03.17.2017 07:53 AM

Pints of Guinness make you strong

St. Patrick’s Day.

So. When I was sixteen or something, at Bishop Carroll, Jim Keelaghan and me briefly wanted to join the Irish Republican Army. We’d wear army jackets and black armbands on St. Patrick’s Day, and darkly mutter, “St. Patrick didn’t drive all of the snakes out of Ireland.” Stuff like that. We were stupid teenagers.

And then, on a road trip to Vancouver to see and hang out with the Clash, I picked up Stiff Little Fingers’ ‘Suspect Device,’ whose cover featured a black and white photo of dozens of real, honest-to-God bombs. Released on Rigid Digits in March 1978, the graphic realism of ‘Suspect Device’ made short work of my fondness for the Provo militancy. Howling like a man facing a firing squad, Jake Burns – who lived in Belfast, and for whom Republican and Loyalist violence was much more than a theory – condemned both sides with unbridled fury: “They take away our freedom in the name of liberty…Why don’t they all just clear off, why won’t they let us be…They make us feel indebted for saving us from Hell – and then they put us through it…It’s time the bastards fell!”

BBC disc-spinner John Peel got one of the 350 copies of the first pressing, and made sure naïve romantics like me got to hear it. The most powerful political protest song ever – partly because Burns and his band could have been murdered for simply recording it. The Hot Nasties covered when we opened for 999 at U of C one night, and it quickly escalated into a mini-riot. Glorious, epic. What a song.

But Ireland – where Lisa and I have a daughter (presently) living, and to which we have many familial connections – isn’t all about The Troubles and that. It’s about fun stuff, too.

Anyone familiar with this web site will know that Against Me! is a rather big deal around the Kinsella household. ‘Black Me Out’ was our wedding song – for real. Lisa and me are seeing them tomorrow night for the one millionth time, after the anti-Trump comedy funder, and then Bjorn and me are with them on Tuesday.

Perhaps their greatest song is a story about Irishness, and is simultaneously sad and uplifting (like art should always be). With few exceptions, it is the song that has woken me up every day for more than a decade: Pints of Guinness Make You Strong.

Here it is, way back when it was Tom (not Laura) out front and Warren (not me) out back.


Lyrics are here. Sing along, and have fun today.

Evelyn sits by the elevator doors
It’s been 37 years since James died on St. Patrick’s Day in 1964
But she could not hold it against him
There were times when there was nothing she could do,
But lie in bed all day beside a picture of them together
A picture of better days

And just like James, I’ll be drinking Irish tonight
and the memory of his last work week will be gone forever
Evelyn I’m not coming home tonight!
If we’re never together
If I’m never back again
Well, I swear to God that I’ll love you forever
Evelyn I’m not coming home tonight!

In all the years that went by she said
She’d always love him
and from the day that he died,
She never loved again

And in his wallet she kept in her nightstand
an A.A. card and a lock of red hair
She kept secrets of pride locked so tight in her heart,
it killed a part of her before the rest was gone.

She said, “If I would have known just how things would have ended up
I just would have let myself die.”

And just like James, I’ll be drinking Irish tonight
and the memory of his last work week will be gone forever
Evelyn I’m not coming home tonight!
If we’re never together
If I’m never back again
Well I swear to God that I’ll love you forever
Evelyn I’m not coming home tonight!

6 Comments

  1. Derek Pearce says:

    Happy St. Paddy’s WK. I’ll be raising a pint to my Grandad Kelleher who came to Canada 50 years ago this month and who we just laid to rest on Monday. He’d like your intonation to have fun today!

  2. John says:

    Inflammable Material is one of my favorite albums. I’ll be listening to it tonight with a pint of Guinness or two. And a shot of Bushmills.

  3. Robert Frindt says:

    You all are lagging behind the PC curve…
    https://twitter.com/endstpats/status/828017529943646210

  4. Sean McLaughlin says:

    I will be enjoying SLF’s Peel Sessions later when the little one is down for bed. No better version of Johnny Was.

    Slainte!

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