Instead of pinchin’ someone for not wearing green (and trying their luck), put ’em in the mood with this St. Paddy’s mixtape!
1. “Danny Boy”, The Rivieras (1964)
The Rivieras– one of America’s answers to The British Invasion– weren’t from the West Coast, but that didn’t stop the landlocked South Bend, Indiana, teen sensations from scoring a smash hit with their cover of Joe Jone’s “California Sun”. Equally raucous is their take on the Irish standard “Danny Boy.” There are a few seconds of feigned reverence before the roller rink organ and Chuck Berry guitar carry the song into the surf before running it aground and leaving the scene.
2. “Teenage Kicks”, The Undertones (1978)
From Derry, Northern Ireland, the Platonic paean to unrequired love and youthful naiveite, a song so perfect that all-time tastemaker DJ John Peel played the song twice in a row on his show, a mega-sin in the world of radio. When was the last time you were moved to break the law? Teenage dreams are hard to beat, indeed.
3. “Don’t Look Back”, Them (1965)
Belfast’s Them gave us Van Morrison and “Gloria,” a three-chord Rosetta stone for pub rockers like Eddie and the Hot Rods and punk royalty like Patti Smith, who found in the song brimstone and deliverance when she and her band melded it to her own “Oath”. But Them’s most devasting cut is a cover of John Lee Hooker’s “Don’t Look Back”. What should be a mantra of resilience reveals itself as an admission of resignation and defeat. Peter Braden’s piano– forlorn and chillingly precise– makes it impossible for us to think of anything other than yesterday. If there is a future, it’s not the one we’d set our hearts on.
4. “Alternative Ulster”, Stiff Little Fingers (1978)
Released the same day– October 17, 1978, a most wonderous day in Christendom– as The Undertones’ “Teenage Kicks,” Stiff Little Finger’s second single dismisses the charms of small-town living and instead documents the claustrophobia and is-this-all-there-is tedium of a childhood spent in culturally-deprived suburbia. The perfect protest song call to action: If you’re bored, write a song about it.
5. “In Your Town”, Rory Gallagher (1971)
Guitarists as diverse and vital as Brian May, Johnny Marr, and Slash cite Rory Gallagher as a formative figure, yet the Ballyshannon guitarist remains an underrated and undermentioned figure in rock and roll’s history. Duece, released on the heels of his 1971 debut, is both raging and melodic, reaching its most threatening moment here, where the just-released speaker has returned to town and wants a word with the chief of police, the fire chief, and the DA. The punchline– he has learned nothing.