Reason #469 Why The ’80’s Didn’t Suck: Rum, Sodomy and the Lash

Full disclosure: I have never seen the Pogues live. But a couple of my friends did. They opened for G.B.H., a hardcore punk band, in London, Ontario, and you know what? They blew the headliners off the stage. This was right before Rum, Sodomy and the Lash was released, and just after Red Roses For Me, their debut, was unleashed. A traditional Irish band with punk underpinnings had nothing going for it, concept wise, in the mid ’80’s. I mean, what a strange conceit to think that music fans would embrace such a monstrosity. I think it took the production talents of Elvis Costello to smooth out their sound enough to make them semi-palatable for North American audiences, and this album represents the absolute best of the best from this band. They didn’t compromise on the music, though, as one glance of the lyrics for Sick Bed Of Cachulainn will prove:

When you pissed yourself in Frankfurt and got syph down in Cologne
And you heard the rattling death trains as you lay there all alone
Frank Ryan brought you whiskey in a brothel in Madrid
And you decked some fucking blackshirt who was cursing all the Yids
At the sick bed of Cuchulainn we’ll kneel and say a prayer
And the ghosts are rattling at the door and the devil’s in the chair

And in the Euston Tavern you screamed it was your shout
But they wouldn’t give you service so you kicked the windows out
They took you out into the street and kicked you in the brains
So you walked back in through a bolted door and did it all again
At the sick bed of Cuchulainn we’ll kneel and say a prayer
And the ghosts are rattling at the door and the devil’s in the chair

You remember that foul evening when you heard the banshees howl
There was lazy drunken bastards singing Billy is in the bowl
They took you up to midnight mass and left you in the lurch
So you dropped a button in the plate and spewed up in the church

“sweat, fire, and angry joy” is how allmusic sums up the mood of the album and I cannot think of a better way to put it.

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