Sunday, 29 April 2018

There's a tear in my beer, it's because of you, my dear. Booze, blues, and rare aul crews.

"I love you and I hate you but I can't live without you, Mr Booze".

Cheers. Slainte. Bottoms up. Get it down yer neck. One for the road. Be rude not to. This one won't touch the sides. Don't neglect your drinking duty if your duty is a drink. A lot of us enjoy a drink, a scoop, a sherbert or two, maybe a sesh or a boozathon. There's no denying that getting drunk, pissed, twatted, wankered, trolleyed, fucked, pasted, cunted, wrecked, or mashed up has an appeal. Judging by the amount of terms we've coined for it it appears it helps with the old creative juices too. Juicing the juice. Chasing the goose. Letting the logic get a bit loose.

Of course alcoholism is a disease and can be a very bad thing. But it (drinking, not alcoholism itself) can also be a very good thing. Almost everyone I know would be a virgin if it didn't exist, possibly humanity would've died out or, worse still, teetotallers like Donald Trump and ISIS would've taken over. In this silly aul blog I don't mean to claim there aren't bad things about Adam's ale or to say it's great but also to understand that life is more complex. I want to celebrate the good side of 'the sauce' as well as recognising musicians also have not been afraid to travel to the dark side of the Spoons.

If you're gonna write a blog about booze'n'music it's gonna be hard not to mention the fearsomely hard drinking poetic folk-punk band The Pogues. I saw Shane MacGowan in a pub, The Boogaloo, in Highgate once and he was a bit pissed. Fair dos, he's an alcoholic. What did I expect? But for a pisshead he did write about drinking, and London, and love, fantastically. Streams of Whiskey (from their 1984 debut album Red Roses For Me) isn't one of his best but it sets the tone nicely and it has a very similar message to Flaco Jimenez's En El Cielo No Hay Cerveza with its refrain "In heaven there is no beer. That's why we drink it here". It's actually a 1956 German drinking song penned by one Ernst Neubach. The Germans seem to be a nation who take drinking seriously as anyone familiar with the reinheitsgebot will know.

The Pogues - Streams of Whiskey
Flaco Jimenez - En El Cielo No Hay Cerveza
Tom T Hall - I Like Beer
Tom T Hall lays out his interests pretty plainly. He likes beer. It helps him unwind. It makes him a jolly good fellow. It's worth watching just for his asides on Muhammad Ali and the Mormon Tabernacle football team.
Dr Feelgood were a bunch of oily lapelled hardnuts you'd not want to interrupt having a slash down a dark alley in Canvey Island but, during the prog years, they kept the primal rock flag flying, me and my brother Andy used to skid on the carpet to this one. Interestingly (or perhaps not), both of us now prefer alcohol to milk. Again, worth watching just to see how morally dubious a figure Lee Brilleaux looks. Wilko Johnson had gone by this point but the guitar sound remains. These guys looked like they enjoyed a pint - in a straight glass!
Dr Feelgood - Milk And Alcohol
The Housemartins - Happy Hour
You couldn't say that about either The Housemartins or Black Flag, two bands rarely lumped in together. Paul Heaton now looks like a fags'n'booze kinda dude but in the eighties he looked like the kinda dude who'd give you a stern look if you returned your copy of Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway to Hull's central library a week late.
Henry Rollins looks like the kinda dude who'd smash a dumb-bell into your face in a fit of roid rage if you said John Coltrane was overrated or call you a homo if you liked The Pet Shop Boys but that's irrelevant because he'd yet to join Black Flag when they released Damaged. Their debut album contained this patronisingly sarcastic, yet fucking banging, tune about dumb frat boys getting a beer buzz on. Sheryl Crow liked a good beer buzz early in the morning but her music, sadly, is too shit to include here. You can't blame her for caning it though. Her boyfriend, Lance Armstrong, was injecting erythropoeitin up his bony Texan arse so he could cycle faster up an Alp than Jan Ullrich. Party time central round at Lance'n'Shez's.
Black Flag - Six Pack
The Champs - Tequila
LCD Soundsystem - Drunk Girls
At least The Champs knew the wobbly pop was all about getting a party, rather than a morning, started (Black Flag seemed a bit naive about it all, straight edge, eh?). LCD Soundsystem got that too, "drunk girls know that love is an astronaut" (as well as that punked up Bowie rip offs really work well) and Snoop Dogg was also aware that "this type of shit happens all the time" but it didn't stop him getting the Seagrams in and passing the sippy cups around. The Gourds did a great version of it.
Josh Homme's party went a bit further. Alcohol was, of course, on the menu but so, too, was "nicotine, valium, Vicodin, marijuana, ecstasy" and, most of all, "c-c-c-c-c-cocaine". It's my third favourite song the Californian stoner rockers ever did. They always looked a scary bunch.
The Gourds - Gin'n'Juice
Queen of the Stone Age - Feel Good Hit of the Summer
Hard Skin - Beer And Fags
Hard Skin don't actually look hard at all. Beer and Fags, from 1996's Hard Nuts and Hard Cunts (I kid you not), posits Gipsy Hill's possibly parodic Oi revivalists as evangelists for getting munted and it does it with some panache. The third Loudon Wainwright took a more nuanced approach to pissed up chicanery but still managed to tickle the laughter muscles in a way that'd swell Ken Dodd's heart.
Tom Waits is a wonderfully talented song writer and performer who's made good currency of pretending to be a drifter who rolls up in flop houses in Eureka, California,, necks a few jars, and heads off on a Greyhound to Newport, Oregon.. This Littlest Hobo schtick is both incredibly popular and is incredibly good. He gets away with it because he gets inside his characters. He doesn't write ABOUT them. He writes AS them. It's a big distinction.

