Tag Archives: Shane MacGowan

A CELTIC PUNK LOVE AFFAIR

Ever since Shane and The Pogues knocked our ears into gear in the ’80s, hundreds of bands have followed in their footsteps. Year after year, they bring us exciting Celtic punk songs, albums and gigs to light up a somewhat shit world. But what about Celtic punk stories? Why ain’t there many of them floatin’ aboot?

Maybe there’s more than one way to entertain people. If you’re into Guinness, St. Paddy’s Day and young people embracing the Celtic spirit worldwide, then what we have here will be right up yer alley, ye ken. They say hope springs eternal…and so does folk!

Have you ever wanted to read a short story, or even a novel, about Celtic punk? As if The Pogues, Tossers and Mahones were ready to jump off the page at ya? If that sounds cool, then meet Gus, Lin, Herman and Rash. Four characters from the far-flung reaches of Nova Scotia, Canada. They’re passionate musicians, folkin’ the Irish pubs and refusing to bend to society’s wishes. Below, I give ye four reasons why you should give a shit.

1. They have the bottle of smoke

Yes, that’s a Pogues reference! The Bottle of Smoke is the band’s aptly-named local Irish pub. We kick things off with them playin’ The Smoke mid-week to an appreciative audience; Gus on guitar and vocals, Herman on mandolin, Rash workin’ the accordion, and Gus’s cousin Lin banging the bodhrán (not in a sexual way). Gus is essentially the band’s very own Shane MacGowan; a troubled ratbag who likes a drink or six, but a songwriting genius with a fistful of dreams and a big, beating heart at the centre of it all. And speakin’ of The Pogues, if there’s one band you would automatically compare these four musicians to, then the London Irish legends are it.

As well as playin’ The Bottle of Smoke as often as the pub’ll book ’em, the band are making inroads into the rest of Atlantic Canada as well. They’ve played out west a little, they’re set to play Cape Breton Island on St. Patrick’s Day, and they’re keepin’ their well attuned ears to the ground for more. The stage is quite literally set for a Celtic punk love affair.

Sounds good so far? Read on, ya big bollocks 😉

Shane MacGowan and The Pogues. The band’s heroes and their biggest influence.

2. They have ideals

We all realised we weren’t gonna get anywhere in life unless it was through the music. Ozzy didn’t wanna do what his father did for a living, and Tony didn’t wanna do what his dad did. Neither did Bill, and neither did I.

Geezer Butler, Black Sabbath

While Kilmainen (being the band’s name) might not be working-class, backstreet kids from Aston, Birmingham, they ain’t exactly moneyheads either, to use Gus’s own word. Gus himself is a standout example of this, working just 15 hours a week in a music shop. Underpaid, no doubt, but doing something he actually cares about. Cousin Lin is similar, having snubbed the corporate world to go part-time in an artsy café. The band members take the time and energy saved, and reinvest it into the one thing that matters most to them: their music.

The plan is that writing songs together, recording albums, doing interviews, playing gigs and working with other musicians will one day become the quartet’s full-time gig, their sole source of income. That’s certainly what the Austrian-born Herman dreams of, as he spends Sunday afternoons promoting the band’s music online. The biggest dreamer, though, is once again Gus: what you’re about to read is one of the entries he pours into his diary mid-way through the story.

I don’t want to live by society’s rules. It’s boring. I don’t wanna live life with no idea what I want. Society wants you think you’re worthless, and that it’s YOUR fault if you’re unhappy. But I can see through that. I KNOW what my purpose in life is. It’s the best feeling you can get, when people say your music’s helped them. Tell me it’s just a hobby? Bollocks to that. I wanna BE someone in life, change things up.

Guthrie “Gus” Ward, Folk Springs Eternal

I once saw a great film where actress Julia Jentsch said, “I want to live young, wild and free.” Most people will tell you that’s stupid, but her co-star Daniel Brühl said, “that’s not stupid.” He was right, and so is Gus above. There’s nothing wrong with having a dream, with looking at the world and asking questions. Asking whether life can be lived differently, rather than the way it’s spoonfed to us. That’s where the hope lies, my friend. And hope – like I started out saying above – springs eternal, right?

Will folk music spring eternal in Kilmainen’s case, too? Read on, because here’s where it gets nail-biting.

3. They have to fight society

Unless you’re sheltered from the world, or just strike lucky, you won’t follow your dreams without some serious backlash along the way. Numerous examples exist: Mahatma Gandhi, Carl Brashear, Jacinda Ardern, Mark Oliver Everett, the list goes on and on. These people had to battle their way to success, and our four musical heroes are no exception to this rule. We get a glimpse of it in chapter 4, when Rash’s office colleagues disregard his ambition to become a professional musician. “There’s no money in that game,” they tell him.

If that seems quite harmless, wait a little. Lin gets on a bus five days later, and is violently attacked by three youths who don’t like women who think and dress for themselves. “Irish music ain’t cool,” they say, and apparently neither is being a lesbian. Luckily a trip to hospital is averted just in time, BUT: bring on St. Patrick’s Day, where things go from bad to worse. In less than 24 hours, the band is all but over, with their morale and reciprocal support in the gutter.

The Halifax police headquarters where Gus is held on St. Patrick’s weekend.

4. They have to win.

What will become of the band? Will the quartet survive their trial by fire? Or will they fail and self-destruct among the flames? Well that I won’t tell you 😉 I will only promise you that the Celtic punk author doesn’t make a habit of letting people down.

So you have two options, my friend. One: you’re invited to take a wee look around my website, where the story and other cool stuff is available for purchase. Click HERE to check it out. Or two: if you want chapter 1 for free first (plus a free song!), then click HERE instead. I swear by the holy iron which I hold, that I, James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser (okay, no), will not pass your email addresses on to any gobshite else.

I hope you enjoyed the read, my friend. Sláinte mhaith! 🥃

Andy x

Click HERE to learn more about the book. Want chapter 1 for free? Click HERE instead.

ODDS’N’SODS. A CELTIC-PUNK ROUND UP AUGUST 2021

The football season is about to kick off over here so all is well with the world!

Time again for the London Celtic Punks monthly round-up of all the band news, record releases and videos from bands big and small from across the Celtic-Punk scene. 

We start this month with one of my favourite band’s return to the fore. Seeing as August 1st is Yorkshire Day where better to begin than with BLACKBEARDS TEA PARTY who hail from God’s Own Country who give up a Folky/ Funky cover of American Folk classic ‘John’s Gone To Hilo’. Great stuff!

The Swamp Rabbit Accordion Festival in South Carolina at the end of the month has had to be re-branded as The Swamp Rabbit Celtic-Punk Festival after several cancellations forced the hand of TC COSTELLO. Currently whooping it up in Madrid TC will be back home soon so if you are anywhere nearby be sure to spread the news.

LIVE MUSIC IS BACK!! With more and more gigs being announced all the time we’d like to invite promoters and bands to send in your gig and tour dates. Remember though the Odds’n’Sods feature only goes to press at the end of each month and so we may not be able to fit them in. In which case we need plenty of notice.

All the FLOGGING MOLLY dates set for this month have now been re-arranged for next year. Yes 2022 I’m afraid so book your tickets now for Manchester, Birmingham and London.

POGUES fans in London might be interested to know that Richard Balls will be discussing his authorised biography of SHANE MacGOWAN at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Book Club at Dublin Castle, Camden on the 6th October. The book, written with the co-operation of Shane, Victoria, Siobhan and Maurice, is published by Omnibus Press on 7 October, so it’s an opportunity to get a signed early copy! If you can’t make it, the book is available for pre-order via various online sites.

London bagpipes’n’punk band and all round good guys THE BABES are recording a follow up album to their debut Greetings From London. No release date yet so watch this space.

The wonderful KILMAINE SAINTS are back with a fecking bang and here’s some video from their recent set at the Celtic Fling 2021 in Manheim, Pennsylvania. Here they are playing one of my own personal favourites ‘Whiskey Blues And Faded Tattoos’.

THE O’REILLYS AND THE PADDYHATS had a great Live Stream recently to celebrate their 10th anniversary and here they play a acoustic version of the lead single from their last album.

Another cracking German Celtic-Punk band BEGBIES PINT had a few songs up on You Tube from a recent gig in one hell of a lovely setting!

A bit of international Celtic-Punk now from Argentinian band MALA SUERTE. I don’t know a lot about them but here they do one hell of a decent cover of The Ramones. Word is that the boys (Bad Luck in English) have a new album out very soon.

THE CAPTAIN’S BEARD a Pirate Punk/ Celtic-Punk band from B-right-on down there on the southern coast of England are looking for a drummer. Contact on FB if you’re interested.

“We’re looking for someone of a professional skill level and who likes traditional folk music and or modern Celtic rock. Also someone who doesn’t take themselves too seriously (we sing songs about beards)”
News from BRYAN McPHERSON that he’s pretty much finished the recording of his new album. Produced by the famed Ted Hutt of the Walker Roaders and aided by Marc Orell, Chris Murphy and Josh Heffernan among others it’s set to be one of his best yet. Can’t wait to hear it Bryan.

DIE STROMMS – Vinum, Et Domina Canticum (review on it’s way!)

TECOR SOCIETARIO – Caça Maior

THE McGUNKS – Going Out Early

THE GREEN HOUSE BAND – Ocotillo

TECOR SOCIETARIO – Caça Maior

THE POKES – Another Toast

This month we step back in time for a band that are still around and going from strength to strength. BLOOD OR WHISKEY come from Leixlip, County Kildare in Ireland and formed in September 1993 taking strong influence from Shane MacGowan, as well as The Pogues and The Clash. For the unitiated and have for almost 30 years now been one of the best bands in Celtic-Punk. How they are not more famous is beyond me! This recording comes from 14 years ago and arguably at their peak and is the live set from their 2007 European tour at the Arena Kleine Halle in Vienna, Austria. The free download is available in 2 parts.

DOWNLOAD1 DOWNLOAD2

New album from THE MCGUNKS. A 4-piece hi-energy Punk’n’Roll band from the Providence area that formed in 2003. Their music reflects Rockabilly, Punk, Celtic and even a bit of country. Available as a name ypur price download. 

Don’t know anything about THE CIDER FECKS except The Surfin’ Turnips said the other day on their Facebook page that they may be returning. I will do my best to find out more. Here’s their class song ‘The Dropkick Murphys Took My Baby Away’.

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Russian musicians playing Irish music for Russian set-dancers is not something you see every day! POLCA AN Rí hail from Moscow, Russia. Get the download or the CD which comes with a 4-page booklet on how the band came together. 

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Some London Celtic Punks news now and we still have a handful of Green’n’White ‘Skully Cap’ ringer t-shirts available. They come in all sizes from Small right up to XXX-L and are available from our online store. Also check out our full range of other tatt. Shirts, badges, stickers, flags, CD’s and fridge magnets all the discerning Celtic-Punk fan would ever need!  https://the30492shop.fwscart.com/

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The more I see of Facebook the more and more I dislike it. It’s stranglehold on all forms of expression is not good so if you feel the same you can now subscribe to London Celtic Punks posts via our group on the new phone app Telegram. Very similar in style (but better and easier to use) than What’s App and completely free from Facebook control. Join us on Telegram and don’t miss a single post! https://t.me/londoncelticpunks/  

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A plug for some good friends of ours over on Facebook. The Dropkick Murphys- Fan Page and the Celtic Punk, Folk And Rock Fans are two of the best music forums on FB let alone Celtic-Punk. Ran By Fans For Fans. Just like and join in the fun!

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If you are new to the London Celtic Punks blog it is easy to subscribe / follow and never miss a post. Bands, promoters, record labels, venues send in any news to londoncelticpunks@hotmail.co.uk or via the Contact Us page.

THE POGUESTRA LATEST RELEASE ‘TURKISH SONG OF THE DAMNED’

Just over a year old The PoguestrA is a flexible group of musicians from around the world who love to play and record the music of The Pogues playing together remotely.
A community powered by passion, diversity and inclusion.

The PoguestrA strike gold again! A flexible group of musicians from around the world who are also fans of The Pogues. It all started in May 2020, during the lockdown, when Daniele Rubertelli, an Italian fan who plays accordion, launched a ‘Call For Musicians’ to perform (remotely) ‘Dirty Old Town’ within the Facebook community of Pogues fans. As a result, sixteen musicians from the UK, Ireland, Italy, The Netherlands and USA contributed to the cover of the great Ewan MacColl track. The song even reached the ears of Peggy Seeger, the late Ewan’s wife and renowned singer/songwriter in her own right, who sent over words of appreciation. Since then The PoguestrA have covered other songs of The Pogues, always using “public calls” on Facebook to ensure inclusion for all the musicians moved by the same passion. They recently covered both ‘The Broad Majestic Shannon’ and ‘Misty Morning Albert Bridge‘ and they have begun to attract some pretty amazing star guests with Cisco, frontman of the legendary Italian band Modena City Ramblers alongside Irish international Kevin McManamon on mandolin and Pogues members Jem Finer and James Fearnley joining the gang to perform.

Of ‘Turkish Song Of The Damned’ Shane has said it was the result of a hilarious mix up that the song got it’s title and inspiration when he misheard a German fan asking if he liked “The Turkey Song” by The Damned. Their are of course, it is the internet after all, several different versions of this  but we’ll stick with the one credited to Shane himself. The song itself mentions several maritime myths and legends with tales of [un]dead pirate and sailors. In the song the debt is collected by a servant, who is already dead and carries a “shadow” on their back (Meaning a curse) from whoever has not paid, dead or alive. Such stories go back centuries in Celtic mythology as does the “Woman with a comb in her hand” which refers to a Banshee, a type of faerie spirit from Ireland (or sometimes Scotland) who forewarns someone of a death by singing a song of mourning and typically carries a silver comb. The special guest this time is Justin Adams playing guitar one of the worlds most popular music producer’s having worked with Robert Plant, Brian Eno, Sinead O’Connor and many world music artists.

Turkish Song Of The Damned performed by The PoguestrA

Recorded in May 2021

I come old friend from Hell tonight
Across the rotting sea
Nor the nails of the cross
Nor the blood of Christ
Can bring you help this eve
The dead have come to claim a debt from thee
They stand outside your door
Four score and three
Did you keep a watch for the dead man’s wind
Did you see the woman with the comb in her hand
Wailing away on the wall on the strand
As you danced to the Turkish song of the damned
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You remember when the ship went down
You left me on the deck
The captain’s corpse jumped up
And threw his arms around my neck
For all these years I’ve had him on my back
This debt cannot be paid with all your jack
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And as I sit and talk to you I see your face go white
This shadow hanging over me
Is no trick of the light
The spectre on my back will soon be free
The dead have come to claim a debt from thee

(Written by Jem Finer and Shane MacGowan)

Justin Adams: Electric Guitar, Req Tambourine (Bath, England) / Brendan Burke: Tin Whistle (England) / Brandon Caylor: Mando-Guitar (California, USA) / Giacomo Chiaramonte: BanjoBass (Faenza, Italy) / Chris Cunningham: Banjo, Octave Mandolin (Indiana/USA) / John Dunne: Ukulele, Vocals (England) / Chris Goddard: Fiddle, Guitar, Vocals (England) / Matt Goddard: Drums (England) / Roy Geurts: Mandolin, Vocals (The Netherlands) / Aapo Halme: Vocals (Kuopio, Finland) / Robin Hiermer: Vocals (Germany) / Marc Hoper: Vocals (Dortmund, Germany) / Jeff Ingarfield: Vocals (England) / Kim Karvonen: Mandolin, Vocals (Finland) / Mattia Malusardi: Bouzouki (Italy) / Vince Martini: Bass (California, USA) / Nick Neale: Drums (Lanzarote, Canary Islands) / Rick Nuttall: Vocals (England) / John O’Donnell: Guitar (Chicago, USA) / Moisés Álvarez Rodríguez: Ukulele (Spain) / Daniele Rubertelli: Accordion (Italy) / Marco Scheepers: Accordion (Dongen, The Netherlands) / Stuart Swann: Guitar, Vocals (London, England) / Marcel van Bergen: Guitar (The Netherlands) / Tim van den Hombergh: Tin Whistles (The Netherlands) / Derk Venema: Mandola (The Netherlands) / Paddy Vervoort: Vocals (The Netherlands).

Audio & Video editing by Tim van den Hombergh.

If you are interested in joining the PoguestrA for future songs then get in touch with the gang viaYouTube orFacebook

ALBUM REVIEW: THE DEAD RABBITS- ‘7 Ol’ Jerks’ (2021)

Fueled by cheap whiskey and Lone Star beer The Dead Rabbits have emerged out of Texas as one of the American Celtic-Punk scenes best bands. Charged by the ole songs of Irish rebellion and the speed and harmony of Punk, they combine a potent mix of Irish Folk, Bluegrass, Gypsy and Punk Rock.

Taking their name from the real life street gang of American-Irish criminals active in Lower Manhattan in the 1830s to 1850s The Dead Rabbits hail from Texas but these guys are from your typical Texans! These original Dead Rabbits took their name after a dead rabbit was thrown into a gang meeting, prompting some members to treat this as an omen, their battle symbol becoming a dead rabbit on a pike. Besides their criminal activities they often clashed with so-called ‘nativist’ groups and gangs who viewed Irish Catholics as threatening and dangerous.

Formed in mid-2009 with the band’s founder, Seamuis Strain, a guest of the state at Louisiana prison he returned to Houston and bagan to put together what would become known as the ‘Warren’. Since that day, as with all bands, members have come and gone but always Seamuis has led from the front pushing and promoting the band across social media and he has become a known face on the many Facebook groups and pages specialising in Celtic-Punk. Their debut release was the excellently titled ‘Tiocfaidh Ar La’ which went onto be voted one of the best releases of 2013 by both Paddyrock Radio and Celtic Folk Punk web-zine! As far as I can tell the band spent the next few years playing gigs and touring and it came as a suprise to me that it wasn’t till last year that they followed up ‘TAL’ with the sort of greatest hits self-titled album The Dead Rabbits. It was basically a re-release of TAL but with a handful of new tracks and covers.

The Dead Rabbits: Seamuis – Lead Vocals, Guitars * Banjovi – Vocals, Banjo * Danger Dave – Fiddle * General Woundwort – Vocals, Guitar * Bigwig – Drums and Vox

So a new album is long overdue and their is certainly no messing about here on 7 Ol’ Jerks with the nine tracks clocking in just short of twenty-one minutes it’s a fast and furious, blink and you’ll miss it rollercoaster ride through the angrier side of Celtic-Punk alternating between Discharge styled hardcore Punk and a just slightly more Celtic version of them. Not for the faint hearted these are not likely to turn at Renaissance fayre’s or family orientated Celtic festivals (mores the pity!). Laced with humour and Irish spirit(s) I bloody loved it but then again I am an aging auld anarcho-punk but these days with better politics and hair!

They follow this up with another quick blast through the Shane MacGowan penned ‘If I Should Fall From The Grace With God’. The title track of what is often thought to be the pinnacle of The Pogues career it is here given the full Punk-Rock treatement with some great fiddle work giving it that Irish feel. Played at breakneck speed Seamuis has a great voice for this style but the rest of the band too showing how good the production/mixing is. Another ‘quickie’ with ‘L-Elaine’ not even breaking the minute mark but still manages to tell a story of love and love of the bottle. ‘Father McGregor’ is a oldish song with the version below from Bandcamp a few years old now but has been reworked for 7 Ol’Jerks.

You might expect The Dead Rabbits to not be the kind of band to play the ‘auld favourites’. The kind of song that when your Mammy walks in while you’ve got Celtic-Punk turned up to 11 asks “do they play such and such?”. You reply of “don’t be daft. Of course not Mum, this is Celtic-Punk” and then the next song that comes on is ‘I’ll Tell Me Ma’ and she walks away smiling! Well here the Rabbits turn their ear to that most loved of all Irish songs, especially among the American-Irish, ‘Danny Boy Medley’ in which they stick in half-a-dozen classics before the clock strikes three minutes. ‘Train Song’ is a song about trains. Just that but with banjo and fiddle before we get another classic and  ‘The Leaving Of Liverpool’ is one of many Irish Folk tunes that is perfectly suited for ‘punking up’. The sound of the Dubliners version is still intact and recogniseable while the Rabbits add a new dimension to the song. The album ends with two original tracks the short more trad Celtic-Punk sounding title track, ‘7 Ol’ Jerks’, and the epic 4 (four!!) minute ‘Dreams’, originally recorded by The Cranberries. I think it’s a shame they didn’t choose this as the opening single to promote the album as its is utterly brillliant!! They can do the hardcore stuff very well but this song lifts the album from just pretty good into album of the year material, yes it is that good. Seamuis voice aches and strains over a tune to die for that depsite being classic Celtic-Punk still has that harder edge than most bands which I’m sure is what they were striving here on 7 Ol’ Jerks.

Buy 7 Ol’ Jerks  Amazon  Apple  Spotify

(Pre sale orders for vinyl are available now from Grimace Records)

Contact The Dead Rabbits Facebook  YouTube  Instagram

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Facebook has become an unlikeable monster with more and more good folk leaving. Can’t say I blames you. So we have set up a Telegram group. Similar but better (and easier to use) than Whats App and free from Facebook control. Join us on Telegram and you wont miss a beat!

NEW POGUESTRA SONG FOR ST. PATRICK’S DAY 2021

The You Tube sensation the PoguestrA are back again with another classic Pogues cover for us. This time they are again supported by two musicians who played large parts in The Pogues story. Read on to find out who! 
The PoguestrA are a group of musicians from across the world who are big fans of The Pogues. Beginning in May 2020, during the lockdown, when Daniele Rubertelli, an Italian fan who plays accordion, launched a ‘Call For Musicians’ to perform (remotely) Dirty Old Town within the Facebook community of Pogues fans. As a result, sixteen musicians from the UK, Ireland, Italy, The Netherlands and USA contributed to the cover of the great Ewan MacColl track. The song even reached the ears of Peggy Seeger, the late Ewan’s wife and renowned singer/songwriter in her own right, who sent over words of appreciation. Since then The PoguestrA have covered other songs of The Pogues, always using “public calls” on Facebook to ensure inclusion for all the musicians moved by the same passion. They recently covered the Shane MacGowan penned ‘The Broad Majestic Shannon’ with an amazing twenty-eight musicians from around the world and featuring Cisco, the founder and former frontman of the legendary Italian band Modena City Ramblers and their last video ‘Misty Morning Albert Bridge’ from The Pogues fourth album, Peace and Love, featured Celtic-Punk royalty with the songs writer Jem Finer and James Fearnley joining from the faraway shores of London and Los Angeles respectfully.
The Boys From The County Hell tells the story of a group of workers out to gain revenge on their boss. One of MacGowan’s more swearier tracks it first appeared on their debut album in 1984 and is famous for the bands performance on The Tube TV Show with Shane valiently trying to avoid swearing on the show broadcast at tea-time! Another lyrical masterpiece from the man one of the more interesting parts of the song is “The boys and me are drunk and lookin’ for ya’, We’ll eat your frickin’ entrails and we won’t give a damn, My father was a Blueshirt, my mother a madam, my brother earned his medals at My Lai in Vietnam.” The Blueshirts were Irish fascists from the 1930s, his mother was a prostitute and his brother was involved in the My Lai massacre in Vietnam. Joining the Poguestra here are yet more Celtic-Punk royalty with original Pogues member Spider Stacey on tin-whistle and vocals and Andy Nolan from Shane MacGowan And The Popes playing accordion.

Boys Of The County Hell (Shane MacGowan) performed by The PoguestrA

Recorded in March 2021

On the first day of March it was raining
It was raining worse than anything that I have ever seen
I drank ten pints of beer and I cursed all the people there
And I wish that all this raining would stop falling down on me

And it’s lend me ten pounds and I’ll buy you a drink
And mother wake me early in the morning

At the time I was working for a landlord
And he was the meanest bastard that you have ever seen
And to lose a single penny would grieve him awful sore
And he was a miserable bollocks and a bitch’s bastard’s whore

And it’s lend me ten pounds and I’ll buy you a drink
And mother wake me early in the morning

I recall we took care of him one Sunday
We got him out the back and we broke his fucking balls
And maybe that was dreaming and maybe that was real
But all I know is I left that place without a penny or fuck all

And it’s lend me ten pounds and I’ll buy you a drink
And mother wake me early in the morning

But now I’ve the most charming of verandas
I sit and watch the junkies, the drunks and pimps and whores
Five green bottles sitting on the floor
And I wish to Christ, I wish to Christ
That I had fifteen more

And it’s lend me ten pounds and I’ll buy you a drink
And mother wake me early in the morning

The boys and me are drunk and looking for you
We’ll eat your frigging entrails and we won’t give a damn
Me daddy was a blueshirt and my mother a madam
And my brother earned his medals at My Lai in Vietnam

And it’s lend me ten pounds and I’ll buy you a drink
And mother wake me early in the morning

On the first day of March it was raining
It was raining worse than anything that I have ever seen
Stay on the other side of the road
‘Cause you can never tell
We’ve a thirst like a gang of devils
We’re the boys of the county hell

And it’s lend me ten pounds and I’ll buy you a drink
And mother wake me early in the morning.

Spider Stacy: Tin Whistle, Vocals (London) / Andy Nolan: Button Accordion (London) / Daniel Al-Ayoubi: Mandolin (Bonn, Germany) / Patrick Arnehall: Tenor Banjo (Sweden) / Juan Brown: Vocals (Shetland Islands) / Scott Buhrmaster: Drums (Chicago, USA) / Brendan Burke: Tin Whistle (England) / Brandon Caylor: Mando-Guitar (California/USA) / Derek Cryan: Vocals (Dublin, Ireland) / Chris Cunningham: Mandolin (Indiana/USA) / Maxim De Kìnnjele: Guitar (France) / Tijl Delannoy: Vocals (Belgium) / John Dunne: Vocals (England) / Bob Gibson: Whistle, Vocals (London) / Chris Goddard: Fiddle (England) / Matt Goddard: Drums (England) / Roy Geurts: Vocals, Mandolin (The Netherlands) / Robin Hiermer: Vocals (Hagen, Germany) / Jeff Ingarfield: Vocals (England) / Kim Karvonen: Vocals (Finland) / Dave Keating: Mandolin (Chicago, USA) / Sophie Liebregts: Harp (Italy – The Netherlands) / Heather Macleod: Bodhran (Isle of Arran) / Mattia Malusardi: Banjo (Italy) / Vince Martini: Bass (California, USA) / Rick Nuttall: Vocals (England) / John O’Donnell: Guitar (Chicago, USA) / Moisés Álvarez Rodríguez: Ukulele (Madrid, Spain) / Daniele Rubertelli: Piano Accordion (Italy) / Andy Scarborough: Vocals (Zante, Greece) / Marcel van Bergen: Guitar (The Netherlands) / Tim van den Hombergh: Bagpipes (The Netherlands) / Derk Venema: Banjo, Mandolin (The Netherlands) / Paddy Vervoort: Vocals, Vibraslap (The Netherlands) / Zac: Vocals (Italy).
Audio and Video editing by Tim van den Hombergh.

If you are interested in joining the PoguestrA for future songs then get in touch with the gang viaYouTube orFacebook

CELEBRATING A CELTIC CHRISTMAS 2020. MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL THE LONDON CELTIC PUNKS FAMILY

Each December we pick the best Christmas themed song we’ve heard that year to showcase in our end of year message. Their was a time when it was a easy choice but over the years its become quite common, so much so that we will have a special feature on 2020’s Celtic-Punk Christmas songs on St. Stephen’s Day (or Boxing Day to you Brits!).

Celtic-Punk is about embracing the traditions of the past and bringing them to the present so you also get a chance to check out the Christmas customs from each of the Celtic nations. 

The PoguestrA – ‘Fairytale Of New York’

The PoguestrA have created a rendition of Fairytale of New York that includes an amazing 71 musicians from around the world. The PoguestrA community was established in May 2020 during the lockdown with musicians playing together remotely. While we agree with Shane with regards the changing of the words the song still packs a punch. If you are interested in joining the PoguestrA for future songs then get in touch with the gang viaYouTube orFacebook

CELEBRATING A CELTIC CHRISTMAS

According to long standing theory, the origins of Christmas stems from pagan winter festivals. One main reason early Christians were able to spread their religion across Europe so quickly came from their willingness to embrace celebrations already common among regional populations. One such example is the Celtic ‘Alban Arthuan’, a Druidic festival that took place around December 21st. the Winter Solstice. This traditional fire festival celebrated the re-birth of the Sun. Although a celebration of the Son’s birth replaced that of the Sun’s, still a number of ancient Celtic Christmas traditions remain today.

As we look across the Celtic nations, it is interesting to note some similarities among Christmas traditions that cross geographic boundaries. They include, for example: Holly (a symbol of rebirth among Pagan Celts, but also of hospitality—it was believed fairies sought shelter inside the evergreen leaves to escape the cold); Mistletoe (believed to have healing powers so strong that it warded off evil spirits, cured illnesses and even facilitated a truce between enemies); fire and light (most notably the Yule log or candles placed in windows to light the way for strangers and symbolically welcoming Mary and Joseph); and door-to-door processions, from wassailing to Wren Hunts.

Each of the seven nations possesses its own variations of Celtic Christmas customs. Surrounding cultures and local identify shape theses practices as well.

SCOTLAND

Christmas was not officially recognized in Scotland for nearly four centuries. The Puritan English Parliament banned Christmas in 1647 and it did not become a recognized public holiday in Scotland until 1958. However, according to Andrew Halliday, in his 1833 piece Christmas in Scotland, Scots were not discouraged from celebrating Christmas. Halliday wrote

“We remember it stated in a popular periodical, one Christmas season not long ago, that Christmas-day was not kept at all in Scotland. Such is not the case; the Scots do keep Christmas-day, and in the same kindly Christian spirit that we do, though the Presbyterian austerity of their church does not acknowledge it as a religious festival”

Halliday’s 19th century account went on to describe festive sowens (sweetened oat gruel) ceremonies, “beggars” (actually “strapping fellows”) singing yule song, dances and card parties and children’s teetotum games. Despite Puritan rule, some long-time Christmas traditions are preserved. These include burning the Cailleach (a piece of wood carved to look like an old woman’s face or the Spirit of Winter) to start the new year fresh; or on Christmas Eve burning rowan tree branches to signify the resolution of any disputes. The Celtic tradition of placing candles in windows was also done in Scotland to welcome “first footers” (strangers, bearing a small gift) into the home. Traditional dishes also continue to be featured at Christmas lunch and throughout the holidays, including Cock-a-Leekie soup, smoked salmon, beef or duck, Clootie dumplings, black buns, sun cakes, Christmas pudding and Crannachan.

Because Christmas was not an official holiday until the late ‘50s it is no surprise that today, for some Scots, Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve) is the most important event of the season. Arguably, locals ring in the new year with much more gusto than any other place on the planet.

IRELAND

An Autumn clean up was a common practice in Irish homes to prepare for Christmas. Women looked after cleaning the interior, while men took care of the outdoors, including whitewashing all exterior surfaces. Then holly, grown wild in Ireland, was spread throughout the house with cheer. Contemporary Ireland also highlights this clean-up ritual; once complete, fresh Christmas linens are taken out of storage.

Other customs include the Bloc na Nollaig or Christmas Block (the Irish version of the Yule log), candles in the window (perhaps one for each family member), and leading up to Christmas, ‘Calling the Waites’ where musicians would wake up townspeople through serenades and shouting out the morning hour. Christmas Eve Mass is still a grand affair; a time for friends and family to reconnect. It is not uncommon for churchgoers to end up at the local pub after service to ring in Christmas morn. On Christmas Day, traditional dishes include roast goose or ham and sausages, potatoes (such as champ), vegetables (such as cabbage with bacon) and plum pudding, whiskey, Christmas cake and barmbrack (currant loaf) for sweets. Traditionally on December 26th, St. Stephen’s Day, Wren Boys with blackened faces, carrying a pole with a dead bird pierced at the top, tramped from house to house. Today the custom sometimes sees children caroling throughout the neighbourhood to raise money for charity. It is also quite common to go out visiting on this day.

