If I should fall from grace with God, Where no Squishtoid 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 -The Pogues
The Pogues were a definite part of the soundscape in downtown Denver mid 80’s, though the only ones who ever went there then were bohemians, punks and artists. I was more obsessed by the Replacements, Social Distortion and Husker Du, but pre-corporate KTCL played them enough to get me interested, and when a girlfriend gave me “If I Should Fall From Grace With God”, I was pretty much hooked. She was thinking, Irish guy- Irish punk music, but of course as we’ve come to know, The Pogues did much more than single-handedly save Irish music from itself with their almost irresistable blend of Celtic rthyms and punk energy. They probably rival all but the Beatles, Ramones and Sex Pistols in the “number of bands started by-” category, and in fact, are one of a very few bands ( the Beatles and Ramones again come to mind) that can claim to have started an entire genre. And they also invented their own musical instrument- the beer tray (see Fig 1).
Whatever you may think of the Dropkick Murphys, Flogging Molly, and the Real MacKenzies, it’s certainly true that none of them or their 5,000 Celtic Punk brethren would exist with out the Pogues. It’s also true that few have penned the type of song, such as If I Should Fall from Grace with God, or Sally Maclennane, or Broad Majestic Shannon that captures the fun and transgressive spirit of punk, while also being easy to mistake for traditional Irish music. I’m fairly certain no one has written a Christmas standard that features a drunk gambler and his junkie wife. It’s probably true that the entire crowd doesn’t sing along with Flogging Molly songs, though I don’t know; I haven’t been to one.
I haven’t been to a Pogues concert, either, though not from lack of trying. I just haven’t been able to get to Boston, New York or Chicago for one of their brief and infrequent American touch-downs. Now, fortune and Shane MacGowan’s liver permitting, that will change, as the Pogues make it to Denver for their first appearance. I did see Shane (with the Popes) at the Gothic Theatre a few years back- Shane only puked 3 times! Ah yes, Shane MacGowan- poet, warrior, drunken toothless mumbler.
So I’m not expecting transcendent musical moments here, though I’m pretty sure tears will flow, especially when they play “Thousands are Sailing”. Mostly I just want to say I saw them, sing “Dirty Old Town” with 3,000 other voices, and remember the days when Doc Martens and live music were a bigger priority than health care and mortgage payments, and we had downtown all to our (drunken) selves. It was the best decade in rock and roll, and the best decade of my life. I can’t get it back, but- with the help of a wee bit of beer- I can certainly try. Look for me there, I should be easy to spot -I’ll be the drunk guy in Docs.