Thursday, March 17, 2011

The greatest little boozer.... [Great Drinking Songs (27)]

Aaah, that time of year is upon us once again - St Patrick's Day, possibly now the largest single excuse for a piss-up worldwide.

What better way to celebrate than with a classic bit of The Pogues, Sally MacLennane, from their Rum, Sodomy, and The Lash album (which I played to death during my second year at university... until I discovered their even better debut album Red Roses For Me, which has been one of my favourite late-night melancholy indulgences ever since).

This is a performance from the great, much-missed BBC2 music show The Old Grey Whistle Test, a seminal influence on my 1970s childhood. (Apparently, they've been doing re-runs of this on the 'new' BBC4 channel over the last few years, so a lot of high-quality clips are starting to appear on YouTube. They also seem to have begun issuing 'Best of...' compilation DVDs, but so far I've only managed to find one of these in Beijing... I am constantly on the lookout for more.)  It's a good performance, but, unfortunately, it is cut slightly short at the end. (And it pains me to reflect that this must have been 27 years ago!!!)

There's another good live version here, from a 1988 concert in Japan (YouTube user Cosmotype seems to have uploaded that entire concert film: well worth a look); and this one perhaps best captures the infectious drunken bounciness of the tune (from a gig at the Barrowlands in Glasgow in 1987; without video).

This song provided one of my favourite excuses for missing a tutorial (a one-to-one interrogation by a senior member of faculty, which is how they like to do most of the 'teaching' at Oxford) in my student days: I'd been singing it - and a load of other Pogues songs, and a few AC/DC numbers like Highway to Hell and Touch Too Much - so riotously with my mates at an end-of-term party the night before that I completely lost my voice (my cynical head tutor insisted that I show up for 5 minutes to demonstrate as much). That left me free for an extended hair-of-the-dog lunchtime session with the same bunch of mates, at the end of which we really did have to escort one of our number - barely able to walk unaided - to the railway station to put him on his train home. It was one of the happiest moments of my life (ah, the world without responsibilities!); and, as a result, this song is always a little apt to get me tearing up.

Have a WILD St. Pat's, everyone!!

[By the by, that Wikipedia link on the OGWT offers an explanation of the name I'd never heard before.  Ostensibly, it was an expression from the old days of tin pan alley, when music companies would try out their latest songs on the grey-uniformed doormen of Manhattan's upscale hotels and apartment buildings. The thinking was that any tune the 'old greys' could remember and start whistling after just one or two hearings was a guaranteed hit. This explanation is attributed to the show's notoriously low-talking presenter 'Whispering' Bob Harris - part of the inspiration for John Thomson's Louis Balfour character in the 'Jazz Club' segments of The Fast Show. I note that the same idea - testing new song ideas on their obliging but tone-deaf doorman - was used in the wonderful Hugh Grant/Drew Barrymore rom-com Music and Lyrics.]


Anonymous said...

Hey there!
My name’s Heather. I’m really wanting to get more actively involved in the blogging community. Will you follow me and I’ll follow you back? Looking forward to blogging with ya!

--Conversetotheoscars =]

Conversetotheoscars said...

Thank you for the comment! Very wise and encouraging advice, that I will definitely be taking to heart. I agree, the more I think about majoring in Theater Arts, the less sense it makes on its practicality.

Did you really go to Oxford? Thats amazing! You will be glad to know that I just listening to the entire Pogues song. I loved it!

Froog said...

Nice to hear from you again, Con. I'll hope you'll make time to look in here again from time to time - lots of fun distractions to stop you brooding too much on major life decisions.

I have a (mildly) more serious blog (quite a lot about literature and cinema - subjects I have taught from time to time) at

The Pogues were one of the biggest bands - if not the biggest band - in England in the mid-1980s. Great times - they were fantastic live. Perhaps they were new to you? I don't think they ever made it quite so big in the States (not outside of the Irish community, anyway); and you weren't even born in their heyday.