WALES

Music was and still is a major part of Welsh holidays. Plygain is a Christmas day church service, traditionally held between three and six in the morning featuring males singing acapella in three or four-part harmonies. While today this may be mainly practised in rural areas, Eisteddfodde (caroling) is abundantly popular in homes, door-to-door and as part of annual song-writing competitions.

Dylan Thomas’ story ‘A Child’s Christmas in Wales’ is renowned around the world. An excerpt offers a glimpse of a traditional Welsh festive season:

“Always on Christmas night there was music. An uncle played the fiddle, a cousin sang ‘Cherry Ripe’ and another uncle sang ‘Drake’s Drum’… Looking through my bedroom window, out into the moonlight and the unending smoke-coloured snow, I could see the lights in the windows of all the other houses on our hill and hear the music rising from them up the long, steady falling night”

Other intriguing Welsh traditions include toffee making; drinking from a communal wassail bowl of fruit, spices, sugar and beer; children visiting homes on New Year’s Day looking for their Callenig gift; and Mary Lwyd (Grey Mare) featuring wassail singers going door-to-door carrying a horse’s skull and challenging residents in a contest of mocking rhymes.

ISLE OF MAN

Carolling also holds a special place in Manx Christmas celebrations, but traditionally an unconventional twist characterized it. On Christmas Eve, large numbers attended church for Carval. While the congregation sang, all of a sudden women would begin the traditional food fight, having peas on hand to throw at their male counterparts! Accounts from the 1700s and 1800s describe 12 days of non-stop Christmas celebrations where every barn was filled with dancers accompanied by fiddlers the local parish hired. The Reverend John Entick recorded in 1774

“On the twelfth day the fiddler lays his head on one of the women’s laps, which posture they look upon as a kind of oracle. For one of the company coming up and naming every maiden in the company, asks the fiddler, who shall this or that girl marry? And whatever he answers it is absolutely depended on as an oracle”

As in Celtic fashion, Hunting the Wren processions occurred on the Isle of Man and today the practice is going through a revival, characterized by costumes, singing and dancing.

Other Manx customs include Mollag Bands, wearing eccentric clothing, swinging a mollag (fishing float) and demanding money (a practice since outlawed); the kissing bush (a more elaborate ornament than a sprig of mistletoe); and Cammag, a sport that originated on the Isle of Man traditionally played on December 26th and/or Easter Monday. In older times but even as recently as the early 20th century, Christmas decorations were not taken down until Pancake Tuesday (when they were burnt under the pancake pan). Now holiday décor tends to be packed away on Old Christmas (January 6th).

CORNWALL

As a result of Oliver Cromwell banning Christmas, authentic holiday carols began to fade through much of Britain. However, throughout the 1800’s, Cornish composers and collectors sparked a revival of local Christmas song.Certain carols well-known around the world, such as Hark the Herald Angels and While Shepherds, are credited to Cornish origins.

“Contrary to the effect Methodism might have had on the English carollers, in Cornwall its impact was to stimulate song,” states the Cornwall Council (Cornish Christmas Carols – Or Curls, 2011). “In those areas where Methodism was strongest, music and signing had their greatest appeal, and notably so at Christmas. The singers would practice in chapels and school-rooms, some of them walking miles to be there”

Today, Cornwall erupts in festivals, fairs and markets during the holidays. The Montol Festival in Penzance (named for Montol Eve on December 21st) is a six-day celebration highlighting many Cornish traditions. These include Mummers plays, lantern processions, Guise dancing (participants dress in masks and costume, such as mock formal dress, to play music and dance).

Montol is also the time for burning the Mock (yule log). A stickman or woman is drawn on the block of wood with chalk. When the log burns, it symbolizes the death of the old year and birth of the year to come.

BRITTANY

Brittany boasts a wealth of folklore and supernatural beliefs around Christmas time. Christmas Eve was known as a night of miraculous apparitions from fairies to Korrigans, and at midnight, for just a brief moment, waters in the wells would turn into the most sweet-tasting wine. It was also at midnight, when families were either at mass or in bed, that ghosts would surface; traditionally food was left out for deceased loved ones just in case they visited.

During the holidays, Christmas markets come alive in many Breton towns vending hand-made crafts and toys, baked cakes and bread and ingredients for Christmas dinner. You can also buy Gallette des Rois at stalls, as well as bakeries, which is traditionally eaten on January 6th (Epiphany). A tiny figurine (the fève) is hidden inside the puff pastry cake; the person who finds the figurine in their piece gets to be king or queen for the day and wear a crown. Another special tradition through all of France is a meal after Christmas Eve’s midnight mass, called Réveillon. Specifically in Britany, the traditional dish for this occasion is buckwheat crêpes with cream.

GALICIA

Galicia has its own unique Christmas gift-bearer that pre-dates Christianity. He is called Apalpador, a giant who lives in the mountains. For Christmas, he descends into the villages below to make sure each child has a full belly. He brings treats, such as chestnuts, and well wishes for a year full of delicious sustenance. While Apalpador may not be widely observed in Galicia, his legend is seeing a revival.

Food is very important during the Galician holidays, featuring at least two feasts (on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day). Not surprisingly, seafood is on the menu, including lobster, prawns, shrimp, sea bass, and cod with garlic and paprika sauce. Other culinary delights consist of cured meat, cheese and bread, roast beef with vegetables and for dessert tarta de Santiago (almond cake), filloas (stuffed pancakes) and turrones (nougats). The children of anticipate the coming of the Three Kings or Magis by filling their shoes and leaving them outside on Epiphany Eve, January 5th. Many Galician’s communities also parade on the 5th.

So there you have it the old traditions just like the traditional music we all love live on…

Nollick Ghennal as Blein Vie Noa (Manx Gaelic)

Nollaig Chridheil agus Bliadhna Mhath ùr (Scottish Gaelic)

Nollaig Shona Dhuit agus Bliain Nua Fe Mhaise (Irish Gaelic)

Nedeleg Laouen na Bloavezh Mat  (Breton)

Nadolig Llawen a Blwyddyn Newydd Dda (Welsh)

Nadelik Lowen ha Bledhen Nowyth Da (Cornish)

Further Christmas themed fun with this London Celtic Punks Top Twenty

GET IN THE FESTIVE SPIRIT WITH THE LONDON CELTIC PUNKS CHRISTMAS CELTIC PUNK TOP-TWENTY!

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Now go have a drink…

ODDS’N’SODS. CELTIC-PUNK ROUND UP DECEMBER 2020

In a attempt to get away from just doing ‘ReviewReviewReviewReview…’ we started a monthly feature of all the Celtic-Punk news that passed us by. All will get a mention but I need YOU to help if it’s going to work. Any band news, record releases, videos, tours (not individual gigs though yet sadly), live streams, crowd funders etc., send it into us at londoncelticpunks@hotmail.co.uk or through the Contact Us page.

So much has written about it but here is our one and only take on FONY and it comes from the man himself. The Pogues’ Shane MacGowan brands decision to censor Fairytale of New York ‘ridiculous’  from The Irish Post, 25th November 2020.

We may have heard it a million times before but here’s a different spin on FONY but with a New York Puerto Rican influence by ST. DOYLE AND THE LAST CALL PHILHARMONIC.

‘Johnny Depp Presents’ it states right at the beginning of this feature length documentary on the Godfather of Celtic-Punk the legendary Shane MacGowan. Featuring unseen archival footage from The Pogues and Shane’s family, as well as animation from Ralph Steadman, Julien Temple’s rollicking love letter spotlights the iconic frontman up to his 60th birthday celebration, where singers, movie stars and Rock’n’Roll outlaws gathered to celebrate the man and his legacy. Available everywhere December 4th!!

The BRICK TOP BLAGGERS are a wicked band and here’s a full band live performance originally streamed on the internet but shown here on You Tube. The Blaggers been as active as any band can over the last few months and we’ve enjoyed some great Live Streams from them but this one, performed for the 2020 Samhain Celtic New Year Festival, is one of the better ones regarding sound.

We’ve seen plenty of the DROPKICK MURPHYS since Paddy’s Day but each time with no one there so here’s a recently released video of their storming full set from their last tour at Zenith in Paris on the 9th of February.

Two new songs have been released by the DROPKICK MURPHYS. A cover of Darlene Love’s ‘Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) and a new song ‘I Wish You Were Here’ are out on limited edition 7″ flexi-discs available from the Murphys store. They, unsurprisingly, have some wicked new merch available too and just in time for Christmas! At the same time it was announced that the new album will be out in mid-January.

BARBAR’O’RHUM – Pirate Des Champs

EFA SUPERTRAMP – Rhyddid yw y Freuddwyd

LQR – Barrel-Aged

PYROLYSIS – Alotsle

PENNILESS TENANTS – Lockdown Sessions (review next week!!)

Remember if you want your release featured then we have to have heard it first!

Love these daft feckers! They done the Murphys ‘Shipping Up To Boston’ a while back and now they turn their attention to The Rumjacks absolutely-mega-fecking-internet hit ‘An Irish Pub’. I’ll not go into it but sit back and have a listen and again top marks for destroying the ridiculous notion of cultural appropriation. Yes lads it is bollocks.

Life goes on and THE RUMJACKS have a brand new video out seeing them performing ‘McAlpine’s Fusiliers’ dahn an Irish pub in Milan, Italy with new vocalist Mikee from Mickey Rickshaw.

French Pirate Punkers BARBAR’O’RHUM have a new album out and also released the epic ‘Pirate Des Champs’ video. Nearly ten minutes of Pirate themed fun!

Mariner Rock, and Celtic Shenanigans, homebrewed on the South Shore of Nova Scotia. Even doing this we still come across stuff we missed from the past that is worth another look. This time we turn once again to Nova Scotia where we turn our attention to THE STAB ROVERS. Nova Scotia is home to vast amounts of Celtic folk and Celtic folk Folk bands and the area has featured here regularly. The Stab Rovers debut album came out in June, 2018 and is available as a ‘name your price’ download. The Bhoys are happily still together and looking forward to recording soon.

Now I don’t pretend to know anything about Hip-Hop and I do know what I like and here’s a couple of new releases that got me. The first video is ‘Back Around The Way’ featuring a bunch of rappers from Boston and New England including our auld favourite SLAINE and American Irish bhoy MILLYZ.

Another rapper to feature on these pages before is the Manchester born Irish D’LYFA REILLY who has a new single out available as a ‘name your price’ download. If you remember he performed with DANNY DIATRIBE on the utterly fantasticPaddys Cure’. Irish immigrant Hip-Hop at its finest!

The Polish band PIJUN have released their debut release, a 5-track demo called Jigra. The band play Slavic Folk which I’m sure you’ll hear is close to Celtic in both sound and vibe.

Dutch band PYROLYSIS had to postpone their dates in England earlier in the year but have just released a mini album of six songs. They play an incredibly joyful mix of Celtic music and Folk and are still not wearing any shoes!

Swedish Celtic/ Folk/ Irish Punk-Rock band PUNK MAHONE performed a bloomin’ brilliant Live Stream on Facebook at the end of October and it has just come out on You Tube. Not to be missed!

A plug for some good friends of ours over on Facebook. The Dropkick Murphys- Fan Page and the Celtic Punk, Folk And Rock Fans are two of the best music forums on FB let alone Celtic-Punk. Ran By Fans For Fans. Just like and join in the fun!

All we need to do now is for you to help fill this page with news and remember if you are new to the London Celtic Punks blog it is easy to subscribe / follow and never miss a post. Also if anyone is interested in helping out on the reviews front then let us know via the Contact Us page.

THE POGUESTRA WITH **EXTRA SPECIAL GUESTS**

The PoguestrA is a flexible group of musicians from around the world who are also fans of The Pogues. It was established in May 2020 during the lockdown with musicians playing together remotely.
A community powered by passion, diversity and inclusion.

The PoguestrA is a flexible group of musicians from around the world who are also fans of The Pogues. It all started in May 2020, during the lockdown, when Daniele Rubertelli, an Italian fan who plays accordion, launched a ‘Call For Musicians’ to perform (remotely) Dirty Old Town within the Facebook community of Pogues fans. As a result, sixteen musicians from the UK, Ireland, Italy, The Netherlands and USA contributed to the cover of the great Ewan MacColl track. The song even reached the ears of Peggy Seeger, the late Ewan’s wife and renowned singer/songwriter in her own right, who sent over words of appreciation. Since then The PoguestrA have covered other songs of The Pogues, always using “public calls” on Facebook to ensure inclusion for all the musicians moved by the same passion. They recently covered the Shane MacGowan penned ‘The Broad Majestic Shannon’ with an amazing twenty-eight musicians from around the world and featuring Cisco, the founder and former frontman of the legendary Italian band Modena City Ramblers. Their latest video release is ‘Misty Morning Albert Bridge’ from The Pogues fourth album, Peace and Love. Written by banjo player Jem Finer about the famous Albert Bridge that connects Chelsea on the north bank to Battersea on the south and features scores of brilliant musicians from right across the world including Irish international Kevin McManamon on mandolin!!

For their new song the PoguestrA has recruited Celtic-Punk royalty to their ranks with Jem Finer and James Fearnley from the faraway shores of London and Los Angeles respectfully. Anyone interested in joining the gang then get in touch with them through their Facebook page.

Misty Morning Albert Bridge (Jem Finer) performed by The PoguestrA

Recorded in November 2020

I dreamt we were standing
By the banks of the Thames
Where the cold grey waters ripple
In the misty morning light
Held a match to your cigarette
Watched the smoke curl in the mist
Your eyes, blue as the ocean between us
Smiling at me
*
I awoke so cold and lonely
In a faraway place
The sun fell cold upon my face
The cracks in the ceiling spelt hell
Turned to the wall
Pulled the sheets around my head
Tried to sleep, and dream my way
Back to you again
*
Count the days
Slowly passing by
Step on a plane
And fly away
I’ll see you then
As the dawn birds sing
On a cold and misty morning
By the Albert Bridge
*

Jem Finer: Hurdy Gurdy (London) / James Fearnley: Accordion (Los Angeles) / Daniel Al-Ayoubi: Mandolin (Bonn, Germany) / Moisés Álvarez Rodríguez: Ukulele (Madrid, Spain) / Juan Brown: Vocals, Tin Whistle (Shetland Islands) / Brendan Burke: Tin Whistle (England) / Brandon Caylor: Mando-Guitar, Melodica (CaliforniA, USA)/ Dana Caylor & Samantha Caylor: Vocals (California, USA) / Helena Cooke: Renaissance Recorder (England) / Chris Cunningham: Banjo (Indiana/USA) / Tijl Delannoy: Vocals (Belgium) / John Dunne: Vocals, Trumpet (England) / Leigh Fowler: Fiddle (Chicago, USA) / Chris Goddard: Fiddle (England) / Matt Goddard: Drums (England) / Elizabeth Harman: Fiddle (California/USA) / Robin Hiermer: Vocals (Germany) / Dave Keating: Guitar, Vocals (Chicago, USA) / Jeff Ingarfield: Vocals (England) / Erwin Lemmens: Trumpet (The Netherlands) / Heather Macleod: Harp (Isle of Arran) / Mattia Malusardi: Bouzouki (Italy) / Vince Martini: Stand-Up Bass (California, USA) / Kevin McManamon: Mandolin (Dublin, Ireland) / Sean McManamy: Vocals (Chicago, USA) / Rick Nuttall: Vocals (England) / John O’Donnell: Guitar, Vocals (Chicago, USA)/ David O’Donoghue: Vocals (Ireland) / Daniele Rubertelli: Accordion, Vocals (Italy) / Frits Sieswerda: Vocals, Harmonica (The Netherlands) / Marcel van Bergen: Guitar (The Netherlands) / Tim van den Hombergh: Low Whistle (The Netherlands) / Paddy Vervoort: Vocals, Bodhran (The Netherlands) / Zac: Vocals (Italy). Dancers: Lian and Hans-Jürgen Klischat (Göttingen, Germany) / Rick and Heather Nuttall (England) / Jeff Ingarfield and Justine Stampton (England) / Daniele Rubertelli and Simona Rossi (Italy).

Audio & Video editing by Tim van den Hombergh.

If you are interested in joining the PoguestrA for future songs then get in touch with the gang viaYouTube orFacebook

LET THE MUSIC KEEP YOUR SPIRITS HIGH – PART THREE

Welcome to the final installment of Let The Music Keep Your Spirits high. Over the last three Sundays Andy Nolan of the most popular and influential Irish band in England over the last 20 years – the Bible Code Sundays – has shared with us the history and meaning behind some of his songs. A fascinating trip through the Irish diaspora in England, Ireland and the USA and their historical figures. So here is Part Three (links to the previous two are at the bottom) so get yourself a cup of tea (or maybe something stronger) and sit back and enjoy.

GHOSTS OF OUR PAST

I wrote this about growing up in Hammersmith, West London during the 1970s and 80s. Most of the pubs around Hammersmith, Fulham and Shepherds Bush were Irish back then – ‘The Hop Poles And Swan’.
“You’re not wanted here, stopped by the law, comin out of the station, just like before”.
My dad used to get stopped by the police all the time going to & from work simply because he was Irish. ‘What’s in the bag Paddy?’ they’d bark, referring to his work bag holding his sandwiches & tea. The truth was they were looking for guns and explosives or to fit someone up. But for the grace of God go I – look what happened to the Birmingham Six, the Guildford Four and the Maguire Seven. My dad and his mates sometimes worked seven days a week on the buildings back then and were in the pub every night sinking back 15 pints. They’d still be up for work in the morning of course and they worked their fingers to the bone rebuilding this country. The ‘riverside strolls’ refers to our walks by The Thames and Hammersmith Bridge when we were kids and all the down and out winos (who were mostly Irish or Scottish) we’d meet along the way –
“the broken old men, battered and down, down by the riverside falling around”.

NOW WE’RE PRINCES

I wrote this as the soundtrack for my crime drama feature film project Clan London, which unfortunately didn’t receive the industry funding it required to go into production. Looking back, it wasn’t the right time for that movie to be made for several reasons which I won’t go into now. Rest assured and God willing it will be made one day with a fantastic cast and crew on board! The money we did raise through crowdfunding was used instead to make my two short films Tax City (Steve Collins, Jon Campling, Razor Smith) and Jack Mulligan (Terri Dwyer, Steve Collins, Dean Smith, Ruth Adams). Both films were premiered at BAFTA, Piccadilly to sold out screenings. Jack Mulligan won Best Overall Film at the Ambassador Reel Film Festival in Cork, Ireland and was premiered on the London Live channel in 2019.
We filmed the music video itself with Darren S Cook around Ladbroke Grove, West London where the Clan London storyline is set and also at Under The Bridge, Chelsea and Roughrockers Studio, Uxbridge. The lovely Lorraine O’Reilly sang on this track too which featured on our album New Hazardous Design!

NIGHT CROSSING

Next up – Night Crossing. I wrote this about the Syrian refugee crisis & the photo of the little boy Alan Kurdi RIP washed up dead on the shores of Turkey after his boat capsized while trying to reach Greece with his parents. I wanted to open peoples minds with a song written from the viewpoint of a refugee family embarking on a desperate & perilous journey to Europe. All too often we witness deplorable comments on social media such as ‘good, that’s one less of them coming over here’ when these tragic stories break. Where’s your humanity? Where is your solidarity? Imagine if this was your family living in a war-zone trying to escape being blown to bits on a daily basis, what would you do? Of course, you would do exactly the same thing & try and escape to give them a better life. And who sells the weapons of war to these governments – making profit from innocent people’s heartbreak? Yes, quite probably your own government so think before you judge!
We got the brilliant Brian Kelly in to play banjo & mandolin on this track which featured on our most recent album Walk Like Kings. Enjoy, rethink, reflect X

THE PITTSBURG KID

Well I couldn’t just write one song about an Irish American fighter could I? There’s so many to chose from! Our good friend Gary McDonald was onto me for ages to write a song about his adopted home of Philadelphia. The nearest I could get was Pittsburg (sorry Gary) because of my love for one of its finest sons. My affection for Billy Conn goes back to when I was a kid and the boxing stories my dad RIP used to tell me. He’d always be raving about Conn, Gene Tunney, Jack Dempsey, Gerry Quarry and Rocky Marciano:

‘My father told me when I was six
Of Billy Conn, the Pittsburg Kid
And as he spoke I wished that I had been there
To the Steel City his parents came
From Ireland’s shores in search of fame
The streets of S’Liberty became their home where –
William David Conn was born,
A tough street fighter, hands of stone
With film star looks and a left that fighters dream of….’
Conn really was a great looking dude and Morrissey even put a photo of him on the front cover of his 1995 single ‘Boxers’. He wasn’t just a pretty face though that’s for sure and in 1939 he met World Light Heavyweight Champion Melio Bettina in New York, outpointing him in 15 rounds and winning the World Light Heavyweight title. Conn defended his title against Bettina and twice against another World Light Heavyweight Champion, Gus Lesnevich. He also beat former World Middleweight Champion Al McCoy and heavyweights Bob Pastor, Lee Savold, Gunnar Barlund and Buddy Knox in non-title bouts during his run as World Light Heavyweight Champion.
But he will forever be remembered for coming so close to beating arguably one of the greatest fighters of all time – Joe Louis. In 1941, Conn gave up his World Light Heavyweight title to challenge the brilliant Louis who was now the World Heavyweight Champion. Conn wanted to be the first World Light Heavyweight Champion in boxing history to win the World Heavyweight Championship and to do so without going up in weight. The fight became part of boxing folklore because Conn held a secure lead on the scorecards going into Round 13 – unlucky for some! According to many experts and fans who watched the fight, Conn was outmaneuvering and outboxing Louis right up until that point. In a move that Conn would regret for the rest of his life, he tried to go for the knockout in Round 13 and instead ended up losing the fight himself by knockout in that very same round. Ten minutes after the fight, Conn told reporters ‘I lost my head and a million bucks.’
‘Of all sad words of tongue & pen
The saddest are ‘what might have been’
One night in ‘41 in New York City
For 13 rounds he outboxed Louis
Blew away The Bomber but his Irish pride for once was his undoing’
Sleep well Billy RIP.

RUNNING FROM OUR SHADOWS

This will be the final Bible Code Sundays track I’ll be posting written by myself with a brief description about the song. I hope you’ve enjoyed my ramblings on here over the last three Sundays. Thanks for all your very kind words and for taking the time to listen to the songs X
Next up – Running From Our Shadows. I wrote this as a submission for the movie Black Mass which starred Johnny Depp as the notorious, real life Boston gangster Whitey Bulger. Although they really liked the song, in the end the producers decided to go with one specific musical piece throughout the film. It is written from the perspective of a fugitive on the run from the law, his reflections on the life he has chosen, how it brought him to this point and how it has affected the ones he loves:
“I can hear the bells of home
As I whisper down the phone
It’s a Black Mass, baby
It’s that ancient Irish code
I will always be a part
Of your New England heart
So don’t stop lovin now the Feds are on us”
We shot the video for this with Adie Hardy at Panic Studios, Park Royal literally weeks before we lost our dear Carlton RIP. I couldn’t watch it for a very long time. It was hard to go back to that day when we were all together and having the craic as usual. Little did we know what the following few weeks and months would bring. We deliberately went for a dark, moody shoot to tie in with the film’s subject matter but it took on a whole new meaning when we lost Carlton. It’s like watching a moment in time now where darkness would soon descend on us all. Very surreal.
Once again we asked the brilliant Lorraine O’Reilly to sing on this track. Her beautiful vocals on here sound angelic. I wanted a female vocalist because the song is about the relationship between a fugitive on the run and the girl he left behind back in South Boston:
“I’m remembering the air
The colour of your hair
Those Old Colony girls
With their tough & friendly stare
The projects where we ran
Our dreams held in our hands
They were right from the heart
Letters written from my…”
We love and miss you always Carlton but we know you’re around us all the time. Until we meet again, save us a seat at the bar buddy.

The Bible Code Sundays have been regulars on the London Irish circuit for over a decade and continue to pack them in across London. You can catch the band or some variation of them on most days of the week somewhere in the capital. The best place to find out their gig dates is on their Facebook page. Their records are still available on Spotify above or Amazon and iTunes or at their gigs. Most recently they starred on the compilation album Quintessential Quarantunes featuring six bands, three from Ireland and three based in London and recorded during the lockdown.

ALBUM REVIEW: THE POGUES – ‘BBC SESSIONS 1984 – 1986 (2020)

The first ‘new’ release from The Pogues for quite a while compiles all their various BBC Sessions between April 1984 and July 1985. This CD/ digital release includes two sessions not included on the recent vinyl version of this album. 

The Pogues – BBC Sessions is the definitive complete collection that The Pogues recorded for the BBC during that era. All the tracks date between 1984 and 1986 and thirteen of the recordings are previously unreleased. That is not to say they are unheard as apart from their initial airing they have long been available on bootleg tapes back in the day and CD’s plus most can be heard on You Tube too. The album is available on CD, digital and streaming platforms and will be released on October 30. If you have already heard of it then that is because a special vinyl only version was released for Record Store Day on Saturday 29th August. That release was limited to 5000 copies and only includes sixteen songs which begs the question why not make it a double album and include all the songs that would be on the CD/ digital release? The vinyl version was available for Record Store Day only but is still readily available around the net but shop around as it varies in price quite considerably.

Record Store Day is an annual event inaugurated in 2008 and held on one Saturday every April and every Black Friday in November to celebrate the culture of the independently owned record store. The day brings together fans, artists, and thousands of independent record stores across the world.

This twenty-three track album features a collection of songs from six separate live sessions from BBC radio shows: The John Peel Show (April 1984), The David ‘Kid’ Jensen Show (July 1984), The John Peel Show (December 1984), The Phil Kennedy Show (March 1985), The Janice Long Show (July 1985) and The Janice Long Show (November 1986). The album groups each session together in chronological order from their first session recorded in April, 1984 when they were still called Pogue Mahone.

TRACKS 

Broadcast  April 17th 1984 (as Pogue Mahone) on The John Peel Show
1)      Streams Of Whiskey*
2)      Greenland Whale Fisheries*
3)      Boys From The County Hell*
4)      The Auld Triangle
Broadcast July 9th 1984 on the David ‘Kid’ Jensen Show
5)      Dingle Regatta*
6)      Poor Paddy On The Railway
7)      Boys From The County Hell
8)      Connemara, Let’s Go*

Broadcast December 4th 1984 on the John Peel Show 
9)      Whiskey You’re The Devil*
10)    Navigator*
11)    Sally MacLennane
16)    Danny Boy
Broadcast March 2nd 1985 on The Phil Kennedy Show 
13)    A Pair Of Brown Eyes ***
14)    Muirshin Durkin ***
15)    Sally MacLennane ***

Broadcast July 11th 1985 on the Janice Long Show
16)    Wild Cats Of Kilkenny*
17)    Billy’s Bones
18)    The Old Main Drag
19)    Dirty Old Town*
Broadcast November 5th 1986 on the Janice Long Show
20)    If I Should Fall From Grace With God ***
21)    Lullaby Of London ***
22)    The Rake At The Gates Of Hell ***
23)    Turkish Song Of The Damned ***
     *** Not featured on RSD vinyl release  * Previously unreleased

The collection captures The Pogues sound as heard through their first three albums: 1984’s Red Roses For Me, 1985’s Elvis Costello-produced Rum, Sodomy & The Lash, and 1986’s If I Should Fall From Grace With God along with a handful of single B-sides and novelties like the immortal ‘Danny Boy’. Ten of the album’s twenty-three tracks were previously collected on the career-spanning box set Just Look Them Straight In The Eye and Say…Pogue Mahone!! released in 2008. From the first chords of ‘Streams Of Whiskey’ when they were still going by the Pogue Mahone moniker. They were fresh from a tour supporting The Clash and had recently signed to Stiff Records but the BBC were reluctant to play their debut single due to their name. Being a rough Irish translation of ‘Kiss My Arse’ had the BBC clutching their handbags and so the band reluctantly changed their name to The Pogues. Throughout the controversy John Peel was the only one to use their original name. The album covers The Pogues great range from moving ballads all the way to the raucous punk they were more than capable of and ends with a selection of songs that would appear on If I Should Fall From Grace With God released two years after the session they appear on here.

Buy The Pogues BBC Sessions  AppleMusic  Amazon  iTunes  Spotify

LET THE MUSIC KEEP YOUR SPIRITS HIGH – PART TWO

Our short series on the songs of Andy Nolan continues today with another five of Andy’s masterpieces. As a past member of Shane MacGowan And The Popes and Spider Stacy’s Vendettas he has a great musical legacy but it’s as accordion player and songwriter for London Irish musical tour-de-force The Bible Code Sundays that Andy’s songs have defined a generation. The words to these songs are now known and sung by fans across the world and their influence is immeasurable with many bands trying to capture the Bible Codes sound. No band since The Pogues have helped define what it is to be London Irish and it is a common feeling on watching The Bible Code Sundays that these songs speak directly to the heart of the listener and encompass the same feelings and much of the same upbringing and beliefs that we had too! As we said before Andy is also a talented screenwriter, artist, producer and author. He was born in Hammersmith, West London surrounded by immigrants from across the world and, of course, a more than healthy contingent from Ireland but as you can see here from his songs about Irish-America he knows the Irish diaspora very well. Among his many achievements are the short films Tax City, and Jack Mulligan. And if anyone out there has spare few hundreds of thousands he is still raising funds for the feature film Clann London. So without further ado and again with Andy’s kind permission here is Part 2.

McBRATNEY FROM THE KITCHEN

About the notorious Westies gang that operated out of Hell’s Kitchen, NYC from the 1960s through to early 2000. There had always been dangerous Irish gangs on New York’s westside since the 1840s, going right back to the Gangs Of New York era but none were more ruthless than the Westies. A favourite pastime of these volatile Irish American hoods was kidnapping Mafia guys and holding them to ransom until they received payments of roughly $150,000 each time. On most occasions the ransom was paid and the wiseguys were released relatively unharmed. On one occasion however, James McBratney along with Eddie Maloney and John Kilcullen kidnapped Vincent D’Amore a capo in the Gambino crime family and during the commotion on the street someone noted their licence plate & handed it over to the Mafia who by this stage were at their wits end with the wild, uncontrollable Irish mob. On 22 May, 1973 John Gotti along with two henchmen entered Snoopes Bar on Staten Island where, after a furious struggle with the 6 foot 3” 250 pounds McBratney, they finally deposited three bullets into the Irishman’s body at close range killing him instantly. This did not spell the end for The Westies, far from it. A new breed of bloodthirsty Irishers in the form of Mickey Featherstone and Jimmy Coonan soon followed in their predecessors footsteps. Rudolph Giuliani, a federal prosecutor at the time who would later become the mayor of New York announced a devastating RICO indictment against Coonan & the gang for criminal activities going back twenty years. Featherstone testified in open court for four weeks in the trial that began in September 1987 and concluded with major convictions for the gang in 1988. Coonan was sentenced to sixty years in prison on assorted charges while Featherstone remains in the witness protection programme.
I remember Spider Stacy telling me about the time The Pogues played at the NYC launch of TJ English’s famous true crime book ‘The Westies’ and the Westies gang threatened to bomb the event! The movie State Of Grace starring Sean Penn, Ed Harris and Gary Oldman is based on Coonan and Featherstone.

WHITEY

This caused quite a stir when we released it back in 2006 especially in Whitey’s home city of Boston! Some people loved it while others viewed it as a glorification of Bulger who had recently been outed as an FBI informer. Being a rat in the criminal underworld is of course unforgivable. The truth is I wanted the song to be a raucous foot stomper laced in both glorification and hatred, so while Whitey’s meteoric rise through the Boston underworld is revealed, there is also a dark undercurrent of menace in the chorus from his associates who wish to lure him to his death:
“Whitey, Whitey where the hell are you?
There’s a barroom of poitín here waiting for you,
All the boys here in Southie with Tullamore Dew,
For the South Boston chieftain a right loyal crew”
Whitey was at one time second only to Osama Bin Laden on the FBI’s Most Wanted List after he fled Boston and went on the run for 16 years! Karma eventually caught up with Boston’s most infamous gangster when he was finally captured in Santa Monica, CA in 2011 then murdered in his Virginia prison cell in 2018. The movie Black Mass starring Johnny Depp, Kevin Bacon and Benedict Cumberbatch is about Whitey and The Winter Hill Gang. Enjoy the song, or don’t fuckin enjoy it, the choice is yours!

MY TOWN

I originally wrote this for a Boston based mob movie called ‘Townies’ which was set in Charlestown MA and I wanted it to sound like The Rolling Stones with an Irish twist. The opening guitar riff is very ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ and we deliberately went for that vibe from the outset. It is written from the perspective of a young street hood working his way up through the ranks of the Irish Mob to become top dog in the city. The path he has chosen is a very dangerous one as he negotiates his way through age old, bitter mob family feuds but his lust for money and power knows no bounds. This kid will take out anyone in his way in order to become the King of Charlestown. ‘The Town’ starring Ben Affleck is also set in Charlestown and had a similar storyline to Townies which unfortunately never went into production

THE BOYS OF QUEENS

A tribute to the FDNY, I wrote this song about an Irish American family steeped in the tradition of the Fire Department of New York – but from the words of one son, a US marine, who finds himself behind enemy lines during the Iraq war. Just before he dies he recalls how he lost his father and brothers in 9/11 and longs to be back with his wife and children in his native Queens. No one has a monopoly on grief, but 9/11 hit New York’s Irish community hard. The Irish were the rock on which the FDNY and NYPD were built during their inception many years ago and sons traditionally followed their fathers and grandfathers into the ranks of the fire department and police – a tradition still prevalent to this day. When everyone else was running out of the Twin Towers, these guys along with their Italian, Puerto Rican and black American brothers were running in.
May they rest in peace.
The song was used in the CBS TV show Unforgettable in 2012.

THE LORDS OF WINTER HILL

The Winter Hill district of Somerville MA has a long, bloody history of deadly Irish gang wars played out primarily between The Winter Hill Gang originally led by Buddy McLean, Howie Winter and Joe McDonald and the Charlestown Mob headed by brothers Bernie and Eddie McLoughlin. The bitter feud began in 1961 and lasted until 1967 resulting in the deaths of more than 60 people. The song also outlines the arrival of the Famine Irish into Boston during the 1840s and the dramatic rise and fall of their descendants including the Kennedys via bootlegging and politics and Whitey Bulger who eventually became leader of The Winter Hill Gang. In typical Boston Irish tradition, Whitey’s brother Billy was a former Democratic politician, lawyer and the President of the Massachusetts Senate for 18 years. The long tradition of war veterans from these working class neighborhoods is celebrated too:
“We gave to you our sons
For the Stars And Stripes they stand
They fought in North Korea and they died in Vietnam
Shot down on the beaches, butchered in the fields
Then carried home to Boston and their homes in Somerville’
The chorus then is an anthem of adoration for the city of Boston from the hundreds of thousands of Irish immigrants who were forced to flee Ireland and make it their new home:
‘You opened your arms to me
We’re home from the sea
Boston, we love you still
Now forever the Lords of Winter Hill’
The outro details the age-old blood ties with the old country through Boston politics and gangsterism:
‘The Gustin Gang, the Mullens, The Provo’s and Killeens
Their blood ran down The Mystic and far across the sea,
Celtic cross and tombstones, a monument there still
To Ireland’s sons and daughters and The Lords of Winter Hill’
The reel featured throughout is written by the late, great Tommy McManamon who played with the legendary Shane MacGowan And The Popes. I swear I can hear his banjo on this track, can you hear it too? RIP Tommy.

The Bible Code Sundays have been regulars on the London Irish circuit for over a decade and continue to pack them in across London. You can catch the band or some variation of them on most days of the week somewhere in the capital. The best place to find out their gig dates is on their Facebook page. Their records are still available on Spotify above or Amazon and iTunes or at their gigs. Most recently they starred on the compilation album Quintessential Quarantunes featuring six bands, three from Ireland and three based in London and recorded during the lockdown.

LET THE MUSIC KEEP YOUR SPIRITS HIGH – PART ONE

LET THE MUSIC KEEP YOUR SPIRITS HIGH – PART ONE

Photo- Paul Gallagher

Andy Nolan is best known on these pages as the accordion player and songwriter for the London Irish musical tour-de-force The Bible Code Sundays and as an ex-member of Shane MacGowan And The Popes and Spider Stacy’s Vendettas but there’s a lot more to him than just being an expert accordionist. Andy is also a talented screenwriter, producer and author. Born in Hammersmith, West London at a time when the Irish influence on London was at its greatest his songs speak not only of home in London and Ireland but stretch across the worldwide Irish diaspora with an special a focus on the United States. Among his many achievements he wrote and produced the short film Tax City, and the London Irish crime drama, Jack Mulligan, which premiered on London Live. Here over the last few weeks on his Facebook page he posted a brief description of a few of the standout songs he has written and the history behind the words. Well we thought it was too good not to share with you lot so with Andy’s kind permission here over the next couple of Sundays is Part 1 with Part 2 to follow next week.

THE SWAMP RATS OF LOUISIANA

A tribute to the 30,000 Irishmen who died in New Orleans digging out the New Basin Canal – a navigational waterway linking Lake Pontchartrain with the Mighty Mississippi. Over a four year period from 1832, thousands of Irishmen jumped into the swamps & dug in a straight line towards the lake. Many of them had been tricked by cotton brokers back in Liverpool that they were being transported to Philadelphia, Boston or New York which by now were already overflowing with poor Irish immigrants. Yellow fever and unforgiving heat ravaged workers in the swamps of Louisiana therefore the loss of black slaves doing such work was judged too expensive. As a result most of the work was carried out by Irish laborers who could easily be replaced at no cost with more and more now arriving by the boatload on a daily basis. Many were buried without a grave marker in the levee and roadway-fill beside the canal itself.

Abject poverty gave birth to New Orleans first criminal gangs such as the Corkonians, the United Irishmen and The Live Oaks. Sheehan, our hero in this song, becomes so demoralised at the hell-hole he now finds himself in that he throws down his work shovel for good and instead rises up through the ranks of the powerful Live Oaks Gang. I strongly recommend the book ‘Paddy Whacked’ by TJ English who covers this period in American history in greater depth!
A big thank you to Stephen Gara for his fantastic uilleann pipe playing on this track!

SEE YOU AT THE CROSSROADS

I wrote this song about my dear pal Noel Stephen Smith after reading his autobiography ‘A Few Kind Words And A Loaded Gun’ for the very first time many years ago. The title of the song was inspired by the opening pages where Noel dedicates the book to his son Joseph Stephen Smith RIP – ‘See you at the crossroads, kid’. Noel ‘Razor’ Smith was part of the notorious Laughing Bank Robbers gang from South London racking up 58 criminal convictions and spending the greater portion of his adult life behind bars. The dangerous outfit committed over 200 bank robberies but while serving a life sentence in prison Noel decided to turn his back on the life of crime teaching himself to read and write, gaining an Honours Diploma from the London School of Journalism and an A-level in law. Since then, Noel has been awarded a number of Koestler awards for his writing and has contributed articles to the Independent, the Guardian, Punch, the Big Issue, the New Statesman and the New Law Journal.
The melody instrumental throughout the song is taken from ‘My Lagan Love’ – an old traditional Irish song and I wanted the finished version to have that ‘She Sells Sanctuary’ vibe by The Cult – full of swagger and attitude!
“Racing through London in the pouring rain
I feel the rush go through my brain
Finger on the trigger, mask in my hand
Nothing can touch us, Butch & Sundance”
Noel has been a great friend & inspiration to me down through the years. We cast him in two of my short films Tax City & Jack Mulligan & he is now my literary agent for my own forthcoming true crime book Green Bloods. Keep marching on comrade & thank you for everything! Love ya mate!

THEY BUILT PARADISE

Our love for Celtic FC  is something we’re very proud of & the reason why I wrote this song. Formed in the east end of Glasgow in 1887 by poor Irish immigrants escaping genocide and famine back in Ireland, Celtic FC became a beacon of hope for those starving and penniless who made the short but urgent crossing over to Scotland. Andrew Kerins, also known as Brother Walfrid, was a Marist Brother from Ballymote, County Sligo who witnessed at first hand the plight of his own people in a very hostile and anti-Irish city of Glasgow. All soup kitchens in the city at the time were established by the Church of Scotland and in order to receive a meal there, the newly arrived, hungry Irish Catholics were ordered to denounce their own faith and convert to Protestantism before receiving it. Brother Walfrid, along with a group of fellow Irishmen including John McLaughlin, John Glass, John O’Hara and Willie Maley (and with the help of Hibernian FC who had already similarly been established in Edinburgh by Irish immigrants) immediately stepped in and formed a charitable football club in St. Mary’s Church in the Calton to stop this cruel exploitation of Irish refugees –
“A football club will be formed for the maintenance of dinner tables for the children and the unemployed”
The rest as they say is history!
We’ve been very fortunate and honoured to have been invited to play on the sacred pitch at Celtic Park on several occasions, including some unforgettable Champions League nights when we beat Barcelona 2-1 & also outside the Nou Camp itself! For me personally, supporting Celtic has taught me some invaluable lessons in life in regards to treating others with respect & offering both solidarity & charitable support to those who are still fighting their own injustices today – unity is strength

THE KIDS FROM THE CITY OF NOWHERE

Some of the stories here aren’t for the faint hearted, but they’re all true! I wrote this as a tribute to our London Irish community. For so long we were overlooked and dismissed like we didn’t exist but the truth was we were London’s oldest and biggest immigrant community who contributed so much in terms of rebuilding the UK’s decimated infrastructure after WW2. Musically too – John Lydon, Boy George, Kate Bush and Shane MacGowan are all born or raised in London of Irish parents, to name but a few. Chas Smash’s nutty dancing in Madness was heavily influenced by his own parents who were Irish dancing champions. I remember Chas and his ol fella used to come into our gigs in the Good Mixer in Camden Town many moons ago and they’d both be suppin Guinness and Irish dancing at the bar while we played. I reference the late, great Patsy Farrell too who was a singer in the James Connolly Folk Group. He was from Longford, as were my parents and Gavin Hayes dad Shay sang in the same group. They used to play all around Hammersmith (where I was born) when we were kids and on one occasion in The Salutation pub someone took exception to Patsy belting out the rebel songs and lobbed a penny at him. Patsy dived straight down off the stage on top of the culprit and made very short work of him – ‘down jumps Farrell on top of Thatcher’s man.’ The reference to the ‘high rise on the streets of Acton’ is when a group of my dads mates masked up and armed with hurley sticks dished out some sweet revenge on some bullies that were treating their wives and children like shit. They started on the bottom floor of the high rise flats and worked their way to the top until every culprit had been taken care of. Their families were never bothered again!
I remember us rehearsing this song for the first time in the back hall of the Adam And Eve pub in Hayes (thanks Anlon O’Brien). It wasn’t clicking and I was trying to explain to our dearly departed Carlton the drum feel I wanted but it wasn’t quite right. I jumped in my car, raced home and grabbed the B-side single of ‘Round Are Way’ by Oasis and drove back to the pub. I stuck it on the CD player & Carlton understood and got the rhythm straight away! Round Are Way is a big influence on this song. We even got Tony Rico Richardson and the brass boys in to record on the album version!

THE CINDERELLA MAN

I wrote this as a tribute to the incredible story of James J Braddock who defied all the odds to become Heavyweight Champion of the World back in 1935. The man he beat, Max Baer and nicknamed ‘The Killer’, had already killed Frankie Campbell in the ring while the mauling he dished out to Ernie Schaaf would contribute to his death five months later. Braddock was born in the Irish slum of Hells Kitchen, NYC until his family moved to Bergen, New Jersey. He came from a long line of fiercely tough Irish American boxers who at one stage ruled supreme in the early days of the noble art – John L Sullivan, Gene Tunney, Billy Conn, ‘Philadelphia’ Jack O’Brien, ‘Gentleman’ Jim Corbett, Tommy Loughran, ‘Terrible’ Terry McGovern and Jack Dempsey to name but a few. Forever the people’s champion but a huge underdog nonetheless, Braddock spectacularly beat Baer in a bruising 15 round battle to become the Heavyweight Champion of the World. He held onto the crown until he was beaten by a young Joe Louis in 1937.
The Hollywood movie The Cinderella Man (featured in the video above) starring Russell Crowe is based on Braddock’s life story. Russell famously tweeted this video (made by Padraig Clarke, a fan of our band) to his 3 million fans on Twitter which brought our band to a whole new audience! He would later sing on our most recent album Walk Like Kings! Thank you Mr Crowe!
The Bible Code Sundays have been regulars on the London Irish circuit for over a decade and continue to pack them in across London. You can catch the band or some variation of them on most days of the week somewhere in the capital. The best place to find out their gig dates is on their Facebook page. Their records are still available on Spotify above or Amazon and iTunes or at their gigs. Most recently they starred on the compilation album Quintessential Quarantunes featuring six bands, three from Ireland and three based in London and recorded during the lockdown.

LET THE MUSIC KEEP YOUR SPIRITS HIGH – PART TWO (soon!)

POGUE LAUREATE: POGUETRY – THE LYRICS OF SHANE MacGOWAN 

It’s thirty-eight years to the day that The Pogues, then known as Pogue Mahone first trod the boards at their debut gig at The Pindar of Wakefield in Kings Cross, London. 

At their height, The Pogues were as vivid an embodiment of the Irish of London as you’re ever likely to see. Their songs bled London and bled Irish — they sang of drunken winter weekenders in Camden and summer days in the old country on the banks of the Shannon with the smell of freshly-cut hay in the air.

By Oliver Farry

The band, of course, had their famously raucous side. By 1983, when they were formed, other ex-punks had cleaned up their act and their music and embarked on musical careers but Shane MacGowan and Co weren’t finished the business of the late 70’s and continued to get up the noses of most, including the BBC on countless occasions, such as when the band’s Alex Cox-produced video for ‘A Pair Of Brown Eyes’ was banned from the airwaves for its insolent depiction of Margaret Thatcher. In 1988, the Beeb banned ‘Streets of Sorrow/Birmingham Six’ for daring to argue that the sextet of the title were framed by British justice. If getting up the nose of the British establishment wasn’t so difficult, there were more natural allies put out by them back home, such as Noel Hill, the squeezebox player with Planxty — one of the group’s idols — who told them to their face during a stormy RTÉ radio forum that they were an “abortion of Irish music.” Even in the band’s afterlife they have been a discomfiting presence. ‘Fairytale Of New York’, probably the earthiest song ever to become a Christmas standard was belatedly censored by the Beeb for using the word “faggot”. A slavish sop to political correctness that ignored both narrative dialogue and the fact that the Pogues, with a gay guitarist and sympathetic ballads about abused rent boys, had been taking a stand against homophobia long before the mainstream media got the memo.

There was a time however when a certain esteemed British institution did court The Pogues and their dentally-challenged front man. In September 1989 Faber & Faber published a large format edition of Shane MacGowan’s lyrics under the title Poguetry (the band had already used this pun for their 1986 EP Poguetry In Motion). It was essentially a handsome but low-end coffee-table book; MacGowan’s lyrics were accompanied by surreal sketches by illustrator John Hewitt and photographs by The Face and NME alumnus Steve Pyke, both of whom joined the band in the studio and on tour throughout 1988. At the time it was a puzzling publication, especially as MacGowan’s lyrics, excellent as they often were, looked a little flat on the page. The sketches and photographs add context and texture but MacGowan’s oeuvre, by that time, was relatively slim, being drawn from The Pogues’ first four albums and assorted b-sides (and even those were not all his work, with other members contributing lyrics, not to mention many traditional songs). You got the sense that Faber, that soberest of British publishing houses – home to Pound, Eliot, Larkin, Heaney and Beckett – was viewing Shane as a future Bob Dylan. If they were, they can hardly be blamed for it, as MacGowan was surely the closest thing to Dylan Ireland has ever produced, with a lyrical versatility and strength of personality approaching that of the Bard of Duluth.

The book is a curiosity, with Pyke and Hewitt ably capturing the essence of The Pogues, a band that straddled tradition and iconoclasm, sartorial decorum and drunken disorder, gregarious sociability and taciturn sensitivity. It also marks the moment where the group turned to the US, of which ‘Fairytale Of New York’ was also a product. The band soon realised there was a huge diaspora (and non-diaspora) following Stateside to play to and nowadays, with appearances on countless soundtracks, including, most famously The Wire, The Pogues are arguably more synonymous with Irish America than the London Irish. Unfortunately there was not to be much more of it. The Pogues and Shane would be together for only one more album, 1990’s Hell’s Ditch. Shane’s drinking, already the stuff of contemporary lore, was making him increasingly unreliable and at times incapable of performing. The end came in September 1991 during a tour of Japan when the rest of the band sacked him. Neither party ever performed as well again (though it can be argued the quality of The Pogues’ own music had begun to fall off after the peak of 1988’s If I Should Fall from Grace with God). The Pogues, now fronted by long-time number two Spider Stacy, released two anemically directionless albums in the 1990’s but continued to successfully tour in the States.

You can hardly blame them for not giving up their livelihood but Waiting for Herb and Pogue Mahone are like the albums The Spencer Davis Group recorded after Stevie Winwood’s departure, missing all the spark of an emblematic lead singer. MacGowan hardly fared any better, spending most of the last two decades as a celebrity drinker, with a couple of albums here and there with his new group The Popes. There were glimpses of the old Shane (and the odd coup, such as getting Johnny Depp to play guitar when The Popes performed ‘That Woman’s Got Me Drinking’ on Top of the Pops) but much of The Popes’ output seemed like an afterthought, similar to the post-cocaine-hell K-Tel moments of ageing rockers.

Poguetry – The Lyrics of Shane MacGowan has been long out of print and copies now fetch a small fortune on Amazon. Hewitt and Pyke have both had successful careers themselves – particularly Pyke, who is now a successor in portraiture to Richard Avedon at The New Yorker. He later collaborated with the Irish-American writer Timothy O’Grady on the brilliantly Sebaldian I Could Read the Sky, which, like The Pogues’ early work was an elegiac account of 20th-century Irish emigration to England. He also contributed to this beautiful visual tour of Poguetry, which allows those not fortunate enough to own the book to have a look at the unique collaboration between three artists who are each wonderful in their own way.

A visual tour of Poguetry, published in 1988 that combines the lyrics of Shane MacGowan, illustrations by John Hewitt and photographs by Steve Pyke. Foreward read by Steve Pyke.

Oliver Farry was born in Sligo in 1975 and has been chasing the vulgar and sublime in equal measure ever since. These days he’s a journalist in Paris where he writes the news for France 24.

Some Pogues-related links:

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

ODDS’N’SODS. CELTIC-PUNK ROUND UP SEPTEMBER 2020

We want to move away from just being ‘ReviewReviewReviewReview’ so we have started this monthly feature that comes out on the last day of each month. All news items that we otherwise miss will get a mention but I need YOU to be the eyes and ears if it’s going to work so send over to us any band news, record releases, videos, tours (not individual gigs though yet sadly), live streams, crowd funders etc., to us at londoncelticpunks@hotmail.co.uk or through the Contact Us page and it will go in here!

BRENDAN MULKERE -REST IN PEACE – 28th AUGUST 2020

Such sad news that the legend of Irish music in London, Brendan Mulkere passed away in the early hours of this morning.
Brendan’s all-consuming passion for traditional Irish music, his unfaltering determination to pass the culture on to the next generation and put Irish music on the London stage for the first time has left an indelible mark on London’s cultural landscape.
His epic work over decades produced countless fabulous second generation traditional Irish musicians and brought a wide audience to value and respect our music as much as any other genre in this city.

Deepest sympathies to Sharon, Claire, Sinéad, Collette, all of Brendan’s family, friends and to the huge number of his ‘jellybabies’ who will undoubtedly continue his legacy.

May he Rest in Peace.

DROPKICK MURPHYS are never ones to hide their political views when it is warranted and the Bhoys did a short but brilliant acoustic Live Stream to promote Joe Kennedy III in the Democratic primary for United States Senate. The vote takes place on Tuesday, September 1st so vote early and vote often as they say in the 6 counties! The music kicks in after ten minutes.

We put on THE DIRTY ARTICHOKES in London a couple of summers ago. Jeez The Fighting Cocks was hot that night. Maybe the hottest gig I ever been to! Glad to hear some new stuff from this massively multi-talented Italian band.

Godfather of Celtic-Punk SHANE MacGOWAN is looking better than he has done in years and he has even defied Covid-19 with two all-night sessions which continued into a third late one but the 62-year-old is recording — not boozing — into the small hours as he called band members back to work on his new solo album.

San Diego Fiddle Rock band LEXINGTON FIELD have graced these pages many times and have hit the jackpot again with their brand new video just out featuring ‘Dear Sorrow’ from their forthcoming new EP Win The Day due out later in the year and is previewed here.

Dutch band MAGGIES FLOCK continue with their plans to release a new song on the 23rd of every month during 2020. At the end of the year all twelve songs will become the album Party At The Cemetery. This months song is called ‘The Pogey Club’ and can be heard here but check out some of their previous songs ‘Battle Song‘,Bored Beyond Death‘ and ‘Maggie Of The Moor‘. To be kept in the loop like them on Facebook.

London Celtic Punks Facebook page put on two Live Streams during August. Both were very well ‘attended’ and seemed to have gone down a storm. CALLUM HOUSTON of Psychobilly legends The Graveyard Johnnys accompanied by Alban performed a wonderful set of Dubliners classics while TIM HOLEHOUSE did an interesting a varied set of his own material. Don’t forget to tune in on Monday 7th September for the next Live Stream starring THE TEMPLARS OF DOOM doing a full band live set.

CALLUM HOUSTON    TIM HOLEHOUSE

Remember if you want your release featured then we have to have heard it first!

THE JAMESTOWN BROTHERS – Rebels, Rogues And Regrets

ASHPIPE – Sbandati (13 Years And Still Waiting For Wave)

THE WATERBOYS – Good Luck, Seeker (Deluxe Edition)

PADDY O’TURNER – Rocky Road To Wherever

LEVELLERS – Peace

CATGUT MARY hailed from Melbourne, Australia and released their one and only album Bourbon And Black Porter twelve years ago way back in June, 2008. Twelve songs of Australian Colonial Punk taking in a couple of Irish classics among the bands mainly own compositions. Catgut Mary received plenty of critical acclaim at the time and were famous for their high energy blend of ‘Folk’, ‘Punk’ and ‘Rock’ in a very Australian context. You can stream the album from the link above. It’s also available to download for only five Aussie dollars which works out around three quid or US $’s.

They may have abandoned progressed from Celtic-Punk but another great video for THE STANFIELDS came out last week and as to be expected its quality. These guys use to tour England regularly but haven’t seen them for a few years now.

It’s not Celtic-Punk but it sure is powerful and incredibly beautiful too. Check out the brand new album from Portland based duo KATE POWER AND STEVE EINHORN. If you’re a fan of traditional Irish Folk like Solas or Runa then you’ll love this album I guarantee.

A plug for some good friends of ours over on Facebook. The Dropkick Murphys- Fan Page and the Celtic Punk, Folk And Rock Fans are two of the best music forums on FB let alone Celtic-Punk. Ran By Fans For Fans. Just like and join in the fun!

… and finally some great news over at the London Celtic Punks Facebook page as we reached the fabled target of 5000 likes. Needless to say we were steaming along with likes coming in left, right and centre and then as we got closer it slowed right down dooooooowwwwwnnnnnnn and took forever to get over the line!! Still we have made it and though it may seem silly we are all very proud of ourselves and you all of course.

So you get the idea so all we need to do now is fill it with news and remember if you are new to the London Celtic Punks blog it is easy to subscribe / follow and never miss a post. Also if anyone is interested in helping out on the reviews front then let us know via the Contact Us page.

THE POGUES LIVE IN LONDON ST. PATRICK’S DAY 1988

St. Patrick’s Day 2020 was cancelled so if you’re stuck indoors like me looking for something to do enjoy an hour or so of what made The Pogues so memorable and have a free download too and carry them around with you from room to room!! 

The Pogues were just an incredible band. In fact some think the #1 band of all time. It went beyond music making important changes to how we perceived ourselves. Here The Pogues perform shortly after the release of If I Should Fall From Grace With God, considered their best album. All their greatest songs are here alongside many friends including Joe Strummer and the dearly departed Kirsty MacColl.

So Paddy’s Day 2020 came and went and all I can say is thank Heavens for the Dropkick Murphys and their utterly brilliant Live Stream which saw me up until the early hours shouting drunkenly at the telly! With no gigs and the flow of new music, though not so bad at the moment, eventually set to dry up we are taking a trip back to 1988 to see The Bhoys in majestic full flow live at the iconic Town And Country Club in North London. Based in Kentish Town just up the road from Camden the venue played host to numerous Pogues concerts and in the aftermath of The Pogues gigs by Shane MacGowan solo and with The Popes. So no better venue for the London Irish community (near 2,000 of them) to flock to one night in the middle of March over thirty years ago to celebrate the patron saint of the country most of their parents came from.

That night saw one of the most raucous and memorable nights in the venues long and illustrious career and saw several stand out moments on a night that saw them joined on stage by Joe Strummer leads The Pogues through a Irish-ed up version of The Clash’s ‘London Calling’ while Kirsty MacColl accompanies Shane for an outstanding version of ‘Fairytale of New York’ which is only topped by the encore performance of ‘A Message To You (Rudi)’ featuring The Specials’ Lynval Golding himself sending the beer and sweat drenched crowd off into the night. For a band that had many special nights St. Patrick’s Day at The Town And Country 1988 was most definitely one of them.

Live at the Town and Country Club, London St. Patrick’s Day Concert March 1988

Special guests: Kirsty MacColl, Joe Strummer, After Tonite, Lynval Golding, Joe Cashman, Eli Thompson, Brian Clarke, Paul Taylor, Steve Lillywhite

James Fearnley- Accordion * Jem Finer- Banjo, Saxophone * Darryl Hunt- Bass * Terry Woods- Concertina * Andrew Ranken- Drums * Philip Chevron- Guitar * Spider Stacy- Tin Whistle * Shane MacGowan- Lead Vocals
Design- The Leisure Process * Film Director- Billy Magra

The accompanying video that came out soon after clocked in at a just paltry sixty minutes which left a hell of a lot of footage on the cutting room floor and leaves us crying out for more. Joe Strummer acts as narrator introducing band members and songs before taking the stage himself. Most notably for me Strummer pays tribute to who he saw as The Pogues powerhouse, Terry Woods

“That brings me on to Mr T. Woods, who I see as the master musician of the band. I don’t know what groups he’s been in and out of but he’s run the whole gamut of rock and roll. I like the story he tells me he used to go ‘In those days you know, I had a white horses head on my head when I go on stage’, and it makes me think ‘wow, we’ve all been through a few trip”.

As for the ‘Godfather Of Celtic-Punk’ himself, Shane is in classic Shane form. Hiding behind his shades for most of the night and drunk of course and while obviously pished you can still hear and understand him. His last few remaining teeth are also evident as he pops back and forth to the dressing room as he drags on a ciggie and swigs something exotic while clinging tightly to the mic stand. The Pogues and Shane continued to perform for years afterwards but whether it would ever reach these heights again is perhaps debatable but we never stopped loving them and with the recent news that Shane is all set to return to the recording studio and had already recorded new tracks for a forthcoming album The Pogues story continues. So for now enjoy the sound of a band whose style of Punk and traditional Irish made the most perfect cocktail, served with brilliant lyrics from a poetic soul.

FREE DOWNLOAD HERE

IRISH SOUL STEW- THE POGUES

One man’s thoughts on what the Pogues  Shane MacGowan were and are.

The original Celtic-Punk band, formally known as Pogue Mahone (from the Irish Gaelic ‘póg mo thóin’ meaning ‘kiss my arse’) who later became known as The Pogues. Formed in 1982 their inspired use of traditional Irish instruments and poetic, often politically tinged lyrics led them to reach a cult status where even now they are revered and loved as much as they ever were.

by Alan K. Crandall

IRISH SOUL STEW

A few years back there was a fairly popular movie around called The Commitments, about a bunch of Irish kids who form a band playing ’60’s soul music. It wasn’t a bad movie, actually — it painted a pleasant picture of small-town Irish life, and a pretty accurate picture of in a struggling band (blown gigs, equipment failures, getting ripped off by promoters, inane personal conflicts). What I didn’t like was the soundtrack — classic soul covers performed by contemporary studio goons. Not that it was all that bad; I suppose the performances were about as good as those you might get from a good cover band at any local bar, but nothing worth a moment of your time when the far superior originals are available. Unfortunately, the soundtrack went on to become a substantial hit (even generating a follow-up), which grated on me then and still does — I hate the image of all those Gen X’ers and yuppies shelling out for an album of watered-down soul covers when they wouldn’t be caught dead buying Otis Redding. Sigh. The music critic for the local newspaper agreed, and suggested in his review of the Commitments album, that if people really wanted to hear Irish soul music, they should pick up the latest album by The Pogues.

GOLDEN HITS OF THE 80’s

They say nostalgia runs in ten-to-twenty year patterns- that is, what was popular in one era will always enjoy a revival ten-to-twenty years later. Some truth there; the seventies were swamped in ’50’s nostalgia (‘Happy Days’, ‘Grease’), the late eighties brought in a wave of 60’s flashbacks (‘Big Chill’, ‘The Wonder Years’), and the 90’s have treated the ’70’s as the decade to look back on. That can only mean that a yearning for the Reagan era isn’t far behind (shudder!). It’s starting already- ‘Golden Hits Of The 80’s’ collections turning up on late-night TV. God help us.

I think I’ll make my own ‘Golden Hits Of The 80’s’ album. The stuff I was listening to. The last vestiges of 70’s punk, the first glimmerings and full flowerings of the American indie scene: The Gun Club, Green On Red, Black Flag, Husker Du, The Replacements, The Pontiac Brothers(!), Social Distortion.   Aah, those were the days. It won’t have a lot of British rock from that era, though. The 80’s were the end of the UK as far as Rock’n’Roll went, as far as I’m concerned. None of this is meant as any kind of chest-thumping ‘America-first’-ness… I just hated all that mopey Smiths/ Echo And The Bunnymen/ U2/ The Cure stuff; all burbling synths and treated guitars and strained attempts at soulfulness, all fashion and stance and not a shred of real feeling. But there was ONE band to come out of the UK in the 80’s who did understand what rock’n’roll music was supposed to be, what real ‘soulfulness’ sounded like. And that was The Pogues.

IRISH SOUL STEW (PART TWO)

The Pogues as Irish soul music. I like that. It sounds right. It fits, in the same way that Gram Parsons’ description of country as ‘white soul music’ fits. The Pogues music could be called soul; not in sound, but in feel, in sensibility, in emotional commitment. Or you could call it Rock’n’Roll music, or rock music. None of these would necessarily be inaccurate (or necessarily accurate either, if you want to split hairs). Of course, at the time, people often referred to them as ‘folk music’.

