. . .
As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, several of The Pogues spent some time in Almeria, Spain filming Alex Cox’s riotous Straight to Hell. As you can imagine, it was a party, the spirit of which was fully caught in one of my very favorite Pogues songs, the utterly hilarious “Fiesta.”
Co-written with banjo player Jem Finer, who based it on a melody he kept hearing at various food stalls that stuck in his head, “Fiesta” is pure and utter nonsense lyrically, and an ridiculous stew of disparate elements musically. That it works at all is a tribute to the gonzo musicianship of The Pogues, who grab hold of the tune from the start and hang on for dear life.
“Fiesta” starts off with a feint: a slow, jazzy bassline by Dennis Hunt and a smooth sax solo, then with a whistle and pistol, it leaps forward with Andrew Ranken playing a triple-time snare march and Hunt walking up and down his bass, as the horn line kicks in, getting the party started. It’s a neat trick that producer Steve Lillywhite does with those horns: they’re a bit echoed, not quite up front, like you are hearing them played from a bit of a distance or hearing them emanate from several different places at once, but just ever-so-slightly out of sync.
It’s over this madness that MacGowan introduces himself:
I am Francisco Vasquez Garcia
I am welcome to Almeria
We have sin gas and con leche
We have fiesta and feria
We have the song of the chochona
We have brandy and half corona
And Leonardo and his accordione
And calamari and macaroni
And then pretty much the whole band joins in for what an absolutely insane raver of a chorus, equal parts tuneful, joyful and grin-inducing.
Come all you rambling boys of pleasure
And ladies of easy leisure
We must say adios until we see
Almeria once again!
Each time they do this chorus, they follow it up with the Spanish-inflected horn part, over and over and over, accompanied by shouts, hoots and hollers, occasionally stopping the entire song for a quick whistle, or maybe a walking bass part or drum roll. And then, just to add to the craziness, the last verse is in Spanish, referencing a drinking bout by their accordionist, as well as their eloping former producer & bassist.
El vienticinco de agosto
Abrio sus ojos Jaime Fearnley
Pero el bebe cinquante Gin-campari
Y se tendio para cerrarlos
Y Costello el rey de America
Y su esposa Cait O Riordan
Non rompere mes colliones
Los gritos fuera de las casas
This is all great good fun, and it makes me smile — at least — every single time. Look, I can see you being sick of “Fairytale of New York,” or intimidated by the grim death march of “And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda,” or maybe not liking Irish folk music in general. But I simply can’t imagine anybody who loves music and who loves fun not liking this insane international mashup of pure pleasure.
“Fiesta” official music video
“Fiesta” performed live in London, 1988
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