With the recent Flatlander’s Beer Festival and the calendar about to bring us the annual gift of Oktoberfest, naturally a (not so) young man’s thoughts turn to booze. Fall is a fine time to be a fan of libation, sipping a craft beer while taking in the autumnal foliage or sharing a scotch with your brethren. And while some of you may be spilling tears in your beer over the closing of Wise Guys on campus, take comfort in the fact that Degrees Restaurant will eventually reopen and they serve Half Pints on tap. To wet your whistle, this edition of “Essentially a Playlist” serves up ten shots of drinking songs.
The Hold Steady — “Stuck Between Stations” [from Boys And Girls In America]
They’ve been called America’s greatest bar band, and having witnessed their energetic live set after imbibing myself, I’m inclined to agree. Boys And Girls In America is a fantastic song-cycle about youth, optimism, booze and drugs — frankly I could have chosen any song from the album, but this anthem with its final stanza serves as the epitaph to drinkers everywhere: “We drink / we dry up / we crumble to dust.”
Violent Femmes — “Don’t Start Me On The Liquor” [from New Times]
This is what the old folks call a “cautionary tale.” Gordon Gano describes a man who drinks to love but really throws ‘em back to hate and bemoans lost thought and lost years before closing with an impassioned — and far too late — plea not to start him on the liquor.
Snoop Doggy Dog — “Gin and Juice” [from Doggystyle]
I was taken aback to realize that this anthem to getting your drink on was released seventeen freaking years ago! Meaning there may be some U1 students walking around this campus who are actually younger than this song. Do kids even drink gin and juice anymore or are they too busy i-dosing [writers note: apparently kids are getting high listening to mp3s . . . ]?
Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee — “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer” [from Backwater Blues]
While nothing by this duo can match their masterpiece Sonny & Brownie, Backwater Blues has some great moments, including this tribute to the holy trinity of blues booze, which many people think John Lee Hooker wrote. While this was one of his signature tunes, Hooker wasn’t the composer — it was Louisianan Rudy Toombs who wrote the song, as well as “Thinking and Drinking” and “One Mint Julep.” The man could write a drinking song, so be sure to raise your glass to Rudy.
Kris Kristofferson — “From the Bottle to the Bottom” [from Full Moon]
Another cautionary tale — this one from a man who is likely known to more readers for his role as Whistler in the Blade movie series than for his lengthy songwriting career. But Kristofferson is a fantastic singer-songwriter and here he paints a vivid portrait of a man whose life has been hollowed out by the departure of his lover and an attempt to fill that void with alcohol. “If happiness is empty rooms / and drinkin’ in the afternoon / well I suppose I’m happy as a clam.”
Dean Martin — “Mr. Booze” [from Everybody Loves Somebody: The Reprise Years 1962-1966]
When you’re this booze, they call you mister. Seriously, how great is it that one of the Rat Pack — known for their on-stage drinking and booze-fuelled shenanigans — has a song called “Mr. Booze.” I’m not sure if Sammy Cahn and James Van Heusen wrote it to poke fun at Martin or not, but I do know that they wrote it for the soundtrack to Robin and the 7 Hoods. And now that I know there’s a deluxe Martin box set, how bad do I want it?
Joe Bataan — “The Bottle (La Botellita)” [from Afro-Filipino]
This is an instrumental cover of Gil Scott-Heron’s tune — it was a disco hit for Salsoul great Bataan (he actually helped coin the phrase “salsoul”). Bataan’s version is a peppy, polished tune — a far cry from the bleak portrait of inner-city alcoholism Scott-Heron originally painted.
Fishbone — “Beergut” [from Chim Chim’s Badass Revenge]
Much as I love a good bottle of beer (or two), it can have a deleterious effect on the physique. While I may be a little soft around the middle, thankfully I haven’t reached the point described by Fishbone where “Beergut — no longer can he see his nuts.”
MF Doom — “One Beer” [from MM.. Food?]
Gotta love that the metal-masked maniac begins his off-hand salute to beer with an off-the-cuff refrain from Cole Porter’s “I Get A Kick Out Of You,” in which he substitutes “you” for “brew.”
AC/DC — “Have A Drink On Me” [from Back In Black]
I’ll leave you with this purported tribute to AC/DC’s first singer, Bon Scott, who died after asphyxiating on his own vomit after a night of heavy drinking. Let his death be a reminder to drink responsibly . . .