Superficially, I guess they were. Their music basically a sped-up, amplified and attituted-up take on Irish folk music of the Clancy Brothers/ Dubliners sort. Superficialities only go so far. They were never really a folk band in the purest sense. There was always too much Bo Diddley in their backbeat, too much Clash in their attack. Neither were they simply a parody of Irish music, a high-speed punk rock joke band with accordions. They used Irish music as a well to draw from, much as The Stones used Chicago blues; they took its form, its depth of feeling, its melodicism, its romance and longing and every other quality you want to hang on it, and wed it to their own roots in punk and high-powered pub rock, and came up with something uniquely their own. John Lennon once referred to the blues as ‘a chair’, in respect to its relationship to rock’n’roll music. Irish music was The Pogues’ chair.

Of course, the first ones to deny them a seat in the Folk Club would be the members themselves. Folkies reviled them. Folkies revile anyone who doesn’t play by their rules. It’s the most insular, tradition-bound faction of popular music, on both sides of the pond, as near as I can tell. There’s still grizzled old veterans’ wandering around Greenwich Village, anxious to tell anyone who’ll listen what a no-talent-asshole Bob Dylan was/is. Dylan was reviled for mimicking Woody Guthrie, then for not mimicking Woody Guthrie; for playing protest songs; for turning away from protest songs; for playing the electric guitar- for not playing by the damn rules! Of course, it’s the ones who break the rules who achieve greatness, and there’s no greater crime or surer ticket to condemnation by your peers than being the most talented and ambitious one around. Anyway, Dylan was never really a folkie anymore than The Pogues were.

So the folkies reviled them. Somewhere in the archives there’s a radio broadcast wherein a heated altercation between Noel Hill of the venerable folk band Planxty and several Pogues ensues. It apparently began with Hill’s assertion that The Pogues were “a terrible abortion of Irish music” and quickly slid downhill:

Noel Hill, however, laboured his case and it was at this stage that Andrew went for an unexpected Grundy, and said: “I think it just comes down to sex. I mean, are you a better fucker than me!” The session continued in similar style for another half-hour, and eventually ended with the contemptuous Cait being branded “a pig”. She replied with five seconds of suitable snorts.

Man, I wish I could get my hands on a tape of that! Meanwhile, others condemned them as being a kind of racist joke, perpetuating the stereotypical image of the Drunken Irishman. And Richard Thompson, ever the contrarian, dismissed them for being too reverent in their take on traditional music! None of this seems to have phased The Pogues any; in the UK, they became stars.

ZEN AND THE ART OF ROCK’n’ROLL FANDOM

The Pogues as Irish soul band. How do you justify that one? Maybe this way:

They regenerated into an all-time stupor at Hull Tiffany’s, on March 25, after being subject to the unlimited generosity of Nick Stewart – a Glaswegian whom they had first encountered at Manchester Hacienda just three weeks before. Being a terminal fan of John Lee Hooker, Howlin’ Wolf, The Velvet Underground and Tom Waits, Nick felt an immediate affinity for The Pogues.

Does that last sentence make sense to you? It does to me. In fact, it makes so much sense to me that I was actually thrilled when I came across it. It articulates the inarticulate-able. What do The Pogues have in common with two of the most primitive, toughest of blues legends, the most celebrated avant-garde/ Rock`n’Roll band ever, and the poet-laureate of down-and-out street lunatics (okay, the Waits connection’s a bit easier to see)? For that matter, what do Hooker and Wolf have in common with The Velvets? Or The Velvets with Waits? Nothing and everything, I guess. It’s just that someone who likes Hooker and Wolf AND The Velvets probably like Waits and The Pogues, too.

I could, I suppose, sit up all night (and probably many other nights, too) trying to put my finger on what it is that links these things. Hell, I might even pull it off. Robert Pirsig asked what ‘quality’ was while teaching college English in Montana in the 60’s. He managed to pin it down to something that people recognized when they encountered it (his students almost unanimously concurred on when ranking papers in terms of which ones were “better”) but could not define. Well, Pirsig’s search for a definition of ‘quality’ led to mental breakdown, electroshock therapy, cross-country motorcycle trips and eventually the book Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance. Pirsig is a lot more educated than myself, and much more equipped for dealing with such questions, so you’ll forgive me if I don’t try to equal his achievement. But I will take a little stab at making sense of a statement like the quote above.

There is something I hear in traditional or tradition-rooted music; that is, specifically, blues, a lot of jazz, folk music (of any nationality but especially American or British, which I happen to be far, far more familiar with than that of any other cultures), country, gospel, reggae, rockabilly, ’60’s soul music, roots-rock or what the charts now refer to as ‘Americana’, traditional Mexican or Tex-Mex border music (which I’ve recently gotten heavily into) and other things. To be honest, I don’t know if it’s something that’s actually there or just something I put there in my mind, a validation because the music is (or is based on music that is) old and celebrated and “legendary” (and I’ve been accused of exactly that kind of psychological projection, especially for my penchant for preferring Lightnin’ Hopkins to hip-hop music), but I hear it all the same. Something like a deep well of feeling and emotional commitment (’emotional commitment’, now there’s some pretentious critic-speak if I ever heard it) that an artist can dip into and draw from. And when I hear it, especially in the context of something that I deem as ‘good’, it turns my head and makes me listen.

It’s a quality I don’t hear in a lot of avant-garde or ‘punk’ or what I think of as ‘white pop’ music (which in my mind would be things like NRBQ or The Hoodoo Gurus, just to name two), but the lack of it does not necessarily diminish those kinds of music (hey, I’m a big fan of NRBQ, and The Hoodoo Gurus, and lots of ‘punk’ and avant-garde-type music as well), but it’s a good quality to have. For me, it’s a kind of anchor to the music; it gives it staying power. For me, it means that while I am always up for hearing Richard Thompson, Howlin’ Wolf, Hank Williams, Buddy Holly, The Stones, Otis Redding, Tom Waits, Southern Culture on The Skids or John Coltrane (all of whom have this something) I have to be in the right mood to want to listen to The Sex Pistols (who were great, but lack this aforementioned something).

In any case, if this something, this quality exists (and since I perceive it I guess it does- and others perceive it too, I think), it is something that can be found in Hooker and Wolf and The Velvets and Waits, and in The Pogues, too. And that makes sense out of the quote. At least, as much sense as I’m able to articulate about it.

MORE GOLDEN HITS OF THE 80’s

The Pogues were definitely a part of the 80’s for me. Even if the 80’s were a terrible decade for Top 40 music, underground music was a rich, fertile haul back then, and for me, The Pogues were superstars. The first I ever heard of them was a review of the Pair Of Brown Eyes single in Spin. Actually, it wasn’t the review that got my attention, but the photo of Shane MacGowan, dressed in Napoleonic pirate gear and showing off his infamous ghastly grin (later immortalized by Mojo Nixon in “Shane’s Dentist.”). The caption read

“Shane MacGowan comes from an ugly place, has an ugly face, and has recorded a great single with The Pogues,”

which makes it the finest piece of writing I ever encountered in the mostly execrable Spin.

Back then, the general line on The Pogues was that they played punked-up, sped-up versions of Irish traditional music. Actually, on their first album (Red Roses For Me), I suppose that’s not too inaccurate. I never got especially hot and bothered about Red Roses, which was hard to find and I never heard until its 1988 re-release. Despite their boundless energy and good humor (especially Down In The Ground Where The Dead Men Go, which worked excellently for clearing out parties), it now sounds like demos for what would come later. By Rum, Sodomy And The Lash and the Poguetry In Motion EP, they’d found their true voice. The band had gelled into an endlessly inventive ensemble that could find each songs unique qualities and then make the most of them. MacGowan had turned into a brilliant, plainspoken songwriter and possibly even more brilliant singer, using his ragged voice and slurred phrasing as an instrument to express himself, much as any great blues or, yes, soul singer would. By If I Should Fall From Grace With God, they were even better; MacGowan’s writing became almost mythic, the band’s delivery almost cinematic in its sweep, building each number into a work of great drama and power; the sort of rare album without a single forgettable track.

But then things began to slip. I anxiously awaited the release of Peace And Love the following year, but when it arrived, I was disappointed. Something was missing. Part of it was that the other Pogues were contributing more in the way of material. Yet the songs by Terry Woods and Phil Chevron were largely consistent with MacGowan’s both lyrically and musically, and Woods’ Streets Of Sorrow and Chevron’s Thousands Are Sailing had been highlights of Grace. Meanwhile, MacGowan was still at full strength, delivering several fine songs, especially the overpowering USA. But somehow, the album failed to hang together… as good as most of it was, it never really added up to the sum of its parts.

Things went from bad to worse, as MacGowan simply went AWOL from the band’s US tour with Bob Dylan that fall. A Rolling Stone piece described MacGowan as a down-and-out drunk whose legendary habits had caught up with him. The Pogues seemed to fade from the scene.

Hell’s Ditch finally appeared the following year, with little fanfare (at least in the States). Conventional wisdom has it that Hell’s Ditch is a failure, but I myself thought of it as a fine return to form. Understated compared to their peak period of 1985-1988, but MacGowan seemed back on top again, contributing some of his best songs yet, from the grand drama of Lorca’s Novena to the (here we go again) ‘Irish soul’ of Ghost Of A Smile. Me, I was looking forward to more great music from The Pogues.

It didn’t happen. When The Pogues finally toured the States, close to a year after HD’s release, MacGowan was again not with them (“Shane MacGowan will not appear” read the newspaper ad for the show). Joe Strummer ostensibly stood in for the absent Shane, though in fact the entire band took turns at the mike. Strummer is one of my old heroes, but he couldn’t quite fill MacGowan’s shoes (amusingly enough, Strummer had also appeared with them at their SF debut in 1987, filling in for an injured Phil Chevron. Of the three times I saw The Pogues headline, only once did they have the full band). This time, Shane was gone for good. The Pogues soldiered on for a few more years, releasing two well-intentioned but less-than-classic albums. MacGowan duetted with Nick Cave on a hilarious version of Louis Armstrong’s Wonderful World and plotted a solo career.

Finally, 1995 brought The Snake, MacGowan’s first solo album with his new band, the vengefully named Popes. While there was much to like about The Snake, it lacked the greatness of his old band. The Popes could imitate The Pogues, but not duplicate them. Great bands depend on gestalt. The Popes simply lacked the kind of imagination and ambition to turn simple songs into full-blown epics (and The Pogues needed MacGowan’s inspiration to produce great work). Also the switching from straight rock rocked-up Pogues imitations was jarring and gave the album an inconsistent feel. Still, MacGowan remained a popular figure in the UK. As the Pogues quietly folded, he released Crock Of Gold in 1998.

ROCK’n’ROLL PADDY

I attended the Guinness Fleadh Festival; a full day of music, almost all of it excellent, chock full of artists I liked. The evening ended (for me, anyway) with a performance by Shane MacGowan and the Popes. It had been ten years since I’d seen MacGowan, and I was excited but trepidatious. I’d been less than enthralled by his solo work and, by all accounts, his legendary abuses hadn’t abated (like their forbears, The Popes have taken to playing sans MacGowan when necessary).

MacGowan came on close to an hour late (Typical. It was close to 90 minutes the first time The Pogues played SF). He was led on by a roadie or assistant who stayed by his side throughout the show, passing him lit cigarettes. He clung to the mike stand just to stay vertical. He garbled out his songs and made his usual unintelligible introductions (which sound something like “thizzongscauldwarrgleemaffftaweebagrrf”). When he mysteriously vanished in mid-set, many of us wondered if he’d keeled over (he returned after a brief Popes instrumental, fresh drink in hand). The Popes, true to my expectations, played with enthusiasm but suffered from not being The Pogues (not an unfair criticism, I don’ think, when they’re clearly intended to stand in for the originals). Given how good The Pogues had been even when bad, it added up to a disappointment. MacGowan’s voice was ragged (even by MacGowan standards). None of this phased the mostly Irish (and mostly loaded) crowd, who tipped over a bleacher in honor of their hero.

Then, shortly after returning with his fresh drink and struggling through Lost Highway (not the Hank Williams song), MacGowan and the Popes jumped into a Pogues set with If I Should Fall From Grace With God, and as Shane slurred and snarled his way through the lyric, you could hear just a little bit of the old magic there, a hint of redemption, a sign of what drew you to him in the first place.

If I sound overly critical, it’s because I think MacGowan is a rare talent, a brilliant songwriter and outstanding singer, and it saddens me to see him lionized for his sad personal state. And he is. Drop by the Pogues Usenet group and make some comment about his unfortunate physical state and see how fast the flames fly. There appears to be a not inconsiderable faction of fans for whom MacGowan’s long out-of-control alcoholism is some kind of badge of honor, an inherent part of his ‘cool’. Just a few nights ago, I was killing time in a used bookstore. The young Deadhead-type behind the counter was blasting The Pogues. I heard him say to his girlfriend:

“It’s so cool to know this guy was really shitfaced drunk when he recorded this. Listen! You can totally hear him slurring his words!”

I used to think so too, I guess. I didn’t think it was ‘cool’, but I did think it was funny. Part of the pleasure of seeing The Pogues perform was watching MacGowan stumble around and slur his words. Just like I used to find Roky Erickson’s mental instability funny (when introducing a friend to his music, I always had to mention that Roky was ‘really insane’ and not just pulling an Alice Cooper act), and Johnny Thunders’ junkie-cool “I don’t give a fuck attitude.” Actually, I don’t think that kind of attitude is unusual for a guy in his 20’s, especially one who enjoyed his indulging in his own vices whenever possible.

So maybe it’s just a maturity thing. No, I didn’t become a teetotaler or enter a 12-step program; just settled down. At 33, getting loaded now seems like an inconvenience rather than anything to be happy or amused about. And Roky’s just a sad ghost of a man. And Thunders is dead. And MacGowan’s descent doesn’t strike me funny at all. Maybe someday we’ll be seeing his obituary. Or maybe not; he’s stuck around this long (well, Thunders lasted a lot longer than most of us expected, too). Or maybe he’ll pull himself out of it. All I know is, he’s a great talent and the price of living up to his shambling image has been a ton of brilliant music that he could have been making, and me, I think that’s too high a price to pay. Way too high.

Some Pogues-related links:

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

NICK BURBRIDGE AND HIS TOP TEN INFLUENTIAL ALBUMS

To say we are overwhelmed to be able to publish this feature on his Top Ten Influential Albums by the the legendary Nick Burbridge is an understatement! Encompassing everything inbetween Folk to Celtic-Punk it’s a glorious ride through some famous and legendary artists and some little known outside the communities they hail from. Second gen Irish singer-songwriter, Nick has been playing Irish-influenced acoustic music since his teens influencing countless others, including in their own words, The Levellers. His band McDermott’s 2 Hours were among the first to ever think of combining punk and Irish folk so he is a trailblazer among the Celtic-Punk scene but also so much more as well. 

No time to waste so put the kettle on, crack open some biscuits and save the next couple of hours…

Andy Irvine & Paul Brady- ‘Self-Titled’ (1976)

When I was asked to name ten indispensable albums on Facebook some time ago, I decided to work from the late sixties to the millennium, and pick out those most influential on my development as a musician and songwriter, and end where I began, as it were. The first album I chose was this one. It’s a classic of its kind, melding yet never losing the distinctive characters of two of the most innovative and enduring musicians working in the Irish traditional idiom. There’s not a song on it I can’t still recall to memory, give or take a verse here or there, and the quality and range of the musicianship and arrangement, while capturing the essence of Planxty, somehow has an irresistible intimacy the full band doesn’t quite match, though they were perhaps the best of their kind.

(As Andy Irvine says this is Mr. Bradys classic. “Oh, me and my cousin, one Arthur McBride As we went a-walking down by the seaside Now, mark what followed and what did betide For it being on Christmas morning…” )

The Copper Family- ‘A Song For Every Season’ (1971)

This box set was, unexpectedly perhaps, essential listening for the punk-folk band I was in, when we lived in the red light district of Mainz one summer in the mid-seventies. We sang a few Copper songs a capella in our set – the Germans loved them. I spent fifteen years growing up in Rottingdean, Sussex, and I guess that’s as authentic a connection as you can get to this unique family who’ve kept alive a whole tradition on their own initiative, and are rightly recognised for it across the world. Their singing is rough, genuine, heartwarming, and eccentrically tuneful. I’m proud we introduced our audiences to their material, among chaotic jigs and reels and rebel songs. Once again, while I often forget what I’m meant to be doing these days, I can still remember almost every line, such was their influence on me.

(The whole Box-Set of four albums on You Tube. ‘Tater Beer Night- Spring’, ‘Black Ram- Summer’, ‘Hollerin’ Pot’- Fall’ and ‘Turn O’ The Year- Winter’. Nearly three hours long!)

The Bothy Band- ‘After Hours’ (1979)

There are so many unforgettable albums by Irish traditional bands who pushed the form in all directions in the 70s, and influenced countless more to follow suit. I guess The Bothy Band stand in the vanguard, and this album with its driving sets of tunes, and exquisitely sung ballads, live yet virtually faultless, is indispensable to anyone trying to understand just why this music is so effortlessly infectious, exhibiting a musical intensity few others come close to, always ready and able to form the soundtrack to a particular phase in someone’s life. It did mine. It has long been an immeasurable influence.

(You Tube seems to have started allowing whole albums on their site these days. While I’m not too sure of the legality lets just sit back and enjoy)

Dick Gaughan- ‘Handful Of Earth’ (1981)

Dick Gaughan made Handful of Earth on the way back from a major nervous breakdown. And there is something not working within ordinary tramlines here. His errant but extraordinary guitar accompaniments weave their way under an utterly compelling voice, as if to make a world turned upside down both inimitable and unforgettable. The choice of songs is faultless. Gaughan, whatever his fate, will always remain a mighty force. Those who do try to imitate him simply don’t have whatever it is that comes from wherever it does…

(Dick’s folk masterpiece album in full, unabridged on You Tube)

The Pogues- ‘Rum Sodomy & The Lash’ (1985)

By the mid-80s folk and punk had well and truly fused. Much as I think ‘Iron Masters’ by The Men They Couldn’t Hang May may well be my favourite track from the era, I don’t think any such album surpassed this one. Too much academic writing has attached itself to the formidable Shane MacGowan opus, and The Pogues’ irregular but compulsive sense of Irish identity. All I want to say is that I hope their influence on my work hasn’t been too obvious – I’ve tried to pay them the greatest compliment by sowing their seeds as deep as I could in wherever my songs take root, in the hope that what hybrid growth occurred would be as substantial and organic as possible, and not some hasty GM copy of their timeless and outstanding work.

(Which one to choose? How about ‘Sally MacLennane’ from British TV in 1986)

The Waterboys- ‘Fisherman’s Blues’ (1988)

This would probably appear on the all time list of anyone involved in folk-rock music. They call some albums seminal – Fishermen’s Blues epitomises what it means. Like Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks it simply has an originality, authority and impact reserved for those who find themselves, by design or accident, at the cutting edge, and who have the courage to take the task on without flinching. From the monumental to the simply made, tracks etch themselves into the memory. I keep them there, and bring them out from time to time. I always will.

(Absolutely cracking live version of the album’s title track)

Wolfestone- ‘Unleashed’ (1989)

I was travelling to play at Reading Festival when someone put this album on in the van and immediately I realised this band were truly fellow-travellers – and there was much to learn from their blending of traditional music with good original songwriting, where sensitive guitar playing had a central part. They weren’t The Waterboys, but they had the same sense of attack, and an obvious love of what they were doing. Perhaps the least known of the albums chosen, this should need no introduction – it is, in its own way, a classic.

(Nick is right. A band I hadn’t come across before but as this whole feature is about introducing us all to good music I’m glad I found it here. The opening track of ‘Unleashed’ from 1992)

Levellers- ‘Levellers’ (1993)

The band didn’t tell me they were putting my song ‘Dirty Davey’ on this album – but they were well aware of my attitude to ‘folk’ music: it’s common property, as far as I’m concerned, whatever the source. And that isn’t why I chose this record over, say, Levelling The Land. It seems to me a broader, more ambitious production, without losing its roots. It was released about the time my young son made a short film for a BBC Children’s television programme, about how much the band meant to him, and had seen him through some rough years. They were, you might say, at their height. Their legendary Glastonbury headline spot was soon to come. They had successfully entered the mainstream without squandering their gifts. And those gifts are abundant here. I should say I’ve always felt privileged that they cite me as a main initial influence. The fact that they’re still working now says it all.

(Nick Burbridge performing with the Levellers in 2004 live on stage at Buxton Opera House doing his own song!)

Eithne Ní Uallacháin- ‘Bilingua’ (Initial Recording 1999- Posthumous Release 2014)

While she was in the midst of putting down vocals for this album Eithne killed herself. Working with what they had, and eventually fighting through their grief and misgivings, the musicians in her family and others released it fifteen years after her death. It’s an irresistible recording, centred round the most evocative female Irish traditional singer I have ever heard. Whether tackling old Gaelic pieces or fronting tales of her own battles with darkness and her sharp visions of light, it’s impossible to listen to her without being deeply moved – especially if much of her inner torment feels as deeply shared. We should all be indebted to those who loved her at first hand, who have kept her memory alive. It’s not discourteous to say that, through her music, I have found my own love for her. It will not die.

(“But grief can be translated from the light into the darkness; In the belly of the shadow with all its shades digested. Its true colours will unfold.”

(In 1998, Eithne returned to Shaun ‘Mudd’ Wallace’s Homestead studios to record a solo album. Ní Uallacháin’s vocals were completed and much of the music was arranged, but the album was not released. Eithne died in 1999 and her son, Dónal, took residence at Wallace’s studio as an assistant engineer, and during times when the studio was not booked worked with Wallace on the album. Due to contractual issues with the original record label, the album was not released until 2014,15 years after its recording and 14 years after mixing was completed. The album was titled Bilingua and was released with Gael Linn, who released Eithne’s first album, Cosa Gan Bhróga.)

Finbar & Eddie Furey- ‘First And Last’ (1968)

If I’m sometimes cited as an influence on certain others, forced to pick one album that influenced me most, it’s this one. It marks the beginning of a fifty year long journey so far, and whenever I listen to it, even now, I find it impossible to skip through. It represents everything good about Irish music. The instrumental playing is (apart from one or two odd passages) fearless and full of guile; the singing has both a tender and a punkish edge; the arrangements are often ornate and yet always seem gritty and spontaneous; and of course Ted Furey’s sons were born into an authentic travelling family, and it’s immediately audible. I was glad to cross paths with the duo once upon a time in Germany, when side-stage at Ingelheim festival Finbar (rightly, I’m sure) called the band I was in ‘a pile o’ shite’…I took it as a compliment he’d bothered to listen… That a wider family group went on to make a big name covering more commercial, and sometimes questionable material is neither here nor there, in my opinion. Good luck to them. I’ve been fortunate enough to be recognised as a poet, and where songs are concerned, use the idiom of my grandfathers to carry as complex and penetrating a vision as I’ve been able to pursue. But, in contrast to what often seems to masquerade as what it’s not, this is the real thing. The 1968 recording also forms the first half of The Spanish Cloak: The Best of the Fureys (1998) – available on all the usual selling and streaming platforms. On we go…

(Eddie’s first song was written by Scottish TV producer Gordon Smith. The words are set to the traditional Irish air ‘Buchal an Eire’)

Nick continues to produce great music and his last album, under the name of his original band, McDermott’s 2 Hours – ‘Besieged’ was not just featured on these pages but positively drooled over by our man Francis! On the album he is accompanied by members of both The Levellers and the Oysterband and showcases his work as not just a musician but also, in the best Irish tradition, as a poet, playwright and novelist as well. Available as a limited edition two CD set including a Best of compilation, Anticlimactic but you can buy several versions including the download direct from Nick here and also available from all streaming services inc. Spotify, Amazon etc here. You can contact Nick Burbridge over at his WebSite and Facebook. Thanks to Nick for taking his time out to pen this great feature ‘Go raibh maith agat’.

REMEMBERING RODDY McCORLEY IN SONG

A short series exploring some of the figures from history immortalised in song and covered by all your favourite Folk and Celtic-Punk bands. You’ve sung the song but do you know the rich history behind the words? Today we celebrate Roddy McCorley, a young man executed back in 1800. He has been immortalised in both the written word and song and 200 + years after his death we are still here celebrating his life with the many versions of the great song written about him.  

The Rody McCorley Memorial, Toome. “I gcuimhne Ruairí Mhic Thoirealaigh, a chrochadh annseo as a bheith páirteach i nÉirigh-Amach 1798. Iad siúd a d’éag ar son na hÉireann go mairidh a gcliú go deo.” “In memory of Rody McCorley who was hung here for his part in the 1798 uprising. May the honour of those who died for Ireland last forever.”

Roddy McCorley was the son of a miller and was born near Toome in the parish of Duneane, Co Antrim. and was a participant in the 1798 rebellion led by the United Irishmen. A few years before the rebellion Roddy’s dad was executed for stealing sheep. These charges are believed to have been politically motivated in an attempt to remove a troublesome agitator at a time of great social unrest. Following his father’s execution, his family were evicted from their home. There is uncertainty as to whether McCorley was actually actively involved with the Presbyterian United Irishmen or the  Catholic Defenders.

(the version that brought the song back into Irish folklore)

After the rebellions defeat, he joined a notorious outlaw gang known as Archer’s Gang, made up of former rebels and led by Thomas Archer. Some of these men had been British soldiers (members of the Irish militia) who changed sides in the conflict, and as such were guilty of treason and thus exempt from the terms of amnesty offered to the rank and file of the United Irishmen. This meant that they were always on the run in an attempt to evade capture.

(The Dubliners version in their own inimitable style as sung by Ciaran Bourke) 

These were treacherous times and Roddy McCorley paid the price when betrayed by an informer he was arrested and tried by court martial in Ballymena on 20 February 1800. He was sentenced to be hanged “near the Bridge of Toome” in the parish of Duneane. His execution was carried out on 28 February 1800. His body was then dismembered and buried under the gallows, on the main Antrim to Derry road. A letter published in the Belfast Newsletter a few days after McCorley’s execution gave an account of the execution and how McCorley was viewed by some. In it he is called Roger McCorley, which may have been his proper Christian name.

“Upon Friday last, a most awful procession took place here, namely the execution of Roger McCorley who was lately convicted at a court-martial, to the place of execution, Toome Bridge, the unfortunate man having been born in that neighbourhood. As a warning to others, it is proper to observe that the whole of his life was devoted to disorderly proceedings of every kind, for many years past, scarcely a Quarter-sessions occurred but what the name of Roger McCorley appeared in a variety of criminal cases. His body was given up to dissection and afterwards buried under the gallows…thus of late we have got rid of six of those nefarious wretches who have kept this neighbourhood in the greatest misery for some time past, namely, Stewart, Dunn, Ryan, McCorley, Caskey and the notorious Dr. Linn. The noted Archer will soon be in our Guard-room.”

In 1852, McCorley’s nephew Hugh was foreman of the construction of a new bridge across the River Bann at Toome. Hugh recovered his uncle’s body and on 29 June 1852, buried him at Duneane parish graveyard.

(one of the best recorded versions of the song by American folk legends The Kingston Trio)

See the fleet foot host of men
That speed with faces wan,
From farmstead and from fishers cot
Along the banks of Bann,
They come with vengeance in their eyes
Too late too late are they.
For young Roddy McCorley goes to die
On the bridge of Toome today.

Up narrow street he steps
Smiling, proud and young.
About the hemp rope on his neck
The golden ringlets clung
There was never a tear in his blue eye,
Both sad and bright are they,
For young Roddy McCorley goes to die
On the bridge of Toome today.

When he last stepped up that street,
His shining pike in hand,
Behind him marched in grim array
A stalwart, earnest band.
For Antrim town, for Antrim town,
He led them to the fray,
And young Roddy McCorley goes to die
On the bridge of Toome today.

There was never a one of all your dead
More bravely fell in fray
Than he who marches to his fate
On the bridge of Toome today.
True to the last, true to the last,
He treads the upward way,
And young Roddy McCorley goes to die
On the bridge of Toome today.

Ethna Carbery

Roddy’s role in the 1798 rebellion was passed down by word of mouth and it was in a poem/song written 100 years after the rebellion by Ethna Carbery that he was claimed to have been one of the leaders at the Battle of Antrim. The song was published in 1904 two years after Ethna’s death as part of a collection of poems titled The Four Winds Of Erin. Despite this lack of evidence Roddy McCorley became a major figure in nationalist-republican martyrology due to this song. Recently evidence has been unearthed by historian Guy Beiner as to his involvement in the rebellion that had been hidden due to the change in the  Presbyterian faith from nationalist to unionist. 

(as with everything Irish music related their is always a link to the great Shane MacGowan)

The song was re-popularised in the 1950’s when it was recorded by giants of the Irish folk scene The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem and The Dubliners. In the folk music revival of the 1960’s it was recorded by the The Kingston Trio and many more up until Shane MacGowan and The Popes recorded a version for The Snake in 1994 and it’s popularity has blossomed since then being recorded by several bands with in the Celtic-Punk scene with a knowledge of their history and roots.

(the latest version as recorded by Irish-American band The Templars of Doom on this years Hovels Of The Holy album)

The Roddy McCorley Society   Irish Music Daily  Irish Folk Songs

( there’s even a Psychobilly version from the great psycho German band Pitmen!)

  • If the tune is familiar but not the song that may be because the melody for Roddy McCorley was recycled in 1957 for the more familiar song ‘Sean South Of Garryowen’.
  • If you are even just the tiniest bit interested in Irish history and culture then it is essential that you subscribe to Stair na hÉireann/History of Ireland. An absolutely fantastic resource for all aspects of Irish history including the daily ‘What Happened On This Day’ and covering a wide range of Irish History, Irish language, Irish Diaspora, The Great Hunger, Arts & Music, Culture, Archaeology, Literature, Photography, Mythology & Folk Culture.
  • REMEMBERING HUGH THE GREAT O’NEILL IN SONG  here
  • REMEMBERING FIACH MacHUGH O’BYRNE IN SONG  here

ALBUM REVIEW: THE TENBAGS- ‘Bags o’ Craic’ (2018)

Crusty punk troubadours from the middle of England playing Anarcho-Celtic-Punk ballads and rampaging through folk tradition!

Bags o’ Craic arrived at London Celtic Punk Towers towards the end of 2018 on a scruffy home made CDR with a basic photocopied cover and a couple of stickers that wouldn’t play on any of the CD players in my house or my laptop!! So it was with great relief that the band recently stuck it up on Bandcamp so I could finally get round to hearing it. Having checked them out on Facebook they seemed like they were a band i would be into and after a couple of listens this was confirmed!

The Tenbags a true Brummy mix of backgrounds including – Scottish, Irish, Jewish, Indian, Trinidadian, English, Italian, Roma Gypsy and Punk!! From left to right: Neil Harvey – Washboard and Guitar * Johnny (Kowalski) Noblet – GuitBanj and Voice * Niall Singh – Guitar and Voice and Poems * Benedict Davenport- Mandolin and Tenor Banjo * Sam-uendo – Fiddle.

Bags o’ Craic is twelve songs that fly past in an incredibly quick twenty-four minutes. Songs beloved by the folk snobs purists are stripped right down to basics and played without frills or flourishes which for many of these songs that is exactly how they were meant to be played when first written. The roots of The Tenbags lie in Niall and Ben’s meeting at Birmingham art school back in 2009. A shared interest in folk music thanks to Ben’s Irish background and Niall who had grown up obsessed with Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie and The Pogues before getting into Punk. Coming from a half Scottish/half Indian background he ingested the folk music from his Mam’s record collection and the Pogues from Celtic Supporting, Celtic-Rock loving Uncles!

The album kicks off with ‘The World Turned Upside Down’ a song originally penned by folk legend Leon Rosselson which tells the story of the Diggers (English radicals seen as forerunners of anarchism) rebellion on St. Georges Hill in Surrey in 1649.

