immigrants into the native society. While historically there had been fierce resistance to such absorption, at certain points the cultures of the native and colonial Irish inevitably coalesced. The greatest manifestation of this was in the Celtic dawn of the late 19th century, when a vast re-discovery of Gaelic Ireland was expressed through modern literary and performance techniques. Writers like Yeats and Lady Augusta Gregory (despite the mockery afforded them from MacGowan) worked to create a distinctly Irish literature, not dependant on wider developments within Britain for inspiration.

Important as an explicitly nationalist rejection of cultural imperialism, the Irish literary revival’s reverberations continued throughout the 20th century. As the 21st century approached, there were intimations that the cultural dependency had been reversed to a certain extent. The post-colonial literary theorist Declan Kiberd writes:

“When Daniel Day-Lewis pronounced his win at the Oscars [for his portrayal of Christy Brown in ‘My Left Foot’] a triumph for Ireland, he effectively dismantled the English-when-they-win, Irish-when-they-lose equation. But he chose Irishness just as much as the Anglo-Normans did before him: in neither case was it forced upon a hapless victim”

This was but one example of the increasing prevalence of Irish (or faux-Irish) content in popular culture in the late ‘80s and into the ‘90s, alongside films like ‘The Commitments’ and productions including ‘Riverdance’. The Pogues’ role in this reversal is interesting, because while in terms of location they were primarily English, they were possibly the most fervent purveyors of ‘Irishness’ amongst their Celtic cultural contemporaries, musically and in content. That it took a band located in England to re-assert Irish music’s place in popular music (rather than confined to the folk sidelines) says a lot about Ireland’s unusual place along the path of post-colonialism, the mass emigration that occurred mainly as a consequence of colonial exploitation has rendered its culture stronger in areas other than its origin. Following their artistic forebears, the Pogues contribution to post-colonialism has been to re-establish Irish identity (in the form of music and text) as having something to offer beyond novelty or the margins, as a vibrant player on the international stage.

CELTIC PUNK AND A WIDER INFLUENCE

Flogging Molly

Flogging Molly

The mid-90’s saw the emergence of a host of (primarily American) bands largely influenced by The Pogues musical, lyrical and conceptual qualities. The fact that this scene has grown so vast as to require an article (or a book) of its own is testament to the inspiration legions of acts have taken from the band, but the two most popular acts, critically and commercially, are undoubtedly Flogging Molly and The Dropkick Murphys.

The former takes their cue from all eras of the Pogues, while including conventional instrumentation like the electric guitar (‘Another Bag of Bricks’ even usurps the Middle-Eastern influences of ‘Turkish Song of the Damned’ in a garishly conspicuous way.) Albums including ‘Swagger’ and ‘Drunken Lullabies’ share thematic subjects with the Pogues, abundant in references to Irish history and politics, including the important role of the Catholic Church. Dropkick Murphys differ from Flogging Molly by mixing their folk with prominent ‘Oi!’ influences. This has led to a blatant espousal of working class socialism more explicit than that ever referred to in Pogues songs. Making visible their debt to the Pogues, the band even had MacGowan appear as a guest vocalist on ‘Good Rats’ from 2001’s ‘Sing Loud, Sing Proud’.

Dropkick Murphys

Dropkick Murphys

While Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphys may be the most important bands deriving stylistic influences from the Pogues, they’re only the tip of the iceberg. The celtic punk scene has spread from its main base in America all around the world, a common motif of the hybrid being Pogues covers, homages, and references, a musical movement equivalent to the Irish diaspora’s diffusion on a global scale. Beyond this scene, the group’s influence has extended to areas more mainstream than the largely underground punk circuit.

On a global level, Irish folk became a visible presence in popular culture by the early 90’s, albeit in watered-down forms like ‘Riverdance’ and ‘The Corrs’, which bore scant relation to the music or ethos of the Pogues. It’s hard to say whether such acts can even be considered as musically influenced by the Pogues, but it is certain that the Pogues chart success the laid the foundations for mainstream assimilation of Celtic music by popularising it in the first place. So while songs like ‘Fairytale of New York’ and ‘The Irish Rover’ can’t be counted as direct influences upon mainstream exports, they can be considered torch bearers for their cultural phenomena.

MacGOWAN’S CURRENT STANDING

So where do the Pogues stand today? While other members of the band made vast contributions to the group and Irish folk, it is MacGowan who remains famous in the mainstream. Portrayed in the press as a stereotypical drunken Irish poet, a boozed-up bohemian associated with other artists known for their excesses (especially Pete Doherty of the Libertines and Babyshambles), he is also increasingly lauded as a genius songwriter by sources as mainstream as the NME and The Guardian.

Since the full reformation of the band in 2001, these laudatory sentiments have only increased, a result of the now-legendary status afforded to the band’s performances. Inevitably, the media has commented on the continuity between his ‘literary drunk’ status and artists of the same vintage who preceded him. MacGowan even doggedly champions Coleridge over Wordsworth, believing the latter’s work to be inferior on an artistic level, but his fondness for Coleridge also lies in the Romantic’s famous use of opium.

It’s a pattern that remains a constant through all the Pogues albums, the championing of the underdog cast aside by society, and that is the role MacGowan has taken for himself. Whether writing in the guise of a person experiencing the euphoria of winning a bet, the solitary child terrified by ghouls of their parent’s making, or the railway workers toiling and dying without recognition, he imparts a personal touch that is ultimately the real affinity he shares with the writers he admires. Frank O’Connor, Brendan Behan, Flann O’Brien, Edna O’Brien, Mannix Flynn, authors MacGowan maintains have lived; the same underclass he immortalises in his own writing. Ultimately, he has emulated them in his own life and gained similar recognition, hailed not only as a musician, but as a legitimate and important contributor to the continuing evolution of Irish writing.

PopMatters

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*originally published on the marvellous Pop Matters web site.

PopMatters is an international magazine of cultural criticism. Our scope is broadly cast on all things pop culture, and our content is updated daily. We provide intelligent reviews, engaging interviews, and in-depth essays on most cultural products and expressions in areas such as music, television, films, books, video games, sports, theatre, the visual arts, travel, and the Internet.

* if you’re interested in The Pogues we have a stack 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

‘Book Review: Rum, Sodomy And The Lash’ by Jeffrey T. Roesgen’  here

‘The Pogues On Mastermind- The Questions’  here

ALBUM REVIEW: TRIBUTE TO THE POGUES- Various Artists (2016)

A huge compilation of songs written by the world’s #1 celtic-punk band as covered by today’s generation of modern celtic-punk bands from every single corner of the world!

FREE DOWNLOAD!

Tribute To The Pogues

We were sent this brilliant album by our good mate Vladimir, who also did the fantastic artwork and also seems to do the artwork for most celtic-punk releases in Russia, just before St Patrick’s Day. I had to warn him that we wouldn’t be able to do it justice in time to put a review up on release day as we would all be in the pub busy celebrating our Irish ancestry so here a few days late is our opinion on this years must hear compilation album.

