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10 Great Songs by Irish Bands for Saint Patrick’s Day
Posted on March 15, 2017
by Tim P
To get everyone in the mood for St. Patrick’s Day, I thought I’d make a list of songs by Irish bands. The only theme is that the band is from Ireland and that I really like the song. The songs aren’t traditional or even particularly Irish in most cases. These aren’t in any particular order of preference for me. Except for Thin Lizzy. Thin Lizzy will always be Number One.
“Cowboy Song” by Thin Lizzy
Thin Lizzy’s leader, Phil Lynott had written a lot of songs about Ireland. He was proudly Irish and loved his homeland. But my favorite Lizzy song was written about America. Having toured the U.S. multiple times, Lynott had grown quite fond of it and its mythology, especially the tales of the old west. In “Cowboy Song,” he imagines what it would have been like to live back then. The lyrics are wonderful, and the twin guitar leads absolutely burn. When Brian Robertson’s solo comes flying in after the break near the end of the song, it makes me smile every time.
The Pogues played traditional Irish music mixed with the ethos of first wave British punk. Their singer, Shane McGowan, was an absolute genius. A drunken poet of the first caliber, he wrote some utterly incredible songs. But my favorite Pogues song was by their guitarist, the late Phillip Chevron. “Thousands Are Sailing” is the story of Irish immigrants, told by someone who had made it to America. There’s regret for the folks who didn’t make it, and bittersweet joy for the ones who did. Nostalgic, sad, and hopeful, there’s also a sweet little tribute to George M. Cohan in the second verse.
From the town of Derry, during the heart of the troubles between England and Northern Ireland, came The Undertones. Teenagers when they formed, they wrote about things that were important to them which didn’t include politics (at least early on). Released in September of 1978, “Teenage Kicks” is two and a half minutes of pure pop punk (way before that was a thing). Championed by British DJ John Peel, the gloriously catchy song got considerable airplay although it never charted. When Peel died in 2004, the song’s first line was engraved on his tombstone.
Come on, this is garage rock ground zero. This (and, to be fair, “Louie Louie” by The Kingsmen) is where every punk band and every crummy (or great) bar band learned their chops. While there were a ton of amazing garage bands I’m neglecting, this song was huge and hugely influential, judging by the scores of bands who covered it (my favorite being by Patti Smith).
When fanzine Alternative Ulster needed a song with their title (which would be given away for free with one of the issues), they contacted Stiff Little Fingers, a punk band from Belfast. After recording it, the band realized that the song was just too good to be a promotional item for someone else, so they released it as their second single (The first single, “Suspect Device,” is pretty incredible too!) Inviting the kids from Northern Ireland to get up and change their world, the song is anthemic as all get out. Just fantastic.
Before starting Live Aid and being knighted, Bob Geldof was the singer for The Boomtown Rats, a band from Dun Laoghaire, a town near Dublin. Eschewing the punk sound, they actually took a lot of influence from Bruce Springsteen, and their most Springsteen-esque song was “Rat Trap.” Telling the story of Billy and Judy, two kids with not much to do, “Rat Trap” proves that teenage boredom and stagnation are universal. And the whole “Walk, Don’t Walk” part is pretty keen.
“Dearg Doom” by Horslips
Forming in the early Seventies, Celtic hard rock band Horslips were fairly unknown. They never had any sort of hit, but have achieved some cult status lately. From the concept album The Tain, which is based on Irish Legend, “Dearg Doom” tells the story of mythological hero Cuchulainn as he singlehandedly takes on the army of Connacht. A sadly neglected classic.
Unfortunately, “Dearg Doom” is not available through the library at this time, but you can watch this live performance on Youtube:
Some people go out looking for love. Others just dream and write poems and sonnets. “Songs Of Love” is about those people. The band Divine Comedy is basically Neil Hannon, an incredibly gifted singer-songwriter. Lyrically clever and extremely catchy, “Songs Of Love” was originally written as the theme song for the Irish comedy show Father Ted – which is an amazing show!
This song is not available through the library, but you can stream it through SoundCloud.
Check out some of their other music available on hoopla:
Already popular but not yet hugely successful, U2 released The Unforgettable Fire album in 1984. A step back, energy-wise from previous album War, the album contains some of their prettiest songs. Somehow turning the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki into a love song, the title track is a tale of reuniting with a loved one even as the world ends. Full disclosure, I couldn’t decide between this song and “A Sort Of Homecoming,” which touches on some of the same subjects, so I flipped a coin.