The Pogues dedicated this release
"to the 95 people who died at Hillsborough Football Ground."
On 15 April 1989, supporters of the Liverpool Football Club
were crushed to death at a FA cup semi-final match against
Nottingham when police opened a gate which allowed hundred
of fans to pour through onto an already packed terrace. The
official death total is now at 96 (95 died at the stadium,
one later in hospital) with another 730 injured, and to
date, British justice has been unable or unwilling to hold
any authorities (police officials who ordered the gate
opened, sports/stadium officials who organized the event,
etc.) responsible for the deaths. Also, on the front cover
photo, note the boxer's right hand (he's got six
The Pogues dedicated this release "to the 95 people who died at Hillsborough Football Ground." On 15 April 1989, supporters of the Liverpool Football Club were crushed to death at a FA cup semi-final match against Nottingham when police opened a gate which allowed hundred of fans to pour through onto an already packed terrace. The official death total is now at 96 (95 died at the stadium, one later in hospital) with another 730 injured, and to date, British justice has been unable or unwilling to hold any authorities (police officials who ordered the gate opened, sports/stadium officials who organized the event, etc.) responsible for the deaths. Also, on the front cover photo, note the boxer's right hand (he's got six fingers).
White City is a section of London that at one time was home to a dog racing track.
The melody for this one is based on "The Curragh of Kildare," a song by Christy Moore (available on his The Time has Come  release, WEA 2292-50150-2, but also on some earlier albums that are out of print), which in turn is based on the Robert Burns poem "The Winter it is Past " (click the first link to open a window with the full lyrics Moore used in his song, here to listen to the melody and here for the original Burns poem; thanks Hoddle for the heads up on tracking down the Burns info). "Curragh" is an English transliteration from the Irish "An Currach" meaning "The Racecourse" and the Curragh is an unbroken plain 6 miles long and 2 miles wide, lying immediately east of Kildare in the heart of Ireland's renowned horse-breeding country.
came to gamble on the dogs..."
"Paddy," of course, is British
slang for the Irish; "Frog" is British slang for the French.
The two in combination make for a wonderful bit of
"and the hare upon the wire
In dog racing, a mechanical rabbit "runs" along the rail to give the dogs something to chase (there's a great Bugs Bunny cartoon where Bugs falls in love with the bait).
A pyre is a pile of combustible materials, usually wood, stacked and burned as part of funeral rituals.
Thanks to Paul for sending along the pic.
(Terry Woods/Ron Kavana)
According to the liner notes in "Home Fire", the cd which includes Ron Kavana's version of the song (he co-wrote it with Terry Woods), "there have been numerous songs written about Ned of the Hill both in English and in Irish (Eamonn an Chnoic), but none have told the full story, which is precisely what Terry Woods and myself set out to do in [this song]." Click here to open a window for the full lyrics to "Eamonn an Chnoic" and an English translation.
To know that's where the rapparee must die..."
Following the defeat of the Irish at the hands of Cromwell's forces, a number of the veterans of the struggle continued what would today be termed "guerrilla warfare" against the English. These men were known as "rapparees." It probably should be noted, though, that more than a few were motivated by the prospect of economic rather than political rewards.
You who raped our motherland
I hope you're rotting down in hell
For the horrors that you sent
To our misfortunate forefathers
Whom you robbed of their birthright
'To hell or Connaught' may you burn in hell tonight..."
Cromwell arrived on 15 August 1649 and unleashed a wave of terror across the Irish countryside. Although he stayed on the island for but 9 months, it is difficult to overestimate the effect he had on subsequent Irish history. He is particularly remembered for the massacres at Drogheda (2 September) and Wexford (2 October). The cornerstone of his policy was to expropriate Catholic lands, and "relocate" Irish Catholics to the western parts of the island. The Irish were given two choices, "to hell, or Connacht," that is, die or vacate to the westernmost county on the island.