Loudon Wainwright III - Drinking Song
Tom Waits - Warm Beer and Cold Women
Cat Power - Lived in Bars
Tom Waits is a man, a very funny man who insults people by saying they have the IQ of a fence post. Men go to bars more than women. That's just a fact. Women get more shit for getting drunk than men do too (although not off LCD Soundsystem clearly). That's another fact. It's rubbish. Cat Power's Lived In Bars is the song that this list pivots on (and if you watch it your heart may break, in fact your heart may break just looking at her - he says rubbing his knees). She absolutely nails the love/hate relationship many of us have with booze. It draws a line under our working day (well, some start earlier), it relaxes, it helps us, it fucks us up. Stupid fucking t-shirts denigrating women say a beer is never jealous of another beer. But a beer always wants a threesome, a foursome, a fivesome, a fucking twenty fivesome. It sends us off to "the next whiskey bar" where we meet arrogant, topless, though admittedly quite talented posers like Jim Morrison. Then we come home and blame it on our mates or, in the case of Tom Waits, his piano. Terrible influence, those Steinways.
The Doors - Alabama Song
Tom Waits - The Piano Has Been Drinking
Johnny Cash - Sunday Morning Coming Down
Then we wake up, many coins in the bed, feeling like shit. Horny probably too (what's that all about?) and in danger of texting an ex. Kris Kristofferson nailed the feeling of wandering around with the entire Austrian army marching in your head looking for some solace, craving normality, missing those you left behind in a drunken haze. If you were happy in the haze of a drunken hour I feel bad for you son. I've got 99 problems but that's the main one. And if the beer you had for breakfast wasn't bad, why not have one more for dessert?
Men with broken hearts go to pubs to stare into space and talk to other men with broken hearts (again, I know women have it tougher) and hopefully find someone to mend their broken heart. But Rhonda can't help you and football gets boring, quiz nights elicit some warm glow, but eventually you will stare into the cold dark void of misery and accept that the country musicians were right all along. When it comes to heartbreak these Stetson hatted fuckers now you can't drown it - but they know you will try too.
Hank Williams - There's A Tear In My Beer
Ernest Tubb - Drivin' Nails in my Coffin
Hank Williams, who along with The Fall and Leonard Cohen (oh, and Sam Cooke, Public Enemy, Gil Scott Heron, Can, Aztec Camera, David Bowie, Tom Waits, Sonic Youth, T Rex, and Fela Kuti) is one of my all time favourite recording artists. Man, that guy could do heartbreak like nobody else, even The Big O. Born in Alabama where my mum spent some of her childhood his yodelling voice had a great affect, really reached in and touched. If there's a tear in his beer I'd pick it out. I asked Hank Williams how lonely does it get. Hank Williams hasn't answered yet.
He actually sings about keeping "drinking" until he's "petrified". It's a coruscating look into a broken man but he wasn't the only character from those parts who knew how it all panned out. Ernest Tubb, the Texas troubadour, hailed from a place called Crisp (I love crisps, S&V Taytos rule my world) but even his snacky hometown didn't stop him bending his arm to a dangerous degree when he was washing down his Wotsits - and then writing a textbook brilliant song about losing your gal and getting 'on it'.
If only JD Wetherspoons operated in Texas back in the day. Tubb and Bob Wills could've met, threw their copies of the Racing Post to one side, ordered up a Tuborg or nine, and got stuck into a meal deal as they talked about how wronged they'd been by their women. It was time we heard some Western Swing.

