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Coloring Club Plus — 10/25/19

Oct 25

First off, I want to thank Stroke Survivor UK for posting a song by Shane MacGowan in this past Sunday’s Song Lyric Sunday, which led to a short conversation, which led me to borrowing one of The Pogues’ albums from my local library.

The Pogues were an Anglo-Irish Celtic punk band fronted by Shane MacGowan and others, founded in Kings Cross, London in 1982, as “Pogue Mahone” – the anglicisation of the Irish Gaelic póg mo thóin, meaning “kiss my arse”. The band reached international prominence in the 1980s and early 1990s, recording several hit albums and singles, including “Fairytale of New York” from their 1988 album If I Should Fall from Grace with God.

MacGowan left the Pogues in 1991 due to drinking problems, but the band continued – first with Joe Strummer and then with Spider Stacy on vocals – before breaking up in 1996. The Pogues re-formed in late 2001, and played regularly across the UK and Ireland and on the US East Coast, until dissolving again in 2014. The group did not record any new material during this second incarnation.  Their politically-tinged music was informed by MacGowan and Stacy’s punk backgrounds, yet used traditional Irish instruments such as the tin whistle, banjo, cittern, mandolin and accordion.

If I Should Fall from Grace with God is their third studio album, released on January 18, 1988. There are 19 songs on this 2004 reissue. The liner notes from the album have a section by Steve Earle of all people! Instead of including it in the post, go here to read it.  I don’t often rate albums, but this one will be, with an A++ (Hans’ rating, which is top).  It has many varied types of music, all sung with great gusto.  One very interesting thing I heard on it was a clue to Popeye’s nationality!  Strange but true!  You know in the Popeye cartoon, where he’s walking along and does that skoobe dee do?  You will hear it on this album, so…. Popeye is Irish!!!!!!

Released in the wake of their biggest hit single, “Fairytale of New York”, If I Should Fall from Grace with God also became the band’s best-selling album, peaking at number 3 in the UK Album Charts and reaching the top ten in several other countries.

If I Should Fall from Grace with God saw the departure of original bassist Cait O’Riordan and the addition of her former bandmate Darryl Hunt, Phil Chevron and ex-Steeleye Span member Terry Woods to the line-up. Woods and Chevron (the only two members of The Pogues actually born in Ireland) contributed the first original songs to a Pogues album not written by singer Shane MacGowan or banjo player Jem Finer, and the album also saw the band begin to move away from their Irish folk/punk roots and start to incorporate musical styles from other parts of the world, most notably Turkey and Spain. Many of the songs’ lyrics return to familiar themes in Pogues songs, such as emigration from Ireland or returning to the country and having to adapt to the changes that have taken place after a long absence, but other tracks dwell on Irish political history or protecting children from the issues encountered as adults.

Critically acclaimed, If I Should Fall from Grace with God marked the high point of the band’s commercial success. Finer called the record “a very cohesive album that drew on a lot of styles. Everything came together and it was very focused. That [album is] really the creative peak for me, in terms of the whole band being on a wavelength.”

Despite never being released as a single, the track “Thousands Are Sailing” has since become one of The Pogues’ most popular songs, and according to The Irish Times, it is “recognised as one of the finest songs about Irish emigration”. It was written by the band’s new guitarist Chevron, and although he had written many songs before as the frontman of his previous band the Radiators, he admitted that for a long time he had felt unsure about putting his song forward for consideration as MacGowan was the recognised songwriter in the band. It was only when Terry Woods offered to help him out with the track and MacGowan showed his approval of the song that Chevron gained the confidence to complete it. Featuring what has been described as a “heartfelt lyric, soaring tune and compelling chorus on the theme of emigration from Ireland to America”, “Thousands Are Sailing” inspired the 2012 Derek McCullough graphic novel Gone to Amerikay. Although Chevron also contributed other songs to later Pogues albums, “Thousands Are Sailing” remains his most popular composition, and it was played at his funeral when he died of cancer in October 2013.




The island it is silent now
But the ghosts still haunt the waves
And the torch lights up a famished man
Whom fortune could not save

Did you work upon the railroad
Did you rid the streets of crime
Were your dollars from the White House
Were they from the five and dime

Did the old songs taunt or cheer you
And did they still make you cry
Did you count the months and years
Or did your teardrops quickly dry

Ah, no, says he, ’twas not to be
On a coffin ship I came here
And I never even got so far
That they could change my name

Thousands are sailing
Across the western ocean
To a land of opportunity
That some of them will never see
Fortune prevailing
Across the western ocean
Their bellies full
Their spirits free
They’ll break the chains of poverty
And they’ll dance

In Manhattan’s desert twilight
In the death of afternoon
We stepped hand in hand on Broadway
Like the first man on the moon

And “The Blackbird” broke the silence
As you whistled it so sweet
And in Brendan Behan’s footsteps
I danced up and down the street

Then we said goodnight to Broadway
Giving it our best regards
Tipped our hats to Mister Cohan
Dear old Times Square’s favorite bard

Then we raised a glass to JFK
And a dozen more besides
When I got back to my empty room
I suppose I must have cried

Thousands are sailing
Again across the ocean
Where the hand of opportunity
Draws tickets in a lottery
Postcards we’re mailing
Of sky-blue skies and oceans
From rooms the daylight never sees
Where lights don’t glow on Christmas trees
But we dance to the music
And we dance

Thousands are sailing
Across the western ocean
Where the hand of opportunity
Draws tickets in a lottery
Where e’er we go, we celebrate
The land that makes us refugees
From fear of Priests with empty plates
From guilt and weeping effigies
And we dance
Songwriter: Phil Chevron


17 thoughts on “Coloring Club Plus — 10/25/19

      1. I have that album but did not know many of those details. I know when they first formed they were very clandestine about the origin of “Pogues”, because if the BBC realised the true origin they would not have played the records.
        I liked FoNY – Kirsty McColl is brilliant – but I was put off when I heard how hard they contrived to make in the Christmas #1 (in the UK). Even then, it failed, to the Pet Shop Boys. But it seemed wrong (to me) for that type of band would value commercial success so highly..

        Liked by 1 person

      1. I like that movie also. Bailey and I just watched it again a few weeks back.
        Good song there..love the bass to it. I had a friend who turned me on to them. Lisa back then left to my own devices… I listened mostly to the big 4…Beatles, Stones, Kinks and Who…luckily I had some cool friends who expanded my knowledge.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I love The Pogues! The Celtic Crush show that I listen to every week always seems to have a Pogues song on it- and this is a popular one on the show. For a brief moment in time they may have been the best band in the world! Great selection.

    Liked by 1 person

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