The lyrics used in the Ron Kavana version are slightly different, especially in terms of the chorus (the Pogues version uses the "curse upon you Oliver Cromwell" lyric as the chorus; click the link for the full lyrics to the version recorded by Ron Kavana on "Home Fire").
"Now the party's over
In the Velvet Underground classic "Heroin" Lou Reed uses a similar metaphor to describe the high of heroin (thanks to Tom for the heads up). The line occurs in the first verse, click here to open a window with the full lyric.
In your brain
Even your mother won't know you're sane..."
The electrodes in the brain is most likely a reference to ECT or electroshock therapy (see "Dark Streets of London").
Then Steve Lillywhite's drunken mix..."
Steve Lillywhite produced "Peace and Love." He was also the husband of Kirsty MacColl (at the time of this recording; they divorced in 1997), who sings the duet with Shane on "Fairytale of New York" and with Phil on "Lorelei." Kirsty was killed in a boating accident (apparently she was struck by a boat while swimming) in Mexico in December 2000.
"Cotton Fields" is also an American folk song (click the link to open a window with the full lyrics).
(Phil Chevron/Darryl Hunt)
"In my Blue Heaven
To the best of my ability to determine, neither Chalmette nor Pontchetrain were potables at the time of this song's release. Both, however, are geographic features around New Orleans, Lousiana. Chalmette is probably best known as the site of the Battle of New Orleans (fought in 1815 as part of the War of 1812). The battle was one of the few bright spots for the US during that particular war with Britian. The war itself was at best a draw; the U.S. survived, but Washington, D.C. was torched the U.S. failed in its bid to liberate Canada. The Battle is notable for having been fought after the peace treaty ending the war had been negotiated (no CNN back in 1815). The victorious U.S. forces were led by Andrew Jackson; with the battle becoming the launching pad for his political career (he eventually founded the modern Democratic party in the U.S. and served two terms as president). The specific reference here might go to the Chalmette National Cemetery. As Michael (thanks!) wrote to point out, "wandering drunken through cemeteries at night is a popular image for musicians, poets, and writers like William Faulkner who grew up in the area. With the canopies of ancient trees blocking the moon Chalmette would be too evocative to resist."
Lake Pontchartrain (not "Pontchetrain" as in the lyric sheet) is located on the Mississippi north of New Orleans. Now a popular resort area, during the Prohibition era here in the States (lasting from 16 January 1920 to 5 December 1933 during which time it was illegal to manufacture, transport, or sell "intoxicating liquors"), the Lake was known as a haven for moonshine stills (which produced illegal alcohol; the Irish equivalents are "poteen" -- sometimes spelled "poitín" and pronounced "pacheen" -- or "craythur") and as a major highway for bootleggers. New Orleans Magazine describes the route as follows: "Ships bearing Cuban rum and other kinds of liquor dropped anchor three miles off the coast, and smaller boats ferried it through Lake Pontchartrain to lower St. Bernard Parish, where bootleggers from New Orleans waited."
Interestingly, there is now a vineyard operating in the area bottling a Pontchartain wine, so now, at least, it's possible to enjoy Chalmette by moonlight with a bottle of Pontchartrain. Thanks to Derek and Mike for the geographical and historical details.
For another Pogues song set in the bayou, see "Amadie."
I think there are probably two typos on this line in the lyric sheet included with the album and cd. I think the "blue harps" part should be "blues harps," with "harp" referring to a harmonica, and the "blues" being, well, the blues (musically speaking), and combined refer to a specific style of playing the instrument. I also think the "card shark" should be "card sharp." The correct version of the phrase is "card sharp," derived from a "sharper," which is a gambler (or more accurately a hustler) who cheats to separate you and your money. On the other hand, "shark" rather than "sharp" has become more common in everyday use. Personally, I think the "sharp" line makes more sense since it's grammatically correct, rhymes with the blues harp line, and preserves the rhyme pattern repeated three verses later (that is, "felines and sea lions"). It also sounds to my ear that that's what Phil is singing (he co-wrote the song).