“The sin of property we do disdain
No man has any right to buy and sell the earth for private gain
By theft and murder they took the land
Now everywhere the walls spring up at their command”

It has been recorded by several artists with perhaps Billy Bragg’s 1983 version the most popular. Here it is played fast with sparse backing of acoustic guitar, fiddle and mandolin with Niall’s vocals leading. These days their is such a market for Irish music that the temptation is to perfect and polish everything so that the pub cover gigs keep rolling in. This is a long way from the roots of Celtic-Punk and Shane could never ever have been accused of trying to croon his way through things and it is to Shane’s tradition that Niall continues. This is followed by a cover of ‘The Blackleg Miner/ You Made Your Bed’, a song that has recently been covered by Ferocious Dog and regularly features in their live set. From the mid 19th-century the song is set among the Northumberland pit villages and spits vengeance against strike breakers otherwise known as scabs to the miners and their families. A subject close to Niall’s heart as his family in Scotland were from the mining community, seamlessly flowing into the original track ‘You Made Your Bed. One of the best tracks here is the cover of Tom Paxton’s ‘Johnny Got a Gun’. The heartbreaking tale of a child who is bullied at school so gets the means to defend himself that ends in utter tragedy and contains one of the best lines I’ve ever heard.

“Johnny’s mum and dad still work long hours
And knock on the unit door
They sit with Johnny in the visitor’s room
And his feet don’t reach the floor”

Niall’s voice may not be the polished article but that is far from why The Tenbags are doing this and their is more emotion in this song than many of the albums that have featured on these pages over the years. Do yourself a favour and check out the great Tom Paxton’s version as well here. Next up is a spoken word piece ‘Banned From The Tesco’ where Niall spits out the words at us in just seventy seconds leading into a couple of covers of minor classics starting with the Crass song ‘Securicor’ and followed quickly by The Exploited’s ‘Alternative’ sounding as unlike Crass and The Exploited as you will ever hear. The Tenbags take the songs and breathe a life into them I would never have thought possible. That anarchic punk rock spirit shines through in the spoken word sections. These use to popular in Punk Rock, especially on Oi! compilations, but has all but disappeared these days so the thirty second angry anti-war rant ‘Grandad’ is both a blast to the past in subject matter and its very existence. The covers chosen here sound to me to have been picked very carefully and Bob Dylan’s  ‘When The Ship Comes In’ leads us into another anti-war rant in ‘Warlords’ before the album’s highlight hits the airwaves and in ‘Bella Ciao’ Niall perhaps comes as close here to singing in tune! The Italian anti-fascist anthem dates from the rice fields of the late 19th century but it was revived by the anti- fascist movement active in Italy during the Second World War with it’s lyrics updated. The next song also harks back to Crass in the albums second original track ‘The Man Who Spoke To God’. There follows a couple of minutes of silence which may be a nod to Crass and their problems with the song ‘Reality Asylum’or could be that the final song is meant to be a hidden track! The album comes to an end with the classic Irish traditional lament ‘The Parting Glass’. It was maybe too obvious to cover something that Shane was well known for singing but The Pogues did get round to singing ‘The Parting Glass’ and here The Tenbags keep it simple an play the song as it is meant to be played, slowly.

So an album that you will either be able to get past Niall’s style of vocals or not but as I’ve said we are in a scene where we worship a man who couldn’t sing for toffee so you should never let that put you off. The music is extremely well played and the arrangements sparse with the songs chosen far beyond ‘folks greatest hits’ and with some great and unusual and unexpected punk covers thrown in to. The energy and passion here is evident on every single track and with the band having made the album available for free download you have no excuse not to get a copy. Simply click where it says Buy Digital Album and this will take you to a page where you have the option to name your price where you can simply type in £0.00 and you will receive the link for your freed download.

(listen to Bags o’ Craic for free on the Bandcamp player below)

Download Bags o’ Craic  Name Your Price Download  Contact The Tenbags  Bandcamp  Facebook

ALBUM REVIEW: GREENLAND WHALEFISHERS- ‘Based On A True Story’ (2019)

Long time thought of as ‘more like The Pogues than The Pogues are’ Norway’s unpolished Irish-Punk pioneers Greenland Whalefishers show they can also adapt to new sounds with their new album garnering applause from all over the internet. 

Now in their 25th anniversary year Greenland Whalefishers have done as much as anyone has to keep The Pogues flame burning bright. Beginning in the small bars around their home town of Bergen in Norway they played their very first concert on the 8th March, 1994 and haven’t looked back since. With album and single releases now well into double figures, gigs and tours across most of the world and appearances in several major films they have slowly, but surely, built up a global fan base and all done off their own backs. They were one of the first bands to develop the sound made popular by The Pogues taking British punk attitudes and sound and combining it with Celtic/Irish folk influences and from there all roads lead to what we call today Celtic-Punk.

One of the most striking things about The Pogues career was that though they are primarily known as a Irish folk band they often throughout their days strayed into other music. Whether that was Folk, Irish, Punk, Jazz, Reggae, Tex-Mex, Country, Ska and more they still managed to keep that unmistakable Gaelic tinge to everything and it gave traditional music the shot in the arm it needed (whether the folk snobs purists agreed or not they became irrelevant) and introduced Irish folk to a worldwide audience. Greenland Whalefishers have primarily been thought of as a band that sticks to The Pogues script pretty rigidly but here on Based On A True Story the true spirit of The Pogues is unleashed and the Whalefishers sound all the better for it!

 

The Whalefishers tenth album begins with ‘Over’ and for the initiated it kicks off just like Shane and the gang. Vocalist and band former Arvid’s laconic and laboured delivery is straight out the Pogues style book. Agnes on tin-whistle echo’s Spider’s important role and throughout the album her whistle can be heard laid gently on top of the more heavier instruments. ‘The Party’ begins with a speedy opening but soon settles down and comes with a traditional Poguesy anthemic chorus which leads us into the the first single released from Based On A True Story, ‘K Says’, and to say it went down well is an understatement. Across the internet Web-Sites that cover everything from Punk to Metal to Folk to Ska have gone mental for it! Arvid goes all Rude-Boy on us and we get as fine a slice of Celtic-Ska crossover since The Trojans (here) knocked us for six way back in 1987.

‘K Says’ is to the Greenland Whalefishers what ‘Fiesta’, ‘Metropolis’ or the whole of ‘Hell’s Ditch’ was to The Pogues. A chance to not move away from Irish folk but to take it with them into new and strange lands. They followi up with friend of the band Åse Britt Reme Jacobsen taking over on vocals for ‘Darkness’ before Arvid joins in to duet on a country tinged number. Time for a kick-arse track and ‘Friend-Enemy’ comes at just the right time. Sounding, despite his strong Norwegian accent, scarily like Mr. MacGowan at times Arvid carries the song and indeed a lot of the songs here with his voice, just as that band I keep mentioning did with Shane. ‘Joe’s Town’ is upbeat fast as feck Irish folk music. Nearly acoustic except for Jon-Erik’s electric guitar which at times is so subtle the album sounds like an acoustic one. ‘Halloween’ sees Arvid singing faster than any person ever should be able to along to a song that keeps the pace up as Odin’s fiddle and Ronny and his array of instruments, mandolin, banjo and bouzouki, keep the Irish turned up to 11! ‘Bad Match’ tells of a relationship gone bad and could easy fit upon If I Should Fall From Grace With God with its intelligent lyrics and punk rock styled folk music. One of the highlights here and my personal favourite after ‘K Says’. We are nearing the end and so far its the usual high standard from one of the Celtic-Punk scenes big hitters and ‘Together’ takes on a epic Punk ballad sound while ‘Ticket’ takes us back to the early days and a basic Irish folk rocker which takes us up to the last track.  Great choice of song to bring down the curtain and ‘Riverside’ is another standout track which has that country tinged Irish Fol-Punk feel to it. Again Agnes and her tin-whistle keeps the song on track.

Band from left to right: Ørjan Eikeland Risan- Drums * Ronny Terum- Mandolin, Banjo, Bouzouki * Atle-Hjørn Øien- Bass * Agnes Skollevoll- Tin Whistle, Harmonica, Vocals * Arvid Grov- Lead Vocals, Mandolin * Jon Erik Kvåle Øien * Alexander Bjotveit- Guitar * Odin Døssland- Fiddle * Photo- Lars Kristian Steen *

Forty minutes long and containing eleven tracks Based On A True Story has been released as limited edition vinyl with a free CD version of album inside the sleeve. The vinyl album will contain a free bonus 7″ single with two songs only available through this single and no digital version or streaming version of these tracks will be made available. The Celtic-Punk scene has a lot of bands out there that sound like The Pogues. After all they are/were the major influence for all Celtic-Punk bands in the beginning but none sound as much like them as the Greenland Whalefishers do but don’t go away thinking they are a tribute band as they are a million miles away from that and it is when they sing their own songs that they really shine as a band. Formed well before the two pillars of Celtic-Punk Greenland Whalefishers look set to outlast both the Murphys and the Mollys and their never ending World tour continues!

Buy Based On A True Story

You can Pre-Order the album from MacSlonsShop and receive Vinyl and CD together from 8th March.

Contact Greenland Whalefishers

WebSite  Facebook  Twitter  YouTube  Spotify

EP REVIEW: THE CRAICHEADS- ‘Greetings From Another Land’ (2018)

One of the biggest pullers on the London Irish scene Celtic-folkers The Craicheads are back with an 4-track EP the follow up to their debut album and a taster for their new studio album due next year!

There are two Irish communities living in London. The Irish and the London-Irish. The Craicheads are London-Irish through and through. A product of their environment on the working-class streets of London where the Irish ran everything. Nowadays London is a multicultural place where every nation in the world has rocked up to and the presence of the Irish in it has diminished in a couple of ways. For decades the public face of the Irish was the pub. Only a decade ago Irish pubs dominated the high streets of the capital but gentrification and changing demographics and the ever increasing need to build flats for young yuppies professionals has seen 100’s and 100’s closed over the last few years. On top of that, the ageing population has sadly seen many of the Irish who arrived in the glory days of Irish emigration from the 50’s through to the 80’s either pass away or move back home in retirement. Nevertheless their is a rich vein of Irishness still alive and kicking in the capital and it wouldn’t be unusual to go to an Irish pub these days and find the Irish born well outnumbered by the Irish not born in Ireland!

Music has played an enormous part in this and yeah bands like The Pogues did truly represent us back in the day but more modern bands like The Bible Code Sundays continue the trend. All over London, and other parts of England, Wales and Scotland, the foreign born Irish celebrate their ancestors and their roots listening and singing along to fellow foreign born Irish bands and singers. Into this category we can add the wonderful Craicheads. Formed a decade ago the Bhoys are in constant demand playing in and around the capital and at functions and festivals throughout the UK and abroad. Performances on ITV’s This Morning, at Trafalgar Square for the 2016 St Patrick’s Day festivals, The Irish Post Awards and at The Rugby World Cup too, as well as a residency at one of London’s largest and most well known Irish bars, O’Neills in the west end. They have one release behind them, ‘Brewed In London’, which was basically an album of Irish folk and country tinged covers which was well played and enthusiastically received but it was the two original Craichead compositions on the album that stuck out for me. ‘Take Me Back To Harrow’ and ‘Sligo Shore’ showed exactly what they can do and I never stopped hinting to Mick the bands singer when I would see him that they ought to concentrate on some original material. Well I have gotten my wish!!

The Craicheads from left to right: Sean Douglas- Bass * Ben Gunnery- Fiddle/Whistle/Flute * Mick O’Beirne- Guitar/Lead Vocals * Martin Stewart- Drums * Tim Eyles: Lead Guitar/Mandolin *

It’s a wee bit of a change of direction for them and I can honestly say its for the better. Watching them in O’Neills, as I have done countless times, you come away knowing a couple of things. 1) That you have had a bloody great time and 2) that these guys are wasted on the London pub scene! The songs here are still tinged with folk, country, blues and even good old fashioned rock’n’roll but there’s a bite to these songs that was missing before. Maybe its a bit of punk attitude but as a taster for the upcoming Craicheads second album this will certainly get the juices flowing.

Greetings From Another Land was recorded many miles from London at the Rockfield Studios in Monmouth, Cymru. The studio has in the past played host to such legends as Oasis, Joe Strummer, The Stone Rose’s and Queen. In fact it’s was here where Freddy Mercury wrote the epic song ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’! The EP kicks off with the rousing title-track ‘Greetings From Another Land’ where Mick’s voice sits snugly between fellow London-Irishmen Johnny Rotten and Shane MacGowan but still completely tuneful! The song takes the form of a message from one generation to the next about their experiences and the struggles they faced in emigrating to these shores.

“No Blacks, No Dogs, No Irish was the sign upon the wall, It’s hard now to believe it but it happened to us all”

Times were tough for those Paddies and Biddies we must never forget. The song itself takes in a ska/reggae beat, appropriately enough, alongside some fantastic fast trad Irish. The Irish lived side by side with the West Indian communities on arrival here in London’s poorest areas and many of their children still do.

A cracker of an opener with more than a hint of the Bible Code’s Celtic-Rock but lifted by the influences from around London. All the required instrumentation is here and played, as you’d expect, absolutely note perfect. They follow this up with ‘The Ballad Of John Joyce’, a song about vocalist Mick’s Grandad John Joyce from Connemara. Arriving in England from the Gaeltacht (where only Irish was spoken) with no English he got a job working down the coal mines in Wales, then to London and starting work and raising a family. It’s down to such legends in our lives that we are Irish. Here The Craicheads give it some Country’n’Irish with a snappy, catchy tune with Ben’s fantastic fiddle and tin-whistle moving it along nicely. It’s hard to imagine what he must have gone through to leave the green fields of home to go to work two miles underground. It literally must have seemed like another planet. On ‘Larry’s Song’ Mick tells the story of a man he worked with many moons ago. Like many of these long gone Irish over here, they all had a story to tell. A great hurler from Gort, Co Galway he helped the young Mick figure out what life was all about. His advice be sure to chase your dreams is truly good advice. The slowest song here though not quite a ballad but some lovely Irish folk played under Mick’s voice who proves he can still hit the notes when needed. A beautiful song with a strong and positive message. Class.

We’re rolling up to the end and the curtain comes down on Greetings From Another Land with ‘Leave Me Alone’ and The Craicheads go out in style with a knockabout Poguesy Celtic-Punk number. Telling the story of a man looking for a bit of peace and quiet away from it all down the boozer who won’t be left alone. Yeah there is still a trace of country still in there but its fast and furious and a great way to end things. Four new songs that are knocked out with power, passion and pride and it would be criminal if The Craicheads were confined to the pubs of London town. We will keep you posted as to when the full length album will be delivered but we must never forget that we built the roads, schools, hospitals (and staffed them too), tubes and plenty more besides in London and we have a not too shabby musical legacy to be proud of as well.

Buy The EP

iTunes

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EP REVIEW: JAMES McGRATH- ‘Live At The Shed’ (2018)

What a fortnight for acclaimed Tipp born singer-songwriter James McGrath with both a new must-hear EP out this week and a must-see gig in London soon too!
My family come from Tipperary (shout out to Ballylooby and Clogheen Wilkinson’s) so at this time of year I would normally be hurting after our annual defeat to Kilkenny in the All-Ireland Hurling Championship but with not even that to look back on I have had to cast my net a bit wider. Following the well trod route of many many Tipp people he has moved to London and with the release of his latest EP, Live At The Shed is hoping for the breakthrough that will see him reach the heights his talents deserve.

Ireland has no shortage of talented singer-songwriters, and never has had to be honest, and among the most talented the name James McGrath is up at the top of the list. Hailing from Nenagh in the north of Tipp James has a voice that has been compared to both Neil Young and Eddie Vedder and the songwriting skills of the legendary Shane MacGowan. Live At The Shed is his third EP release and showcases James live at Shed Studios in the once heavily Irish enclave of Enfield in north London. Just him and his guitar and no knobs twiddled or fiddled about with to change anything. James exciting and passionate live performance transfers onto this recording so well and his warmth shines through. He has already tasted success at home in Ireland when his track ‘8 Cans’ from The Cans EP hit the #1 spot in last years Irish Download charts.

Live At The Shed begins with ‘Can’t Get Out’ and the first thing you notice is James voice. Clear and precise and with a brogue as Irish as Damo Dempsey but without the over inflated ‘Dubb’ inflection. The shortest song here its a tale of having no cash and trying everything you can to make your life work. There’s only four songs here and ‘Bad Bends’ is up next. It’s much more laid back but far from a ballad again it’s no tale to eat popcorn too and despite it being a downbeat song it’s also full of hope and tender emotion. It’s certainly not what I am use to reviewing on these pages but I like to challenge myself and I got over the idea that I cannot like things that my Mammy would like years ago. Now i am not one to bander Ed Sheeran’s name around much but if you draw a line between the wee ginger billionaire and Shane MacGowan then you’d be right to put James on the Shane side of the middle. Third song is ‘Walk Away’ and not much to add here except its more of the same mid-tempo folk.  Extremely well played and James has stamped onto these songs his own brand. At times you can imagine the songs coming from Christy or Damo but young James has certainly developed his own style. The highlight of the EP for me is ‘Race To The Bottom’ which brings down the curtain after only eleven minutes.

One of James stated goals in moving to London was to write an album so here’s hoping he gets onto it as soon as possible. Things move fast in London so he needs to strike while he’s building up some momentum. One bad habit he seems to have picked up in London like the many before him is a love of the bookies. Did your Ma never tell you there’s no such thing as a poor bookmaker? It’s a downbeat song and its not unusual for any of us who arrive in London to find it too much and a combination of the capital’s excesses and homesickness often is too much for new arrivals. A real beauty of a song.

james mcgrath gigJames has released a fine EP and his humour, passion and sincerity shine through and if like me you can’t wait to see him live in concert we will get our chance in just a couple of weeks at the EP’s official launch night at The Swallow Bar in Uxbridge. James favourite venue a packed, fun, lively night is in store and to top it all off it’s free entry as well. He takes the stage at 9pm and you can find the FB event here. The Swallow Bar is a old fashioned Irish bar on Long Lane in Uxbridge, UB10 9NR and is situated right next to Hillingdon Station. It’s on the Picadilly and Metropolitan lines but bring a book if you coming from central London as its a bit of a slog but never let that put you off. Up to a hour on the tube may seem long in London but having just got back my home town I can honestly say it is not! It may  not be the raucous Irish music we are use to here in London Celtic Punks towers but man can’t live by that alone. It’s good for your soul to listen to someone like James occasionally. He has a very exciting future ahead of him and I think the dark streets of London will suit him well.
Buy Live At The Shed
iTunes  
Contact James McGrath
(James McGrath singing his fantastic hit single ‘8 Cans’. Filmed at Fat Pigeon April 2016)

ALBUM REVIEW: MUIRSHEEN DURKIN AND FRIENDS- ’11 Pints & 3 Shots’ (2018)

And we all thought Muirsheen Durkin had gone off to mine gold in California but would seem he got lost on the way to Amerikay and ended up in Arnsberg and started playing some proper kick-arse Irish-Celtic-Folk-Punk-Rock!

I have a feeling we’ll still be reviewing Celtic-Punk releases from March well into the Summer at this rate! Here’s another that arrived in time for St. Patrick’s Day and has hardly been out of my ears since. The quality of what we received here at London Celtic Punks Towers has been amazing and when I said I thought Krakin’ Kellys new CD was already the album of the year I hadn’t heard 11 Pints & 3 Shots by this awesome German collective of musicians.

Having known each other for some thirty years it was only a few years back in 2009 that the idea to start something new came up. Wanting a band with its feet based firmly in traditional Irish music and with an emphasis on emigration songs Muirsheen Durkin & Friends was born. Their name comes from the auld song about a happy go lucky Irishman heading off to mine for gold in America during the  California Gold Rush of 1849. The song is unusual in that its a happy song and Muirsheen (a reference to the phonetic pronunciation of ‘Máirtín’ (in English Martin) in the West of Ireland.The feet may be in trad with mandolin, banjo, tin whistle, accordion and two pipers but with the addition of classic rock music instruments the band joined an ever growing scene

” set about re-voicing Irish traditional’s with pulsing bass runs, pumping beats and the use of relatively rare instruments, making it hard to recognize the contemplative shanty or seafaring vocation , Pure enjoyment and a little punk rock is still…”

Modern day celtic music and celtic-punk music has moved away from the areas well known for Irish/Celtic emigration and is now played throughout the world inspired by hundreds of bands throughout the globe. They no longer come from Ireland or London or New York but from Indonesia, Russia, Japan and even China. This is the proud legacy that the Pogues leaves to the world.

11 Pints & 3 Shots is the third release from Muirsheen Durkin with their debut album, Last Orders, hitting the streets back in 2012 and their follow up to that, Drink With The Irish, a four track EP, arriving in 2014 which features ‘The Pogues and Whiskey’ a stunningly great homage to Kings Cross finest. Each release came with mighty press from around the celtic-punk world with everyone from Celtic Folk Punk & More to Shite’n’Onions raving to the high heavens about how good they are.  Formed in the central German town of Arnsberg the band were first revealed to me when they played at the Celtic-St. Pauli football and music festival and loads of fellow Celtic supporters arrived back over here raving about a band they had seen. That was a couple of years ago and with 11 Pints & 3 Shots I finally had the chance to hear them for the first time.

What we have here is fourteen tracks that clock in at three quarters of an hour which includes three instrumentals and and a bunch of songs that you may have probably heard before but done in a style i’m sure not many are accustomed to outside these pages! Mix in some re-workings (updating?) of a couple of songs and a smattering of original compositions and you got yourself one hell of a an album!

So onto the actual review and the fun begins on 11 Pints & 3 Shots from the very off with a great album opener ‘Another Drunken Night’. Self penned by the band this was the song that announced the new release to the waiting public and needless to say it is a corker! Banjo and accordion led with nice drumming it has a definite Rumjacks feel to it but these Bhoys and Ghirls have been around long enough, and on another continent!, to come up with it themselves. A grand song and what a way to start.

The subject matter well have a gander at the video above and you’ll easily work it out. We stay in the pub next for ‘One Whiskey’, another band penned number. The song really evokes an Irish sound to me. This is the Gaelic music music that we grew up here but with plenty more bite to it. Its still folk music but played at a breakneck speed and with a real passion. Vocalist MacRünker was a member of the first Irish folk punk band in the area, Lady Godiva, who released four albums and his voice fits in superbly. Hoarse and raspy but never too much and totally in tune with the music. The bagpipes are out for ‘Itchy Fingers’ and it puts the mental into instrumental. It’s the same tune as The Kilmaine Saints signature tune which I am sure is well known but beyond my feeble memory. A killer of a song and you’d expect it to be from a band with two pipers and where half the rest of the band can pipe as well!

The first totally recognisable cover is the Scots classic ‘Donald Where Your Troosers’. Written by the great Andy Stewart in 1960 while sat on the toilet in a recording studio. The song tells the hilarious story of a kilted Scotsman travelling round London shocking the well heeled residents of London.

“I went down to London town
To have a little fun in the underground
All the Ladies turned their heads around, saying,
“Donald, where’s your troosers?”

This is followed up with another classic Scottish song in ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’ and make no mistake I tells you this is the best bloody version of it I have ever heard in all my days! Folk music is put aside somewhat for a moment as the band punk it up with a thundering bass and MacRünker and acoustic guitarist Sonja and accordionist Mine kick up a real storm on vocals that captures Muirsheen Durkin perfectly. Talk about catchy this album sounds like there’s about twenty people playing and if i never thought I’d hear a better version than you-know-who’s then i was wrong. Another classic cover up next and its one perhaps made famous by The Dreadnoughts, ‘Old Maui’. The song can be traced to records going back to the mid 19th century and tells the story of a whaling ship returning to Maui in Hawaii after a long season of whaling.

“It’s a damn tough life full of toil and strife
We whalermen undergo”

The song is strong as any on the album but doesn’t add much to the Dreadnoughts version for me and for a band that really can stamp their brand onto any song maybe it might have been better to cast their net for a less known song. After a smattering of covers the next couple of songs are self-penned by the band and ‘Peggy The Waitress’takes us back to the auld sod of Ireland and a tin-whistle led instrumental that takes in a variety of tunes some sounding familiar and others not before the banjo takes over and leads us until the accordion takes over and then all kick in before we get ‘Land Of 1000 Mountains’ and its a country/Irish folk crossover and again MacRünker’s voice is exactly what is needed here. The song steams along at a steady pace and you know its gonna take off and when it does it lifts the roof. Another album standout here proving they are not just a brilliant covers band but a brilliant band in their own right. Next up we get another cover and Sonja and Mine again take up the vocals on ‘Botany Bay’ and again it’s a great version but perhaps a bit overdone. For a band so in touch with ‘Irishness’ this would be my only wee complaint here. ‘MacRunkers Junk’ is another belting Irish folk punk instrumental with what could easily pass for a ska interlude if they wanted. The tunes fly at you and once again some familiar and some not but they make for one hell of a song when they all put together. On ‘Drink With The Irish’ Muirsheen Durkin pay tribute to one of Ireland’s best ever bands and one that at times could have got you arrested for just listening to! The Wolfe Tones classic rebeler ‘Erin Go Bragh’ is chopped and changed and adapted with love and respect into a celtic-punk number.

“I’ll sing you a song of a row in the town,
When the green flag went up and the Crown flag came down,
‘Twas the neatest and sweetest thing ever you saw,
And they played that great game they called Erin Go Bragh”

Written and arranged by banjo/mandolin player Thomas ‘Lanze’ Landsknecht I bet the tones would whole heartily approve. With the King Of Celtic-Punk’s recent 60th birthday Muirsheen Durkin then pay tribute with ‘Last Of McGee’ written by Shane himself.

“Rope of hemp, around his neck
To hang from an old gum tree
And as he hung
The branch came down, and finished the last of McGee”

You may not have heard it as the song was unreleased and was recorded in 1990 during the recording sessions for the Hell’s Ditch album and produced by Joe Strummer. The song stays fairly true to the MacGowan version and is a timely reminder of the great mans talent. Fast and furious and how could it be anything other than absolutely fecking brilliant!! We are steering up towards the end and the quality hasn’t waned and in ‘When The Pipers Play’ we have what for me is the albums standout track. Originally played by the amazing Black Tartan Clan from Belguim the lyrics are by Muirsheen Durkin and leans heavily on songs as varied as ‘The Water Is Wide’, ‘Danny Boy’ and ‘Auld Lang Syne’. If you like bagpipes in yer celtic-punk then this is the song for you. Absolutely stunning pipes from Andre and Simon and arranged into a completely new song.

11 Pints & 3 Shots comes to a glorious end with the hilarious ‘Botany Bay Reggae’ and aye you guessed it is a reggae infused version of everyone’s favourite emigration song. Now I hate reggae but I love this so there! What a way to wrap up the album and the perfect way!

Overall the album has a fantastic sound. Quite a feat with the amount of musicians at work here and thanks are due to Sebastian Levermann of German progressive metal band Orden Ogan who along with the band members has managed to capture the band perfectly. The CD also comes with a very elaborate twenty page booklet with everything you need to know about the album and with some amazing cartoons of the band drawn by Sebastian Kempke. Last year was the year all the giants of celtic-punk released albums and this year may seem quieter because of that but so far we have a handful of albums that must have the giants quaking in their shoes and up at the top of that list is this one!

Buy 11 Pints & 3 Shots  FromTheBand

Contact Muirsheen Durkin  WebSite  Facebook  ReverbNation

THE UNHOLY TRINITY- SHANE MacGOWAN, MARK E. SMITH AND NICK CAVE

We were saddened to hear about the death of Mark E.Smith grumpy front man of the influential Manchester post-punk band The Fall. So seems an apt time to remember the time, back in February 1989, that the British music paper the NME sent two of its journalists, James Brown and Sean O’Hagan, to the boozer with three of music’s wisest (and wildest) men- Shane MacGowan, Mark E.Smith and Nick Cave… and gave them all £10 each to have a drink!

It’s not often that we mere mortals find out what the personalities of our heroes are but in this interview we can almost see them lapping it up in the lounge bar down the Montague. Nick Cave keeps his cool and his answers short and sweet, maybe down to him being the only sober one there perhaps (he had just spent seven weeks in rehab), while Shane (“… done some Ecstasy and had drunk a bottle of whisky on the way down”) is the amiable drinking companion we would always assume he would be dipping in and out and taking the piss in between bouts of seriousness. Finally Mark, at times abusive and hostile and others friendly and warm. His views were certainly militant but maybe not in the way many would like them to be but no denying the influence he had inspiring a generation of musicians from Sonic Youth to The Pixies and beyond. I had the pleasure of meeting him once in a pub in Sheffield around 1988 and he was as sound as you could expect a music hero to be when you’re a awed teenager. With more than thirty album’s and more band members than you could ever possibly keep up with The Fall didn’t make it easy to follow them but there were always Mark E.Smith steering them and always around but no more now. He will be missed.

“a kind of Northern English magic realism that mixed industrial grime with the unearthly and uncanny, voiced through a unique, one-note delivery somewhere between amphetamine-spiked rant and alcohol-addled yarn.

FEBRUARY 25th 1989. NME TALKS TO

“So the NME thinks we’re the last three heroes of rock’n’roll, do they?” laughs Nick Cave. “Smarmy fuckers,” adds Shane McGowan, “what they actually mean is that we’re the three biggest brain damaged cases in rock’n’roll.”

“Apart from Nick”, jabs Mark Smith, “Nick’s cleaned up.”
“yeah”, drawls Cave, “my brains restored itself.”

A bottle’s throw from Millwall FC, The Montague Arms, a mock Gothic fun pub for morbid tourists, plays host to a bizarre summit meeting. Amidst stuffed horses’ heads, skeletons on bicycles and mocked up corpses, three of contemporary music’s most infamous individuals are gathered at the NME’s request.

Shane MacGowan of the Pogues, Mark E.Smith of the Fall and Nick Cave all share an outsider’s attitude that informs their respective musical output. Both championed and castigated for their obsessiveness and extremism, this unholy trio are dogged by reputations that precede them.

That they agreed to such a meeting is surprising. What ensues is inspired and insane by turns. The fractured and, often fractious, conversation sprawls between the amiable and the aggressive- Presley to Nietzsche, songwriting to psychology, football to fanatics.

In an afternoon of sheer psychotic hellishness, Cave plays the diplomat to Smith’s bursts of contentious rhetoric whilst MacGowan transmits his thoughts from his own singular, rarefied wavelength.

WHAT REALLY WENT ON THERE ? WE ONLY HAVE THIS EXCERPT

NME Do you think it’s accurate to describe the three of you as outsiders?
NC “I think we have all tended to create some kind of area where we can work without particularly having to worry about what’s fashionable.”
MES “Yes, fair enough. But I think there’s a lot of differences in this trio here. Nick was very rock’n’roll to me but he’s turned his back on it which was cool. Shane’s more, I dunno. To me the Pogues are the good bits from the Irish showband scene, like the Indians. You had that feel, probably lost that now. Your work’s good though.”
SM “Fuck it man. Who wants to work in a place where there’s all these people looking at you ?”
MES “Are you talking about your gigs ? You should stop doing them, then.”
SM “Can’t afford to.”
MES “Fuck it, you could fight not to if you don’t like it.”
SM “…and leave the rest of them in the lurch ?”
MES “Nah, the rest of your band will always complain about not working. If you’re paying them a wage tell them to stay at home and behave themselves.”
SM “It’s a democracy our band.”
MES “Why aren’t they here with you then ?”
SM “Cos the NME didn’t want to interview them.”
MES ‘Cos nobody’d recognise them.”
SM “That’s it ! They want to interview us because we’ve got distinctive characteristics. They just want to interview three high-brow loonies.”
MES “In that case you should have brought your mate Joe Strummer along.”
SM “I said high-brow loonies.”

HITS AND MYTHS

NME You must be aware that, consciously or otherwise, you’ve each created a particular myth that has arisen, in part, from your songs.
SM “Nobody created my mythology, I certainly didn’t.”
NC “No, you (the press) created it.”

