The Pogues felt pretty untouchable back in the late 80s. They had emerged out of the London punk movement – indeed a number of the members first hooking up while attending a Ramones gig in 1977. They fused Celtic connections to the energy of the new wave scene, finding ways to include banjo, mandolin, tin whistle and accordion alongside the traditional vocal/guitar/bass/drums make-up of punk bands. They also found fame and fortune via the then traditional route of extensive gigging, particularly around the pubs and venues of London gaining a reputation for ridiculously energetic and chaotic live shows. They found themselves being quoted by The Clash and Elvis Costello, touring and working with them from an early stage.
I was initially suspicious of them, thinking that it was all a bit gimmicky and was London’s way of trying to somehow feel important in the music scene at a time when the provincial cities were very much to the fore. And then The Pogues played the Students Union at Strathclyde University in June 1985, just a matter of days before I graduated – the gig was in many ways my planned farewell to the building that had been such a big part of my life over the previous four years and without which my knowledge of, and love for, alternative music of the era would not be what it is today.
It was memorable from start to finish…a look at the set list available on-line will give an idea of just how hard, fast, frantic and sweaty it all was, albeit the audience wasn’t familiar with the tracks played from the as yet unreleased Rum, Sodomy & The Lash. I bought the album a few months later and loved it, but felt that something was lacking in terms of what I’d experienced watching them live.
Fast forward three years. And to a song which was the third and final 45 taken from the album If I Should Fall From Grace With God, following on from Xmas perennial Fairytale of New York and the title track.
It reached #11 in 1988, and again it’s a scary thing to realise it is now more than 30 years of age and millions of folk across the UK, never mind the world, will be unaware of it. I reckon this is the happiest song I have in my collection. There are great tunes such as Up, Up and Away by The Beloved which make me smile. But that was and is a hymn to the age of the E and pharmaceutically supported happiness isn’t real euphoria. For that, you need a piece of music that is just plain bonkers and whose instantly recognisable opening notes bring a wry smile with the realisation that the true joys is a matter of seconds away after the comedy whistle.
mp3 : The Pogues – Fiesta
Wiki advises that it was written by the band’s Jem Finer and Shane McGowan, but with additional credits now given to Edmund Kotscher and Rudi Lindt as the refrain seemingly is similar to one of their compositions, and a hit in the USA back in 1957 :-
mp3 : Will Glahe and His Orchestra – Liechensteiner Polka
Just ever so slightly!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Polka on TVV….who’d ever have thought it????