The National Playlist: St. Patrick’s Day
Each week we ask our writers to submit their choice of songs for a given theme. This week, our writers honor Saint Patrick by choosing their favorite songs as they relate to the great nation of Ireland.
“Bright Side of the Road” by Van Morrison
Okay, sure, Van the Man is technically from Northern Ireland, but I bet if you looked really hard, you could find some people in Northern Ireland who consider themselves more Irish than British. Besides, this song is fantastic. I’m an avid fan of much of Van Morrison’s music, but I chose this one because, shit, have you heard it? I challenge you, reader, to listen to this song and not feel happy. It’s a pick-me-up song. It’s sort of like “Happy” by Pharrell, except it’s not by Pharrell, so you can listen to the song without questioning your moral rectitude.
“I’m Shipping Up to Boston” by Dropkick Murphys
This is my pump-up song. I, like most, first heard this song when I watched The Departed, and it quickly became a favorite among my high school friends. Just that opening, with the thumping bass cut by a drawn bow on a fiddle, always made me feel like something big and subversive was about to happen. My friend Sean and I would pound out the opening on our desks in class just to let everyone know how badass we were. Of course, that class was Calculus AB, and our teacher, Mr. Galitsky, usually just laughed and rolled his eyes, so it wasn’t terribly effective.
“Sometimes” by My Bloody Valentine
When I discovered the Irish band My Bloody Valentine’s magnum opus Loveless it was by laptop glow, some time around 1 AM on a Saturday, putting me about 3 hours into my night of self-pity. It’s one of those albums you remember experiencing for the first time. There was probably a red mark on my face where my hand had been holding up my head and I was probably still wearing the clothes I had planned on wearing to a party. “Sometimes” was the first track I heard from the album, the driving, distorted drone shaking me from the inside.
In the movie Lost In Translation, after the aging Bob Harris (Bill Murphy) and vibrant Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) spend a night in the artificial glow of Japan, “Sometimes” soundtracks the metropolis passing as a fleeting blur through the window of their cab. While skyscrapers and bridges loom indomitably in the distance, Scarlett Johansson looks away from the window and to the washed up old man beside her—who is sleeping—and smiles. This song is her contentment as the busy, blown out, chaotic world rushes past—the dull warm glow of an entirely internalized experience. There’s peacefulness in knowing that, in a moment, you are entirely disconnected. “Sometimes” has always reminded me of that.
— Andy Bayer
“Bad” by U2
There’s a moment in the U2 concert Rattle and Hum when the band visits Graceland. It’s a pretty boring scene. But, after Larry Mullen Jr. stares at Elvis’s tombstone for a couple of seconds, the greatest eight minute stretch of any concert film happens. The film cuts from Graceland to the band performing “Bad,” a song made famous due to the band’s performance of it during a tour de force set at Live Aid in 1985, at a concert. The song’s power is driven from its backstory. It’s a song about a friend’s heroin addiction in Dublin. While never explicitly stated in the song, Bono stage presence, akin to a sweaty god’s, makes sure that you never forget the pain of all those suffering from addiction in the city he loves.
There’s a lot more I can say about this song and it’s importance to me, but I don’t want to write an entire essay. I’ll just say this: “Bad” is my dad’s favorite U2 song. The reason he named me “Joshua” was because of The Joshua Tree, so U2 will always have a special place in my heart. “Bad” carries great importance to both my dad and I for different reasons, but I will always remember going to U2 concerts with him and being fully immersed in the music when “Bad” was playing. There are fewer times in my life that I have ever felt closer to my father than in those moments.
“Falling Slowly,” Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, from Once
Mumford & Sons may be the suspender-clad poster boys for the resurgence of earnest and adorable faux-folk with broad appeal, but I think what really started it all was the scruffy passion of Glen Hansard’s music and character in Once. “Falling Slowly” is a beautiful song from that beautiful movie, and I can’t think of a song that captivated me or anybody else quite like watching Hansard and Irglova ardently working through it on screen. Once may be an Irish film about Irish buskers and people who call vacuum cleaners “Hoovers,” but this song is the greatest export to come from the island since Irish coffee.
“Whiskey in the Jar,” Thin Lizzy
If Jameson is God’s gift to mankind to say he loves us, then Thin Lizzy is God’s reminder to us to drink it. There isn’t an Irish band that’s cooler than Thin Lizzy, a band that transcended racial, geographic, and religious lines during a time in Irish history when any one of those three seemed like an insuperable barrier. And I can’t think of a song that’s any more goddamn Irish than “Whiskey in the Jar,” which makes getting drunk in Cork and shooting a British officer while carousing with a redhead sound just as awesome as I imagine it would be.
“Another Irish Drinking Song,” Da Vinci’s Notebook
We can all sit here and pretend like St. Patrick’s Day is a celebration of Irish heritage, or of unity, or whatever lie we’re telling ourselves this year, but we know the truth: St. Partick’s Day is a celebration of alcohol – and no song celebrates alcohol in as wonderfully culturally-appropriated way quite like Da Vinci’s Notebook’s “Irish Drinking Song.” The song, set to an infectiously catchy little diddy, is a humorous reminder of the joys of drinking, and the service alcohol provides in helping us all to forget about the awful things that happen in life (YAY! ALCOHOL AS A CRUTCH!). From the tales of death to the constant reminders to drink (Fun Drinking Game: Drink every time they say drink), this song shouts “Happy St. Patrick’s Day” from peaks of Beenkeragh to the pits of whatever bar finally does you in.
“C’Est La Vie,” B*Witched
Well since everyone else already talked about all the legit Irish bands I know anything about, I’ll go with the nostalgia pick. “C’est La Vie” was the only notable song from late-90’s Irish girl group B*Witched, but it certainly made an impression on me as a young Irish-dancing lass. For a mainstream pop song targeted at the Disney Channel crowd, this song is insanely Irish. It heavily features the delightful brogues of the girls as they speak-sing their lines, there’s some sort of flute instrument that wouldn’t be out of place in a traditional Irish folk song, and in the music video they Irish dance. Now, for a girl whose mom made her compete in Irish dance competitions starting at the age of 5, a pop music video that featured Irish dancing was perhaps the greatest boost to my self-confidence that I could have hoped for. For that reason alone, B*Witched will always have a place in my hand-clasped heart (that’s a Claddagh ring reference because I’m super Irish).
“Drunken Lullabies,” Flogging Molly
We couldn’t not put a Flogging Molly song on this playlist.