Monday, May 12, 2008

I take delight in the juice of the barley

So a few days ago my coworkers and I were in a self-styled "Irish" pub in New York, listening to standard-issue bar rock, when a song came over the speakers that I realized was the first legitimately Irish tune I'd heard in the place. I couldn't place the melody for a few days (It was modern instrumentation, made into pretty much just another rock song), but I finally realized it was the traditional tune "Whiskey in the Jar."

I've got a couple copies of the song in my collection; the one I've listened to most was recorded by Roger McGuinn and Tommy Makem. But here's a traditional version performed by the Dubliners.

Of course, that's not the first version I found online. That's this more modern version by Metallica, proving that the song still entertains. This version is much harder-driving, and I like it quite a bit. (The video is heavy-metal drunken-girl-party, complete with some pixelated toplessness and a slo-mo pillowfight for one scene. This might either enhance or detract from your viewing experience, but the song's worth a listen either way.)

Some of the lyrics have changed (the girl in the song is Jenny, traditionally -- but Metallica goes with Molly, and I think the Thin Lizzy arrangement they modeled their song on goes with Molly too), and in one instance, I like Metallica's (and Thin Lizzy's) quite a bit. The original ends with:

Now some men take delight in the drinking and the roving,
But others take delight in the gambling and the smoking.
But I take delight in the juice of the barley,
And courting pretty fair maids in the morning bright and early

Which is cool, and on-topic. But I can't help liking:

Now some men like the fishin', but some men like the fowlin'
Some men like to hear, to hear the cannonballs a-roarin'
But me, I like sleepin', `specially in my Molly's chamber
But here I am in prison, here I am with a ball and chain, yeah

(Huntin', fishin', fightin' and sleepin'? It's like I never left work.)

An aside: Years ago, we were at a friend's wedding reception--a dry one because it was held in the community area of a church. And yet, there was dancing, and in my experience dance floors rarely reach capacity without a little help from John Barleycorn. So, having brought a bottle with us (but not into the church), we would ever so often sneak out for a nip, singing, "whack for the daddy-o, there's whiskey in the car."

Anyway, whatever the lyrics, I'm impressed that the song still entertains so many different audiences.

Got another opportunity to hear it this weekend at the Phoenixville Celtic Street Fair with friends Jay & Nicole. (Jay took the picture of the pipers I've posted here.) The Bogside Rogues played a terrific, energetic version of it (their whole set was a lot of fun), and I got to drink some Smithwicks as well. Nothing wrong with that.



Randy Jackson said...

Oh, I quite like this song.

Rob S. said...

I'd known it for a long time, but I'd never head the Metallica version. I'm really enjoying it.

Figserello said...

Hiya Rob

Always great to hear a shout out for 'Philo' as we call Phil Lynott in Ireland.

Although its a great old song, I think it was Philo who really made it his own. It was way out of left field for a heavy Rock band to cover an old folk song like this at the time. Lynott was very proud of his Irishness and it was great that he was able to bring this song to the world stage like this.

I'd say the Metallica version was a tribute to Thin Lizzy as much as anything. I'd say people who know their Metal would still find a lot to admire in Thin Lizzy and they were there in the first generation of Metal rockers.

Here's another song - from Lynott solo this time. Maybe you've heard it before? Its a tribute to his dear old Dublin. Hope you enjoy it.

Figserello said...

Oh, and my favourite difference betweeen the Dubliner's version and the Lizzy version is that the Dubliners say 'Devil take ALL women, coz you know she tricked me easy", whereas the Lizzy version says "Devil take THAT woman...."

Philo's is just a tad less mysogynistic.

He's sadly missed still...