A satiric/comic song selection of modern Ireland, ed. Fintan Vallely
A collection of comic and satirical lyrics that comment on some of the inconsistencies and absurdities that mark Irish society’s transition from the past to the future. The style is long-established and reaches back to the Gaelic bard’s role in early-millennium social structures on this island. Each tale carries a moral, but humour is the vehicle that dispenses it with an ease that renders it both visible and invisible: the observer has the space to 23 their own choices.
This kind of song/verse is long-established in Ireland. Satiric song is a mildly-admonishing device of Irish literature, comic observation and ridicule are part of everyday conversation. These songs comment on perfectly obvious everyday things, they say things that are as rigorously accurate as the news bulletins and newspapers that they were culled from,.. The twist is in the approach, the addition of the fantastic and the surreal. Drama is invoked to drive home the message. But just as important as the songs is the accompanying text. The introductory essays stand on their own as a complementary area of observation and render their associated lyrics all the richer, making this book not just a mere songbook, but a solid comic test that is in a continuum with Breandán O hEithir’s Begrudger’s Guide to Irish Politics, Myles na Gopaleen. Sex, National politics, Drink, Fast Food, Traditional music, Religion, Recreation, Agriculture, the Weather – all are analysed herein through he medium of the direct slag, the obtuse dig, the dry remark.
Sing Up! Song Contents
THE ARAB ORANGE LODGE – Crawford Howard’s fantasy concerning the consequences of exporting the L.O.L. to Damascus.
THE BALDY SONG – On the plight and restorative antics of men who can’t handle baldness.
BANG BANG’S DAY – Blow by blow saga of the exciting scenes surrounding Evelyn Glenholmes’s release from court in the late 80s Dublin.
BEAUTY SPOT GLANLEA – Patsy Cronin’s imaginary journey around the world, based on reading newspapers and atlases.
THE BALLAD OF BINDER TWINE – Micheál Marrinan’s verbal extrusions on what to do with the EC Twine mountain.
THE BALLAD OF RANGY RIBS – Dungiven bard Brian McGuinness’s exhaustive dissertation on the colourful life of an unkempt, unbiddable, unwanted bullock.
THE BALLAD OF THE TEETH – Tale of how he lost them to the desires of a jackdaw, and then got them back
THE BODHRÁN SONG – Tim Lyon’s tale of the fate of a German tourist who went trying to make his own bodhrán.
THE BUFFALO FARM IN ACHILTIEBUIE – Andy Mitchell’s nightmare about Scottish Highlands development after overhearing a pub discussion on EC grant-aid for bison farming.
CHARLES THE NAVIGATOR – Charlie Haughey’s conquest of the Mizzen head by yacht.
THE CITY OF MULLINGAR – A 19th century hedgeschool master style eulogy on that most gorgeous of Irish cities.
CONFESSIONS OF A BODHRÁN PLAYER – Observations on the contradictions and absurdities with which the vegetarian bodhrán player must grapple.
THE DAFFODIL MAN FROM KILTYBANE – Jim McAllister’s effusions on an innocent who happened to suggest something so effete as flowers to a Crossmaglen publican.
THE DENTIST FROM FIVEMILETOWN – Hugh Collin’s tale of oral torture in the rare ould times.
THE DONERAILE LITANY – Patrick O’Kelly’s curse on the miserable hoors of Doneraile who robbed the watch he had got from a British monarch.
DRUMSNOT, BEAUTY SPOT*** – Briain O’Rourke’s satire on the beauty spot industry.
DUNNE(S) STOR(I)ES BEATS THEM ALL – On Ben Dunne being caught with no pants, off his head and on cocaine in Miami.
THE E(?)C SONG – Tim Lyons’ denunciation of the evils of the EC and its effect on the drinking public.
THE ERRANT APPRENTICE – Bill Watkins’ internal-rhyme tale of how a soldier lad had his eye wiped by the publican’s daughter.
THE FAST-FOOD SONG – Tim Lyons’ excoriation of fast food burgers and trashy eating.
THE FENIAN RECORD PLAYER – Crawford Howard’s updating of The Ould Orange Flute into the age of electro-mechanical technology.
THE FOODAHOLIC – Crawford Howard at it again, on compulsive eating and its result.
THE FREE STATE ADJUDICATOR – Joe Mulhearn’s satire on public humiliation dealt out to the Ulster song tradition by a Fleadh apparatchik.
THE GUBU SONG – Mickey McConnell’s brilliant parody on politicians’ gobbledygook.
THE GENESIS SONG – How sex was invented, and the background to clerical celibacy.
THE GLASGOW COURTSHIP – Adam MacNaughton’s parody on the grand hedge-schoolmaster song evocations of the early 19th century.
