The Pogues went a' rovin' down the old main drag of a dirty old town to turn out the twisted and torn rambunctious magnificence of this anecdotal earthly delight. Their debut album 'Red Roses for Me' had failed to capture the energy of their live performances; so for their next album they brought in the big guns.
'Rum Sodomy & the Lash' was produced by a bearded Elvis Costello at Elephant Studios in London. The sessions featured Shane MacGowan on vocals; Spider Stacy on tin whistle; James Fearnley on accordion; Jem Finer on banjo; Cait O'Riordan on bass and vocals; Andrew Ranken on drums; and Philip Chevron on guitar and mandolin; with Henry Benagh on fiddle; Dick Cuthell on horn; and Tommy Keane on uileann pipes. During the proceedings a romance developed between the producer and Cait.
O’Riordan almost remembers: “I was just drunk... I was the only girl, and I had a lot of chips on my shoulder, so I tried to drink as much as them and be the roughest and toughest. And, of course, I can’t drink; I’d get drunk so fast...I was a music-mad kid, and after school, which was right out near Heathrow, I’d go into London and into this record shop. And, one day, they were just closing up and asked me if I wanted to go to the pub with them. Shane walks in, and I recognised him, because he’d been in a band called The Nips. And the first time I met him I said, ‘Wow, you’re a Nip,’ and he said, ‘Am I?’ and pulled a big face at me. I can’t believe how lucky I was. But I don’t think I ever took him for granted. I always knew he was a genius, but I don’t think I realised how much of a one-off he was. I think I just assumed everyone I’d meet was going to be a genius...Once the teenage thing had kicked in, I think, I was in lockdown. I went from being an angry schoolchild to being an angry homeless kid — I left as soon as it was legal — to being the angry kid in The Pogues, to being the angry one who was married to the famous guy.”
MacGowan muses: "Well, there are similar Irish and Scottish folk songs. There's only eight notes, or sixteen if you want to count it the proper way. I like story songs. Most really good songs, I'm not necessarily saying mine, but if you think of rock & roll, or blues, go as far back as you want, they all have a story. They're all about a revolution, or a battle, or a love affair, or whatever. I came from a really musical family. Everybody played music and told stories and made up songs. All the neighbours did as well...That's the thing about Irish writing. It developed from story-telling. Story-telling is a huge thing in Ireland, or used to be. All the playwrights, all the novelists, all the poets… well they're all poets. It's all poetry, really, the same way that Shakespeare is poetry in play-form...Music and poetry are meant to be performed. I mean you can get a really good poem, but if somebody reads it out without really thinking about what it means then it's a total waste of everybody's time."
'Rum Sodomy & the Lash' sailed to number thirty-nine in Sweden, seventeen in New Zealand, and thirteen in the UK. The title comes from a description of the British Navy that is often attributed to Winston Churchill: "Don't talk to me about naval tradition. It's nothing but rum, sodomy, and the lash." The album cover is based on the painting The Raft of the Medusa by Théodore Géricault, with the faces of the band painted by Peter Mennim.
"A Pair of Brown Eyes"
MacGowan says: "That song's about a guy who's pissed off because he's broken up with his girlfriend. There's also this older guy whinging away in the corner. There's people singing songs and it gives you the titles of them. There's a bit where Johnny Cash sings 'A Thing Called Love' on the jukebox, and 'My Elusive Dreams' is by Ray Lynam and Philomena Begley. That particular song is kind of autobiographical. It's set in The Scottish Stores which is an Irish bar near Camden...There'll always be someone, you'd be sitting there feeling miserable and some old geezer says: 'Why do you look so bloody miserable? Listen to what happened to me!' and he tells him about whatever war it was. Of course, there was a war going on at the time in Ireland, as usual."
'Rum Sodomy & the Lash' full album:
"The Sick Bed of Cúchulainn" (Shane MacGowan) – 2:59
"The Old Main Drag" (MacGowan) – 3:19
"Wild Cats of Kilkenny" (MacGowan, Jem Finer) – 2:48
"I'm a Man You Don't Meet Every Day" (Traditional) – 2:55
"A Pair of Brown Eyes" (MacGowan) – 4:54
"Sally MacLennane" (MacGowan) – 2:43
"A Pistol for Paddy Garcia" bonus track (Finer) – 2:32
"Dirty Old Town" (Ewan MacColl) – 3:45
"Jesse James" (Traditional) – 2:58
"Navigator" (Phil Gaston) – 4:12
"Billy's Bones" (MacGowan) – 2:02
"The Gentleman Soldier" (Traditional) – 2:04
"And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda" (Eric Bogle) – 8:10
- Greenland Whale Fisheries 0:01
- Repeal of the Licensing Laws 2:25
- Boys from County Hell 4:25
- Pair of Brown Eyes 7:10
- Sally MacLennane 11:33
- Dingle Regatta 14:10
- Paddy on the Railway 16:42
- Battle of Brisbane 19:53
- Waxies Dargle 21:30
- Dark Streetos of London 23:30
- Muirsheen Durkin 26:35
- Whiskey youre the Devil 28:30
- Battle of Brisbane 30:44
- Transmetropolitan 32:25
- The Band played Waltzing Matilda 33:28
Intro song-Battle of Brisbane
2 Waxie's Dargle
3 Dark streets of London
4 Muirsheen Durkin
5 Whiskey you're the devil
6 Battle of Brisbane...again
8 The Band Played Waltzing Matilda