Dad Rock is a new column in which Ryan Foley will attempt to look at pop music and pop culture from the precipice of middle age. If he ultimately leaps, it's because tiny hands ruined his Galaxie 500 vinyl. Accusations that he's raising five insufferable hipster children can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
|I got a feeling / That tonight's gonna involve a lot of dead Englishmen|
During precious free time, I've been rereading Brendan Behan's Confessions of an Irish Rebel. For those unfamiliar with Behan, he essentially embodies the bold, Fenian warrior-poet image Shane MacGowan has spent an entire lifetime staggering after.
One of Confession's droller anecdotes involves an adolescent Behan and his grandmother escorting an elderly neighbor, Mrs. Mary Murphy, around Dublin for one final day of getting beery and bleary before she's exiled to the Hospice for the Dying. At the first pub, granny suggests that Behan have a bit of porter, the rationale being that tasting it now will remove any temptation to try it later in life.
Boy, does this backfire on her. Behan ends up giving his eight-year-old liver a thorough punishing -- the first of thousands -- and leaves the last pub "twisted, as the saying has it, physically as well as in the other way; my head was sunk on my left shoulder." Which leads to this exchange between a passerby and Behan's grandmother:
"That's a beautiful boy. 'Tis a pity he's deformed."
"That child is not deformed. He's just got a couple of drinks taken."
Look, the pubs are no place for kids, something many of us need to be reminded of as St. Patrick's Day approaches. It's not solely because of the potential for deformity or because the dimly lit, alcohol-soaked bedlam in your typical pub -- particularly on March 17 -- will likely assault a kid's delicate senses. It's also not because children are terrible at executing a proper pint run, as their tiny hands allow them to carry only one glass at a time from the bar to your thirsty table. And it's certainly not because the kitchen help won't let you use the microwave out back to heat up formula.
It's chiefly on account of the pub music they will be exposed to. Have you ever really listened to the acoustic folk played at that brightly painted, bric-a-brac-filled, unpronounceably named Irish pub you visit every St. Patrick's Day? Characterizing the Irish as a group with a penchant for bloodshed is unfair. What you can maintain is that the Irish have a gift for sentimentalizing bloodshed within the context of three-minute guitar ballads.
There are Irish folk songs about killing Englishmen on the battlefield ("Boolavogue"), the proper attire for killing Englishmen ("Broad Black Brimmer"), saying goodbye to a loved one before heading off to kill Englishmen ("The Wind That Shakes the Barley"), and road trips to go kill Englishmen ("Johnson's Motor Car"). The English would be embarrassed by all the attention if they weren't so busy tugging their collars and gulping nervously.More »