We ain’t gonna talk about specific types of songs at this blog, it doesn’t matter is it new or old, metal or Irish traditional-folk-punk, as long as it’s a song we have something to talk about. So today, my pick for the song of the week is Thousands are Sailing by the Irish folk-punk band The Pogues.
Listen to it by clicking here!
The Pogues formed in 1982, after Shane MacGowan and some of his friends (Shane was from the punk scene) decided to mix to genres, Irish folk and this new music called punk. MacGowan was from an Irish family (though lived in England) and his musical roots came from Irish music, but also from the punk scene of the late ’70s. The name Pogues comes from the Irish term “pogue mahone” which means “kiss my ass”. Their first album, Red Roses For Me, in 1984 was somewhat of a success, at least in England and, of couse, Ireland. It got pretty good critical reviews and at least put The Pogues on the map. It’s a decent record, it’s very heavy on being Irish and most of the musical components are strictly folk, and only MacGowan’s weird, somewhat terrible vocals are punk. But it’s a fine record. The next year they released another album, Rum, Sodomy and The Lash (produced by Elvis Costello) and that became a huge hit, pretty much internationally. It’s now considered a classic and one of their best records, and yeah, it’s pretty amazing. It’s more original and mixes the genres better than the first one and it has some of MacGowan’s best songs, not only lyrically but also musically. It’s one of those records that you can’t help but tap your leg with it.
But, the song I’m gonna talk about is from their third record, which is also my favorite from them, their 1988 If I should Fall from the Grace with God. And the song surprisingly isn’t written by MacGowan (who wrote a lot of their stuff), but written by their guitarist, Phil Chevron, who proves himself as a talented song writer. Thousands are Sailing is about the Irish immigrating to America in midst of a famine, simple as that. But the words are so powerful and moving. And because of it’s subject matter, it’s pretty relevant right now, considering all the immigrants coming to Europe. It’s not only about immigrating to a new land, but also keeping your heritage. It asks the Irish-Americans “do you feel Irish and if yes, how so?”. It’s not negative about the immigration, rather it’s a sad song for those who miss their homeland. “Do the old songs makes you cry? Did you count the years and months, or did your tear drops quickly dry?”. It’s about being proud where you come from and staying Irish even when you’re not living there.
There’s a line that always gets me, it’s “Everywhere we go we celebrate, the land that makes us refugees”, it’s just so relevant. Nobody’s happy being a refugee, everybody just wants to survive, but also every single immigrant wants go to back to their country.
Musically I love this song, as well. It starts off very melancholic (which is does stay), it somehow remind me of a very misty night, sailing away. The echoing guitars, the slow build up with the flute and then it stops to hear MacGowan’s sorrowful voice. Now, MacGowan can’t sing technically, he sounds drunk (probably because he is) and mumbles most of the words, but it works most of the time and especially here you hear anger and regret in his voice. I love the drum-heavy chorus, it’s just so epic and bouncy and when the banjo hits afterwards, it’s so fucking awesome. That banjo line after MacGowan shouts “And we dance!” is so lovely. Musically it’s a powerful, melancholy song that works perfectly with the sad, haunting lyrics, creating a beautiful, tear-jerking atmosphere.
If you’re interested in The Pogues, I would recommend with If I should fall from the Grace with God for the first album you should listen to, especially the title track, it gives you a pretty good idea what the Pogues are all about. Thousands are Sailing is one of the bands masterpieces and truly an epic song about a very relevant subject matter. It’s a great song by a great band.