54. thousands are sailing

“The Pogues being one of those outfits that put a lie to the notion that the music of 1980s lacked soul. You just had to know where to look for it, or listen. In the Pogues’ case, that meant London, even if the sound (and the blood) was emphatically Irish. And sure, call them all drinking songs, I guess, just don’t discount the sorrow, or in the case of Thousands Are Sailing, the ghosts. An immigrant song, and so, a song of desperation, because it really does take you there, Ireland, 1845 and onward, the Famine. The thousands upon thousands who sailed away across the western ocean in the general direction of the Americas, packed into disease infested coffin ships with no prospect of anything save that it beat the certainty of starving to death if they stayed home. And then maybe three quarters of the way across, assuming you’d survived that far, some shady guy in religious garb might have pulled you aside and suggested that a snap renunciation of the papacy and conversion to the Church of England might save you and yours from getting dumped onto a plague island in the St. Lawrence river, reserved for Catholics and the like. At least that’s how it played out in my family’s story, or so I’ve been told. So yeah, here’s raising a stout to that stout and pragmatic Protestant Irish blood that still pumps through at least three-eighths of me, and to the Pogues for conjuring its bitter, drunken, resilient truth.” (Philip Random)

277. Sick bed of old Cuchulainn

“The Pogues were actually from London but there was never any denying the Irish blood in their veins. Not to mention Guinness, Jamesons, all manner of other substances, particularly front man, Shane McGowan. But they made it all work, found the raw punk heart of all those jigs and reels and shanties and faerie stories, set them on fire and unleashed an Irish folk revival that none us realized we needed until we heard it and then f*** yeah! How had we ever lived without it?” (Philip Random)

Pogues-1985-live

342. Summertime in England

“I discovered Summertime in England in springtime in Ireland, care of a cassette I’d randomly picked up because it was on sale in a kiosk at a bus station, and Van Morrison was Irish, of course, and it made sense to have some of his music with me as I wandered his homeland in my rent-a-car, drank Guinness, wondered what the hell I was actually doing there, which I eventually realized had something to do with finding myself at a place known as the Bloody Foreland, extreme north west of Donegal, so called because every now and then, at sunset, everything turned a fiery, almost unearthly red. And I caught one of those sunsets, with Summertime In England playing, of course, the last half in particular, where ole Van has to just go to Church, spill his soul out to the entirety of everything everywhere forever. One of those magical mystical moments that makes you shut up and not think about it anymore, you just know. God is real, God does exist, and she’s a Van Morrison fan.” (Philip Random)

VanMorrison-1980

412. we will not be lovers

Fisherman’s Blues is the album where main Waterboy Mike Scott went to Ireland for a few days, ended up getting lost on the west coast somewhere, not returning for years (or so the legend goes, and goes, and goes). We Will Not Be Lovers feels like the result of a powerhouse jam session wherein rock and folk attitudes piled into each other in a sustained and brilliant collision. “The words are pretty sharp as well, concerning the opposite of a love. Not hate so much as … well, you know the feeling. You look that other in the eye and all you can see is carnage. And yet you are compelled.” (Philip Random)

 

461. St. Dominic’s Preview

“It’s true. St. Dominic’s Preview (the song) should probably be way higher on this list. I guess I was just feeling a little allergic when I was compiling things – the danger inherent in loving any particular song too much, playing it too many times. Which is definitely the case here. You hear people talk about Celtic Soul – well, this is it, magical, mystical yet entirely grounded, even as it yearns and it reaches and … well, what the hell’s it about anyway? It’s about many things, it’s about everything, I suspect, it’s about cross-cutting country corners and every Hank Williams railroad train that cried, and Belfast being a hell of lot farther away than f***ing Buffalo. And the rest of the album‘s pretty damned strong as well.” (Philip Random)

VanMorrison-1972-live

626. blister on the moon

Taste, straight outa Cork, are one of those bands that genuinely should’ve conquered the world way back when. They had the songs, the presence, the power, even the likes of John Lennon and Eric Clapton singing their praises. But for whatever reason, it didn’t happen. We got two albums of taught, tough blues based r’n’r and then it was breakup time. Main man Rory Gallagher took off on a prolonged and committed solo career that only really stopped when his liver finally failed. And of the other two, not much more was ever heard.

taste-1969

856. boogie woogie dance

“A Thin Lizzy rocker that neither boogies nor woogies. It’s just heavy and strong and full of threat, though of what I’m not quite sure, maybe something lurking in the deep Irish night. Found on 1976’s Johnny The Fox, which is one of those albums that nails its place in time. Not punk, not metal, just rock, good and hard.” (Philip Random)

thinlizzy-lynnot76

1073. The Band Played Waltzing Matilda

“The Pogues were exactly what the mid 1980s needed. The original London punks had finally blown all their fuses, with the Clash’s inglorious meltdown being the most recent notable calamity. Enter a bunch of guys (and sometimes a girl) with way too much Irish blood in their veins, grabbing their parents old instruments off the wall (and a few of their tunes), and thrashing away like it truly f***ing meant something, which in the case of The Band Played Waltzing Matilda, it did. Because as the wise woman said, the universal soldier, he really is to blame.” (Philip Random)

Pogues-RUMetc