As far as I know this is the first international tribute to the Godfathers of celtic-punk – THE POGUES! Everything we hold dear in celtic-punk comes out of the influence of The Pogues and their seminal and legendary front man Shane MacGowan. What they mean to celtic-punk is unmeasurable and the only question you must ask of this album is whether or not this is a worthy tribute to them or not and the answer is of course is that it most definitely, certainly  is!!! The whole thing clocks in at nearly ninety minutes and has 27 bands from right across the entire globe with just about every corner covered. The list of countries here goes from the obvious ones like the USA, Norway, England, Italy, to some ones that may surprise you like Poland, Slovenia, Czech Republic,  and Russia to some that will downright shock you like Indonesia, Ukraine or Belarus. They have all combined to bring you The Pogues most popular London Irish ballads from the era of safety pins, ripped jeans and dishevelled hair!

Now this has been put together by our mucker and artist Vladimir from Novosibirsk in Russia and has a whole host of bands that are both new to us as well as some that are already firm favourites. It would be pointless here to go too far into the history of the songs as they are surely known to even the slightest fan of The Pogues. The whole thing kicks off with one of The Pogues least known songs ‘Curse Of Love’, which was a bonus track on the Hell’s Ditch re-issue album, by Indonesian band The Cloves And The Tobacco. They recently released a new album and it has been making huge waves across the international celtic punk scene and it is a fantastic start and swiftly followed by ShamRocks from the Ukraine and Dzieciuki from Belarus before the London Irish very own The Craicheads weigh in with ‘Sally MacLennane’. They give it plenty of oompf and one of The Pogues fastest ever songs is delivered more than safely with a hint of country and bluegrass. Next up is easily one of the most inventive bands in the whole scene, and one of my own personal favourites, from California are Craic Haus playing ‘A Pair Of Brown Eyes’. You won’t have heard another band like them in the world of celtic-punk I can guarantee it. They have even invented their own genre called ‘Shamrockabilly’ and though their rock’n’roll may be a little lacking on this track it is still outstanding and worthy of you checking out the rest of their back catalogue. Another bunch of my favourite bands roll up next playing some of my fave Pogues songs. A good combination indeed. Happy Ol’ McWeasel from Slovenia doing ‘Sunny Side of the Street’ with the band I once described as being a cross between The Exploited and The Chieftains Middle Class Bastards from Russia next with ‘Big City’, Ukrainian band O’Hamsters sing ‘The Sick Bed of Cuchulain’ before possibly the album’s biggest band The Greenland Whalefishers from Norway chipping in with a brilliant version of ‘Birmingham Six’. A couple of bands I don’t know follow with Kelush and the Bastards (feat. Chris Dutchak) from the Ukraine with an absolutely fantastic skate punk ‘Fairytale of New York’ before Harley McQuinn from Russia nails it with ‘London Girl’. Keeping just enough of the originals rock’n’roll sound before adding some great guitars and gang vocals. Czech’s Benjaming’s Clan and Italians Dirty Artichokes are both bands that have impressed us here over the years and you could almost call them celtic-punk veterans compared to some of the groups here! Russian band The Real Blackbeards I don’t know but they present a great fun pirate version of ‘Sea Shanty’. Americans CRAIC are another big hitter here and they also do a Hell’s Ditch classic ‘Sayonara’ and is one of the many album highlights. Troty hail from Poland and are one of the few bands with a female vocalist. They give us a faultless Polish version of Bottle of Smoke while Hell’s Ditch is revisited again by another Indonesian band Forgotten Generation with ‘Rain Street’ and again it is absolutely superb. Amach  I don’t know but they offer up ‘Transmetropolitan’ and bloody great in its simplicity it is too. They come from the Crimea and like the best bands here they don’t over complicate things but just add a twist to add their own stamp to the songs. Yet another Indonesian band pops up next and The Working Class Symphony give it plenty in their cover of ‘Fiesta’. Never one of my favourite songs but this version bloody rocks and I have fallen for it big time. Like all the Indonesian bands here they play traditional Irish folk influenced punk and is so well played you would think they were all Irish if heard them on the radio! БНД I can’t even pronounce their name but ‘Boys From County Hell’ keeps up the high standard while The Humble Hooligans are a band I only got into recently and these Californians give Turkish Song of the Damned a right auld kicking complete with proper authentic moans and wails. Great accordion leads and Troy’s perfect vocals mark them out as a band to watch out for. Red Box from Russia again I don’t know but offer up a decent ‘If I Should Fall from Grace with God’ before Rum Rebellion from Portland, USA serve up an epic ‘Boat Train’. Been fans of these for a long time and they do not disappoint. Всё_CRAZY are from Belarus and their ‘My Baby’s Gone’ is another album highlight. Taken from the first post-Shane Pogues album Waiting For Herb it’s a brave choice and fits in and works perfectly. We are nearing the end of the album and the last band I know here is the marvellous Moscow Celtic Punks group Drunken Fairy Tales. Keep an eye out soon for the review of their new EP it’s both fantastic and free to download! Crow Dog Clan have another brave choice with ‘Oretown’ from the final (non-Shane) Pogues album Pogue Mahone. They take the song and give it a real shake to come up with something outstanding. Almost gothic country its actually great to hear something not so celtic. Finally the album comes to a sad end with Kozlobar from Russia bringing down the curtain on this amazing tribute with the mental instrumental ‘Battle of Brisbane’.

Well what to say now in summing up. With 27 bands you’d think their would at least be a few duffers here but you’d be mistaken. I’m sure if their were any they ended up on the cutting floor as from beginning to end the whole thing is simply fantastic. From the selection of bands to the bands own selection of songs this is as good as it could have possibly have mine. Yes this is kinda dominated by eastern European groups but it has been put together by a Russian guy and I for one am glad its not dominated by American bands. If celtic-punk exists and is to prosper beyond The Pogues/Dropkicks/Molly’s then it must also exist outside the countries of the Irish/celtic diaspora like the States, Canada, Australia or England. Compilations serve a purpose in introducing you to new bands and if there was a problem in celtic-punk it is that far too many people think the scene these days revolves solely around the Dropkicks or The Molly’s. I am sure this album will introduce everyone hearing it to today’s generation of bands that are carrying the torch for Shane and his buddies and not only that but will inspire another generation of fans as well.

Tracklist

1. The Cloves and The Tobacco feat. Cathy Shannon – Curse of Love
2. ShamRocks – Wild Unicorns of Kilkenny (Wild Cats of Kilkenny)
3. Dzieciuki – Не Саскочу! (Streams Of Whiskey)
4. Craicheads – Sally MacLennane
5. Craic Haus – A Pair of Brown Eyes
6. Happy Ol’ McWeasel – Sunny Side of the Street
7. Middle Class Bastards – Big City
8. O’Hamsters – Лiжко Кухулiна (The Sick Bed of Cuchulain)
9. Greenland Whalefishers – Birmingham Six
10. Kelush and the Bastards feat. Chris Dutchak – Fairytale of New York
11. Harley McQuinn – London Girl
12. Benjaming’s Clan – The House of Gods
13. Dirty Artichokes – The Rake at the Gates of Hell
14. Real Blackbeards – Пират и Колдун (Sea Shanty)
15. CRAIC – Sayonora
16. Troty – Butelka Smoke (Bottle of Smoke)
17. Forgotten Generation – Rain Street
18. Amach – Transmetropolitan
19. The Working Class Symphony – Fiesta
20. БНД – Boys From County Hell
21. The Humble Hooligans – Turkish Song of the Damned
22. Red Box – If I Should Fall from Grace with God
23. Rum Rebellion – Boat Train
24. Всё_CRAZY – Ты Ушла (My Baby’s Gone)
25. Drunken Fairy Tales – Плот “Медузы” (The Wake of the Medusa)
26. Crow Dog Clan – Oretown
27. Kozlobar – The Battle of Brisbane
So there you have it. Don’t forget to tell all your friends about it now! Share it with all you know and let the world enjoy this superb free compilation! And a happy (belated) St. Patrick’s Day to you!!!
(you can listen to the entire record here for free by pressing play on the Bandcamp player below and follow the link below that to get the download)

Download The Album- Bandcamp

any problem with Bandcamp then you should try here)

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?

