Sunday, July 22, 2007

Dead End Kids
on a Leaky Boat

Don't talk to me about naval tradition. It's nothing but rum, sodomy and the lash.
-- Winston Churchill

Have you heard of the Pogues? They're like a drunk Clancy Brothers. They, like drink during the session as opposed to after the session. They're
like Dead End Kids on a leaky boat. That Treasure Island
kind of decadence. There's something really nice about them.
-- Tom Waits on his new favorite band


Waits on Rum, Sodomy & the Lash:

Their music is like
the brandy of the damned
Pogue Mahone
they are the last
pure hearts
from Dickens, Joyce, Dylan Thomas
to Christy Moore
like Red Diamonds,
Pirates, full of malarkey
they're little giants,
they're Bill Sykes
They are all orphans
and they are leaving
on the 2:10 train
with no ticket
Rapscallion, angry, weeping
passed out songs, songs
that seem to be born
effortlessly, or
not born but found
on top of an old wood stove
like a Bowler hat

and The Pogues know
where the little people go
and they follow them
they're as old as treasure island
songs that we all should carry
I learnt 'em and sung 'em
and changed 'em
and passed them on
down the wild blue road
as Shane MacGowan and The Pogues
warm their hands
on a fire
made from chopsticks
and a horse pulls a milk wagon
up the steep, wet cobblestone
street and stumbles
to his knees, bloodying them
as a man
no bigger than my thumb
dances in the broken glass
and jumps rope with a shoe lace
the song he sings
is one by The Pogues.

This pithy introduction to Rum, Sodomy & the Lash is signed "California, March 2004." The 1985 album, arguably their best, was produced by Declan MacManus, AKA Elvis Costello, who explains, "I saw my task was to capture them in their dilapidated glory before some professional producer fucked them up."

The successor to Red Roses For Me, it's my favorite Pogues record, mostly because of "I'm a Man You Don't Meet Every Day," "A Pair of Brown Eyes," "Sally MacLennane, and Ewan MacColl's "Dirty Old Town." (MacColl was the father of Kirsty MacColl, with whom the group collaborated on "A Fairytale of New York.")

Aside from the great quotes from Waits, Costello, and others, David Quantick's liner notes are full of interesting information, like the fact that
a post-Repo Man Alex Cox
was behind the video for "A
Pair of Brown Eyes." [above]

As MacGowan recalls, "We
just read this interview where he said that he reckoned the Pogues were quite interesting,
and we got together as soon as possible because we knew it
would work because he's such a nutcase as well."

If you don't own Rum, Sodomy & the Lash—particularly the recent remaster—your music collection is woefully incomplete.


People who had never grown up with folk music
suddenly discovered Irish roots. People who had
associated the accordion and banjo with dull family weddings found
new life in old songs. Live music became exciting once more.
And nobody would ever be bored by a banjo again.
-- David Quantick

Note: Images from Celtic Grove (Pogue portrait), Google Images (Tom Waits), and Punk News (Elvis Costello), video from YouTube. The Pogues play Seattle's Fenix Underground on 10/17/07.

No comments: