Sunday, December 24, 2006

Song of the Day: Whatever happened to that old song ("Rainy Night in Soho" by the Pogues)

A couple days ago The Fortress Keeper asked me in the comments
What's your favorite Pogues album, Bully? I like Rum, Sodomy and The Lash myself. (No rude jokes, please. That's the album's title!!)
The PoguesHow to answer that question? At least until the departure of Shane MacGowan, there wasn't to my ears a bad Pogues album. But The Keeper's spot on: Rum, Sodomy and the Lash is one of the great Pogues albums—loud, raucous, Irish punk from smack-dab in the middle of the eighties: back in the heyday of the new British invasion it was the Pogues who showed us Americans that there was more to music of the day from the British Isles than Spandau Balley and Culture Club. It contains the sublime "I'm a Man You Don't Meet Every Day" with Sinéad O'Connor (a song John has said he wants played at his funeral, which better not happen for a long, long time!), the heartbreaking but rollicking "The Sick Bed of Cuchulain," the single best cover of "Waltzing Matilda" by non-Australians (and better than most of those), and another brilliant cover, this time of one of the finest angry city songs of all time, "Dirty Old Town," originally written by folk singer Ewan MacColl (yes, Kirsty's dad) in the immediate post-War depression of industrial Britain's northern towns.

I met my love by the gas works wall
Dreamed a dream by the old canal
Kissed my girl by the factory wall
Dirty old town
Dirty old town
Clouds are drifting across the moon
Cats are prowling on their beat
Spring's a girl from the streets at night
Dirty old town
Dirty old town

What's this got to do with London, you might ask? Aside from being a totally brilliant song, it's a perfect Pogues song for them to cover, as no band in my humble little stuffed opinion has ever capture so fully and passionately—and most important, simultaneously—the romanticism for and the bleak portrayal of a city: in this case Salford in Lancashire, but so very often in the songs of the Pogues, London.

Rainy Night in Soho"Lullabye of London" from If I Should Fall from Grace with God; "Misty Morning, Albert Bridge," "White City," and "London You're a Lady," from Peace and Love; "London Girl" from Poguetry in Motion, "Dark Streets of London" and "Transmetropolitan" (the greatest song ever about hopping on the Underground to terrorize the inhabitants of each borough of London in turn) from Red Roses for Me...all beautiful, haunting songs that only Shane MacGowan's gravelly, beer-soaked voice could do true justice to, but none come as close for me to capturing the essence of London's beauty, romance, heartbreak, passion and mystery as "Rainy Night in Soho" from their 1986 EP Poguetry in Motion:

I've been loving you a long time
Down all the years, down all the days
And I've cried for all your troubles
Smiled at your funny little ways
We watched our friends grow up together
And we saw them as they fell
Some of them fell into Heaven
Some of them fell into Hell

I took shelter from a shower
And I stepped into your arms
On a rainy night in Soho
The wind was whistling all its charms
I sang you all my sorrows
You told me all your joys
Whatever happened to that old song
To all those little girls and boys

Sometimes I wake up in the morning
The ginger lady by my bed
Covered in a cloak of silence
I hear you talking in my head
I'm not singing for the future
I'm not dreaming of the past
I'm not talking of the fist time
I never think about the last

Now the song is nearly over
We may never find out what it means
Still there's a light I hold before me
You're the measure of my dreams
The measure of my dreams

Reading it doesn't do it justice, though. Watch and hear Shane sing it, and understand:

I didn't answer The Fortress Keeper's question, by the way. If I Should Fall from Grace with God is my favorite Pogues album. But "Rainy Night in Soho" is, by far, my favorite song of many by the Pogues.

Other songs in heavy rotation on my London playlists today (links will open in iTunes, unless you don't have iTunes, in which case they won't.):

"Dark Streets of London" by The Pogues, from the album Red Roses for Me
"London Girl" by The Pogues, from the album Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash
"Lullabye of London" by The Pogues, from the album If I Should Fall from Grace with God
"Misty Morning, Albert Bridge" by The Pogues, from the album Peace & Love
"Transmetropolitan" by The Pogues, from the album Red Roses for Me

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