"Top Five" St. Patrick’s Day songs


What’s better than the debauchery and carefree recklessness of Spring Break to interrupt the monotony and stress of a busy semester? How about stacking on top of it our nation’s only true drinking holiday? Don’t let the thin veil of Irish heritage and kitschy, cliché  catch phrases like “kiss me, I’m Irish” fool you; St. Patrick’s Day is Lady Liberty’s way of saying “go ahead, make a fool out of yourself; you can always apologize later to your friends for befouling their bathmat and sleeping naked on their couch.” March 17 is St. Patrick’s Day, and to help ring it in properly, here’s a soundtrack that might aid in the digestion of food-coloring enhanced beer and add some more good cheer to that late-night Guinness toast.

“Alternative Ulster” – Stiff Little Fingers
Political, situational and social angst have been driving forces behind punk music since its inception. But while many bands turned their anger into a fresh, bombastic sound and style, few exploded on the scene like this Belfast band. Coming of age during a state of complete upheaval and discontent in Northern Ireland, Stiff Little Fingers has an authenticity to its music that is unrivaled by many of its British and American counterparts. This song gets into listeners’ faces unapologetically while it speaks less of a violent overthrow and more about making a positive change. No matter though, it sounds great at a high volume while force-feeding yourself Irish Car Bombs. Just don’t let the irony ruin your buzz.

“If I Should Fall From Grace With God” – The Pogues
When The Pogues formed in 1982 in Northern London, it was originally known as Pogue Mahone, a rough English translation of an Irish phrase that means “kiss my arse.” Frontman and noted drunk Shane McGowan met future Pogues tin whistle player Peter “Spider” Stacy at a Ramones gig in England in 1977 – a meeting that would prove to be very explanatory of the future sound of The Pogues. Combining elements of punk, jazz and traditional Irish music, The Pogues released eight albums that would influence and open the door for “Celtic punk” bands like Dropkick Murphys, Flogging Molly and Black 47. When McGowan sings “If I should fall from grace with God/ Where no doctor can relieve me/ If I’m buried ‘neath the sod/ But the angels won’t receive me/ Let me go, boys/ Let me go down in the mud/ Where the rivers all run dry,” it is beautiful, drunken poetry.

“The Boys on the Docks (Murphys’ Pub Version)” – Dropkick Murphys
There are definitely some similarities between the Americanization and commercialization of St. Patrick’s Day and Dropkick Murphys, but they’ve still managed to crank out a few good tunes in between writing bad songs for the Red Sox. Formed in the mid-‘90s in a very blue-collar Irish section of South Boston, these guys lived at ground zero of St. Patrick’s Day festivities in America and were inundated with their share of Irish folklore and stories of hardships faced by immigrants. This song in particular is about bassist/vocalist Ken Casey’s grandfather, a union worker in the early 20th century. The lyrics “The boys on the docks needed John for sure/ When they came to this country he opened the door/ He said ‘men I’ll tell ya, they don’t like our kind/ Though it starts with a fist it must end with your mind,’” tell a tale worthy of raising your glass to.

“Whiskey In The Jar” – The Dubliners
OK, there had to be one traditional Irish song on the list, and here it is. There are roughly 426,825 versions of this song, but this is the best one. You might have heard covers by Thin Lizzy or Metallica, but there’s an unspoken rule about putting a post-1989 Metallica song on any kind of “best of” list and this isn’t by any means Thin Lizzy’s best song. Passed down loosely from non-specific Irish lore, the song tells a tale of a highwayman who was betrayed by his love, then robbed a government official and is dreaming of the good life while imprisoned. Hmm, sounds like every American country song that was recorded before 1980. Nonetheless, it’s likely you will hear this one in some way, shape or form if you’re taking part in live music festivities on St. Patrick’s Day.

“Pints of Guinness Make You Strong” – Against Me!
Doesn’t the title of the song say it all? Though Against Me! is far from being an Irish band (the members are actually from Florida), it’s hard to imagine a better St. Patrick’s Day song for the non-traditionalist. It’s perfect for those who have the “I’m Irish for a day so long as that entitles me to get embarrassingly drunk” attitude. The song is actually a story about sadness, pain and loss, but who needs all that baggage? Just throw a few back, dial this one up on the jukebox and scream out the part that goes “Just like James I’ll be drinking Irish tonight/ The memory of this last work week will be gone forever.” Drink responsibly, or at least get a cab.

Compiled by Jason Yurgartis.