Saturday, December 08, 2012

Drinking Song leftovers

I just did a post this morning on Froogville about the 'leftover' candidates who hadn't quite made it into my 'Fantasy Girlfriends' series over there.

In similar vein (since these blogs of mine are going to end in less than a fortnight, even if the world isn't), I thought I'd offer you on here today a 'Top Five' never-quite-made-it possibilities for my Great Drinking Songs strand.

A Top Five Drinking Songs

5=)  Hank Williams Jnr. - Whiskey Bent and Hellbound
A special treat for my buddy The British Cowboy, who, after studying law at Vanderbilt University in Nashville a decade ago, has become a huge C&W fan - and keeps on trying to convert me. I am more susceptible than I usually let on to him. [Another good version here, where Hank's duetting with Kid Rock.]

5=)  Van Halen - Take Your Whiskey Home
Women and Children First is my favourite Van Halen album, and this is one of my favourite tracks from it. Here's a fun live performance from a gig in Baltimore in 1980 - but audio only, unfortunately. [You can try the album version here.]

4)  The Doors - Alabama Song
The Brecht/Weill show tune is a classic drinking song, but - despite Jim Morrison's notorious drinking proclivities - it was a quirky choice for a rock band. The Doors' version of it, though, has become one of my favourites. [Although I also have a weakness for Ute Lemper doing this, obviously.]

3)  Sam Cooke - Chain Gang
Not an obvious drinking song choice, perhaps, but I once sang it in the tiny back bar at the Bullingdon Arms in East Oxford, with an impromptu chorus of friends and strangers. I have such happy memories of that, I dream of repeating the experience some day.

2)  Chumbawamba - Tubthumping
I recall there seemed to be a reaction against this song at the time, or shortly afterwards, perhaps because it got rather overplayed for a while, or perhaps because the band's in-your-face style got a bit too uncomfortable for most people. Me, I never tired of it. I think this is one of the best singles of the '90s; though it is also, curiously, one of the less impressive songs from the eponymous album, which I think was my 'album of the decade'.

And what am I saving for the No. 1 spot this time?

1)  John Otway - House of the Rising Sun
Of course, I like The Animals' version too (it is one of the only things I have ever been induced to sing at a Chinese karaoke session), but it is stalwart British pub entertainer John Otway's idiosyncratic interpretation that I have particularly come to love - through having seen the man live more times than I can count; some dozens, certainly, over the space of about 28 years. I've never got to the bottom of how he hit upon the idea of doing it like this, but I imagine that some time early in his career he genuinely stumbled over a lyric and was offered a mocking prompt by someone in the audience. It soon evolved into a necessary centrepiece of his stage show that this song would be delivered as a kind of call-and-response, with facetious questions from the audience interrupting the singer every half-line or so. I have myself once had the privilege of leading this audience interaction, when the great man turned up to play a poorly advertised and thinly attended gig in Toronto while I was living there - and I was the only person in the bar who'd seen him before. Here he is, supported - for once - by a full-scale band (most of the time he performs solo, or with his mate Richard playing the fancier guitar bits); it's from a great concert video shot at London's Astoria theatre (my all-time favourite gig venue, now sadly defunct) - some time in the early Noughties, I believe. [I've just learned the old bugger turned 60 a few months ago. And he's still gigging just about as fast and furiously as he ever did!  Happy Birthday, John!!!!!!]

OK, if you insist, you can have Eric Burdon and The Animals doing it as well (since it is a rather excellent HD video).

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