Feeling like a Martian
24 Décembre 2003
Go Beagle 2 from England, go Mars Express from Europe, go Spirit and Opportunity from USA! The interplanetary show by these little robots, so far away, especially Beagle 2 which is supposed to land today, is the only interesting event happening during this Christmas. I hope they find some life on Mars, because it's something that seems to be lacking on Earth. Or maybe it's just in Boston? Or maybe just around me?
For the occasion, here are some lyrics from the best Christmas song ever. It's "Fairytale of New York", by The Pogues, in their fabulous album "If I Should fall From Grace With God". The Pogues are probably one of my favourites bands. This song is written and sung by Shane McGowan, member of the extremely select group of excellent english-speaking songwriters and storytellers on this planet (names that come to mind would be Tom Waits, Springsteen, a few other ones). It is a beautiful duo with the late Kirsty MacColl, unlucky redhead woman with such a sexy voice. She died in a creepy accident three years ago, almost to the day, just before Christmas. She was the daughter of legendary english singer Ewan McColl, author of the song "Dirty Old Town", made famous by The Pogues, so the circle is completed. She did backing vocals for a lot of excellent english artists (Billy Bragg for example), but curiously she was never very famous herself, although she produced interesting solo albums. I think "Electric Landlady" is the most interesting. There is a surprisingly good Miami-style salsa on it, called "My Affair", and yet another song with the Pogues, "The One and Only".
Another extremely beautiful collaboration between the Pogues and Kirsty McColl is a medley version of "Miss Otis Regrets" / "Just One Of Those Things", both originally written by Cole Porter in the 30's. The first one is slow, the second one is rapid, and the sudden rythm break in the middle is very surprising and interesting. It never appeared in any official Pogues album, but on a curious and inegal Cole Porter Tribute album called "Red Hot and Blue", which featured some other interesting songs like an excellent version of "I Love Paris" by french band Les Négresses Vertes with their original singer (who died of an overdose), and other work by very different singers like Tom Waits, KD Lang, Annie Lennox, Salif Keita, Sinead O'Connor, Debbie Harry, Iggy Pop, U2, Neneh Cherry,... Oh well, just check the album page on Amazon.
Kirsty McColl appears on the video of a live concert by The Pogues on St Patrick's day 1988 in London, called "Live At The Town And Country". I remember how lovely she looked while singing and dancing with the odd-looking and probably drunk Shane McGowan on stage. This video is incredibly good, because you have guests appearance of members of some of the best english punk/rock/ska bands from the end of the 70's, The Clash's Joe Strummer (now unfortunately dead too - it looks like a lot of people I like die), who sings "London Calling", and a few guys from The Specials, including singer Lynval Golding, who sings "A Message to You, Rudi". No need to mention that The Clash and The Specials are part of my favourites bands too.
I myself saw the Pogues in concert when I was living in Madrid, in Las Ventas, the enormous bullfight arena. I think it was 1992. Unfortunately, they had already kicked McGowan out. It was rumoured that Joe Strummer would replace him as lead singer, but it was not the case. The concert was excellent anyway. Don't listen to people who tell you that The Pogues are a traditional Irish music band. They just don't get it. The Pogues are a raw punk band. Just like The Clash were a punk band, even when they played ska, dub or reggae. It's all about the feeling and the energy.
Why did I talk about music? I wanted to tell something about Mars exploration. Whatever. Maybe it's because I love web pages like "Kill Me Sarah", very well written by a french guy with a passion for music, and who actually made me discover a few gems. For example, "Pale Blue Eyes" by the Velvet Underground. I'm ashamed I didn't know this song. And I discovered it because someone wrote about it on the internet. So maybe I should do the same. Here are some of the lyrics of my Christmas song. Who cares about Christmas anyway?