SM “The media has a lot to answer for, you’re all a bunch of bastards however friendly you are.”
NC “Let’s not talk about the media. Why the hell are you talking about mythologies ? That tends to suggest it’s somehow unreal.”
SM “It seems to me that in your songs, Nick, you’re doing a Jung-style trip of examining your shadow, all the dark things you don’t want to be. A lot of your songs are like trips into the subconscious and are therefore nightmarish.”
NC “Possibly.”
SM “You’re exploring the world through the subconscious. I’ve done that on occasions for various reasons, whether it be illness or self abuse, or whatever. Once things start to look grotesque I don’t write them or sing them. I couldn’t write them the way you do, I couldn’t-making nightmares into living daylight…”
NC “I think you do a pretty good job of it in some of your songs.”
SM “The minute it gets dark I shoot back, retreat. I haven;’t always but I do now ‘cos…”
MES “Don’t give too much away Shane, don’t tell them. Hold a bit back.”
SM “I haven’t told them anything yet.”

NME “How do each of you approach the actual mechanics of songwriting ?”
MES “When you ask that you induce fear in a songwriter. I just go blank.”
NC “It’s not a cut and dried process.”
SM “For a start I’ve got to be out of my head to write. For a lot of the time it’s automatic writing. ‘Rainy day in Soho’ was automatic.”
MES “Its gotta be subconscious and off the wall. He says he’s got to be out of his head, and a lot of the time I have too. Sometimes, I just wake up and do it. It’s one of the hardest questions you ever get asked. For instance, you sometimes hear things that would make a great idea for a song but you never carry them out.”
SM “I do. Like the “Turkish Song of the Damned” was a Kraut trying to tell me something and I misheard him. He said, “Have you heard ‘The Turkish Song’ by the Damned”. Then I woke up.
MES “My German song’s better than your yours, I bet. This is like one of those night-time discussions on Channel 4.”
NC “I write songs in batches then record them and then can’t write again for ages. I try and build one song upon another, they may not look obviously inter-related but often one song acts as a springboard into another.”
SM “You haven’t been back to the swamps for a while, have you ?”
NC “The swamps ? Heh,heh. I’ve written a novel about that.”
MES “Nick thinks a novel’s two pages long. Very novel, heh, heh.”
NC “What’s it called ?”
MES “It’s called ‘It’ll Be Ready in Another Five Years’. You should write more aggressive songs, Nick, you’re getting too slow.”
NC “I haven’t sat down and thought about the mood before I wrote them.”
MES “I find your work almost English Lit oriented, like Beckett, things crop up again and again.”
NC “And your songs are very deceptive Mark, in the way they’re sung. They might appear at times like streams of consciousness but that’s deceptive.”
MES “One thing that eally annoys me is that stream of consciousness thing. I wouldn’t let on to it normally, but it annoys the shit out of me. I put a lot of hard sweat into them, I think about them. They have an inner logic to me so I don’t really care who understands them or not. I see writing and singing as two very different things. My attitude is if you can’t deliver it like a garage band, fuck it. That’s one thing that’s never been explored, delivering complex things in a very straightforward rock’n’roll way. My old excuse is if I’d wanted to be a poet, I’d have been a poet.”
SM “And starved.”
MES “I can write, boy, I can write. That’s what I do. People like you sit around moaning about the state of pop music…The trouble is it’s too bloody easy for people, that’s why music is in the sorry state it is. Any idiot, actors mainly, can go in there, sing a chord, bang on a machine…I’m not objecting to that but when people get at me for trying to say something in a rock’n’roll mode it’s as if I’m a freak.”
SM “All this talk about the state of music, rock’n’roll, Irish music, soul, funk.”
MES “Salsa.”
SM “Its been proved by Acid House that anyone can make a record.”
MES “We’re not thick, we all know that.”
SM “Look, I’m talking about the implications of Acid House”
MES “There’s nothing new in Acid House for me, pal. I’ve been using that process for years. Bloody years. It might be new for you but don’t assume it’s new for anyone else, because you’re fucking wrong, pal.
SM “What the fuck are you talking about ? Have you made an Acid House record ?
MES “It’s the same process, right. Have you had some sort of bloody revelation about Acid House ?”
SM “Hah ! It’s obvious if you listen they put Eastern melodies over it, bits of this and that…”
MES “That’s what music should always have been like.”
SM “It always was.”
MES “Why haven’t you been doing it for years then pal ?”
NC “I think they have been doing it. I’ve heard zithers and so on. Eastern stuff and Turkish stuff.”
MES “We had jazz arrangements in ’82 when the rest of those tossers were playing cocktail lounge music and fucking pseudo new wave, so don’t talk to me about it because I know what I’m talking about pal.”
SM “Fucking hell, what’s he on about ?”

CONTAINER DRIVERS

MES “The trouble with the music biz is that its become so bourgeois. A middle class executive business like the police force.”
SM “A middle class executive police force ? You must be mad ! They’re stormtroopers nowadays, thicker than they ever were.”
MES “Can we drop the cop talk ? It’s the same with everything else, like lurries…” SM “Lurries ? What are lurries ?”
MES “Lurries. Containers that deliver your fucking food to your fucking house, alright ?”
SM “Lorries ! Yeah right.”
MES “The drivers are paid the lowest wages because everyone wants to sit in the office and be a ponce. You can’t just go into a hotel and write your name, you’ve got to fuck around on a bloody computer. Nobody wants to work anymore.”
SM “Oh God ! You make me wanna puke sometimes, you do. Of course nobody wants to work. Who in their right mind wants to work ?”
MES “Alright, alright, that’s obvious, the sky’s fucking blue. Soccer’s the same. None of the fuckers want to hit the ball in the back of the net. They’re all too fucking muscley. And thick. Running up and down the field like bloody morons. The England team are all bloody minor executives who can’t kick the ball in the back of the net, can’t do the bloody job they’re hired to do. I do loads of gigs, that’s my job to play loads of gigs, I’m not an executive, I don’t mind playing in front of a load of sweaty people.”

NME “Do you two still enjoy playing live ?”
NC “I don’t know if I do. The first Kilburn show was a nightmare.”
MES “What’s new with The Bad Seeds ?”
NC “I used to hate playing live totally, just the whole physical exhaustion was too much for me.”
MES “Bleeding workshy Australian. Australians never do any work.”
NC “The last tour, going on stage was a release.”
MES “Sexually ?”
NC “As my life gets more constipated and cramped going on stage I’m able to purge myself in some way.”
MES “A bowel release.”
NC “I feel more relaxed.”
MES “With Mick Harvey behnd you with the vaseline.”
NC “Put a muzzle on this guy.”
SM “The gigs I enjoy are the ones where I am so angry and paranoid, and I hate the audience so much, that I put everything into it to feed off the aggressive side of it. I don’t actually hate the fans but when I’m feeling angry, pissed off and full of hate, it’s a good gig for me.”
NC “An audience is the perfect thing to unleash that hate and venom on. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you hate everyone in the audience but when you’ve got a so-called adoring mass in front of you, it’s a perfect target for that kind of disgust. Sometimes you find yourself in a position where you’re venting your disgust on an audience and a lot of them keep coming back because they actually like that aspect. In a way that diffuses the feeling and you don’t get the same release.”
MES “You gotta reassess your audience, make sure they aren’t just coming to throw ashtrays at your head for fun. Shane says he goes on full of twist, you’ve got to. If you don’t you’re fucking fucked, that’s whats wrong with a lot of acts these days, they do fucking yoga before and go on all fucking relaxed. I’ve been with Fad Gadget and he was doing incense and headstands. The English soccer players could do with a lot of twist, they should be put in a room and made to go round in circles, and told “if you don’t do a good gig tonight then you’re not getting paid.”

NME “Shane, you obviously don’t enjoy playing live anymore, is that through being on the road too much ?”
SM “I feel like I’ve spent the last five years of my life on the road. It hasn’t affected my songs but it has probably affected everything else about me. Obviously, the more you travel, the wilder the things that keep happening to you, the more likely it is that complete strangers will knock on your hotel room door.”
MES “Nick and I don’t related to that ‘cos the people who come up to us either hate our guts or wouldn’t really want to be alone in a room with us. You’re a very amiable guy, Shane.”
NC “I’m not sure what you’re talking about here but the way people related to me in the dressing rooms and so on was incredibly aggressive. They know every record and they seem to think they should nudge me or bump into me as they go past.It was this incredible performance that used to amuse me. I think we share something in common on that level ‘cos, like, in the early days, people were drawn towards us like they’d be drawn towards a car smash…”
SM “I read about the fan mail that Freddie Krueger from the Nightmare on Elm Street movies gets-real sicko stuff, loads of letters from genuine corpse freaks and child killer types. It frightens him shitless. That sorta thing freaks me out.”
NC “There is a definite relationship between that fanaticism and the fact that, as a performer, you expose more of yourself, of the undercurrents of your personality. Most rock personalities subdue that or chose not to explore it.”

“It’s rare when a group comes along that has any real soul to them.” (Cave)

HEROES AND VILLAINS

NME “Mark, of the three of you, would you admit to being the professional cynic ?”

MES “No, cynicism and defensiveness are two things constantly levelled at me. Look, I’ve got time for people, I’m good mannered. I usually find that when you are down, nobody has a bloody minute for you. If I was a nobody, you wouldn’t even talk to me.”
SM “You are nobody.”
MES “Fuck off. It’s bloody true. Neither would you, Nick.”
NC “Bullshit! That’s bullshit I take offence at that.”
MES “I’m not levelling anything at you. People, in general, don’t like being upfront and civil. They hate you for it. They label you a cynic ‘cos you’re reasonable.”
SM “You’re no reasonable though. You’re a rude bastard. That’s fair enough.”
SO’H “Ok I’m cynical. But I’m not defensive. I’m slightly paranoid which is healthy.”
NME “Slightly?”
MES “Listen, Sean, do you walk around London embracing everybody? If I was in the bleeding gutter you wouldn’t piss on me.
SO’H “I would.”
NC “Your reaction is becoming very defensive, Mark.”
MES “You’re a failed psychiatrist.”
NC “I’ve analysed you, alright-defensive paranoid with delusions of grandeur.”
MES “I’ve had discussions like this all the time in pubs. I end up beaten half to death on the floor. I try to be civil and people assume I’m attacking them.”
SM “You attack people all the time. In the press.”
MES “I used to. It became too routine so I gave it up. Nietzsche said ‘Embrace your enemies’. You two aren’t my enemies so I won’t embrace you.
SM “Read a lot of Nietzsche, have you?”
MES “All his stuff. I can’t quote him. I’m not into him anymore, gave up three years ago. He taught me a lot, though. We’re not all born public school boys like you.”
SM “I’m not a born public school boy.”
MES “Do you like Brendan Behan, he’s good.”
SM “Yeah, he’s not a fascist maniac posing as a philosopher.”
MES “If we’re gonna talk philosophy, that’s a load of crap ! The Nazis adopted his creed and distorted it, they misquoted him all the time.”
SM “‘The Will to Power’? Try re-interpreting that statement. You can’t. It says what it says.”
MES “He wasn’t a Nazi-you’re only saying that because some polytechnic fucking lecturer told you he was.”
SM “I’m saying it ‘cos I read two of his books where he dismissed the weak, the ugly, the radically impure, Christianity, Socrates, Plato. He was anti anyone who hadn’t a strong body, perfect features…”
MES “That’s the coffee table analysis. He was the most anti-German pro-Semitic person…”
SM “His books were full of hate.”
MES “You’ve just said you’re full of hate when you go onstage.”
SM “I don’t go around saying Socrates was a cunt, Jesus Christ was an idiot, do I ?”
MES “Jesus Christ was the biggest blight on the human race, he was. And all of them Socialists and Communists- second rate Christianity. It’s alright for you Catholics. I was brought up with Irish Catholics. Some of my best friends are Irish Catholics.”
SM “listen to him.”
MES “Hitler was a Catholic vegetarian, non-smoker, non-drinker. The way you’re talking about Nietzsche is that anyone who’s a non-smoker, non-drinker is a Nazi. That’s the level of your debate, pal. You don’t know fuck all about Nietzsche, pal.”
SM “You’re anti-socialist, too, aren’t you ?”
MES “Yeah. I’m an extreme anti-socialist. You don’t live on a housing estate where there’s been socialism for thirty years and they keep saying it’s gonna get better all the time and it never does. Thirty fucking years of it getting worse and worse. You obviously haven’t experienced that, living in London.”
SM “What’s the alternative ?”
MES “I don’t have to worry about that. I’m an adult. I’m working class, me. I come from a generation that fucking created this nation pal. You lot, you just sit around and talk about socialism, you’re the bloody problem. Eighty percent of this country are white trash, working class. How come they don’t vote Labour? ‘Cos the Labour Party are a fucking disgrace, that’s why. Engels- he was a factory owner in Manchester exploiting 13 year old girls. Learn your history, pal, learn your history. I suppose you blame all Ireland’s problems on the British. All the problems of the world are down to Britain. That’s what you think, why don’t you say it? You can’t tell me anything about oppression ‘cos, I’ll tell you something pal, if you’d been part of Germany, you’d have been liquidated. If you were part of Russia, you wouldn’t even exist. Don’t tell me about oppression, my parents and grand-parents were exploited to the hilt. Sent to wars, they had gangrene in their teeth. My grandfather was at Dunkirk and all you can see is Margaret Thatcher on my face when, actually, She’s on Nick’s face. Isn’t she Nick ? Come on Nick, help me out. Basically, I like to discuss things right down the line and I don’t agree with anybody…”

KING INC

NME “This is getting a bit out of order, can we talk about something less acrimonious. Heroes ?

SM “You’re into Presley, Nick.”
MES “A lot of Presley’s good stuff was overlooked. Like the NME viewpoint that he died when he came out of the army. I think the opposite, his best stuff came after the army.”
SM “That figures. He was a pile of shit when he came out of the army compared to before he went in. His mother died when he was in the army. That was one of the causes. Anyway, he did some good stuff in the late ’60′s after the army- ‘Kentucky Rain’, ‘Suspicious Minds’, ‘In the Ghetto’ as opposed to ‘Heartbreak Hotel’, ‘Blue Moon of Kentucky’, ‘That’s alright Mama’. I suppose that’s all shit to you , is it ?”
MES “I’m not saying that but everybody writes the later stuff off…”
SM “Who ever writes off Elvis ?”
MES “Look, pal, Elvis was the king, right? To me, Elvis were king. He was only the king ‘cos he sustained it. You probably think he’s some kind of criminal ‘cos he went in the army for a few years. You’re insinuating that I’m pro-army and if you have anything to say on that score, say it now, pal and I’ll fucking argue right through you !”
SM “What ! He’s off again.”
MES “I’m into Mersey Beat at the minute- The Searchers. I respect Dylan. The only good thing I’ve heard of his is that LP he did with George Harrison and Roy Orbison.”

NME “You seem to prefer older music, is there nothing contemporary that appeals ?”

NC “It’s rare when a group comes along that has any real soul to them. Rock’n’Roll history isn’t long enough. There’s three or four blues people that I like after filtering through loads of blues. There’s about three gospel bands, a handful of country ones. I have to draw on the….what are you laughing at, Mark ?”
MES “Oh nothing, heh heh, I’m really into John Lee Hooker myself. He’s great solo without a band. His bands are crap. I was always into more experimental bands- Can, Faust. I won’t say German ‘cos Shane’ll have an epileptic fit. I think Nick’s more traditional and I respect that but, I’m into things like Stockhausen, The United States of America and Gene Vincent and rockabilly. That’s my influences. And I always preferred Lou Reed to the Velvet Underground.”

NME “What do you think of the blanket critical approval of Morrissey ?”

MES “Morrissey’s another Paddy! A South Manchester Paddy. Shane’s got more to say than Morrissey.”
SM “I think you guys are encouraging Mark to be like this. You journalists love it.”
MES “Of course they do. That’s the NME policy, they love a good argument. Don’t you lads ?”

Things fall apart. The unholy trinity climb on the pubstage. MacGowan on drums, Smith on guitar and Cave on the organ. A jam of sorts ensues- The Velvets meets Hammer Horror with a hint of Acid House. Totally wired. Summit mental.

(Nick Cave, Shane MacGowan and Kylie Minogue sing Bob Dylan’s ‘Death Is Not The End’)

What became of them after the tape finished we can only guess but I doubt they just got up and went their separate ways! These days its hard to imagine any publication with any influence doing something like this but we learn a lot about all three gents and though acerbic and argumentative Mark E.Smith certainly gets his point of view over and is heard. Gone before his time but he lived his life hard and wild and is one of a small bunch of working class musicians of which we can truly say that when they pass we will never see their like again.

MARK E.SMITH- 5 MARCH 1957 – 24 JANUARY 2018

GET IN THE FESTIVE SPIRIT WITH THIS CHRISTMAS CELTIC PUNK TOP-TWENTY!

It’s the 1st of December so let your pint glass be half full for a change and get into the festive spirit with what started as a Top Ten but but soon became the London Celtic Punk’s Top Twenty of the best kick-arse Christmas Celtic-Punk tunes ever written and absolutely no surprises at #1.

20. THE PRIESTS FEATURING SHANE MacGOWAN-  ‘Little Drummer Boy/Peace On Earth’

Yeah you read that right. It may not quite reach the heights of Bing’n’Bowie but feck it nothing this man does is anything short of brilliant!

19. THE RUFFIANS- ‘Christmas In Killarney’

The Ruffians cover the holiday classic ‘Christmas In Killarney’ on their 2005 Christmas EP Together at Christmas.

18. REILLY- ‘Paddy’s Christmas’

Milwaukee Celtic punk band Reilly’s version of Snoopy’s Christmas, now called ‘Paddy’s Christmas’ on their 2008 album Kick Ass Celtic Christmas.

17. THE GOBSHITES- ‘Christmas Eve In The Boozer’

Boston Celtic punk band The Gobshites’ cover of the Yobs’ Christmas Eve in the Boozer. On The Gobshites’ album When the Shite Hits the Fan.

16. IRISH ROVER – ‘Christmas Time In Hells’

Performed entirely by  Rover MacChroi and one for the miserablists out there. This guys glass is definitely half empty!

15. DROPKICK MURPHYS- ‘AK47 [All I Want For Christmas Is An]’

Proof the Murphs can do no wrong…

14. THE REAL McKENZIES- ‘Auld Lang Syne’

Now not strictly a Christmas song but I’ve met Scots who actually enjoy Hogmaney (New Years Eve) more than Christmas!

13. THE MAHONES- ‘Angels Without Wings/Merry Christmas Baby’

From The Mahones 2012 album Angels & Devils here is their awesome Christmas song featuring Felicity Hamer.

12. SHANE MacGOWAN- ‘Christmas Lullaby’

Gotta love this tune. Irish blues with a punk rock edge. McGowan nails it again.

11. STIFF LITTLE FINGERS- ‘White Christmas’

Belfast punk rock legends, and still going from strength to strength, cause Bing to rotate in his grave with this which appeared on the B-side of ‘The Edge’ 7″ in 1979.

10. SHILELAGH LAW- ‘Christmas In New York’

Christmas is many things to many people. I will always remember that a good mate Steve died on Christmas Eve and so it’s also a good time to think of those who have passed and raise a glass to them. Here’s a tribute to the victims of the terror attacks on September 11, 2001, by NY’ers Shilelagh Law.

9. LEXINGTON FIELD- ‘Christmas At The Pub’

This spot was originally held by the Spanish/German band Malasaners but their video disappeared overnight during the clampdown so the search was on for a replacement and last years Yuletide tidings from American- Irish fiddle rockers Lexington Field seemed an obvious choice seeing as we have spent most of the year outside pubs looking in!

8. FINNEGAN’S HELL- ‘Drunken Christmas’

Sweden’s Finnegan’s Hell deliver an unorthodox Christmas anthem and yeah, yeah, yeah some Irish stereotyping sure but get over yourselves. What is it you think The Dubliners sang about? My house at Christmas was more like this than what you see on the BBC I can tell you. Anyway judge for yourself!

7. CelKILT- ‘Santa Santa!’

CeltKilt from France even released a full album of Christmas themed songs Kiltmas Songs! in 2015 and as they say themselves, and it sounds better in French I think, “festive celtic rock celtique festif”.

6. THE WAGES OF SIN- ‘Merry Christmas From The Wages’

Enjoy the festive sights, sounds, and smells of the season with Wages Of Sin and their first, and possibly last, holiday single!

5. DARBY O’GILL AND THE LITTLE PEOPLE- ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside’

Possibly a bit much for this Catholic Bhoy to bare so if you of a delicate disposition skip to #6. It is hilarious though from this Oregon band from their 2007 album Christmas Songs for Drunken Atheists.

4. KRAKIN’ KELLYS- ‘Christmas In Kelly Green’

This space was previously occupied by West Virginian Celtic-Punk legends The Gentlemen but the You Tube account closed and the video has been lost in the ether so after a bit of thought I settled upon Krakin’ Kellys 2018 Christmas themed track ‘Christmas In Kelly Green’. The hottest new band in Celtic-Punk its hard to imagine these Belgian rockers only formed in 2017!

3. THE NARROWBACKS- Prodigal Son (I’ll Be Home For Christmas)

Part filmed at Paddy Reilly’s in New York this song actually brought a tear to my eye when I first heard it. After a couple of years of not speaking to my Mammy after a stupid argument we had only just made up. Kids look after your family. Keep them close and love them lots.

2. THE DROPKICK MURPHYS- ‘The Seasons Upon Us’ (2016)

Unfortunate to go up against The Pogues this is The Murphys superb Christmas epic. Hilarious video of Irish-American life. Sure to lift the spirits.

1. THE POGUES FEATURING KIRSTY MacCOLL- The Fairytale Of New York

When you see other Christmas best of list’s they always put ‘Arguably the greatest Christmas song of all time’ well we’ve no time for that bollocks. It is without a doubt THE greatest Christmas song of all time so there! R.I.P Kirsty

so there’s our Top Twenty. If you think we missed any post in the comments as is usually the way with these things we couldn’t stop there so bubbling under here’s one to play loud and proud!

…and so we end with some great words “let’s not fight tonight”. Just listen to The Ramones instead.

NEW SINGLE AND VIDEO FROM JOSHUA McCLURG FROM NAYMEDICI

I had wondered after not hearing from them for a bit but sad to say that Manchester-Irish celtic-punk band Naymedici are no more. Now that name probably means more to our Irish readers than anyone else as at the height of their popularity they upsticks and moved across the sea (wrong way surely?!?!) to a lovely beachside cottage near Clonakilty on the coast of West Cork. Described as

“the bastard child of The Pogues and Gogol Bordello”

in one review, and Scots writer Irvine Welsh said they were ‘f***ing on it!’ which is probably one of the best reviews anyone could ever get! They played all over Ireland and Britain and were regular’s on the festival circuit too and even did undertook a tour of Europe, playing in cities such as Berlin and Prague among others. They released a few singles during this time, including ‘Paddy McGee’, ‘Koo Koo The Bird Girl’, ‘Whack Fol The Diddle’ and ‘Men and Women’ and were featured on BBC 6 Music, E4, MTV UK, MTV Europe and MTV International. Not bad for a DIY Band with no management!

Well three years ago the band went on their different ways and Josh the bands singer moved back to Manchester and began his next project The Lucky 15’s, an Irish Party Band, with a great bunch of talented musicians I knew from various other bands in Manchester. It was during this time that Joshua began writing material for a solo album, You Can’t Take It With You, set for release next month.

So here’s a wee taster with the video for ‘If You’re Gone’ the first single release from Joshua McClurg’s debut album, ‘You Can’t Take It With You’.

One cold winter’s evening I sat by the stairs,
In the doorway I huddled while the cruel millionaires
Turned up all their noses as I held out my cup
Hard to keep your chin up when your down on your luck
So I felt in my pockets, had nothing to show
And I thought back to the old days how quickly they’d go
When I first held you close and you promised the world
And I saw my true love through my darling young girl
If you’re gone, don’t leave me falling
The night it is cold now
The leaves are falling
And we were young then
Still had our dreams babe
But now I’m alone
I’ve still got me dreams
I’ve still got me dreams
Well these horses and whores, cruel mistresses all
And I gambled my money and I gambled my home
And for all my sins I was condemned to roam
With nowt but the clothes on my rowdy-dow-dow
And life it is hard and gets harder each day,
Haven’t eaten since 8 and it’s started to rain
But I swear by the Christ’s blood that flows through me veins
That I never will whistle that old tune again
Well I’ve made some mistakes and I’ve not been too good
And my life’s in the gutter with the rats and the mud
And it’s thicker than wine and it’s colder than blood
Yes it’s hard to look up when your down on your luck
If’re gone, don’t leave me falling
The night it is cold now
The leaves are falling
And we were young then
Still had our dreams babe
But now I’m alone
I’ve still got me dreams
They can’t take me dreams

Now it may not be the raucous celtic-gypsy-Irish folk we were use to with Naymedici but even better there’s an unmistakable Poguesy air to it from the land of ‘Dirty Old Town’. The piano, backing vocals and marvellous lyrics straight remind me of If I Should Fall From Grace With God era Shane. If you like this then you can pre-order Joshua’s album from his Bandcamp page below and keep an eye out for a review coming to these pages soon.

Contact Joshua McClurg

WebSite  Facebook  Bandcamp  YouTube

HOW THE IRISH BECAME THE POGUES

by Jack Hamilton

The Pogues

Last March I enjoyed the pleasure (and attendant hangover) of partaking in the annual ritual of alcoholic commerce that is St. Patrick’s Day in Boston.  Although I had grown up in the area, and in a decidedly Irish-American household at that, I had spent the past seven such holidays as a resident of New York City, and while St. Patrick is certainly heartily toasted in New York things haven’t reached the pathological extremes of Boston, where they’ve even gone so far as to cook up a bogus holiday in its honour.  After managing to find a bar which, while crowded, was thankfully free of either a gratuitous cover or any sort of neon leprechauns, my small group of friends and I settled in for an evening of friendly imbibing and spirited conversation, surely two of the more distinguished aspects of the Irish national character.  All night we listened to the Celtic-infused rock ‘n’ roll of the Pogues.  This was not by choice—the bar had no jukebox, merely a bartender’s iPod—yet the selection seemed so obvious that I doubt any objections were raised.  In fact, I doubt many objections were raised in any of the numerous bars throughout the city that most likely played a considerable dose of the Pogues on St. Patrick’s Day, or for that matter in any of the countless establishments around the world who presumably engage their patrons in similar entertainment come March 17.  As the old cliché goes, everyone becomes Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, and a good deal of those busying themselves with “becoming Irish” will find themselves at some point listening to the music of the Pogues.

The issue of how the Irish became the Pogues—or, for that matter, how the Pogues became Irish—is an interesting one that makes their emergence as progenitors of Irish authenticity all the more complex.  Outside of Dublin-born guitarist Phil Chevron, none of the members of the Pogues’ primary line up were Irish by birth: refugees of the dying British punk movement with an affinity for traditional Irish music, singer-songwriter Shane MacGowan¹, tin whistle player Spider Stacy and accordionist James Fearnley formed the Pogues in the early 1980s in North London.  Furthermore, while their music often proudly employs ‘trad’ instrumentation—whistles, pipes, banjo, accordion—the Pogues also prominently feature two crucial pieces you’d be loath to hear while trolling trad sessions in Galway or Cork: namely, an electric bass and drum kit.  Indeed, when one couples their rhythm section—clearly more schooled in American R&B and rockabilly than reels, jigs or hornpipes—with their ragged lead singer, the Pogues have always at their heart been a rock band, closer to the Clash than Turlough O’Carolan.  I bring up these points neither to challenge the Pogues’ claim to Irishness nor slander their authenticity, but rather to point out that the band represents a fascinating example of transnational mobility in which a British band aggressively appropriates Irish musical traditions, imbues them with a punk sensibility then exports the sound around the world, where the result is deemed ‘Irish’. Noel McLaughlin and Martin McLoone have argued that the Pogues’ musical hybridity speaks to diasporic qualities central to Irish cultural identity, noting that

“the Pogues address the Irish emigrant through song narratives that offer an ‘in-betweenness’”

While surely compelling, such an assessment fails to address the Pogues’ massive popularity in Ireland itself, where the band’s frequent touring and Republican political leanings have elevated MacGowan and company to folk-hero status.  It would seem that the Pogues’ greatest musical legacy lies not in their commitment to Celtic musical traditions but rather the affectionate and wilful dragging of these traditions into the foreboding present, and it is through this gesture that the Pogues most effectively lay their claim to a far more meaningful Irish tradition than the sort celebrated with green beer and shamrock tattoos.

Nowhere is this impulse so thoroughly manifested as in the complicated talents of Shane MacGowan.  A gifted melodist and the sort of writer that inspires websites devoted to interpretations of his lyrics, MacGowan holds a place among the finest rock songwriters of his generation.  As a singer MacGowan’s voice is tattered yet full of conviction, reminiscent of Seamus Heaney’s memorable writing that ‘the voice of sanity is growing hoarse’. Of course, it is also with MacGowan that the Pogues’ more problematic notions of Irishness are cultivated.  MacGowan’s infamous alcoholic tirades, run-ins with the law and glorification of the Irish Republican Army have surely re-inforced as many negative Irish stereotypes as his prodigious musical output and knack for verse have brought out positive ones.  While MacGowan has frequently drawn comparisons to the late Irish poet Brendan Behan (a comparison MacGowan himself invokes in the sublime ‘Streams of Whiskey’), there is another, albeit fictional, figure from Irish literature with whom MacGowan shares a resemblance: James Joyce’s Stephen Dedalus, the irascible protagonist of ‘Portrait of the Artist’ who must turn his back on Ireland in order escape the spiral of his homeland’s tormented past.  Whereas Stephen ultimately flees Ireland for Paris, MacGowan and the Pogues sought to flee London to a particular Ireland of their own imagining.  It is this Ireland, one that exists via North London and rock ‘n’ roll, that so many of us visit every St. Patrick’s Day, when the Pogues songs flow from jukeboxes like so many streams of whiskey and we all try a little too hard to become a little more Irish than we probably should.

¹ A common misconception is that Shane was born here but he was in fact born in the Premier County and moved to England as a child.

further reading: Noel McLaughlin and Martin McLoone, ‘Hybridity and National Musics: The Case of Irish Rock Music’ (Apr. 2000)

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 

‘The Pogues And Irish Cultural Continuity’  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

The Best Pogues Related Sites

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

ALBUM REVIEW: JAMIE CLARKE’S PERFECT- ‘Hell Hath No Fury’ (2017)

New album from German based ex-member of The Pogues Jamie Clarke’s Perfect.

Pioneers and purveyors of Folkabilly Rock- rockabilly and punk mixed with a dash of Irish folk and a belly full of beer!

The name Jamie Clarke will be known to many of you due to his membership of a certain band in the 1990’s. Yes he was only a member of the bloody Pogues!!! Londoner Jamie grew up in London and happened to be in the right place at the right time being a teenager at the time of the original punk rock explosion in the capital sparking off a lifetime interest and involvement in music. Passing through many bands until he became Philip Chevron’s guitar technician while The Pogues were literally touring and conquering the world. In 1994 ill health forced Phil to leave the band and in the spirit of The Pogues they chose Jamie to replace him. Sadly this was also the time of Shane’s most wild excess and he soon left the band as well. Jamie played on the final Pogues album Pogue Mahone and wrote, what was always for me, the best song on the album ‘The Sun And The Moon’. On the break up of the band Jamie moved to Germany and formed Jamie Clarke’s Perfect, the band he’s been playing and recording with ever since.

