Saturday, 21 November 2020

The Saturday List #287 - Ten reasons why I love the Pogues

 I will not be the only one having a rather low key Christmas this year. One key feature that will be missing will be my fix of The Pogues. For many years, the official start of my Xmas celebrations was to see the Pogues Christmas show. This was always a raucous night of drinking, dancing, singing and generally over celebrating. Following the passing of Phil Chevron and with Shane's health problems, the band stopped touring, but fortunately on of my friends, Paul Evans, joined a Pogues Tribute band, The Pogue Traders. I don't need much of an excuse to check out a band, and Paul joining was the perfect excuse. To my delight, they were rather good and their Xmas show at the Dublin Castle was a more than suitable substitute. The band are more a celebration of the bands music than a Tribute, where the band actually pretend to be the characters. The lead singer Lou has the voice of Shane, but doesn't pretend to be the man. Many only really know the band through that Xmas single and through the notoriety of Shane as a hard drinker. The amazing body of music the band produced has been over looked in the hubris. I know Spider Stacey as he's a good mate of Boy Boorer and has done a few recordings and rehearsals at the studio. I had a pleasant evening a while back watching The Rails with Boz, Spider and his wife a while back. He's been on the wagon for a good few years, but he's still good company. 

This week, the Pogues have been in the news for a crushing put down of right wing poster boy Laurence Fox. Fox had tried to whip up a storm about the BBC censoring 'fairytale'. It inspired me to put this list together.

1. Regular readers of the blog will know that my Dad was an Aussie WW2 bomber pilot. For him ANZAC's  day was a solemn day. He was born on 1st April 1917, as the war to end all wars raged. We were taught the story of Galipoli at his knee. We were taught that whilst we should be prepared to fight and if necessary die for democracy, justice and fairness, we should never trust the establishment that would sacrifice fine men in such reckless missions. Whenever I hear this song, I think of my Dad and I shed a small tear. I know they didn't, but I always feel that they played this song just for me.

2. I'm not entirely sure of the exact moment I wanted to play guitar in a rock and roll band, but when I was a small child and my two elder brothers were at home, back in the mid 1960's, they would have their friends around for a 'sing song'. My brothers are twins and had a sublime musical understanding. They would harmonise and bounce of each others playing. As we come from a Roman Catholic, North London background, Irish songs and skiffle were a big part of the equation. Songs like The Wild Rover and The Irish Rover were a massive part of my youth. When they got married and moved out at the end of the 60's that departed the house, but my love of what you could do with a guitar was firmly established. I lost touch with the music, when the Pogues first formed, I wasn't really interested, but given Shane's punk credentials, I went to see an early gig out of curiosity. I instantly got it. This song always transported me back to our living room, in 1967, my brothers and their mates singing songs and us all joining in.

3. My mum was born in Oldham, a suburb of Manchester. She moved to Kentish Town when she was about eleven, he father was seeking work. She still had aunties in Lancashire well into the 1980's. She would tell fascinating stories of her youth in Oldham, trips into Manchester with her brothers, bunking into Maine Road to watch the mighty Manchester City. My mum had no interest in football (unlike her brothers) but loved the atmosphere of the ground and the hot bovril. She told tales of deprivation, of not having shoes, of not having heating, of how her mother had her teeth removed as a 21st birthday present from her mum. This song, about Manchester, reminds me of my mum and her tales of youth.

4. Soho has been a part of my life ever since I became an adult. I've had good times and bad times there. It has changed since I worked around the corner from it in the early 1980's. Nowadays it is rather sanitised. But I still have a romantic love of it. No other song captures the feel of the area in the way this does. It is a fantastic piece of songwriting. Shane doesn't so much sing this song as live it.

5. The North London of my youth was a town of immigrants working on building sites, railways, roads and other trades. Friends Dads would come home in overalls. Pubs would have bars for the workers and separate bars for the posher clientele. The beer was cheaper in the public bar. The railways we use were built by Irish labourers. This song is a celebration of those fine people who made Britain great. The Pogues are one of very few bands that really celebrate the people who made us what we are.

6. If you are in a band and you have a platform, you should use it to fight injustice. There have been few worse miscarriages of justice than the Birmingham Six. To my mind, this is the sort of songs bands should write. Not all the time, but once in a while a band should nail it's true colours to its mast. The Birmingham six were 100% innocent and were fitted up by the Police. Supporting innocent men who have been victims of injustice is something we should all do

7. No celebration of the Pogues could possibly avoid the subject of alcohol. This just happens to be my favourite of their drink songs. I'm not a Whiskey drinker, but this is such a joyous celebration of the culture which has made our lives such fun.

8. Religion is a massive part of Irish culture. This song rather haunts me

'If I should fall from grace with God
Where no doctor can relieve me
If I'm buried 'neath the sod
But the angels won't receive me
Let me go, boys
Let me go, boys
Let me go down in the mud
Where the rivers all run dry'

I do think that anyone who was born in a family of Irish Catholic ancestry has a very difficult relationship with religion and faith. I happen to think that religion and faith are two very different things. I have a problem with religion, the Church has rather let us all down, but none at all with faith, that will see us through. It is a shame that the Irish People don't really have the church they deserve.

9. My missus has the most beautiful brown eyes. Nice of the boys to write this for her. It is one of those songs that won't change the world, but always makes me happy

10. This!

That's all folks - And no, I didn't include the Xmas song because I guess you know that and if you don't then I suggest you google it. I do love it, but it sometimes saddens me that it is the part of Kirsty's legacy that she is best remembered for. But that's another story

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