TRIBUTE TO BALLYDOWSE…AND FREE DOWNLOADS!

Ballydowse were an American Christian celtic-punk band that sang about social and economic injustice.

Ballydowse

(1998-2003)

Ballydowse were a celtic punk rock band from Chicago, Illinois with a rare mix of both anarchist and religious ideas infused into their music. Formed from the ashes of streetpunk/Oi! band Crashdog many of the group’s members were from the Jesus People USA commune. In addition to the group’s Mekons/Pogues-style celtic punk influences, the group also drew influence from world music such as klezmer and Tibetan throat singing. Ballydowse released two fantastic albums both engineered by the legendary producer Steve Albini. Their debut album was entitled ‘The Land, the Bread, and the People’ and was a home place for many who found common cause with certain elements of Christianity while rejecting the American right wing bias so prominent in the church at the time. Their second album ‘Out Of The Fertile Crescent’ continued this trajectory with a growing Eastern European flavor. The group’s political activism over the economic sanctions on Iraq in the 2000s, prison reform, death penalty and the short-comings of capitalism was unique among Christian bands of the time. They are credited with being at the forefront of the hardcore Christian music scene. Sadly Ballydowse disbanded in 2003 but don’t let those cocky corporate music execs keep you from hearing quality music. Let’s prove them dead wrong, join the revolution, and turn the world upside down. A double dose of Ballydowse is a great place to start to get your motor running, heart pounding, brain thinking and your spirit soaring.

“Holy Father we all want bread,

Both from heaven and your fields so green.

I know your grace is man’s first need,

But I can no longer hold the pain I’ve seen.

I am my brother’s keeper and that I’ll always be.

I’ll not turn my back be he stranger of blood

And embrace a life of greed.

I am my sister’s keeper and that I’ve always been.

Every day I’ve left her out in the streets”

from ‘The Land, The Bread And The People’

Ballydowse- 'The Land, The Bread, And The People'  click on the record sleeve for your download link password: freepunk77

Ballydowse- ‘The Land, The Bread, And The People’ (1998)
click on the above record sleeve for your download link
password: freepunk77

(click on play below to hear the entire album)

Ballydowse- 'Out Of The Fertile Crescent' (2000) click on the above record sleeve for your download links password: freepunk77

Ballydowse- ‘Out Of The Fertile Crescent’ (2000)
click on the above record sleeve for your download links
password: freepunk77

(click on play below to hear the entire album)

The Band

Facebook  Bandcamp  YouTube

there’s an extensive interview with Andrew and Brian from the band here on the web-zine ‘The Phantom Tollbooth’.

if you’re interested in Christian celtic-punk then go here for a big section on it from the ‘Celtic Folk Punk And More’ web-zine.

*any links don’t work simply leave a comment and we will update them.

TRIBUTE TO WELSH PUNK ROCK LEGENDS ANHREFN

FREE DOWNLOADS OF THEIR ENTIRE DISCOGRAPHY

ANHREFN

THE WELSH CLASH!

Anhrefn

The Welsh Clash, apparently, although the Sex Pistols is an equally viable comparison. And very good they were, too. Not for them the mindless thrashings of hardcore, these guys wrote proper songs, with tunes. Playing fantastic melodic punk and only ever singing in Welsh they achieved a degree of stardom and popularity unthinkable now. Who knows how far they could have gone if they’d sung in a foreign language?

Anhrefn were one of the very few Welsh-language bands to find widespread success outside of their native country, Anhrefn (Welsh for ‘Disorder’, thereby avoiding confusion with the Bristol crusty punks name!) are often now cited as the band that put Wales on the guitar music map, preceding popular ’90s bands such as Manic Street Preachers, Stereophonics and Super Furry Animals.

Formed in 1980, the Gwynedd-based outfit were founded by bass-player Rees Mwyn, who set up the record label Recordiau Anhrefn in ’83, later gaining distribution from The Cartel/Revolver. Their most solid line-up throughout the ’80s was completed by Sion Sebon (vocals/guitar), Hefin Huws (drums) and Dewi Gwyn (guitar).

They released their debut single, ‘Priodus Hapus’, in 1984, and included tracks on various compilation LP’s alongside other Welsh bands over the next couple of years. In ’86 they featured on the debut release for Newport-based punk label Words Of Warning (who would later become home to popular acts such as Blaggers ITA, Oi Polloi, Cowboy Killers and Terminus) – an EP entitled The First Cuts Are The Deepest – with the song ‘Action Man’.

walesflag

The following year they became the first Welsh language band to sign an international recording deal when they were picked up by Alternative Tentacles subsidiary Workers Playtime. The label released the band’s debut LP, ‘Defaid, Skateboards A Wellies’ (‘Sheep, Skateboards & Wellies’), which was generally greeted with favourable reception – notably by DJ John Peel, for whom they would subsequently record a number of Radio One sessions.

With the record’s fresh-sounding brand of melodic punk, blending hints of hardcore, metal and goth, the band soon became underground favourites of the UK punk/hardcore scene, their name seemingly adorning every alternative music fanzine cover of the period. Around this time they began making a name for themselves overseas, playing gigs throughout Europe and the United States.

A follow-up LP, 1989’s Bwrw Cwrw, delved into the realms of dub reggae, while a split LP with Last Rough Cause the same year saw them treading more traditional old-school punk ground, including a cover of The Ruts classic ‘Staring At The Rude Boys’. It was the following year’s ‘Dragons Revenge’ set, however, which stands as their most impressive work, incorporating elements of traditional Welsh folk blended with solid, tuneful punk rock anthems.

Anhrefn8

The record was produced by one Dave Goodman, noted for his work with the Sex Pistols (it was released in Germany as ‘The Dave Goodman Sessions’), and, continuing the Pistols connection, the front cover art – a tongue-in-cheek concept depicting the Welsh dragon trampling over St. George – was designed by Jamie Reid, the man responsible for that now-classic pink and yellow Never Mind The Bollocks.. album sleeve. Sadly, this was to be the band’s last official recording, although they continued playing for the next two or three years.

In 1993, Rhys began working for Crai Records (the local label who had released the band’s third LP), and briefly stepped in as manager for Catatonia, who recorded a couple of EP’s for the label in the mid-‘90s before going on to bigger and better things. He later took over the running of Crai after Anhrefn officially split in ’94.

