It's been a few years since I last gave you my list of my Top Ten St. Patrick's Day Songs, and I have no reasonable explanation for why I skipped 2016. Based on the Brexit and Trump votes, it seems like a lot of people in the English-speaking world skipped 2016, mentally at least. But enough about the now-inevitable downfall of the US and UK economies and sociopolitical systems.
St. Patrick's Day is one of my favorite holidays. In Chicago, it is the unofficial start of spring, as people emerge from their winter cocoons to celebrate the fact that it is no longer below zero and the prospect of drinking outside isn't too far off.
Here is my annual list of Top Ten St. Patrick's Day Songs, with pretty much the same descriptions as I have had in years past, although I've changed the list a little. I've added an "Honorable Mention" section, in case you're looking for more than ten songs. The list still has a wonderful mix of songs by Irish musicians, traditional Irish songs, songs about getting drunk, songs about whiskey, and songs about green. If you're having a party, download these songs and make them part of your playlist. If you're going to a bar, you better damn well find these on the jukebox and play them -- especially "Whiskey in the Jar." If you're not doing anything, listen to these songs anyway, acquaint yourself with Tullamore Dew, and try to figure out how to make your situation better while screaming obscenities at the squirrels in your yard.
So, here are my Top Ten St. Patrick's Day songs, in reverse alphabetical order by last letter, followed by a playlist with all of the songs.
1. "Whiskey in the Jar" by Thin Lizzy.
You can't have a list involving Irish music without this traditional Irish folk song or without Ireland's greatest rockers (take that, Boomtown Rats!). "Whiskey in the Jar" is your classic timeless story of an Irish highwayman who is betrayed by his woman. Man, I've been there. It was a No. 1 hit in Ireland for 17 straight weeks in 1972 and a top ten hit on the UK charts a year later. If you are at any bar with me on St. Patrick's Day, you will hear this song many times. I will also be carrying a rapier, so watch out.
2. "Róisín Dubh (Black Rose): A Rock Legend" by Thin Lizzy.
From the Irish Gaelic title based on a Sixteenth Century Irish political song to the bombastic dueling lead guitars to the moment Phil Lynott's vocals kick in ("Tell me the legends of long ago . . .") to the Irish-influenced guitar break to the "yeeeeeeeep" during the guitar break to the post-guitar break moment when Lynott's vocal kick in again ("Oohhhhhhhh, tell me the legends of long ago . . .") and the following ode to all things Irish, from folklore to literature to music, this is an undying, Irish epic and one of my favorite Thin Lizzy songs.
3. "Drunken Lullabies" by Flogging Molly.
Along with Dropkick Murphys, Flogging Molly are the leaders of the modern Celtic punk genre (which is interesting, considering their lead singer, Dave King, was once the high-wailing singer of early '80s metal band Fastway). Anyway, this song is high-energy, fun as hell, and has been featured in St. Patrick's Day beer commercials (Killian's, I believe, which is interesting, considering Killian's isn't an Irish beer, kind of sucks, and is the reason Caffrey's is no longer imported into the U.S. Fuck you, Coors.). You really can't go wrong with any Flogging Molly song on St. Patrick's Day, but this one is especially appropriate.
4. "I'm Shipping Up to Boston" by Dropkick Murphys.
As I alluded to above, Boston-based Dropkick Murphys are Celtic punk leaders, and "I'm Shipping Up to Boston" -- which has been featured in The Departed, in Sam Adams commercials, at Red Sox games, and in Tilted Kilt commercials -- is their most famous song. It's a song that smacks of mischief and mayhem (and losing one's leg while climbing up the top sails), and arguably the most badass song to feature an accordion and banjo.
5. "Kiss Me I'm Shitfaced" by Dropkick Murphys.
The title says all you need to say on St. Patrick's Day when the girl of your dreams -- wearing a Kelly green t-shirt that says "Kiss Me I'm Chi-rish," one of those necklaces with a green shot glass on it, and a pair of shamrock-shaped sunglasses covering the glassiest green eyes this side of Galway -- stumbles into the bar at 3 p.m. Saturday, knocking into you as a result of the seven car bombs she had at the last bar. You must act quickly, though, before you both inevitably end up puking next to a dumpster on your respective walks home. She will become your version of the Slutty Pumpkin -- forever exalted and forever blurry.
6. "Alternative Ulster" by Stiff Little Fingers.
This is just a great, catchy punk song by Belfast-based Stiff Little Fingers. The opening riff has shades of Irish influences, before busting into a frenzied song -- written at the height of the IRA/Unionist violence -- encouraging the citizens of Ulster (that's Northern Ireland for those unfamiliar with Irish history) to bring about a positive change to the violence.
7. "Streams of Whiskey" by The Pogues.
A St. Patrick's Day list wouldn't be complete without Celtic punk pioneers The Pogues. This song seemed like a fitting one to include, since many of us plan on bathing ourselves in streams of whiskey on Saturday. And I'm just gonna put this out there: it's okay to drink Bushmills on St. Patrick's Day, even though it's a Protestant whiskey.
8. "The Way Young Lovers Do" by Van Morrison.
It was tough trying to pick a Van Morrison song for this list. "Brown-Eyed Girl" is too cliché, the entire Moondance album is great, but none of the songs seemed to fit with a St. Patrick's Day theme. Thus, I went with one of my favorites off of Astral Weeks, "The Way Young Lovers Do," since it's upbeat and generally all right, and it conjures images of Celtic pagan lovers dancing merrily -- and naked, of course -- around the dew-soaked grass of Hibernia, with sprites and small woodland creatures looking on giddily. I assume that's what you think of when you hear this song too. Oh come on, guys, I can't be the only one.
9. "Shamrocks and Shenanigans" by House of Pain.
Boom sha-lock lock boom! This song may not be the most lyrically or musically complex offering on this list, but its title does represent what St. Patrick's Day is all about (aside from banishing snakes).
10. "Sunday Bloody Sunday" by U2.
To combat the fun-loving, drinking-themed songs, one must only look as far as Ireland's most popular rockers to bring you back down to the intra-island strife that has plagued Ireland since Partition (and even before). "Sunday Bloody Sunday" has always been one of my favorite U2 songs. It's about the 1972 event in Derry, Northern Ireland, where British troops shot at unarmed civil rights marchers, killing 13 (interestingly, this is one of several "Bloody Sundays" throughout modern Irish history). I also added "I Will Follow" to the playlist, since I like that song, and it's not about innocent people dying.
Honorable mention: "Fool's Gold" by Thin Lizzy, "Emerald" by Thin Lizzy, "What's Left of The Flag" by Flogging Molly, "The Irish Washerwoman" by André Rieu, "Why Don't We Get Drunk and Screw" by Jimmy Buffett, "Alabama Song (Whisky Bar)" by The Doors, "Green Thoughts" by The Smithereens, "Ireland" by Garth Brooks, "Zombie" by The Cranberries, "The Sick Bed Of Cuchulainn" by The Pogues, "Nothing Compares 2 U" by Sinead O'Connor, "Red" by The Answer, "I Gotta Get Drunk" by Willie Nelson, "Here Comes The Night" by Them, "Party Til You Puke" by Andrew W.K., "Danny Boy" by Johnny Cash," "Whiskey Walk" by American Bang, "Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers" by Motörhead, "Whiskey In The Jar" by Metallica, "I Will Follow" by U2