Wednesday, June 17, 2015

To A Land Of Opportunity...

As well as being the birthday of Jello Biafra today as celebrated over here, it was also the day that Pogues guitarist Philip Chevron was born. Although he wrote and recorded many  songs outwith his work with The Pogues, he is best remembered for the wonderfully evocative track, Thousands Are Sailing, about Irish immigration to America to find a better life, the oppression they faced because of it and how they overcame it. The track became an instant classic among Irish listeners and a song regularly covered by other artists from his homeland, and for good reason. I don't often put lyrics on the blog but these are so good they could be read as poetry...

The island it is silent now
But the ghosts still haunt the waves
And the torch lights up a famished man
Who fortune could not save


Did you work upon the railroad
Did you rid the streets of crime
Were your dollars from the white house
Were they from the five and dime


Did the old songs taunt or cheer you
And did they still make you cry
Did you count the months and years
Or did your teardrops quickly dry


Ah, no, says he, 'twas not to be
On a coffin ship I came here
And I never even got so far
That they could change my name


Thousands are sailing
Across the western ocean
To a land of opportunity
That some of them will never see
Fortune prevailing
Across the western ocean
Their bellies full
Their spirits free
They'll break the chains of poverty
And they'll dance


In Manhattan's desert twilight
In the death of afternoon
We stepped hand in hand on Broadway
Like the first man on the moon


And "The Blackbird" broke the silence
As you whistled it so sweet
And in Brendan Behan's footsteps
I danced up and down the street


Then we said goodnight to Broadway
Giving it our best regards
Tipped our hats to Mister Cohen
Dear old Times Square's favorite bard


Then we raised a glass to JFK
And a dozen more besides
When I got back to my empty room
I suppose I must have cried


Thousands are sailing
Again across the ocean
Where the hand of opportunity
Draws tickets in a lottery
Postcards we're mailing
Of sky-blue skies and oceans
From rooms the daylight never sees
Where lights don't glow on Christmas trees
But we dance to the music
And we dance


Thousands are sailing
Across the western ocean
Where the hand of opportunity
Draws tickets in a lottery
Where e'er we go, we celebrate
The land that makes us refugees
From fear of Priests with empty plates
From guilt and weeping effigies
And we dance

Sadly Philip, as we all know, passed away at the far too young age of 56, but he left behind a body of work that will be remembered and sung for many, many years yet.

Here is a great video clip of the band performing Thousands Are Sailing on St Patrick's Day in 1988 at London's Town and Country Club.

1 comment: