Sean’s music 29 … The Pogues

When Sean was about 10 and used to mention ‘the drunk lad’, we knew that he meant Shane MacGowan. He probably already liked the Pogues then – he certainly grew to like them a lot later, although they were never in the top echelon of his favourite bands.

Two of their audio tracks are still in the ‘music’ folder on his computer – ‘The Irish Rover’ and ‘Whiskey in the Jar’, both performed with the Dubliners. Among his YouTube favourites are video clips of ‘Rainy Night in Soho’, ‘Thousands Are Sailing’ and ‘Fiesta’. I have my own memories of these and other Pogues tracks.

‘Rainy Night in Soho’ is one of my favourite songs. I based a blog post on it once, on another site, starting like this:

I love this song.

I first heard the Pogues when I went to see Elvis Costello in Dublin in 1984, and they opened the show. I wasn’t impressed, and nor, I think, were most of the audience (even if the bass player was Costello’s girlfriend). Did we really need a bunch of London-Irish upstarts playing Irish music badly? No, we did not.

Actually … yes, we did.

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17 Comments

Filed under Death, Ireland, Memories, Music

17 responses to “Sean’s music 29 … The Pogues

  1. Cymbeline

    I do not seek out the Pogues, but I recognize the music when I hear it. I like the music, probably because it is familiar in a background sort of way to my youth. But not just that. I like the urban rawness too. Perhaps this urban rawness is particularly interesting when linked with traditional Irish music. It tells a story about migration without being pedantic. I quite liked punk, the rawness of punk music. I like the sound of angry young men. It hits a chord, and there is great poetry to it.

    I am obviously not qualified to speak about London/Irish upstarts , but perhaps I am qualified to speak about how exchange (I nearly said ‘cross-fertilisation’, but I am not a plant) keeps everything alive. Perhaps that is what you meant when you decided ‘actually, yes we did’. Anger and clash keep everything alive too.

    Sean’s reference to the ‘drunk lad’ made me think of the story you told above, about him horrifying a woman with the pretence that his glass of coca cola and 7-up contained whisky. Very funny. Also, I did not know that ‘lad’ was used by the Irish. It is a very English Midlands word to me.

    • Yes, that’s what I meant … in the post I wrote “Actually … yes, we did. Their musicianship wasn’t really so bad, and improved hugely thereafter. What we were hearing was the shock of the new, or the ‘new old’ … Irish or London-Irish tunes with punk gusto and lyrical beauty or grit.

      The Pogues were to Irish music in the 1980s what the Clancy Brothers and the Dubliners were in the 1960s, and by the end of the decade they had reached great heights (the Times and the Guardian both named If I Should Fall from Grace with God ‘album of the year’ in 1988, I think).

      This could never have happened without the extraordinary talent of one man … Shane MacGowan. I could write a lot more about MacGowan (who, as a child, lived just a few miles from me on the shores of Lough Derg, though I wasn’t aware of him at the time) and the Pogues. And I probably will.”

      ‘Lad’ is used a great deal in Ireland, often in a kind of affectionate way.

  2. Cymbeline

    Pardon me; ‘whiskey’ not ‘whisky’.

  3. Cymbeline

    ‘Rainy night in Soho’ is lovely music. Had you not told me, I don’t think that I would have known that this music was from the Pogues or London/Irish upstarts, although I must have heard it before.

    Sounds very unpunky and very very Irish to me. You may see the London in it. I don’t. I see Ireland.

    Apart from that, I am not good at putting words and music together.

    • Cymbeline

      I sometimes go to that Irish shop I told you about. Le Comptoir Irlandais, where they sell burnt scones at 2 euros and 50 centimes apiece. Can you believe that?

      It’s a bit of a mad mix in there ; Scottish plaids, Irish whiskey, pasteurised clotted cream from Devon, curly wurlly chocolate bars, lemon curd, Irish sausages, Dragon Welsh beer made in America, Spitfire ale from Kent (excellent), leprechaun keyrings and tea-towels……

      Anyway, the last time I was in there , there was a song playing. It was the song about the gods. You said that you played it on the piano as a boy and that your mother perhaps disliked the talk of gods. It is a poem really.

      Just to say that I am not good at putting music and words together.

      • Cymbeline

        And those terrible Irish keep charrrming us all.

        Dreadful people. There must be some sort of plot.

        I have already ordered six books from Amazon on the subject.

  4. Thank you, Cymbeline. The poem/song is ‘Raglan Road’. Your memory is as good as ever.

    ‘Rainy night in Soho’ is a very simple three-chord song. I like the mood of it. The phrase ‘down all the days’ is a reference to a book by Christy Brown … there tend to be lots of allusions in Pogues songs.

    Trying to think of a more ‘London Irish’/punk one … maybe this …

    Some more good ones:

  5. Cymbeline

    Thank you for the education. You are a good teacher.

  6. Cymbeline

    One day, I might even stop moaning about the loss of the Irish language.

  7. The young woman in the photograph looks like an Armenian/French girl I know. The similarity is striking, and it hit me when first I saw the picture, but I did not mention it before.

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