THE GOAT’S REPLY – Fred McCormick’s words in the mouth of the sibling of Brian O’Rourke’s goat: this one has no notion of being humiliated.
GOOD LUCK TO YOU, MR. GORSKY! – Weird sex intrigue behind the scenes of the first flight to the Moon.
THE GRISLY MURDER OF JOE FRAWLEY – Tim Lyon’s tale of drink, love, revenge, grisly murder and prison in a fantasy gombeen land.
HEY RONNIE REAGAN! – John Maguire brilliantly becomes all of Ireland’s marginalia and tells the big man to get stuffed.
HO CHARLIUM – The course of the 1990 Presidential election seen as a horse race at the Phoenix Park.
INVITATION TO A FUNERAL – The Finnegan’s wake theme – the corpse doesn’t turn up, but the crack is good, and rows and fights reduce the party to patheticism.
THE IRISH JUBILEE – A post-famine food-hallucination of over-eating set in Irish America.
The JOHNNIES SONG – How the Gardai set about shutting down the dreaded Well Woman She-been.
LEITRIM IS A VERY FUNNY PLACE – How the natives of Ballinamore dared to refuse to talk to RTÉ in the heat of crisis.
LITANY OF A BIG EGO – And how RTÉ broadcasters used feel obliged to be important and exclusive in the days when their employer was important because it was exclusive.
THE MAN FROM DEL MONTE – Scorching cynicism from the sadistic quill of master-bard Deaglán Talúin.
THE MICE AT IT AGAIN – Sean Corcoran’s collected woes about the proliferation of mice in the days before Dak and poison.
MICK SULLIVAN’S CLOCK – The Clock packs it in, goes on tour and is beaten to death.
THE MILTOWN COCKROACH – Con Fada Ó Drisceoil’s fate at the fangs and venoms of beasts of the night in a tent.
THE MISSING MISSUS MYSTERY – How Mrs. Runcie never appeared on the TV when the Bishop went to Rome for the early stages of an Anglo-Roman cease-fire agreement.
THE MOVING STATUES MOVEMENT – The only economic growth of the 1980s – when even the statues got sick of the rain.
THE NAMES OF TUNES SONG – Michael Scanlon parades a significant repertoire as seamless medley to the tune of The Swallow’s Tail.
NELL FLAHERTY’S DRAKE – Spectacular curses over the theft of a prized bird.
THE NIGHT THEY RAIDED OWENY’S – Finbar Boyle’s satire on the Gardaí for daring to close down a famed topers’ emporium in Dundalk.
THE NIGHT-CLUBBING SONG – Mícheál Marrinan’s jaunt to the big smoke to taste a bit of the high-life and late-drinking fashionable in 80s Dublin.
ON THOSE WHO STOLE OUR CAT, A CURSE – wished venomously by Michael Hartnett in the spirit of Doneraile, Carey and Nell Flaherty.
OOR HAMLET – Adam McNaughtan tells the story as it has never been told, set to music.
THE ORDNANCE SURVEY MAN – Deaglán Talúin’s Herculean assessment of the mundane life of a mere civil servant who is fond of a bit of music.
PADDY’S LAMENT – The fight-back against the ‘Paddy’ syndrome in industrial England.
PADDY’S PANACEA – Sophisticated, late 19th century ramble extolling the efficacy of the pure drop.
PANAMANIA – George (senior) Bush’s desperate stab at fame after Mikhail Gorbachev had stolen the limelight.
THE PAPISH GOAT – How a Fenian hoofer was kidnapped and irreversibly transubstantiated into percussion.
THE PEELER AND THE GOAT – Darby Ryan’s 1830s scathing satire on the Peelerhood who had wronged him.
THE POOL SONG – Con Fada Ó Drisceoil denounces the shapeless louts and loussies who spend their lives hooped over green tables playing with their balls.
THE QUILTY TURTLE – Ciarán Ó Drisceoil’s fantasy about a beast which somehow got from the Caribbean to Clare and into a row.
RESURRECTION ROMP – How it really happened – intrigue, Jesus, Peter, drink, money and the music scene.
RIGGED OUT – Famine years souls-for-clothes trade-off tale.
ROUND THE MICKEY DAM – The Derry emigrant navvy in 19th century Glasgow extols the merits of a good breakfast.
THE RONALD REGAN BAR – Why Ronnie came to visit Ballyporeen.
ROUND THE MICKEY DAM – Fightin’ Irish again: in defence of victimisation, Paddy takes the initiative.
SAFFRON AND WINE – Miltown Malbay’s tough team which couldn’t be matched by the matchmakers.
THE SEALINK SONG – Discourse on the somewhat absurdity of the Ferryboat evacuation Mayday messages.