PASSWORD FOR ALL ALBUMS IS

freepunk77

Further Information

Anhrefn Records here

great article here from Louder Than War ‘Futile Gestures…ex Anhrefn bassist Rhys Mwyn looks back at his efforts to influence Welsh culture’ here

Anhrefn Wikipedia here

Facebook Anhrefn-Fan Page here

absolutely brilliant biography of the band and an interview with Sion here

TRIBUTE TO RONNIE DREW 1934-2008

best known for his long beard and his voice described as

“like the sound of coke being crushed under a door”

Ronnie Drew

Born 80 years ago today Ronnie Drew (Irish: Ránall Ó Draoi) was for more than 30 years, the distinctive voice of the internationally famous Irish folk band the Dubliners. His gravelly voice, described by Mary Kenny as “proper sawdust Dublin”, was the essential ingredient to the Dubliners’ two 1967 chart successes, Seven Drunken Nights and The Black Velvet Band. But there was far more to the Dubliners than those hits. With Ronnie on lead vocals, and the combination of guitars, banjo, fiddle and whistle, they were one of the key sounds of Irish folk.

While they might have lacked the subtlety of later bands such as Planxty and Clannad, they were immensely popular and proved the ultimate inspiration for The Pogues with Shane and co. filling out the sets of the early days with umpteen Dubliners covers. The boisterous stage act, long hair, bushy beards and hard sound belied their musical talents. Drew’s voice was instantly recognisable on classic Dubliners’ songs such as the traditional Finnegan’s Wake and Dicey Riley.

“A song is communicating with people. Entertainment is a different area”

Ronnie was born in Dun Laoghaire in south County Dublin. After leaving school, he realised that he was not cut out for a standard nine-to-five job, and, in the 1950s, lived for three years in Spain, where he taught English, learned Spanish and studied flamenco guitar. Returning to Dublin in the early 1960s, he met actor John Molloy, who invited Ronnie to work with him at the Gate Theatre as an actor, singer and guitarist.

He describes going aboard the Mail Boat at Dun Laoghaire as a first time emigrant:

“As I walked along the deck of the ship, details of my new environment added to my sense of adventure. There were sailors dressed in what was then the traditional garb of the mariner — peakless white caps, on which was emblazoned the name of the ship, SS Hibernia, in gold lettering.

“Hanging from the back of the cap was a blue ribbon and they also wore navy-blue bellbottom trousers. There was a deck all caulked and dowelled, the life-boats, the white-painted superstructure, the narrow companionways and the wheelings and reelings of the gulls.”

On Friday nights, Drew would meet Molloy at O’Donoghue’s pub to get paid. By this time, tenor banjo player Barney McKenna had joined the cast, and one night, they asked if they could play a few tunes in the bar. They were joined by Luke Kelly, returned from England with a deep interest in folk, Ciaran Bourke and later John Sheahan. The Dubliners evolved from these sessions, which established O’Donoghue’s reputation as a centre for traditional music.

Their first name, the Ronnie Drew Group, gave way to the Dubliners, after the short story collection by James Joyce. Kelly used his contacts in Britain to secure a booking at the 1963 Edinburgh Festival. There they met Nathan Joseph, head of Transatlantic Records, and following BBC television appearances, they released their first album in 1964.

Back in Dublin, they recorded a live album, broadcast on Radio Telefís éireann, and performed in Finnegan’s Wakes, a series of shows at the Gate. Switching to the Major Minor label proved to be the turning point. In 1967, RTÉ banned Seven Drunken Nights because of its salacious story, but the pirate station Radio Caroline took it up and an unlikely hit followed, reaching number five in Britain. Appearances on Top of the Pops ensued. During the following two years, Drew’s voice led the Dubliners through five Major Minor albums and several singles, including The Black Velvet Band. European and US tours followed, as did appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show and – alongside Bob Hope – on David Frost’s show.

Moving to EMI, they recorded the highly successful At Home with the Dubliners (1969). Occasional theatre work continued, and, in 1972, Drew played the Hero in Brendan Behan’s play Richard’s Cork Leg at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, and the Royal Court in London.

The Dubliners

The Dubliners

After Bourke was forced to leave the Dubliners following a brain haemorrhage in 1974, Drew also left the band: he and Bourke were close and Drew was missing his family. He returned to the band in 1979, and their next album, Together Again, was a more sombre affair, with Ronnie and Kelly sharing the singing.

In the 1980s, there was a resurgence in the popularity of the Dubliners, especially after the Pogues duetted with them on the Dubliners’ classic, The Irish Rover. Drew was also performing and recording outside the band, and, in 1995, he left the Dubliners to go solo again, recording with Christy Moore and the Pogues.

When it was known that Drew was suffering from throat cancer, Robert Hunter of Grateful Dead collaborated with Bono and The Edge from U2 to write The Ballad of Ronnie Drew. Such was the affection and respect in which Drew was held, the song, recorded by U2, Kila and the cream of the Irish folk scene, including the Dubliners, members of the Corrs, Christy Moore and the Pogues’ Shane MacGowan, was broadcast simultaneously on all Irish radio stations on February 19 2008. The proceeds benefited the Irish Cancer Society.

With Ronnie seriously ill he recognised celtic-punk and its influence by recording with The Dropkick Murphys on their 6th album ‘The Meanest Of Times’. He guested on ‘(F)lannigan’s Ball’ which was partially recorded in the Westland Studios in Dublin. Perhaps he saw in celtic-punk the same thing that people saw in the Dubliners all those years ago when they were dismissed as hooligans and ‘unIrish’ by folk music snobs. The song is dedicated to Ronnie’s wife Deirdre, who had died one month before it was recorded. It was also sadly the last song Ronnie Drew made a contribution to before he passed away on 16 August 2008 at the age of 73, following a long illness..

Rest In Peace

Ronnie Drew, folk singer, born September 16 1934; died August 16 2008

thanks to STAIR NA HÉIREANN where this article first appeared. For anyone interested in Irish history we cannot recommend enough that you head there. Even better subscribe and receive the daily historical notes. Always interesting. Click here Stair na hÉireann

RONNIE DREW- AN IRISH LEGEND

Irish Television Programme

PART1  PART2  PART3  PART4  PART5

for more information why not visit IT’S THE DUBLINERS web site. its pretty damn good and will tell you everything you need to know.

TRIBUTE TO PADDY McGUIGAN BALLADEER AND BARD 1939-2014

Paddy McGuigan

A tribute from the band The Irish Brigade to the Irish singer songwriter Paddy McGuigan who passed away recently on St Patrick’s Day following a short illness. He is survived by his wife Cecilia, a daughter, and two grandchildren.

Paddy McGuigan with the ‘Barleycorn’ along with ‘The Flying Column’ led the first cohort of Irish Republican music in the north of Ireland from the earliest days of ‘The Troubles…’. Where they led many were to follow but none were to surpass. The songs written by Paddy were an inspiration to Irish singers and groups all over the world and Paddy’s songs were, without doubt, a major influence on my own songs written for the Irish Brigade. Paddy’s songs were lyrical, melodic and direct to the point. They had the power to “fill our hearts and raise our spirits”. They were greats songs which have stood the test of time and can still be heard wherever the Irish gather all over the world.