Jamie Clarke’s Perfect left to right: Johnny Rebel- Bass * Pierre Lavendel- Banjo/ Mandolin * Jamie Clarke- Vocals/ Guitar * El Diablo- Drums. Accordion on the album- Andy Schnapps (not pictured)

With a slew of album releases behind them I have to make the confession that this is the first LP I have ever heard and I have been suitably impressed to want to check out the back catalogue as well. The last couple of years I have got bored with the seriousness of punk and started to listen to more and more rockabilly/psychobilly so I was more than pleasantly surprised to find Hell Hath No Fury laced with more than a little rockabilly alongside the folk, or as the band themselves call it- ‘folkabillie rock’.

The album begins with ‘Back From Hell’ and straight away one band popped into my head. With a very distinctive banjo and accordion sound it was early Blood Or Whiskey that leapt out the speakers at me. Even Jamie’s vocals reminded me of the original BOW vocalist Barney. Needless to say this ain’t a band that’s copying them as their sound is still incredibly original. Incredibly catchy opener and it don’t change throughout. This band got some real good tunes and considering how long they been going/how many releases they have that is some achievement. ‘Monster’ and the album’s first single ‘Change The World’ keep up the foot stamping and again excellent accordion/banjo stand out as well as Jamie himself.

The first sign of that Folkabilly Rock start to appear next in ‘On Your Feet’. I literally could not keep me feet still listening to this. Catchy (there’s that word again…) as hell with a great chorus and some great rock’n’roll banjo from ex-Frantic Flintstones guitarist Pierre. Several songs here also take in The Pogues and ‘Waking Down The Road’ is one of them while title track ‘Hell Hath No Fury’ nails their sound completely. One of the album highlights and a word here for Jamie and his vocals. As I already said he may sound like he has a sore throat and I do wonder how many fags a day he’s on! He sings with a real passion that while not overstating does in fact stand right out without you really noticing. In the old Irish traditional the voice as an instrument. His lyrics help of course as they tend to take up most of the length of the song. I Would have liked to have seen the lyrics as even though they are clear it is hard to keep up. ‘Eve Champagne’leads us up to the first cover and ‘La Bamba’ the old Mexican folk song made famous first by Ritchie Valens in 1958 and Los Lobos in the summer of 1987. Another solid number ‘Gun In My Hand’ leads us into a great Irish trad/rockabilly instrumental ‘Un Hoyo Es Un Hoyo’. We coming up to the end of the LP and the final three songs fly past in a flash of brilliance starting with the frantic ‘Rollercoaster’ while ‘Rockabilly’, not surprisingly, takes that rock’n’roll sound and plays it right up before Hell Hath No Fury ends with another album high point, ‘Protest Song’.

Thirteen great songs. Unlucky for some but not for us! The album clocks in at a very healthy forty minutes and shows enough individuality and originality to make sure it never drags or sounds jaded. Germany has a real love of alternative music and has produced many many great celtic-punk band psychobilly bands so it should come as no surprise that they have embraced a mixture of the two. After all it was only a few weeks ago we reviewed the new album from another German  band, Pitmen (here) who mix both genre’s to great acclaim. So with over twenty years behind them and thousand’s of gigs well done to them for putting out such a consistently great album that may veer off from celtic-punk in several directions but always keeps at it’s core the sound of celtic folk. Punk, rockabilly, psychobilly, celtic-punk and country all raise their heads here on an album I was completely taken aback from and I can’t understand why more isn’t known about this great band even within the celtic-punk scene.

Discography

Perfect Liar (1997) * Perfect Live (1998) * Sickly Men Of Thirty Or So (1999) * Live Too (2000) * Nobody’s Perfect (2002) * Live Free (20004) * Psychic TV- Single (2006) * You Drove Me To It (2007) * Fucking Folkabillie Rock (2010) * Beatboys (2011)

Buy 

FromTheBand/WolverineRecords  Amazon

Contact Jamie Clarke’s Perfect

WebSite  Facebook  ReverbNation

HUNGARIAN CELTIC PUNK WEEK! EP REVIEW: THE CRAZY ROGUES- ‘Rebels’ Shanties’ (2017)

ireland-hungaryAnyone remember 2015? That was the year of the Hungarian celtic-punk record. A whole host of bands coming together in a perfect storm and absolutely completely dominating the scene that year. Loch Nesz, The Jolly Jackers, The Crazy Rogues, The Scarlet, Firkin and Paddy And The Rats all featured in the London Celtic Punks end of year ‘Best Of 2015’ charts and all received glowing critical praise galore. What quite happened to them all last year is a mystery but the Hungarian celtic-punks are back with a fecking bang! So for one week we are running a Hungarian celtic-punk special. Three reviews in seven days from three amazing EP’s from three equally amazing bands who all have completely different styles of celtic-punk.

crazyroguesepThe Crazy Rogues are from Veszprém in mid-Hungary and were formed in 2014 making them among the earliest of the second wave of Hungarian celtic-punk bands.With two EP’s behind them, one of Demo versions and another called Chapter 1 which we reviewed back in 2015 here giving it a massive thumbs up. They have named their style as ‘Rogue ‘N’ Roll’ taking in elements of punk, country and bluegrass as well as Irish and Celtic. The EP begins with ‘And Then the Sky Fell’ and its fast fiddle led celtic-punk with good ole’ fashioned punk rock drumming and punk rock guitar playing in the background at times pushing the fiddle forward. ‘Fleet’ is up next and is a bit more traditional celtic-punk of the Flogging Molly kind. One of the things I liked on The Crazy Rogues previous releases is how they can switch from their folkier side to their more punky side with ease. They slow it down next with the sad tale of ‘The Sad Leprechaun’. A leprachaun is a mischievous mythical creature that roams the Irish countryside playing tricks on humans. Many though think they are real, including my Grandparents! Again the fiddle is the lead here and Verrasztó’s vocals are suitably angsty as he tells us of the life of these solitary creatures. The flute appears here and like a lot of Hungarian bands in particular it’s used to good measure.

They speed it up next with the fast paced punky song ‘Mutineers (must DIE)’ and though it does seem funny to call something a ‘traditional punk rock’ song this is it! Shouty gang choruses and fast guitar and then all of the sudden banjo pops up and we get a short blast of each band members individual talents before it ends. Short and sweet and snappy as hell and then we drift into ‘Silver Hair’ which reminds me of the sort of bluesy country folk that Shane MacGowan and The Popes were so f’ing brilliant. Superb mandolin here from Fellegi and I have to say that the mando and the banjo have been a bit low in the mix thus far so great to hear it dominate on this track. Well that is until right out the blue it suddenly switches to a ska song and the song ends with an absolute flourish with electric guitar helping it speed to a finish. The absolute standout track here for me. Can’t tell you how much I enjoyed this song! The EP ends with the song ‘Rebellion’ and is a tribute to the Easter Rising of 1916 when a small band of Irishmen and woman declared war on the British Empire. They took over several important buildings in Dublin and held them for a week against far superior British forces and many died during that week until the rebels were forced to surrender. The British executed the leaders of the rebellion and this led to a wave of sympathy which would eventually lead to full scale war across Ireland that would in the end see freedom for the 3/4’s of the country. Verrasztó’s voice is clear and loud and stamps out where The Crazy Rogues stand. A perfect celtic-punk tune with everything that makes celtic-punk great. Story based lyrics with a solid punk rock base embellished with Irish instruments especially the fiddle again. Songs to get you both thinking and dancing is what celtic-punk is all about!

crazy

So six Crazy Rogues composed songs that clock in at a very healthy twenty-five minutes and not a single sign of a cover version. All sang in English with a multitude of musical styles thrown into the celtic-punk mix and with very thoughtful lyrics about a multitude of subjects that are very easy to understand. Rebel’s Shanties is an excellent EP and The Crazy Rogues continue to forge ahead to make a name for themselves in celtic-punk circles. Like both their previous releases Rebel’s Shanties is available for ‘Name Your Price’ download which basically means pay nothing if you got nothing and a couple of pounds (or more) if you got a couple of pounds. This EP is certainly worthy of it.

(listen to the Rebel Shantie’s EP for free by pressing play on the player below)

Download The EP  Bandcamp

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So all in all a very impressive start for our Hungarian celtic-punk week. Check back in a couple of days for part two of three. If you are interested in finding out more about the great celtic-punk scene in Hungary (and if you got any sense you better be) the best place to find it is the ‘Celtic Punk/ Irish Folk Hungary’ group on Facebook here

ALBUM REVIEW: ORTHODOX CELTS- ‘Many Mouths Shut’ (2017)

Sixth album from Serbia’s Orthodox Celts. The first and still one of the best Irish/Celtic bands from not just Eastern Europe but anywhere!

orthodox-celts-lp

There are so many bands in the celtic-punk scene that for one reason or another can be regarded as legendary. One of these bands well deserving of that word are the Orthodox Celts. They may not be a name very familiar to you but as the first band in Eastern Europe to play Irish music we can safely say that all who came after them owe them a debt for popularising Irish music and culture. Orthodox Celts hail from Belgrade in Serbia and celebrate a quarter of a century together this year with the release of their new album Many Mouths Shut. Over the last 25 years they toured right across Europe with their energetic and mesmerizing performances playing to packed houses wherever they go. I have never seen them live but a friend of a friend had a live DVD of the band and i can certainly attest to the amazing show they put on with a great and positive atmosphere for an army of fans that follows wherever the Celts play.

Despite Irish/Celtic music being unheard of in their home country the Celts have risen to become one of the biggest bands in the Serbian rock scene and have gone onto influence many, if not all, of the newer Celtic punk bands in the region. While we were getting all excited at ‘An Irtish Pub’ by The Rumjacks easing into the millions of views on You Tube Orthodox Celts version of ‘Star of the County Down’ recently racked up an incredible 10,000,000 (aye ten million) views and continues to grow.

orthodox-celts

Orthodox Celts left to right: – Dragan Gnjatović- Whistles * Dušan Živanović- Drums, Bodhran, Percussions, Accordion * Dejan Lalić- Octave Mandola, Mandolin, Guitar * Aleksandar Petrović- Vocals * Dejan Grujić- Bass * Vladan Jovković- Acoustic Guitar * Nikola Stanojević- Fiddle.

Many Mouths Shut begins with ‘One / Milk & Honey’ which was the first single from the album released last year and you can tell from this opening song pretty much what you going to hear for the next half hour. Put simply its energetic mostly acoustic Irish folk. The sort of stuff you use to only hear where the Irish gathered but bands like the Orthodox Saints have helped introduce it far and beyond almost anyone could ever have imagined.

“Many Are Drowned In This Sea That I Swim
Many Nailed To The Cross That I Bring
Many Are Burnt In The Flames That I Feel
But I’ll Never Be The Fallen One”

The first part of the song is followed by a beautiful Irish tune and shows right from the start that the standard of musicianship is outstanding and there’s more than a bit of a punk rock spirit in there too. These Bhoys play louder than Motorhead live! They follow this with the cracking ‘I Wish You The Very Worst’ with some great lyrics about someone who somebody doesn’t like.

“I’m So Sick Of Being The Lamb, In This Game I’ll Be The Wolf”

Wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of this! The first of the album’s rockier songs but again the song is interspersed with some brilliant Irish reels and has some great fist (or pint!) in the air chants to get the crowd going.

As I already said about the standard of musicianship here and with ‘Morrison’s Jig’ they take an old Irish traditional folk song named for the Sligo-born, Irish-American fiddler James Morrison from the 1930’s and breathe new life into the tune. They take it and make it almost unrecognisable while still keeping true to the song itself. We are back in more in more upbeat Celts territory next with one of the poppier songs on the album, ‘Save Me’, a song that would fit snugly into a set of The Saw Doctors or The Bible Code Sundays. They have come a long way since their debut album of all Irish standard covers.

Not one of my favourite songs here I have to say but great lyrics again and I never cease to be amazed how some celtic-punk songwriters who have English as a second and sometimes third or fourth language can write such great stuff. It is a talent I will be eternally jealous of.

“Save Me Girl
Give Me Shelter In Your Arms
Save Me Girl
And Blow Away My Harms
Save Me Girl
Arise Me From The Dead Tonight”

The second of the traditional Irish songs is next and again they come up trumps with ‘The Banshee’. A fast and furious reel that was thought to have been written by famed Monaghan tin-whistler James MacMahon (1893-1977). The sort of reel that at a session just gets louder and faster and faster till your head bursts!  Named after the female spirit in Irish mythology that heralded the death of a family member by shrieking. ‘King Of The Hill’ is next and is a bit more upbeat with a great drum back beat keeping the lot of them in time. Another traditional instrumental ‘Flowers Of Red Hill’ keeps the momentum flowing and the tin whistle playing here is exemplary with the only problem is that again it’s over in just over a minute. Recorded by many great Celtic bands like De Dannan, Bothy Band, Silly Wizard we can now add Orthodox Celts to that esteemed list. You can compare The Bothy Band here to the Orthodox Celts here. Been waiting on a ballad for half the album and with ‘Lone Wolf’ its arrived. A simple song that starts with just voice and acoustic guitar before the rest of the Celts team join in and takes us through to ‘Revolution’ where as usual the same old story comes out of politicians betraying the very people who put them into power.

“Hey You Are The Same As Those Who We Dethroned For You, You’re Spitting On The Faces Of Those Who Cleared Your Way
We Bled For You, We Fought For You, And Gave You All Those Years, You Became A Kind Of Master For Whom We’ll Never Be Obeyed”

The break up of Yugoslavia and the subsequent war that followed saw many innocent people killed and homes destroyed across the region. That the Serbian people deserve something better cannot be in dispute and I hope they get the politicians in power that will deliver it. ‘Banish Misfortune’ is another traditional instrumental folk song arranged by the Celts followed by ‘Double Cross’ which delivers an album standout of epic proportions. With an album that is roughly half and half Celts compositions and trad folk covers I love that they choose to avoid the better known tunes and delve deep into Irish folk history to find some tunes worthy of them. For the penultimate track they do come out with ‘The Parting Glass’ and as is their way the Celts turn it on it’s head and while 99% of the time bands play it as a slow ballad the Celts speed it up and deliver something as close to original as a cover can be.

“Goodnight and joy with you all”

Another old Irish trad song brings down the curtain on Many Mouths Shut and a rollicking version of the ‘Kesh Jig’, again made famous by, and I would say right up there with, The Bothy Band.

Orthodox Celts are that thing that raises shackles back in Ireland.  A band that plays Irish music as good and as great as any Irish band at home or abroad. Their love for the music and culture of our tiny island is evident in all they do. Band front man Alex said to me

“The Pogues were the only major influence when we talk about music as we didn’t want to sound like any other band so we sound very different from all the other bands in this genre. My definitive personal literary influences are Shane MacGowan and Alexandre Pushkin. Talking about the whole figure my major influence is Ronnie Drew of The Dubliners”

They have established themselves as unique ambassadors of the Emerald Island and have spread and continue to spread the very best of what we are to the entire world.

Discography
Orthodox Celts- 1994, The Celts Strike Again- 1997, Green Roses- 1999, A Moment Like The Longest Day- 2002, One, Two… Five- 2007

Buy The Album

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(you can hear the whole album below by playing via You Tube)

CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW: THE DUBLINERS- ‘A Best Of The Dubliners’

FREE DOWNLOAD!

The Dubliners are without doubt the best known band in the Celtic music world. Formed in 1962 their first hit single ‘Seven Drunken Nights’ launched them into international stardom. Non stop touring and a stint with The Pogues ensured that the popularity of their music never ebbed. Without them it is highly debatable whether or not celtic-punk would have ever come about as Shane McGowan himself has said.  The Dubliners- The first and original celtic-punk band.

dubs

The Dubliners, now one of the most legendary bands in the world, started off in O’Donoghue’s pub in Dublin in 1962 under the name of The Ronnie Drew Folk Group. Then they were four, Ronnie Drew (vocals and guitar), Luke Kelly (vocals and 5-string banjo), Barney McKenna (tenor banjo, mandolin, melodeon and vocals) and Ciaran Bourke (vocals, guitar, tin whistle and harmonica). In 1963, they played a gig in Edinburgh where they met the head of Transatlantic Records, Nathan Joseph, for whom they started recording. In 1964, Luke Kelly left, and Bobby Lynch (vocals and guitar) and John Sheahan (fiddle, tin whistle, mandolin, concertina, guitar and vocals) were added. When Luke Kelly returned and Bobby Lynch left in 1965, we have what is considered as the original Dubliners, five individualists, five men whose talents were mixed together in a superb blend and just wanted to play and have a good craic. If they only knew what was awaiting them!

In 1967 their major breakthrough came as a result of a coincidence. Their song, ‘Seven Drunken Nights’ which was recorded in one take, was snapped up by a pirate radio station which started playing it along with the Beatles, the Mamas and the Papas, the Who, Kinks and Jimi Hendrix. Suddenly, The Dubliners were a major band, playing all over the world, getting into the charts, and receiving gold discs. Not what you expected from a bunch of hairy people who as Colin Irwin in the reissue of Live at the Albert Hall says

“looked like they’d just been dragged out of a seedy bar via a hedge (backwards) and dropped on London from a very great height”

The seventies started like the sixties ended – wilder touring, drinking and playing. They started doing regular tours, and they were still recording, of course. Then, in 1974, Ciaran Bourke collapsed on stage with a brain hemorrhage, which eventually led to his death. He first, though, recovered remarkably and was back on stage with The Dubliners, but collapsed again. At the same time, Ronnie decided to take a break, and Jim McCann took his and Ciaran’s place in the group.

dubliners

In 1979, Ronnie decided to make a comeback as a member of the group, although he probably never really left it. In the five years, he had recorded two solo albums, and The Dubliners three albums. With Ronnie returning, Jim left, and The Dubs were almost back where they started. Then Luke Kelly became ill, he collapsed on stage with a brain tumor, for which he received surgery several times. He too, made remarkable recoveries, and went on touring with the Dubliners, at the same time continuing his wild and unhealthy lifestyle. Sean Cannon, a long time friend, stepped in for Luke, when he couldn’t be on stage. Sean’s appearance wasn’t that well received by the audiences at the beginning, but he has later turned out to be an important addition to The Dubliners, and their repertoire. In 1984, Luke Kelly died, but The Dubliners, now with Sean Cannon as a member, decided to keep on.

1987 turned out to be one of the best – and busiest – years for the Dubliners. Their long time friend, and guest musician, Eamonn Campbell, brought the group together with the Pogues on the hit single ‘The Irish Rover’. This single took the Dubliners back to the charts, and also gave them a completely new audience; people who weren’t even born when The Dubliners started off. And with Dublin celebrating its millennium in 1988, The Dubliners also received more attention than for years. Eamonn Campbell joined them on regular basis, a move that has turned out to be one of the most important in their history. In 1988 Ciaran Bourke died, after years of pain and difficulties. He always was, and still is very much remembered by The Dubliners, just like Luke Kelly is.

The eighties finished off with rumours that The Dubliners were to retire, probably something that’s always been following the group. However, they didn’t, and celebrated their 30th anniversary in 1992, with a double CD and extensive tour. The nineties brought a tour video from the German tour 1995, and the “shock” news that Ronnie Drew was leaving. He left in December 1995, after releasing a superb album, Dirty Rotten Shame a few months earlier.

dubliners2Now, even the most optimistic Dubliners fans thought it was the end, but the lads decided to convince Paddy Reilly to join them, and they continued their busy touring and recording schedule. This move has also turned out to be excellent. Paddy, not very well known in Europe, had never been touring there, so he too enjoyed the experience, as well as being part of a band. He still, though, does tours in the USA in the winter and summer months. In 2002, they temporarily reunited with Ronnie Drew and Jim McCann, for their 40th anniversary tour but sadly after the tour, Jim McCann was diagnosed with throat cancer and, though he fully recovered, his voice was severely damaged, and has not been able to peform since his illness. Despite this, he regularly acts as MC at folk gigs, notably at The Dubliners reunion shows, and at the 2006 ‘Legends of Irish Folk’ shows (where he also played guitar in the finale).

Leader and legend Ronnie Drew passed away in 2008 meaning the end of the original Dubliners. Before he passed though he recorded with The Dropkick Murphys in a memorable version of ‘Flannigan’s Ball’ therefore passing on the baton to the only group comparable to them in what they mean to the Irish diaspora.

It was The Dubliners (and The Clancy Brothers And Tommy Makem who will be next in our series) pioneered the way for untold number of bands from Ireland and for Celtic music, like the Chieftains, the Pogues, U2, the Fureys and so on. The artists that list The Dubliners as one of their major influences and idols is endless. They brought folk music to millions of people all over the world, people who never otherwise have been interested at all. That isn’t only because of the music, it’s because of The Dubliners, their astonishing voices, their indescribable instrumentals, the wild life style and drinking, late sessions, their enormous beards, their extensive touring, their charisma and their characters. It was, and still is to a certain extent, a blend the world will never see again. The Dubliners brought Ireland to the world in a way that emigration hadn’t, they have brought the world to Ireland, and they have brought people all over the world closer together. When it ended, the world was never going to be the same again.

The Dubliners 1962-2012
Over the 50 years there were 12 people in The Dubliners.  Ronnie Drew (’62-2008), Luke Kelly (’62-84) , Barney McKenna (’62-2012), Ciaran Bourke (’62-74), John Sheahan (’64-2012), Bobby Lynch (’62-65), Jim McCann (’74-79), Sean Cannon (’82-2012), Eamonn Campbell (’88-2012), Paddy Reilly (’96-2005), Patsy Watchorn (2005-12) and Gerry O’Connor (2012).

The surviving members of the group – Sean Cannon, Eamonn Campbell, Patsy Watchorn and Gerry O’Connor, except John Sheahan, are still touring in 2014 under the name The Dublin Legends.

The Dublin Legends 2012-

After the departure of John Sheahan and the official retirement of the name The Dubliners in late 2012, the remaining members of the group – Seán Cannon, Eamonn Campbell, Patsy Watchorn and guest musician Gerry O’Connor – formed a folk band called The Dublin Legends to keep The Dubliners’ legacy alive. The band released their first live album entitled An Evening With The Dublin Legends: Live In Vienna in January 2014. They continue to perform extensively and you can find their web site here.

Tracklist:

1. The Wild Rover (2:50)
2. Medley: Doherty’s Reel / Down The Broom / The Honeymoon Reel (3:36)
3. The Holy Ground (2:26)
4. A Parcel Of Rogues (4:21)
5. God Save Ireland (1:57)
6. A Nation Once Again (1:31)
7. Spancil Hill (4:03)
8. Molly McGuires (2:01)
9. The Old Triangle (2:55)
10. And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda (6:16)
11. Johnston’s Motorcar (1:50)
12. Seven Drunken Nights (3:23)
13. Black Velvet Band (3:18)
14. Free The People (3:08)
15. Van Diemen’s Land (2:15)
16. Dirty Old Town (2:59)
17. Medley: The Maid Behind The Bar / Toss The Feathers (2:18)
18. Lord Of The Dance (2:27)
19. All For Me Grog (2:24)
20. Whiskey In The Jar (2:47)

(listen to the album below and follow the instructions to download for free)

The Dubliners On The Internet

OfficialDublinersSite  TheDubliners  It’sTheDubliners

“They brought folk music to millions of people all over the world, people who were converted to their charm. That isn’t only because of the music, the instrumentals or the stories, it’s because of The Dubliners, their astonishing voices, their indescribable instrumentals, the wild life style, the drinking, late sessions, their enormous beards (I even tried to copy them in the 70’s), their extensive touring, their charisma and the enigmatic characters. It was a blend the world will never see again.  It was an entire package that invented the word unique. How do you top that?Every artist in the world is trying to achieve success by getting their ‘sound’ and being unique.  The Dubliners did it”  –Robert Tallent

THE LONDON CELTIC PUNKS ‘Stepping Stones’ CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW SERIES

This album was brought to you as part of our regular series where we bring you something a little bit different to what you’re maybe use to. Lost and hidden and sometimes forgotten gems from the legends that have inspired and provoked folk music and musicians right up to modern celtic-punk music. Usually out of print so we can provide a free download link for you.

VARIOUS ARTISTS- ‘People Take Warning! Murder Ballads And Disaster Songs 1913-1938’ (2007)  here

EWAN MacCOLL -‘Bad Lads And Hard Cases: British Ballads Of Crime And Criminals’ (1959) here

EWAN MacCOLL AND PEGGY SEEGER – ‘The Jacobite Rebellions’ (1962)  here

VARIOUS ARTISTS- ‘Don’t Mourn. Organize!- Songs Of Labor Songwriter Joe Hill’ (1990)  here

LEADBELLY- ‘Easy Rider’ (1999)  here

VARIOUS ARTISTS- ‘The Little Red Box Of Protest Songs’ (2000)  here

GIL SCOTT-HERON- ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’ (1974)  here

EWAN MacCOLL- ‘Scots Drinking Songs’ (1956)  here

VARIOUS ARTISTS- ‘Protest! American Protest Songs 1928-1953’  here

VARIOUS ARTISTS- ‘Women Folk- Iconic Women Of American Folk’  here

VARIOUS ARTISTS- ‘The Greatest Songs Of Woody Guthrie’ (1972)  here

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

INTERVIEW WITH PAUL ‘Mad Dog’ McGUINNESS FROM THE POPES

A couple of years back the whole celtic-punk community were shocked to hear that Paul ‘Mad Dog’ McGuinness, vocalist with The Popes, has been involved in a serious car accident in east London. The Popes were best known originally as Shane MacGowan’s backing band but also became a God damn brilliant celtic rock/punk band in their own right too. He was hospitalised for quite a long time after the accident so serious were his injuries so we are delighted to let you know that Paul is back on the road again and is playing a series of low key acoustic gigs but more on that later. We are totally blown away that Paul has taken some time out to answer a few questions for us and let you all know how he’s getting on and his plans for the future.

MadDog

Now Paul first thing we have to ask you is how are you doing since the accident. Its been a long road to recovery but its great that you’re finally coming out the other end. There was a lot of shock in the Irish music community and it was heartening to see it come together to give you some support.
Mad Dog- I’m doing fine since the accident an with the help of my therapy sessions I keep getting better.
Now their may be a small handful of people reading this who are not aware of your contribution to the world of celtic-punk/rock so want to enlighten them? What started your interest in music and how long you been playing and what bands you been involved in up to now?
Mad Dog- I started playing music in the mid seventies an I played with Irish punk an new wave bands D.C Nien an Tokyo Olympics eventually I came to London an got a job as a roadie for The Pogues an when Chevron was ill I started playing guitar with them then I joined The Popes which Shane started when he got sacked from The Pogues for a short while then when he went back to The Pogues I took over as lead vocalist.

As I say you’ve been performing for a hell of a long time and it’s absolutely brilliant to hear that you are back playing music again as a solo act but it has been said (and I am in agreement) that being a solo artist is the hardest thing to do. Just yourself on the stage and nowhere to hide. What does it take to be a solo performer. I would say big nuts and a big ego but obviously that’s not right for everyone!
Mad Dog- I’m going solo now and that takes a bit more balls.
Having been in bands yourself that have influenced celtic-punk dramatically which figures or bands do you think have been the important links between the past and the present and folk/celtic/traditional music and punk/rock music?
Mad Dog- My fab band has always been Thin Lizzy.
How you find the London Irish scene these days? Obviously the old community has shrunk and the new arrivals seem, to me anyway, not to be interested in Irish music. Maybe I’m reading it wrong. I certainly hope so. Is there still a community out there? What bands were you listening to at the moment? Do you follow celtic-punk at all. Any bands out of the scene that you like?
Mad Dog-  I’m not really up to date with the Gaelic music scene since my accident but I’m slowly getting back into the Irish music scene.

With so much music in your life. What are your happiest memories of playing. The best gig or best people…
I liked touring America the best. There was a gig I really liked in L.A. called the House Of Blues the American fans were fabulous. I have a lot of stories to tell but you will all have to wait to hear about them as I’m keeping them for a book I’m writing. The funniest stories I think was when I was touring with Shane. But as I say you all will have to wait for the book to come out. The gig I enjoyed the most was that one in the House Of Blues in Los Angeles.
Have you been following the Shane’s new teeth saga?
Mad Dog- I read about Shane an his teeth an all I can do is wish him the best of luck.
Now one of the questions that popped up when putting this interview together was whether you’re a football fan or not. Living in north London where you do are an Arse or a Spurs fan? Or do you give a shit and are only interested in the Gaelic?
Mad Dog- I’m not really a football fan but if I was I would follow the Arsenal.
Thanks Paul for taking the time to answer a few questions. I know I speak for the entire celtic-punk community and especially the London Celtic Punks crew when I say I wish you all the very best and look forward to seeing you back on stage with the lads high kicking the night away. So all that’s left is for you to plug plug plug and is there anything else you want to add or anyone you want to thank?
Mad Dog- Hopefully see some of you at Lissenden Gardens this Wednesday at 15.30. Come up an say hello.
Mad Dog 2
Mad Dog GigSo there you are Paul’s well and truly on the road to recovery thank heavens and you can catch him playing a small intimate acoustic solo set at the Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy Centre (phone number 020 7267 4496), 2 Lissenden Gardens, Camden, London NW5 1PP next Wednesday 8th June. Paul is on stage about 3.30pm and the gig is on the green right in front of the centre. The Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy Centre offers music therapy and other music services to help children and adults with disabilities and illnesses. Specialist piano, keyboard, singing and song-writing lessons for people with a disability, illness, emotional difficulties or other challenges. Music groups for babies, toddlers and their parents; singing groups for children with autism and adults with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other lung conditions. The Lissenden Gardens are just between Kentish Town West and Gospel Oak and it’s free in so show your support for one of our own.

POST-SCRIPT:

A couple of us did make the gig and lucky for you Anto Morra got this great recording of Paul performing Dirty Old Town accompanied by Dave Thorpe. Wonderful to see you back giving it large again Mad Dog!

Paul accompanied here by Whiskey Mick, a fellow Pope. photo- Vicki Rowan

Paul accompanied here by Whiskey Mick, a fellow Pope. photo- Vicki Rowan

ALBUM REVIEW: LARKIN- ‘A Toast To St. Jude’ (2016)

With traditional Irish folk music and some of their own originals Larkin rock it up while keeping it trad. Always a good yellin’, rebel song, drinkin’ song good time with Larkin!

Larkin

Larkin are a superb 6 piece trad Irish folk band from Tulsa, Oklahoma in the USA that play traditional working class Irish protest song’s. They are led by Chad Malone, formerly of the American crusty punk political hardcore racket Brother Inferior, he has swapped one kind of music that comes from the heart for another that will surely stir the emotions of even the most stony hearted punk rocker. Leaving the hardcore punk growling behind Chad sings in a vein that crosses both Luke Kelly and Shane MacGowan while the band follow in the much same way inspired by the likes of both The Dubliners and The Pogues as well.

Larkin1

It has been eight years since Larkin’s last release and that is far too long. Their first release was The Curse of Our Fathers which was the first CD I had ever sent off for from America way back in 2003 when I had never even heard of the internet. Rustling up a bunch of dollars and posting them off not knowing if they’d ever get there! Lucky for me they did and a short while later the CD dropped out the letterbox and was ready for me to play constantly for months to come and tape for about at least fifty people! It was thirteen songs that included a smattering of old rebel songs and some brilliant original compositions that seriously marked them out as a band to watch. Irish-American life in song and Chad had obviously lost none of his songwriting ability’s when he made the dramatic (to some!) shift from hardcore punk to trad Irish. They followed this with Reckoning in 2005 and again it covered much the same track as their debut. More original songs this time but still a few rebs’s covering both the ‘auld days’ with ‘Broad Black Brimmer’ and the new with ‘Men Behind The Wire’. Again the music was exemplary and the energy through the roof. The following year they released a six track EP called Alexandra, named after the daughter of one of the band members, and again folks went bloody mad for it. Garnering great reviews from both folk and punk sites it seemed like Larkin were on the rise but whatever happened we this side of the pond were never to know and their international profile went down and we heard absolutely nothing till this their new album hit the streets running recently.