THE SHADES OF ASHGROVE – Darby Ryan in exceptional Anglo- Hibernic (satirical?) verbosity in praise of his local stream.
SKIN THE GOAT’S CURSE ON CAREY – The famous Dublin cabman reeks verbal revenge on the first supergrass.
SOLID STALLION SPANKER – Eoghan Ruadh O’Súilleabháin’s alliterative ad for the sale of his horse.
THE STUDIO SONG (P XXX) – Paranoia strikes broadcasters once there’s a change in the weather.
SWEET BALTRAY – Bitterly-derisive tale of a wedding feast for a couple who do not enjoy the scribe’s affections.
THE TRANSIT VAN – Sean Mone on the life and times of a border smuggler who took his inspiration from Margaret Thatcher.
THE TRIP TO FEAKLE – Deaglán Talúin’s surreal account of an innocent music trip to Co. Clare by naive natives of Coolea.
YOUR PLACE OR MINE? – Briain O’Rourke’s campaign-tale of the short-lived Gold rush in Co. Mayo.
BOOTLEGGING BOGLE – Sheila Miller lashes out at the folk-pop song pirates of folk club Scotland.
THE WATERFORD BOYS – The rat trade, the landlord and a smart customer.
THE WEATHER SONG – Classic moan by Tim Lyons about the worst summer in decades
WEE WHITE TURBAN – Mulhearn’s seething parody on The Broad Black Brimmer.
WHEN I GROW UP – Briain O’Rourke’s other life as a kid madly wanting nothing more from life than to be beaten.
WHEN THE ESB CAME TO COOLEA – How the ‘electric’ came to Coolea, West Cork.
WILLIE MAC BRIDE: THE REVENGE – Crawford Howard’s revenge on the pub-lounge lizard’s most popular request.
Song notes to the songs in the book which appear on the Schitheredee album Big Guns and Hairy Drums by Tim Lyons and Fintan Vallely
1/ The Bodhrán Song.
With the international fashion of Folk musics the bodhrán has multiplied in geometric progression as a symbol of instant access to music-making. It has reached nonsense proportions in the Irish Fleadh Cheoil and English Folk Festival scene where a melody instrument may well start off the music, but the percussion swells in and eventually becomes an end in itself. Ever aware of this scenario all round him the whole summer long, Tim tells the original yarn about the bodhrán in song in which he vilifies the ‘typical’ tourist as German (it used be American) but lets the goat get away. Sensibly enough he robbed The Cuckoo’s Nest to lay his tonic eggs in – to eliminate the possibility of any German ever learning the song.
2/ Song of The Teeth.
Martin O’Malley from Miltown Malbay in West Glare is an outstanding patron and enjoyer of traditional music and Song. A farmer. the only thing which interferes with his hay making is the cursed Willy Clancy Summer school in the first week of July. On the one sunny day of 1985 while at the hay he set his teeth on the wall for a rest after dinner, and a jackdaw robbed them. Two years later a neighbour (called Crowe) found them, So Martin coined the immortal words: “Robbed by a jackdaw, brought back by a Crow”, and the song gushed forth.
3/ The Fast-food Song.
To a traditional air, this is about the Fast Food industry which is fattening the Western Hemisphere and will eventually kill it off, a result of Tim being half poisoned by a half-thawed, botulism-ridden alleged burger he foolishly once bought on the side of the street at the Willy Clancy Week one year.
4/ Dunne’s story beats them all.
“DUNNES’ STORES BETTER VALUE BEATS THEM ALL” used be the famous slogan of Ireland’s most competitive cut-price supermarket which specialises in selling the fastest-moving items at the lowest prices. Its millionaire proprietor, young Ben Dunne, while on an alleged golfing trip to Miami O.D.’d on cocaine and was arrested after going off his rocker in the company of a woman from an escort agency. Later on he appeased the Catholic hierarchy by joining in the Irish supermarket blockade against selling condoms.
5/ Jake the Sniffer.
The police will stoop to any level to wipe out drugs, even corrupt innocent dogs by getting them hooked so that they will do anything to get a sniff. Tim was taken by the tale of this beast, one Jake, who was once kidnapped for interrogation by the drug barons.
6/ Charles the Navigator
One morning in 1985 the yacht of Charles J. Haughey crash-landed on the Mizen Head off Co. Cork as he was rushing home to eventual accountability for his expensive lifestyle. The Mizzen’s lighthouse keeper counselled the survivors by torch light, and the Party faithful flocked to Baltimore to witness their boss being winched ashore and dried out on the pier – all timed perfectly to get the Sunday one O’clock news. The ‘taypot’ is the one Charles gave away to Maggie Maggie Maggie (leaving a lonely gap in a set in the National Museum) and the `sickening crunch’ is his own description of the docking.
