I first heard the Pogues sitting on a bed in the small bedroom of a friend of a friend. I don’t know who’s cassette it was but I know how it made me feel. It made me feel like coming home.
I was a strange boy and one of the things that made me strange was my taste in music. I was a teenager in the eighties, but I hate most of what I heard. I liked punk, but was really too young to have caught that wave, I enjoyed the tail end of the Stranglers, but not much actually. My secret passion was for folk music, which I encountered first of all in Simon and Garfunkel’s greatest hits – an album my sister had bought my Dad but which I played. From there I (with the help of Robin of Sherwood) I found Clannad and a heap of Irish music.
But I had a problem with folk. Here were tunes with choruses and calls and return that begged participation. But here too where singers like Ewan McColl, who were so damn precious about being in tune. I’d been a choirboy when I had first started at secondary school, but when my voice broke it seemed I lost all ability to sing in tune. Folk which was full of fun (and sad) song felt so exclusionary. Reserved only per perfect voices, not for folk like me.
But here was Shane, a “face” of the London Punk scene, bringing a punk sensibility to folk music. Here was Spider Stacy, who could play an instrument banging a tin pub tray on his head. I don’t know who there were at the time, of course but the music spoke to me, off stretched magnetic tape and through crappy beatbox speakers. Here were people inviting me and my friends to join in.
Todays offering is, in honour of that Damascene bedroom, a punkish version of the song, and an early one it seems. No Use for a Name were a Californian punk band, here with Cinder Block of Tilt, providing the female part. Released in 1996, its one of the first covers – beaten only by Christy Moore and another (German, industrial) band called Tilt!* As such I am calling it now. These three – Moore, Tilt! and No Use for a Name – were bands that loved the Pogues and this song, before “normal people” claimed to love it.
*EDIT 23/12/20 Actually I think this is the same Tilt that Cinder Block is from.