"Christy Brown a clown around
Christy Brown (1932-1981)
was an Irish painter, poet, and
writer. His autobiographical "Down all the Days,"
was published in 1970. Dingle is located on the
west coast of Ireland (see "Dingle
Regatta"); County Down is
located on the northeast coast and is one of the
counties still occupied by Britain. In other words,
Christy was renowned across the island. Brown was born with
cerebral palsy. He retained some measure of motor
control of his left foot and taught himself to
write, paint, and type with it. His life was the
subject of the 1989 film "My Left Foot," which
itself was based on his autobiography of the same
name (published in 1964).
Christy Brown (1932-1981) was an Irish painter, poet, and writer. His autobiographical "Down all the Days," was published in 1970.
Dingle is located on the west coast of Ireland (see "Dingle Regatta"); County Down is located on the northeast coast and is one of the counties still occupied by Britain. In other words, Christy was renowned across the island.
Brown was born with cerebral palsy. He retained some measure of motor control of his left foot and taught himself to write, paint, and type with it. His life was the subject of the 1989 film "My Left Foot," which itself was based on his autobiography of the same name (published in 1964).
Of the drays..."
A "dray" is a cart with detachable sides used for transporting heavy items (like kegs of stout).
And never replied
If I supported Glasgow Rangers..."
The Glasgow Rangers is one of the two football (soccer) teams in Glasgow, the other being the Glasgow Celtic Football Club. The Rangers are traditionally the Protestant team, and Celtic the Catholic team (Glasgow Celtic was originally founded to help the immigrant Irish Catholic population which had settled in the East End of the city). The biggest football match of the Scottish season is the Rangers-Celtic derby match, known as "The Old Firm." The last line above is one that might be heard in a typical Glaswegian barroom scene, where one might be asked "What team do you support?" in order to determine where your allegiances lie (Catholic or Protestant). A big thanks to Pete for most of the details here.
"I took the cold bright needle
Given the reference in "Cotton Fields," the first line here probably refers to the practice of shooting heroin.
The last two lines are taken from an American Civil War tune entitled "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" (the first link gives you the melody, click here for the full lyric). It's a bit of an unlikely pairing with the geography and feel of the rest of the song, in that the "Battle Hymn" was a northern marching tune and "USA" has more of a southern texture to it. The poem, by Julia Ward Howe, was originally published in The Atlantic magazine in the issue of February 1862.
I haven't been able to locate a town called "Gartloney" anywhere in Ireland. But there is a townland in the civil parish of Moylagh (about 3 miles south of Oldcastle) on the Westmeath border called "Gortloney." It might be the same place as the song, given the lines:
And never get drunk but stay sober..."
Fore is located in County Westmeath in Ireland and looks to be only about 10 miles away from Gortloney (but if you've ever driven in Ireland -- so long as they continue to keep the US style superhighways at bay -- a 10 mile drive can seem a long way).
With whose bone from the wing he'd beat the bodhran
And the song that he'd sing was of ganders and all
He'd never get drunk but stay sober..."
Terry lived in the area for a bit I
think. Rich wrote (thanks!) to note that the song refers to
an early band that Woods played with. It sounds right,
although I haven't seen it mentioned in any of the T. Woods
discographies I've spotted.
The bodhrán (prounced "bough-rawn") is the traditional drum of Ireland. It is a frame style drum (it looks a bit like a large tambourine, but without the jingles around the rim) that's played with a stick called a "tipper." Most commonly a tipper is made of wood these days, but at some point I suppose bones could have been used instead.
A swan, besides referring to the large bird, can also mean an especially talented singer or poet (this use is derived from the folk belief that swans sing a beautiful song just before they die. You see the same root in the phrase "swan song" when referring to someone's last performance or appearance).
A "gander" is a male goose or swan.