That new album A Toast To St. Jude has again been released, like all Larkin releases, on Know Records a punk rock and hardcore record label from Long Beach in Southern California. Available from the band on only vinyl for the moment on either orange (limited to 200) or green coloured vinyl, but that include’s a free digital download card. It is available as a download on other things like iTunes though so if you want one don’t be silly and delay… send off today.

A Toast To St. Jude begins with ‘The Ballad Of St. Patrick’s Battalion’ and straight from the off its a thigh slapping and merry fiddle led jaunty tribute to the famed battalion of up to several hundred mainly Irishmen who fought as part of the Mexican Army in the Mexican–American War of 1846–8. Famed in song already by the likes of Damien Dempsey (‘St Patrick’s Brave Brigade’) and The Street Dogs (‘San Patricios’) and countless others its a proud addition.

Larkin slow it down for ‘A Bottle And Two Days Later’ and it’s the tin whistle that dominates here aside from Chads vocals which shine out loud and proud over all. The music has a slight country twist to it but listen to the words and get carried away on the swell. ‘Row In The Town’ follows and is the first cover here and top marks for a song I have never heard covered in celtic punk before. Better known as ‘Erin Go Bragh’ it’s the story of 1916 and the brave leaders who fought and were executed in the Easter Uprising.

“God Bless gallant Pearse and his comrades who died
Tom Clark, MacDonagh, MacDiarmad, McBryde
And here’s to James Connolly who gave one Hurrah!
And faced the machine guns for Erin Go Bragh”

Written by the great Irish balladeer Peadar Kearney who also wrote the national anthem of Ireland ‘Amhrán Na BhFiann’ as well as a host of other well known and cherished Irish rebel songs. The song sticks to much the same tune as The Wolfe Tones version which is by far the most popular. ‘The Long Goodbye’ sees them back in thigh slapping mode again and despite it being almost entirely acoustic instruments they are giving it as good as any punk band and you can imagine the pit to this being pretty rigorous while ‘Shadows And Dust’ sees Chad giving it his best Shane as he sings of the evils of drink and drinking. Slow and mournful and the fiddle and whistle keep it moving on. A word here for the backline of non Irish instruments and the drumming and electric bass are both excellent additions and are as much of the sound as the others. Like all the best celtic-punk bands Larkin can switch it up and manage to follow a slow song with something like ‘The Wages Of Sin’ where Chad sings as fast as anything he managed in Brother Inferior. The beauty is though that you don’t notice that switch as it seems completely faultless. We are halfway through and they slip in ‘Lexy Slip Jig/Villain’s Octaves Jig/December Jig’ a collection of dance reels and jigs that prove Larkin are as an accomplished bunch of traditional musicians as exists in celtic-punk. Bloody superb is the only way to describe this and the fiddle playing of Karen Harmon is beyond brilliant. ‘Maybe Someday Outside Of Belfast’ slows it down again and Chad can turn his hand to much more than reb’s and rockers and he can give out a beautiful auld love song too. Of course it doesn’t have a happy ending but hey ho there you go! The longest track here and again I’m marvelling at this story teller’s words. ‘Midnight In The Fall Of Man’ ramps it up again with frantic acoustic guitar setting the pace with the band barely able to keep up. ‘A Wayward Lament’ again slows it down and Chad again hits a nerve with this my favourite song of the album. His voice may be a thousand miles from crooning but extols more emotion and feeling than anyone I have heard in a very long time.ST JUDE Album theme tune ‘A Toast To Saint Jude’ is exactly that a tribute to the apostle who is the patron saint of lost causes! He became associated with desperate situations because of a letter he wrote in which he says that the faithful must keep going even in harsh or difficult circumstances. Fast and utterly brilliant and over in just two minutes it sets up nicely for the album’s only other cover and poignant is not the word. ‘Back Home In Derry’ has been covered by a small handful of celtic punk bands and always sounds fantastic as it does here. Written by the peoples MP Bobby Sands while incarcerated in prison its an amazing song that never fails to move.

“Van Diemen’s land is a hell for a man
To end out his whole life in slavery
Where the climate is raw and the gun makes the law
Neither wind nor rain care for bravery
Twenty years have gone by, I’ve ended my bond
My comrades ghosts walk behind me
A rebel I came – I’m still the same
On the cold winters night you will find me”

A song about Irish freedom fighters sentenced to slavery in Australia by the British Government in the 1800’s the song was originally recorded by Christy Moore and Christy tells of the origins of his learning the song

“I was playing in Derry and staying with The Barrett Family. After my gig we were gathered in Chamberlain St having a banter and drinking tea when a bit of singing broke out. A lad, just home from The Blocks (prison), sang these verses and subsequently wrote out the words for me. At the time the name Bobby Sands was not known to the world as it is today.
He used the air of The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald from Gordon Lightfoot, an air which I suspect has earlier origins.  My version of Bobby’s song is shorter than the original”

Finally A Toast To Saint Jude comes to an end with ‘Have Another Drink, Boys’ and its altogether thirteen of the best songs I have heard in a good while. I simply cannot say how much I loved this album.

Team Larkin

Larkin from left to right: David Lawrence ~ whistle * Dalton Williams ~ guitar, bodhran * Chad Malone ~ vocals * Karen Naifeh Harmon ~ violin * Kelly Tuttle ~ bass Johnny Walker ~ drums

Larkin are almost the perfect band to symbolise celtic-punk. Heartfelt renditions of classic Irish songs that stir the emotions that will have you sobbing your heart out into your beer one minute and belting your lungs outs and thumping the table the next. That their own songs sound perfectly at home being sung right next to songs that are over a century old while at the same time giving off a very modern vibe is a fantastic achievement. Everything about Larkin is to be recommended right down to the artwork (once again done by the amazing Dublin punk artist Boz) and while some Irish-American’s may not know all that much of the history of Ireland that is not the case with Chad and the other bhoys and ghirls. History courses through the entire Larkin back catalogue and this is no exception. The band are named after the famed Dublin working class agitator and trade union leader James Larkin (1876 – 1947), a second generation Irish man born in Liverpool. He grew up in poverty and received little formal education but became a leader and a visionary whose influence still lives on today at home in Ireland and beyond. The hard life of the Irish who made the journey across the broad Atlantic and the sometimes hard life of their descendants (you see not every man is a king is in the US of A) is rarely better told and Chad sits comfortably up there with Tony from The Tossers or Leeson from Neck as a modern day celtic-punk story teller. The high praise doesn’t end there though and the music that accompanies is of the highest quality as well. Fast paced tunes with heaps and heaps of energy mix it up with soulful ballads and instrumentals that are all guaranteed to fill the dance floor with either swaying emotional mobs linking arms and pints in the air or a mosh pit you’d be taking your life in your hands to go near. With whistle, fiddle, acoustic guitar, electric bass, drums and vocals Larkin kick up an almighty storm and may just possibly be the world’s most punkiest folk band. No sod that… in fact make that definitely the world’s most punkiest folk band!

Buy The Album

KnowRecords (available on green and orange vinyl with free download card)  Microsoft  iTunes

Contact The Band

Facebook  MySpace  Chad Malone Facebook page (Larkin singer)  Soundcloud

  • you can check the wonderful artwork of the chief Larkin illustrator, Boz here at his web-site
  • Know Records Facebook page is 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 disheveled 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 usual 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 Punk 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)

THE POGUES ON MASTERMIND- THE ANSWERS!

…so following on from the quiz we published on St Patrick’s Day here’s the answers.

If you missed it and want to take it now click on the Mastermind chair below.

Mastermind chair

John got 12 on the show so better than that and you deserve a pat on the back…

1. What was the name of the first Pogues song to enter the charts when it peaked at number 72 in April 1985?
Answer: A Pair Of Brown Eyes
2. Who produced the Pogues’ most successful single Fairytale of New York and the album it was taken from If I Should fall from Grace with God?
Answer: Steve Lilywhite
3. In October ‘86 the Pogues recorded two songs with the Dubliners. One was the Irish Rover making the Top 10. What was the title of the other song that appeared on the B side?
Answer: The Rare Auld Mountain Dew
4. Which new wave artist produced the Pogues second album that was released in August 1985?
Answer: Elvis Costello
5. What was the Pogues debut single for Stiff Records that failed to chart when it was released in October ’84?
Answer: Boys from the County Hell
6. Following a number of promotional appearances, the Pogues first live American concert took place in February 1986. At what venue in New York?
Answer: The World
7. What was the title of the 4-track EP that was released in March 1986 featuring among its songs A Rainy Night in Soho and The Body of an American?
Answer: Poguetry In Motion
8. Who replaced the guitarist Philip Chevron when he missed the band’s American tour in late ’87 because of ill health?
Answer: Joe Strummer
9. During July and August ’87 the Pogues opened for which band in a number of stadium gigs, the first of which was at Wembley in front of a crowd of 70,000?
Answer: U2
10. The video of the song Fiesta was filmed in Barcelona in April ’88?. Which comedian directed it?
Answer: Ade Edmonson
11. By what name is the tinwhistle player and occasional vocalist Peter Stacy better known?
Answer: Spider
12. Apart from the annual re-releases of the Fairytale of New York, what was the title of the last release by the band to make the UK Top 20?
Answer: Tuesday Morning
13. What was the name of the bass player who left the band in ’86 following her marriage to Elvis Costello earlier in the year?
Answer: Cait O’Riordan
14. What was the title of the first album of new material released by the band following the departure of MacGowan . It was produced by Michael Brook and recorded in ’93?
Answer: Waiting For Herb
15. The Pogues played a benefit concert in Camden in December 1990 for their manager’s daughter after she was injured in a diving accident. What was her name?
Answer: Shannon

Your editor here got 11 out of the 15 right. I had no idea for Q.6 or Q.15 and for Q.5 and Q.10 I simply couldn’t remember. Old age catching up with me!

you can ‘follow’ the blog and receive a e-mail every time we post by simply filling out the section that is on the bar on the left hand side under the menu at the top. we post around 6-9 times a month so you wont be too harassed we promise!

* 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

Lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhuit!

“For each petal on the shamrock
This brings a wish your way
Good health, good luck, and happiness
For today and every day”

A couple of years ago John Abernethy competed on Mastermind (a English TV quiz show) and had The Pogues as his specialist subject. We know that that the London Celtic Punks bhoys and ghirls are a knowledgeable lot so here’s the questions below. Have a go and see how many you got and I’ll post the answers one week from today!!

Mastermind chair

1. What was the name of the first Pogues song to enter the charts when it peaked at number 72 in April 1985?

2. Who produced the Pogues’ most successful single Fairytale of New York and the album it was taken from If I Should fall from Grace with God?

3. In October ‘86 the Pogues recorded two songs with the Dubliners. One was the Irish Rover making the Top 10. What was the title of the other song that appeared on the B side?

4. Which new wave artist produced the Pogues second album that was released in August 1985?

5. What was the Pogues debut single for Stiff Records that failed to chart when it was released in October ’84?

6. Following a number of promotional appearances, the Pogues first live American concert took place in February 1986. At what venue in New York?

7. What was the title of the 4-track EP that was released in March 1986 featuring among its songs A Rainy Night in Soho and The Body of an American?

8. Who replaced the guitarist Philip Chevron when he missed the band’s American tour in late ’87 because of ill health?

9. During July and August ’87 the Pogues opened for which band in a number of stadium gigs, the first of which was at Wembley in front of a crowd of 70,000?

10. The video of the song Fiesta was filmed in Barcelona in April ’88?. Which comedian directed it?

11. By what name is the tinwhistle player and occasional vocalist Peter Stacy better known?

12. Apart from the annual re-releases of the Fairytale of New York, what was the title of the last release by the band to make the UK Top 20?

13. What was the name of the bass player who left the band in ’86 following her marriage to Elvis Costello earlier in the year?

14. What was the title of the first album of new material released by the band following the departure of MacGowan . It was produced by Michael Brook and recorded in ’93?

15. The Pogues played a benefit concert in Camden in December 1990 for their manager’s daughter after she was injured in a diving accident. What was her name?

John Abernethy got 12 right out of the 15 so see if you can do better! 

soooooo come back exactly one week today and click below and you will be directed to the answers

Mastermind

HAPPY ST PATRICK’S DAY TO ALL

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ALBUM REVIEW: ‘JOY OF LIVING: A TRIBUTE TO EWAN MacCOLL’ (2016)

Fearless and uncompromising Ewan MacColl’s influence is still felt far beyond the folk world. We owe him a lot… more than we can ever imagine.

Joy Of Living

Regular readers of the London Celtic Punks blog will all know how much we like Ewan MacColl and we have regularly featured him within these pages. Though long gone Ewan’s massive volume of work lives on and only the other day were we raving about the Irish-American celtic-punk band 1916 and their amazing version of another Ewan song (sadly not featured here) ‘Hot Asphalt’. Ewan’s songs were uplifting whether proclaiming love or war or peace. He wrote about things that would now be forgotten about and has kept their memory alive. He gave birth to a folk revival that continues to this day, many years after his passing, that remains in great health. The songs he wrote and championed are still being played and explored and adapted and still being made great. Ewan MacColl’s musical legacy is, to put it simply, just out of this world. We owe him a lot… more than we can ever imagine.

Ewan was the Salford born son of Scotish parents. A Gaelic-speaking mother and Lowland father from whom he inherited more than a hundred songs and ballads. He worked as a garage hand, builders’ labourer, journalist, radio scriptwriter, actor and dramatist. After the end of World War II Ewan wrote and broadcast extensively in Britain about folk music. He was general editor of the BBC folk-music series, ‘Ballads and Blues’, and frequently took part in radio and television shows for the BBC.

Ewan MacColl 1His folk song publications included ‘Personal Choice’, a pocket book edition of Scots folk songs and ballads, and ‘The Shuttle and the Cage’, the first published collection of British industrial folk songs. Eventually he was ousted from the BBC due to his socialist beliefs. He wrote many songs that have become folk (and celtic-punk standards) the most famous of course being ‘Dirty Old Town’ popularised by The Dubliners and then The Pogues. It is wrongly assumed to be about Dublin but it is in fact about his home town of Salford in Manchester. He is also famous for writing one of the greatest ever love songs ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’ which he wrote for his second wife, the influential American folk singer, Peggy Seeger. He was also the father of Kirsty MacColl who of course guested on The Pogues enormous Christmas hit ‘Fairytale Of New York’. After many years of poor health Ewan died on 22 October 1989 but it can be safely said of him that his songs and influence will live on forever. Comparable only to Woody Guthrie in more than one way.

This fantastic double album marks 100 years since Ewan MacColl’s birth and the album has been produced by two of Ewan’s sons, Calum and Neill, and features a wonderful bunch of diverse artists from right across folk, rock, pop and celtic music. Disc one begins with, for me, one of the stand out tracks with Damien Dempsey singing ‘Schooldays Over’. The only song here we have heard before nevertheless it is more than welcome. Made famous by the late great Luke Kelly’s version with The Dubliners Damien is no stranger to Ewan’s work and does him truly proud.

This is followed by a track from one of the most influential figures in folk music today, Martin Carthy and is the first of several and several individual contributions by the Waterson-Carthy family. He performs the unlikely tale of a fish delivery man in ‘I’m Champion At Keeping ‘Em Rolling’. The Unthanks may sound like a rock band but are in fact two sisters (Unthank is their great surname) who perform a gentle lullaby ‘Cannily, Cannily’. Tracks from legends old and new follow from Seth Lakeman and Marry Waterson and Bombay Bicycle Club are up next, BBC famously include one of MacColl’s grandchildren, Jamie. They contribute a moving version of ‘The Young Birds’, a song written back in 1961 to commemorate a tragic plane crash that killed 34 London children of whom some were known to MacColl’s oldest son, Hamish. Another artist we are familiar with here is Dick Gaughan who contributes ‘Jamie Foyers’. Dick is an influential Scottish musician, singer, and songwriter who was a founding member of the famous celtic band Boys Of The Lough. Martin’s daughter Eliza Carthy, ‘Thirty-Foot Trailer’ and Chaim Tannenbaum, ‘My Old Man’, are up next before honorary Irishman Steve Earle presents a new take on a song that needs no introduction ‘Dirty Old Town’, except to say that it does sound like the spirit(s) of Shane MacGowan were present at its recording.

The first discs last song is from Jarvis Cocker and the erstwhile Pulp front man gives us a amazingly beautiful whispered version of  ‘The Battle Is Done With’. I am sure it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but its great to hear something that just isn’t a straight cover of Ewan’s work.

Ewan MacCollDisc two begins with the most famous of Ewan’s compositions and Paul Buchanan vocalist of 80/90’s Glasgow indie band The Blue Nile croons beautifully through the ‘First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’. Ewan wrote the song for Peggy Seeger and it became an international smash hit in 1972 sung by Roberta Flack. On hearing this version it made me wonder how Shane MacGowan would have mastered it. Paul Brady will be a name known to many and his version of ‘Freeborn Man’ shows Paul to have lost none of his talent in a career that spans right across modern day Irish folk music. Another travellers song follows and Norma Waterson provides us with a fauntless rendition of the gypsy’s plight in ‘The Moving On Song’. Karine Polwart’s version of ‘The Terror Time’ is again beautiful, and Martin Simpson, The Father’s Song, is up next before the ultimate Irish living folk legend, and former band mate of Paul Brady in Planxty, Christy Moore appears with ‘The Companeros’. Again yer man has lost nothing and its a stunning version. Now there’s one name missing from this album so far and he’s up next. It must be written into law that Billy Bragg must appear on any folk compilation and whatever you think of him he gives us a really nice but angry copy of ‘Kilroy Was Here’ which strips Billy back to those early days when he was at his best. Folk siblings Rufus and Martha Wainwright play the magnificent ‘Sweet Thames, Flow Softly’. A small gentle snapshot of life before Kathryn Williams, ‘Alone’, and David Gray brings the whole project to an end with one of Ewan’s best but sadly little known songs, and album title, The Joy of Living.

As you may expect traditionalists might not appreciate some of the versions here but this enhances, rather than detracts and all the various strands of Ewan’s political and musical life is represented here. This double album does not pretend to be the ‘be-all-and-end-all’ as with an artist with such a massive repertoire it would be impossible to please everyone but it does provide a gateway. Collections like this serve only one purpose. That is to steer listeners away from the modern day versions to the original source and with Ewan their is plenty to catch up on. We have included some links at the bottom where readers can find more information and free downloads so I hope you take the opportunity to. It is impossible to calculate the range and influence of this remarkable singer and song-writer but we can rest assured his memory lives and this album is a great testament to him.

“My function is not to reassure people. I want to make them uncomfortable. To send them out of the place arguing and talking”

Disc 1
1. Damien Dempsey – Schooldays Over
2. Martin Carthy – I’m Champion At Keeping ‘Em Rolling
3. The Unthanks – Cannily, Cannily
4. Seth Lakeman – The Shoals of Herring
5. Marry Waterson – The Exile Song
6. Bombay Bicycle Club – The Young Birds
7. Dick Gaughan – Jamie Foyers
8. Eliza Carthy – Thirty-Foot Trailer
9. Chaim Tannenbaum – My Old Man
10. Steve Earle – Dirty Old Town
11. Jarvis Cocker – The Battle Is Done With

Disc 2
1. Paul Buchanan – The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face
2. Paul Brady – Freeborn Man
3. Norma Waterson  – Moving On Song
4. Karine Polwart – The Terror Time
5. Martin Simpson – The Father’s Song
6. Christy Moore – The Companeros
7. Billy Bragg – Kilroy Was Here
8. Rufus & Martha Wainwright – Sweet Thames, Flow Softly
9. Kathryn Williams – Alone
10. David Gray – The Joy of Living

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Official Ewan MacColl Sites

Facebook  Twitter  YouTube

For more on Ewan MacColl the internet is awash with sites but trust us and head straight to the official sites but also to Wikipedia as well as this tribute from the Working Class Movement Library here. You can listen to some of his music for free here on LastFm.

We have a regular series ‘Classic Album Reviews’ where we feature records from the past that have had influence far beyond their years. Ewan (of course!!), Leadbelly and several compilations have featured so far and all come with links to free downloads. You can check out the full series here.

(Just to prove Ewan’s work lives on here’s the aforementioned 1916 from New York with their recent  version of the classic Ewan song ‘Hot Asphalt’)

ALBUM REVIEW: 1916- ‘Last Call For Heroes’ (2015)

SHAMROCKABILLY!

The hardest hitting Irish rock band this side of Dublin city!

1916 (2015)

With the sun about to set on 2015 and the end of year ‘Best Of’ polls pretty much settled no-one in the London Celtic Punks camp expected another album worthy of the list to come along. Let alone one to come along that would hit you so instantly in the gut that it would rocket up to be voted the third best Celtic Punk Album Of 2015 (here) by the LCP team. That album was by a band called 1916 from New York and was about to make BIG BIG waves in the celtic-punk scene. The roots of 1916 had been around for a few years now starting off as a duo back in 2006 before deciding to take things to another level with the addition of electric guitars, drums and traditional folk instruments. Soon they had become a staple of the celtic-punk/ Irish rock scene in New York and it wasn’t long before they released their debut album A Drop Of The Pure in 2012 and the follow up, Stand Up And Fight, released the following year. These were both great albums but, and I’m sure the Bhoys won’t mind me saying, it was all solid but still pretty standard celtic-punk rock fare. That debut album was full of the passion and wild fire of a bunch of young Irish-Americans while the follow up shared much the same path but was a much more polished version. Their new album Last Call For Heroes hit the streets in the USA at the beginning of December just gone but took a couple of weeks to reach us here across the broad Atlantic and it is fair to say that it blew everybody’s bloody brains out over here at London Celtic Punks and has since been causing quite a scene across the worldwide celtic-punk community!

1916 (2012)Over the years their have been several celtic punk bands who have included a double bass and combined Irish folk, punk rock and rock’n’roll/rockabilly to create something pretty amazing. Craic Haus are without doubt the kings of, what they term themselves, ‘shamrockabilly’ but other notable bands like Black Irish Texas, Black Water County and Kevin Flynn And The Avondale Ramblers also have a double bass player rather than a electric bass guitar to create that rocking sound you just don’t get from a normal bass guitar. The sound that Chris Van Cleve brings to 1916 is quite simply amazing and will leave you gobsmacked. If you thought that pretty much all celtic-punk bands sound alike then get your lug holes around this album and prepare to eat some humble pie as this band will blow any perceptions you may have of celtic-punk music out of the water.

1916 (2013)Coming out of the once solidly Irish area of Rochester in New York, 1916 may have seen the Irish population of their home town shrink somewhat but it has only hardened their determination to both sing loud and sing proud about the NY Irish community and their noble history! The Irish are still here and they are still fighting!!NYI (2)

The album starts with an absolute cracker of a song with ‘Tear The Pub Down’. Thrashy guitars and singer Bill dives straight into in a song that deserves to be played while the Ireland team (only one team in Ireland!) walk out on the pitch at the European Championships in the summer. If this song wouldn’t swell their hearts and heads we’ve no chance. Next up is ‘For Whiskey’ which was the first release from the album and is clearly the band’s favourite track. Certainly it shows the band at their most rocking and if there’s one song on this album that could be the 1916 signature tune then this is the one.

Smuggling whiskey into America during prohibition made many a Irishman plenty of money and even better for the Irish community at large it gave the Irish a taste of power that they learnt to hang onto.

“It’s row, ye bastards row
We can see the beach and the pickup harbor
It’s go ye bastards go
To the speakeasies with your whiskey cargo
And now we’re headed back
For the smuggling life we’re living now
It’s whiskey we’re on our way”

This is followed by ‘Long Street Bop’ and is more than a passing nod towards Shane MacGowan’s first band The Nipple Erectors (later The Nips) with a short but sweet blast of rockabilly. 1916 are certainly no covers band belting out Danny Boy and their wonderful choice of covers proves they have both a great taste in music and a good knowledge of their Irish roots. ‘Hot Asphalt’ is up next and is as good a version as I have heard in my entire life. 1916 bounce along with a tonne of energy and turn this well known song into their very own.

“You may talk about yer sailor lads, ballad singers and the rest
Your shoemakers and your tailors but we please the ladies best
The only ones who know the way their flinty hearts to melt
Are the lads around the boiler making hot asphalt

With rubbing and with scrubbing, sure I caught me death of cold
For scientific purposes, me body it was sold
In the Kelvin grove museum, me boys, I’m hangin’ in me pelt
As a monument to the Irish, making hot asphalt”

Made famous by The Dubliners and for once we have a classic traditional folk song not written by Ewan MacColl… I jest of course as yet again its another in Ewan’s armoury of amazing songs that celebrate working class life. This time about Irishmen digging the roads in England. One of those men was my Grandad incidentally. Ewan was a genius pure and simple (check back in a few days time for a review of the recently released Ewan MacColl tribute double album ‘The Joy Of Living’). It’s quite hard to describe how 1916 breath new life into this classic song but by God they do so. I love this version and hats off for achieving something more than just a simple cover version. ‘Nothing Left To Lose’ is one of the albums slower tracks but still kicks it up with the chorus while ‘The Traveller’ has a country/rockabilly feel while still rooted firmly in Ireland. ‘Ordinary Man’ is not the famed Christy Moore song but does travel much the same road lyrically and is dedicated to all those

“worker bees who are buzzing around with you and me”
‘Tomorrow’ is classic celtic-punk territory. Guitar and banjo clash producing yet another fantastic song but with front man Bill and his sometimes gravelly and sometimes almost crooning vocals 1916 prove they can rattle out top class song after top class song. Another great cover that the band properly claim is ‘Mursheen Durkin’. It tells the story of an Irish emigrant who goes to mine for gold during the Californian gold rush during the 1840’s and unusually in tales of Irish emigration for once it’s an upbeat song where yer man revels in leaving.
“Goodbye to all the boys at home, l’m sailing far across the foam
To try to make me fortune in far America,
For there’s s gold and money plenty for the poor and gentry
And when I come back again I never more will stray”
Again it’s a song made famous by the band that influenced The Pogues like no other The Dubliners. If by chance you are one of those rare souls that has never checked out The Dubliners do so immediately. It has to said that if celtic-punk wouldn’t exist without The Pogues then The Pogues would not exist without The Dubliners.
1916
‘Last Call For The Heroes’ is the last self-penned number and again the boys nail it. A swirling tribute to their Irish ancestors in New York. Again its a superb song and one of many fist/pint in the air moments on this album and sadly we come to an end with the final track, ‘The Parting Glass’. Again a Dubliners favourite and though this is the third song on the album popularised by this great band 1916 do something incredible and breathe new life into each song and make it their own. ‘The Parting Glass’ is sung wherever the Irish are throughout the world. First appearing in the 1770’s it is sung wherever Irish friends gather at the end of the night.

“Oh, all the comrades that e’er I had
They’re sorry for my going away
And all the sweethearts that e’er I had
They’d wish me one more day to stay

But since it falls unto my lot
That I should rise and you should not
I’ll gently rise and softly call
Good night and joy be with you all”

Bill sings with the very barest of accompaniment and comes out with something both beautiful and poignant. I can see this song being played at a good few funerals in the future!!
So here’s a blend of rockabilly with Irish punk rock that will leave you reeling while Bill spits out the songs with a venom that will have you belting your lung’s out while bouncing off the walls. Following 1916 through their three albums its clear to see how this talented bunch have continued to grow and evolve as musicians and artists and you get the feeling that they will only continue to get better and better as well. I can honestly say that their has been no better album in celtic-punk since The Rumjacks debut album kicked our teeth out back in 2010. What we are looking at here is the early days of a band that is destined for the top table of celtic-punk and who knows where after that…
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ALBUM REVIEW: JOHNNY CAMPBELL- ‘Hook, Line And Sinker’ (2015)

Fast, ruthless and uncompromising traditional folk music and frantic bluegrass style picking with self penned songs of protest and debauchery!

Johnny Campbell

Johnny Campbell is a name that will be familiar to regular viewers of the London Celtic Punks blog-zine as we have been long time fans of pretty much everything Johnny has come up with over the years. We first crossed paths with Johnny when he played in the excellent Yorkshire celtic-punk band Three Sheets T’Wind but since those days Johnny has spreads his wings and has become a quite successful and well travelled solo artist. After numerous tours and gigs and a EP we now arrive at the release of Hook, Line And Sinker back at the arse end of last year.  We did a very interesting interview with Johnny in September just gone (here) so drop over there to have a read and find out lots more about Johnny and his various gig antics across Europe including how ISIS nearly screwed up his tour!

JohnnyHook, Line And Sinker is eight songs of stand out traditional folk music lasting just shy of half an hour with Johnny ably supported by Rosie Eade on backing vocals and an old bandmate of Shane MacGowan, Kieran O’Malley on the violin. A story of a journey from York to Middlesbrough begins the album with ‘Hills Of Cleveland’ and name checks places of outstanding beauty along the way. A sort of North Yorkshire national anthem that I am sure sounds mental to anyone who doesn’t know or appreciate ‘Gods own country’.

“Sneck Yate over Hambleton it’s where we made good time
The smog caresses Middlesbrough you could see it to the Tyne”

This is followed by ‘Johnny McGhee’ a  comedy song that came about after a night out on the lash and with a gut full of ale and arriving home and after listening to the great Irish balladeers like John McCormack and The Clancy Brothers Johnny decided to write a traditional old school folk song with the emphasis on the lyrics and using different volumes of the voice when singing. Play the song below and you’ll understand instantly  what I mean.

“Rambling and roving and smoking and courting
And drinking black Porter as fast as you feel
In all your days roving you’ll find none more jovial
As the wondrous wanderer Johnny McGhee”

‘Blue Mountains’ is a fast paced instrumental with great fiddle work from Kieran and as close as this album comes to the sound of Three Sheets T’Wind. Personally I think the album would have benefited from a few faster paced numbers but that is not Johnny’s shtick here. Waking up hungover on a boat to Denmark with no money, no phone, no bank card and no wallet was the inspiration for ‘Copenhagen’ and having to busk for three days for food and money just to get to the airport providing the background for the story. ‘Complaint’ was written in mind about those affected by the Bedroom Tax and forced out onto the street and put to a very old traditional Irish tune. The romanticism of tramping the high roads belies exactly how difficult and traumatic it can really me. Like anything it’s simple with a safety net but there’s not many of us who will ever find ourselves with no other option. There are too many songs in the folk genre romanticising the idea of living a homeless life and glamorising the idea of being a wanderer without commitment or troubles. The ‘roving minstrel’ image portrayed in folk song about travellers and gypsies having a carefree life just isn’t true when weighed up against all the daily shit and blatant discrimination traveller families have to put up. Next up is ‘The Death Of The Public House (skit)’ and that witch Maggot Thatcher snarls out at you from the speakers. Many of you will have no idea or will have forgotten what she was like so remind yourself with her spouting the miserable anti-human claptrap she was famous for. Hook, Line And Sinker’ was wrote with Woody Guthrie in mind and the legendary American folk pioneer will be smiling down from above on hearing this. The song steers clear of preaching and has a real catchy foot tapping way about it. References to the optimism of the radical movements in the US and UK that haven’t come to full fruition as well as religion and the two party political system.

‘Jock Stewart’ is the famous song made famous I suppose by The Pogues as sung by Cait O’Riordan. Originally an Irish ballad it was shortened and adapted to an Aberdeenshire drinking song. And what a song it is!

“So be easy and free,
When you’re drinkin’ wi’ me,
I’m a man you don’t meet every day”

If you’re a fan of traditional folk music and folk singer’s like Christy Moore and Paul Brady then you will love this record. Passionate and straight from the heart Johnny takes his music very seriously and his commitment is amazing. A record that is evocative of the past but is rooted very firmly in the here and now. Fans of celtic-punk music deserve to give artists like Johnny a go. The music he plays is where the music we all love comes from and is living proof that the soul of celtic-punk belongs firmly in the past.

(you can have a free listen to the whole of ‘Hook, Line And Sinker’ before buying by pressing Play on the Bandcamp player below)

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FromJohnny

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