One of the finest and most drunken gigs I’ve ever attended was in June 1985. It was at the old Level 8 in the Student’s Union of Strathclyde University and the band on stage was The Pogues.
It was, now that I look back, more than likely my last ever gig in the Union as an actual student with my NUS card. I would graduate a couple of weeks later and very soon move to live and work in Edinburgh. I would go back to the Union a couple of times in 85/86 but that would have been as a signed-in guest.
The Pogues at that point in time, were becoming increasingly well-known thanks to very positive write-ups in the music press as well as being featured very heavily on TV shows such as The Tube. They had a fearsome reputation as a live act, not least for the fact that the bloke on the tin whistle, Spider Stacy, would frequently add his own manic style of percussion which consisted of repeatedly banging a metal beer tray over his head in time with the music. It was a hot ticket – the fact they were playing the Student Union on a Saturday night would be as much to do with a lack of similarly sized venues in the city being available as they were always strictly reserved at weekends for the stilettos and handbags disco dollies and the beery, leery blokes who lusted after them.
I’m sure this was one of the occasions that my brother SC came along to the Union. He was just beginning, at the age of 18, to really get into his music and appreciate the thrill of a live gig – these were the days when you had to be 18 years old to get into gigs such was the mature of the licensing laws – and he, like me, fancied the idea of something different and exciting. I’m also sure his mate Gary came along that night.
It was one of those occasions where the memories are probably greater than the reality. The band were every bit as loud, boisterous and crazy as we’d been led to believe. It was a gig played either full-on at 180 mph with the sound cranked up to 11 or else it was impossible to hear the quieter numbers as the crowd excitedly tried to calm down from what had just happened. That or rush to the bar to take in some liquids as it was blisteringly hot. It looked and felt like the crowd number was well in excess of that allowed by the fire regulations….
The great thing about the internet is that you can often find set-lists from gigs that happened more than 30 years ago. There is such a list for the Level 8 gig and it shows The Pogues played 22 songs which means they’d have been onstage for something approaching 90 minutes which was a heckuva long time at a Student Union. The songs were a mix of traditional Irish folk numbers (played in a frantic punk style) along with many of their own which had appeared on their debut LP Red Roses For Me or would come out on the soon to be released Rum, Sodomy & The Lash, produced by Elvis Costello, and reckoned (quite rightly) to be one of the finest albums of the 80s.
And as I get misty-eyed with nostalgia (and in the knowledge that I’ll on this very day be making my annual visit to my late brother’s memorial just outside Westport in County Mayo) I’m going to turn to that album for today’s songs:-
mp3 : The Pogues – The Sick Bed of Cuchculiann
mp3 : The Pogues – A Pair Of Brown Eyes
mp3 : The Pogues – Sally MacLennane
mp3 : The Pogues – Dirty Old Town
mp3 : The Pogues – I’m A Man You Don’t Meet Everyday