The iconic ‘Men Behind the Wire’ (48 weeks in the Irish Charts, though banned by RTÉ) was a song that gave a boost to the morale of a people who, at that period in our history, felt deprived and downtrodden – a community that choose defiance rather than despair. Such songs can be seen as an accurate first hand reflection of the conditions at that time and as a commentary on social and community views throughout the troubles. Songs like ‘The Irish Solider Laddie’, ‘Freedom Walk’ and ‘Bring Them Home’ remain an essential part of any Ballad singer’s repertoire.

I had the great pleasure of meeting Paddy on a few occasions in the early eighties. The most memorable was on the night before Tyrone played Kerry in the All Ireland Final in 1986. Paddy joined us on the stage for a few numbers. He sang a song he had just written for the Tyrone team and presented it for us to record to celebrate the much hoped for victory. Needless to say, sadly, neither a victory nor the song was recorded!

Strange to note, I was talking to Kevin Manning from the legendary Wolfhound ballad group on Saturday the 15th of March. He joined us for a few songs in Bar32 in Luton. He spoke fondly of his memories of Paddy in the Early 70’s and how Paddy gave Wolfhound ‘The Boys of the Old Brigade’ to be their first record. Little did either of us think that just over 24 hours later, we would be hearing of his death.
Paddy Joe McGuigan passed away on the 17th of March 2014, on the feast of his namesake and Patron Saint of Ireland. There is an old belief that it is Saint Patrick, himself, who judges the Irish at The Golden Gates. If this is so, they will have been opened wide and the welcome, the music and the craic will have been out of this world!

Rest in peace Paddy, the legacy of your songs and music will live on forever.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam uasal.

Paddy McGuigan Wikipedia  Barleycorn Wikipedia

The Irish Brigade are one of Ireland’s foremost folk and traditional bands. They recently featured in the UK Top 40 Singles chart with the song ‘Roll Of Honour’ the fascinating story of which can be found here. To find them on Facebook go here

TRIBUTE TO SHANE MacGOWAN

By Beer Drinker

With our St. Patrick’s Day hangover’s fast diminishing I thought I might as well write about one of Ireland’s most legendary boozers and hell raisers, the one and only Shane Patrick Lysaght MacGowan.

Shane MacGowan

Born into a strong Irish family in Kent, England, on Christmas Day in 1957. MacGowan’s early childhood, mostly spent in the family home in the country of Tipperary, with relatives, until he was six, was steeped in Irish music, republicanism, religion and Celtic folklore. Both sides of his family were very musical. He used to learn a song a day from his mother’s family, building up a huge repertoire of old Irish songs. One his earliest memory is of singing on a table for ‘more than 40 friends and relatives’. Public performances were a regular thing for the young Shane.

His mother, Therese, was a singer and traditional Irish dancer, had him reading Hardy, Dickens and Edna O’Brien, his father went to university, also very well read, had him reading Joyce from the age of six. Most Irish people struggle to finish that book never mind trying to read it at six!

The family home was seen as an open house, a ‘shebeen’ – people would come around at all hours and there would be dancing, card-playing, boozing and singing. Supposedly his uncles gave him two bottles of Guinness a day from the age of five. He was given his first bottle of whiskey at the age of six. Shane didn’t have to go to a pub, he grow up in one! He was smoking and drinking and gambling from a young age, a very young age! These early years in Tipperary seem to have set the course for his life.

Shane MacGowan

Like quite a few children of immigrants, he ferried between the old country and the new one, but when he was six he was sent back to live with his parents in London.

But it wasn’t all drink and gambling, he was also very literate ––learning to read really young. Regarded as a gifted child he won a literature scholarship to Westminster school by writing essays. A renowned English public school close to the Houses of Parliament. He was found in possession of drugs (dope, acid n pills) and was expelled in his second year, 14, not that Shane cared much.

His early years in London were spent wandering the streets in the west end, as the legend goes, hanging out with junkies and rent boys getting up to all sorts. There is also the six months he spent at 18 in a detox clinic

Then his whole world changed in 76, when he saw the Sex Pistols, and discovered punk. Shane was very active in the early life of Punk and got his first taste of fame in 1976 at a Clash gig, when his ear was damaged by a disgruntled girl. A photographer snapped a picture of him covered in blood and it made the papers, with the headline “Cannibalism at Clash Gig”.

http://pages.cs.wisc.edu/~mroman/pics/cannibal1.jpg http://pages.cs.wisc.edu/~mroman/articles/NME110676.html

This was merely one of a sequence of remarkable punk activities he indulged in during the late 1970s, eventually deciding to give punk a go by forming his own punk rock band, The Nipple Erectors, later retitled The Nips.

In 1980 he met Peter ‘Spider’ Stacy and Jem Finer, and later Cait O’Riordan and Andrew Ranken, they were The Pogues. (Their first name, Pogue Mahone, which is Irish for “kiss my arse”.)

This new London band gave a voice to the Irish in London, a much maligned group suffering under the anti-Irish racism and resentment of the 80’s, in the midst of the IRA’s bombing campaign in Britain.

Shane MacGowan

Many of his songs are influenced by Irish nationalism, Irish history, and the experiences of the Irish in London and the United States, and London life in general.

And what MacGowan and his fellow band-members in The Pogues did, in mixing the best of a tradition – tender ballads and full-throttled jigs – and giving it a fierce, anarchic edge, smashed the boundaries between what was meant to be traditional and concrete with a real revolution from the soul. This was new Irish music married with raw high velocity punk and street poetry, the Pogues had invented Celtic punk.

But it wasn’t all loud and brash, some of the music was extremely well written and poetic. Songs such as ‘Sally MacLennane’, ‘Streams Of Whiskey’, ‘Rainy Night in Soho’, ‘Thousands are Sailing’ and, perhaps their best-known song ‘Fairytale of New York’ are highpoints from their albums. Albums – ‘Rum Sodomy And The Lash’, and ‘If I Should Fall From Grace With God’ considered must have albums.

Of course it should also be pointed out that many of the songs covered London, reminding people that they were not just a band that played Irish punk but more importantly they were a London Irish band playing punk rock.

With music that appeals to both traditionalists and punk heads. Their gigs were legendary, explosive affairs. They toured and toured, building up a cult like following.

Of course this high octane lifestyle results in many boozing sessions. The Pogues were a hard drinking band. They liked a pint, and a fight, with each other if no one else was available.

All their drinking and fighting shenanigans caused the odd problem. On a good night the gigs were amazing, on a bad night a shambles. Most concerts Shane actually performed great while being completely wasted. However it’s difficult to maintain this. Shane was trying everything; speed, smack, coke, crack every drink you could possibly imagine. The other band members of The Pogues often locked him up in his hotel room to keep him relatively sober until the concert

The famous hotel story: Joey Cashman, would order Shane to stay outside a hotel while he checked in so they could get a room before anyone saw how bad he looked. The trick usually worked. On one occasion, though, as Cashman was speaking with the receptionist, the front doors opened two men entered carrying MacGowan on their shoulders, his trousers down around his knees, and no underwear. In shock, Cashman turned to the receptionist: “What kind of hotel is this!?” He then got a much reduced price from the embarrassed clerk and the band sharply went to their rooms before the hotel could change their minds.

His fellow band members, got so tired of Shane’s drinking, lateness for gig and flights and the performances were gradually getting worse that in 1991 in a hotel room in Japan, they kicked him out. This was the infamous tour of japan where Shane was allegedly said to have taken 50 tabs of acid, three bottles of whiskey and a good quantity of Saki. No wonder he was booted out. Shane was essentially kicked out of his own group!

After The Pogues threw MacGowan out for unprofessional behaviour, he formed a new band, Shane MacGowan and The Popes. From December 2003 up to May 2005, Shane MacGowan & the Popes toured extensively in UK/Ireland/Europe. The Popes were good but essentially they were like a tribute band. And The Pogues themselves were not the same without their iconic lead singer. In 2001 they all got back together for a sell-out tour in 2001 and in May 2005, MacGowan re-joined The Pogues permanently.

The teeth! Although Shane got rid of most of his teeth during the early years of Punk, head-butting walls can do that, there is a famous story of the day he tried to eat volume three of The Beach Boys’ Greatest Hits. He was convinced that World War III was imminent, that as leader of the Irish Republic, hosting a superpowers conference, that the best way to reveal America’s cultural inferiority was to eat a Beach Boys CD.

Shane MacGowan

Shane MacGowan quotes:

‘I was smoking and drinking and gambling before I could talk.’

“Everyone drinks……….Well, unless they don’t.”

“I’ve been a babe magnet for quite a while now.”

“The British press have been giving me six months to live for the past twenty years they must be getting pissed off interviewing me by now. “

“The most important thing to remember about drunks is that drunks are far more intelligent than non-drunks- they spend a lot of time talking in pubs, unlike workaholics who concentrate on their careers and ambitions, who never develop their higher spiritual values, who never explore the insides of their head like a drunk does.”

“Bad health is a consequence of very good living”

“If you didn’t have pain, then you wouldn’t realise when you are having pleasure”

“I just live like I want and it upsets some people”

Anyway hope you all had a happy St Patrick’s Day and forward onto next years in 2015!

(Beer Drinker runs a fantastic blog of his own called ‘This Drinking Life’ don’t delay and click here to find out more)

TRIBUTE TO BRENDAN BEHAN 1923-1964

Brendan Behan

‘Streams Of Whiskey’ – The Pogues

“Last night as I slept
I dreamt I met with Behan
 Shook him by the hand and we passed the time of day
When questioned on his views
On the crux of life’s philosophies
He had but these few clear and simple words to say

I am going, I am going
Any which way the wind may be blowing
I am going, I am going
Where streams of whiskey are flowing

I have cursed, bled and sworn
Jumped bail and landed up in jail
Life has often tried to stretch me
But the rope always was slack
And now that I’ve a pile
I’ll go down to the Chelsea
I’ll walk in on my feet
But I’ll leave there on my back

Oh the words that he spoke
Seemed the wisest of philosophies
There’s nothing ever gained
By a wet thing called a tear
When the world is too dark
And I need the light inside of me
I’ll go into a bar and drink
Fifteen pints of beer”

written by Shane MacGowan

If there was ever a writer who could symbolise celtic-punk it would be Brendan Francis Behan. The man who, along with Luke Kelly, our very own Shane MacGowan seems to taken most inspiration from. Today is the 91st anniversary of his birth so we thought we’d enlighten those of you who do not know him or his works.

Most famous for his earthy satire and political opinions. While he was not in jail, or the pub, Behan worked odd jobs and wrote plays and stories that depicted the life of the working classes. Several of his books were banned in Ireland and he spent most of the years from 1939 to 1946 in English and Irish penal institutions on political charges. However, his writings are lively, full of humour, and, somewhat surprisingly, do not show signs of anger or bitterness toward the world at large.

“… it was not really the length of sentence that worried mefor I had always believed that if a fellow went into the I.R.A. at all he should be prepared to throw the handle after the hatchet, die dog or shite the licencebut that I’d sooner be with Charlie and Ginger and Browny in Borstal than with my own comrades and countrymen any place else. It seemed a bit disloyal to me, that I should prefer to be with boys from English cities than with my own countrymen and comrades from Ireland’s hills and glens.”

Born into inner-city Dublin he lived his childhood in the slums of the city. In spite of the surroundings, he did not end up becoming an unlettered slum lad. Much of his education was owed to his family, well-read, and of strong Republican sympathies. Behan’s family on both sides was traditionally anti-British. His uncle Peader Kearney was the author of the Irish national anthem, ‘The Soldier’s Song’. Another uncle, P.J. Bourke, managed the Queens Theatre in Dublin, and one of Bourke’s sons was the dramatist Seamus de Burca. Brendan’s brother Dominic became a dramatist, too, and gained also success and a balladeer and singer.

At Behan’s birth his father, a housepainter and Republican activist, was in a British compound because of involvement in the Irish uprising of 1916-1922. Behan’s mother had been married before to another Republican, who had died during the influenza epidemic of 1918. Brendan attended Catholic schools until the age of 14, when he abandoned studies and then worked as a house painter. From the age of nine he had served in the Fianna, a youth organization connected with the IRA, and in the late 1930s he was a IRA messenger boy. In 1939 Behan was arrested on a sabotage mission in Liverpool, following a deadly explosion at Coventry. He was sentenced to three years in Borstal in a reform school for attempting to blow up a battleship in Liverpool harbour. After release, he returned to Ireland, but in 1942 he was sentenced to 14 years for the attempted murder of two detectives. He served at Mountjoy Prison and at the Curragh Military Camp. In 1946 he was released under a general amnesty and resumed work at his father’s trade of housepainting. During this period he also joined the Dublin literary underground, which included figures such as Patrick Kavanagh, Anthony Cronin, J.P. Donleavy, and Sean O’Sullivan. Brendan was imprisoned again in Manchester in 1947, serving a short term for allegedly helping an IRA prisoner to escape. Ironically Behan once observed, that the man with a big bomb is a statesman, while the man with a small bomb is a terrorist.

Brendan Behan

During his years in prison, Behan started to write, mainly short stories in an inventive stylization of Dublin dialect. The Landlady was written at the Curragh. Gretna Green, about the execution of two Irishmen, was produced at the Queen’s Theatre as a part of a Republican commemorative concert. In 1955 Behan married Beatrice ffrench-Salkeld, a painter and the daughter of noted Dublin artist, Cecil Salkeld. The marriage did not stop him from continuing his self-destructive life-style, even after he was diagnosed as diabetic.

Behan’s best-known novel, Borstal Boy (1958), drew its material from his experiences in a Liverpool jail and Borstal. The young narrator progresses from a rebellious adolescent to greater understanding of himself and the world:

“There were few Catholics in this part of the world and the priest had a forlorn sort of a job but Walton had cured me of any idea that religion of any description had anything to do with mercy or pity or love.”

