It's no secret that I'm proud of having Irish blood in me. Most Irish people seem to feel the same way, though I'm not honestly sure why. As Deep Cover and I were discussing yesterday, the Irish have been on the ass-end of a lot of stuff. A potato famine, losing 1/4 of their country to the British, joining the army straight off the dock in New York, and the damned Lucky Charms leprechaun. Not exactly a championship run. However, pride still flows in these hazel Irish Eyes.
And what a weekend for it. Thursday night, I was able to introduce some old friends from Cyprus (they of the recent wedding) to Nanny O'Brien's in Cleveland Park, which is still the closest thing the city has to a real Irish pub for my money. Friday, I was off to Pittsburgh to visit the current S/O, and we wound up at a place called the Harp and Fiddle with her family. Lots of good music, and great beer. Oh Smithwicks, how I love thee.
For those of you who aren't Irish, aspire to be, or have just been negligent, here are a few rules of thumb. A good Irish haunt should have very little lighting. They must have Guinness and at least one other true Irish brew, preferably Smithwicks, on tap. It would be nice if they had a House Ale as well. There must be a stage, and a performer that sings old Irish music. The music should be either upbeat and fun, sad enough to make you want to slit your wrists, or a combination of the two. A dartboard is nice, but not completely necessary. If possible, the waiters/waitresses should have accents. A proper crowd should be just enough to fill the tables, maybe a few empty. If it's overflowing with college age kids or posers who think they're "with it" on Irish culture, the bar is too mainstream and should be avoided. (You hear me Four Provinces? Inviting an Irish Singer who played Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson songs. For shame!)
Now then, you're at this pub, and you've got your beer, you need to know the music. At least the chorus, sometimes the regular words are barely intelligible. So here are the best Irish drinking/singing songs you can know, with the parts you should sing. If the performer of the night does not know these songs, he should be banned.
1. Whiskey in the Jar: An absolute must. Not only should you sing the chorus, you should bang your beer glass on the table at certain points.
Whack fol the daddy o,
Whack fol the daddy o,
There's whiskey in the jar."
2. Black Velvet Band: This is another classic, which people can get really into. You'll find the Captain swaying with his glass in the air when this one gets played. You should sing the chorus as follows, some performers will modify slightly.
"Her eyes they shone like the diamonds
You'd think she was queen of the land
And her hair hung over her shoulder
Tied up with a black velvet band."
3. The Wild Rover: Another one with glass banging, and a popular favorite. Sing as follows.
"And it's no*, nay*, never*
(4 bangs) No nay never no more
Will I play the wild rover
No never no more."
*It is acceptable to bang your glass on each of those words to punctuate the first line, some do, some don't. The Captain's vote goes for "do."
4. I'm a Rover: This one is a glass raiser. Even if you're not Irish, you should have heard this song at least once in your life. The chorus as follows, sung long, loud and proud:
"I'm a Rover, seldom sober
I'm a Rover, I'll agree
It's when I'm drinking, I'm always thinking
How to gain my love's company."
5. The Galway Races: This song has at least three known versions, the original has seven verses, and the chorus is really just a jumble of Gaelic gibberish. However, between each verse, just say:
"With me wack fol the do fol the diddle idle day."
And you should be all right.
6. Back Home in Derry: This one is simple to pick up. Though this song is a little sadder than the ones listed above, it's not mournful enough to be a wrist-slitter.
"Oh...I wish I was back home in Derry
Oh...I wish I was back home in Derry."
7. Rising of the Moon: Another one that's easy to sing along with. The chorus as follows:
"At the rising of the moon
oh the rising of the moon
For the pikes must be together
At the rising of the moon."
Okay, that's enough of those. And I purposely left Finnegan's Wake off of the list, so don't complain about it. The song sucks and most performers hate it by this point. With those seven songs, you should at least have a base you can sing along with, and expand from. However, we must not neglect another facet of Irish music, the depressing, tear inducing, wrist-slitter. Now I, The Captain, am immune to these songs because I've heard them so many times. When you hear these for the first time, you should have a tear or two, or at least a catch in your throat. If you do not, I suggest you go to the hospital, have your ribs split open, and search for a note stating "I O U, One Soul, signed GOD." Now then, the saddest songs of Irish Pubs.
1. The Streets of London: Fantastic song, great message. Any kid growing up even middle class should be forced to listen to this song if they bitch about their allowance, being grounded, etc. Puts things in perspective.
"How can you tell me, that you're lonely
And say for you, your sun don't shine
Let me take you by the hand and lead you
Through the Streets of London
I'll show you something, that'll make you change your mind."
2. Green Fields of France: Often known as "Willie McBride" this is a popular, sad song about WW1. Not only does it have a great chorus:
"Did they beat the drum slowly, did they sound the fife lowly
Did the rifles fire o'er you as they lowered you down?
Did the bugles play the 'Last post' and chorus?
Did the pipes play the 'Flowers of the forest'?
It also has this line in the main part of the song, which I think applies nicely to our war in Iraq.
"Did you really believe when they told you the cause
Did you really believe that this war would end wars?"
3. The Band Played Waltzing Matilda: Though this is about an Australian, it's still a good song and very popular in pubs. There's not really a repeated chorus in this one.
4. Red is the Rose: A great song with an unexpected twist. You think this one is happy...
"Red is the rose that in yonder garden grows
Fair is the lily of the valley
Clear is the water that flows from the Boyne
But my love is fairer than any."
5. The Fields of Athenry: Sad song about a man who rebels against famine, and the last words between his true love and himself before he goes to a prison ship to die.
"Low lie the fields of Athenry
Where once we watched the small free birds fly
Our love was on the wing, we had dreams and songs to sing
It's so lonely 'round the fields of Athenry."
6. O Danny Boy: Another classic, very sad sounding.
"Oh, Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling
From glen to glen and down the mountain side
The summer's gone, and all the leaves are falling
'Tis you, 'tis you must go, and I must bide."
7. Paddy's Lamentation: This one is a letter back to people in Ireland, from a man who was forced to join the army upon arriving in America. The message? Stay in Ireland.
"Here's you boys, now take my advice
To America I'll have you not be coming
There is nothing here but war
Where the murdering cannons roar
And I wish I was at home in dear old Dublin."
Pictures from the Nanny O'Brien's trip, finally!!
Outside the pub, L-R: The Groom (Captain's college roommate) The Grooms Brother, The Maid of Honor, and The Bride.
Inside now, The Captain joins the party, sunglasses as always. Even indoors.
This was supposed to be a shot of the live band. However, you can see the other people at our table here. We didn't know them, but being friendly sorts, we invited them to shove tables together and make a bigger group. Made some new friends.
Here's a better shot of the performers, who were more than willing to pose with our out of country visitors. Like a true Irishman, one of them wouldn't put his beer down.
The Cypriots are all smiles at your friendly Irish hangout.
Too much beer!
Way too much beer.