"I met with Napper Tandy
Napper Tandy, along with Wolfe Tone, was one of the key leaders in the Rebellion of 1798. Tone and Tandy, although rivals for leadership of the movement, managed to work together to convince the French that the Irish were ready to rebel against England and that such a struggle would be successful with French support. In 1796, the French did commit some forces to the cause. The French fleet -- under the command of General Lazare Hoche and comprising some 35 ships and almost 14,000 men -- sailed from France for Ireland (15 December 1796), but managed to get separated in route. On 22 December, 15 ships and 6400 men, but not including General Hoche -- elude the English and arrive in Bantry Bay. Once there, they decide to wait until Hoche arrives. Unfortunately the weather turns bad, Hoche never arrives, the fleet is further dispersed, and by 29 December the French set sail for home.
Tone and Tandy somehow persuade the French to try again. So on 22 August 1798 a second French army under the leadership of General Jean Humbert landed in Kilkummin and scored some initial success, before succumbing at Vinegar Hill (see "Rainbow Man").
As for Tandy, his boat was delayed by rough weather and by the time he arrived (16 September 1798), the bulk of the rising had already been quashed (the main French force having already been defeated). Upon hearing the news once ashore, he nonetheless issued a proclamation declaring Irish independence and proceeded to get drunk, whereupon he was taken back to the boat and set sail. Eventually he would be captured by the English in Hamburg, but, following intercession on his behalf by Napoleon, he was released.
The opening lines allude to the Irish rebel song, "The Wearing of the Green" (see the second verse in particular). The song appears in Dion Boucicault's (1820-1890) play "Arrah-na-Pogue" which dealt with the Fenian rising of 1865 (for more on the Fenians, see "Medley"). The music in "Boat Train" is a hyped up version of this tune. Click here to open a window with the full lyrics.
Continuing with the lyrics from "Boat Train."
When we got to Holyhead..."
Travelers going from Ireland to England can take the boat-train to get there. Holyhead refers to the port in Anglesey, Wales, which operates ferries to and from Dublin and Dún Laoghaire in Ireland.
With a couple of crazy thugs
First they looked for bombs and joints
Then they looked for drugs
Stuck a flashlight up my ass
Told some Irish jokes
Said "Fuck off now, paddy"
So I headed for a smoke
The lyrics for the above verse are not included in either the lyric sheet accompanying the album/cd or in the "Poguetry" collection of Shane's lyrics.
When the ferry arrives in Wales, passengers must pass through customs, and any passenger in the condition described in the song would no doubt receive extra attention from the powers that be.
And then we had a drink or two
Started playing poker
But the booze ran out at Crewe..."
Crewe is a northern railway town and a hub for trains running from Wales and connecting to London in the south and to Manchester in the north.
'The Little Cottage by the Lee'
He then sang 'Paper Roses'
'Boolanogue' 'Eileen Aru'..."
"The Little Cottage by the Lee," "Eileen Aroon" and "Boolavogue" are all traditional Irish tunes, the latter being one of the more popular ballads to come out of the 1798 rising (click the links to open windows with the full lyrics).
Here's another stretch, but the only reference I can dig up for "Paper Roses" is the Anita Bryant tune (lyrics by Fred Spielman/Janice Torre; Thanks to Ralph for pointing out Bryant's role in the recording of the song; I only had the Marie Osmod reference). Bryant released the tune in 1960 and it peaked at #5 on the Billboard charts. The tune was re-recorded by Marie Osmond in 1973. Bryant came to national prominence as Miss Oklahoma and subsequently as a Miss America Beauty Pagent winner before embarking on her musical career. When that ran its course, she became a corporate shill for the Florida Orange Growers Association. Her last turn on the American stage was to serve as an activist for various right-wing causes in the culture wars here in the United States in the 1970s and 1980s. For instance, she led opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment (an amendment that would have guaranteed equal protection of the laws to approximately half the population living here in the U.S.) and was an outspoken critic of the Gay Right Movement (denying equal rights to about 10% of the U.S. population, if the Kinsey numbers can be trusted). Anyway, continuing with the lyrics from "Boat Train"...