Behan also sailed intermittently on ships, he had become a certified seaman in 1949. At the beginning of his career, Behan had difficulties in getting his plays performed in his own country. The Quare Fellow, based on his prison experiences, was turned down by both the Abbey Theatre and the Gate but eventually was produced at the Pike Theatre Club in 1954, gaining critical success. Reviewers began to talk of a new Sean O’Casey and the tragi-comedy was subsequently transferred to London’s West End for a six months’ run. The events were set during the twenty-four hours preceding an execution. This work is thought to have hastened the abolition of capital punishment in Britain. Brendan also attacked false piety behind public attitudes toward such matters as sex, politics, and religion.

Behan found fame difficult. He had long been a heavy drinker describing himself on one occasion as

“a drinker with a writing problem”

and claiming

“I only drink on two occasions—when I’m thirsty and when I’m not”

and developed diabetes in the early 1960s. As his fame grew, so too did his alcohol consumption. This combination resulted in a series of famously drunken public appearances, on both stage and television.

Brendan Behan

Among Behan’s other dramas are The Big House (1957), a radio play written for the BBC, and The Hostage  (1958), written in Gaelic under the title An Giall and set in a disreputable Dublin lodging house, brothel!, owned by a former IRA commander. This play, perhaps Behan’s most enduring work, was first produced in Irish at the Damer Hall in Dublin and then in London, Paris, and New York. It depicts events that surround the execution of an eighteen-year-old IRA member in a Belfast jail. The audience never sees him. He has been accused of killing an Ulster policeman and sentenced to be hanged. A young British soldier, Leslie Williams, is held hostage in the brothel. After the IRA prisoner has been executed, Leslie is eventually killed in a gunfight, when the police attack the place. Before it a love story develops between Leslie and Teresa, a young girl, who promises never to forget him. In the finale Leslie’s corpse rises and sings:

The bells of hell
Go ting-a-ling-a-ling
For you but not for me.
Oh death, where is thy sting-a-ling-a-ling
Or grave thy victory?

In his dramas Behan used song, dance, and direct addresses to the audience. Occasionally the author himself would appear in the audience and criticize the actors and shout instructions to the director. Several of Behan’s works were staged at Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop, which left deep impact on modern theatrical style. Littlewood viewed the theatre as a collective and revised much of his script for The Hostagethe author himself approved all changes.

Notoriety and critical attention came to Behan in the mid-1950s and contributed to his downfall, fuelled by his prolonged drinking bouts and belligerent behaviour.

“An Anglo-Irishman only works at riding horses, drinking whisky and reading double-meaning books in Irish at Trinity College”

Behan once wrote. The Hostage was Behan’s last major dramahis last books were compilations of anecdotes transcribed from tape recordings. Like Dylan Thomas, he was lionized to death in the United States. A lifelong battle with alcoholism ended Behan’s career in a Dublin hospital on March 20, in 1964, at the age of the young age of 41. He was given an IRA guard of honour which escorted his coffin and it was described by several newspapers as the biggest funeral since those of Michael Collins and Charles Stewart Parnell. According to the United States Library of Congress, Behan is one of the most important Irish literary figures of the 20th century. He left behind him a solid legacy but but you’d have to wonder what else he could have achieved if he’d just laid off the bottle a bit!

‘BRENDAN BEHAN’S DUBLIN’: RTE documentary from 1966.

http://youtu.be/bCKLbHgKFBE

Brendan Behan

SELECTED WORKS:

  •  The Quare Fellow,1954 – Film adaptation in 1962, dir. Arthur Dreifuss, starring  Patrick McGoohan.
  • Borstal Boy, 1958
  • Brendan Behan’s Island – An Irish Sketchbook, 1962
  • Hold Your Hour and Have Another, 1963
  • The Scarperer, 1964
  • Brendan Behan’s New York, 1964
  • Confessions of an Irish Rebel, 1965
  • After The Wake, 1981
  • The Letters of Brendan Behan, 1991
  • The King of Ireland’s Son, 1997
The Auld Triangle…
A hungry feeling, came o’er me stealing
And the mice they were squealing in my prison cell
And that auld triangle, went jingle jangle
All along the banks of the Royal Canal.
Oh to start the morning, the warden bawling
Get up out of bed you, and clean out your cell
And that auld triangle, went jingle jangle
All along the banks of the Royal Canal.
Oh the screw was peeping and the lag was sleeping
As he lay weeping for his girl Sal
And that auld triangle, went jingle jangle
All along the banks of the Royal Canal.
On a fine spring evening, the lag lay dreaming
And the seagulls were wheeling high above the wall
And that auld triangle, went jingle jangle
All along the banks of the Royal Canal.
Oh the wind was sighing, and the day was dying
As the lag lay crying in his prision cell
And that auld triangle, went jingle jangle
All along the banks of the Royal Canal.
 In the female prison there are seventy women
And I wish it was with them that I did dwell
And that auld triangle, went jingle jangle
All along the banks of the Royal Canal.

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THE EFFECTS OF NEW DIASPORA CELTIC PUNK: THE CREATION OF A PAN-CELTIC CULTURE

by Abagael McCauley

 “This is your heritage!”

my dad said as he turned up the volume of the Chrysler Mini-Van’s stereo. We were parked along the St. Patty’s Day parade route, just two blocks from my house, and The Chieftain’s cassette was playing so loud that I felt the car shaking with the sound of the bagpipes.

“Doesn’t it just make your blood boil?”

He said enthusiastically with a laugh. I nodded and pulled my blanket close as the cold March wind blew through the back of the open trunk. I never knew what he meant when he said that. Why was something that was supposed to be representative of my heritage meant to make my blood boil? It never sounded pleasant, so why did he get so carried away whenever bagpipes were played?

To many Irish and Scottish families, Celtic music is more than a way to honour a heritage; it is a way to reconnect with forgotten family and pay homage to a people’s history of struggle. It is a way for members of a divided culture to feel connected and unified despite distance. Celtic Punk acts as a cultural and political unifier for a new generation, taking traditional Irish songs and retooling them with a more modern, rock instrumentation, and by adding heavy political overtones.

IrishAmerica

Most countries over the course of their history experience some sort of inner turmoil amongst sectarian groups, and Ireland was no exception. Northern Ireland became a battle ground between two groups, the Protestants and the Catholics, the Unionists and Nationalists. The Unionists wish to see Northern Ireland continue to be part of the United Kingdom, while The Nationalists wish to see Northern Ireland become part of the rest of Ireland, independent from British rule. These two opposing views are linked to deeper cultural divisions. Unionists are overwhelmingly Protestant, descendants of mainly Scottish, English, Welsh and Huguenot settlers as well as Old Gaelic Irishmen who had converted to one of the Protestant denominations. Nationalists are predominantly Catholic and descend from the population predating the settlement, with a minority from Scottish Highlanders as well as some converts from Protestantism. Discrimination against nationalists under the Stormont government, which was in effect from 1921 to 1972, gave rise to the nationalist civil rights movement in the 1960s.

Some Unionists argue that any discrimination was not just due to religious or political bigotry, but also the result of more complex socio-economic, socio-political and geographical factors. Whatever the cause, the existence of discrimination, and the manner in which Nationalist anger at it was handled, were a major contributing factor which led to the long-running conflict known as the Troubles. The political unrest went through its most violent phase between 1968 and 1994.