Bob Wills - Bubbles in my Beer
Loretta Lynn - Don't Come Home Drinkin' (With Lovin' on your Mind)
While the men pissed their money up the wall poor ol' Loretta Lynn had to sit at home waiting for the drunken idiots to return, presumably to paw at her boobs like cavemen. She'd probably have been comforted by Jello Biafra's economical treatise on erectile dysfunction and alcoholism. Who wouldn't?
Randy drunks are one thing. Stupid drunks another. Aggressive drunks the worst of all. The Dubliners noted the silliness of being so pie-eyed you don't notice your missus having an affair, Pete Townshend was very frank in his assessment of how the pop couldn't drown his sorrows, and Kunt (from Kunt & the Gang) took a more empirical approach to the problem.
The Dead Kennedys - Too Drunk To Fuck
The Dubliners - Seven Drunken Nights
The Who - However Much I Booze
Kunt and the Gang - I Was Pissed Out Of My Head
Acting like a pissed twat occasionally is one thing. Making a career of it is another. Nigel Blackwell poured vinegar on such characters in A Country Practice, "duff leg Bryn had drunk too much again. Most of Wem was steering clear of him". Kurt Wagner, on Lambchop's wonderful Nixon, spoke of a Grumpus who puts "a bottle up, a bottle down, a bottle white, a bottle brown" whilst suggesting said lush learn not to demonstrate his "asinine and callous traits". Beers before the Barbican it is not.
George Jones used to get so mullered he'd perform entire concerts pretending to be a duck and ride the Intertstate on a lawn mower. He'd also knock Tammy Wynette about. Unacceptable obvs, but like Ike Turner he did write a tune. White Lightning (covered by The Fall, oddly absent from the list) tells of city slickers suffering the ill effects of glugging on Carolina hooch.
Half Man Half Biscuit - A Country Practice
Lambchop = Grumpus
George Jones - White Lightning
Amy Winehouse was a classic case of denial. Possibly the British artist who mixed critical and popular acclaim more than any other, her story was tragic and the predictability of the endgame the most tragic aspect of it. It's hard to celebrate this song in the circs but yet, it is still absolutely brilliant.
Reaching for a schooner in Fonzie's home town, Jerry Lee Lewis knew that booze could be a kick in the balls. Webb Pierce understood each day was a grinding misery enlivened only by lifting a glass of poison to the light and imbibing. That hour came earlier as life got cruddier. Gil Scott-Heron saw people in New York utterly destroyed by their addiction, robbing, mugging, stealing, and losing their family to feed their jabit. He couldn't escape it himself. Getting hooked on crack and doing time on Riker's Island before he reached his salvation by having a chat with me about OutKast in Malmesbury. 
Amy Winehouse - Rehab
Jerry Lee Lewis - What Made Milwaukee Famous
Webb Pierce - There Stands The Glass
Gil Scott-Heron - The Bottle
Christy Moore - Delirium Tremens
The Pogues - The Sick Bed of Cuchullainn
That sort of behaviour (the drinking, not talking to me about OutKast in Malmesbury) tends to only have one result and musicians have not been shy of singing about it. Both Christy Moore and The Pogues told tales of those who lie on their deathbeds, hallucinating, spewing, and misremembering their lives on the liquor. Booze makes you feel alive but booze kills you. The music makes me want to drink it. The music makes me not want to drink it. 
Oasis - Cigarettes and Alcohol
Sham 69 - Hurry Up Harry

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