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)

424. whiskey in the jar

“I saw Thin Lizzy more than once back in the day, theoretically at their peak. But maybe it was the drugs, because they never really hit. Solid hard rock for sure, but nothing transcendent, nothing that made you want to go back to Church or whatever. Nothing like what they delivered on Whiskey in the Jar, one of their very first singles (which I’d only hear many years later), the old Irish folk song given full soul and throttle, so it ends up feeling as rich, as tragic as time itself. Because it’s not the whiskey that does you in. It’s the woman that drove you to it. Or the man.” (Philip Random)

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