While it was over two years after Rum, Sodomy & The Lash before The Pogues released another full-length album, it wasn’t like they weren’t busy.
In early 1986, they released the Poguetry in Motion EP, which was also produced by Elvis Costello, who would soon run off with their bass player, Cait O’Riordian, which featured “Body of an American,” which some of you will recognize as “that song in The Wire they keep playing at the wakes for cops.”
After that, they decamped to Spain with Repo Man & Sid and Nancy director Alex Cox, and other luminaries such as Joe Strummer, Dennis Hopper, Courtney Love, Jim Jarmusch and Grace Jones to film Straight To Hell, the first of Cox’s disintegration epics, where he pretty much threw all logic and coherence out the window.
I remember seeing Straight to Hell at the Tower Theater in the summer of 1987, and while my memory might be muddled, I think it was the evening after we’d stayed up all night at Video Zone dealing with a computer issue, and maybe my lack of sleep was a factor, but I loved it; even if it made no damn sense.
So by the time they went into the studio, there were several changes afoot: Phillip Chevron, who’d been hanging around the group for a couple of years became the full-time guitar player, Dennis Hunt replaced O’Riordian on bass and they added multi-instrumentalist Terry Woods to fatten out their sound.
Obviously, Elvis Costello was gone, as well, replaced by Steve Lillywhite, who seemed like an odd choice, but it turns out that he helped them make the best album of their career, 1988’s If I Should Fall From Grace With God., which kicked ass from the opening notes of the rollicking title track.
If I should fall from grace with God
Where no doctor can relieve me
If I’m buried ‘neath the sod
But the angels won’t receive me
Let me go, boys
Let me go, boys
Let me go down in the mud
Where the rivers all run dry
Easily their best opener, “If I Should Fall From Grace With God” sets the pace for the rest of the album: fast, furious and fun. That’s the thing about this record: no matter what down-and-out words MacGowan might be singing, the whole band just sounds like they’re having a hell of a time.
I mean on this song alone, he’s basically singing about going to hell, but when he lets out a strangled “yeahhhhhhhhh!!” during one of the instrumental breaks, you can’t help but want to jump aboard the ride. I guess hell ain’t going to be so bad if The Pogues are playing there.
Also, one more weird thing: for years, decades, I thought that the name of the song and the name of the album was “If I Should Fall From The Grace of God,” because that what it sounded like MacGowan was singing to me, and despite the fact that I’ve owned the CD for 30 years, it was literally only Christmas of 2016, when I was doing the research for the “Fairytale of New York” Certain Songs post that I realized how wrong I was.
“If I Should Fall From Grace With God”
“If I Should Fall From Grace With God” official music video (muddy sound)
“If I Should Fall From Grace With God” live in Japan, 1988
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