7/ The Weather
Tim wrote this opus in desperation at the bad summer of 1985 which caused a National gloom both that year and the one Slier. The bad Weather must be held accountable too for Gay Byrne depressing the half of the country about the joys of working in America and Australia thereby creating an emigration crisis among people foolish enough to take him seriously The exodus makes the famine years look like a bomb- scare, and he didn’t go himself in the end, now trying to convince us to become millionaires).
8/ The Sun-worshipper Song.
There is a pool of water in the North pole ice a mile across. There is a hole in the ozone layer which if it doesn’t incinerate us all will drown us in melted icebergs. Steps were taken some years ago to limit the substances which were causing all this, while at the same time the price of cars has been kept down to make sure that none of it will work. The song explores the contradictions involved with those who fetishise the colour of the body.
9/ Resurrection Romp
The apostles, as everybody knows, were heavily into Irish music and they liked a couple of drinks of a weekend – especially with a Bank Holiday coming up. Christy Moore told Fintan this story in joke form one Good Friday in Maisie Friel’s of Miltown Malbay as all were breaking the law for pleasure. Fintan wrote it as a commission for RTÉ’s ‘Sunday show’ at Easter, 1990. Producer Noel CoughIan wasn’t pleased, nor was presenter Andy O’Mahoney: their show was a “family” one, so it was censored out.
10/ The E?EC Song
The 1969 EEC elections were celebrated by people all over Ireland killing each other to get to blazes out and find a good job in Brussels. Tim doesn’t agree with all this rot and sets out in detail the cashed hopes. false promises. ruined economy. automated pubs and other awfulness that have been the result of Ireland’s joining up in ’71.
11/ The Well Woman Song
Prior to `83 contraception was illegal in Ireland. This led to unwanted pregnancies, large families, single mothers – and to abortion in England. A group of impeccably moral citizens in 1983 initiated ‘The Referendum” to prevent women making such decisions, and then the law eased so one could get condoms – but only from a doctor (if you planned busy sex-life it would be cheaper to emigrate). Since the Well Woman clinic respected the woman’s right to choose, and, furthermore, was liberally interpreting the law by giving out condoms free, in return for a small voluntary donation, ‘The Referendum” crowd put pressure on the Gardaí to prosecute. A lad was sent to the clinic to purchase a condom which became `Exhibit A’, and long after the things had been made legal the clinic was fined £50 for their dastardly crime.
12/ The Price of the Pig.
A tale of hard times when the innocent lad in a strange town is beguiled by the charms of a smart woman and ends up penniless. A gem of a traditional piece to the air of the jig Tatter jack Walsh.
13/ Mwilly Mmride
Australian Eric Bogle’s wonderful 1970s Green Fields of France details the pointlessness of World War 1 slaughter, addressing an unknown soldier, Willie MacBride. The Fureys topped the charts with it, lodging it in everybody’s sentiment file, everywhere that English is spoken. Anyone suspected of being able to sing is constantly terrorised by unknown civilians with requests to “do Willie MacBride”. Finally Crawford Howard from Belfast obliged, in parody. This is Fintan’s adaptation of Crawford’s rather brilliant, original idea.
14/ Confessions of a Bodhrán Player
This addresses the New-agey type of player of the modern Irish skin drum who mistakenly believes that this the oldest thing around, and, conveniently, also perceives it as easy to play as stamping your foot. Neither is true, and so bodhrán players continue to take the brunt of the jokes inside Traditional music.
15/ The Grisly Murder of Joe Frawley
The grocer-cum-publican is common enough in rural anywhere. Joe Frawley had such an emporium, and was a politician too. Ever since Irish women took to the pub after the epidemic of addiction to Dallas where every sentence used a drink as punctuation, music came to be provided as entertainment, sometimes the native stuff, more likely a cocktail of Country and pop. Often, to save expense, local Trad musicians would be recruited, and called a ‘session’. Substances other than alcohol would be consumed too, and Tim’s parody on the classic ‘murder’ ballad romantically unfolds. The ‘holy hour’ was the now-obsolete dinner-hour during which Dublin pubs were closed to give unionised bar-staff a break.
16/ The Moving Statues Movement
In 1985, in twenty-six places around Ireland, previously content and immobile statues of stone, plaster and reinforced concrete began to move – wink, weep, bleed, sigh, talk and even light up. The thing caught on like good scandal and became the only growth industry of the 1980s. Nell McCafferty pondered the curious fact that the statues only moved in the 26 Counties (Fintan’s theory is that the ones in the Six Cos. were afraid to move). It was all brought on by all the talk and referenda on divorce and contraception; the air is that of the 1960s Civil Rights anthem.