The Pakis and the Jews"
"Slagging" is basically bad mouthing, in a rather unkind manner.
I was in London in the rain
Staggering up the platform
Off the Boat Train"
Voila! The trip is done. Thanks to Paul for the assist with the details on the commute, it really helped bring the song together.
"The night is dark, the moon is
According to an interview I've heard with Darryl and Jem (released on the 1989 "Picture Disc" 12 inch), this Jem Finer composition, set in the Australian outback, addresses the issue of environmental destruction. Here's a transcript (as well as I could decipher it, and editing out some of the "ya knows?") of a short section of the interview dealing with this song. It begins with Darryl talking. "'Tombstone' ... just came from him [Jem] sort of [reflecting] on Australia ... and the aborigine philosophy. The idea of the land belonging to not just people but to animals and plants. That's another thing, people were ... the socialist idea of land belonging to the people, when it actually belongs to the plants and animals as well. .. [Jem jumps in] And just being. It just being. Of every stone and pebble having its own place, its history. And of course, the English when they got over there they couldn't understand that..."
Email me if you want an mp3 file of the relevant bits.
Across the barren land
Trees stand bare like skeletons
The mountains all torn down..."
"And faraway a city stands
We can see the environmental angle most clearly here, in that by likening the buildings, houses, and roads of the urban landscape to tombstones, the surrounding locale must of necessity be a cemetery. With just that image alone Jem did not really need to specify the contents of the graves.
Here's some thoughts from Jem about this tune: "I made several drives through the night to the town of Lorca in Andalucia. Years earlier I'd travelled throught Spain on a train ... the 2 memories merged"
This one seems to draw on a couple of different sources. In 1979 Denis Allen hit the charts in Ireland with "Limerick You're a Lady" (click here to open a window with the lyrics, and here to open a window discussing the history of the song). But both of these seem to have been inspired at least in part by an 1894 poem of Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) entitled "The Liner She's a Lady" (click here to open a window with the full poem; the meter of the song follows that of the poem fairly closely). Kipling was born in Bombay, India at a period when the subcontinent was under British rule and, while he is perhaps best known today for his children's literature (Jungle Book , Just So Stories ), in academic circles he is best known as an apologist for the empire (for instance he coined the phrase "white man's burden"). Big thanks to Mike for the heads up!
Your builders sane but drunk..."
In 1985, Prince Charles kickstarted a nationwide debate about the negative effects on the quality of the life that London's architects had visited upon the people. He delivered a stinging critique of contemporary English architecture at, of all places, a gala celebrating the 150 year anniversary of the Royal Institute of British Architects (for more on the significance of the Prince's views on the debate, click here; also check the BBC documentary and accompanying book the Prince produced entitled "A Vision of Britain"). Over the course of the next several years Charles continued to press the point that contemporary London architects too often sought to impress colleagues rather than the public at large. To quote in part:
"For far too long, it seems to me, some planners and architects have consistently ignored the feelings and wishes of the mass of ordinary people in this country. Perhaps, when you think about it, it is hardly surprising as architects tend to have been trained to design buildings from scratch - to tear down and rebuild. Except in Interior Design courses students are not taught to rehabilitate, nor do they ever meet the ultimate users of buildings in their training - indeed, they can often go through their whole career without doing so. Consequently a large number of us have developed a feeling that architects tend to design houses for the approval of fellow architects and critics, not for the tenants."
The Prince continued to develop this theme over the next several years, including the important Mansion House speech (delivered 1 December 1987) which included this gem:
"You have, ladies and gentlemen, to give this much to the Luftwaffe: when it knocked down our buildings, it didn't replace them with anything more offensive than rubble. We did that. Clausewitz called war the continuation of diplomacy by other means. Around St. Paul's, planning turned out to be the continuation of war by other means."
Of course, Irish immigrants to London (and elsewhere to be sure) were often able to find work in the construction industry (the "builders, sane but drunk").