Top 10 Pogues Songs
The Pogues were a punk band that just happened to employ traditional Irish instruments like accordion, banjo, fiddle, mandolin, tin whistle and uilleann pipes in their songs. They were also an expert folk group, quick to put a tear in your eye and to raise a pint in celebration, as you will see in the below list of the Top 10 Pogues Songs.
Despite their proclivity for Irish music and instruments, the band was formed in London by punk refugees Shane MacGowan and Spider Stacy and the more traditional skilled banjo player Jem Finer and accordionist James Fearnley. By the time of their 1984 debut album, Red Roses for Me, the Pogues (adapting their name from a Gaelic expression meaning "kiss my arse") were a six-piece and sharpening the Celtic punk they had honed onstage.
For the follow-up the next year, the Pogues enlisted Elvis Costello as producer and by now mixing old Irish folk songs with their updated take on the music. Rum, Sodomy & the Lash arrived during an era of synth-dominated pop but still managed to find an ecstatic audience. Their next album, If I Should Fall From Grace With God, came out in 1988 without Costello (then married to the Pogues' former bassist Cait O'Riordan) behind the board but with an untraditional Christmas song that has since become a seasonal favorite.
Singer MacGowan's substance abuse issues quickly turned out of control, and after two more albums with the band, he was gone. The Pogues released two more records in the '90s with Stacy on lead vocals before MacGowan returned for reunion tours at the top of the next decade. The Pogues never made another album, but they left dozens of classic songs in their 12-year recording career. These are the essentials.
10. "Summer in Siam" (From Hell's Ditch, 1990)
By 1990 the Pogues were moving away from their Irish roots and toward a more mainstream modern rock sound. Their last album with Shane MacGowan sidestepped into other areas as well, like the slow-build lounge jazz of "Summer in Siam."
9. "The Old Main Drag" (From Rum Sodomy & the Lash, 1985)
Written by MacGowan, "The Old Main Drag" includes some of his most vivid songwriting. Over a funereal pace and spare backing, he sings, "Now I'm lying here / I've had too much booze / I've been shat on and spat on and raped and abused."
8. "If I Should Fall From Grace With God" (From If I Should Fall From Grace With God, 1988)
The title track of the Pogues' third album started as an acoustic country folk song with banjo and fiddle for a 1987 soundtrack but was reworked at a faster tempo and a more snarling vocal. The follow-up single to the holiday classic "Fairytale of New York."
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7. "Streets of Sorrow"/"Birmingham Six" (From If I Should Fall From Grace With God, 1988)
One of the band's most political songs, "Streets of Sorrow"/"Birmingham Six" is divided into two parts, with multi-instrumentalist Terry Woods singing the mournful opening (which he wrote) before Shane MacGowan takes over for the swinging finale.
6. "Streams of Whiskey" (From Red Roses for Me, 1984)
A highlight of the Pogues' debut album, "Streams of Whiskey" was written by MacGowan and hints at the punk-influenced Irish traditionalism that dominated their best work going forward. A seamless effort to blend their originals with old folk songs.
5. "A Rainy Night in Soho" (From Poguetry in Motion, 1986)
Songwriter Shane MacGowan and producer Elvis Costello clashed over the mix of this sweeping song included on the Pogues' Poguetry in Motion EP. The sentimental ballad, complete with strings and aching vocals, shows off a sweeter side to the rowdy band.
4. "Sally MacLennane" (From Rum Sodomy & the Lash, 1985)
A drinking song written by MacGowan, "Sally MacLennane" is a perfect example of the way the Pogues easily positioned their originals alongside traditional numbers. A rousing singalong that could have been written three centuries earlier.
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3. "Dirty Old Town" (From Rum Sodomy & the Lash, 1985)
"Dirty Old Town" was written in 1949 by British folk singer Ewan MacColl, whose daughter Kirsty entered the Pogues' orbit two years later with the timeless "Fairytale of New York." Here they pay tribute while carving their signature into the foundation.
2. "A Pair of Brown Eyes" (From Rum Sodomy & the Lash, 1985)
The Pogues' breakthrough single sounds like it's from another era - no accident since the vintage-sounding folk lament "A Pair of Brown Eyes" was based on a 19th-century tune. MacGowan nods to Irish singer Philomena Begley as well as to Johnny Cash.
1. "Fairytale of New York" (From If I Should Fall From Grace With God, 1988)
A Christmas song for people who don't like Christmas songs, "Fairytale of New York" arrived during the 1987 holiday as a duet between bitter former lovers, played by MacGowan and Kirsty MacColl: "Happy Christmas your arse / I pray God it's our last."