Tonight (March 17th) on the world famous Classic Album at Midnight on Radio Nova we’re playing The Pogues’ Rum, Sodomy & the Lash.
The album is presented in full with no commercials or interruptions.
Assembled from members of London’s late 1970s punk scene, The Pogues first gained attention playing support to The Clash in 1984, releasing their debut album Red Roses for Me in October of that year.
Elvis Costello was impressed by The Pogues’ debut and offered to produce a couple of songs from their follow-up. Ultimately he would produce the whole album. Costello described his task in producing as The Pogues as being “to capture them in their dilapidated glory before some more professional producer fucked them up.” Costello recorded the band live where possible in order to capture the spirit of their rowdy shows.
At this point The Pogues consisted of Shane MacGowan (vocals), Spider Stacy (tin whistle), James Fearnley (accordion), Jem Finer (banjo), Cait O’Riordan (bass), Andrew Ranken (drums) and Philip Chevron.
Taking its title from a Churchill quote – “Don’t talk to me about naval tradition. It’s nothing but rum, sodomy, and the lash.” – the album sees The Pogues continue the mashup of Irish folk music and punk they had developed on their debut. Along with MacGowan’s original compositions, the album sees the band cover several Irish and English traditional songs. The MacGowan song A Pair of Brown Eyes utilises the melody from the Irish folk song Wild Mountain Thyme.
In its original release, Rum, Sodomy & the Lash features 12 tracks. On Side A are The Sick Bed of Cúchulainn; The Old Main Drag; The Wild Cats of Kilkenny; I’m a Man You Don’t Meet Every Day; A Pair of Brown Eyes; and Sally MacLennane. On Side B are Dirty Old Town; Jesse James; Navigator; Billy’s Bones; The Gentleman Soldier; and And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda.
Released on August 5th, 1985, Rum, Sodomy & the Lash peaked at number 13 on the UK album chart, selling over 100,000 copies and turning gold. Dirty Old Town and A Pair of Brown Eyes were released as singles but failed to make much impact. They would become two of The Pogues’ most iconic songs however. Named after a type of stout, Sally MacLennane reached number 54 in the UK.
Critics were highly positive of the album. Sounds called it “the finest slice of story-telling your heart could wish for” while NME pronounced it a “brilliant example of a band using its resources in an imaginative manner.” The Village Voice said that “MacGowan can roll out bitter blarney with the best of his role models.”
Rolling Stone ranks Rum, Sodomy & the Lash at number 440 on its 2012 list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. Pitchfork placed it at number 67 on a list of the 100 greatest albums of the 1980s.
What better way to end Paddy’s Day than listening to Rum, Sodomy and the Lash in full at midnight on Radio Nova?