From February 1967, a civil rights movement developed in Northern Ireland that challenged the unionist political status quo (Bryan). Between 1967 and 1969, there were increasingly violent confrontations between the Protestant and Catholic communities that began to attract the attention of the international media.

irish AmericaThis violence sparked what is often referred to as the ‘new Diaspora’, a mass exodus of Irish citizens mimicking the emigration habits of the Irish during The Great Famine that began 1845. One by-product of the Celtic Diaspora was the existence of large communities across the world that looked for their cultural roots and identity to their origins in the Celtic nations. This is particularly true in the United States and Canada, where there are large communities descended from Irish and Scottish immigrants (‘Celtic Rock’). Bryan, the author of ‘Orange Parades’, describes Irish traditions from Northern Ireland in terms of ritual and their meaning as a unifier.

“Ritual helps to create solidarity within groups, often in the absence of consensus, provides access to political legitimacy and moulds people’s understanding’ of the political universe. Ritual action provides the objectification of politics, constituted ad invested in symbols…cultural or symbolic capital that enables and sustains, but can also resist, the legitimization of communities” (Bryan)

That is, things that are interpreted as meaning one than can be used by a counter-culture to legitimize or reinforce a cultural or political stance. These things can even be used as a way to resist the powers at work in a culture. Elements of disguised and more anonymous forms of public resistance often manifest in the form of rumour, gossip, songs, rituals, and euphemisms.

Many times, and as can be seen in the consumption of Celtic rock, music can take on the role of sustaining an identity. Additionally, displacement and political exile as a consequence of armed conflict can also bring attention of people in other lands and from other cultures, who were otherwise unlike to have discovered it (‘War and Armed Conflict’).

Beginning in the 1950s, Irish traditional music was finding new audience and was being accepted by younger and older generations, but had a larger effect on the next generation of musicians who would create a hybrid genre known as Celtic Rock (Cooper). Earlier colonialism and a lack of external influences during the World Wars, due to Ireland’s neutrality, meant there had been a lack of international influence on culture. However, in the 1960s, Ireland began to see influences of soul, blues, rock and roll, and country mixing with Irish traditional timings and compositions to create an entirely new style of music (Cooper). Blues musicians often take the approach of personalizing a struggle by placing the singer at the centre of the narrative, offering an individual perspective within a community-centred genre or struggle (‘War and Armed Conflict’). Similarly, in the songs emerging from Latin American revolutionary struggles, the passion with which particular events and activities are recorded in music is

“…not so much that of a singer’s personal response as that of a collective interpretation of events”- ‘War and Armed Conflict’

Much of Celtic and Punk music functions as a way to feel the heartbeat of a collective culture and gauge the emotional state of a people.

Celtic rock is a genre of folk rock that incorporates Celtic music, instrumentation, and themes into a rock music context, and has played a major role in the maintenance and definition of regional and national identities and in fostering a pan-Celtic culture (‘Celtic Rock’). That is, traditional music, particular ballads, jigs and reels are given new life and appeal with the addition of rock instrumentation and incorporation of Celtic instruments, including the Celtic harp, tin whistle, uillean pipes, fiddle, bodhran, accordion, concertina, melodeon, and highland bagpipes to conventional rock formats (‘Celtic Rock’).

AMYTHREE (2)The bagpipe is a particularly important part of this movement due to it’s historical meaning to the Celtic people, especially those of Scottish descent. In Scotland, The Disarming Act of 1746 and the Amendment in 1748 as created by King George II, in order to ‘more effectually secure the peace of the highlands’ prohibited the use or bearing of the sword or other warlike weapon, or wearing any clothing resembling or paying homage to ‘highland clothes’. It did not, however, ban the playing or ownership of bagpipes, and this instrument, so

“potent in stimulating the blood of the highlander”

remained as one of the few ways for the Scottish people to hold on to their heritage despite English rule (Allen). This instrument quickly became a symbol of rebellion and pride for the Celtic people, and is often a featured component of Celtic rock bands and songs.

The function of Celtic Rock has been less to create mainstream success, than to bolster cultural identity. This has thus created reinforcement of pan-Celtic culture and of particular national or regional identities between those with a shared heritage, but who are widely dispersed (‘Celtic Rock’). A popular Celtic rock band, Flogging Molly, wrote a song titled ‘Rebels of the Sacred Heart’ which talks about what it is like to be Irish Catholic in America. The lyrics read

“Genuflect all you refugees who fled the land / Now on guilt you kneel / And say a prayer for those left behind/From beyond the pale to the Northern sky / So you saved your shillings and your last six pence / Cause in God`s name they built a barbed wire fence / Be glad you sailed for a better day / But don`t forget there`ll be hell to pay”

With little more than religion and tradition tying them to their homeland, Irish immigrants and their descendants often feel tremendous guilt for fleeing but also a pride in their heritage. The fact that this music is able to communicate a feeling that is so universal amongst those of Celtic heritage is a testament to it’s importance in fostering a feeling of unity and a pan-celtic culture.

The author of ‘Pipes and Pipers’, Greg Allen, wrote on the importance of bagpipers in the redeveloping Scottish culture. He said their function was

“to inspire youth with a national spirit, to give them a noble bearing on the march, in the playing field or on some solemn and sad …To assist these ends and to restore to our youth some of the high pride and dignity that belongs to a people who have suffered so much, who have struggled so long, to emerge from the land of bondage into the full freedom of a national existence so long denied to them…”(Allen)

I think the same is to be said for Celtic Punk – this unique style of music was served as a way to empower Celtic youth and unify them with the reminder that they have something to be proud of, despite their suffering.

On a March night similar to the one with my father at my first St. Patrick’s Day parade, I found myself in front of a stage that was about to present the band of musicians who first made me love the music of my culture, The Dropkick Murphys. The excitement of the audience was like nothing I had experienced at any other concert, and when the curtain dropped, the sea of green in which I was standing undulated towards the stage. I was swept up physically by the people around me who were pushing and swaying with the opening chords of one of their songs. On cue, four bagpipers took the stage to chime in with the accordion and guitars, and I was covered in goosebumps.

I took out my phone and texted my father.

“I get it now”

Irish America 1

Works Cited:

Allen, Greg D. “Pipes and Pipers.” NEFTA.net. The North Easy Folklore Archive. Web. 19 Mar. 2012.

Bryan, Dominic. “Northern Ireland: Ethnicity Politics and Ritual.” Orange Parades: The Politics of Ritual, Tradition, and Control. London: Pluto, 2000. Print.

“Celtic Rock.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 5 Mar. 2012. Web. 19 Mar. 2012.

Cooper, David. The Musical Traditions of Northern Ireland and Its Diaspora: Community and Conflict. Burlington, VT [u.a.: Ashgate, 2009. Print.

Dubber, Andrew. “MA Music Industries.” MA Music Industries. 1 Mar. 2012. Web. 19 Mar. 2012.

McLoone, Martin. “Punk Music In Northern Ireland: The Political Power Of ‘What Might Have Been’.” Irish Studies Review 12.1 (2004): 29-38. Academic Search Premier. Web. 19 Mar. 2012.

“War and Armed Conflict.” Continuum Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World: Media, Industry, and Society. London: Continuum, 2003. Credo Reference. Web. 17 March 2012

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