1001 Songs Challenge,  1960s,  Music

1001 Songs Challenge #167: The Irish Rover (1965)

On 11 February 2019 I set myself the challenging of reading 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die by Robert Dimery (ed.) and following the book’s advice to the letter. I’ve previously read 1001 Films… and started 1001 Albums… but felt 1001 Songs… would be a sensible place to start for what I have in mind here.

My challenge is to read about one song per day and listen to it (YouTube and Spotify, I need you tonight!) before sharing my own thoughts. Some songs I will love, others I’ll hate, and I’m sure there will be those that leave me perplexed but listen to them I shall.

I’ll also try, and most likely fail, to pinpoint the best song from the 1001 on offer but I’m nothing if not foolhardy. Instead of one song, I’m predicting I’ll have about 100 favourites by the end and may have to resort to a Top 10 so far to maintain any semblance of sanity.

So long as I post everyday (including Christmas) then this challenge should come to an end on Wednesday 8 November 2021. Staying with the Barney Stinson theme I am hoping that the whole experience will prove to be…


The Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem – The Irish Rover (1965)

We leave the US behind today and make our first visit to Ireland for something different. For this visit we’ll be taking in a spot of the old Irish folk music. The Clancy Brothers – Patrick, Tom and Liam – are our artists today and, in particular, their early collaboration with Tommy Makem is our focus. Together, they would influence the likes of Bob Dylan, make Irish folk popular in the US and even help to revitalise the genre back in Ireland as well. Today, we need to prepare ourselves well, dear reader, for we’re about to set sail on The Irish Rover. If any of you get seasick, you might want to stay home.  

The Irish Rover is the name of a ship, a very special ship. In fact, this vessel is deep within the realms of fantasy with its twenty-seven masts and its ability to store millions of bags, barrels and bales of goods for its journey from Ireland to New York way back in 1806. A comical crew can be found aboard The Irish Rover, including “Johnny McGurk who was scared stiff of work” and “Slugger O’Toole who was drunk as a rule”. We hear about the crew, we learn about all the goods they are transporting but then it all takes a desperately dark turn. This gigantic vessel is not faring well crossing the Atlantic. It’s been seven years at sea (you’d think they’d have found the US by now) when a measle outbreak kills everyone but the narrator and the ship’s dog. Then the poor dog ends up thrown overboard and drowned leaving the narrator as the only survivor on the Irish Rover. I wonder how many more years he’ll be at sea. 

The Irish Rover is a song I may have heard years before but listening to it for this post stirred no memories. The Pogues recorded a version in the 1980s that did well in the charts so I may have encountered it at some point. What can one say about it though? It’s funny, ludicrous and tragic in equal measure. Did I mention catchy as hell? The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem cram a lot into the short length but not a second of this exquisite song is wasted. If anyone should invite me on a ship that is known as The Irish Rover, I think I will pass based on what goes on with this one.


Favourite songs so far:

Chuck Berry – Johnny B. Goode (1958)

Ritchie Valens – La Bamba (1958)

Eddie Cochran – Summertime Blues (1958)

The Everly Brothers – All I Have to Do Is Dream (1958)

Edith Piaf – Non, je ne regrette rien (1960)

Ben E. King – Stand By Me (1961)

Dionne Warwick – Walk On By (1964)

Sam Cooke – A Change Is Gonna Come (1964)

The Righteous Brothers – You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling (1964)

The Animals – House of the Rising Sun (1964)

My name is Dave and I live in Yorkshire in the north of England and have been here all my life. I hope you enjoy your visit to All is Ephemeral.

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