March 17 seems to be about the only date on the calendar when most Americans give a thought to Ireland or its music. The only problem with American bars, pubs and associated purveyors of green beer is the mind-numbing conformity of the trending musical choices chosen to celebrate the Emerald Isle and St. Paddy’s banishment of the snakes. It is worth noting that many other songs pertaining to Ireland offers convincing evidence that the snakes in question were not all successfully banished.
Give Ireland Back to the Irish: Paul McCartney and Wings
Bono can claim all the wants that “Sunday, Bloody Sunday” is not a rebel song, but anyone with even the barest knowledge of Irish history knows better. Give credit to Paul McCartney for being more honest and forthright than the singer of U2. “Give Ireland Back to the Irish” was inspired by events which took place just two days earlier in which British police opened fire on Irish protesters. The single was actually the first put out by McCartney’s post-Beatles band Wings and, not surprisingly, it was immediately banned by the BBC.
Armalite Rifle: Gang of Four
As usual, Gang of Four take a much more subtle approach to the issue of the snakes in Ireland that St. Patrick’s Day music is not about celebrating. In fact, you could listen to “Armalite Rifle” and get so caught up in its brilliantly catchy combination of martial drumming and upbeat pop song styling that you completely overlook the lyrical timebombs about how the title weapon is used against British citizens just like Irish jokes on the BBC.
Zombie: The Cranberries
When trending music news hits on zombies, Irish history, and Easter Rising or the Easter Rebellion, it’s always a shock to see the band responsible for “Linger” come up. Some critics fault “Zombie” for treading too closely to opposite side of subtlety tracks occupied by Gang of Four: the song is perhaps too infelicitous a commentary upon “the Troubles” straining the relationship between Ireland and England. Perhaps, but the chance to hear the Cranberries do something edgier than normal may be worth the dual-edged blade of subtlety that still somehow successfully manages to relate in human terms a story of those snakes in Ireland possessing an accent quite distinguishable from the natives.
Alternative Ulster: Stiff Little Fingers
Not just a great punk Irish song nor a great punk song about Ireland, but a great punk song period. One of the all-time great punk songs. From a punk band from Ireland. Belfast in Northern Ireland, to be specific. If you can listen to “Alternative Ulster” without wanting to punch the face of some drunk orange-haired idiot holding a mug of green beer shouting “Happy St. Paddy’s Day” at the top of his voice in a distinctly American accent, then you just may be one of those snakes that St. Patrick failed to scare away from the Irish countryside.